Cities began building playgrounds in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a way of getting young children out of traffic and older ones away from delinquency. In time, the physical spaces were joined by recreation programs organized by nonprofit organizations. Today, it’s not only children who use America’s publicly owned playgrounds, athletic fields, parks, and streams. Tens of millions of adults do, too. And for our access to inexpensive recreation, we can thank government.
Cities created public hospitals in the early 1800s as places the poor went to die. In the late 1800s, their roles changed dramatically as the practice of medicine changed. Since then, other kinds of hospitals have emerged, but large public hospitals still play essential roles as caregivers for the poor, centers for advanced trauma care, and providers of public services like poison-control centers. Let’s hope you never need the care these hospitals provide. But if you do, you can thank government for making them available.
If you’ve ever needed a police officer in an emergency or could imagine needing one in the future, you can thank government for making her available, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Only governments can provide comprehensive solutions to common problems, solutions that combine trained and equipped personnel, public infrastructure, and regulation. Cities have done this with fire safety and, as a result, the risk of death or homelessness by fire has been reduced to a fraction of what it was in your great-grandparents’ days. For this, you can thank government.
The creation of dependable clean water systems is one of our greatest and least recognized urban accomplishments. Unrecognized, that is, unless something goes terribly wrong. But such incidents are exceedingly rare, and hundreds of millions of Americans can trust the safety of their drinking water. For this, we can thank government.