"Ratchet Effect"

A class I had this week was discussing government in our present society. A concept that stuck out to me was something that could be coined as the “ratchet effect.” What this is implying is that in the response to issues, and particularly times of crisis, there is an expectation that government will respond in an official manner. The interesting thing, however, is that once the crises have been averted, the official response of government remains. What results is a growing government, even when the original issue has been resolved. In fact, we have become so dependant upon this system of government we don’t necessarily even judge the effectiveness of this government response. As long as the government is doing something, the majority of the population is satisfied. Basically, government is being “ratcheted-up,” becoming bigger and bigger.

Ok, here are some examples to support this “ratchet effect” (the links go to government websites)

-U.S. Department of Homeland Security

-this department was created in a response to 9/11.
-Is American society on a whole questioning the effectiveness of this government response to a crisis, or to most people just take it for granted?

-Hurricane Katrina

-The immediate reaction was to ask what the government is doing?

-Social assistance (welfare, EI, etc…)

-This one is more subtle, but coming out of the recognition of social crises in our society, the government has created certain programs to respond.

Well, what’s the point of all this you are wondering? On one hand, it is simply an interesting reality of how our governments function. Recognizing this is not to say it is good or bad. On the other hand, it forces us to consider the degree to which our society is dependant upon government to solve our problems. With government growing bigger and bigger, our lives are increasingly influenced by government institutions. At what point do we become too reliant upon government? Especially in the face of catastrophe… What would happen if humans simply responded out of the reality of our connectedness as humans, rather than a government sanctioned response?

Anyway, I am not implying that we don’t need government or that we need to bypass necessary channels available for crises response or social issues. The question that I am faced with, is to what level do we as society rely on government? Do we possibly rely too much? Also, what role should family, friends, or community take in social issues we face? Then again, perhaps turning to the government is the best response?

Well, something to think about…

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