Endless Curiosity

January 30, 2009

Government is NOT the problem

Filed under: Republicans — Alec @ 5:02 am

Ronnie Reagan was wrong when he said that government is not the solution, government is the problem, although it was a great sound bite. Not only was he wrong, but if you look at more of his speech, it was just plain crazy talk. Here’s the paragraph from from his 1981 Inaugural Speech.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?

Reagan wasn’t even arguing against a real problem – he threw up a straw man and argued against that. What does he even mean by “govern someone else”? What people want the government to do is solve problems that are too big for them to solve as individuals. We like that the government provides a military to protect the nation, police forces to protect us and our property, a court system to enforce contracts, a school system to educate our children, roads to allow us to travel comfortably, rules of the road to prevent too many accidents, clean water so we don’t get ill, and the list goes on.

And yes, we do want the people who work in those areas to be more “elite”, more competent that us. We want the government to provide high-quality services, not low-quality services, which means we want the government to employ the best, most talented, most qualified people in these areas.

Ironically, despite what Reagan said, he and the Republicans really did want to “govern someone else”. It’s the area where his argument has the most validity, where we don’t want the government telling us what to do, that the Republicans like to step in and become active. Republicans love to dictate morality to us, to tell us what we can and cannot do. It’s always the Right that wants to ban books, that wants to dictate our sexual behavior, that wants to tell us what we can watch on TV.

But, back to the main point, no one believes that government is the problem. What people really mean is that they don’t like certain things the government is doing, or certain programs the government is spending money on. The issue is not with government, but with the priorities of the current government.

Reagan and the Republicans didn’t like many of the social programs that existed because of FDR and LBJ. They preferred a world of less regulation, a more Hobbesian world. And look where that has finally led us, with the Bush Administration handing over voluntary regulatory power to the industries being regulated, and removing regulatory oversight completely from the financial markets mainly responsible for today’s recession/depression.

No oversight of the world of Credit Default Swaps. No regulation of mortgage loan practices. No regulations to prevent a housing bubble that people like Dean Baker were years ago predicting would lead to trouble.

No, government is not the problem. In our present crisis, lack of government was the problem.

1 Comment »

  1. Agreed! Yet isn’t it funny that our country seems to like electing the ‘average joes’ rather than elitists in high positions. Half of us (I bet you can guess which half) wants to have someone they can relate to in these jobs, rather than a qualified person who will make informed and smart decisions that will help the nation, not just themselves. (Know who I’m talking about yet?)

    Comment by Nikki — January 31, 2009 @ 10:26 am

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