I'd like to thank the Bakersfield City Council for contributing to my lesson plan for my 12th grade civics class ("Majority of City Council members support personal-use fireworks," July 9). I generally begin the course by introducing the overarching debate concerning the role of government in our republic. We often frame this with an examination of the Preamble, which demonstrates the inherent tension created when a system attempts to "secure" liberty while also "promoting" the common good. I can now add the debate over the function of our city government concerning personal fireworks to my lessons.
I intend to use in particular the words of Councilman Bob Smith to contrast with a statement made by James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 51. According to Smith, governments are about "picking up after people who make mistakes a lot." Smith and several other members also seemed to cross their fingers and hope that people would be "responsible." In contrast, Madison believed that government was necessary because men were not angels; in essence, government's essential role is to safeguard the general populace from the irresponsible behavior, lacking in virtue, of those who are not civic-minded.
In Smith's world, I suppose we just wait for a catastrophe, fire, dead citizens or first responders, and then "pick up" after them. What a sad view of the role of government! In the view of the Framers, as made clear in the Constitution and the concept of "police powers," government must provide for the safety of its citizens. This is why a police officer stops an erratic driver before they kill someone; why fire marshals inspect buildings; why food inspections occur; why we have traffic lights. I could go on. Possibly, the council members can visit when we do our lesson this year. It might be enlightening.