Role of government: what should it be?
It’s official: when we choose a President this fall, we will also
choose a theory on the role of government. The putative President and
the Mayor of New York both said it this week. Voters need to hear and
understand exactly what they said and what this means.
What Obama and Bloomberg said
Yesterday, Barack H. Obama traveled to Cleveland, Ohio. He gave a
rambling and almost petulant speech in this historic “battleground”
State. Mostly he said, “It’s all Bush’s fault,” or something amounting
to that. (Maybe he had read this Gallup Poll. Katie Pavlich has some other numbers that should set that record straight.)
But Obama said one thing worth hearing. The New York Times had two reporters on the ground to hear it:
Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation — not just tomorrow, but for years to come.
In other words, Obama said that you will vote for more than a
President (or to be technical, Presidential Electors). You will vote for
a role of government. You will vote whether government will be your
nanny or your monitor and arbiter.
If you doubt that, Mayor Mike Bloomberg should remove that doubt.
Last week he made a rule that no convenience store, movie candy counter,
etc., could sell you a drink larger than 16 ounces. Soft drink bottlers
then took out a full page ad in the Times showing Bloomberg as “The Nanny.” (Or maybe as the title character in the Robin Williams movie Mrs. Doubtfire.)
What’s next? Limits on the width of a pizza slice, size of a hamburger or amount of cream cheese on your bagel?
If [the role of government] isn’t to improve the health and longevity of its citizens, I don’t know what [that role] is.
The mayor then contradicted himself. He told his TV host that he
didn’t mean to tell people what to do. But he and his Board of Health
are doing just that!
Excuse me, Mr. (putative) President. Excuse me, Mr. Mayor. Obama is half right, and Bloomberg is totally wrong.
The proper role of government
To “improve the health and [long life] of its citizens” (and lawful residents) is not the role of government. The Framers of the Constitution
never saw it that way. Nor is the role of government to guarantee you
an income, no matter what Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven said 56 years ago.
The role of government is to manage force. This role derives from a basic social principle: so long as humans live together, no one may start using force against another. But humans will
start using force, unless some other humans stop them, or deal with
them when they do. That is the proper role of government. That is why we
But the Progressive movement began with a new view of the role of government. They
first said that government must “improve the health and [long life]” of
those who live under it. And they didn’t stay with the Democratic
Party, or even start there. The first Progressive President was Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican.
So what does the role of government break down to? Three things:
And that's it.
But what say you? Is Mayor Bloomberg right to say that the role of government is to "improve" your life, whether you think it could stand improving (and in that way) or not? Or do you believe, as I do, that your life is your own, and government's job is not to interfere with it, but instead to stop others from interfering?
See Votes by State
News & Politics