Monday, June 13, 2011

No Such Thing as Good Government

I would like to follow with the train of thought that can be traced through my previous post regarding government jobs.

In my previous post, I emphasized the point a couple of times that there is no such thing as good government only necessary government. I believe this distinction is crucial as it is the underpinning of realizing the philosophical foundations of the American founding documents and classical liberalism, or modern libertarianism.

This is one of my qualms of GOP presidential candidate and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson--his policy book titled Seven Principles of Good Government (my emphasis). In a recent speech given at the Cato Institute, other GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty also mentioned how he believed there are some aspects of government that are "good." Once you learn the distinction between good and necessary government, you will understand how these proclamations irk me.

Let's take a most basic governmental function enumerated by this country's founding documents and state constitutions; the judicial system.

The whole premise of the judicial system (and this premise is not unique to the American justice system) and reason for its existence is because man possesses the capacity to act irrationally and immorally. Because man is equipped with free will, and with that entails the ability to choose to do immoral things, a system of justice and law is thereby required to ensure the rights of individuals are not infringed by any person or persons. In other words, the only reason that government is given the duty of enforcing justice and laws is because man can be evil. Otherwise put, if all men were angels then there would be no need for the government to set any laws. Already we can see a disparity in deeming a judicial system "good" since its entire premise is founded upon man's capacity for evil.

This example illustrates my underlying point. The judicial system is not good because of its insurance of justice. Pointing to the many instances of corruption in the judicial system or establishment of unjust laws, like slavery, is not even necessary to help support my thesis. Rather the judicial system, traditionally a function of government, is necessary because in a world capable of immorality, the enforcement of natural laws and protection of individuals becomes the basis in forming a free and prosperous society.

Because John possesses the ability to buy a gun and kill his neighbor, a judicial system* is thus necessary to ensure justice and protection. It's not that it is good that government exists because John possesses the ability to buy a gun and kill his neighbor.

Is it good when John then receives justice (like a life-in-prison sentencing) for killing his neighbor? Not necessarily. It is the natural order of things. Is it good when Timmy does the homework that was assigned to him? Or, rather, is Timmy simply doing what he is supposed to and doing otherwise would be bad?

It is easy to see that this underpinning philosophy is repeated throughout civilization. Our Founding Fathers were classical liberals, meaning they wanted individuals as liberated from their governments as possible. If the Founders did have a favorable of view of government (they didn't) then it would make sense to ask why, then, did they want individuals so liberated from it?

However, they could not escape some seemingly* necessary functions of government. I could go on and on about the responsibilities enumerated in the Constitution and how their premises all have the same basis--man's capacity to be irrational and immoral: checks and balances, Congress funding the military, Congress declaring war, judicial review, etc.

You can thus understand my point wherein I state that there is no such thing as good government, only necessary government.

* - These asterisks indicate a philosophical undertone that could in fact be taken further. Being an adherent to the Austrian School of Economics, I am aware of some of the Rothbardian philosophy (which I am a fan of).

For those unaware, Murray Rothbard even takes these arguments even further whereby government is not necessary for justice as it could easily be agreed upon in a just society wherein justice is enforced by use of private entities. For example, I don't need Judge Judy, a government employee, to settle a contract dispute between me and John. This is because a part of that contract would be a clause that states that in an event of a dispute, we agree to seek objective resolution by some third party, which could be a private entity, not necessarily governmental. This is why, where asterisks are used, it should be emphasized that (A) "a judicial system" is required, not necessarily one provided by the government, and (B) "seemingly necessary function of government", as some of these functions could be provided without government. I will spare going into this philosophy further as it is not necessary to support my thesis here. In the future, I could see a "No Such Thing as Necessary Government" article being posted but since I am an American, I adhere to the law of the land and that law establishes a government.

No comments:

Post a Comment