When I got out of bed this morning, a Tea Party activist on the morning news was decrying government intrusion into our lives and our freedom. He seemed to be saying that our lives would be so much better without government getting in our way and getting in the way of businesses trying to make our lives better through the free market system.
I assume he was referring to businesses such as AIG, Goldman Sachs, BP, and Massey Coal Company.
But I’m really onboard with what the Tea Party guy was saying. After all, whatever I have accomplished in my life is the result of my own hard work, right? I’m sure it wasn’t because of the federal government’s implementation of the G.I. Bill of Rights after World War II, which allowed my father to go to vocational school and my father-in-law to go to college, which made a world of difference in the socio-economic conditions of their families. And the fact that I, my wife, and our son, daughter, and daughter-in-law all received college educations at Indiana public universities subsidized by Indiana taxpayers (as well as numerous federal grants) doesn’t change the fact that we got where we are just through our own hard work and not with the help of the government.
I continued thinking about this as I efficiently made it into work on an interstate system largely financed by the federal government, and on city streets that have properly working traffic lights and are mostly pothole-free thanks to state and municipal funding and employees. I didn’t need to concern myself with risks to my personal safety on the way in since the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Indianapolis Fire Department have a pretty good handle on things. Not much by way of highway brigands. And thanks in large part to the Department of Homeland Security and related agencies, there wasn’t much chance of being caught up in a terrorist attack either.
As I arrived at work, our paralegal, Amy, was already gathering docket updates and data we need on various cases through government online sources such as in.gov and Doxpop. She was also on the phone to a Superior Court clerk with a question about a recent filing. When we file a pleading by mail, it’s pretty certain it will arrive promptly thanks to the U.S. Postal Service.
One of our associates, Jerry, was heading out to the federal courthouse for a settlement conference in which a federal magistrate was serving as a mediator in one of our cases, at no charge to the parties.
That afternoon I argued a summary judgment motion before an impartial judge in a court financed through a combination of tax dollars and filing fees (paid by the plaintiff, not by my client). Although sometimes the judge is wrong (defined as “the judge ruled against my client”), it’s still about the best system anyone could come up with.
Well, perhaps our ability to function in society, and to make a living, and to enjoy the kinds of lives we want to live, isn’t solely derived from our own efforts. Perhaps government isn’t merely an intrusion into our lives. In many respects, governmental activity makes the lives we enjoy feasible. And perhaps Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was right when he said, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.”•
Kevin C. Tyra is the principal of The Tyra Law Firm in Indianapolis. He is a member of the DTCI board of directors. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.