Government as a force for good
There's a front-page thread on DailyKos right now (I know, I know) offering suggestions for the "jobs summit" that Obama suddenly wants to hold. One, in particular, struck me pleasantly (emphasis mine).
4. Don't be afraid to do it yourself.
If you can't find a small business to do something, don't sweat it. Do it yourself. Grab people off the streets and out of the 7/11 parking lot. Put them to work. Give them training. Give them encouragement to dream up their first company and take this mess off your hands as fast as possible. Be a school, be an incubator, be America. And hey, still don't hire the big guys. Because the one thing that kills small business like nothing else is big business. You want to come out of this with the next generation of American companies ready to take on the world, not with the last generation only fatter.
It reminded me of a blog here from a few months back that I also really liked, about Hyman Minsky's ideas for economic stimulus, about the government combatting a recession by hiring the unemployed directly, becoming the "employer of last resort."
It was and remains one of the best ideas I've ever heard, because it resonates powerfully with my belief that government can be a powerful force for good. That idea is soaked into just about every policy proposal of boilerplate liberalism, but it's hard to display it more boldly than the government giving jobs to the jobless.
Granted, government can do horrible things as well, and the United States government does plenty of that. But in an ostensibly representative democracy like ours, I think it's completely natural and fitting that government work to directly benefit its citizens. And citizens in turn should expect their government to help them. Why shouldn't it? If you believe your civics class, the government in the United States is us. 'We the People,' and all that. So why shouldn't our government that we empower be extensively active in promoting our well-being?
Government creating jobs directly is an affirmation that the government can do good for the people, and in fact should do good.