Today, President Obama, who inspired us all with his pledge to “make service a cause of my Presidency” will sign the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. This legislation, which Obama boldly called for in his February Address to Congress, is a milestone for the service movement, and the largest expansion of civilian service since the Depression Era Civilian Conservation Corps. In addition to honoring Senator Kennedy for his tremendous leadership in public service, it received strong bipartisan support with the Senate voting in favor 79 to 19 and the House voting 275 to 149.
But the Serve America Act is more than a service milestone. It contains the seeds for developing a new public philosophy for how we attack an array of persistent societal challenges, from the high school dropout crisis, to poverty and homelessness, to climate change.
For the past 75 years, America has been governed by two major public philosophies. First, in response to the depression and then World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) completely transformed the role of the federal government. He established it as the center of energy, new ideas, solutions, delivery mechanisms and regulation with his whole alphabet soup–for every problem start a new federal government agency–approach.
FDR’s governing philosophy lasted until Ronald Reagan, who in his inaugural address, flipped FDR’s philosophy on its head when he said: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Reagan tapped into a feeling that government had grown too bureaucratic and resistant to change. Reagan’s governing philosophy began to run out of gas with the Katrina disaster of 2005 and then ended with the complete melt down of the financial markets last fall. We’ve discovered if we simply view government as the problem, we end up with ineffective government.
Government is ineffective and inefficient by definition. Optimal efficiency is individuals utilizing their property and labor as they see fit. The government exists to take from some individuals and give to others which distorts demand and supply of resources and capital.
What Alan Khazei advocates is fascism. Socialistic forced “service” to a government mixed with corporate interests. Businesses funded by and influenced by the government. A worshiping of the State as the solution to the societal ills. The new church.