Steve Kelman, August 2017
In this paper Kelman discusses the role and importance of government in our society today. Debates over the role of government — often phrased as “big government” vs. “limited government” — are at the center of our political life. We debate the government’s role in health care and in regulating the environment. We debate levels of taxation. Yet there are crucial benefits of government that should be appreciated whether you are a person who thinks of yourself as liking government or not. These benefits come about because government has created an environment where we can in our everyday lives normally take the reliability and trustworthiness of others for granted. We flag down a taxi on the street, get into the driver’s car, and don’t worry this stranger might kidnap us. We walk on a sidewalk, and do not worry it will buckle beneath us. We drive a car, and do not worry the brakes won’t work. These are the unnoticed benefits of government, which we notice no more than a fish notices it is swimming in water.