Thursday, November 1, 2012
"Big" Government: A Breath of Fresh Air...
Did you know that, in Kentucky, the concentration of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide in the ambient air has been reduced 81 percent since 1981? How about the fact that smog-forming nitrogen oxides are down 52 percent in the same time period?
Kentucky’s air quality has improved significantly in the 40 years since the Clean Air Act was passed. Making this downward trend in pollution levels all the more remarkable, Kentucky has seen continued economic development and population growth over the course of these past four decades.
Our improved air quality is a significant achievement considering that economic and population growth results in additional pollution sources from expanded industry, more traffic, and greater energy demand in a state that obtains roughly 96 percent of its electricity from coal. Yet as the economy has more than tripled, air quality has continued to improve – proof that environmental protection and economic development can go hand in hand...
You can read the whole story here.
The whole question of whether or not we need/want a "big" or "small" government is not the main issue to me. I want a SMART government. If a government has a bunch of rules intended to make things better and improve the commonwealth but the rules - however well-meaning - do not accomplish those goals, that is not smart government.
If we do away with rules in response to the problems associated with the rules - and the initial problem gets worse! - that is not smart government, either.
Well-written rules that help the common wealth while allowing for maximum freedom (and yet protecting liberties from those who'd abuse their "freedom"), this is what I want to see in my government.
I like the Clean Water and Clean Air rules and regulations we put in place primarily because they are effective at helping us all enjoy maximum liberties while ensuring that we do so responsibly. A state with many, many jobs where people are making plenty of money, BUT where the air and water is so polluted that lives are cut short and no one gets to enjoy the benefits of their jobs, that is not a goal I want to see lived out.
FEMA and having an adequate government response to disasters like Sandy is another example of smart government (as long as it's done well). Private, scattered support and charity has its place, but it would not easily be as concentrated and coordinated and guaranteed as a governmental response. When the GOP starts talking about making government smaller, there's always the risk of removing essential, wise programs.
Jobs? Sure. But jobs created within a smart and responsible context, in ways that don't cause harm/interrupt liberties of the masses.
That should be our goal.
As this article demonstrates in Kentucky, we can have both and should demand both.
And, as Wendell Berry has often pointed out: We must need keep in mind that the economy (and our jobs) are a subset of the environment, and not the other way around. So we need to keep that in mind as we prioritize. A sick environment can not long sustain a healthy economy or a healthy society.