Government is Great!
A site devoted to documenting and celebrating the many ways we rely on government and need more of it.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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Over the last quarter century, a misguided and dangerous idea has taken hold among tens of millions of Americans: the libertarian idea that government is harmful.

Two statements epitomize this anti-government, liberatarian notion: Ronald Reagan's words "Government is not a solution to our problem; government is the problem" and Grover Norquist's vow: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Opposition to government has been of great benefit to a small fraction of the population: the rich. For the vast majority of Americans, the so-called "Reagan Revolution" has done great harm.

For years, conservatives have engaged in a systematic effort to convince people that government is ineffectual and wasteful. All the while, Republicans have been most guilty of corruption, mismanagement, privitization, and war-mongering. And they've cut taxes and opened loopholes for the rich and the corporations. They want government to fail. They ignore all the good government does, as well as the corruption, waste, and inefficiency of private corporations such as Enron, GM, Wall Street, banks, military contractors, insurance companies, and drug companies.

They ignore the fact that reckless deregulation was a main cause of the sub-prime crash, and they ignore the fact that government was needed to come to the rescue with bailouts to prevent a severe depression.

Patriotic Americans need to fight back.


Cry Baby Goldman Sachs Cry Baby AIG Cry Baby Bank of America
In 2008 the crybaby corporations ran to Uncle Sam for a bailout -- after crashing the ecnonomy. But conservatives pretend they don’t need government.

How well could corporations do business without government laws, protections, regulations, and bailouts?


Unless we can convince voters, by marketing the benefits of government, conservatives will continue to sway opinions with their simplistic and demagogic calls for lower taxes and less government regulation.

Yes, there is corruption and waste in government. But the solution isn't to minimize government. The solution is to get rid of waste and corruption. Without government services and without government regulation and policing of private industry, we'd be hunter-gatherers, or in a Somalia-like state of anarchy.

Of course, corruption and waste flourished the most when conservatives ruled, during the GW Bush years. Read Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule for insight into how conservatives have corrupted and weakened government in the name of "privatization" and "efficiency". Private contractors and lobbyists have become immensely wealthy from government largesse. So, conservatives work to destroy government. Then when government doesn't work, they say, "See? Government is wasteful."

The aim of this website is to defend government, America, and the world against the dangerous libertarian notion that government is bad.


Historical Interlude

Early on its history, the states tried operating without a strong central government. The Articles of Confederation established a loosely coupled set of sovereign states. But the experiment failed, prompting the creation of a stronger central government, as codified in the US Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Today's liberatarians are re-fighting a poltiical battle that was fought nearly 250 years ago.

As reported here,

While still at war with Britain, the Founding Fathers were divided between those seeking a powerful, centralized national government, and those seeking a loosely structured one. Jealously guarding their new independence, members of the Continental Congress arrived at a compromise solution dividing sovereignty between the states and the Federal government, with a unicameral legislature that protected the liberty of the individual states. While calling on Congress to regulate military and monetary affairs, for example, the Articles of Confederation provided no mechanism with which to compel the States to comply with requests for either troops or revenue. At times, this left the military without adequate funding, supplies or even food.

The main reasons the states abandoned the Articles of Confederation and ratified the Constitution was that the lack of a strong central government created serious problems. Bruce Chadwick, in George Washington's War(2005), writes:

George Washington had been one of the very first proponents of a strong federal government. The army had nearly disbanded on several occasions during the winters of the war because of the weaknesses of the Continental Congress. ... The delegates could not draft soldiers and had to send requests for regular troops and militia to the states. Congress had the right to order the production and purchase of provisions for the soldiers, but could not force anyone to supply them, and the army nearly starved in several winters of war.
It soon became clear that without a strong central government, the states were unable to defend the citizens or provide for the general welfare:
Congress could print money, but by 1786, the money was useless. Congress could borrow money, but could not pay it back.[3] No state paid all of their U.S. taxes; Georgia paid nothing. Some few paid an amount equal to interest on the national debt owed to their citizens, but no more.[3] No interest was paid on debt owed foreign governments. By 1786, the United States would default on the dates the principal came due.[3]

The United States could not defend itself as an independent nation in the world of 1787. Most of the U.S. troops in the 625-man U.S. Army were deployed facing British forts on American soil. The troops had not been paid; some were deserting and the remainder threatened mutiny.[4]Spain closed New Orleans to American commerce. The United States protested, to no effect. The Barbary Pirates began seizing American commercial ships. The Treasury had no funds to pay the pirates' extortion demands. The Congress had no more credit if another military crisis had required action.[3]

General Benjamin Lincoln had to raise funds among Boston merchants to pay for a volunteer army.[5] During the upcoming Convention, James Madison angrily questioned whether the Articles of Confederation was a compact or even government. Connecticut paid nothing and "positively refused" to pay U.S. assessments for two years.[6] A rumor had it that a "seditious party" of New York legislators had opened communication with the Viceroy of Canada. To the south, the British were said to be funding the Creek Indian raids; Savannah was fortified, the State of Georgia under martial law.[7]

