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What is the Proper Role of Government?

According to the American Founders, the proper role of government is to protect unalienable rights.

The government cannot rightfully do anything that an individual cannot rightfully do. In other words, if it is wrong for an individual to steal another’s property, then it is wrong for the government to do the same thing.

As Cleon Skousen put it in The 5,000 Year Leap, the government should protect equal rights — not provide equal things.

Competing views include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The role of government is to distribute all things equally (communism).
  • The role of the government is to take care of its subjects (democratic socialism).
  • The role of the government is to expand its empire (martial societies).
  • The role of the government is to “help the little guy” (democracy).
  • The role of the government is to promote the interests of “big business” (capitalism).

Why It Matters

By definition, government is force. Behind every government policy is a gun to the heads of citizens saying, “You will do this, or else…”

Therefore, anything other than the philosophy that the proper role of government is to protect unalienable rights always has and always will lead to tyranny.

The more government tries to “help” society, the more tyrannical it becomes. Since the government does not produce, it can only take what others has produced to fulfill its aims.

If it wants to provide welfare, it cannot do so without taking from one person or group of people to give to another. And since government is force, this is, as Frederic Bastiat said, “legal plunder.”

Follow-Up Question: Ideally, how, or by whom, should the poor and disabled be helped, if necessary?

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