the proper role of government in the UK
SECTION THREE : The Proper Role of the Government




"Is there a government apart from the people? Is there any foresight apart from humanity? . . . nothing is more senseless than to base so many expectations on the state, to assume the existence of collective wisdom and foresight after taking for granted the existence of individual imbecility and improvidence."
-- Frederic Bastiat.

In this section I shall briefly outline the proper role of government in a free society.

What is government?

Government is force. A government can achieve no more than any other person if it does not have force to back it up. The government needs to have force to accomplish any task that people do not freely choose for themselves, or to take over the things which people had been freely choosing. If everyone was doing exactly what the government intends then there would be no need for it at all. A government can only act against your free choice, or remove it (same thing in practice) - if it agreed with you it would require no legislation, nor government bodies.

A government ideally exists to protect each individual from the initiation of force (or fraud) by others, including itself. It must be, therefore, self limiting and subject to constant vigilance.

Thus the government ideally serves to protect a nation from invasion, protect its citizens from criminals and provide law courts for settling contractual disputes. The law necessary for this would need to be objective (based on fact, not whim or feeling) and its detail and implementation is beyond the purpose of this site.

The purpose of government is eloquently put by Bastiat ; "The law is the organisation of the natural right of lawful defence. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all."

He continues with ; "Under such an administration, everyone would understand that he possessed all the privileges as well as all the responsibilities of his existence. No one would have any argument with government, provided that his person was respected, his labour was free, and the fruits of his labour were protected against all unjust attack. When successful, we would not have to thank the state for our success. And, conversely, when unsuccessful, we would no more think of blaming the state for our misfortune than would the farmers blame the state because of hail or frost. The state would be felt only by the invaluable blessings of safety provided by this concept of government."

With this statement Bastiat sums up the proper role of government. For the full text follow this link

How often do you blame the government for the state of the roads, the healthcare system, schools and a whole host of problems. How often do you observe the government claim credit for success in business or economy following interventions (paid for by you, without consultation) such as incentives and protectionism. Observe the recent beef debacle and the decline of the British motor industry.

The government does not have the right to decide these things for us, even if we request it 'we' cannot speak for anyone but ourselves. Majority does not make moral, might does not make right.

You may wish to go further and ask "but why have any government at all?". And this question is a valid one. Anarcho-capitalism suggests that law and order be supplied by the market. That the results would not only be 'no worse' than our current system - but actually betters. A compelling argument is provided by David Friedman.

The need for objective law, and a force to practice it would seem paramount to society which is to be free of criminality and mob rule. How to finance such is an issue I shall not cover in detail (various options have been suggested, including the market driven one by David Friedman).

Law should not exist in order to provide any person with some material good they have not created or earned for themselves. Not schooling, not healthcare, not financial security nor any other good. It should exist only to supply justice in a manner consistent with a free society.

It is this area which often causes controversy among even quite willing individualists. "But we can't let the poor die" and similar arguments are put forth as reason to use force to expropriate your property, and at first glance it sounds reasonable, but is it?

Why does a government get involved in other things then?

Anywhere that a person is giving away their right to freedom to choice there is a politician happily collecting it. Every time a voter wishes to have the state decide about education, health, delf defence, roads etc they lose their freedom in that matter. Worse still - if its a majority then it succeeds in voting away the freedom of choice of the remaining people. Remember that might NEVER makes right - not by dictator or majority vote.

Why are politicians always looking for more power over people?

Its fair to say that not all of them are. But consider this.

Would a person who believed in individual liberty seek to have power over others? No.
Would a busybody who believed he/she knew best seek to have power over others? Ofcourse!
Now consider this in the light of various members of parliament and their pet projects. Kinda casts a different light on them doesnt it!

Lets move on to Section 4 -counter arguments.