One definition could center around the ability of its people to pursue happiness without interference from government – city, county, state or federal. And without fear of governmental violence against any member of our community.


I see signs of good governance every day. Sometimes the absence of problems is the result of good government – this is often invisible and not much thought about.

Locally, the garbage, recyclables, and lawn litter are picked up on a regular basis. It’s easy to travel around town because citizens reliably follow the rules of the road. Emergency response time for medical, fire and accident incidents is very good. Street signs make it easy to get around. Libraries, parks and recreation centers are beautiful and reachable. Public transportation and food for the needy and shut-ins is easily available. Businesses of every stripe flourish. It is easy to vote. Education is free through secondary school and low-cost higher education is available. And then…

State services including education, law enforcement, voting management, bridges, roads and licensing, unemployment insurance, child welfare, are firmly in place without being unduly burdensome. Clean air, parks and recreation, the licensing of corporations, craftsmen and drivers, and much more are in the purview of state governance. 


The federal government takes care of national defense, Medicare, and Social Security. It insures safe air travel, a reliable interstate highway system, consumer protection and much more. It manages the largest wealth mankind has ever known – our willingness to tax ourselves. So personal freedom isa abundant.

I can jump in my car or take a train for a journey of ten thousand miles with just the clothes I happen to have on. I just make sure that my phone and my wallet are in their habitual pockets and that I kiss my wife goodbye – not that I would ever dream of leaving her behind.

Let’s say that the plan is to visit all fifty states. We will understand the rules of the road everywhere, enjoy meeting strangers, sleep safely in hotels, and find charging stations or fuel for my vehicle. We will be confident that restaurants and other merchants follow good sanitation practices. We’ll be able to keep current on financial obligations and to manage our finances virtually anywhere. Citizens are mostly disposed to be hospitable and help one another if a need arises. I can start a business or do nothing. What a country!


When I was sworn in as an officer in the United States Coast Guard some fifty-odd years ago, I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all Enemies, both foreign and domestic. Most federal government officials, judges and members of congress take a similar oath – that means millions of government officials as well as military officers are constrained to do the right thing even if circumstances make it difficult. Consider:

  • The military is subject to civilian oversight. 
  • The law of posse comitatus keeps the government from using the military to enforce laws over the civilian population.
  • The three branches of government are co-equal and independent of each other. 
  • Government officials are servants of the people and not the other way around. 
  • Military officers and career government officials, as opposed to some political appointees, will resist or refuse illegal orders.

In addition to the above, a free and independent press keeps watch for government misdeeds and missteps.  It called the Fourth Estate. The first three are the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

I see the career federal employees and military officers as the fifth estate.

The five estates offset and exert a steading hand on each other.

America is a big, chaotic mess and at the same time, still… “A beacon of hope to the world.” 


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