January 21, 2009 7:41AM

Government’s Broken Promise

I don’t make it a habit of reading New York Times editorials, but I gave in to temptation when I saw the title of today’s words of wisdom from the Times: “Government’s Promise.”

The editorial leads off:

When he accepted his party’s nomination last year, Barack Obama repudiated the “you’re on your own” ethos that had come to define the government’s relationship to the people.

With total federal, state, and local government spending as a percentage of GDP trending toward 40%, up from 30% at the beginning of the decade, how can the Times possibly suggest that a “you’re on your own” ethos has defined the government’s relationship to the people? Americans can’t even go to the bathroom without the government interfering with that most intimate of human activities.

The Times continues:

He [Obama] said government cannot do everything, but he promised one that would do what individuals cannot do for themselves: “protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.”

I’ll leave it to Cato’s national security experts to decide whether the government does a good job of protecting us from harm, but as an individual I’d be much more capable of protecting myself and my family were it not for government gun restrictions.

Provide every child a decent education? Utopian dreaming is fine until reality forces one to recognize that every child will never receive a decent education so long as federal and state bureaucrats, in conjunction with government‐​protected unions, rule the education roost. See Cato’s education experts for more.

Clean water? A 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) counted 27 different federal agencies providing financial support for domestic freshwater activities. Twenty‐​seven.

Safe toys? Once again, sounds nice. But parents who entrust the nanny‐​state with the protection of their children do so at their own risk. China, not exactly an example of a minimalist state, offers a good lesson. Poor Zheng Xiaoyu — if only you had been an American bureaucrat you’d probably now be making six‐​figures as a K‐​street lobbyist.

Individuals can’t invest in new roads and new science and technology without the guiding hand — and bottomless pockets — of Uncle Sam? A couple weeks ago I provided an example of how politicians allocate capital (taxes, i.e., confiscated capital) when building roads. And if it were not for the government I wouldn’t be able to create this post on a computer and broadcast it over the internet while listening to music on my iPod? I will admit that one Donna Gamble probably wouldn’t have gotten a cool Waverunner and big‐​screen television were it not for the National Science Foundation.