President Bill Clinton once proclaimed, “the era of big government is over.” That did not turn out to be entirely true, but what we all should want is good government. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are a good example of bad government. A personal anecdote from here at home provides an example of good government.
As for Sochi, you know it’s bad government when they are focusing on intruding into your lives with anti-gay laws and shower spying, while at the same time failing to provide or oversee basic services like clean water and safe housing either for the athletes or for local Sochi residents. Then you have to wonder where that $51 billion that Russia spent on or related to the Sochi Olympics went. With so many Sochi issues being documented at the Twitter hashtag #SochiProblems and elsewhere, it’s reasonable to suspect that much of that $51 billion went to grease the gloves of Russian oligarchs rather than into Sochi’s infrastructure.
Now, the argument by some is that Americans are whining about the conditions in Sochi, and should open their eyes to the way the rest of the world lives, which is typically much worse than Sochi standards. But the answer to that charge is that, if you put your country forward to host the Olympics, to invite athletes, reporters and guests from all over the world, to get all the attention and money that the Olympics brings, then you have to give the people you’re hosting a first rate experience, or at least provide safe housing, water and other essential services. There is no reason why Russian and Sochi officials could not have accomplished this.
Back here in Southern California comes an example of good government. Walking around near the beach in Los Angeles County on Sunday, we spotted a badly injured seagull behind a locked gate. We called L.A. County Animal Control. Even though it was Sunday and L.A. County is one of the largest and by far the most populous county in the U.S., we got our call answered right away and were told that Animal Control would send someone out to check on the bird. When we returned a short while later, the bird was gone. The Animal Control folks called more than once to coordinate the location, and then a most helpful government employee showed up in a clean vehicle and a spiffy uniform. He couldn’t have been nicer. We were able to access the premises, and the officer spent quite some time looking for the bird. When asked, he said he had to travel more than 10 miles (through congested areas) to get to our location, but he didn’t complain and said this was his job. Although we couldn’t find the bird, we were very satisfied with our efforts and especially the efforts of L.A. County Animal Control.
They say taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, and sometimes you get what you pay for.
Photo by Stefan Krasowski used under Creative Commons license. http://is.gd/YQnFYD