Tomorrow, Governor Bill Weld and E.J. Dionne come to Williams to debate “What is government good for?” The question at the center of modern politics has indeed been, “what is government good for?” Politicians have long debated the role of government in our daily lives.
One side of the political spectrum advocates a limited government that provides basic necessities such as national defense. The other side sees government playing a central role in our lives, from consumer protection to the funding of cultural activities. I personally believe government should act as the people’s caretaker. It should rest with the “consent of the governed,” but it should also be regarded as a benevolent fixture that knows what is best for the people because it is always looking out for the common good. Government’s primary purpose is to be a protector; it should protect the nation from its enemies and the other evils of the modern world.
Government should not only maintain order and provide for the common defense, but it should also ensure that all members of society can live free of prejudice and fear in a stable and comfortable environment. It is unrealistic to expect the average person to be able to fend for himself in today’s world. There is too much suffering, instability and confusion out there to expect all individuals to make it on their own.
So what can protect people from society’s dangers? Who can provide people with the tools essential for survival in the real world? We certainly cannot rely on private industry to help everyone, because they are not in the business of providing for and protecting people. Though certainly worthy in their conviction, charities also simply could never muster up enough resources to help all of society’s misfortunate.
So the responsibility thus lies with the only institution that has both the legitimacy and means to look after the people: government. In exchange for the people’s consent, the government is responsible for maintaining political, social and economic stability. The government must ensure that the nation is protected from outside dangers. Through the armed forces, the border patrol, and other security organizations, the government’s most important obligation to its country is maintaining its territorial integrity and defending its sovereignty.
Secondly, government must uphold and protect the human and civil rights of its citizens. The government must not abuse its citizens, nor must it compromise their right to live happily. The state must do its best to ensure that everyone can live in safe surroundings, free of crime and corruption. Because the government is the people’s caretaker and protector, it also has many duties in the socio-economic realm.
A government must ensure that all its citizens have equal opportunity, especially in the realm of education, and then leave it up to the individuals to do what they want with those opportunities. To ensure equal opportunity, the state must also provide for those born into less fortunate circumstances with an adequate degree of support (not just monetary aid), though not one in which people become dependent on handouts for survival.
Finally, for the good of an advanced society, government needs to ensure that all its citizens have access to adequate health facilities as well as sufficient exposure to cultural and intellectual growth.
Today’s world is full of confusion, instability and distress. So today, more than ever, government must make sure that the people are well taken care of. The government is good for many things because it is the only force in society that has the legitimate power to uphold order and look after the people.
We must pursue the goal of having a prosperous society that is governed by a democratic government that protects and helps people in their everyday lives.