Rediscovering Government lecture addresses misconceptions, myths
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012 18:10
Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and former New York Times columnist Jeff Madrick came to Roosevelt promoting his program, Rediscovering Government, and to attack the current anti-government mindset in the U.S. More than 50 people gathered in Congress Lounge to ask questions and give their opinions on government.
According to Madrick, there are misconceptions about American government; for example, that it used to be small and non-intrusive. Madrick cited examples of beneficial government initiatives such as creating highways, paving the way for the Internet and investing in education.
“For [Roosevelt students], the program may have provided more of a historical context and emphasized the myriad ways that government facilitates prosperity and the general welfare,” said Margaret Rung, director for the Center of New Deal Studies and history professor. “Others, however, may not have thought very much or critically about the anti-government rhetoric that pervades the media and popular culture.”
“I think it’s very important to understand what the role of government should be and that if you care about your country, if you care about opportunity for people, if you care about reducing disadvantage, you really should begin to understand that vital faith in government and efforts to make it work well are necessary,” Madrick said.
Madrick said that Rediscovering Government is only a year old; however, he has been promoting with road shows, holding conferences in Washington and New York, and using the campus network of the Roosevelt Institute.
“I think [students] can become politically active. You know, there’s too much right-wing, from my point of view, right-wing activists. It needs to be countered,” he said. “So join political movements, join a cause you’re interested in. Make it at the local level where you meet people. Be part of a political cause, don’t be afraid to be political. Have some optimism that you can prevail if you fight hard enough.”
Madrick likened the role of government to basketball.
“There’s no game without a basketball; there’s no nation without government,” he said.
“One thing is to make sure they understand what government has done, historically. There’s some attitude that we did everything without government, except for a little something here, a little something there. I want to get over that idea so they understand how vital government has been,” Madrick said.
Madrick also said that government became a scapegoat for people in the 1970’s and still remains one today. He added that his objective is to get people to understand what the role of government has been through history, and it isn’t some alien force pitted against them.
“I think it’s very misleading and misinformed. I think government does much more to protect your freedom than take your freedom away, but [the Tea Party] keeps talking about how it’s taking your freedom away,” Madrick said. “They imply that if you don’t have a job, it’s the government’s fault. If you can’t make ends meet, it’s government’s fault. If your kids are not doing well, it’s government’s fault. Just get government out of the way and everything will be fine...that’s just not true. It’s never been true.”
Madrick also pointed out the significant achievements made possible through the efforts of local government such as sanitation and the development of schools.
Student Emira Mamuti was drawn to the event due to its name and was eager to hear Madrick’s view on government.
“I liked what he was talking about, I thought his points were valid. And what he’s talking about, that government needs this push and that some of our greatest moments were from pessimism. How there’s pessimistic moments in government and how that sort of pushed the United States forward,” Mamuti said.