By Ron VandenBoom
Tell John Musgrove, Democratic candidate for House District 91, that you want less government and you're bound to get a reaction.
"I'm tired of that phrase 'less government,'" Musgrove said in a recent interview. "It's my feeling that we need responsive government rather then less government."
Musgrove, a former teacher at Havre High School, is running against fellow Democrat, Roberta Demarest, in a primary bid for the seat.
"Sometimes the government is our only protection," Musgrove said.
Protection primarily from what Musgrove sees as a shift in balance between the the rights of big corporations and the need by workers to make a reasonable profit for their efforts.
"Montana has hard workers and educated workers that are being forced into a position where the top end of the scale and the bottom end of the scale is widening all of the time," he said. "We need to put the brakes on that. We all deserve a profit."
In his own case, Musgrove said he has worked all of his life to get into what he sees as "the middle class."
"And they are setting the bar higher and higher all of the time," he said.
Musgrove however sees the bar lowering when it comes to the balance between individual freedoms and individual responsibilities.
"You have to have a balance between individual freedoms and community protections," he said. "If they're out of balance then certainly something is wrong. And I believe they are."
He quotes a comment borrowed from an unknown source that states: "The Statue of Liberty is on the east coast and they ought to have the Statue of Responsibility on the west coast."
Musgrove said a push during the 1970s for individual rights lacked the individual responsibilities that go along with them.
"The individual position became much more important than the community position," he said. "We're human beings and human beings belong with the community."
He added that "it starts with the family."
Musgrove believes the impact of this push toward individualism is part of the reason Montana is coming in dead last according to most economic indicators.
"We're in trouble here," he said. "And we've got to find a way to turn it around. I don't know if that's possible, but I'm going to give it a try."
Musgrove believes that what has been done so far to reverse the downslide constitutes little more than "spinning our wheels."
"We keep trying to bring the big corporations in here when we need to unify the small businesses to equal the big corporations," he said. "I'm for the small businessman who doesn't have the same break on wholesale items because they can't purchase enough in a unit to sell it at a good profit."
As for agriculture, Musgrove rejects the argument by Republican candidate from HD 90, Merlin Wolery, that less government regulation of agriculture would help Montana farmers.
"A partnership between government and agriculture is much more beneficial than having less government," Musgrove said, referring to granges and co-ops as a way agriculture might be able to effect changes.
Musgrove also believes Montana's share of the tobacco settlement money should be used for getting people to stop smoking and to aid in health concerns related to smoking. His fear is that the money might be squandered unless there is a strong workable program laid out by the legislature.