Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In My View: Falling prey to tyranny of sound bites

Dr. Ali Nizamuddin is an associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield and is on the steering committee of the Coalition to Promote Human Dignity and Diversity. He wrote the following op-ed that was published in the January 15, 2011, edition of The State Journal-Register.

"The shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the unspeakable tragedy in Arizona can serve as a catalyst for self-reflection and introspection. It is the most recent manifestation of an underlying current that views the individual in opposition to the perceived overreach of the federal government. Certain segments of society are convinced that the greatest threat to their individual liberty comes from Big Brother. In fact, there is the 'hateriot' movement, which believes that it is patriotic to hate our government. This was most visible during the health-care debate when people brought guns to political rallies to protest government spending on social programs.

Those who espouse this position believe that the market is a better allocator of scarce resources than the government, and that governments function best when they function least. This may very well be true.

But what they do not understand is that the market is a good allocator of private goods like coffee, cereal, pencils, etc. The market, however, fails when it comes to the provisioning of public goods that are beyond the purview of individual private citizens to provide. Roads, bridges, public libraries, the police and fire departments, water purification systems, food inspection, the military, community colleges, schools, street lights and courts are all provided by the government. Individual citizens neither have the resources nor the incentives to provide these goods for the welfare of others. Governments must intervene when markets fail, as is the case with health care, given that millions of Americans do not have insurance."

Download the full editorial as a PDF