One could argue people should try to reach inside themselves, each to find that "noble savage" of whom Jean Jacques Rousseau once wrote. Between romps with his latest wealthy female backer, Rousseau envisioned a primordial figure who was innocent and resourceful. The "noble savage" had no need for government or the social contract, the fictional agreement a person makes with the sovereign in which the former trades freedom for security from the latter.
There would appear to have been no "noble savage." The human species evolved. No clear line marks the place at which our ancestors---whether in the land of their origin, Africa, or somewhere down the road---realized there was a need to organize and form government. Rousseau perceived such a past. Heinrich Himmler, an agronomy major and later head of Hitler's S.S., also thought there was a bygone era in which people---Aryans, what he thought were our "original" ancestors---roamed the lands near China and formed the bases for society.
History usually is not so neat and tidy as to provide us with clear lines of cultural development. There would appear to have been no stone tablets left behind on which someone had chiseled, in the lingua franca, "Wheel Is Developed!" Pyramids were developed in Egypt and Central America. An easy explanation is alien visitors from another planet, with powers beyond those of mere mortal men, built them. The truth probably is far less exciting and far more brutal---tens of thousands of human beings were enslaved to build edifices to kings or non-existent deities. Alien spaceships make for a better read.
There are tasks for which the Federal government are necessary in this World at this time. The shutdown of the Federal government poses a significant risk to us all. On last week's "Roundtable" on "The Gary Snyder Show," Pepper Snyder asked me to name things at which government did a good job. I said interstate highways and education, and the conversation sort of went a different direction from there. I stand by the answer I gave. Let me add other tasks the Fed is best suited to perform. The Fed might not perform the tasks perfectly. Usually that is because those who are regulated by the Fed get their hands into the regulatory process. That factor would tend to negate claims that businesses can self-regulate, if those who are regulated screw up regulation processes.
-Food and drugs. Upton Sinclair wrote "The Jungle," about horrendous conditions in Chicago's slaughterhouses. Food purity and safety got a big boost as a result. Today Big Pharma seeks to interfere when it can. That does not mean we discard regulation. That means we try to regulate with people who are educated in the subject areas to be regulated and not simply recruit them from the industries themselves. If individual states try to regulate, corruption, a problem at the Federal level, becomes more rife.
-Banking and securities. Teddy Roosevelt sought to regulate the "trusts." Lack of regulation led to the Great Depression, after which we regulated such industries more. Those regulations were discarded and we had the meltdown of 2008. History might not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. We need stricter regulation of banks, and not by former directors of Goldman Sachs.
-Funding of scientific research. Those grants go a long way toward cures and developments.
-Pollution. Before EPA, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. Our air and waters are cleaner than 40 years ago. They are cleaner because of the efforts of that socialist president Richard Nixon, and a Congress in which the Democratic Party held majorities in both houses. In individual states, corporations would cut deals to dump more pollutants than allowed in a neighboring state so that a governor could crow about the jobs he brought to his voters.
Those are four categories of tasks that come to mind. Next week I look forward to another spirited exchange with Pepper Snyder about Federalism. Abdul also was on last night's panel. If you have a chance, go to "Indiana Talks" and listen to the podcast. It was a lot of fun.