The case for government
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report



McLEMORE'S WORLD: Loan-ly in America cartoon



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OCT. 12, 2003 - - In California this week, voters elected an actor to be governor in large part because they wanted to send the message they didn't trust the incumbent governor or government.

Across the country, people's trust of state government has dropped to the lowest levels since Gallup started measuring in 1972, according to an Oct. 6 poll. It showed almost half of Americans - - 46 percent - - had no or very little trust and confidence in state government to handle a state's problems.

In South Carolina, it's a sure bet that more than half of the state's citizens have low confidence in government. They don't trust politicians, many of whom screech about how bad things are but do little to make real progress. People believe their taxes are too high, although they have a low-to-moderate tax burden in various rankings of the states. And they hear a constant media drumbeat from talking heads who will bash government and politicians in a skinny minute.

So with all of this dislike of government, what's the alternative? No government? Chaos?

Back in 1947, Winston Churchill noted, "Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

A few years ago, one of my students at the College of Charleston complained about government and taxes. We talked about it for awhile, which led to a question to him: "If I were king and could issue an edict that you no longer had to pay any taxes, would you accept the edict and live with the consequences?" The student immediately and enthusiastically replied he would accept.

Then I asked him to consider what would happen to his quality of life if he didn't pay taxes and couldn't participate in the benefits brought by those taxes levied by government to provide services.

He couldn't, for example, drive on state-paid highways. He couldn't go to the beach at Isle of Palms by crossing the government-paid bridges over the Cooper River. He couldn't check out books at the library, get the city to pick up his trash, or have fire and police protection. If he moved to the country, he wouldn't be able to get electricity from the state-backed power utility. In fact, he wouldn't even be able to attend the College of Charleston, because it is a state institution.

I asked the student to consider these and many other things. Then I asked him about the quality of his life if he were exempt from taxes. He sheepishly admitted it wouldn't be much fun.

Too many Americans want to pay no taxes but get all of the benefits of being American. They want access to the best health care system in the world, one of the best highway systems, the best capital markets, the best jobs and the best food supply. They want the best for themselves and their children - - and who wouldn't?

But instead of accepting taxes as the price for democracy, they complain and blame.

It's time for people to stand up for government. Yes, it needs to be more efficient and effective. Yes, it should be more accountable. Yes, it should perform better. But it also shouldn't be barbecued at every corner. Government isn't the enemy. It's the civilizing component of our democracy.

Loan-ly in America

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:

10/6: Hollings will still be able to learn

To the editor:

"I have been introduced to your column and am reading some in the archives. In your 5 August 2003 column, you quoted Senator Hollings as saying, "My wife, Peatsy, helped a lot of students when she was a teacher." As one of Miss Liddy's students from St. Andrew's Parish High School in the mid-60s, I can fully agree with the Senator. Miss Liddy was one of the most challenging teachers I have ever had. Her love of US government, history, and especially politics motivated her students to understand our wonderful country and its unique place in the world. When the Senator is retired, he will still be able to learn from Miss Liddy.

-- Dale L. Theiling, Charleston, S.C.

9/28: Absence of corrections officers will hurt too

To the editor:

"Just as the absence of DNR officers (Hot Issue, 9/28) may have contributed to boating fatalities, so will the lack of Correctional Officers in the prison system lead to more violence and possibly fatalities. Your assessment is correct: presence of officers is a deterrent. The cutbacks in the Department of Corrections ought to be a cause for concern for all South Carolinians.

-- Francis X. Archibald, Hanahan, S.C.


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