Gov­ern­ment is bad — un­less you need it

The Covington News - - Front page -

One of the themes un­der­ly­ing this year’s waves of po­lit­i­cal protests — whether anti-tax, anti-Obama, anti-health­care re­form, what­ever — is that gov­ern­ment in all its forms should be abol­ished.

I have some Lib­er­tar­ian friends who con­sider it a bedrock prin­ci­ple that gov­ern­ment never works un­der any cir­cum­stances, so the sooner we get rid of it and stop col­lect­ing taxes, the bet­ter. I have no doubt that they are sin­cere in their be­liefs.

We have seen a milder vari­a­tion of this anti-gov­ern­ment view­point dur­ing the health­care re­form de­bate from Ge­or­gia con­gress­men like Tom Price, Saxby Cham­b­liss, Paul Broun and Johnny Isak­son. They have strongly op­posed pro­pos­als for a gov­ern­ment-funded “pub­lic op­tion” or sim­i­lar form of fed­eral health in­sur­ance pro­gram mod­eled on Medi­care.

“As a physi­cian, I can at­test that noth­ing has had a greater neg­a­tive ef­fect on the de­liv­ery of health care than the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s in­tru­sion into medicine through Medi­care,” said Price, who was an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon be­fore run­ning for po­lit­i­cal of­fice.

“I will not be a part of driv­ing Amer­i­cans to a gov­ern­ment-run health care sys­tem that we can’t af­ford,” Isak­son said.

The con­gress­men, like my Lib­er­tar­ian col­leagues, are clear about it: gov­ern­ment has no role to play in help­ing its cit­i­zens.

As one in­ter­net pun­dit ex­pressed it: “The free mar­ket al­ways can solve prob­lems and pro­duce what peo­ple need bet­ter than gov­ern­ment. There are no ex­cep­tions.”

I thought of th­ese folks as Ge­or­gia was be­ing in­un­dated with a se­ries of rain­storms that dropped a record amount of wa­ter on the north­ern part of the state: 20 inches or more in some coun­ties.

The his­toric floods that over­ran the state and killed at least nine peo­ple were a lead­ing story for the na­tional me­dia, which broad­cast stark im­ages of bridges and sub­di­vi­sions un­der wa­ter, roads buried un­der muddy runoff, and schools that would not re­open for a long time.

There were heart-warm­ing pic­tures as well of coura­geous emer­gency work­ers who pi­loted their boats through the most danger­ous ar­eas to res­cue peo­ple from the ris­ing wa­ters.

Many of th­ese res­cue work­ers were gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees like po­lice and fire­fight­ers whose salaries are paid with tax­payer funds. I didn’t hear any of the res­cued flood vic­tims protest­ing that gov­ern­ment ought to keep its nose out of their af­fairs.

In Ge­or­gia, as in New Orleans af­ter the dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, the sit­u­a­tion was the same. When you’re stand­ing on the roof of your house and the wa­ter is lap­ping at your feet, there isn’t much chance that the forces of the free mar­ket are go­ing to mag­i­cally come to your res­cue. You’re not go­ing to com­plain if some gov­ern­ment-paid em­ployee in a gov­ern­ment-pro­vided wa­ter­craft saves your life.

It is in­ter­est­ing to me that the same politi­cians who op­pose the ex­pen­di­ture of gov­ern­ment funds for health in­sur­ance were clam­or­ing for boat­loads of fed­eral dol­lars to help the ar­eas that were rav­aged by the flood­ing.

Said Johnny Isak­son: “I fully sup­port the gov­er­nor’s re­quest for fed­eral dis­as­ter as­sis­tance for com­mu­ni­ties in Ge­or­gia af­fected by th­ese dev­as­tat­ing storms and floods, and I hope the pres­i­dent will ap­prove this re­quest quickly.”

Said Saxby Cham­b­liss: “There are many ar­eas that are go­ing to need a help­ing hand and it is im­per­a­tive that the pres­i­dent ap­prove this re­quest.”

Even Tom Price, who op­poses gov­ern­ment funds for a pro­gram like Medi­care, wanted those tax­payer dol­lars: “Gov­er­nor Per­due has asked Pres­i­dent Obama to ex­pe­di­tiously de­clare a ma­jor dis­as­ter in Ge­or­gia. To­day, I, along with Ge­or­gia’s en­tire con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, sent a let­ter to the pres­i­dent in sup­port of Gov­er­nor Per­due’s re­quest. It is es­sen­tial that the ap­pro­pri­ate re­sources get to where they are needed so the re­cov­ery process can be­gin.”

It’s one thing to have an ab­stract de­bate about the fea­si­bil­ity of elim­i­nat­ing taxes and gov­ern­ment, but real life tends to be a lot messier.

In real life, peo­ple get sick and need med­i­cal care. They need roads to drive on, wa­ter that is safe to drink, and some­times they even need to be res­cued from floods.

I un­der­stand why peo­ple feel ag­gra­vated by the gov­ern­ment. I feel the same way when­ever I try to re­new my driver’s li­cense or pay my prop­erty taxes. As the flood­ing showed, how­ever, there are times when we all need a help­ing hand that only gov­ern­ment can pro­vide.

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