Recently I had an interesting conversation here with Steven, a frequent and valued reader. He an I have a bit of a difference of opinion on the role of government in a country’s day yo day life. here’s an excerpt:
@Steven: Hi Steven. I guess we need a dictionary as well, because my sense of your comment is you confuse my advocacy of government workers being strong in their charter to actually perform their duties with what seems to me to be a different slant
Where I feel we will always differ significantly is in areas like the belief that ‘the government’ has a role in providing infrastructure. I feel that is very much an outmoded way of looking at it.
So what seems to be the underlying issue here and just what might be a proper role of government?
The role of national government is to keep the peace, guard the borders and get the hell out of the way of people who want to earn a living …or so I opine.
Now, what in the world has all this to do with the Philippines? The whole conversation between Steven and I got started over the role of the Philippine government micro-managing right down to the point of telling an individual Jeepney owner, the epitome of an independent small businessman how much he could charge for fares. The exact type of action which drives up fares and hurts the very poor people that the lawmakers ‘say’ they are out to protect.]
Let’s look for a moment at just a few things that _do_ work in the Philippines. Good toll roads in Luzon … private enterprise that took over former government boondoggles.
Hospitals. Government hospitals are scary. The first thing the reception staff will ask you when you arrive at one and appear to be able to pay for care is, “Sir, why don’t you go to a private hospital”? been there, done that. There are good hospitals here in the Philippines … but they are private enterprise.
Postal Service … there’s a prime example to anyone who grew up in a country with a strong postal system. Surely the role government is to provide an effective, cheap mail service, isn’t it? Well, I don’t know how it works in Australia, but I know how it works in the USA … not nearly as well as it should, and not nearly as cheap as it ought to be. Here in the Philippines there is a postal system … in nearly two years I have seen our local mail carrier twice. How does routine mail service get carried out … things like my monthly bills? Again, private enterprise courier services which are cheap and actually reach more parts of the Philippines than the government mail service does. It also makes a profit and pays taxes instead of sucking the life out of poor taxpayers.
So next time you make the pronouncement that ‘the government should do something, stop and think if that is really what you want or if you’re just frustrated because private enterprise hasn’t yet filled the gap.
(by the way, I hope this discussion isn’t going to just die here between a Yank and an Aussie, neither one of whom is an expert on each other’s country .. are there no US folks who have their own doubts about the role of ‘the government’?)