Presidential candidates for the Republican nomination this season have been united in their criticism of government—and government certainly merits some criticism. However, I hate to see the baby-out-with-the-bathwater approach these candidates tout. I’m glad for my Social Security check each month, and no, I wouldn’t have come out ahead by investing my Social Security deduction from my salary each month. My 401 K has proven that even the most careful, conservative investments are not safe from stock market plunges.
I’m also glad we have child labor and minimum wage laws. Possibly, we have progressed morally and socially to a place where employers would not pay wages so low that parents have to put children as young as 6-years-old to work in factories 12 a hours day as was common in the 19th century, but the plight of migrant agriculture workers in our country is not reassuring.
I am grateful for public services like libraries and city, state and national parks. Granted, private enterprise could provide these services, but not at a price where I could afford to use these facilities very often. I also use public highways and bridges, and am not convinced I would save money by paying for their use on each trip rather than with the gasoline tax.
I’m grateful public schools were available for my education. My parents would have struggled to pay for private schools for my brothers and me. I really don’t mind paying taxes to educate my neighbors’ kids because it’s to my advantage to have their kids grow up to be productive citizens who will work and pay taxes.
I’m also grateful I don’t have to contract with a private company for police and fire protection—and I’m glad my neighbors have this protection. It’s reassuring to know I can call 911 if I check on my elderly neighbor and find her unresponsive.
I’m even grateful for services I don’t use frequently like public transit. For many people, it’s the only way to get to work. People in low paying jobs could not afford to pay what an unsubsidized private system would charge—and yes, we do need people to perform the low paying jobs in our society.
I’m glad my neighbors are forced to pay garbage collection fees even though they might save money by hauling their trash to the dump themselves—whenever they got around to it. I appreciate laws against drunk driving which protect responsible people from those who abuse their freedom to pursue happiness. I’m grateful for jails and prisons to lock away those who can’t respect the rights of others. All of these services cost money and I don’t mind contributing my share.
I wish government were 100% efficient and taxes were lower. I also wish dentists and health insurance companies charged less for necessary services. I definitely wish banks paid lower bonuses and charged less interest on loans. Waste, inefficiency, and overcompensation occur in private enterprise as well as in government.
Anyone who has visited a state-run store in a communist country is grateful for private enterprise in manufacturing and retailing—activities which government should not run. But our choice isn’t all government or no government. Our choice is to use government to provide services which aren’t profitable for private enterprise—and to provide sensible regulations for industry.