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Monday, October 26, 2020

60 years of memories: Government In Butler


60 Years of Memories of Butler

by James Ring


Early on, the hand of government rested rather lightly upon the Bates County seat. Most administrative functions were contained in the Courthouse, and citizens were motivated to handle their own affairs, rather than depend on a government functionary. At the federal level, we had an ASCS office to help farmers with “soil bank” payments and a one-woman Selective Service desk that mailed out draft notices. That was about it.


The State of Missouri funded a welfare office to relieve the indigent and the University of Missouri had an Extension Agent who advised farmers and gardeners on the best growing techniques. The County offices were all contained in the 1902 Courthouse that seemed to have enough extra room to allow space for a library and ladies lounge on the ground floor.


As time went on, the inexorable expansion of ever-bigger government took on more and more roles in our lives. As my Daddy warned, “A government that’s big enough to do everything FOR you will also be big enough to everything TO you.” We got what we asked for; rather than helping each other out, we abdicated our duty. “There’s a program for that,” we shrugged, and we eventually learned that was even a program that assisted with finding other programs to fix your problem. As with Steve Jobs at Apple, solutions were being developed to solve a problem we didn’t know we had.


All these extensions to oversight and education required bodies sitting in chairs at desks, eating up much of the appropriated budget in operating overhead. Program Managers eventually had to have development assistants to hunt down clients for their services. And money seemed to inexhaustible, flowing down from Federal and State agencies with leaks in the pipeline going from the taxpayer’s pocket up to Washington and back. 


I remember when the Federal budget, in President Eisenhower’s time, hit three billion dollars, a sum that, although balanced with incoming revenue, seemed horribly extravagant at the time. Now we talk in terms of three trillion, a thousand times more, much of it borrowed from dubious lenders.


So, we find sprawling county offices extending far beyond the Courthouse, Federal programs established in schools, roads, disaster relief, health care, and assistance for seasoned citizens like me. Compliance with all the regulations is impossible for the average person, who needs, of course, an agent to explain the process to him. Where will it end? It ends, my friend, when the source of money runs dry. Or when providers outnumber customers, as with the story of the sobbing Farm Services clerk who explained his grief by saying “My farmer just died.”