Local interests v. the greater good

Two items in the local daily caught my attention this morning, both reinforcing my concern that this country will eventually drown in its own political stew.

The first was the lead article on page 1 about the compromise energy bill. Located immediately adjacent was a sidebar headlined: “What’s In It For South Dakota.” The second was an item that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wrote a four-paragraph letter to the BRAC commission touting Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Here’s my problem. Energy and national defense are national issues. The states, however, act like a bunch of spoiled children. They all want to know, “What’s in it for me?” The discussion of the energy bill isn’t whether it is a workable and logical approach to our energy problems. Instead, each state’s elected representatives seem more concerned about whether their state gets its share of pork rather than whether something else better serves the greater and common good. Similarly, rather than looking at whether keeping Ellsworth open serves the ultimate national interest is irrelevant to most South Dakotans. All we seem to care about is the parochial impact.

This is simply the nature of our political beast and maybe that is so for any non-totalitarian state. Still, given that it is endemic, can we ever hope to really address and resolve national issues? Maybe it’s naive but it seems that at some point we must judge solutions to broad-based problems and issues from the standpoint of the national interest, not local interest.

Everybody wants to eat at the government’s table, but nobody wants to do the dishes.

Werner Finck

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