Nicole posted this classic Libertarian graphic
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.