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Jay Lake
Date: 2009-09-03 04:07
Subject: [politics] The government is here to help
Security: Public
Ronald Reagan said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" This is virtually the founding tenet of modern movement conservatism. Combine this with anti-tax activist Grover Norquist's oft-stated goal of cutting government in half, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub", and you have the picture that many American voters have of the government today.

Somehow, people don't seem to have any idea what the government does to help them.

If you or someone you love...
  • Is on Medicare/Medicaid or in the VA system, the government is helping you.

  • Is on social security, the government is helping you.

  • Attends (or ever attended) public school, the government is helping you.

  • Attends (or ever attended) a state college, the government is helping you.

  • Holds an FDIC-insured bank account, the government is helping you.

  • Has called 911 in an emergency, the government is helping you.

  • Has ridden in an ambulance, the government is helping you.

  • Flies on commercial airlines, the government is helping you.

  • Drives on a public road, the government is helping you.

  • Has survived an auto accident due to seatbelts or airbags, the government is helping you.

  • Has hired an exterminator to safely treat household pests with chemicals, the government is helping you.

  • Has been treated with FDA-approved medicines or procedures, the government is helping you.

  • Has ever sent or received postal mail, the government is helping you.

  • Has ever sent or received email, the government is helping you.

  • Drinks from a safe public water supply, the government is helping you.

  • Breathes clean air, the government is helping you.

  • Visits a National Park, the government is helping you.

  • Goes to a library, the government is helping you.

  • Lives in a home or apartment built to conform to fire safety codes, the government is helping you.

You get the idea. The list is virtually endless. And most of those are items with no inherent revenue stream, not subject to improvement by market forces. The government works for you, every day.

Even if you're a rugged individualist shooting your dinner with your own ammo loads, the gunpowder, copper jackets and lead slugs came to your house via a uniformed federal employee traveling in a publicly-owned vehicle over public roads, sent by manufacturers empowered to do business under the UCC, and regulated for your safety so the powder doesn't explode in your face and the lead doesn't poison you.

Reagan was wrong, dead wrong. (And worse, he knew it — that opportunistic rhetorical flourish has taken on a life of its own over the decades and influenced a generation of voters.) The government helps you every day, in much of what you do, in ways that the unregulated market can't or won't manage on its own.

If you're a conservative, do you really want to take all that away?

Originally published at jlake.com.

Post A Comment | 16 Comments | | Link

User: martyn44
Date: 2009-09-03 12:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No, Jay, you don't understand. To the true conservative, the law - for instance - does not apply to them. They're above it. What they do is right because they do it (a circular argument that vanishes into fundamental darkness pretty damn quickly) Similarly, they want to keep the benefits of government for themselves - because they are the government - but do away with them for you, because you don't deserve those benefits, because you are not them (another fundamental type argument)

As the meerkat says, 'Simples!'

This does, of course, assume that your conservatives think like ours, if that isn't too rigourous a description.
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shelly_rae: Blue Hippo=Strong
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2009-09-03 14:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Blue Hippo=Strong
Trapped in burning building? people will come to rescue you, the government is helping you.

Lost in the ocean, mountains, desert, or even the mall? People will come find you. The government is helping you.

Found unconscious, covered in blood along a bike path?....The government, in the form of EMT, Fire Department, and Police saved my life last month. Along with a bike helmet that met safety regulations....

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-03 14:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The thing I don't ever see free market conservatives admitting is that markets optimize for financial performance rather than individual benefit, including health and safety. (Which strikes me as definitional to the whole concept of a market, at least in the capitalist sense.)

The free enterprise system, working on its own without regulatory influence, will never provide bicycle helmets, for example, any more than it provided seatbelts or airbags before the government stepped in.
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AmmitBeast, The Dweller in Amenta: heston angst
User: ammitbeast
Date: 2009-09-03 22:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:heston angst
The free enterprise system, working on its own without regulatory influence, will never provide bicycle helmets, for example, any more than it provided seatbelts or airbags before the government stepped in.

I've read many conservative rants over the years wherein they bemoan the "pussifiction" of America (i.e., seatbelts, airbags, bike helmets, bullet lead, etc.). There's just no satisfying them -- it's as if they'd prefer a higher per capita accident and death tally (but don't point out to them how this looks anything like preventable Darwinism!).

Edited at 2009-09-03 10:43 pm (UTC)
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User: madrobins
Date: 2009-09-03 14:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Live in a house with wiring that doesn't spontaneously combust? Your tax dollars at work.

