General Question

wundayatta's avatar

On a practical day-to-day basis, what should government do -- specifically?

Asked by wundayatta (58714points) July 28th, 2011

Like should it do education, or should that be private? Should there be welfare, or if not, what should happen to poor people? Should there be public retirement and health programs? Or should people take care of that on their own? Roads? Environment? Arts? Scientific research? Airports? Safety regulations?

As specifically as you can get it—what tasks do you think government should be doing and which ones should be more in private hands?

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8 Answers

bobbinhood's avatar

I tend to think that government should be as small as possible. They should be responsible for the military, law enforcement, and possibly roads. That’s about it.

YoBob's avatar

In general, what should government do on a day to day basis? Stay the “F” out of people’s way!

Yes, there are some things that a government sould do. It should maintain a sufficient military for adequate national defense. It should provide a basic framework for inter-state commerce. There is also a need for a basic social safety net (but not the bohemith ponzi-scheme style social security program we currently are forced to live with enjoy.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Their purpose should be police/courts,legislative and defense.That’s it.

funkdaddy's avatar

Education has to be included. The alternative is a system where only the educated can afford education that would perpetuate and cause a shift in every aspect of our lives.

It should be a higher priority than currently. People will find ways to make money, they won’t find ways to learn the basics if they’re surrounded by nothing beyond that.

starsofeight's avatar

A g’ment should only do what its people ask it to do. A g’ment is only a public servant.

josie's avatar

Assuming you mean the US federal government-
Anything that’s inarguably in the common interest that cannot be managed by individual states.
Defense of the borders is.
Your hip replacement is not.
Facilitating interstate commerce is.
Funding your retirement is not.
Providing the final court of appeal is.
Mandating preferences for voting constituencies is not.
Etc.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta That’s an excellent question, and one we truly need to have a national conversation about. There are a number of things that governments do better than private industry, and should do for the good of the people.

Corporations exist for one purpose, to make profits for their investors. They may advertise about how much they love their customers or how much they want a clean environment. It’s much more profitable to cover these bases with marketing hype than product R&D. They use marketing to create demand. They advertise to convince us last years clothes look lame this yer and need to be replaced. They advertise to convince us that the newest electronic toy we just had to have last year was supposed to fail within 6 months to 2 years. This is normal. And besides, we need to junk it anyway because an even sexier model just came out. Governments don’t create demand, they do things that are for the greater good of the society. They collect the garbage, police the streets, defend our shores, put out our fires and such.

Put put private enterprise in charge of firefighting, nationwide. How can they maximize profits? More fires! Garbage collection? More garbage is needed. Education? Longer and less effective classroom experience. Prisons? Criminalize everything and lock the entire population up. Road construction? If it won’t generate tolls, don’t build it. Think how much a shipment would cost if it had to cross the entire USA on toll roads.

Medicare is a perfect example of something that needs to be a government enterprise. Privatize it, and see how long the average 70 or 80 year old senior can afford to buy health insurance. Most of them couldn’t get private coverage at any price.

Those who claim they think government is best eliminated have the option right now, today, to book the next flight to Somalia. There they have a paradise without taxes or government all set up for those who yearn for it. Funny why none of them are lining up at the airport. And if they succeed in destroying what we have built in the last century here out of their misguided belief that keeping all their taxes will make then rich overnight, I think they are going to find angry mobs coming for them with pitchforks in hand.

ETpro's avatar

I forgot one very important function of government. Regulation is important. I know how annoying it can be when it constrains us from doing what we wish, but it’s a very necessary evil. Without it in the 1950s and 1960s we had rivers catching on fire they were so full of pollution, sludge and chemicals. The Cuyahoga River’s waters were so toxic that even sludge-eating microbes were absent in it. It was a total dead zone. The air was becoming dangerous to human health in major cites and acid rain had killed huge areas of our national forests. We moved to regulate pollution with the Clean Air and Water Act. Did it cost polluters more to operate. Yes. But did we have any rational choice? I don’t think so.

Financial markets are another example where regulation is needed. Without it, insider trades and market manipulation such as pump-and-dump schemes can soon err ode investor confidence to the point that market investment dries up and we all lose. Financial markets function best with a reasonable, but not excessive level of regulation, and with guarantees of transparency and openness.

Over-regulation can be just as harmful as under-regulation. So it’s always fair to question whether something needs government oversight before adding it to the regulation’s list. But to insist that the days of the robber barons and massive trusts are to be admired and emulated today is toss aside all that we learned from that period in US history.

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