Bigger Government Doesn’t Mean Better Governing

Nov 11, 2013

Oh, the irony. After botching the launch of the health care exchanges, the government is calling the private sector to the rescue. President Obama phoned Verizon and, in a twist on the company’s famous tagline, asked: “Can you help me now?”

Though a private company created the various parts of the federal exchange website, the government took those pieces and attempted, unsuccessfully, to assemble them. Almost half a trillion taxpayer dollars later, we have a nonfunctioning website. Meanwhile, millions of Americans who buy individual health insurance in the private marketplace are being told that their existing plans are being canceled because they don’t meet the exacting criteria of the Affordable Care Act.

These disruptions are emblematic of Obamacare as a whole—it’s a huge, complex, government-directed scheme that seeks to transform the health care system—which accounts for one-sixth of the economy. Unfortunately, the “kinks and glitches” have only just begun.

There are some things that only the federal government can do and must do well. National security is one such critical function. Building and maintaining a seamless national transportation infrastructure is another. Enhanced border control and an effective national employee verification system will be essential components of comprehensive immigration reform, and these must be federal responsibilities too.

Yet policymakers must be far more discerning in determining when a societal need warrants a federal program or response. States, localities, companies, schools, community organizations, and the people themselves are often better equipped with better and more workable solutions. This is surely the case with something as personal and individualized as health care. While American health care needs improvement and reform, the notion of trying to devise a federally operated one-size-fits-all system enveloping more than 300 million people begs the question: “What in the world were they thinking?”

Thomas Jefferson said: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned—this is the sum of good government.”

Thomas Paine was more succinct: “That government is best which governs least.” Ronald Reagan’s more modern take was equally insightful: “You can’t be for big government and still be for the small guy.”

The times and needs have changed since those great Americans walked the earth. But, still, there is wisdom in their words, which we ought to heed every time a new proposal is offered to have the government take over that which has traditionally been handled by the states, private enterprise, and free people.

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