It seems that most upheavals in the world are caused by governments in one way or another. For evidence, just take a look at what’s happening in Syria, Afghanistan, Cyprus and North Korea. Even if a government is not actually waging war, it would seem that few governments are effective at ending strife and providing peace and prosperity.
Which leads us to an interesting question: What should be the job of government?
Many of us have the idea that we as individuals have very little influence over the state of the world. That is a fallacy. What you say and do is important. After all, a nation is made up of individuals, and so is a government. So, that being the case, it is important that we, as individuals, decide how we want to be governed.
If we look at history, we find that most governments of the past have been repressive of its people, to greater or lesser degree. This is not how it should be.
What is a government after all? It is a collection of delegates that represent people. We can’t have everyone directly involved in running a country, so people elect delegates to make decisions for them. Fair enough, but then these delegates should act in the best interests of the people they represent. So let us define what is in people’s interest.
The most important job of government, it can be said, is to maintain order, so people can get on with their lives. Why is it so important to maintain order? Well, the opposite of order is chaos. And chaos means no control, which means no government. So a government worthy of its name keeps criminals off the streets and does not permit riots or lynchings. Where a natural disaster strikes, it steps in and rapidly restores the area back to normal. It also maintains good relations with other nation states.
A government should also be just. This is related to maintaining order, because injustice breeds resentment and rebellion. This in turn can create disorder and chaos. Being just means treating everyone the same, regardless of race, religion, nationality, age, gender, education, financial condition, etc. You get the idea. A just government provides equal justice for all and does not favor any particular segment of the population. Crony capitalism is an unjust system. There should be no subsidies or grants. Why not? That goes back to justice. Rewarding one group of people, but not the others is unjust.
Because a government is made up of individuals who represent a larger collection of individuals, the rights and duties of a government should be the same as the rights and duties of the individuals it represents. An individual, for example, does not have the right to kill another person, except in self defense. Likewise, a national government does not have the right to kill people, except to defend the nation. That rules out the death penalty for criminals or aggression in distant lands.
A government should set a good example. Its actions should reflect how it would expect its people to act. Government officials should lead exemplary lives; lives that are an inspiration to the people.
There is another aspect to a good and effective government. It would provide opportunity to the population at large. This would mean building an infrastructure that would serve all areas of the nation. Roads, communications, health and educational facilities should be provided on a large scale. This might not happen overnight, but should be done gradually and consistently so that economic opportunity can be given to all the people. It makes good sense to do this. If we look at history, we find that revolutions mostly occurred among the poor and the desperate, who had nothing to lose. So, once again we get back to maintaining order, keeping peace and bringing prosperity.
In this context, here is a suggestion. While it is important to have a military force to protect a country against outside aggression, it is a bad idea to have a group whose sole purpose is to destroy. The end product of such a group is chaos, which is at odds with the purpose of government. So, the suggestion is to have the military practice fighting only part of the time, let’s say six months of the year. During the other six months they practice constructive skills, such as building roads, bridges, schools and other public amenities in areas that need them, as well as providing relief in areas struck by natural disaster. Now would that not change the focus of the Pentagon?
Another aspect of maintaining order is the duty of government to ensure the nation has a stable currency. The irresponsible issuing of vast amounts of fiat printing press money is a fraud and a betrayal of trust. It cheats everybody out of the fruits of their labors and this is unacceptable. There is a simple yardstick to judge elected officials. A loaf of bread should not cost more next year than it did last year. If it does the people should know that their government is not functioning as it should and vote them out.
The United States of America has a constitution and related documents that guarantee individual rights, such as freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. It has helped make that country the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth. While that system has its flaws, it is a good and successful system of government. The elected officials pledge to support the constitution and should hold it sacred.
Unfortunately, there are individuals in high government positions, who would sacrifice this worthwhile system for a world government based on repression and the denial of individual rights. The idea of a world government is not necessarily a bad one, if such a government is based on rule of law, if it honors the rights of nation states, if it brings true international justice and if it guarantees the rights of all individuals on this planet. Rather than having the United States lower its standards and sacrifice its constitutional guarantees to a subversive organization like the United Nations, why not have the United States lead the world in setting the example and creating an alliance with all other nation states who favor rule by law, especially those states that value personal freedom and responsibility over collectivism?
Meanwhile, it is a good idea to spread the word that the job of government (any government, national or local) is to maintain order, be transparent in its dealings, protect its people, respect privacy and be just and fair to all. A government that does not operate for the greatest good rarely lasts in the long run, but in the short run, our lives will be better and we will have fewer problems only if we hold Government accountable.
Let’s keep this in mind when next we go to the polls.
Quote for the Week
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” ~ Thomas Jefferson