Congress was paralyzed. It could do nothing significant without nine states, and some legislative business required all thirteen. When only one member of a state was on the floor, then that state’s vote did not count. If a delegation were evenly divided, no vote counted towards the nine-count requirement.[8] Individual state legislatures independently laid embargoes, negotiated directly with foreigners, raised armies and made war, all violating the letter and the spirit of the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union”. The Articles Congress had "virtually ceased trying to govern."[9] The vision of a "respectable nation" among nations seemed to be fading in the eyes of revolutionaries such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Rufus King. The dream of a republic, a nation without hereditary rulers, with power derived from the people in frequent elections, was in doubt.[10] In Massachusetts during Shays' Rebellion, Congress had no money to support a constituent state, nor could Massachusetts pay for its own internal defense.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Us_constitution#History.

We need Big Government to defend our liberties, our environment, our health, our property, and our economic well-being. Horray for government!
For background see

Some of the ways we need government.


Tobi Dragert provides this list of things that governments provide:
Schools, Libraries, Medicare, Medicaid, Roads, Police protection, Fire protection, Keeping 20 million+ people housed and fed, Veterans’ benefits, Food safety inspections, Drug safety inspections, Humanitarian aid, Scientific research, Medical research, Technological research, Children’s Health Insurance Fund, National Archives, National Parks, State and local parks, Vocational Education programs, 911 and other emergency services, Safe drinking water, Criminal justice system, Mail delivery, State universities, National monuments, National weather service, Traffic control and signage, Standardized units of measurement, G.I Bill, Medevac helicopters, Street cleaning, Tornado warning systems, Bridges, Public restrooms, Environmental protections, Environmental clean up, Building codes, Smithsonian, Library of Congress, US Embassies, Head Start, Public housing, Funding for the arts, Amtrak, Pell grants, Social Security, Energy research, Community development programs, Street lights, and Disaster response and relief.

See 102 things not to do if you hate taxes.

In The Truth about the Drug Companies, a former Editor in Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine writes of the drug industry, "Instead of being an engine of innovation, it is a vast marketing machine. Instead of being a free market success story, it lives off government-funded research and monopoly rights." See also The Horrifying Hidden Story Behind Drug Company Profits.

According to Medicare's office of Inspector General, every dollar of law enforcement applied to reducing Medicare fraud will save $17 of theft (source).

Atul Gawande, Associate Professor at Harvard School of Public Health, reports on the extraordinary success of U.S.D.A's government-sponsored agricultural research in the early 20th century. "The results were beyond what anyone could have imagined. Productivity went up, outpacing that of other Western countries. Prices fell by a half." But in 1927, "Republicans, prompted by aggrieved New York speculators, managed to prohibit the U.S.D.A. from releasing the [crop] forecasts; the program was re-instituted three years later, following an on outcry from farmers.

"After a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, Wendell left his job as head of communications for one of the nation's largest health insurers and became a vocal critic of insurance company abuses." (Wendell Potter). See also 15 Executives Who Get Paid Millions To Deny You Health Care Coverage.

Click here for a growing list of reasons why we should be thankful for government.


A Government Success Story

North Dakota has had a state bank since 1919, and the state has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, as well as one of the healthiest banking systems in the U.S. North Dakota State Bank did not invest in risky subprime loans or derivatives. North Dakota had no bank failures during the recent banking crisis. North Dakota is the only state with a budget surplus ($1.1 billion). In addition, North Dakota has no debt service to pay. In contrast, Washington State pays $2 billion on debt servicing (interest) every biennium.

But isn't North Dakota's prosperity due to its oil and gas revenues? Apparently not. Alaska, Wyoming and several other states benefit from oil and gas revenues but fared poorly in the recent downturn.This issue is addressed more thoroughly in North Dakota’s Economic “Miracle”—It’s Not Oil .

Conservatives just hate it when government works for the people! It can, if it's not corrupted and mismanaged.


Share your example of why we need government.

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Taxation Dodge Ball: stop tax-dodging corporations (a Flash game)

Taxation Dodge Ball

Guns N' Religion: a (satirical)
anti-elitist, anti-government song

(sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's
"Another Brick in the Wall", lyrics only)

Game
For Conservatives: Destroy Government Game
(requires Java)

Other related articles and websites

Government is Good

The Self-Made Myth

Taxes fuel the services we all use

It's the Inequality, Stupid

The Republican Hate Narrative Against Public Employees and Unions

10 Epic Failures of the Bush Tax Cuts

Wisconsin Gov. Walker Ginned Up Budget Shortfall To Undercut Worker Rights

Shifting Responsibility: How 50 Years of Tax Cuts Benefited the Wealthiest Americans

Wealth, Income, and Power (facts about uneven income distribution, such as: the wealthiest 10% of Americans have between 70% and 90% of the wealth, depending on how you measure it)

Tax Day Talking Points

Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer. This article contains a good critique of libertarianism. In short, libertarians are sociopath.

