Getting the Government out of Community Service

Getting the Government out of Community Service

We live in a time when we tend to look to the government to do a lot of things. For some reason, we tend to think that just because we have to pay taxes, it is our government’s job to fix everything that is broke and arrest anybody we don’t like. But if we can get a more rational view of what the government can do and moreover what it cannot do, we then can define what is local and should be handled by people in our own comity.

There are many projects that are just outside of what the government ought to be sticking their noses into. This is particularly true concerning the federal government. Too often we push to the national level discussions and decisions about the quality of life in our own communities when no matter what the federal government does, nothing will make our communities a better place to live more than people coming together as neighbors to make it so.

A good example is the care of local parks and public areas. If we expect the government to pay a service that has no connection to our community to come in and make things right in the public spaces used by our children and that are important to our neighbors, we can be sure the job isn’t going to get done right. One of the reasons that there is a general disrespect for public gathering spaces is that people don’t see those spaces as part of their local community. If you think you are littering on yet another piece of government property, you won’t think twice about treating it with disrespect because it isn’t yours.

It really is a matter of ownership. When we get together as a community and put together community service projects, we are making a statement that this area of our neighborhood belongs to us and it our job to make it nice. A great example of how this can work so well is a new phenomenon of the neighborhood swimming pool. As more public pools have to close, many neighborhoods are coming together, funding the land and construction and having a pool built for that neighborhood so everybody’s kids can have a place to swim.

Without fail these kinds of community spaces are better taken care of and even safer than the old public pools, run by the government, ever were. People are not as prone to leave them in a mess because these are your neighbors living next door to the pool. When young people are there swimming, it isn’t just the lifeguards watching out for their safety. The entire neighborhood is taking responsibility for the safety of those kids. And the result is a safer, cleaner and better community space than could ever have happened if the government had built the pool.

Our local, state and federal governments all have important jobs to do. We need them to make our streets safe to drive, to keep the lights on, to make sure jobs are coming to the state and to keep our relationship with the rest of the world working well. When they do their jobs well, our lives improve because of it. But when the government gets in the middle of projects where they just don’t belong, the outcome is almost always a disaster. So, as a people living in a country run by the people, it is our job to make sure that we take care of the community service and we keep the government out of things that are none of their business and make sure they are doing what is their business. Everybody wins that way. 621

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