Social Question

jerv's avatar

What do you feel the role of government should be?

Asked by jerv (31032points) April 8th, 2011

Many of the partisan debates like the budget seem to boil down to whether and to what extent the government should be involved in certain things.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains phrases such as ”...supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.” and some feel that that means that government is responsible for helping those who cannot help themselves (the poor, unemployed, disabled, elderly…).

Some hardcore Conservatives feel that governments role is merely to sign the paychecks of the military and fix potholes on the interstate. They can’t tax the citizenry, regulate business, or anything like that; they are supposed to just sit down and shut up.

Most people either somewhere in between and sometimes have their own twists, and I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions.

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28 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

I believe the role of government should be whatever the group decides it should be…and you should be free to leave the group and form your own…

CaptainHarley's avatar

Everything you always wanted to know about the US Government, but were afraid to ask:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html

ddude1116's avatar

I rather dislike government, in fact I rather loathe it and its entire necessity, but it is necessary to keep large corporations from sucking people dry and making sure that shelter, food and medicine is readily available to those who need it. And that’s what its role should be, our guardian, to keep our foolishness in line until we are capable of living truly free, open minded and loving. Not to instill fear, or to get paid by corporate lobbyists.

Qingu's avatar

Fundamentally, the role of government is to protect the weak from being preyed on from the strong.

In practice, it’s up to a country’s people to determine through democracy what exactly that means, and how it should be enforced.

As one of those people, I think the government has a responsibility to ensure a basic social safety net, including health care, to provide protection from crime and foreign attack, to provide a fair justice system, to provide education to kids, to develop essential infrastructure, science, and technology where there is social utility but no profit motive to spur private corporations.

The government should not have a role in what we can say, write, create, put in our bodies, as long as these actions do not directly cause harm to other people (such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater or writing detailed plans for assassinating someone).

cazzie's avatar

Security. Justice.
Both of those words are so totally loaded and can be defined in terms of government in ways that serve just about any twist of the spectrum.

Security: From natural disasters… I want to know that there is a structure set up by my government that can aid those affected quickly and effectively.
Security: From outside aggressors. This isn’t just in terms of tanks and missiles, but aid and trade to keep ourselves strong and safe by helping other nations.
Security: From forces within that would aim to do harm to other sectors of the population. This covers… polluters, fraudsters, corruption, extortion and perhaps even those who spread hate. (When is hatred and fear EVER a good thing to spread?)
Security: The ability to travel safely. Road standards. Air, rail and ship travel standards.
Security: Knowing that those who are in dire need and trouble can find the help they need and not have to resort to desperate, deadly or harmful means.

Justice: When there is a dispute and wrong doing, we need to know that the State is there with a stick. The stick has both rule marks on it and a decent weight for whacking. (the stick is metaphorical….)
Justice: All people are equal. That means we need to ensure that barriers to equality are identified and taken down, where ever they are.

I’m sure I can come up with more given some time, but those are just some ‘top of my head’ ideas.

FluffyChicken's avatar

What it SHOULD be is keeping the greatest number of citizens safe, and making sure basic needs are met for everyone, while allowing for pursuit of happiness. Also as a neutral mediator of domestic issues, and as a resource for help in whatever the citizens of the country have great need for.

It’s too bad it never has been and never will be any of those things.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Nonexistent, at least on large scale. Humans have lived for most of our history without large, overarching governments. All we need is small, local forums with which to collectively resolve conflicts and make decisions.

mazingerz88's avatar

The role of the government is to be at the center all of the time if not swaying a little to the right or to the left once in a while so as to prevent collapse. The role of the government is to evolve according to the present conditions and state of nature as of its citizenry.

Jaxk's avatar

I’ve stayed away from this simply because he question is too broad. Trying to pinpoint all the possible things a government could or should do leaves way too much room. We have a layered government. That is Federal, State, and Local. Things we want from local government will be quite different than what we expect from Federal government. I may believe that traffic is high enough that there should be a stop sign at the corner. Some governing body should control that, I just don’t think that is a federal function. Most of our disputes fall into the category of which governing body and duplicating the efforts. At least as far as I’m concerned, it’s usually not whether it’s a role for government so much as, is it a role for Federal, State, or Local.

gondwanalon's avatar

I think that the U.S. Federal Government through the help of the U.S. Congress and lobbyists has gotten way too large. To say that it is inefficient is understatement. Fraud, waste and abuse continue even though a decades old program to eliminate such has been in place. In fact it is a joke.

Of course government should give help to those who are not capable helping them selves but only by State governments. Help should also offered to the poor, unemployed, disabled, elderly on a case by case basis and only up to a point. Government shouldn’t act like a facilitator for keeping folks down and dependent on it as it does nowadays.

I “feel” that the Federal Government is like a giant snow ball rolling along always getting bigger and bigger as it is pushed along by Congress. At some point in the future the snowball will be so huge that it will lose it’s structural integrity and collapse into its self. It may very well be too late reverse the process. It seems like the snow ball is now heading down hill and heading towards a cliff.

bkcunningham's avatar

“Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of
industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good
government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our
felicities.” Thomas Jefferson

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk Many politics debate have some element of “Whose job is it?” with a bit of disagreement over what level of government should control what, so thank you for bringing that up here :)

CaptainHarley's avatar

Thank God for State Nullification.