Bill Moyers & Thomas Frank: How America's Demented Politics Let the GOP Off the Hook for Their Giant Mess
. This article is a good defense of government, as well as a summary of Frank's book "The Wrecking Crew."

Disrupting the Tea Party: Why the government-haters lost in Maine and Washington
See Better Dead Than Red : Burn Your Medicare Card in Protest for clever satire about conservatives' antipathy to government.

On the Commons.

Wealth for the Common Good.

Raise My Taxes, please.

Rand Paul: 'Principled Libertarian'? Not..

Give the Kids a Healthy Start (a success story for regulations)

Covert Operations This New Yorker report exposes the Koch brothers, who have donated over $100,000,000 -- nobody knows how much -- to fund fake grassroots organizations, climate change-denial groups, think tanks, and attack ads. They're behind the Tea Party movement. Their father was an infamous John Bircher. They've benefited personally from reduced regulation and taxation. See also the following Rachel Maddow interview with the author of Covert Operations: Covert Operations: The Billionaire Brothers Who Are Waging War Against Obama .

The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party

GOP 'Pledge' Is Simply a Way of Shutting Down a Large Part of Government

Republicans Cry "Class Warfare" When They're Winning the War

The Super Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Gets Poorer and the Democrats Punt

How an FCIC Commissioner Invented "Evidence" About Fannie and Freddie's Downfall An account of how Republicans lied when they claimed that government was the cause of the financial crisis.

A New Year's Resolution for the Rich.

Alabama's GOP Delegation Voted Against Funding for Tornado Forecasting.

Pediatricians seek stronger regulation of toxic chemicals.

Stocks of Socialized Countries Have Outperformed U.S. Since Reagan Era .

In Norway, Start-ups Say Ja to Socialism; High taxes "may help explain why entrepreneurship in Norway has thrived, even as it stagnates in the U.S. 'The three things we as Americans worry about -- education, retirement, and medical expenses -- are things that Norwegians don't worry about,' says Zoltan J. Acs, a professor at George Mason University and the chief economist for the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. Norway , which in 2009 had the world's highest per-capita income, avoided the brunt of the financial crisis: From 2006 to 2009, its economy grew nearly 3 percent. The American economy grew less than one-tenth of a percent during the same period.... As a Norwegian, he pays nearly 50 percent of his income to the federal government, along with a substantial additional tax that works out to roughly 1 percent of his total net worth. Dalmo likes the government's services, and he believes that he is paying a fair price."

End the Big Broadcast Swindle Television and radio broadcasters get to use our public airwaves for free. It's a great deal -- for them, at least. For the rest of us, it's just another corporate giveaway.


Libertarian and conservative errors

Libertarian thinking dates to the roots of the nation. The Jeffersonian ideal of the self-sufficient yeoman farmer made some sense 250 years ago. In the 21st century, the ideal is sheer fantasy. Without strong, activist central and state governments there'd be anarchy, cruelty and injustice.

Indeed, the Reagan revolution has led to:

Government works!! This is a terrifying thought for conservatives.

Of course, when Republicans ruled, government was mismanaged and corrupt. Over the last decade conservatives intentionally and systematically mismanaged the government, started an unnecessary war, destroyed our liberties, bankrupted the Treasury, corrupted agencies, increased the size of government, and deregulated with abandon. Then they say, "See how bad government is?" and try to blame it all on the Democrats.

"Ultimately, I think people will lose faith in the rule of law,'' said Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California. (from Federal judicial vacancies reaching crisis point). That's precisely what conservatives want.

What sort of people are attracted to libertarian thinking? Aside from opportunistic rich folk who want to avoid taxes and regulations, it's technologically sophisticated, secular males with a rebellious streak, I believe. Such people are similar in many ways to some radical leftists (anarchists) who rebel against authority and rules.

Statistics available from the Cato Institute show that in 2000, the vast majority (about 72%) of self-styled libertarians voted for Bush &Cheney. Even in 2004, the majority (about 59%) of self-styled libertarians voted for the GOP ticket. Boy, were they in for a surprise! They sure didn't get what they vote for. And indeed, nowadays most libertarians (e.g., Ron Paul) denounce the Republicans for war, waste, and weakened civil rights.

Conservatives' selective concern about deficit spending
Program Cost Conservative response
War in Iraq $3 trillion "No problem!"
Bush tax cuts for the rich $1.8 - $2.5 trillion "No problem!"
Bush bailouts $9 - $24 trillion "No problem!"
Military budget $650 billion/year (about the same as the rest of the world combined) "No problem!"
"Public option" health care$1.1 trillion over 10 years "It's not revenue neutral!"
Single payer health careWould save money, improve care "It's socialism!"