Not drowning in your own effluvia? Your tax dollars at work.

These are the things that government should be doing: making life livable and civilized, providing services that are cheaper and more efficient when done in "bulk" (rather than hiring individual security agents, say, or tutors), or making safety standards universal so that other government resources (fire department, EMTs, etc.) don't get spent putting people and places back together.
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Clint Harris
User: wendigomountain
Date: 2009-09-03 16:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've heard this argument before!

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España Sheriff
User: cmdrsuzdal
Date: 2009-09-03 16:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Have you seen AngryTownHall? They make this point hilariously, esp. on their twitter @angrytownhall
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Fiction Theory
User: fiction_theory
Date: 2009-09-03 17:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This list is incredibly *right* and I want to say that I admire that you continue to speak the truth, even when you might get criticized for it.

I wish conservatives could remember what the world looked like when the government didn't intervene. We've lived in the world conservatives want to build before. It was called the late 19th, early 20th century - and 1/8th of the population controlled 7/8th of the wealth. Children worked in coal mines and people died of simple, curable diseases (even for that time). When a depression or economic downturn came around, it was the poorest who suffered with no safety net, no protections.

You should add to your list, "If you can afford services and goods because no company is allowed to get so big they monopolize an entire industry, the government is helping you."

It seems to me that conservatives don't want a smaller government, they just want a government that affects those other people. So long as it's not taking their money and asking them to participate in and invest in the society and systems from which they're drawing their wealth and privileges, that's fine.

But ask them to give back? Ask them to remember from whence their wealth and privilege came (and it sure as fuck hasn't been earned by most), ask them to allow someone else to receive a helping hand? And well, that's wrong.

Like you said for gay marriage. I don't see how anyone who truly wants a smaller government can agree that it should be legal for the government to say who can and can't get married.

But gay people are those other people, and it's okay if the government runs over them. As long as the pendulum doesn't swing the other way.
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User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2009-09-03 19:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I did prep for an OSHA inspection once, its nice to know that accessablity to a water fountain is mandated by the govt too.
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She's the Blade
User: hercurvestofear
Date: 2009-09-03 20:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I read your posts about conservatives and government and I spend the whole time reading just going "YES! EXACTLY"

I'm just going to write this stuff down so I can have it on hand when I get in fights with my conservative best friend. lol
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Somewhat Bent: JJUCIASC
User: ladyallyn
Date: 2009-09-03 22:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You make great points!

my inner pedant has to poke the 'rugged individuallist' statement, though... as a former competitive shooter I'm here to tell you Brown is the delivery agent of choice to the gun crank crowd. USPS hasn't handled firearms/components since the Gun Control act of 1968. Ask me how well I got to know the UPS guy...
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2009-09-03 23:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I linked your post through Facebook, and this was one of the reponses I got:

Lake's post is quite seductive/skillful. Reminds me of the following speech, only kinder and gentler:

"What we need right now is a clear message to the people of this country. This message must be read in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television. This message must resound throughout the entire Interlink! I want this country ... Read Moreto realize that we stand on the edge of oblivion. I want every man, woman and child to understand how close we are to chaos. I want everyone to remember WHY THEY NEED US!" (Chancellor, 'V for Vendetta')

-Had you ever thought you would be compared to the evil Chancellor.... with your cursed seductive ways and manipulative nature?
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Josh English
User: joshenglish
Date: 2009-09-04 01:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
What amazes me is the dogma in the conservative worldview that not only should everyone 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps', they think that is the ONLY way to success, and consider any government help, public education, free libraries, clean air, etc., as a charity that dehumanizes the populace.

Thom Hartmann read a great bit about Joe Republican, which drives home the same thought.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2009-09-04 01:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think what a lot of this boils down to is that most people alive today aren't old enough to remember what life was like--and in some cases no one is old enough to remember what life was like--before a lot of this government "intervention" came about. Do we really want to go back to food that doesn't have to meet Federal standards, for instance?
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España Sheriff
User: cmdrsuzdal
Date: 2009-09-04 20:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Privilege is often invisible to those who have it.

They/we just assume it's part of our own inalienable awesomeness and therefore can't be given or taken away.
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User: theonethousand.blogspot.com
Date: 2010-02-17 21:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If your country ever won World War II, your government was helping you.

Why don't we grab these people where they live and ask them if they care to shut down the Department of Defense, disband our armed forces and stop making weapons? We spend more money on defense than anything else, making it our largest socialist program. Think socialism has it's uses now?
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