An audio version of this post is available here.
A Mr. Greg Abbott of Clearwater, Kansas makes the case in the June 13, 2008 Wichita Eagle that there are many good government programs: the interstate highway system, the post office, the air traffic control system, police and fire departments, etc.
I believe the writer makes a huge error in logic by assuming that because these programs exist and have been provided by government, then they are good things to have, and that these things can only be provided through government. To make this conclusion requires a huge leap and a good measure of misplaced faith in the institution of government.
Many of the programs the writer cites as examples of good government programs are frequently criticized. The interstate highways in our nation’s cities are often congested to the point where loss of time spent stuck in traffic is a serious problem. Then there is the problem of safety of the nation’s highways, on which some 40,000 people die each year, and many more are seriously injured. Walter Block writes “As far as I am concerned, [these deaths are] taking place in spite of, not so much because of, the actions of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, despite their tendency to take credit for anything positive that happens on their watch, as do all statist agencies.” I recommend his article Deaths by Government: Another Missing Chapter.
The post office? Do many people rely on the post office for delivery of critical shipments when private alternatives such as FedEx and UPS are available?
As for flood control, the federal government’s flood insurance program, by suppressing signals that would be expressed in the price system as insurance premiums, if there was indeed a free market for such insurance, has lead to numerous deaths. Ask the residents of New Orleans how they feel about government levees and government flood insurance. See How Government Insurance Destroyed New Orleans.
Need I continue? Each government program Mr. Abbott mentions has severe problems, and most crowd out efforts by private enterprise to provide alternatives.
There is a truth in the writer’s letter in this sentence: “We need to wake up and realize that we all depend on the government.” That this is true is profoundly sad. Government, Mr. Abbott, operates through force and coercion. Wouldn’t it be better if we could solve problems and provide services through the voluntary cooperation of people?