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Some of the Ways in Which Our Government Units
Cooperate with and Keep Contact With Groups of Citizens
“Public officials are the trustees of the people.”
In chapter 27 we have outlined the ways in which many government groups in this country keep in contact with one another and cooperate for the basic objectives of good government.
Our government units are also in close contact with the people, from whom they get their authority and for whom they render many services. Most government officials in this democracy keep constantly in their minds the fact that they are representatives of the people and therefore servants of the people, and that it is very necessary to keep close to the people.
THE CONTACTS OF INDIVIDUAL REPRESENTATIVES WITH THE
GROUPS OF CITIZENS WHOM THEY REPRESENT Holders of elective public office in villages, towns, townships, cities, and counties are called upon many times during their terms of office to help their fellow citizens solve many kinds of problems. This is also true of State officials and of officials of the Federal Government. Every member of the Congress, for instance, gets many letters every week from his constituents, asking help in some local problem, or recommending the passage of some new Federal law, or suggesting some improvement in the Federal service. These letters, and the many personal calls which public officials receive, are usually answered in a spirit of cooperation. The government of this country truly belongs to the people.
THE CONTACTS OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT WITH GROUPS OF THE PEOPLE
Because the Executive Branch is responsible for rendering most of the many services to the people which the Legislative Branch decides upon and authorizes by its laws, the more formal contacts of groups of citizens with the Federal Government are usually with representatives of its various Executive Departments and agencies. The most common contact of every citizen with the United States Government is, of course, with the Post Office Department—although this can hardly be called a very formal relationship. The many services of the post office in carrying and delivering letters, post cards, publications, packages, and other valuables safely, quickly, and at the lowest possible cost are so much of an everyday matter that most citizens hardly give a thought to this vast smoothly running Government organization. They do not often think, either, about the Navy Department when they set their watches by some clock in a public place which is regulated by the correct, official Naval Observatory time. Nor do they think of the Department of Commerce when they look in their newspapers for the Weather Bureau Report to help them make plans for outdoor activities. The postman's uniform may remind them that he is an official representative of the Federal Government, just as the uniform of the ranger in a National Park may remind automobile vacationists, or the uniform of the Immigration or Customs inspector may remind travelers returning from abroad of the same fact. We do not see the uniforms of our Army and Navy as often as citizens of many foreign countries see similar uniforms, and so are not often reminded of the protective and peace-enforcing services of our Federal Government. But these are some of the many contacts which are taking place day by day between the Government and the people.
Here are a few of the many other ways in which our Government units cooperate with groups of citizens:
HOW OUR GOVERNMENT UNITS COOPERATE WITH THOSE WHO
PROTECT THE HEALTH OF THE PEOPLE
We citizens of the United States believe that the people must have good health, sound minds, and strong bodies if we are effectively to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”—which is one of the basic objectives set down in the Preamble of the Constitution. In past chapters we have often mentioned the parks and playgrounds, as well as the hospitals and clinics, which are maintained by Government units. These aids to good health are used in connection with the efforts of all kinds of groups of citizens to promote the same objective. The officials of our public-school systems and State universities are leaders in protecting the health of young people and do much to cooperate with the students and their parents in this line. State, county, city, and town governments often employ doctors and trained nurses to protect the health of school children and others.
The United States Government maintains a Public Health Service to prevent the spread of diseases from one State to another, to make and enforce quarantine regulations, to study national problems of health, and to learn how best to cure many dangerous diseases. In these ways the United States Public Health Service gives valuable cooperation to private members of the medical profession. It also inspects all aliens to prevent them from bringing contagious diseases into this country. It is a Nation-wide cooperative health organization to improve the physical condition of the American people. Its free publications on all sorts of health problems are sent to hundreds of thousands of citizens every year.
HOW OUR GOVERNMENT UNITS HELP THE WAGE EARNERS
There are many National and State laws dealing with the conditions of labor. As a general thing State governments are responsible for the conditions under which their people live and work, as we have already explained. So most States now have labor departments, commissions, or bureaus. Many such State agencies help unemployed workers to find new jobs and cooperate with worker groups in many ways to make their work safer and healthier. They enforce laws which require healthful conditions in factories and safety devices on dangerous machines and appliances. It is also the duty of State governments to use their best efforts in helping employers and employees to settle their disputes peaceably and with as little disturbance and loss to either group as possible.
The Federal Government has an Executive Department of Labor, as you have learned, especially established by law to improve the condition of the wage earner. This Department cooperates with State labor departments in many ways and also performs many services for workers on Government contracts and in interstate commerce. Its conciliators cooperate to settle many difficult labor disputes all over the country. The free publications of its Children's Bureau on many subjects having to do with the health and well-being of babies and older children are of great value to the parents of the Nation.
HOW OUR GOVERNMENT UNITS HELP THE FARMER
Many Government agencies throughout the Nation are testing and finding better ways of farming, and are teaching the farmer how he can produce more from his land and how he can fight farm pests, animal diseases, and other dangers. For after all the farmer grows the food on which we all must live.
The Federal Department of Agriculture tries to find new uses and better markets for the farmer's products; it has brought to this country from foreign lands many valuable new plants which he can grow profitably. Its free publications on farm problems are the guide of many progressive farmers all over the country.
The Department of Commerce maintains a Weather Bureau to give the farmer warning of coming frosts, floods, storms, and heat waves, and to help him decide when to harvest his crops.
Both the Federal and State Governments have been interested in working with the farmer in preventing the washing away of soil on which crops may be grown. They have cooperated to prevent destructive floods in river valleys. On the other hand they have often helped the farmer to secure a sufficient water supply for land which would otherwise be too dry to grow crops.
HOW OUR GOVERNMENT UNITS HELP THE PEOPLE TO SAFEGUARD
THEIR MONEY AND INVESTMENTS
Almost everybody in this country has some dealings with a bank, because our American banking system undertakes to keep people's money safe for them and also to have supplies of money ready at places where they are needed for pay rolls and other purposes. The banks are allowed to lend to their customers part of the money they hold, under conditions limited by law. Some of the banks, chartered as “National Banks,” are responsible to the Federal Government for obeying Federal laws, while others, chartered as “State Banks,” are answerable to the State governments. In both cases, the governments send examiners to the banks every few months to see that their business methods do not violate the law and that the people's money safe.
To regulate the supply and movement of money in the United States, the Federal Government has also established a Federal Reserve System, with 12 Federal Reserve regional banks in different parts of the country, all of which are supervised by a central board at Washington. This system is a form of cooperation among groups of bankers, under Federal supervision. To protect the people who have money to invest, it has established the Securities and Exchange Commission, which cooperates with dealers in stocks and bonds in giving to investors complete and correct information about the companies which are being financed and in preventing all sorts of dishonest practices.