Thursday, February 16, 2006

Government's Role in Social Decline

Americans have come to expect much from government. There is the notion that government is supposed to provide a "social safety net" for ourselves, our children, our elderly parents. Then there is the idea that government is supposed to ban things that are bad for us and force us to do things that are good for us (e.g., smoking bans and mandatory seatbelt laws). Related to that is the use of government to make the world a sightlier and more pleasant place by zoning private property, providing public parks, banning billboards, and suchlike. Finally (for now), there is the idea that government should be "in charge" of certain endeavors, such as education, broadcasting, stock trading, election campaigns, and private voluntary conduct that might affect the "rights" of certain "protected" groups of persons.

The realization of all those expectations (and more) has had these effects:
  • Americans have learned dependence, instead of self-reliance.
  • Civil society has all but vanished, and with it our ability to solve problems and resolve conflicts cooperatively. Instead, we are forced by government to accept one-size-fits-all solutions.
As someone once said, the symbol of America is supposed to be the eagle, not the clam.