A 21st Century Vision for America: Guiding Principles for a Great Nation,” provides a practical, plain language vision of “our country as most Americans would want it to be. Created by Gary J. Evans, PhD (a business management consultant) it has 25 statements of what a better America would be and how it would work.

In his America everyone has affordable healthcare, free education, a decent job, and no one goes hungry or lacks shelter. There are no barriers to voting. Elections are fair, and trustworthy. Everyone has equal rights under the law, no one is harassed by police, and our prisons are much smaller. Taxes are fair, easy to file, and adequate to support necessary public services. In his America, the U.S cooperates, negotiates, and works with international institutions to protect us rather than being the world’s policeman. “We use non-military means to create and maintain peace keeping the whole world safe.”

Even our most revered American institution –  the U.S. military – is an example of how putting people first is essential. The military provides its employees, and their families, with all the taxpayer supported benefits, programs and social services deemed socialistic and too expensive for everyone else. The Pentagon led the nation on supporting racial equality, equal opportunity and equal pay for women. All this is considered necessary for recruitment, the well being of the troops and for the success of the military mission (to read more Google “Socialism Supports the Troops So Why Not the Rest of Us?”).

Everyone needs and uses public goods. Public goods – infrastructure, education, healthcare, retirement, and law enforcement (including regulation of business) are essential to the well being of individuals and society. Providing public goods for a better America requires government. The “free” market is not going to do it.

There is a great website and book which addresses this subject in wonderful detail. It refutes the conservative belief that government is bad and provides a comprehensive, fact based, case for the government being the essential foundation of the quality of life most of us enjoy. “Government is Good, An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution” is essential reading for all citizens (www.governmentisgood.com).

There were times in the past when our government made choices that were good for people. These choices helped everyone. Examples include when we established free public schools, funded rural hospitals, rural electrification, expanded civil rights, allowed strong unions and grew the middle class. We once were a leader in consumer and environmental protection. The GI Bill, Social Security and Medicare are examples of this success.

In “The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life,” Anu Partanen contrasts life in Finland with the United States. She grew up in Finland but lived here for many years. She concludes we are “old fashioned” in our attitudes toward government and social programs. As a result we are less happy and less secure. We pay more, get less and have less real freedom because we won’t do what works for everyone.

Former Minnesota U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone summarized all this in one simple, truthful statement: “We all do better when we all do better.“ Why is this so hard to understand?