Apr 122009
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

As a newbie to the Collegian opinion staff, I’ve enthusiastically absorbed any and all advice I can get about writing opinion pieces. When grappling with writer’s block for this one, my father suggested I read through past columns.

To put it succinctly: Good idea, Dad.

Within the comments section of the Collegian online, there tends to be a generalization among many posters that government is inherently “evil” — that officials are merely political whores looking to cement their agenda, all while screwing American taxpayers.

This sentiment is by no means contained within the CSU campus. A Google search of “U.S. government too big” yields 59.8 million hits.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign basically ran with that idea. While I won’t go on a rant against Paul or his followers, I’ll do my best to change the whole culture of how people view government, via this, my debut.

Well, not really. But this issue necessitates an inquiry into the proper role of government.

I am by no means a radical, left or right, on this issue. Government is far from perfect. Billions of dollars are wasted every year not just on congressional pork projects but also within various government agencies, where bureaucracy is a way of life. We all know how infuriating a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles can be for this reason.

That said, bureaucracy is inevitable in a nation this large, not just in government but also in the private sector. Ask anyone who has filed a claim with a for-profit insurance company.

What anti-government proponents tend to forget, though, is most crucial services come via — you guessed it — those damn politicians and bureaucrats.

Police and fire departments, teachers, the criminal justice system, the postal service and countless other entities that are necessary to achieve a civilized lifestyle are all organized, maintained and funded through government, be it local, state or federal.

To say that government is “evil” by default lumps in some of the most revered members of American society.

Teachers certainly don’t practice their craft with money or power in mind. Police forces nationwide risk injury or death on a daily basis, but they usually don’t bend to interest groups.

Government is not a messianic entity, but essentially every second of your life is in some way affected by municipal, state and federal agencies.

It’s easy to say that our government is too big, but cuts in taxpayer-funded programs come at a cost. It’s painful to think about school budgets being slashed even further than they already have been, reductions taking place in police and firefighting forces and to imagine the postal service being even slower.

Even the U.S. economy as a whole, the model for free-market capitalism, operates at its best under some level of government intervention. The current crisis is a stark reminder of what unimpeded deregulation can lead to.

The most prevalent arguments on both sides of this issue are simplistic at best. When asked what they think of the government, too many people have either falsely identified it as the root of all evil or as a they-can-fix-everything crutch. This polarized line of thinking epitomizes America today, with so many people at one extreme or the other.

Government needs to be viewed more as a means of pooling our collective talents for the good of our nation. It should not be something we completely depend on; it isn’t a substitute for personal responsibility and initiative. On the other hand, just imagine if citizens were totally left to their own devices (hint: bad).

I look forward to catching flak on a weekly basis. Keep reading — it’s good for you.

Kevin Hollinshead is a sophomore political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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