The Role of Government

Tuesday, Nov 03, 2009

I think that when it comes down to the core question of what the role of government should be, it is really about asking whether you're optimistic or pessimistic about the average individual human being...

If you are optimistic about the average human, then you believe that personal freedom, individual liberty, voluntary exchange, and de-centralized communities are not only the best aspects needed to maximize the overall success of all life on Earth, but such aspects also imply the co-operative helping and caring (often for free, e.g. church hospitals, nonprofits, etc.) of those who struggle to survive in such a freer yet riskier environment. From here, there is then a divergence on how to deal with the Harm Principle -- Ayn Rand style Objectivist Epistemology which is dogmatically Libertarian and is against the use of any force (close to a capitalistic anarchism), versus a classical U.S.-style enumerated constitution which defines a limited and constrained government (e.g. law enforcement, anti-fraud, defensive military, etc.).

If you are pessimistic about the average human, then you reject that in such a free system that people will help each other, or worse, you believe that individuals or groups will actively manipulate each other. Thus, a government "safety net" is required. Further, government not only needs to step in because of fraternal deficiencies, but also needs to restrain certain self-interests (using involuntary cooperation such as income taxes, backed by force). This is based on the idea that only government can ensure the equal treatment of all life on Earth (as subjectively defined at any one time by the people or their elected representatives), and that concentric circles of government (local to central to international and everything in between) are the best way to construct, secure, and defend the rights of all life on Earth. Although government is imperfect, it can be continuously tweaked or fixed by technocrats and an elected meritocratic elite, when things go wrong.

Modern day, mainstream Democrats and Republicans pander to these two philosophies, but it's just pandering. Today's general disillusion and apathy in the population comes from: