The Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government

Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” romanticizes the power of the open highway. Listening to a song like this on vinyl is pretty awesome, but listening to a song like this while driving is about as great as Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness gets.

Although “Thunder Road” was first released in the 1970s, I think being on the road is still a fundamental American experience.

In fact, I don’t think I’m overstating things to suggest that many Americans view saving for their retirement as a burden, whereas they view creating that moment of escape on the road as a calling.

Before you can “roll down the windows and let the wind blow back your hair,” you have to get (or renew) a driver’s license. It shouldn’t be so difficult to do. I always try to plan for a long wait when dealing with bureaucrats, so although I figured I’d spend 30 minutes to an hour at the DMV, I was ready to pass the time patiently.

I was overly optimistic.

The system is broken” is an American refrain that’s heard even more often than “Thunder Road,” and it’s one that is usually applied to the legislative assemblies, the judicial system, and/or the executive branch of government, rather than to how our secretaries and manage their (our) departments.

“The [bureaucratic] system is broken” may be what you’ll feel the next time you go to the DMV.

It took more than three hours to write a test and receive a driver’s license. The first hour was spent standing in line outside the DMV, even though it’s winter. Two hours are spent defrosting inside while waiting to spend: one minute having your photo taken, twenty minutes taking the written test, and nine minutes waiting for the license to be printed.

Also, why can’t the DMV be reached using public transportation?

I dislike being critical of a country that has welcomed me. Indeed, this system does still allow for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

My perspective is skewed because, in my homeland, the government is expected to provide “peace, order, and good government.” If your citizens (including seniors) are waiting in a line outside in winter so that they can register their vehicles or take a test, you have failed to provide “good government.”

Perhaps I should get over this.

Sure, three and half hours spent in a tiny DMV made me feel caged in.

On the other hand, when I feel caged in, I can always get in my car, hit the highway, and live the American Dream.

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2 Responses to “The Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government”

  1. I’d be inclined to agree with your thoughts on this, Ryan. Most importantly, it’s good to know in this country even if I didn’t, you’d be free to speak your peace, which is one of the few good things America has for it. (Though be prepared for your annoying neighbors and facebook friends to send you totallys slanted and biased press releases relentlessly until you cave to their point of view, lol.) I think having (and voicing, both in this way and by voting) is not only an American privillage but responsilbity. I applaud you for that!

    Please post more of this type perspective. I am always curious how we are viewed from other countries and I don’t believe that any media is particularly unbiased. In many ways I know that we (Americans) don’t know how good we’ve got it, but in many other we fall very short of the mark. I love the other takes on such issues.

    In specific, I’d really love to hear the (formerly) Canadian view on the governements responsibility when it comes to medical care.

    Intrigued… thank you for the post!

    • “In many ways I know that we (Americans) don’t know how good we’ve got it, but in many other we fall very short of the mark.”

      In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria discusses how the “decline of America” may be a pessimistic view of what he calls “the rise of the rest.” In other words, as other countries adopt the policies and ideas that America has trail-blazed — and find success with them — it is understandable that they will become increasingly independent of America. The challenge, he suggests, is for America to overcome its geographic isolation and to learn more about the rest of the world.

      Although there is a “freedom to speak,” there is also a powerful movement to conform and to stay silent. I keep that in mind when discussing my experiences as an immigrant.

      So thank you for your invitation to post more on this theme in the future.

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