The example given in Ken Hansen’s letter, “We all need, use public services” points out the hypocrisy of so many when it comes to debating the merits of “government.” Whether it’s Tea Party fanatics, Grover Norquist disciples, Ruby Ridge sympathizers, or critics of the New Deal, I suspect the common threads are ignorance and selfishness.
I wonder if these kinds of folk ever vaccinate their kids, use electricity, check out books from the library, take ferries, go fishing in stocked lakes, call 911, mail letters, fly in airplanes, eat inspected food, get passports, purchase savings bonds or securities, or send their kids to public schools? All of these things would be much harder, if not impossible, without government services. So many people take these and other things for granted, yet are quick to complain about taxes, or vilify public employees. More troubling are those who feel that government has no role in aiding the less fortunate in our society. These people should remember that their good fortune may be the result of an accident of birth, or of taking advantage of opportunities that are not available to everyone.
Fear or mistrust of government is simply irrational. Sure, as in every large-scale endeavor there are inefficiencies, mistakes, and opportunities for improvement, and we need to keep the public sector honest. But “government” is us — it’s our neighbors and relatives who go to work every day and provide important services. The irony is that those who seek to diminish or sabotage government don’t understand that they are ultimately just hurting themselves.