A good way to think about politics and government

David Brooks has a nice essay in the New York Times about the role of politics and government in society.  Two ideas stood out to me:

1. There are dysfunctional extremes in the U.S. regarding how we think about politics.  On the one hand, there are too many people who ignore politics entirely.  That may play well at cocktail parties, but it won't lead to better governance.  You can't make the system better by withdrawing.  On the other extreme, there are the talking heads and the people who watch them too many hours a day.  They've turned politics into a hyper-partisan blood sport, which isn't healthy either.

2.  We need good government, but there are limitations to what the government can and should do.  (I've written that government provides the tracks on which the engine of capitalism runs.)  Brooks has a similar metaphor:

"Imagine you are going to a picnic. Government is properly in charge of maintaining the essential background order: making sure there is a park, that it is reasonably clean and safe, arranging public transportation so as many people as possible can get to it. But if you remember the picnic afterward, these things won’t be what you remember. You’ll remember the creative food, the interesting conversations and the fun activities."


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