What's Government For

http://www.founding.com/repository/imgLib/20070724_Madisonpresentsbofr.jpgGovernment.  It's everywhere around us, peeking in on us, doing stuff for us.  Some of us work for government, some on government, and some wish they could work apart from the government.  Obviously, it's a constant presence and an important topic in darn near everyone's life. 

But what's it for?  From Aristotle to Madison to Scalia, famous men have spent their lives deconstructing that question and articulating an answer.  What's yours?  I can think of six possibilities.  Government is . . .

(1) . . . for helping others.  Whether based on your faith or your heart, you think of government as a vehicle for doing the most good to the most people in the most places.

(2) . . . for helping me.  Whether a specific agency or an amorphous conception of an all-encompassing bureaucracy, you think of government as existing to meet your needs - for resources, for help, for a job.

(3) . . . for the efficient allocation of scarce resources.  You think in terms of economics, of supply and demand, and of the scarcity of resources and therefore the need to allocate them fairly and efficiently, for which government can play a role in that allocation.

(4) . . . the enemy.  Nothing good can come of government, at any size and in any shape, and apart from mass anarchy, your stance is to shrink and squeeze government wherever possible.

(5) . . . about politics.  Who knew that the "reality" in reality TV shows like Survivor and Apprentice was so, well, "real," since that's how government works - forming alliances and counting votes and using others to get what you want.

(6) . . . for maintaining a delicate balance of powers.  "Checks and balances" is something we learn in 6th grade, and yet how profound and important is the principle, when organizing people, distributing resources, and exercising power.

Of course, in this country, we have folks who think all of these things, and we have a government that is all of these things.  As much as I like to complain about it, I wouldn't have it any other way.  Would you?  And, two more questions: (1) Have I left out anything? (2) What's your definition?

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