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Reclaiming Reagan’s vision for America

Richard Eckstrom S.C. Comptroller

Government is necessary. Big government is not. Like our Founding Fathers, I believe the proper role of government is to provide people with essential services that most of us cannot afford to provide for ourselves. Providing highway and prisons, assuring we have clean air and water, and operating impartial courts are examples.

America rose out of a glorious vision of freedom, opportunity and individual liberty. Since the earliest days of our “experiment” in self-rule, the founders in their incredible wisdom envisioned a form of government of enumerated -- i.e., limited -- powers. They envisioned a government that provides those services that are essential to the lives of Americans, but then gets out of the way so that the cost of government doesn’t become an undue burden on the citizens it’s supposed to serve. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “That government is best which governs least.”

How far we’ve strayed from that vision.

Today’s government has grown too big, too costly, and too unresponsive. Many in Washington have come to view government and government spending as the elixir for every problem… the cure for all that ails us. They look to the public sector to be all things to all people.

As a result, we now face eye-popping federal deficits which threaten our future economic well-being, excessive taxes which hamstring the ability of private entrepreneurs to invest and provide jobs, and debt from government overspending which extends far into the futures of our children and grandchildren. Because of all this, some Americans have come to regard government as a foe, rather than a friend.

On Sunday, Feb. 6, we paused to observe the 100th birthday of perhaps our greatest president, Ronald Reagan.

“Government exists to protect us from each other,“ Ronald Reagan once said. “Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” As a young volunteer in the early 80s, I clearly remember how Reagan worked to revive our national spirit and transform our government from one that was consuming our prosperity to one that made it easier for the private sector to produce it. He shared our founders’ beliefs that the ideal model of government was one which governed least, cost the least, and let free markets play out so the most industrious, ingenious and enterprising people in the world could keep building an ever-improving nation rich in freedom, opportunity and success.

On the anniversary of his birth, I wanted to take this opportunity to focus again on Reagan’s buoyant optimism that better days lie ahead and on his undying belief that the road to a prosperous and free America should continue to be paved with small government, low taxes, and strict limits on federal interference into our daily lives.

We’re at a pivotal time in our nation’s history, facing the greatest challenges we’ve faced in decade. As we ponder our future -- where we stand, where we want to go, and how we get there -- we’d do well to reclaim Reagan’s vision.

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