What Should Government Do?

My husband and I took our two youngest grandchildren to McCormick’s Creek State Park last weekend. McCormick’s Creek is one of Indiana’s state parks; located in the southern third of the state, it boasts acres of woods, a very nice (and reasonably priced) inn, and the requisite picnic areas and playgrounds. The weather was lovely, and the park was full of families.

While we were at the park, some 70,000 people were descending on Washington, D.C. to make a statement about their anger at “big government.” (Actually, it wasn’t too clear WHAT they were so angry about; apparently, it was an all-purpose “pox on your house” sort of event. A significant number just seemed royally pissed that a black Democrat had won the election.)

Giving the protestors/tea baggers the benefit of the doubt, their message seemed to be that government is too big, doing too much, spending too much and they want it to stop.

Which gets me back to the lovely state park we enjoyed with so many other citizens over the weekend. Should state and local government provide amenities like parks, museums and libraries? The Monon Trail gets massive use; was it okay for government to create it? What about street lights? Police and fire protection are generally agreed to be appropriate uses of our tax dollars, but there is considerable debate over spending those dollars on sports arenas, or even on the arts.

Maybe what the protestors are saying is that these more local expenditures are okay, but the federal government is too big. Again, though–“too big”  is too general. What would these folks like the federal government to stop doing? National defense? (I could see protesting unnecessary wars, but these are the people who appear to support those.) National parks? Social security and Medicare? Should the FDA stop testing our foods for things like e coli? Stop regulating banks and big businesses? (We did stop that, for all intents and purposes, during the Bush Administration. That didn’t turn out very well.)

I’m certainly not saying that everything government does needs to be done by government. (I would keep the parks, however. And quite a number of other functions we ask government to perform.) But people who simply rant about “too big” and “too much,” without specifying what they are prepared to do without, aren’t very persuasive.