Negative government

Dear Editor:I'm delighted that Dan Cristea chose to refer to my Patriot letter of June 19, or at least part of it, but I'm somewhat pained by the tortured logic of his view of government. ("Keep Investment Private," 7/10/09) If I ask, "Isn't the purpose of government to serve the needs of the people?" and he replies, in effect, "No, it's to serve the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness in the individual,' what's the difference, if you take the word 'people' to be an aggregate of individuals? I don't understand how he equates people with collectivism (his word), unless he's lumping it in with the totalitarian rhetoric of places like Communist China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Myanmar. But nobody's suggested that. What's more baffling is his notion of negative government. If representative government, that is, democracy, refers to the process where you and I elect someone to protect our rights and interests and advance our needs for Life, Liberty, etc. - because we can't all bundle off to Washington or Sacramento - how is that process served by a negative presence? Should our representatives not go? Should government at any level not convene to adjudicate differences, or pass and enforce laws designed to help us all live together more safely and equitably? And after reading the pioneering Rachel Carson, Upton Sinclair, Theodore Roosevelt, and the thousands of other authors and public-minded citizens who've called attention to the various practices of poisoning our food, destroying our natural environment, fouling the air, exploiting our work, stealing our money, refusing us medical care if we can't pay through the nose, trashing our minds with junk advertising and duping us with false claims - in a word, killing us for profit - who else has the power to curb these practices besides government in its regulatory capacity? Should we shoo it away, or drown it in a bathtub, as the reptilian Grover Norquist and his band of closet oligarchs have suggested? Actually, one could argue that the negative government Mr. Cristea calls for is already here. It's been gathering force since the era of Reaganomics, when businessmen moved into government to cut it down to size and make megabuck profit a cultural imperative - at public expense. The most dramatic example of that credo's result came that September Friday in 2008, when then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen and Paul Bernanke hastily met with a small group of Congressional leaders and said, "We need $750 billion by Monday to save the economy." "Impossible," the Congressmen said. "You don't understand how government works." "Nevertheless," Paulsen said. "If we don't have it by Monday, there won't be an economy." That means that your checking and savings accounts will probably have been frozen in your failed bank, your pension would have been wiped out (which has already happened with alarming regularity), and your boss would not have made payroll, as just a few of the rolling catastrophes to befall us - including, for a great many, the loss of your home. All this a result of Wall Street greedheads, who are still operating. I'm all for private investment, which is a way of putting our money where our mouths are. But we can only get by with a little help from our friends, the officials we choose to serve us. When they convene, that's governance. - Lawrence Christon, Downey

********** Published: July 17, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 13