Commentary: What role will government play in our lives?

I have to admit I didn't pay much attention to Rick Santorum until Tuesday night. He did surprisingly well in the Iowa GOP caucus, finishing just eight votes out of first place. And, I was impressed by the remarks he made to his followers at the end of the day.

Besides doing a good job of tying his thoughts together without the aid of a teleprompter or notes, I thought he backed up his points with a specificity not commonly found among politicians. To hear his remarks, click here.

One comment that really caught my attention was the number of regulations or "major" rules — each with an estimated impact on the economy of $100 million or more — that has come down in recent years.

"Under the Bush and Clinton administrations, they averaged 60 regulations over $100 million a year," Santorum said. "This (Obama) Administration hit 150 last year."

These are the kinds of regulations that can crush business and make us less competitive with other countries in the world.

Recently, many in the agricultural community have been noticing the proliferation of proposed regulations coming out of Washington, most notably child-labor restrictions and, depending on whom you talk to, dust restrictions. For more, click here.

Where am I heading with this?

As Santorum said the other night, there are some decisions to be made "whether we will be a country that believes that government can do things for us better than we can do for ourselves" and whether we are a society that is built from top down or the bottom up.

No one can deny that the role of government will be a huge issue in the upcoming presidential election.

In a commentary a few weeks ago, I asked why government is meddling in things such as the type of light bulbs we use. Is this what the Founding Fathers intended?

A reader named Alan responded in the reader-comment section, saying the time in which the Founding Fathers lived was quite different than the world we live in today.

"Our Founding Fathers weren't omniscient or perfect," he said. "Change is inevitable and technology has changed farming and society in ways they could never have anticipated. Thus, the need for new laws that govern our lives."

True, but what about the fundamental role of government?

Another reader commented that the question shouldn't be what the Founding Fathers intended, but rather "Why can't we all agree to protect the environment AND protect workers AND continue to produce high-quality products as efficiently and safely as possible?"

The problem is you get a bunch of bureaucrats making these decisions, and often they don't have a clue what it is like to actually work in the industries they are regulating. 

There has to be a happy medium somewhere.