Saturday, January 14, 2006

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

Corruption in government will never go away until we clearly define its role in our lives. Transparency and accountability are not enough. Unless we understand and define the proper role of government, we will always be met with disappointment, frustration and hopelessness.

Government’s only function is to protect an individual’s rights to life, liberty and property regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex or socioeconomic status (whether you’re rich or poor).

Rights come out of the fact that you own your own life. You have the right to live. No majority vote should take your life away from you without due process of law. The product of your own life and efforts is your property. No majority vote should take your property away from you without due process of law. To own your life and your property is your liberty. No majority vote should take your liberty from you without due process of law.

Anything that requires the infringement on any of these rights is not a right but a wrong. Therefore, no one can claim such rights as rights to healthcare or education or a home or a meal, because they come at the expense of someone else’s rights to their own life, liberty and property. Nothing in the world is free; there is no such thing as a free lunch; someone is always going to have to pick up the tab.

Law and morality do not bind government when government can say to anyone that some good intention, like the need to end poverty or to educate the youth, trumps their individual rights. In using desired ends to justify the means, government can kill and not be accused of murder (trumping the right to life), can enslave and not be accused of slavery (trumping the right to liberty), and can steal and not be accused of thievery (trumping the right to property). All government would need is a good intention to justify its actions.

With power like this, it’s no wonder why people want to become politicians. With power like this, it’s no wonder why politicians try to get “in” as much family and friends as possible. With power like this, it’s no wonder why people are willing to bribe and pay favors to get a piece of the pie.

For government not to uphold individual rights above any action demanded of it by the majority creates an environment for hypocrisy. Because it will not be their rights politicians will vote to restrict in order to achieve their “well-intended” purposes. Instead, they will vote to sacrifice the rights of those who cannot organize, who do not have enough votes and representation, who do not have much money, power or influence, or who do not just speak up.

The societal arrangement that is most compatible with individual rights is the free market (capitalism). We have enough historical data and economic models to prove that free market incentives address all of our concerns, from the environment to poverty to education, more effectively and compassionately than government can ever begin to comprehend.

For the people to oppose such government involvement in healthcare (LBJ), air transportation (Sega’ula), ocean transportation (MV Sili), broadcasting (KVZK-TV), telecommunication (ASTCA), utilities (ASPA), lending (DBAS) and education (DOE) does not mean opposition to the services and purposes these institutions are meant to provide. Instead, it means protecting freedom, liberty and individual rights. In addition to standing up for these values, we also stand to gain even better services in the above areas because of the free market incentives that would follow.

We finally live in an era suspicious of politicians’ intentions and tired of government failure, corruption and intervention. We need to stop romancing with the idealism that government can be all things for all people, and relegate government back to its sole role as a protector of individual rights.

When power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely then the role of government should be one of very limited power.

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