This post was written by current student Stephen Thompson.
Through this blog I’ve gotten to delve into the Raleigh housing market, tax-exempt status of churches, current legislation, and meet and interview many interesting and inspiring individuals. The throughline through all of those articles is the practice of public administration and civil service. I’m halfway through my MPA program and getting ready to undertake my Professional Work Experience practicum. Through the process of researching organizations with which to partner I’ve been blown away by the vast number of public service departments, councils, and organization that make this state function. Cynical readers might take issue with the efficiency and equity that this state runs (both valid points!), but the bottom line is that it does operate. If the machine works, we can make it better, but if it stops working—then we’ll have a problem on our hands! Thankfully, local and state government are “turning over” to use an automobile analogy.
The constitution has been referred to as a “living document” in that the rules of the game described in that document are still being followed today. The game of course, is the democratic republic that is our government. Not unlike a shared document in a cloud data system, the document is still being opened, viewed, and even edited today. With each election cycle another round of the game is added, and the board continues to evolve. However, there are few games (or governing documents) which allow for their rules to be re-written if enough of the players agree on the changes. As notoriously long as the game of monopoly is, if three of the four players decided to enact an income tax on all players that game would end pretty quickly. As trying a time as it was in 1909, we’re all still passing go, hoping to collect $200, and trying to stay out of jail.
The important thing is that when its “our turn” we still take part in the system. Midterm elections are this year and many states have already begun to hold primary elections to determine who is to be on the ballot. North Carolina’s primary is next week. I urge everyone to take the time to research candidates, cast votes, and take part in the “game.” Many people are concerned about how divisive politics are these days—and of course there is no excuse for when peaceful discourse gives way to violence, however the debate is what makes us Americans. The argument is what keep the blood pumping in the “living document” that is the constitution. Certainly, there are a lot of ideas floating around about how we should live, work, and thrive in our county. Not all of them are good, but all of them should be discussed, debated, and put to ultimate test; a vote.
Being an MPA student I feel a bit like Neo from the 1999 blockbuster film Matrix, as he begins to see the inner workings of the façade of everyday life. As I read articles, I find myself thinking about the competing values of public administration, contemplating how “wicked problems” are affecting local communities. Unlike Neo, my clairvoyance doesn’t show me that democracy is an illusion. The opposite in fact; seeing the inner workings of democratic dialogue convinces me even more that it is fact real. Moreover, the more we get involved, the “realer” it gets.
This week I hang up my bloggers hat (for now). I hope some readers have been inspired to think more deeply about our democracy and I hope some readers will continue to check back in with the MPA Matters blog, to see what topics are being discussed and questions posed at the School of Government. Most of all, I hope all readers (past and present) will take part in the “last great experiment for human happiness,” as George Washington once said. I don’t know if our Democratic Republic is the “last great experiment,” but it certainly is a great one.