- A Russian child adopted by a Texan family recently died of ill treatment, probably putting a definitive stop to Russia allowing Americans to adopt its orphans;
- Rafael Correa, who is protecting Jullian Assange from extradition to the U.S. in his London Embassy, was re-elected President of Ecuador by a large margin;
- U.S. students ranked 27th in a recent math survey.
These three news items illustrate the opposing views of the role of government evident across the world today. A majority of countries - the Non-Aligned Movement alone represents 120 - agrees that governments have a larger role than simply protecting their nations from attack. Most would agree with Russia that government has a responsibility to protect individual citizens.
In his campaign to regulate firearms, Obama said that a nation’s first priority is to protect its children, yet many Americans do not believe that government has a role to play in the way children are treated at home. This basic ethical stance is affecting our relationship with Russia as fundamentally as is our plan to put missiles in Poland, Romania and Turkey, on its borders. At times bureaucrats go overboard in their efforts to protect children from their own parents. However, most countries today believe that together with cradle to grave healthcare, the government rightly defends children from parental abuse.
Equally as importantly most people today support whistle-blowers, as the power of government increases exponentially in response to world crises over the goods needed to continue our lifestyle. The little-known Latin American country of Ecuador has one of the most far-sighted constitutions in the world, drafted with the help of one of many non-profits trying to save the world before it is too late. It includes specific references to Mother Earth, as well as providing for full sovereignty over natural resources and the protection of each and every minority. Rafael Correa’s reelection reflects not only approval by the country’s peasant majority of his social commitments, but also his courage in standing up to the United States.
Finally, notwithstanding the enormous amounts the United States spends on education, results in the all-important areas of math and science place us behind many other developed nations. In 2012 the PISA study which tests students from 60 countries in math and science, ranked the U.S. 23rd in science and 31st in math. These results would seem to suggest that the extremely decentralized American education system is less effective than those in which central governments are in charge. (A long-standing joke in France used to be that at any time of day, the Minister of Education knows exactly what is being studied in every classroom, but this system has given way to much greater flexibility while still maintaining strict oversight.)
In the competition between cradle-to-grave welfare systems and cowboy capitalism, increasingly the preference goes to those in which government is expected to at least coordinate citizen well-being. Unfortunately and largely due to Americans’ lack of information, the United States remains the exception that confirms the rule.