Qingu's avatar

@incendiary_dan, you appear to be falling prey to the naturalistic fallacy. For most of human history people did indeed live without government. They lived in tribes that were prone to murdering people from other tribes in neverending spirals of revenge killings. Not to mention incredibly abusive ideology within the tribes, where women were generally treated like property, slavery was legal, and magic was revered over technology because of the power of tribal religious cultists.

Yeah, let’s all go back to that.

It’s no accident that life-changing technologies and ideas like writing, law, and natural philosophy came into existence in cultures that had strong, overarching governments.

cazzie's avatar

How is that ‘State Nullification’ working out for ya?

CaptainHarley's avatar

We’re still learning, but since it’s constitutional, we should have the technique down pat soon! ; )

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Qingu I have a bachelors degree in Cultural Anthropology and teach it regularly. I know what indigenous people are like. Your characterization of indigenous warfare is, to put it simply, wrong.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You know .. this is actually one of the very, VERY few times when I actually agree with @Qingu , in a somewhat limited way! However, I’m still waiting for the state to “wither away,” as our communist friends told us it would. : )

Qingu's avatar

@incendiary_dan I only skimmed your link, but I’m not sure how you feel it provides a response to the specific thing I said (that tribal revenge killings are hugely problematic, along with slavery and misogyny). It instead seems to take a general view that violence is a part of nature and that foragers, being closer to nature (lol) are more accepting of violence. It also throws in some BS at the end in support of the nonsense that foragers don’t have to work as much as industrialized folk. (They also routinely die of things modern medicine can easily cure and have no capacity to defend themselves against disease or resource-gathering by industrialized folk who want their land, so…)

Yeah, I don’t really get the whole “foragers had it better” argument. Maybe I should have gotten an anthropology degree. Of course I work with a professor of anthropology and he also thinks this view is nonsense. So perhaps you’re misrepresenting your discipline’s view here?

Qingu's avatar

Yeah, the more I read that website the more I think it’s basically written by crackpots.

http://rewild.info/anthropik/thirty/index.html

Civilization is the great evil of human history. Sounds like the Unabomber. Except less coherent.

“Diversity is the primary good. Evolution is the product of diversity.” Okay, I reject the first thesis, which is simply assertion. The second thesis is manifestly false.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Diversity” is a word that was hijacked by the PC crowd to designate something they didn’t understand, and about which they knew to do absolutely nothing.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Qingu The fact that you refuse to investigate the idea doesn’t make it crackpot. And once again, absolutely none of what you said is true of foraging existence. More when I’m not rushing off to work.

@CaptainHarley The primary form of diversity intended for the essay in question is biological, though I partially agree with you on the hijacking.

Qingu's avatar

A website dedicated to the proposition that civilization-through-agriculture was a great evil that befell humanity and that foragers actually had it better strikes me as thoroughly crackpot and I seriously doubt more than a fringe of anthropologists accept this view.

mattbrowne's avatar

All people who loathe our governments should spend one year in Zimbabwe or North Korea or Sudan or Myanmar or Iran or China or Eritrea. All people who loathe bureaucracy should eat in restaurants where hygiene standards are neither defined nor properly enforced. They should also sign contracts that have no meaning whatsoever two years later. Ask yourself the question why investors prefer countries with an efficient bureaucracy (note that the word bureaucracy is not a synonym to the term inefficient bureaucracy).

What should the role be? How about this?

“Each successive government is composed of a specialized and privileged body of individuals, who monopolize political decision-making, and are separated by status and organization from the population as a whole. Their function is to enforce existing laws, legislate new ones, and arbitrate conflicts via their monopoly on violence.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government

cazzie's avatar

tips her hat again to the very good @mattbrowne

incendiary_dan's avatar

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been driving around CT all week teaching classes and kind of forgot to respond to this.

@Qingu You do a great job of distracting, but I’ll bring it back quickly. My point was that the characterisations you made of foraging peoples is false, and presented some fact-based, heavily researched, and heavily annotated articles by a friend who happens to also have training in cultural anthropology. You’re right at least in part about the lack of acceptance of Godesky’s conclusions by the anthropological community, which is primarily out of trepidation. But the underlying premises, the characterisations of foraging peoples as egalitarian, leisure-enjoying, and largely peaceful is commonly accepted. And as he points out, instances of highly violent foraging societies are almost always “exceptions that prove the rule”.

I decided after thinking of a lot of smart stuff to say in this thread that I wouldn’t bother beyond this. You’ve made up your decision despite contrary evidence, so nothing I say will make a damn difference. Forget my education in and out of institutional settings, forget the mountainous piles of ethnographic data. Forget the fact that the roots of Western White feminism comes from indigenous peoples in the Americas more than any other source, and that perceptions of indigenous people as sexist was almost entirely based on the most supremely ironic colonial propaganda I’ve yet seen. Your mind won’t be changed, and I can see that from your previous posts.

Plus, I get paid to teach this stuff most of the time, and nobody is paying me here. Fuck that, I’ll spend my time educating people who will actually listen and give a damn.

@mattbrowne I’ve noted you’re a fan of using straw man arguments, but that one surprised even me. Not even a bit of accounting for the role of historical colonialism or economic neo-colonialism? For shame.

cazzie's avatar

@incendiary_dan you teach? shutters The webpages you sited are complete and utter clap- trap.

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