A democracy is an argument. It’s the discussion of basic responsibility. What are the fundamental roles of governance? Who is responsible for it? How should it be determined?
Before the Constitution came into existence, the United States was governed by a different rule of law. Called the Articles of Confederation, this foundational document lasted only four years. As the country began to get its newfound feet underneath it, the Articles’ glaring issues began to come to light.
Newly liberated from the constraints of English absolute power, some of the founding fathers were afraid of national power. Congress had no power of taxation and could not regulate foreign or interstate commerce. Every state, regardless of population, was treated as completely equal. Each state sent one representative to Congress allowing for disproportionate representation. Assuming that Congress was capable of getting anything done with those restraints, no executive branch existed to enforce Congressional decisions and there was no judicial branch at all to discern the legality of Congressional acts.
In short, it didn’t work. From there, with the help of The Federalist Papers penned by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison, the Constitution was born.
Inherent in that founding document is the duty of government. One of its most important tenets is the idea of the protection of natural rights. The concept of natural rights was first examined in Western government by a British philosopher named John Locke. He claimed that natural rights were rights given by God but under the protection of government נnamely life, liberty, and property.
By the time those ideas trickled to America, Thomas Jefferson exchanged property for the amorphous concept of “the pursuit of happiness.” An interesting switch but too in depth to discuss here.
So boiled down to its simplest notions, based on the Constitution, the government’s job is to protect the natural rights of life and liberty.
It’s why we spend so much on our military. To protect American life and liberty, the United States’ military budget is $778 billion. To understand that in context, America spends more than the next 11 highest spenders combined.
It’s a ton of money. But by and large, across parties and political brands, America values the strength of our military as a way of protecting life and liberty.
But sometimes, and maybe even oftentimes, the protection of natural rights doesn’t happen. The people don’t always win. Political expediency and monetary gain often usurp the people of the government’s primary responsibility.
This week, though, the win came to Citrus County.
The county commission voted 3-2 this week to end its contract with Nature Coast EMS and bring the ambulance service under county control by Oct. 1, joining our fire and police services.
Taking care of its people is a fundamental responsibility of government. Ensuring timely access to emergency care is the foundation of protection of life. And as such it should be governed, monitored, and provided by our government. It’s how the people can hold power accountable.
Private contracts for essential services are confusing and difficult for the general public to respond to in times of inadequacy. More compelling, though, is the reality that private contracts are predicated on making money. At the end of the day, the goal is to make a profit. And in the business world, you cut corners where you must to make sure the bottom line is what you want it to be.
Getting ambulances to people in need cannot be about the bottom line. Ever.
The switch to a county-run system will not be cheap. The county will have to pay emergency medical technicians and paramedics at the competitive rate they deserve and will have to overhaul the infrastructure and resources it has. But that’s what tax money is for נto pay for essential services for its citizens. It’s the most worthy reason to spend taxpayer money.
The transition will take time, patience, and money. It will have bumps in the road. But ultimately, it is the best decision for Citrus County. And thanks to the county commission, the people this time, are going to get the win.
Cortney Stewart is a 2003 graduate of Lecanto High School. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and international affairs, a master’s degree in intercultural studies and is currently working on her Ph.D. in international conflict management. She most recently spent two years teaching and training students, teachers and government officials in Baghdad, Iraq. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.