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Monday, September 27, 2010

Proper Role of Government: Protecting Life and Liberty

Ned Hodgman understands that we form governments to provide some basic protections that we can't provide individually and that allow us to enjoy life and liberty and pursue happiness. Hodgman says that when government doesn't do its job, people can die. He points to some vivid recent examples:
  1. The Army Corps of Engineers doesn't maintain the levees in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina hits. People die.
  2. The Mineral Management Service doesn't enforce its rules on offshore oil platforms. The Deepwater Horizon rig explodes. Workers die.
  3. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration drops the ball on enforcement of pipeline safety rules. The U.S. sees hundreds of pipeline accidents over the last five years, including this month's San Bruno explosion. People die.
(Don't forget: the PHMSA is run by a former oil company lawyer, Cynthia Quarterman. Perhaps to Quarterman's credit, while the PHMSA has issued 16 special permits since January 2009, only one such permit has been issued since Quarterman, an Obama appointee, took charge in November 2009.)

Hodgman offers a somewhat more reasoned response to government shortcomings than you'll hear from the teabaggers:

At the heart of Americans’ dissatisfaction with Democrats, Republicans, and politicians in general is not the legislative process or politicians’ foibles, as irritating as those things can be day in, day out. At the heart of people’s anger is real concern and fear about their safety and the safety of people they care about. In the richest country in the world, life remains unpredictable in large part because of government agencies that don’t push harder to inspect, monitor, and get in the face of life’s daily problems. Pushing them harder to do their jobs is our job [Ned Hodgman, "The Problem with Politics Is Toothless Government," Understanding Government, 2010.09.25].

Now don't anyone go quoting Ben Franklin on security and liberty here. We're not talking about giving up civil liberties to catch terrorists. We're talking about enforcing rules to make sure public works, oil rigs, and pipelines are built correctly so they don't collapse or explode. That's why we pay taxes: to create a government with the resources and the teeth necessary to ensure security and liberty.

1 comment:

  1. In the immortal words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society."


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