It was said to underscore the idea that entrepreneural independence is the cornerstone of American greatness and that it carries the legacy of capitalist success despite what they see as the crippling interference of government.
It isnt hard to punch holes in that contention simply by pointing out that government regulations protect your trademark in order to brand your business. Your utilities fall under government supervision to ensure fair practices and give you fair access. Government paved the roads for customers get to your business and government regulations guarantee your right to fair access to broadcast media so that you can promote your business.
I won’t even get into postal delivery or trade agreements to supply your business or the local government that protects your business from vandalism and fire, or the public education you, and probably your employees, received that likely help your business….
The point is, no one starts a business or is successful in business, without the support of American jurisprudence and governance. Nice as it may feel to pat ourselves on the back for success, we had help. All of us.
An even more popular position against government regards it’s programs. The oppositional refrain is that, “the Federal Government can’t do anything right.” It’s repeated so often that it’s rarely contested anymore.
The ACA enrollment fiasco prompted one of my friends to chime, “Government doesn’t do anything well.” He’s a conservative/Republican and I wondered what he meant specifically. Republicans more or less, comprise half of government and the policies and programs that exist were created by Democrats and Republicans alike. But when half of the people IN government, also HATE government, we can’t be too surprised when there are dysfunctions and inadequacies.
When I defend government I’m not suggesting that there aren’t any failures, commissions, agencies and practices within that need to be reformed, reduced or eliminated and I am as concerned as anyone about wasteful spending that I know exists.
I am as concerned as anyone about government overreach and I pay close attention to violations, or manipulation of constitutional parameters, no matter what party is at the helm. But no rational and effective change will take place until we start having conversations that are truly “fair and balanced.”
The truth is, when it comes to our Federal Government, it isn’t hard to see many aspects that have been conceived and run very well.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, a failure under the previous administration, has been reformed and now wins praise for its response to natural disasters. No private business could wait the long intervals between disasters like FEMA does, or bring relief to entire cities or states.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: This legendary American organization, popularized by the movie Outbreak, isolates and wipes out entire plagues and diseases that strike anywhere in the world. “The CDC,” says Dr. James Le Duc of the World Health Organization “is the only ballgame in town.”
Consumer Product Safety Commission: This government watchdog agency saves thousands of lives and protects millions by screening 15,000 products a year for safety.
Environmental Protection Agency: This agency monitors and controls pollution caused by solid wastes, pesticides, toxic substances, noise, and radiation. It has been in constant conflict with business, because it’s usually cheaper for businesses to just dump pollution than treat it. Modern conservatives try hard to marginalize the EPA, but this agency, created under Nixon, has saved thousands of lives and improved the lives of millions.
Federal Aviation Administration: Whatever its shortcomings (which stem from underfunding), the FAA has made our skies far safer than the free market would make them. The FAA not only controls air traffic for safety, but enforces safety regulations.
G.I. Bill: One of the most successful programs of all time, the G.I Bill sent an entire army of young men to college after World War II. It proved so valuable that the program continues to this day.
Public Education: While there are problems within our curriculum and accountability, an education is granted to every American child and as a result our literacy rate, over the age of 15 is 99%. Federal Government is working hard to improve this vital asset to American life.
Head Start: This legendary program provides pre-schooling, nutritious meals, medical and dental care and other services to young children in their critical developmental years. More than 200 studies have found that it works.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration: A classic example of a long-term research and development program that no business could ever afford. Today we have communications, weather and scientific satellites that have revolutionized our daily lives, all thanks to NASA.
National Parks: This system oversees 369 national parks comprising 83 million acres. It is one of the most effective — not to mention popular — conservation efforts in our nation’s history.
National Weather Service: This agency not only gives you your daily weather reports, but saves the lives and/or livelihoods of pilots, sailors, farmers and those in the paths of destructive storms.
Peace Corps: Created by John F. Kennedy, this program sends 7,000 Americans a year out to developing countries to help them with everything from health care to farming techniques. Even conservatives like it, because the participants provide social, economic and political information to our intelligence agencies.
Police and Criminal Justice System (and the FBI): This may seem obvious, but it’s also one of the best examples that government plays a vital role in society, one that could never be privatized.
Public Libraries: In 1992, America had 15,870 central public libraries and their branches, with nearly 700 million books and serial volumes in circulation. A University of Minnesota/Gallup survey found that 88 percent of all Americans consider public libraries “very important” as an educational support center for students of all ages.
The U.S. Armed Forces: What needs to be said here? Our military is the greatest in the world.
While people may criticize Social Security, the truth is, that by any standard, Social Security is the most successful social program ever enacted in the United States, guaranteeing a measure of security for nearly all workers and families. For over 60% of the elderly, Social Security provides at least half of their total income, and for many, all of it. Without it, the poverty rate would jump from 10% to nearly half of all senior citizens.
If you criticize government, fine, that is reasonable, I am critical, too. But if your argument is based on the presumption that “government can’t run anything well” and that it only impedes entrepreneuralism, then your premise has no credibility and your solutions should be summarily dismissed, as well.