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The Limits of Government

"Plug the damn hole!" With that outburst of frustration yesterday President Obama signalled that he may be coming to an understanding of something many of us tried to tell him before he took his oath of office: there are limits to what government can do.

The President came to office promising "hope and change," insisting that he was going to reinvent the American government so that government could be more responsive and efficient in meeting the pressing needs of the people and creating a more just and prosperous society and world. A majority of the voters believed it was so, thus indicating their own naive understanding about the limits of government.

Now, almost two years into the era of hope and change, we are discovering that government cannot make Iran or North Korea behave. Government cannot persuade the Russians or Chinese to go along with American foreign policy objectives. Government can't tell the Israelis what they can and can't do. Government can't save Chrysler. Government can't get the unemployment rate down. Government can't reform Fannie and Freddie. Government can't stop corrupt and self-serving earmarks. Government can't stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Government can't get the Republican Senate to cut it a break. Government can't muster the courage to seal the border with Mexico. And government, by the President's own admission, can't satisfy or buck the political left.

Government won't be able to fix the health care system or return the environment to pristine pollutionless condition, either. Yet government will doubtless continue to promise, probe, press for change, and push expansive legislation, all indicating that the biggest thing this government cannot do is learn the great lesson presently being written large in real-world America:

Government is not God.

But as long as this government continues to posture as though it were God, we can be sure of this much: God will limit the effectiveness of this government and allow it to put in jeopardy the wellbeing of the very people who hoped in its promises for change - promises it is, by definition, unable to deliver.

T. M. Moore
T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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