Recent Events Have Defined Our Government’s Limits

Sean Para, Columnist

The American government has not been doing very well recently. Extensive failures of the government’s online healthcare exchange,, served as a sad backdrop to the budget and debt crisis. Millions attempting to buy health insurance under the health law were frustrated by long delays logging in or were simply unable to purchase health insurance. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius’s public apology for the problems is little compensation for the government’s failure in implementing a crucial element of the healthcare reform. Republican critics have recently turned to another seeming failure of the law — those who have been turned away for coverage because they do not meet the law’s requirements.

The American government was recently caught spying on millions of European phone calls. The American government itself caught the Afghan government attempting to seal an alliance with the Pakistani Taliban, a depressing reminder of the lack of progress in building an effective and trustworthy Afghan government. Despite all these setbacks, we should not simply write off our government; it is the only one we have and we would be better served trying to fix it rather than focusing on its multifarious failings.

The government does a lot of things right. Many of its successes are taken for granted, but America’s justice, law enforcement and transportation systems, for example, do not function by happenstance. Although the state governments do handle many of these duties on a day-to-day basis, the federal government’s ability to coordinate with the states allows the entire nation to function. These statements may seem gratuitous, but many seem to forget how crucial the state is to their lives. The federal shutdown earlier this month highlighted the important role the government plays in our society. The gross failings of the government, in terms of providing social justice to millions that are economically disenfranchised, allowing major corporations to exercise undue influence over the electoral process, or any of its many injustices, do not negate its many successes.

These recent debacles, as well as the many long-held problems of our state, simply give reason to having more government, not less. Anarchists — and their prominent conservative analogues in government — are wrong. Washington’s exposed spying, administrative failings or long-term failures to prevent great institutional injustices (such as racism, poverty and failures in education) in our country show the necessity for great improvements and reform. These failings do not, however, invalidate the governmental system as a whole. The government needs to become more transparent, less nefarious about spying and more effective in implementing the healthcare reform law, but we should not do away with it as a whole.