I attended Patrick Kennedy’s ‘One Mind for Research’ event on Wednesday, May 25 at the JFK Library and heard Vice President Biden speak, among other things, about the role of government in sending men to the moon (Buzz Aldrin was also at the gathering, as was Martin Sheen). There would have been no Apollo missions without the input of inspired government leadership. There are a lot of people who seem to see no role at all for government in our national lives. My question is, when did the USA ever do anything as great and inspired as President’s Kennedy’s ‘moonshot’ without the participation of government?
Whether it’s war or scientific research, great art or great institutional progress, there is NO example of national greatness without the participation of government. Unlike what the keep-government-out-our-lives people say, who constantly wave flags and tell us that they are the patriots, it is clear that they are, in fact, the ones who are un-patriotic, in that they are for themselves alone (individualists who think that economic and social life are only about making money) and not for the people as a whole (communitarians, people who see the individual as responsible to their society). In order to be patriotic, you have to want to see the nation as a unit as worthy of respect and support, and the nation is little or nothing without competent and inspiring leaders, and active, thoughtful citizens. Yes, there are examples of individual greatness without the participation of government — though even then, when you look closely, you will see how a smart government facilitates its aspiring and energetic entrepreneurs, with tax breaks, infusions of capital etc. However, when it came to bailing out the megalomaniacs of Wall Street — individualism gone sociopathic — it took government and the people to be the cavalry coming over the hill. So, not only are the government and the people key to major national success, they are also key to saving the country from ruin. And where does that put the Wall Street Boyz? It puts them in the playground with the bold kids that need to be taught how to share and not bully the little girls. Hasn’t it sunk in yet: the country would have literally fallen apart in 2008 without the intervention of government and taxpayers. And neither I nor VP Biden — of course — are talking about intrusive or totalitarian government. We are talking about an American democratic people’s government that serves its people and orchestrates its institutions for the welfare of all. Can someone, anywhere, give me an example since 1980 of inspired, creative, forward-looking leadership from the anti-government camp? It is said that President Ronald Reagan brought down the Soviet Union and that this was a great achievement. This is a delusional fiction. That ridiculous empire was crumbling of its own accord (collectivism gone sociopathic), and Gorbachov had already told us so in many books.
The assembled gathering on May 25 — Chiefs of Psychiatry, Presidents of this that and the other major organization, researchers in neuroscience, dignitaries and celebrities — were all focused on what it would take to make the USA a leader in the world of brain research. It was clear that this was going to be a major, multi-faceted operation that included national institutions, private industries, non-profit organizations such as teaching hospitals and the good will and philanthropic support of the people. This will be difficult enough without the nay-sayers, and unfortunately we have a lot of them. Given our lunacy over the last few decades, we might even elect another anti-government, anti-scientific President (Sarah Palin! Donald Trump!) in 2012. If we do, it won’t be the first time in history that greed and ignorance brought down an empire. Meanwhile, Brazil and China are waiting in the wings, watching our every f***-up with glee.