13
   

What is the essential role of government.

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 09:16 am
In the simplest terms, it is to implement, maintain and continually re-negotiate the social contract. Some societies may be so impoverished that the government cannot provide specified services, nevetheless their role would be to provide all that they can under the terms of the social contract. If the participants in the social contract (i.e., the voting citizens) don't want to foot the bill by paying taxes, imposts and excises, they don't need to expect much in return. They can expect in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up first.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 11:08 am
@dadpad,
dadpad wrote:
I'm interested in other peoples views on the essential role of government.

Generally speaking, I think the role of governments is to maximize the "wealth of nations" (Adam Smith) as best its imperfect machinery can. By "wealth" I don't just mean tangible wealth; I consider security and biodiversity forms of wealth as well, for example. Unlike you, I don't believe in the redistribution of that wealth as an essential role of government. As George W. Bush so memorably said: "Make the pie higher!" (And, by implication, stay out of food fights between interest groups over each other's slice of the pie.)

What are the wealth-maximizing policies? To me this is an empirical question, on which I tend to defer to economics-101 textbooks. Based on these textbooks, the most important roles of governments are to:
  • Provide public goods or subsidize their production. The classical examples are national defense, courts, and law enforcement. The next big one I would add is macroeconomic stability, which the government can ensure by regulating the money supply and, if necessary, boosting government spending temporarily to compensate for shortfalls of aggregate demand. Other public goods include highways, canals, railroads, funding of schools, municipal works, and others.

  • Tax or prohibit negative externalties---activities where the benefit to private parties comes at a public cost. Here the classical example is pollution.

  • Subsidize or fund positive externalties---activities that confer a benefit to the public. The classic example here is fundamental scientific research. Public broadcasting is another big one.

  • Curb the power of monopolies, either by splitting them up or by regulating them.

  • Provide information, or force its disclosure by private parties, that free markets need to work. In America, examples are the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • In general, then, governments can increase the wealth of nations by correcting market failure. And of course, markets can fail in more than one of the particular categories I just mentioned. The classical example of market failure on multiple fronts is healthcare, which government can correct by introducing a universal healthcare system.

Strangely, although my philosophical starting point is generally considered conservative or at least libertarian, I've been finding myself well to the left of America's political center ever since I moved here. Much to my surprise, government in America usually errs on the side of doing too little, not too much.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 11:34 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

In the simplest terms, it is to implement, maintain and continually re-negotiate the social contract. Some societies may be so impoverished that the government cannot provide specified services, nevetheless their role would be to provide all that they can under the terms of the social contract. If the participants in the social contract (i.e., the voting citizens) don't want to foot the bill by paying taxes, imposts and excises, they don't need to expect much in return. They can expect in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills up first.

The social contract should never be open for negotiation... It is: people give up their right to instant justice enforced by their own arms for the peace of society and the promise of justice through law...

We are continually forced to live without justice until we take justice from other people with acts of violence or exploitation... There is no substitute for justice, and yet, because the thing is modified without consent or discussion, and people grow up with injustice they do not think they have the right, but they have the right none the less... Forms are modified by people who have no sense of their original purpose... The people suffer in this way their own ignorance until they are forced to figure things out for themselves... I would rather they would just pick up a book, but the usual choice is a Bible...And even there the example is clear of a people bound with law that had lost its relationship to the needs of the people...Any one who thinks today that the law is a thing in itself having no relation to justice that can be turned against the people to exploit them and rob them of the commonwealth need their heads on a chopping block pdg...

