Tuesday, October 7

The Difference Government Can Make

I grew up in a libertarian household that was won over to the Republicans in the age of Reagan's "government is the problem" 80's. I have an innate skepticism about turning to the government for solutions. But in the late 80's I started getting involved in churches and learned a different lesson. In a church, the pastor and the board can set a direction, but people are basically going to do what they're going to do. You don't change people by yelling at them, you change them by offering them experiences that have different outcomes than they expected. What the ministers do is set up the opportunities.

Government really is the same way. People ignore rules that are unjust or impractical or no longer reflect their values, and in time the rules change. This is why my friend Alex could honeymoon with his wife in North Carolina even though their inter-racial marriage was technically illegal. No one cared anymore. So governments can't (shouldn't) make rules about things people don't care about. But governments can provide opportunities.

I live in Boulder county in Colorado. Many folks outside of Boulder refer to the city as, "The people's republic of Boulder", in part because those who live here are willing to use the government to shape a balance between corporate interests and human interests that is different from many other places. In my lifetime, Boulder has been willing to restrict its growth by imposing a greenbelt, it has become one of the most bikeable cities in the nation, and it was among the first cities to sign on to the Kyoto protocols directly, and it was the first city to impose a carbon tax.

These kinds of things can be imposed by higher levels of government, but it turns out that local governments, the kind you and I can get directly involved in, have the power to make significant progress.

Now Boulder county is doing something I am jazzed about. In the fall elections, Boulder county residents will have the ability to set up a bond-issuing authority that will make long-term loans for renewable energy installations to available to residents of the county. This is a great way to get more people to adopt solar, because it removes the barrier of having to come up with $14,000 out of your own pocket for the installation.

These are the kinds of things government can do. If you want change, get involved!

1 comment:

Anne said...

Well said, very inspiring post!

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.