On the other hand ...

Of course, government can be terrible. Consider, for example, the corruption, incompetence, waste, mismanagement, and loss of liberties that occurred during Republican misrule. (And there are plenty of corrupt Democrats too.) But it ain't always or necessarily so.

An inherent risk with a strong national government is that it will infringe on the rights of minorities -- e.g., religious or ethnic minorities. In some cases the minority opinion is later seen to be best (e.g., civil rights for African Americans, and womens' rights). In other cases, the minority opinion continues to be suppressed (e.g., the teaching of Creationism in public schools, or the legalization of polygamy, or the right to own slaves). There's no objective, unbiased standpoint from which to judge such issues. There will always be winners and losers in the marketplace of ideas and laws, just as there are winners and losers in the commerical marketplace. (See The Proper Imbalance for elaboration on this topic.)

The U.S. Constitution has checks on the power of majorities to impose its will on minorities, but those checks are inherently of limited effect. If the overwhelming majority of citizens support some position, the courts are unlikely to support a contrary position. Not until the mid-twentieth century did the U.S. Supreme Court ignore the prevailing public opinion and impose civil rights rulings. A similar evolution in thought may occur with gay rights.

Just as I do not claim that government is always good, nor do I claim that capitalism and corporations are always evil. I take a middle ground. Both unbridled statism and unbridled capitalism are dangerous. We need a balance of powers between the public and private sectors.

Far too many Americans have bought into conservative propaganda about the alleged evils of government and taxation. Likewise, too many people on the Left seem to think that corporations are always evil and that government is a panacea. Government is not a panacea, but it sure is needed for many things. I am neither an anarchist nor a luddite (someone who opposes technology). I do not want to "get off the grid" by growing my own food and living without a computer, electricity, and a car (though I usually take public transportation).

The problems arise when the system of checks and balances between the citizens and their institutions (whether government or private) break down. That is, unaccountable corporations are as bad as unaccountable governments. Constant vigilance is needed by an informed, involved citizenry to prevent abuses of power.

Indeed, it's when individuals in government are unaccountable that we have trouble. This is why a true conservative should want to see President Bush and Vice-President Cheney held accountable for their many crimes and for their very un-conservatives policies. Without accountability, government very well can be the problem.

Government is like marriage or a relationship. Sometimes it's great. Sometimes it's horrible. It's always a challenge. Libertarians concentrate on the problems with government and fail to acknowledge the benefits.

See The Corpo-Obama-Geithner-Petraeus State for a thoughtful article by a progressive about the dangers of government.


We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex... The potential for the disastrious rise of misplaced power exists and will persist... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

  -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his farewell Address to the Nation (source wikipedia)


The Chinese affection for urban planning is closely connected to their belief in the virtues of urban planning. The fable we we are told about China, particularly by neoliberals, who hold it up as model of how capitalism has delivered millions from poverty, is that the market reforms have produced growth and prosperity, by throwing off the shackles of state intervention. It is a deeply incomplete story: the commanding heights of the economy (telecom, energy, transportation, and, most important, finance) remain in state control. There are four major state-owned banks in China, which together have an 80 percent market share.

Planning of the sort undertaken by the central government is viewed in the United States as a distarous and discredited anaachronism, as if the Chinese national weather service were relying on astrology. But whatever inefficiencies the heavy state footprint introduces, the largely government-run financial sector has protected China not only from the ravages of the financial crisis but also the kind of massive misallocation of capital that the global financial system has produced in the West over the past 10 years.

  -- Christopher Hayes in "The Great Leap" (The Nation, Jan 11/18, 2010).


I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

  -- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins) Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY) See this source.


In fact, Americans were very wary of corporate power, the famous Boston Tea Party being the first act of civil disobedience directed against a trans-national corporation, the East India Tea Company.

  -- Steve Showen


As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed.

  -- President Abraham Lincoln


From The World's Happiest Countries:
Feeling blue? Perhaps you live in the wrong country. A recent study from Britain's University of Leicester examined a range of statistical data to devise a ranking of the world's happiest nations. Heading up the list: Denmark, which rose to the top thanks to its wealth, natural beauty, small size, quality education, and good health care. At the bottom were Zimbabwe and Burundi. But there were a few surprises along the way, too. Asian countries scored worse than researcher Adrian White expected. Capitalism -- sometimes criticized for its heartlessness --— was far from a source of discontent, though the top-scoring capitalist countries also tended to have strong social services. And the U.S. ranked only 23rd, due to nagging poverty and spotty health care. Read on to learn about the world's 12 happiest countries

  -- by the numbers, at least.


For information or to contribute content to this site, please email Don Smith.