Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Lesson from Mars
As you know, Dear Readers, I tend to be pretty critical of our government ... at least, of the parts of it that don't work particularly well*. And the GOP in particular has made the denunciation of government into an art form, blaming "big government" for everything that is wrong with the country, and thundering that all will be well if we just shrink the federal government, "get it out of the way," and unleash the power of the private sector.
What gets lost in the noise, though, is the fact that there are some areas in which the government works really well, and some things only a strong, central government can do.
Such as ... say ... going to Mars.
You should take a few minutes to read this wonderful article by David Sirota on Salon.com - Lesson From Mars: Government Works. Mr Sirota makes the very good point that only the government could provide the vision, the funding, and the coordination of effort that made the Mars program possible. The government that is so often denounced as unable to organize a one-car funeral built a sophisticated robot, sent it on a journey of more than 150 million miles, and landed it within 1.5 miles of its intended touchdown spot ... where, within a matter of hours, it was sending back highly-detailed color photographs of another world that humans themselves may never be able to visit.
Now, you can argue (and many will) that the cost of the Mars program represents money better spent on other things**, but I would rather see the money spent on advancing the frontiers of our knowledge than on propping up misogynistic and religiously bigoted governments like those of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And you can also argue (and many will) that a big national government can't do some things as well as a smaller state or local government ... and in many cases, that's true. But as Mr Sirota eloquently states in the conclusion of his article,
"... under the right conditions, we should have confidence that government has the capacity to address serious challenges. After all, if today it can successfully realize a sci-fi-esque goal as fantastical, daunting and complicated as the Mars Curiosity mission, it surely can accomplish objectives on this planet that involve fairly straightforward solutions."
And that's why you and I need to hold our elected officials' feet to the fire and insist on a strong, well-managed government that takes on big challenges and reaches for big solutions. Because ... sometimes ... only a strong and responsive government can do the job.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.
* Congress, for example.
** Such as tax breaks for wealthy "job creators."