This I Believe

Dorothy - Dallas, Texas
Entered on February 9, 2007

I believe in government.

I know, I know. This hasn’t been a popular sentiment since the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan popularized the idea that government doesn’t solve the problem, government is the problem. But I believe in it passionately and I am grateful that over 200 years ago our founding fathers fought and died for our right to govern ourselves. I also believe we should never elect anyone to public office who says that government is bad. Elected officials can be bad but in America WE are the government and you get what you pay for.

Capitalism is a viable economic system but capitalism unbridled and unprincipled as it would be without government regulation is not a society I want to live in. Few people today remember when anyone could sell any product with no evidence that it worked or was safe. It was up to the individual to test it and if you died well maybe your neighbors would find out and avoid your fate. Do we want to go back to the days when food was not inspected (spinach anyone?) or there was no public land that both preserves the wilderness for future generations and allows everyone to enjoy it and not just those that can afford to buy it? Do we want to encourage a business model that pollutes at will until everything is dead and poisoned for miles around and then just moves on and leaves the mess. Do we want to provide our own private police force to protect our homes or be forced to teach our children everything they need to know to survive in a modern society all on our own? I don’t think so.

The government does many things much more efficiently and much more cheaply than private enterprise ever could. Take medical research. No for profit pharmaceutical company would foot the bill for the millions of hours of basic research that are required just to begin to understand a single disease. Instead they take advantage of the thousands of papers that are published every year by NIH funded scientists in order to design drugs that they then profit from. The government through it’s funding of basic research both ensures innovation that can be translated into new products and provides the training for the next generation of scientists, doctors and engineers because universities rely on those funds to survive.

The Apollo space program and other defense projects acted as the main drivers of the semiconductor industry. In retrospect the space program was the greatest boon to engineering and the computer industry there ever was and helped usher in the age of information technology.

Medicare is a government program that has proven it can provide health insurance with far lower overhead costs than any private health insurance company. Were employers and individuals able to provide coverage through that mechanism healthcare costs would not be the problem they are today.

Why government should be so reviled these days and why citizens would accept the idea that the taxes they pay for that government are something to be avoided at all costs is something I frankly can’t understand. I believe in the principles of Abraham Lincoln and in the greatest experiment ever, a government of the people, by the people and for the people.