Here's a lesson for rabid conservatives and Tea Party types:
What good has the free market been in responding to Japan's catastrophic earthquake? Are people relying on the government or on the private sector in dealing with the horrific consequences of the quake and resulting tsunami?
The answer is obvious.
When there's a huge seismic shift -- in the earth, in the economy, in the environment, in geopolitics, in national security -- governments are the glue which keep the social fabric from ripping apart.
Yes, communities help. Non-profit organizations help. Volunteer groups help. But these entities are "governments" on a smaller scale: people banding together to aid other people.
We demonize government at our peril. We slash taxes at our peril. When a serious disaster strikes, it isn't going to be a capitalist entrepreneur who rushes to your side. Almost certainly it's going to be people from the government.
Individuality, competition, self-reliance. These are admirable qualities in certain circumstances. However, equally or more important are social cohesion, cooperation, mutual support.
That's one of the lessons we Americans should take away from the Japan earthquake. Government is Us. Something to be embraced, not disdained.