Lesson 4 – Public Administration and Good Government – (D. & C. 134:3, 4)
Elder G. Homer Durham
For Tuesday, February 28, 1950
Objective: To point out the need for electing government officials who will uphold freedom.
It is important to have a good government, that is, one which conforms, as far as possible, to the fundamental principles previously discussed. Then, government becomes a fit instrument in securing “the good and safety of society.” However, day by day, governments are administering thousands of details affecting the lives of millions of people. The enforcement of the law, the administration of governmental policy, is generally called “public administration.” The problems of public administration are among the most important of any modern society. The problem of regulating traffic, of inspecting and maintaining milk at a pure standard, the administration of schools, the building of highways, the protection of life and property – these are only a few of the many tasks undertaken by public administration.
There are many fundamental problems in public administration apart from the organization of government itself. These problems concern largely the matter of personnel. Officers must be recruited. Once in office they have the great responsibility of deciding what the law means, when to enforce it, and upon whom to enforce it. Verse three affords an insight into the basic principles which should govern these important problems:
We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.
This recognizes the necessity and the importance of civil officers and magistrates. During World War II, the United States Government, alone, employed over 3,000,000 civil servants, that is, civil officers exclusive of elected, military, naval, legislative, or judicial officers. This does not include the forty-eight states, nor their counties and cities. What should be the method of their administration? The controlling principle is that “such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld.”
Meaning of “Equity and Justice”
What is equity? What is justice? These are often difficult questions in our time. It would be profitable to discuss in every class the question as to what is justice for the working man, for the business leaders, for the members of a minority religious sect, for the members of a dominant religious sect, for alien races, for the various types of people who occupy a place in our civil society. The answers to these questions have obsessed mankind for generations. Is it possible to cut through this mass of speculation and arrive at some foundation principles as guides to equity and justice? The Declaration would suggest that equity and justice would begin with a system of administration which would recognize the fundamental conditions of peace previously discussed.
The free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life, at least, are fundamental.
Qualifications for Public Officers
Who should be selected for public officers? The suggestion made in verse three is that those who will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people, if a republic, or the will of a sovereign. It would be very difficult, of course, for the people of the United States, for example, to elect the three million civil servants who served the United States Government from 1942-1945. Then, in addition, to elect the additional millions who work for the forty-eight states, the three thousand fifty-odd counties, the hundred and thirty-two thousand cities and towns, and the other units of government which constitute the American governmental system!
However, it is possible to seek and uphold persons who “will administer the law in equity and justice” by means of the civil service examinations and other devices used in American and other governments. P9opular election, of course, is desirable for all elected representatives and those who serve in top executive positions. In other circumstances, and in filling the lesser positions, regulations must, of course, be followed. But back of all law, including civil service law, is pubic opinion. If the public is apathetic, it is impossible to secure officers who will administer the law in equity and justice.
How well informed is your class on the method of safeguarding the purity of the water supply, the milk supply, the meat supply, in your community? What officers are administering these laws? Is it being done with equity and justice? Do you know their names? Are they qualified to do their work? When they are performing their work well, do you give them the support – the necessary support – which they require and merit? Unless these things are done, we cannot expect to reach the ideal set for us in verse three.
Being Informed on Public Administration
Public administration involves the ethics (the basic principles of right action) of political life. Not only are the ethics and manner of public administration involved, but also the great fundamental question of individual rights and the modern issue of socialism. The socialists believe in the government owning all means of production. In other words, in a socialist government, public administration does everything. There is a minimum of private administration except, perhaps, in the combing of one’s hair, washing one’s face, or performing details of personal life. The very fact that we speak of “public administration” today means that many things hitherto left to private hands are coming under public control. How far this process should go and at what rate is the great domestic question of our day. The beliefs held by the people, the public spirit of the people, as expressed by them actively, these things help determine the nature of society. (Remember the fundamental “conditions of peace” discussed in lesson 3.)
The Relationship Between the State and Freedom of the Soul
Verse 4, of section 134, is a classic statement to guide the relationship between the State, its public administration, and the necessary freedom of men. it reads:
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
Some declare that this verse involves a definition of the relationship between Church and State. This is true. The problem of Church and State, as it appears in political science, is a historical expression of the same problems that we meet today in relationship between government and economic life, private industry, labor unions, churches, and free associations of various sorts.
Verse four indicates that although religion and public administration are separate, the problem of mankind is a whole problem. Religion is instituted of God. Individuals are responsible to God and him only for the exercise of their religious conscience. The State must stay out of this field. There can be no equivocation on this point. Religious liberty is an absolute value which the State must respect. Ethics are meaningless unless they are referred to this value. Without this reference, ethics become the mere opinions of men, Americans or others, with resort to force as the threatening reference point. When the State intervenes in the economic order, this value must be recognized. if the conscience, the religious conscience, of man, is free, then there will always be room for the eventual right of control of property and the protection of life. If human law is prevented from prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of man, “nor dictate forms for public or private devotion” then there is a sphere of freedom in which men may live their lives.
Need for People to Support Freedom
Constitutions are the great preventive influence, but constitutions are valueless without support from the people and the political powers that be. True, the civil magistrate should restrain crime “but never control conscience”; should punish guilt but never suppress the freedom of the soul. This requires popular support. if there is freedom of religious conscience and freedom of the soul, there will probably be freedom for two or more political parties. If there is freedom for two or more political parties, there is freedom in the choice of public officers to enforce the law. If there is freedom to choose these officers, there is also freedom for the people to exercise their right and seek for men in public life who will administer the law in equity and justice. Without this freedom, there will be no essential freedom – and no peace.
Belief in God Necessary for Good Government
In conclusion, it can be stated, that if you destroy belief in God, you destroy belief in the necessity of religious liberty. Decline in belief in God is one of the great forces aiding and abetting Communism. Religious and political liberty without belief in God soon become meaningless, because they depend upon mere human toleration, man looking to man. Unless man looks to man as a child of God and then looks beyond and outside of himself for something greater, he may become a menace, a materialistic menace to society. Human toleration without belief in God is subject to political pleasure, as witness the dictatorships. In short, if you destroy God you destroy the possibility of political ethics having any vitality in government. In its stead, force, and force alone, remains. Force is the tool of the devil. Of such, the Declaration warns, and men should beware.
Questions for Discussion and Lesson Helps
Special Project: have someone look up and report the number of offices becoming vacant which will appear on your local ballot at the next general election, describing briefly, the functions of each office.
1. Although all people have the right to their own opinions in such matters, who is it that actually (in the bulk of cases) decides what the law means, when to enforce it, and whom to enforce it upon?
2. Have someone look up “equity” in a standard dictionary. Having done this, ask the class to discuss the meaning of “equity” as contained in section 134, verse 3.
3. What is justice? Discuss the principle as suggested in the lesson.
4. How do you suppose the ordinary man’s view of justice is formed? Compare this with the concept of the class as to how God, our Father, probably determines and applies justice.
5. What is the relation between public opinion and the administration of “justice”?
6. Why is belief in God essential to good government?
7. When the butcher sells you a roast and leans a heavy thumb on the scale or includes a large piece of bone at 97c a pound, is he visualizing you as a “child of God” or Mrs. John Customer “from down the street”?
8. Again, is belief in God essential to good government, to justice an equity?