Top Ten Government Successes

Nicole posted this classic Libertarian graphic

Classic Libertarian propaganda

Classic Libertarian propaganda

When i saw this i smiled briefly, thought about the places where libertarians and anarchists agree (getting rid of as much government as possible) and places where we miss each other (like personal nuclear weapons).

But then i thought, if i were going to write this list – without an endless stream of caveats, what would be on it.  This is what i came up with:

1) National Park System – This is an extensive network of lands which are mostly not being developed and are mostly available for us by the people of the nation.

nearly ubiquitous

nearly ubiquitous

2) Food Stamps – 44 million US americans use this program to supplement their diets.  92% of the funds go directly to program.   This program has largely succeeded in reducing malnutrition and hunger.

3)  The interstate highway system – which handles 1/4 of all the nations traffic despite being less than 1% if it’s roadway.  The safety upgrades over the old two lane system has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and countless hours of travel time.

been there, done that

been there, done that

4) Public Health Programs. A variety of programs run by national, state and local Public Health departments have greatly improved the health of most Americans. For example, the scourges of polio, cholera, and smallpox have been effectively eradicated from this country – a huge achievement.

5) Clean Water and Clean Air Programs. America’s water and air are significantly cleaner than they were in the 1960s. The levels  nitrogen dioxide, smog, sulfur dioxide, and lead – have been reduced by an average of 53%. The quality of the air has significantly increased in virtually every metropolitan area in the U.S. The Clean Water act has been similarly successful.  In 1972, when it passed only one-third of the nation’s waterways were safe enough for fishing or swimming. Today that has doubled to two-thirds.

6) Student Financial Aid Programs.   These programs have worked to remove financial barriers for students and thus create more equal opportunity in higher education. They have been a major factor in producing the rapid increases in college enrollment seen in the last 50 years, and they have also contributed to the increasing class and racial diversity of the college population.

go to school

go to school

7) Social Security and Medicare. Without these two government programs, growing old would be hell for many Americans. Before Social Security and Medicare, millions of the elderly were doomed to spend their retirement years in poverty and illness. Social Security has cut the rate of poverty for the elderly by over half – from 29% in 1966 to 10% today.

8) Funding Basic Science Research.  The feds pay for 75% of the grants in this program.   In just biomedical science, basic research has provided  new treatments for cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

9) Anti-Discrimination Policies. Since the 1960s, policies like the Civil Rights Act and Title IX  have decreasing discrimination against minorities and women. Racial segregation in hotels, restaurants and other public facilities has been eliminated. Housing discrimination and workplace discrimination, while not completely eradicated, have been substantially reduced. In terms of gender, workplace discrimination and sexual harassment have decreased and record numbers of women are now attending colleges and graduate schools.

We are intolerant of intolerance

We are intolerant of intolerance

10) Consumer Protection. In reaction to increasing public pressure in the early 1970s, government began to pass legislation to protect consumers from shoddy and dangerous products.  Products kill over 20,000 consumers a year and injure over 25 million more. It would be far worse if the CPSC did not recall hundreds of products every year. It is estimated $10 billion in savings on the health care bills, property damage, and other costs associated with these defective products each year.


As a card-not-carrying anarchist i can talk about every one of these programs and the myriad of failings which have been made and how it could be done better [please don’t waste my comment space repeating your freak out  “But the interstate program promotes terrible cars!” – completely boring].  Like most anarchists, i would like to live with out oppressive institutions like governments.  

There is no national ID in the US, yet.

There is no national ID in the US, yet.

But i am a realist also.   Any of these programs is preferable to more weapons systems or tax breaks for the rich.  If there is going to be government, there are lots of things i would rather them do, like the services listed above and more.  Much of this list was lifted from this article on these and other positive things government has done.

Tags: ,

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

5 responses to “Top Ten Government Successes”

  1. Keenan Dakota says :

    Free or inexpensive education. I chafe at some stupid building codes, but I’ve been to countries without them and I’m surprised at the stupid and unsafe things that builders do. So: building codes. A somewhat uncorrupted judicial system. Safe food laws.

  2. Kelpie says :

    “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medecine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

  3. paxus says :

    Here is a comment from BB

    Yeah, Gov does some good, BUT the problem is that you can’t pick & choose what you get. The good stuff comes with the bad stuff. The goodies are bribes for looking the otherway and staying mute to the evils that government perpetrates upon us and others around the world with its claimed monopoly of force.

    Government grows like cancer. It relentlessly seeks to acquire more money, more control, more repression all in the name of the public good. You support these evils by paying taxes. Funding these evils to my mind makes you as culpable as the wife who hires a hitman to kill her husband. She didn’t actually do it but her money mad it happen. In the same way I’m paying the salary of the gunmen (police & soldiers) who kill and oppress us and others. Some of the funding mows the lawns in a national park, so what.

    Everything you get from government was taken from someone else by force. Every election is a sort of advance auction on to-be stolen goods.

    I will concede for the purposes of this exercise that there are some things that government does that are helpful (unfortunately, the price of that is:
    (i) a bloated wasteful, braindead, entrenched bureaucracy that deadens our soul just a little bit every time we have to interact with it; and
    (ii) (ii) the evil actions of government as it acts as the handmaiden of the corporations that influence government and shape law & policy to further the ends of the corps which is. . . wait for it. . . more money, more control.

    I don’t want stolen goods and I don’t want people oppressed and killed in my name.

    For myself, I will choose threadbare freedom with a clear conscience over upholstered culpable slavery every time.

  4. North Star says :

    Interesting list. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the military as an example of a government success. Only two attempts by outsiders to attack us in the past 200 years, neither of which seriously threatened society beyond the attack site. The military also has a knack for transferring its technology to civilian purposes, for free. For example, the internet, and GPS were both started for military purposes and later repurposed for anyone to use, for free.

    All this with a military that, for the past 40 years, has been entirely staffed by volunteers.

    Our government does military very, very well. That some civilian Commanders-in-Chief have directed the military in dubious or downright despicable ways (invasion of Iraq comes to mind…) does not take away from the underlying truth that the military is very good at what it does.

    • paxus says :

      Dearest North Star:

      We have different notions about what good government services are. i see the US military as a bloated plutocracy which is a huge dead weight on the economic development of the country. We can agree that Iraq is despicable. But what is clear is you consider the dozens of other adventurous missions of the military well worth the price for the once per hundred year invasion problem.

      The over funded US military drives global military sales as other countries try vainly to keep up it sacrificing social services on the way.

      We agree that it is good at what it does, we just dont agree that what it does is a good thing.

      Paxus at Twin Oaks
      14 Point A Revealed 2013

      PS i am done with this thread

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: