ROLE OF GOVERNMENT MISCONCEPTIONS
Some have written misleading essays on the roles of government in our lives. There is a school of thought that implies that the government has no roles in what is considered “business” activities. Loya Eziokwu in his piece below says it is not for government to provide buses and taxis, and that its role is to create the environment in which business can thrive. There is an n element of truth in this, but it is not the whole truth.
Another school of thought holds that government is and should do everything for us. If I am graduating from college, government should give me a job. Sick, poor, homeless, hungry, etc, it is government’s responsibility to take care of all these. Again there is an element of truth in this as well, but once more it is not the whole truth. The truth lies some where in the middle of these schools of thought.
I think that the truth is that government exists to perform those functions which we as individuals are unable to perform AND which even in combinations/cooperation we may still not be able to perform. The question is at what level of government these would be done. At the macro level, individuals cannot protect themselves from outside aggression, so governments must provide the military to protect us. This is done at federal level. We can also not protect ourselves from the bad elements within the country. So we have police, at federal level in some countries such as Nigeria, and at LG level in US with coordination from the state.
Mass Transit is something that looks most like the area that could be left to individuals and corporations. But in large metropolitan areas, this job cannot be done by individuals, and government was needed to take it over. New York City subways and buses move millions of people every day. No individual or corporation could have financed such undertaking when it started, so the government had to do it. The same is true in London, DC, Boston, LA, Amsterdam, etc. But not everything should be done by government, taxis can be operated by individuals owning one cab (I had one in NY during my college days as did many of my Nigerian friends), or by a group owning a fleet of dozens of cars as Yellow Cab does.
Suffice it to say that there is room for both private and public participation in many areas of a nation’s economic life.
Government participation ought to be limited to areas where private involvement and the raising of required capital are problematic and where national interest is best served by a government. Most of government efforts and resources should be invested in providing an enabling environment. Such environment must include such things as rules of the road, weights and measures, quick and fare methods of resolving disagreements between competitors, enforcement of the laws and the protection of the resources of business men and women.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba, Boston, Massachusetts.