Editor: Edgar Gorke and I (Your Opinion, Dec. 29 and Dec. 19, respectively) are not the first and will not be the last to have opposing positions about our nation, its principles and the meaning of words.
Progressive and perhaps even progress itself are negatives in his view; taxation is robbery and support for those in need is enslavement. And just where does he think we have gone as a nation over the past century – downhill? Notwithstanding the present economic crisis, largely attributable to a relaxing of regulations on financial conduct, we have experienced a period of incomparable innovation, discovery and prosperity in our time.
The rights that we enjoy are precious, but we are citizens, and that implies responsibilities as well as rights. The most important right we have is the right to be responsible for the public good. We elect our leaders and we can also vote them out of office; we can and do create voluntary organizations that along with government provide services. Our taxes support roads and bridges, schools, Social Security and Medicare, which strengthen and provide a better life for those who are capable and hardy and for those who are less well endowed in their capacities or good fortune.
Aren’t these the characteristics of our nation that have made it a haven for people who live in oppressive societies – where they are not citizens but subjects or even victims?
One of the most dangerous pathologies we have in this country is the widening gap between rich and poor. As we are the world’s leading democracy, it is only fair that we narrow that gap. It is not only a matter of civic obligation; it is a matter of national security – of protecting “the rights and freedoms of its citizens,” which Mr. Gorke agrees is what government is for.