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‘Big Government’ has a proud history

Published:   |   Updated: June 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM

A recent letter writer expressed amused shock that possibly I had “awoken from a protracted dormancy from reality” because I uttered some opinions on race that more closely fit with a conservative viewpoint. It’s astonishing how astute and reasonable I suddenly become when readers agree with me.

It wasn’t my only foray into the dark side. Over the years, I’ve also scolded teachers’ unions for hindering educational reform; berated environmentalists for their impractical demands; rebuked the ACLU for its naiveté on national defense and law-and-order issues; and chided liberals for refusing to deal with the future of entitlements. I better watch out. I could end up watching Fox News.

Actually, in conversation, conservatives tend to find me a relatively temperate guy. Problem is, being limited to 500 words a column, there’s not always space for moderating nuances and palliative gestures.

My primary beef with conservatives, other than on social issues, is over their ceaseless and indiscriminate attacks on “Big Government.” In case they haven’t noticed, America is one hell of a big country with a seriously complex financial, commercial, technological and social infrastructure. You can’t run it like 1789 or even 1989.

What many in today’s tea party and libertarian movements would suggest is the states’ rights, limited government ideal was tried and soundly rejected after only eight years — the inadequate and ineffective Articles of Confederation — and replaced with the Constitution in 1789.

Critics ignore the fact that one of the two original political parties, the Federalists — the party of our first two presidents (although George Washington was a sympathizer not a member), the first Treasury secretary and the first Chief Justice — favored a strong central government. So even from the beginning, a federal government “sufficient” to get the job done, to levy taxes and regulate interstate commerce was the will of the people.

While right wingers made championing Cliven Bundy in his tax standoff with federal authorities sound like something out of American folklore, at least before he decided to school us on how blacks would be better off picking cotton, they conveniently overlook that Washington, while president, led a military expedition in 1794 and quashed a similar group of tax protestors during the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.

Government doesn’t always work as efficiently or effectively as we’d choose but the same can be said about Big Business. It’s not the government that’s on track to break the old record of 30.8 million cars recalled in one year! Besides government does provide a lot of stuff Americans say they want — like ensuring safe food, water, consumer products and working conditions, reliable air traffic control, pristine national parks, timely weather forecasting and superb medical research among others.

Government was a substantive factor in America’s founding and early development and continues to be an essential player in its long-term prosperity. It’s not a matter of “too big.” Just as in 1789, it’s a matter of “sufficient” to get the job done.

Marty Moore is a freelance writer living in Port Richey.

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