Friday, April 13, 2007

the purpose of government

This is a very interesting bit of analysis courtesy of Bob Schieffer of CBS News. It is a column from 2004, yet it is still relevent today.

The title of the piece is The Purpose of Government, and Mr. Schieffer's opinion on this subject can be summed up in the following quote from the column:

Call me old-fashioned, but I still hold with the ancient Greeks who said government has only one purpose, to improve the lives of citizens.

Mr. Schieffer isn't a bad guy. Everything that I have ever read about him tells me that he is a decent sort, but he is absolutely wrong about what the purpose of government is, particularly as he discusses America's constitutional republican government.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

When Thomas Jefferson penned those words, he was recording for all time just exactly what he and the other Founding Fathers considered to be the primary purpose of government. Our Founders believed that the sole purpose of government was to protect the basic individual rights that God has blessed us with--namely, the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue happiness. Put another way, Jefferson was saying that government's primary function was to protect our God-given lives and to safeguard our God-given liberties so that, as individuals, we would be free to pursue happiness (the "American Dream") and to improve our own lives.

Mr. Schieffer has provided us with a teachable moment, in that he has given us a very clear illustration of the difference between liberalism and conservatism. Liberalism as a philosophy believes that "we the people" are incapable of making wise or correct decisions about how to run our own lives. Just look at the words of the Queen Bee of Liberalism, Mrs. Bill Clinton:

“We just can’t trust the American people to make these types of decisions. …Government has to make these choices for people.” —Hillary Clinton circa 1993, speaking to Rep. Dennis Hastert on the issue of who should control the allocation of money in her health care reform plan

“The unfettered free market has been the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation.” —Hillary Clinton

"We can’t afford to have that money go to the private sector. The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better than the private sector will spend it." -- First Lady Hillary Clinton in a disagreement with a Republican congressman

"Too many people have made too much money."
-- First Lady Hillary Clinton condemns the insurance industry, feeling it’s not fair that certain businesses are making ‘too much money’

The modern liberal can talk all they want about "compassion," and there are some liberals ("nicelibs") who actually believe that liberalism is compassionate, but the truth is quite different. Liberalism is arrogant, in that it believes that only the "annointed," the liberal intelligentsia, has the wisdom to lead. Therefore, it is the liberal who is "entitled" to shape our culture, our laws, and our government as he sees fit. That's why unfettered liberalism always leads to revolutionary socialism.

Principled conservatism takes a different view of the purpose of government. Take a look at the following excerpt from Ronald Reagan's A Time for Choosing speech (1964):

You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down--up to a man's age-old dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a "greater government activity in the affairs of the people." But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves--and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say "the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me--the free men and women of this country--as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"--this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.

This is the great debate of our society today. We the people of these United States must decide what we believe the purpose of government is, and then we must elect citizens of integrity to public office who will hold to that purpose. The majority of "we the people" fall to the right of center on the political spectrum, so I am confident of the decisions we will make if we just stand up and make our voices heard.


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