Look Setanta; the government will fill one of two roles... It will either take the side of the exploited against the exploiters, or it will take the side of the exploiters against the exploited... Ours has been serving the later role since creation...
0 Replies
 
rabel22
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 01:04 pm
The most good for the most people should be governments role.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 01:06 pm
Not to put too fine a point on it, Fido is full of more **** than just about anybody around here.
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 01:30 pm
@Setanta,
Agreed. Does a nice turn in humility too.
0 Replies
 
NAACP
 
  0  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 01:49 pm
Essential role of government - **** over anyone "beneath" them.
H2O MAN
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 01:51 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Not to put too fine a point on it, Fido is full of more **** than just about anybody around here.
Agreed Exclamation
NAACP
 
  0  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 01:54 pm
@Setanta,
Yes!! Let's condemn people for lying!!!!! Because I've never lied before riiiiiiiiight!!!
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  -1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 03:20 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Not to put too fine a point on it, Fido is full of more **** than just about anybody around here.
You eat it, so you should know... Talk about the issue dumass... Where's your sources??? I have given away more good books on government and law than you have ever thought about reading, so if knowledge is ****, for once, you are correct...
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  -1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 03:34 pm
@NAACP,
NAACP wrote:

Essential role of government - **** over anyone "beneath" them.
We are all in this together, and when the rulers of society take that course they hasten the failure that wipes them off the pages of history... Let me give you an example off hand from a book I once owned on the spanish inquisition... The inquistion was all about money, and when people were hurt by it, and appealed to the pope, the monks talked to the king, and the king talked to the pope, and said: Whose country is this, anyway... But in spite of their power, and the way they could get enemies in some cities and towns to feed each other into the mouth of the inquisition, in other places they could make absolutely no headway... The people in strong communities used to living together and giving each other justice saw no gain in betraying each other to a common enemy... Where the snitches were, and the jealous, and the worthless lived, all the people were hurt, and cowed, and the relations between Jews, Muslims, and Christians for hundreds of years were torn apart with violence... Who was the ultimate victor???

Societies can shine likr a ball room mirror ball and be a shell of a society... Too easily are those who will not give equality to others made slaves... We are each the defense of the other, and the notion spread in every church, and by the news that all our rights are fair game for the majority destroys our essential unity and makes us all enemies under a truce... We need better than that... Our government, if it is our government must exist to protect rights, and our physical being... The government we have today does neither...
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  -1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 03:35 pm
@H2O MAN,
H2O MAN wrote:

Setanta wrote:

Not to put too fine a point on it, Fido is full of more **** than just about anybody around here.
Agreed Exclamation
So nice to see the liberal and reactionaries in agreement... If either of you has any viagra, why don't you have your own little circle jerk...
H2O MAN
 
  0  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 03:48 pm
@Fido,
FIDO is the pivot man... giving the dog a bone.
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 04:37 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
What are the wealth-maximizing policies? To me this is an empirical question, on which I tend to defer to economics-101 textbooks. Based on these textbooks, the most important roles of governments are to:

•Provide public goods or subsidize their production. The classical examples are national defense, courts, and law enforcement. The next big one I would add is macroeconomic stability, which the government can ensure by regulating the money supply and, if necessary, boosting government spending temporarily to compensate for shortfalls of aggregate demand. Other public goods include highways, canals, railroads, funding of schools, municipal works, and others.


•Tax or prohibit negative externalties---activities where the benefit to private parties comes at a public cost. Here the classical example is pollution.


•Subsidize or fund positive externalties---activities that confer a benefit to the public. The classic example here is fundamental scientific research. Public broadcasting is another big one.


•Curb the power of monopolies, either by splitting them up or by regulating them.


•Provide information, or force its disclosure by private parties, that free markets need to work. In America, examples are the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


•In general, then, governments can increase the wealth of nations by correcting market failure. And of course, markets can fail in more than one of the particular categories I just mentioned. The classical example of market failure on multiple fronts is healthcare, which government can correct by introducing a universal healthcare system.


Excellent, Thomas. I think this is a very good list. Did these ideas actually come from economics textbooks?
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 05:23 pm
@Thomas,
I took this question back to basics, rather than deal with specifics about our time and place (or systems of governance). Why do humans organise in hierachical groups, and what does the leadership do that the 'led' follow. In pre-historic times one imagines that a coup was not a difficult thing to engineer if there was motivation to overturn a leader.

