Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Government: Ruler or Servant?

1. Is govt an entity separate from the people, with a life & will of it's own, or is it an extension of the people, reflecting their wishes?

2. Are the rights of the people provided by the govt, or are they inherent to the people?

In most state centered systems, govt is seen as the source of all decisions. Individual rights & liberties are viewed through the filter of what is best for the state. If there are things that are negative to the state's power, those things are limited. The state can decide what is best for the people. They pick the religion, regulate speech & the press, regulate how & if common people can possess weapons, & reflect a state centered ideology.

In the US constitution, govt's role is deliberately limited. The founders saw that govt was naturally intrusive, taking more & more until it was the central figure in peoples' lives. They intended to limit govt, & make the individual's rights more important & central to govt's basic function.

Govt should be a servant.. it should be there to protect the individual. For a country to prosper, people need to have the freedom to work.. to provide for their families & increase their property. According to Locke, preservation of property is the basic function of govt. If a farmer grows crops, but they are stolen by marauding bands of thieves, their property is not secure. Govt's basic functions should include:

1. Protect the citizens from enemies. They should provide protection from those who would steal the property of the citizens. This is the central, basic function of govt. A prosperous nation can afford to delegate part of their property to this duty. If the nation is too cheap, enemies can defeat them. If they spend to much of their property for protection, it is wasteful & overkill. This protection is a cost that the citizens choose, & a good balance is important for continued prosperity of the people.

2. Protect the individual's rights, & provide a level playing field for their labors. Lincoln argued that labor was superior to capital. Labor precedes capital, & should be a govt's focus. It should protect the labors of the citizens from unscrupulous, greedy exploiters. It should have fair laws & regulations that keep the wealthy & powerful from taking advantage of the poor. By their labors, the poor should be able to increase their property, & have it protected.

3. Provide infrastructure. Govt can provide larger projects that all citizens can benefit from. They can pool the resources of the many to improve the returns on the labor of the individual, & the lifestyles of the citizens. Roads improve commerce. Farmers can distribute their crops to a larger market. Manufacturers can grow their business by expanding to new areas. But like protection, this infrastructure has to be paid for by the citizens. If they are too cheap, their infrastructure will be limited & their lives more difficult. If they spend too much of their property on infrastructure, they can bankrupt themselves & have little property left for production and basic needs.  It is another balance that the citizens must decide. Each infrastructure project should be viewed as a family purchase. Can we afford it? Will it improve our lives? Is it a good investment for our future?

California is a good example. It has evolved to a mini nanny state.. dictating to the people what they can & can't do in almost every area of their lives. They seem to have the statist view of govt.. that govt is supreme, & all things flow through it. Every minutia is managed & regulated by the govt. Business is over regulated, individual rights are set aside, & the state & bureaucrats are the ruling elite.

The results of this system are becoming painfully evident. Instead of serving the people, & protecting rights & freedoms, their govt centered ideals have led California to a cliff of fiscal disaster.

I am not putting govt into extremes of definitions as lords or servants, but the overall attitude, or culture that our govt reflects. I do not expect judges, police, etc to act like a lord with me, for example. They can still be public servants. Their salary is paid for by the people. Yes, they are there to protect us from those who would steal our property or do us harm, but that does not empower them to lord it over us, or trample our rights. I am not categorizing various arms of govt into either lord or servant. ALL are servant, or should be. ALL are a reflection of the public will, or should be. It is when govt thinks it is an independent entity, & can demand the people's resources.. raises or jobs or special privileges, or make dictatorial pronoucements, that they move to the 'lord' extreme. They no longer see themselves as servants of the public, but rulers who can dictate what the people can do.

This is a big topic, but it is a central issue to all of us. We the people can choose which direction we want to go. We can pressure our representatives to do their job, and be servants of the people, rather than lords over us.

"And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government." ~Abraham Lincoln

"Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience." ~John Locke

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. ~Thomas Jefferson

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