America (My Government, It's of You)

America is currently plagued with a unique and fundamental lie about the role of government, whether that be federal, state, local, or all of it. The roots of this particular lie can be traced to at least the early 1970s, but that’s a story for another day. Today we point to and reveal this lie for what it is: a primary reason for America’s self-inflicted national wounds, from infrastructure decay and income inequality to trade imbalance and most in-between. We want this blog post to mark the moment that America begins correcting and moving away from her belief and reliance on this lie. The basic version of this lie is that government is inherently bad or wrong and oppressive to freedom or liberty; and the smaller the government the better. Ronald Reagan, in his inaugural address as President of the United States shockingly asserted government is not the solution but the problem. This reinforcement of the lie, errantly planted by a popular if not revered voice, has helped spawn internal extremism. Just one current example is Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, who bared the depth of this extremism when he was quoted saying, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Both these Americans, no matter how influential or revered, and giving them a pass for the occasional brain farts like the references above (we’re all human), nevertheless revealed through their continued words and actions a striking ignorance about the role of government. Striking given Reagan’s role as President and striking given Norquist’s Harvard undergraduate and MBA. They and those harboring similar ignorance are either unaware or they have chosen to forget that it was America’s government (however imperfect) supported and respected by its citizenry that for so long created the relative safe space for so many millions of her citizens to prosper. How do we correct this shocking ignorance? How do we push back on the poisonous lie, at least enough to reduce it to the size where we can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub? How do we re-recognize that we need to protect that which protects us? We briefly introduce two perspectives and tools here now that help answer those questions, and further discuss the reality of “we are they” in our book Better Capitalism.

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