Beyond government

By Todd Cohen

A freak traffic jam, triggered by one inch of snow, paralyzed North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham region January 19.

The tie-up unleashed untold acts of human kindness, and made clear we need to stop looking to government to solve big problems.

Government has crippled itself. Politicians win elections by pandering to citizens blinded by a fear of taxes, and then starve government of the funds it needs to address urgent needs and tackle social problems at their roots.

In spite of that, America has thrived because, while government can spur change, innovation often flows from social enterprise.

Private charity, cited by the 19th-century French writer Alexis de Tocqueville as a driving force for democracy in America, has for generations invested in innovative efforts to tackle seemingly intractable domestic ills.

In the past month alone, private donors contributed more to tsunami relief in South Asia than did the U.S. government.

While it pales next to crushing social ills or natural disasters, the massive traffic tie-up in North Carolina showed that if government cannot handle such an inconvenience, we need to look to private charity to help us climb out of the much deeper holes we are in.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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