How can we support and sustain our government?

“How can we support and sustain our government?” Ensign, June 1974, 56

It seems to me that we are reaching a time of increasing dishonesty in government. Many of our officials’ actions at least seem unethical and often illegal. How can we reconcile this trend with the urgings of our leaders to support and sustain our government?

Dr. Stewart L. Grow, Distinguished Professor of political science, Brigham Young University: It is the system of government, not the individuals who hold office at any given time, that we are told by the Lord to support and sustain, and one of the most effective ways we can support the system is to insist upon honest public officials.

We live under the rule of law, not of men. Under the rule of law, public officials are to be held accountable if they violate the law, and we should insist upon laws that will help them maintain the highest standards of honesty.

Many students have indicated that they still strongly support our system of government, despite their criticisms of dishonesty. The call for honesty in government has not been, and should not be, a partisan one.

Secondly, the headlines may well have been misleading in their implication of wholesale dishonesty. The United States has one of the most honest, ethical governments on earth. Government at every level, from local to national, does not represent the road to private wealth that has tempted other governments into patterns of corruption we cannot imagine in the United States.

Far from weakening our demands for honesty in government, the Watergate questions, for instance, seem to have made us even more sensitive to the issue of honesty. Today we no doubt have far higher expectations of honesty in government officials than among those who engage in business or in the professions. What is normal business practice is condemned as illegal or unethical when we read of it in government. Perhaps this higher standard will help set a new and higher moral tone in all phases of life.

It is proper that citizens should sustain the government by demanding honest administration of the laws. Laws that require proper accounting of funds and reduce the temptations of bribery and other crimes are good laws. They are needed. But in my view they are not an indictment of our present system. The United States system of government is one of the most honest and responsive to the needs of the people of any government I have known anything about.