A Practical Perspective

Have you ever stopped to think about the ways government influences your every-day life? Just think about some of the things you have done today.

Did you eat cereal for breakfast? Did you worry that the milk you poured on it might be contaminated? No, because the Food and Drug Administration monitors dairies to ensure that the milk they produce is safe. Did you happen to read the label on the cereal box to determine the nutritional content of your breakfast? If you did, you saw federally mandated information about the cereal you were eating. Did you drive to school or to the store? Were there huge holes in the road? No, because national, state and local governments work together to keep the roads in generally good repair. Were cars careening through intersections at high speeds without even slowing down? Was there chaos on the streets? No, because there are laws and police officers to keep order on the streets. Is the air you breathe and the water you drink free from hazardous chemicals? Yes, because the Environmental Protection Agency and its state and local counterparts work together to limit the amount of pollution produced by businesses and individuals. Are you fearful that another nation will attack the United States and overthrow our government? Probably not, because the national government maintains a formidable national defense to discourage and repel such an invasion. There are a thousand things the government does each day which allow us to worry less and live more comfortably than we otherwise would. What would your day have been like if there were no government regulation of food products, roads or the environment? Would you enjoy the freedoms you do without a robust national defense system? While there are many things government does each day that you appreciate and rely on, there are many things you may wish government did not do. Indeed, there are many people who feel that government does too much or that it does things inefficiently. There are others, however, who feel that government needs to be more active, addressing a wider range of societal problems.

In the sections that follow, you will be exposed to a variety of arguments about the rationale for government and its various undertakings. You will also begin to understand the complexity of the arguments on both sides of debates about the creation and implementation of government programs.