Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Purpose of Government Is Not to Solve Problems or Provide Services

There are two oft-repeated statements about government that are closely related. One is that the purpose of government is to solve problems and the other is that government is supposed to provide services. Both of these statements are examples of a misunderstanding of the true purpose of government.

Liberals especially often speak of “problem-solving” as a function of government. There seems to be no limit to the scope of a government that appropriates itself the authority to solve any problem. In other words, liberals believe that government is justified in doing whatever it wants, as long as it is “solving a problem,” regardless of the additional problems the heavy hand of government creates, and regardless of its neglect of its true purpose. The purpose of government is not to solve problems, but to protect the freedom of the people.

Protecting liberty is a duty to fulfill, not a problem to solve. Now there may be problems encountered with fulfilling that duty, but the duty itself is never a problem. In other words, there are no problems for government to solve. I daresay that if a person considers protecting liberty a problem, then that person is unfit to serve the people in public office, for liberty is not an obstacle to solving a problem. Often it is government that is the obstacle to the people’s ability to solve their own problems.

Similarly, many politicians and commentators declare that the purpose of government is to “provide services.” The purpose of government is not to provide services. The protection of liberty is not a service. Sometimes people even carelessly refer to police protection as a “service,” especially when they are arguing for local tax increases as a way to avoid “cutting services.” Police protection is not a “service” because it protects the liberty of the people, which fulfills the purpose of government. Some other so-called “services” that protect the health or safety of the people are not “services,” either, but functions that also protect liberty, at least to a degree. However, these other functions may or may not be necessarily provided by government, whereas only government may exercise the police function. Other services do not protect liberty at all. Providing any kind of services that are not intended to protect liberty distracts government from its true purpose. Moreover, those services that make people dependent on government at the loss of their independence are the inverse of protecting liberty.

Additionally, solving problems and providing services requires public money in the form of taxation that reduces the liberty of the people to spend as they see fit.

Those serving in government must never lose focus on its true purpose. We would be better served by those who hold public office if they refocus on the liberty of the people and discard everything else that interferes with their sacred duty.

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