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The Limitations of Human Government

June 10, 2010

Adam Fowler for Adam Fowler’s Opinion Blog:

With the continued concern over the seemingly never-ending BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, many in the media are criticizing President Obama for anything from his lack of empathy to his lack of leadership. In short, they are mad that the government isn’t more involved and actually fixing the problem.

But if this incident tells us anything, it is that government, despite its massive size and pervasive influence in our lives, isn’t some magical entity that can solve all of our problems, small or great. President John F. Kennedy once famously said when referring to the possibility of ending war, “Our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man.” But, despite what some progressives may hope, human government still has its natural limits.

There are two main reasons for these limits. The first is that government is not some omniscient force; it’s nothing more than a group of fallible human beings. As such, it, too, is fallible. The second point is that, in several instances, government has limitations that the private sector does not. Since government is essentially a monopoly and not beholden to the type of competition and market forces which act to improve the performance and efficiency of firms in the private sector, there are tasks that the private sector is simply better at performing. [More]

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