Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Less Government" Simpletons

This is a photograph in today's Washington Post, page A-3. It shows a man, Brad Craig, giving a grateful handshake to a firefighter who has just saved his home from a wildfire in the state of Washington.

The story mentions that "The country marked its 10th day at Preparedness Level 5, the highest set by federal authorities, indicating that there are active fires in many areas and that have yet to be contained. The federal government on Saturday reported 11 new fires in the Northwestern states and California, taking the number of active fires in the country to 70." Earlier this week three firefighters died in the wildfires, while the US Bureau of Land Management coordinates the efforts of 29,000 firefighters fighting many fires from California to Alaska.

The smiling Brad Craig is wearing a t-shirt that says, "Less government, MORE FREEDOM."

Listen, the government is a gigantic bureaucratic slug that seems to barely keep up as the world rushes forward. We are here in Washington DC, we know about the government, we see it every day. A bunch of normal people get up in the morning and go to some office to do some tedious, thankless work that will probably be undone as soon as the next election's votes are counted. There is no glamour and very few attaboys, the pay isn't great but the benefits are.

The government is our society's way of coordinating a lot of services. Mostly these are services that would not be performed very well by private corporations, and many of them are things that we all rely on at one time or another, often without giving it a thought. The government doesn't belong to anybody, sometimes it seems like one group or another gets too much influence but generally the government reflects the choices of the electorate and functions to serve all of us. If you don't like the way it works, you are always welcome to participate in making it better. If you have a better idea than voting for leaders then let us know. In the meantime, that's how we do it. Sometimes your candidate wins, sometimes not.

We benefit from government just like this idiot, smiling at these firefighters while he's wearing a shirt suggesting that there should be fewer of them. Or maybe he just thinks they should be paid less, or that they do not really need all that safety equipment and airplanes and stuff.

We pay for these necessary services through taxes. It's a good deal. You contribute a certain amount of your wealth to the common good, and you can drive on roads and bridges that don't cave in on you, you can buy food that is not contaminated, you can fly in an airplane that won't crash into another airplane, because somebody's coordinating the traffic. We assume without question that we can breathe the air, drink the water, eat the food that is served us, congregate safely in public, we have parks and museums and transportation to get us there. If your neighborhood is on fire or there is an earthquake or a flood, somebody will come to save you if they can. We have the largest defense system in the world, by far. You and I might not agree with everything that is done, our priorities might differ, but there is a need for a service organization that is not hustling for profits, to coordinate efforts to carry out the needs of the people. And by and large our government gets the job done.

There is a continuum that shades from ignorance and irony into hypocrisy by degrees. And it strikes me that Brad Craig, whose house was saved by the government he despises, even while he smiles and shakes the hands of the firefighters that the government sent, has veered well beyond ignorance and irony. Unfortunately this kind of simpleton is all too common these days.