We need government regulation in our lives | PostIndependent.com

We need government regulation in our lives

You might infer from my last column that I am against government. But unlike many, I believe that government is absolutely essential in our lives. It is corruption in government that I was criticizing.

Two hundred years ago, when the vast majority of Americans were independent farmers, life was simpler and government played a very limited role in people’s lives.

But the impact of a rapidly increasing population, massive urbanization, and an expanding technology demand more and more government regulation.

There was a time when people depended on each other for support in times of need, most people grew their own food, and if the neighborhood was getting too crowded, you could pack up and relocate over the next hill. But as our population exploded, and we are increasingly crowded together in what has become a complex industrial and mechanized society, our actions become impersonal and can cause irritation and frustration with one another, increasing the potential for conflict. This is why government must play an ever-increasing regulatory role. Regulation is the foundation of a civil society, and like it or not, only government can perform that function.

Let’s look at some of the ways government “interferes” in our lives and consider what life would be like without that “interference.”

Highway regulations: Without the hordes of cars, there would be little need for highway laws, speed limits, traffic signals or parking limits; but in today’s automobile world, what would it be like without them?

Land use and zoning regulations: Without them you could wake up one morning and find a rendering plant or a late-night discotheque going up next door to you.

Building codes: Without control over the quality or safety of what is being built, including homes and commercial, industrial and public buildings, there would be no way of preventing shoddy and unsafe construction.

Safety regulations: Without these, the unsuspecting public would be victimized by unscrupulous producers of defective and dangerous products. The Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 put an end to the marketing of tainted meat and untested medicinal products.

Pollution regulations: Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a world without any controls over what was being dumped into our lakes and streams, and spewed into the air we breathe?

Regulation of business financial practices: The Enron scandal and the present mortgage crisis are examples of what happens when these practices are inadequately policed. We need government regulation to deter the unscrupulous from preying on the public.

All of our rights need to be regulated to prevent the exercise of those rights from adversely impacting others.

The basic human emotion of greed is the driving force of the capitalist system, but if greed is not properly regulated, that system can be destroyed by its own excesses.

Since altruism is not up to the task of controlling human behavior, only government can perform that function. But those who govern are also susceptible to greed, resulting in corruption of the government that is supposed to serve us. In a democratic society, it is our responsibility as citizens to be ever vigilant in exposing and stamping out corruption in our government. We are the last line of defense of a truly civil society.

Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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