My idea of exemplary government is not having to give a second thought about what’s going on in the power centers of the world while I mind my own business. I have things to do. Don’t we all have things to do without taking time to constantly monitor the news for objectionable government activity? It would be great to just trust that Washington and our state capitols are humming along in the interest of the people and doing what has to be done in order to make life better for all of us.

It’s already set up to work that way. As a republic, we elect people to run the government and make life better. Our representatives are expected to pass laws and fund projects to benefit the population without stepping on the toes of any individuals whose civil privileges and freedoms are plainly spelled out in our Bill of Rights. Things chug along smoothly and if one of the legislators gets out of line, we don’t re-elect them to another term in office.

But that’s the big, ideal picture without any details where the devil lives. Is there something inherently flawed with our system that keeps it from working for everyone’s benefit?

Maybe it’s not so much a flaw in government as it is the tendency of humans to protect their own welfare at the expense of others. Some might call this unregulated capitalism. Voters tend to keep those in power when they perceive receiving personal benefit and they punish candidates who push benefits for all citizens. Then there are those who get elected by appealing to voters’ prejudice or misconceptions, which does not jibe with my set of values but is perfectly fine with a large chunk of the citizenry.

Legislators who support the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of the working class are re-elected with generous support from the wealthy. Sometimes this involves twisting the truth to make it seem that these lawmakers really have the majority’s interest as their number one priority.

Also, you can’t minimize the fact that life is complicated. As you try to do something to benefit one group, you end up affecting some other group in a negative way. Then there is the issue of progress. 200 years ago, if you were elected president you couldn’t do as much damage in those four years as you can today. It took forever to get an offensive letter from the East to the West coast. Government for the people must change with the times.

Turmoil is great for getting people off their feet and engaged in government. That’s all good. But what does it cost the country only in productivity to have people constantly wired into news outlets for the latest outrage? I can only guess at how to make these kinds of calculations, but if half the population of the United States spent three extra hours on the news each week, that would be 3 times 163 million times 52 weeks in a year, giving us 25.4 billion hours a year. And if we paid all those people the average U.S. hourly wage (for December 2015), which is $24.57, that would add up to $625 billion of wasted productivity. Think what a great wall along our borders that kind of money could build. Or, we could use it for something else; maybe health care.

Did that $24.57 average U.S. wage make your head snap back? It did mine. This is as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and projected to be around $26.70/hour in 2020. There has been so much talk about minimum wage that we haven’t looked at the average. I bet it makes people earning $7.25 an hour feel strangely undervalued, especially when they are touted as being essential employees to keep the economy running. Perhaps we should all take our turn as essential employees to get that special feeling of getting paid less than a third of the average wage for the important and sometimes risky work they do.

Let’s hope that when the election results are clear and accepted, we can start concentrating on things we all have to do. When people talk about the president, I would love to be able to say with an air of interest and not any worry, “Oh, the president, yes, and can you refresh my memory, who, exactly, is the president now?”

I’ve got to get back to work.