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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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The Role (and roll) of Government

By on August 14, 2014 in See It Here

 

I recently did a series of media training seminars for a group of libertarian students outside of Washington DC. My role was to help them nail their points within 4 minutes, as is essential in a live television appearance, and to use examples of what doesn’t work followed by the libertarian approach that would work. I always learn from these creative minds who see problems through “new eyes.” And I always leave the final seminar feeling optimistic; that young scholars don’t require tattoos or pierced noses or the necessity to use “you know” in every sentence in order to contribute to society (though I still don’t get the “body art” stuff).

Topics ranged from allowing anyone suffering from a chronic disease to be allowed early access to experimental drugs instead of waiting for FDA approval to letting the “free market” come alive by limiting the role of government and regulations to letting drivers of vehicles looking for passengers use an app to find their fares as is taking place with Uber and Lyft instead of the standard taxi company. Included too in these discussions were the “old ideas” that public employee unions serve a puropose pointing to the problems we see today in Detroit and the state of Illinois. Layers of government get in the way of progress was everyone’s premise.

One question I asked each person was this: “Are you saying there’s no need for government setting any kind of standards for a business that wants to operate?” The answer was always the same: “the free market will set what is right and what is wrong and what will be successful and what won’t.”

Put another way: competition will weed out bad ideas-practices-business plans and do it more efficiently than a government of experts saying “do it this way.”

From the Department of No Kidding (also known as “donk” ) we are just now stepping into a political shift inside the United States. If you turn on a congressional hearing, there’s almost non-stop blather about what the framers of the Constitution intended which, it should be pointed out, is really nothing new. When the boys left Independence Hall in 1787 after writing the Constitution, they were arguing about it so this goes with the territory.

Today, however, we find our esteemed legislators unable to converse with opposing viewpoints choosing, instead, to use smart-ass remarks as a way of making their point about how wrong the other side is while somehow neglecting to offer a solution. One can easily see how young people have become disinterested in continuing this nonsense.

In fact, a recent Pew Research poll of millennials (age 18-33) found half saying they were not unattached to a political party or an organized religion. That’s the highest level of dissatisfaction in the quarter century this poll has been taken. One more note: when I interviewed Ross Perot after his independent run for the White House in 1996, he noted that a democracy lasts about two centuries before it blows itself up. That’s not an original idea; consider this from some guy named John Adams: “a democracy…soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”

These conversations are healthy and we are witnessing democracy being fine-tuned. For a while, we went along with the way things are but the 2008 recession when the government stepped in to bail out stupid CEO’s and save jobs along with angst about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started thoughtful people wondering if there’s a better way? Indeed, we have seen and heard the extremes–that happens all the time—because it’s the easy answer. “Just do the opposite of what doesn’t work and,” the thinking goes, “the opposite will get us out of the mess we’re in.” Be patient and the Tea Party will implode when confronted with the real world—and that is happening now.  We will move to the center where agreement can exist but for now, we are stuck with the yelling and finger-pointing.

I happen to believe there’s a need for government to protect us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a role keeping us from destroying ourselves with the antics we see today.  These students make me optimistic. Our friend Winston Churchill says  “a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”  We will find the middle (and common) ground again. It’s just an ugly walk to get there.

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