Friday, July 24, 2009

Good Government and Building a Great Country

Lest we degenerate into kooky, anti-political, libertarian radicalism, small government conservatives should remember that some government regulation is good. Woodrow Wilson argued that in an industrial economy, there are appropriate forms of government health and safety regulation that are entailed by the government's responsibility to protect people in their lives and property. The food adulteraters and the workplace safety corner-cutters are the modern muggers. So modern government has a moral obligation to patrol these highways of public intercourse.

Here is an example from China. A tall building under construction simply fell over. This Asian website reports on it, drawing from various news sources ("Building Collapsed in Shanghai" - 6/27/09).

One source gives this account of the mechanics of the disaster.

(1) An underground garage was being dug on the south side, to a depth of 4.6 meters.

(2) The excavated dirt was being piled up on the north side, to a height of 10 meters.

(3) The building experienced uneven lateral pressure from south and north.

(4) This resulted in a lateral pressure of 3,000 tonnes, which was greater than what the pilings could tolerate. Thus the building toppled over in the southerly direction.

In the Lord's mercy, only one person was killed. China Daily reports that nine people linked to the building collapse, including the real estate developer, contractor and the supervisor for the project, have been put "under appropriate control."

Of course, the question before us today is: Has Wall Street been mugging investors? If so, how so? And what form of regulation and to what extent is appropriate in response for public safety? Just as good a question related to our toppled economy is this: have Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Barney Frank mugged low-income, aspiring homeowners by their government interference in the housing and mortgage markets?

Though I have used this as an illustration of the value of and necessity for appropriate forms of government regulation in the interest of public safety, this incident also illuminates the evil of government corruption. The wisest regulations aren't of any use if inspectors and other officials can be bribed--or insist on being bribed--to look the other way. This is the way most of the world operates, and it accounts for many of the world's problems.

As the Christian foundation of our culture erodes, as the tide of atheistic materialism washes away the foundations of our moral and political heritage, we should be vigilant against this kind of ethical slippage lest the edifice of our exceptional republic similarly come crashing down.

No comments: