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An Eye-Opening Defense of Government
on March 2, 2012
Douglas Amy's book is essential reading for anyone seriously concerned about the future of this country. In an era where vitriolic denunciations of government have entered the mainstream and acquired a taken-for-granted status, Amy's forceful defense of government is a breath of fresh air.
He takes the unusual approach of looking closely at what government actually does, reminding us of the many, many ways in which each of us--on a daily basis--benefit from and depend on government. He shows, among other things, how government protects our rights and safety as workers and consumers; how it promotes home ownership, retirement security, infrastructure development, educational advancement, equality of opportunity, and economic growth; how it combats poverty, discrimination, disease, air and water pollution, and other social problems; and how it compensates for the persistent and nowadays all-too obvious failures of the market. It is easy to complain about government, but the reality is this: if anti-government forces continue to get their way, the lives of most Americans will become immeasurably worse.
In defending government, Amy is not saying that everything government does it does well, and he certainly believes there is a great deal of room for improvement. But the problem with government is not government itself, and the problem is not what conservative critics say it is--that government is the natural enemy of freedom, or that government bureaucracy is inevitably inefficient and wasteful, or that Americans are overtaxed.
The real problem with government, due to the corrupting influence of money via campaign contributions and deep-pocket lobbyists, is that it has become increasingly beholden to powerful private interests and less responsive to the needs of the larger American public. The real problem with government in short, Amy convincingly argues, is a "deficit of democracy." This is what hinders government from living up to its potential. What we need then is not less government but more government, and not just more government but more democratic government. This is Amy's central message, and it is one we cannot afford to ignore.