10 Reasons Why the Government is a Good Thing


Good governmentAs English philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1651, life without government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Don’t let the Republicans control the narrative that government “is bad” or “is the problem.” The argument is bogus.

My father used to say that “civilization is the last bubble in a long fermentation.” He was a City Manager and believed that a city was the loftiest expression of society. He grew up when FDR was President and believed that public service was the highest calling of a citizen.

How far the image of the government has fallen since my father died. Years of propaganda from right-wing libertarians have made “government” a bad word. Disinformation from the billionaire Koch Brothers has brought attacks on “government schools” and “big government.”

The next time you meet someone who thinks the government is a bad thing, talk to them about this list of 10 reasons that government is a good thing. The government carries out the rules of our society and takes action for the public in efforts that people cannot do as well individually. Government activities that everybody likes are law enforcement, roads, the courts and trash pickup.

But there’s so much more that we get from the government:

Environmental safety that guarantees us clear air and water. Without this, we’d have choking air pollution like in Shanghai and Delhi, India, and poisonous rivers like the Ganges in India and the Yellow River in China. When government is working properly it promotes a clean power plan, works to combat climate change, establishes flood building standards, prohibits coal dumping in streams, and participates in world climate agreements. 2017 was the hottest year on record in Tucson, and only government can prevent it from getting worse.

Healthy citizens. Good government creates a public marketplace where people can get health insurance without worrying about pre-existing conditions. It requires insurance companies to cover outpatient care, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services, and pediatric care.

Free public education. The first public school opened in the US in 1635 and by 1918, every state required students to complete elementary school. In 2013 Arizona had more than one million students enrolled in a total of 2,267 government-funded schools. The goals of public schools are to prepare students for the workforce, promote active civic participation and prepare students for a satisfying and productive life. Unfortunately, Arizona is dead last nationwide in elementary school teacher pay and 49th in the country for secondary school teacher pay. Good government would pay teachers as professionals.

Equal Internet for all. The government can preserve our right to communicate freely online, by prohibiting internet service providers from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Good government enables and protects free speech by requiring ISPs should to us with open networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.

Pure food and safe drugs. Since 1906 the government has prevented the manufacture of adulterated, misbranded or poisonous foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors. The government requires food nutrition labels, and new drugs must go through clinical trials to prove their efficacy and safety. Good government would prevent billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies from marketing dangerous drugs like Xarelto, Taxotere, testosterone replacements, metal-on-metal hips, pelvic mesh, talcum powder, Benicar and IVC clot filters.

Fighting addiction. A strong Drug Enforcement Administration fights illicit trafficking of heroin, fentanyl and, Oxycontin, which addict 2.5 million Americans. Good government could suspend suspect shipments of oxycontin by opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson and manufacturers Purdue, Endo, and Janssen.

National parks. Our national parks include 400+ areas visited by 300 million people annually. “Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization,” said Theodore Roosevelt, who established 150 national forests, 51 bird reserves, and 5 national parks. Good government protects national parks from cattle grazing, coal mining, oil drilling, commercialization and looting of ancient artifacts.

Clean energy. Good government promotes non-polluting energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy, and hydropower. The federal solar tax credit (investment tax credit), lets you deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is working to increase dirty energy from oil, coal and fracking.

Social Security. The Social Security Act was enacted in 1935 when the lifetime savings of millions of people had been wiped out. This safety net is in place for 59 million Americans over age 66. Social security is not going broke — it is projected to deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2037.

Well into the 1950s, Republicans tried to repeal Social Security, and today they are trying to “privatize” it. This is a plan to dismantle Social Security, cut benefits and increase retirement risks.

Healthy Seniors. In 1965 under President Johnson, Congress enacted Medicare to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history.

I love Medicare — it’s great! I get comprehensive health insurance at a great price. My doctor bills and prescriptions are all covered regardless of my pre-existing conditions. It gives me a free gym membership.

Today, 55 million people over age 65 are covered by Medicare — 15% of the population! Don’t let Republicans call this an “entitlement” that they can erode to pay for Trump tax cuts. I worked for 50 years and paid for my Medicare. It is an “earned benefit.”

As you can tell, the Trump administration has rolled back the government’s role in each of these 10 important services. It’s time for Democrats to speak in favor of the government’s reputation for all the good things it does, and to disagree with nihilistic libertarian propaganda.


  1. Here, here Larry! The government is bad mantra was created for two reasons. 1. To make more profit for the privatizers. 2. To ensure less participation “by the people” in the running of this country. “The government” is after all, us!

  2. Government, at least a good democratic government, is supposed to be the buffer between Corporate America greed and the citizenry. Making sure the playing field is level and fair. Unfortunately that buffer has eroded since Reagan and the erosion has really accelerated under the Vulgar Talking Yam (h/t Charlie Pierce).

  3. If government is the problem, why do Republicans spend so much money, time and energy, trying to get a government job? One of our distinguished legislative commenters, posting herein, has at least two government pensions, and is working on another. Not that I am against pensions, on the contrary as Republicans try to convert everyone to private retirement systems so their Wall Street buds can get their mits in it and fee them to death, ask why in the 50s and 60s everyone had defined benefit plan retirements. And why are defined benefit retirements good for the military and bad for everyone else.

    And the next time you complain about the “guvment”, you are within your rights to refuse all government services, social security, Medicare, police and fire protection, clean water, sewer services, and please don’t drive on any guvment streets or highways, and never go to a guvment national, state or city park. Darn guvment.

  4. Well said.

    The biggest reason that government is good and the one that seems to get past conservatives is that the government creates the economy.

    Without courts, law enforcement, contract law, corporate law, and public education, for example, you do not have businesses and jobs.

    I don’t want government to be any bigger than is needed, but I also don’t want government to be any smaller than needed.

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