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'Big government' protects us in ways society cannot

To the editor: Pete Peterson concedes that the "liberals" are correct that we all rely on others for our success. He says the "conservative" credo differs from liberals, who believe big government should be that "other" upon whom we should rely. ("Republicans need their own rhetoric of reliance," Op-Ed, Jan. 24)

Instead, he says, the conservative believes that it is "civil society" and "family" upon whom we should rely. I find this to be naive.

Before "big government," were children working ungodly hours rescued by civil society (whatever that means) and family? Did the unemployed receive some sort of support when there was no unemployment or disability insurance? Where was a safety net for the elderly?

Yes, there is inefficiency in government. As one who worked for a municipality that addressed efficiencies, or the lack thereof, I saw firsthand many of these issues. Nonetheless, it is naive to suggest that if we rely on the goodwill of civil society and family, all will be well.

Whoever thought that conservatives were really utopians?

Erwin Diller, Encino


To the editor: Liberals are all for relying on families, social networks and local governments, yet they recognize that far bigger powers systematically tear down those very institutions.

Progressives like Teddy Roosevelt understood that only a national institution like the federal government could shield the virtues described by Alexis de Tocqueville. There is nothing about national regulations protecting our air and water, for example, or national insurance programs like Social Security that interfere with 18th century British politician Edmund Burke's "little platoons."

Intelligent discussion about how far national government should go is possible, but it will first require a recognition by conservatives that big government is a response to an even bigger economic problem.

Michael Farquhar, Altadena

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