I do like your definition of the 'wealth of nations' - and I'd add social capital in there as well.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 05:25 pm
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:
Excellent, Thomas. I think this is a very good list. Did these ideas actually come from economics textbooks?

Pretty much, yes. And it's not even a matter of partisan politics. You will find pretty much the same list in the textbook of Paul Krugman, a liberal economist, and Greg Mankiw, a conservative economist.

Standard, neoclassical economics does give free markets the benefit of the doubt. That's why some conservatives in political discussions like to throw this line at you: "Come on, this is basic economics!"

But the same economic research has also identified several sources of market failure, and suggested government policies to correct them. Specifically, it has identified monopoly power, externalties, public goods, asymmetric information, and recessions as problems that free markets alone routinely fail to solve.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 06:20 pm
@H2O MAN,
H2O MAN wrote:

FIDO is the pivot man... giving the dog a bone.
Don't wager more than you can afford to lose, old queer...
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 06:29 pm
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

Thomas wrote:
What are the wealth-maximizing policies? To me this is an empirical question, on which I tend to defer to economics-101 textbooks. Based on these textbooks, the most important roles of governments are to:

•Provide public goods or subsidize their production. The classical examples are national defense, courts, and law enforcement. The next big one I would add is macroeconomic stability, which the government can ensure by regulating the money supply and, if necessary, boosting government spending temporarily to compensate for shortfalls of aggregate demand. Other public goods include highways, canals, railroads, funding of schools, municipal works, and others.


•Tax or prohibit negative externalties---activities where the benefit to private parties comes at a public cost. Here the classical example is pollution.


•Subsidize or fund positive externalties---activities that confer a benefit to the public. The classic example here is fundamental scientific research. Public broadcasting is another big one.


•Curb the power of monopolies, either by splitting them up or by regulating them.


•Provide information, or force its disclosure by private parties, that free markets need to work. In America, examples are the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


•In general, then, governments can increase the wealth of nations by correcting market failure. And of course, markets can fail in more than one of the particular categories I just mentioned. The classical example of market failure on multiple fronts is healthcare, which government can correct by introducing a universal healthcare system.


Excellent, Thomas. I think this is a very good list. Did these ideas actually come from economics textbooks?

Here we go again, tying the fortunes of capital with those of the state... Give it up... Our Constitution states its purpose and it is a good purpose, and no where does it say that one of its purposes is to support property or capitalism, and quite the reverse, that it was designed to live off wealth, the commonwealth, put into private hands... Even when the income tax was made constitutional it only affected 11 to 13 percent of the population... It was made to soak the rich to give justice to the people, and instead, has been used to soak the people for the benefit of capital -because when property and wealth remained untaxed and wages were taxed, it affected a transfere of wealth from bottom to top... The economy is supposed to support government and the government is supposed to support the claim of the people for justice... That is a stated goal, but it never enters into the discussion at any level of government... It is so taken for granted that any injustice that benefits the rich is good for the country, and so, good for the people... This is a false idea to hold, and it has multiplied the victims in society more than can be managed...
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 06:33 pm
@hingehead,
hingehead wrote:

I took this question back to basics, rather than deal with specifics about our time and place (or systems of governance). Why do humans organise in hierachical groups, and what does the leadership do that the 'led' follow. In pre-historic times one imagines that a coup was not a difficult thing to engineer if there was motivation to overturn a leader.

I do like your definition of the 'wealth of nations' - and I'd add social capital in there as well.
The shift from gentile societies to states was gradual and required the inequality of wealth... Once people grew out of defense and became raiding barbarians, the power of the chiefs grew into the power of kings...I took a while, and that is the condensed version, but that is what happened..
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 06:42 pm
@Fido,
Even the followers of raiding barbarians choose their government, or at least get rid of the one they've got if it pisses them off enough. I guess I'm looking for a one paragrapher on what even prehistoric peoples felt was the essential role of their 'government' to see if it extrapolates across all of human society at any time.
 

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