Good Governance

Sorry. This is a long meandering post. It’s not about UX, so I hope it’s not too annoying. It’s just been on my mind lately.

It’s easy to say government is inefficient or wasteful, even if it’s not true. We hear it repeated over and over. All well-crafted propaganda is designed to sound accurate/truthful and obscure/bend the facts for ulterior motives. If you hear something on TV repeatedly, it is easy to absorb it as fact.

I’ve worked for almost three decades in the private sector and have read over forty books on American and world history. (See bibliography at the end) I can say, based on this experience and research, that most history is filled with propaganda that has served to enrich capitalists at the expense of the public.

I believe that governments can be a much better vehicle for the common good than people understand. They are what protects us from the excess and oppression of the top 1%. It’s been on my mind lately.

My belief is that government is not the enemy.
Corrupt (or atrophied) government is the enemy.

Early American History

The people I admire most from the founding fathers are Washington, Franklin, Hamilton, and John Jay. These were people who believed in a strong Federal government. These were the workhorses of our Republic. They did the hard work. At the time, they were called Federalists. Many of the pillars of our republic were implemented by these brilliant statesmen.

On the other side was Jefferson and his crew. These people didn’t understand how government or finance worked at all. Madison was smart, but Jefferson and Monroe (in my humble opinion) were assholes. He had zero understanding of how a government could and should be run.

After Adams, the Federalists lost much of their influence and power. I believe that the battle between good governance and corrupt power stemming from capitalism has raged ever since. Our nation was born into this argument and has never escaped it.

Booms and busts

Since 1787, the US has had 51 separate recessions. That’s a recession every 5 years on average. Not all recessions were created equal. Take a look at the duration of each recession since the Civil War.

Duration of economic recessions in the US between 1854 and 2022

See that huge one, that’s in 1873. Ouch! The Great Depression is in the middle-right. But these recessions hit frequently.

One of my political heroes, Henry A. Wallace, was an American politician, journalist, farmer, and businessman who served as FDRs 2nd vice president, Secretary of Agriculture, and Secretary of Commerce. He was also the nominee of the new Progressive Party in the 1948 presidential election.

One of the things he pioneered was a way to keep the farmers in the US from having such volatile feast-famine cycles. He created the concept of the Ever-Normal Granary. This allowed the US Government to buy and sell commodities with the purpose of making prices stable. If the price of something went down, they would buy to bring it back up. If it went up, they would sell to make it go back down.

This powerful tool created stability for farmers in the nation and eliminated boom/bust periods which contributed to rural poverty. The government did this thing to create peace and prosperity for its people. No private enterprise could have done this. Only the government.


The rise of unions coincided with the largest growth of the middle class in American history. A great read on this subject is The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. The fight for collective bargaining and workers right’s is what gave us the 5 (rather than 7) day work-week. It ended child labor and established safety regulations to protect workers. It also decreased wealth inequality.

The rise of the middle class was an enormous boon for the entire nation. We prospered as a people. Government originally was not too happy with the idea of unions. It took protests and prolonged fights to get there. Unions used the power of the ballot to elect progressives to help them in this cause.

The high point for unions was in the 1940’s. Since then, there has been a steady decline that accelerated during the 1980’s under Ronald Reagan’s (misguided) leadership.

Union Membership and income inequality

Look at how these two lines map so closely to each other. Here is a chart of what makes the top 10%. Notice that 85% of the nation is below 100k per year.

In chart form

Many silicon valley people (including myself) might think we are middle class. However, the statistics show we are doing way better than most people in the country. More than half the country is earning less than 50k per year.

Anyway, the point is that unions were a solid check-balance against the excesses of the wealthiest people and private enterprises. They were/are a good idea and we have lost touch with that reality. But their power has waned considerably and government is not protecting them.

What is the middle class?

Somewhat of a side note… If you had to make a rule of what is lower, middle, and upper class, what would the rule be?

Would it be split equally based on income? This is what that breakdown would look like. It’s not an easy question.

Income groupIncome
Poverty$32,048 or less
Lower class$32,048 – $53,413
Middle class$53,413 – $106,827
Upper class$106,827 – $373,894
Rich$373,894 and up
Income classes in the US based on 2019 data

Also notice how the income for the middle earners have been decreasing for the last 50 years.

Income stratification

Basic research

The US government has been one of the best sources of funding for basic research in history. However, over the past 60 years, the percentage of spending in the budget has been declining. Especially in the last 10 years.

US Research compared to total budget

This basic research has given the world the internet that I am using to write this post. Here is a list of the top 75 inventions that come from basic government research. There are so many, it’s hard to express how that money has been the best spent money in human history.

And yet, the government gets no credit! We applaud our entrepreneurs, but not the countless scientists who provided the basic foundation for all of the products we use today.

The hidden evil of philanthropy

Bill Gates has a foundation where he gives away money to charities. He has given billions, but somehow, he is still one of the richest people on the planet. How did he get that money? His company Microsoft did very well and government helped him in many ways. Additionally, he paid a very low income tax compared to the rest of us to keep all of that money in his own pockets rather than in the government budget.

Why is this important? Bill Gates alone gets to decide where that money goes. We did not elect Bill Gates. He has zero accountability to the public. If we think that the money should go to combat climate change, he can ignore us. He can do whatever he wants. Who gets funding, who doesn’t? We have no way to do anything about it.

If the tax code was more fair and the ability of Microsoft to hide income from the IRS was not as all-encompassing, then the government would have reclaimed some of that money. Then the money would go back into the public domain in the form of programs and investments. It would have accountability in the form of transparency. We can see the budget and the laws that are passed. We can elect officials to steer that money how we see fit. We, the people, would control that money, not a single billionaire.

In my opinion, philanthropy is not a good thing. It is the wealthy stealing from the people and robbing our government of the ability to use that money for the greater good. It is a marketing ploy to make us think these billionaire’s are good people. They are not. They are selfish and self-centered. They live lives of opulence and pretend to be magnanimous when they give a few percent of their wealth to the programs they like. They help who they feel like helping and have no accountability. These billionaires are not our friends.

The case for a strong government

When government is weak, we end up with an incredibly slim minority of billionaires who control society. We end up with labor abuses, pulition, corruption, and societal strife. Companies do not care about us. They care about profits and they will get rid of any of us the second it is financially beneficial. Pollution is not something private enterprise can deal with.

Example: Flint, Michigan water lead levels are going up again!

Lead in Flint, Michigan

Who is going to protect us from pollution? Who is going to protect us from excesses of abusive companies? If not government, then who can we count on?

Government is not the enemy. Good governance is the bedrock upon which we build out society. We have to realize that corporate propaganda is poisoning our minds against the only friend we have. Good governance is the answer to all of our problems. We can have such nice things like cheap healthcare, and free education, and a healthy environment, and good jobs. We can be profitable AND have nice things. People who disagree do not truly understand our history and what is possible.

Corporations in a strongly regulated business environment is what built this nation into the powerhouse that it is. We should not ruin it all by neutering our regulations and allowing our systems to be corrupted.

I ask that you think about the sources that tell you that private enterprise is more efficient than government. They have something to gain by convincing you. It’s also just not true.


A list of books I have enjoyed on American history. (in rough historical order)


2 responses to “Good Governance”

  1. Elliott Lowe Avatar
    Elliott Lowe

    What are your thoughts about the politicians that billionaires support via campaign contributions and other indirect means? Should contributions be strictly limited to individuals (not organizations) and a maximum amount per person?

    1. Glen Lipka Avatar

      Yes, absolutely. Money is not speech. And unlimited dark spending is what is causing much of these woes.

Whatya think?