The Measure of Self-government

Given the resources available to the electorate for informing themselves on all sides of every question, it has become an axiom that, in a democracy, the people get the kind of government they deserve. If the people are not well served by their government, it is their own fault. If government functions well, the people deserve the credit.

The true measure of a government lies in how well it has served its people in all kinds of circumstances, both favorable and adverse, in times of peace and stability and in times of national crisis. By this standard, the U.S. system of self-government has been reasonably successful. It has guided and nurtured the nation from weak and chaotic beginnings, through phenomenal expansion in territory and population, through drought, war and scandal. It weathered a bitter civil war that threatened to destroy the unity of the nation. It has on many occasions defended the principles of freedom and self-determination from attack by hostile forces from within and without.

Few Americans, however, would defend their country's record as perfect. American democracy is in a constant state of evolution. As Americans review their history, they recognize errors of performance and failures to act, which have delayed the nation's progress. They know that more mistakes will be made in the future.

Yet the U.S. government still represents the people, and is dedicated to the preservation of liberty. The right to criticize the government guarantees the right to change it when it strays from the essential principles of the Constitution. So long as the preamble to the Constitution is heeded, the republic will stand. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."