Rights and Responsibilities of Government

Rights and Responsibilities of Government


blm860531B: Let me speak, not of governments in general, but of the kind of government of people, run by people (whether small or great in number).  This is usually what people are referring to when they use the term “government.”  Above all else, any government of people should, if it can help it, respect individual freedom and justice.  God grants us a great deal of latitude in the freedoms we enjoy; why should a government of people do any different?

A: So, “anything goes?”

B: Well, no, of course not.  Obviously that would result in a very undesirable anarchy.  So in the absence of anarchy, there must be government, and if there is government, a force is in effect, and therefore people have lost some freedom.  (Unless, of course, they choose to resist that force.  If they can overcome the force, their freedom might not be restricted; usually, however, they cannot, and, upon resistance, are, say, thrown in prison, which is a penalty that removes some of their freedom that the typical citizen has, which penalty is levied to deter people from resisting the governmental force.)  An absolute or totalitarian government, on the other hand, takes (potentially all) freedom from individuals, and thus obviously does not respect individual freedom or justice much, if at all.  We seek a happy medium between anarchy and totalitarianism; that is, the kind of government that will give us as much freedom and justice as possible, yet without being an anarchy.

So we’ll need to decide, then, what freedoms should be suspended and which of them should not be.  Let’s start with the problem of defense.  This has proven to be necessary since the dawn of history; since men generally cannot be trusted once they get a bit of power, they have far too often been found in the annals of history going about bullying their rivals to get what they want, in an effort to avoid making too much of their own effort, and at the expense of others.  Does it still happen today?  Yes, even today one sees individuals, organizations, and governments, big and small, unjustly taking possessions, time, and even lives from others – in short, their freedom.  Hence the great need for a defense to keep the peace and especially the freedom and justice of the people it exists to defend.  We therefore state that a government ought to have the right to take from the citizens it governs, usually through “taxes,” their freedom to the resources it needs to support the defense of the rest of the freedoms of those citizens.  Government should exercise self-discipline (whether by use of its branches to enact power checks and balances, or by some other reliable, ethical means) to be responsible to take only as much as it needs; no more, and no less.  The same, of course, goes not only for defense, but for any needs the government has.

Next, let’s talk enforcement of contracts between citizens.  Again, sadly, people cannot be trusted but to have disagreements one with another, or to break their word.  A third, neutral party is therefore desirable to uphold agreements (that is, the “contracts”) made so long as there is concrete evidence of their existence a priori.  The great thing about this is that government need only be consulted in the breaking of the contract, and not necessarily in the making of it.  Government should thus have the right to tax its citizens, once again of their freedom, to the resources it needs to support the infrastructure required for a judicial system that handles all the disputes that will arise in consequence.


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