The role of government

It never fails to astonish me that the same conservatives who argue that every last aspect of big government is irreparably broken and corrupt inevitably see a capital punishment system that is perfect and just. If you genuinely believe that the state can’t even fix a pothole without self-dealing and corruption, how is it possible to imagine that police departments and prosecutors’ offices are beyond suspicion?

So asks an excellent Slate article about two mentally retarded teenagers who were falsely convicted of murder and have just been released, 30 years later. One could ask the same question about the military, which most conservatives also believe ought to be run by the state and properly funded.

And liberals like myself ought to ask ourselves carefully why we think a government that so badly mishandles justice ought to be trusted with our health care or our environmental protection. The same self-dealing and corruption that leads to false convictions and unnecessary military hardware might also lead to unfair over-regulation or mishandling of patient care.

These aren’t questions with easy answers. They’re questions we need to keep asking and asking. That’s pretty much the whole point of a democracy with a free press.