Uncle Sam?

I listened to an interesting editorial on NPR this morning.  I’ve searched all over their site and our local affiliate’s site and can’t find a link to the story.  Frustrating.

It was basically talking about the state of California’s struggle to try and convince people to drive less.  The writer was making the analogy of a parent to a child, in terms of the various options the state has to try and elicit a desired behavior from citizens.  There was a mother and an 11-year old girl talking about various tactics for the mother to get the girl to do what she wanted her to do.
There were several things that came to mind as I listened.
Is the analogy of the government as a parent a good one?  I tend to think not.  Government is an arrangement of convenience and mutual consent.  As a citizen, our Constitution guarantees me the theoretical right to a different government entirely if the one I currently have is not fulfilling it’s duties properly.  The relationship of government to governed is one of consent, not one of nature.  However my children are mine.  Their relationship to me is not dependent on anything.  If I turned out to be a terrible dad and the state decided I was not fit to raise my children, I would not cease to be their father in both a biological and even a relational sense.  
My duty as a parent is to raise my child to be a healthy, functioning, God-fearing, contributing member of society.  The duty of the state is to protect the rights and liberties of people who are – at least in theory – healthy, functioning, contributing members of society.  As a parent I begin with a child that is in every respect dependent specifically upon me for the fulfilling of their needs, and I raise them to be independent and capable of functioning without my direct oversight or care.  This seems to be a role that is antithetical to a system of government, which in almost every way depends on people remaining more or less as they are, and therefore more or less continually in need of the state.
I don’t assume that the role of government is to direct me as to what sort of person I ought to be.  Is that a reasonable assumption?
Another concern was more logistical.  The story lamented that people continue to drive solo in California rather than take public transit, despite the fact that lots of money has been spent to improve public transit.  The author acknowledged that people like the idea of a certain kind of public transport – namely subway transportation.  But they don’t appear to care for buses.  An expert was aired, lecturing us that California is too spread out in terms of population centers for subway to be a reasonable solution.  It’s not like the concentrated population centers of New York City or downtown Chicago.
Granted.  This is the blessing and curse of the west – we have a lot of room and we grow outwards rather than upwards.  
But then the expert goes on to decry that people drive everywhere.  In other words, it’s not practical to provide the type of public transit that people seem to like and would be more inclined to use.  But people are bad for driving themselves everywhere and – like a wayward child – they need to be brought into line.
Parents elicit desired behavior through punishment or reward, and various options were discussed.  But none of them address the fact that the expert himself had identified the real problem it’s not that people are bad, it’s that the layout of our cities is not conducive to effective, ubiquitous public transportation.  And if we can’t have such a system, why do we insist on penalizing people for driving in order to reach their destinations?  
Finally, all of this discussion was couched within the framework of ‘right behavior’ – or something along those lines.  It assumes that, as a parent ought to know the right thing for the child to do, the state knows the right thing for people to do, and has the duty of bribing or punishing people to get them to comply.  Driving less is inherently some sort of ‘right behavior’, and those of us who don’t go along with this in practice are wayward and need to be corrected.  
Maybe I’m just grumpy in the mornings, but does the overall tone the author was trying to convey make sense?  

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