What is Government for Kids: A Dinner Time Discussion

Government is not a class you take in school. It is a force that can destroy if left unchecked. Take the opportunity to teach your kids on a regular basis how the government is affecting their every day lives. We often get so used to things that we begin to think, “that’s just the way it is” and we forget to notice things like sales taxes, requirements, vehicle registration fees, business that are closed because of oppressive and expensive regulations, products that disappear from the market or pharmaceuticals that are delayed for a decade while people die of curable or manageable diseases (just sayin’).

This is the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City.
This is the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City.

What is Government?

Lesson one for your kids. What is government? Sounds like an easy question, but most people don’t know.

Government is people who have the legal power to control or take away your property or your life.

This is the 111th US senate. They make laws that affect your daily life.

That doesn’t mean government is necessarily bad. The reason we have government is to control or take away the property or life of criminals, or to arbitrate between offended parties, deciding where the property belongs. But government unchecked is dangerous for obvious reasons.

First, notice that government is made up of people. It’s not a thing or an institution; it is people who make laws or regulations that affect the citizens. Some of the people in government are elected, others are appointed, but by far most people who have gained control of governments through the ages of the world have taken that power by force.

 Who Do You Trust With Your Life?

Name one person, outside of your immediate family, you would absolutely trust with the unchecked power to destroy your property or life if they deemed it proper? Pretty short list, isn’t it? And yet, that is the power we give to people in government. Except that the power isn’t quite unchecked. The American founders made sure that there were heavy obstacles to the power given the government. Most modern governments with written constitutions and some form of “democracy” have copied the model of the United States to some extent. The US in turn copied the British model, but formalized it as Britain has never done.

The Constitution puts limits on the Federal Government.  Each state also has a constitution that limits your state government.
The Constitution puts limits on the Federal Government. Each state also has a constitution that limits your state government.

What Limits the Government?

So what are those obstacles? First and foremost the Declaration of Independence which states:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

This is a painting by John Trumbull depicting Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston, all standing at the table, presenting their draft of the Declaration of Independence to the congress. Painting in the public domain.

The founders clearly stated that rights do not come from government. They come from God. Therefore they cannot be taken away by government.

The second obstacle is the Constitution, which outlines exactly which powers the government has, restricting it from all other powers.

US_constitution

Sadly, both the idea that rights are God-given, and the idea that the Constitution is a document restricting government and not merely outlining its form have been seriously eroded. In truth it exists today only in the understanding of a very few.

But you are now one of the few who understand not only the way to control government , but also the very imperative reasons for doing so. Spread the word.

More From Layers of Learning

Learn about the important difference between common law and civil law and which one America is based on.
Learn about the important difference between common law and civil law and which one America is based on.

Color code this worksheet as you read the Constitution to find out what powers are granted to each branch.
Color code this worksheet as you read the Constitution to find out what powers are granted to each branch.

Unit 1-1 Free

 

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