There are varying opinions concerning government’s role in Americans’ lives, and for conservatives, their constant refrain that government is too big and guilty of overreaching gives the impression that they are Libertarians in disguise. Indeed, most Republican legislators have signed on to Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes and the goal is reducing the size of the government so Mr. Norquist can “drown it in a bathtub.” Perhaps conservatives are just pushing for a laissez faire, anything goes society that benefits the wealthy elites who have resources to buy the government and replace it with a for-profit, corporation; a corporation that forces Americans to pay to live in the country.
During the Iowa Republican debate on Saturday, the topic of health care engendered remarks that the government cannot “force” Americans to buy health insurance. The participants quickly latched on to the tenthers’ state’s rights mantra, but the underlying theme is that government is taking away Americans’ ability to exercise free choice. Libertarians have long complained that government has no right imposing rules on Americans, but they never consider the chaos or ill-effects of allowing unregulated businesses to cause harm to the American people. When it comes to harming the American people, Republicans have embraced libertarian principles and have had great success convincing Americans that government regulation restrains enterprise, and if they eliminate regulations and the government, it will give Americans freedom and prosperity when the reality is it will complete the Republicans drive toward oligarchy.
There are myriad examples of government rules and regulations that if eliminated, would mean a breakdown of society as well as causing the greatest possible amount of harm to the people who built and maintained this country for two-hundred years. Republicans want to shrink the government by eliminating programs, agencies, and regulations that protect the people to help corporations and the wealthy prosper while leaving 99% of the population to become worthless peasants to serve the wealthy. If any American with a 3rd grade education stopped and considered the beneficial role the government serves, they would admit that under Libertarian-Republican rule, their lives would be on par with the poorest Afghani citizen.
Perhaps libertarians can imagine pharmaceutical companies that are not required to test the latest wonder-drug. What happens when they, or their loved-ones, become deathly ill from untested and unsafe medicine? Will they still think it is all right to allow greed to override public safety because they hate the government “forcing” drug manufacturers to deliver safe medicines? Or maybe libertarians imagine a government that allows businesses to refuse serving people with brown hair. Rand Paul approved of giving businesses the right to discriminate against African Americans because anti-discrimination laws are government overreach into private business practices. Republicans promoted a law that allows medical professionals to refuse to treat a patient if their conscience is bothered by saving a gay person. The discriminatory law is based on the bible and a belief that the government cannot “force” medical professionals to treat patients regardless that discrimination is prohibited by the Constitution.
Government rules and regulations that Libertarians and Republicans despise affect every aspect of Americans’ lives, and because people, and especially corporations, cannot be trusted, it is crucial that federal and state governments “force” businesses to follow the laws of the land. A simple example is traffic lights. How many Libertarians are willing to take a chance that drivers will stop for oncoming traffic on their own, or avoid driving drunk without fear of interdiction by the police? Would Republicans or Libertarians feel comfortable on an airplane if the pilots were stoned because the FAA was eliminated and airlines let anyone pilot a passenger jet? There is a reason there are regulations for airline pilots to be qualified to fly a plane with 300 passengers on board.
For Libertarians and Republicans that are panting to privatize every aspect of the government, there are untold scenarios that provide a reason to pause and consider how important keeping a strong central government really is to maintain a free society and quality of life. One example of a government agency that every American benefits from is the Department of Transportation and the highway system, and by extension, state, county, and city roadways. There are very few Americans (1%) who can afford to build their own roads. If Libertarians and Republicans had their way, highways would be sold to the highest bidder and Americans would pay tolls for permission to pass over privately owned roads. Private companies would use the cheapest materials and labor for maintenance to ensure the owners’ profit margin stayed high.
In a California city that fired workers and hired a private company to maintain the urban forestry division, trees were killed en masse because cheap, untrained workers had no knowledge of tree maintenance and instead of quality work, they stripped entire neighborhoods of tress. When the city’s Urban Forestry division hired workers who were properly trained, the city held the distinction of the most beautiful trees in the entire country for over twenty years. Within two years of privatization, the city failed to make the list and entire neighborhoods were denuded leaving residents without shade and complaining of living in paved-over trailer parks.
If Republicans and their libertarian brethren are successful, Americans will understand that privatization and laissez faire attitude toward the business community will produce costs to Americans beyond belief. Most Americans are smart enough to know that society needs rules, and that businesses must be forced to follow regulations to protect the public. The government, elected by the people, has a responsibility to maintain a safe environment, provide equal opportunities, and force defiant businesses and Americans to adhere to the laws of the land. The nature of many people and businesses requires the government to “force” compliance to laws whether it is wearing seat belts, carrying automobile accident insurance, or producing safe medicine and food.
Republicans are still enamored with Reagan and his mantra that government is evil and interferes with people’s lives and ability to prosper. They have taken that mantra and coupled it with libertarian ideology and the result is that America is creeping toward a privately-owned and operated government ruled by people like the Koch brothers. If Americans really want to live in a country controlled by wealthy dictators without rules and regulations, they should move to Somalia and see what the results of drowning the government and selling the remnants to the highest bidder produces. Otherwise, they should be happy to live in a country with rules, regulations, and laws that protect Americans from unscrupulous businesses. Republicans and libertarians are driven to destroy the government, and until they can drown and sell it to a corporation, they will not stop complaining about being forced to follow rules and regulations that protect the people.