Why Do We Need A Government?
America has no “unwritten constitution.” Ours is a system of written constitutionalism—of adherence to a single, binding, authoritative, written legal text as supreme law. ‘To provide for the common defense’ – The government protects citizens against outside attack, regulates the military and foreign policy, builds defenses, accumulates the means of defense, and wages war if necessary. While all of these definitions help us grasp the meaning of the word ‘government,’ they provide a lot to remember, so let’s summarize. Dr. Harold Damerow, a professor of government and history, gets a bit more specific with his definition. He says that government is ‘responsible primarily for making public policy for an entire society.’ He also mentions that government is ‘the steering mechanism for a given society.’ It forms the policies that keep a particular society heading in the right direction. Government is so ingrained in our culture and so much a part of our everyday lives that most of us, when asked, can’t offer a very good definition of the actual word.
Disputes about the purpose of government stem from arguments about how far the government’s role in protecting and shaping the community should extend. Moreover, the popular notions that “government is best that governs least” or that government is best that just protects individual rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” make it easier for privileged groups to use government for their purposes. For thousands of years of human history, the implicit or explicit purpose of government was to serve the interests of its rulers, be they monarchs, dictators, aristocracies, or ruling classes.
Ethics is a system of principles that helps us tell right from wrong, good from bad. We constantly face choices that affect the quality of our lives. We are aware that the choices that we make have consequences, both for ourselves and others. The ethical principles that nurses must adhere to are the principles of justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, accountability, fidelity, autonomy, and veracity. Nurses must be fair when they distribute care, for example, among the patients in the group of patients that they are taking care of. Moral Principles The five principles, autonomy, justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and fidelity are each absolute truths in and of themselves.
The relationship of government to markets is an ongoing one that requires continual intervention from government to maintain order and stability. The fact that this has not occurred — or at least not yet — is the result of government’s continuing ability to intervene, moderating the disruptive impacts of the ever-changing market economy. Government in a democracy is essentially a conservative institution. It is responsible for creating and sustaining markets, enforcing contracts, protecting private property, and producing systems of education and infrastructure that allow commerce to function efficiently. In Western democracies, we disagree about whether the state should provide things like healthcare and higher education, and whether the state should take an active role in shielding individuals from undesirable behavior ranging from not wearing seatbelts to drug use.
Its shape and scope is relative to new times and circumstances. Before 1763 there was not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been debated and discussed by the New England Clergy. (Alice M. Baldwin, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution). It is strange to modern ears to hear that the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were but the listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the two decades leading up to the American Revolution.
The purpose of just government is to protect the rights of citizens against fellow citizens. Protection against fellow citizens means deterring crime by making and enforcing criminal law and making it clear to people who commit crimes that they are going to pay a penalty. Criminal law is needed because there are vicious and immoral human beings who try to take away the rights of other people. Though all governments enact laws, the creation of and adherence to those laws varies. In a monarchy or dictatorship, laws are promulgated by the ruler.
When creating the Preamble of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers based the government on three main principles, which were inherent rights, self government and separation of powers. Inherent rights are rights granted to anyone living in the United States. Self government refers to government by the people, and separation of powers divides power among three branches of the United States government. The intent of establishing governmental regulations was to prevent the society from collapsing and descending into lawlessness and chaos. All of this requires a citizenry with the skills and dispositions necessary for republican self-government, that is, a citizen body whose members understand and act to promote justice. There are many working parts—the “auxiliary precautions” in the system that Madison and the other leading Founders proposed to achieve the twin goals of effective and safe governance.
Figure 5This takes us to the present day, where the ultimate purpose of the social contract and its resulting government have become muddled. Lobbying from interest groups, wealth and fame, alternative agendas, and a lack of knowledge and compassion have firmly and comfortably situated themselves in our political sphere. At times, we hardly notice these plaguing components and get caught up in the media and controversial spectacle of modern politics. For this reason, I dedicated this first post to outlining the history and true purpose behind instating governments using First Principles thinking so that we could avoid the spectacle. This ultimate purpose of government is the lens through which we will view the economic problems throughout the course of this blog.
No longer were there tribes of extended families that could nonverbally agree to a small set of moralistic rules. Now, hundreds of people could be living and working in close quarters. Crops and goods would be stolen by less-successful nearby neighbors, dangers of other neighboring civilizations competing for the same resources loomed, and there was a clear lack of order.