Can the Federal Government do Anything Right?

I saw this on Fark today, and thought it needed to be repeated somewhere other than in a thread which will by tomorrow be forgotten. It’s basically a very good answer to a complaint I hear all the time from backers of privatization and deregulation, people whose primary argument regarding things like universal health care boils down to this statement: “When was the last time the government did anything right?” Here’s the answer:

Browncoat: Name three things the federal government does efficiently and without problems. Anyone?

dragonchild: Federal Aviation Administration, NOAA National Weather Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Off the top of my head. In five seconds.

Zero flight fatalities since 9/11/2001, and even then, cars killed more than 10x as many people as planes that year. It’s about as trouble-free as any system gets (and Bush is trying to privatize it).

Weather reports everyone — everyone relies on, including the FAA and the Weather Channel, for free. And they were the ones screaming about Katrina while FEMA did nothing. And Bush is trying to privatize it.

Your savings accounts are insured to $100k — guaranteed. Bush is trying to gut it.

Anti-government right-wing lunatics rely way more on the government than they’d ever admit. If you’ve been on an airplane even once in your life, you literally depended on the federal government to protect your life.


This isn’t to say that the government won’t screw up one, two, or three thousand things. However, it goes to show that government control of certain industries vital to infrastructure isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

3 thoughts on “Can the Federal Government do Anything Right?

  1. Can the government do something right? Sure. What’s more likely from the government, though–something right or wrong? It’s more likely to do something wrong, I think.

    The question seems wrong to me, though, frankly. I don’t think it should be, “Can the federal government do anything right?” The question should be, “Can the market do a better job?”

    I think the answer is yes. Pretty well any time in history that people have been given the economic choice, and conditions have been deregulated to allow for that, things have been good or at least gotten better than they were before. At the very least, even the good things of government would be more cost effective if privatized, because there’s nothing the government is better at doing than spending a billion dollars on a project that costs a million, as well as rolling under the sheets with lobbyists which skew everything in the system(s).

    From what I can tell, the things that are the costliest and most problematic in the States are usually directly (or closely indirectly) related to governmental control. Most of them are heavily regulated and/or heavily taxed. If those items are not directly regulated and/or taxed, usually an item required for their shipment or existence is. (Gasoline is a good example.) I’m also not sure that the FAA and saying that flight travel is as pretty trouble free as possible since 9/11 is a good example of where the government is doing well. In fact, after having flown in America this winter, I’m vowing never to again. It was one of the worst experiences of my life (a plane I was on nearly crashed, and Delta was unbelievably unhelpful and cruel to my boyfriend and I afterward), and I feel the extreme screwiness was related to tight regulations and poor competition.

    Australia’s a pretty good example of a functioning, partially-socialized nation. They have a mix of universal health care and privatized health care. In general, because I don’t think people will ever believe that a freer, more competitive health industry will make it more affordable, I reckon the combo setup is a good one.

    That being said, it’s terribly bureaucratic, and if you want good care, I’m told by most to go to a private doctor/dentist/etc. My boyfriend’s father was a dentist, and he both ran his own business and worked in a government-run/funded facility at various times in his life. In the latter, he was miserable, because despite the fact that it was a large building filled with dentists with years of experience, the woman who managed them and many of their actions was a government official who had absolutely no experience in any medical field, least of all a specialized one like dentistry. To make sound decisions in the dental hospital, they had to go through her–someone with no knowledge of the matter! His father didn’t last there long, as it was far too frustrating to do so.

    I think that’s pretty well the sort of scenario I imagine whenever I think of the government getting more involved in pretty well any sector for long periods of time. I also think about how bureaucratic and mixed up the Veterans Affairs offices can be (and usually are). I mean, you can’t get much more government-related than the VA.

  2. Leila: Great response, but you’ll have to give me some time to give you a good answer. (Software release time now at the office. Time enough for short blurbs of thought, not well thought out responses to logical arguments. Times like these is why Twitter was invented.)

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