Sunday, August 2, 2009

Scout Camp

I spent the last part of the week at Scout Camp with my Son. It was a beautiful setting on Silver Lake near the Canadian Border. The camp staff were great and the boys learned a lot of new skills including working alone on a difficult task and working together as a team. It was a great week well worth the expense and time away from work.

Lord Baden Powell started the Boy Scout program because he saw a need - a need to help boys grow up to be men with honor, a good work ethic, and skills to help them in life. The scouting program today is largely carried out by volunteers, men and women who devote their time to help these boys. There are a few paid staff but it is not a career for those who want to make a lot of money. There were several teenager boys and girls who basically ran the camp for the week teaching the merit badge classes, putting on the campfires, acting as guides for the troops, and serving the meals. They put in long hours for very little pay but had opportunities to develop leadership and management skills that will serve them well in the future.

I reflected on the great achievements of the scouting program with a relatively small budget. What would have happened if Lord Baden Powell would have decided that the best way to accomplish his desires was to have a government program that would help all boys? I'm sure in this day and age he would have found listening ears in the halls of Congress but if we left this up to Congress, I'm sure the results of the program would be far different. The program would be inefficient. would be bogged down by endless regulations, and would blame any failures on an inadequate budget.

The Scouting program is successful because it is run by people who have a sincere desire to help others. Unfortunately, most government programs, although often well intentioned, end up being vehicles for government to gain greater power and control. Our founders warned against this and established a system of limited government with checks and balances to make sure government did not become too big or wield too much power. I'm afraid we have drifted ever farther away from that ideal.

Our society has problems and if we let individuals and groups solve those problems, they will develop efficient methods and organizations to accomplish great things. We have come to rely on government too much to solve every problem in society. The danger with this is that many people do not step up to solve the problems because they expect government to do it. We also end up with solutions that are often worse than the original problems because they are inefficient and drift away from actually helping the people they were intended to assist. The programs simply become means for government to yield more power and influence. If government can get out of the way, American generosity and creativity will step up to solve our problems in innovative and efficient ways. Let's get back to limited government with limited powers and unleash the American spirit again to accomplish great things.

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