Government 101: Ron Swanson


“Why government matters? It doesn’t” – Ron Swanson

Ron Swanson is the Director or the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana, in the TV Show Parks and Recreation. In a perfect world you probably wouldn’t expect a government official to say that the work he is doing is basically pointless and useless. Well, Ron Swanson is not your ordinary government official… He is a hard-core libertarian who thinks that anything government related should be privatized and he is not afraid of expressing his demise against the government by quotes like “It’s never too early to learn that the government is a greedy piglet that suckles on a taxpayer’s teet until they have sore, chapped nipples”. Yet, as a government official his paycheck comes directly from taxpayer’s money, and he still continues his job.  

On top of this entire dilemma, Ron Swanson is as lazy as a human being gets. He is well-known for his quotes “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing” and “Normally, if given the choice between doing something and doing nothing, I’ll do nothing. But I will do something if it helps someone else do nothing. I’d work all night if it meant that nothing got done”.

Now, the problem of this stereotypical government official becomes two-fold. Not only does he not believe in the government, he is also super-lazy up to the point that he won’t let any project go on if it means that he has to work too. He clearly expresses his feelings about new projects by saying “I like saying no. It lowers their enthusiasm”. If we as citizens want things to get done in our community we probably wouldn’t want a typical Ron Swanson sitting as a director who kills any new idea that barely manages to get on surface. We also certainly wouldn’t want our tax money to be going into his pocket, where we know that not a single penny will be going to a project that will be benefiting the community as a whole.

What if Ron Swanson really is representing a typical government official? What if departments all over the country are full of Ron Swansons who simply prevent any progress from happening? I guess this would be an explanation to why every process related that has to do with some kind of government function takes “a minimum of 60-90 days”.

These questions bring back up the original idea of Ron Swanson: government simply doesn’t matter. Is government actually a useless function? Then again I don’t think I agree with Ron here, because in all the cases we have read, the root causes of the problems were government increasing deregulation. So in a government-free world, we would have 100% deregulation, which would open the way for greedy individuals to pocket as much as money they can, while duping the public and many innocent citizens.

So, what is the middle way? Do we go on with the Ron Swanson model who defines his favorite employee as being “Not a team player and not wanting to go the extra mile” or do we create an environment that has minimal government intervention? Or does the Ron Swanson model of a government official not reflect the reality?

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5 thoughts on “Government 101: Ron Swanson”

  1. I agree that is is difficult to find a middle ground for the government, but I do think that it is important to have a governmental structure in place because it creates regulations to structure our society. If the government entity was gone, then it would become a chaotic world. The middle group could be seating a more diversity set of individuals within out governmental system to incorporate various perspectives for an informed decisions to be made.

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  2. I think many of Ron’s attributes and sayings are for purely for humor–his views are funny because they are ironic–I also think it is kind of a stretch to assume that all government officials are lazy and think the government doesn’t matter and to use that as an explanation for the recent crises in our country.

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  3. I agree that Ron is the exception. His views of government are clearly an exaggeration and not a true reflection of government officials. To combat his office laziness, there is Leslie, who demonstrates a government official who goes above and beyond to get projects done. Having these two opposites on the show provides is a comedic banter for us viewers. Do you think that within government both extremes of Ron and Leslie are represented?

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