With the rise of the Tea Party movement, there has been a concurrent rise in the popularity of libertarianism. This political and economic view advocates radically reducing the role of government in society. Libertarians tend to advocate for the privatization of many things currently handled by the government.
Ever since Reagan, America has been flirting with privatization and deregulation. It is a popular move among those who perceive the government to be inherently wasteful, inefficient and corrupt. While things are going along reasonably well in society, it is tempting to think, “we don’t really need the government to be doing ‘x’.” On the other hand, times of crisis and extraordinary circumstances give us the opportunity to consider and appreciate the valuable role our governments play.
Consider the recent earthquake near Japan. Not only did it create a tsunami that has devastated many communities, but it has also endangered nuclear power plants. Some may imagine that private industry would do a better job than any government in rescuing victims and combating the emergency of the at-risk nuclear power plants. But our experience tells us otherwise. The governments of the world are the ones who come to the rescue in these situations. Although many corporations have interests in seeing the problem solved, they are simply not equipped to effect a large scale rescue and recovery. We look to our governments to play those roles and to ensure that corporations fulfill their responsibilities in crises.
Emergency rescue and management is not the only role that our government plays. It also provides infrastructure for commerce and daily living. It provides a safety net for citizens; and this provision not only protects the least in our society but it also protects the rest of us from massive unrest. It provides education for us.
My goal is not to itemize every valuable function of government; it is to contemplate and remember just how critical such things are for civilized society. Yes, there are inherent challenges in making sure that our government functions well, but when we advocate for the elimination of those functions, we risk throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need to be coming together to work toward improving the way our government performs critical functions rather than self-inflicting wounds in a quest to eliminate those critical functions.