Right now I'm reading Eaarth by Bill McKibben. It's an interesting book, if not rather depressing, about how global warming has changed the world irreparably, and how we should go about living on our now kinda freaky planet. I'm in the habit of assuming that if it cites reliable science it's probably written by a liberal, so I was surprised when the chapter I read last night included a critique of big government that would have made any Tea Party member proud.
Ok, granted, it was better argued than most Tea Party arguments. His point was that a strong central government was useful when we had big national projects to accomplish - building the land grand colleges, the interstate highway system, putting a man on the moon. Now, we don't have so many big national projects, and we have a lot of issues that might be better solved at the community level. I think that's not a bad idea. There was an article a while ago in the Daily Beast about local communities being improved by smart small-scale reforms in everything from law enforcement and criminal justice to education and health care. Programs like that, rooted in the needs and resources of a community, might be more efficient and successful than the big government programs it's so popular to criticize nowadays.
Take, for example, Texas. Texas has pretty much the worst health care in the country. All of the small community leaders in the state could do their best to provide good care to their community, but Texas would still probably have pretty awful health care without some major incentive to change, which, given that their governor seems pretty damn satisfied with the situation, seems unlikely to happen.
That's where I feel federal government programs are important. It's not fair that someone in Texas is more likely to die of any number of things than someone in Massachusetts, when we as a country could have the resources to look out for everyone. Small-scale community solutions are great, but they seem to me to leave a lot of gaps in care and resources for people who need them, and that to me is unacceptable. Maybe our current system of trying to smooth those disparities isn't the most effective, but I think it's better than the alternative of not having anything to try to fix regional inequalities. (Also, sometimes communities screw up. See the Alabama judge who wants to make criminals go to church or else face jail time. Uh... just no.) So, while I appreciate that small-scale programs have a lot of potential to be awesome, I'm not ready to jump on McKibben's critique of big government just yet.