A Primer: Why Does Government Exist?
(If not to give out welfare checks…)
By Brenda Vassaur Taylor
November 25, 2015
History shows that the primary purpose of government in any country or sovereign unit is to protect people from conflict and chaos. When we grant government more power or size, by its nature, that expansion reduces individual freedoms. This principle was recognized by Ronald Reagan in his first inaugural address and the policies of his administration.[i]
The following timeline regarding the expansion of the purpose of federal government in this country is helpful as we reflect on solutions to restrain our ever hungry, out of control, unsustainable governments of today. By starting with a clear pre-defined “purpose” (and a view of history), we will have a better understanding for reducing governments on all levels.
1776: Founders. Under our US and State Constitutions, protection of people by the government from conflict and chaos in the exercise of their inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is due each citizen and is made clear in the founding of our country (1776[ii].)
Government protection from threats made to each of us from others who are within our borders (provided by police) and from those who are outside our borders (provided by armies) is the purpose for government.
Bottom line: Agreed protection of the citizens so that the citizens may exercise individual freedom is the single and most sustainable purpose of government. (John Locke[iii])
1933: Franklin D Roosevelt. Even though early principles of capitalism dictate that markets should be free from government control,[iv] Franklin D Roosevelt implemented policies to protect the national economy during the Great Depression, which many now accept as a necessary purpose of government (1933[v] creation of the Federal Reserve System.)
1965: Lyndon B Johnson. Thirty years following the welfare policies coming from the New Deal in the 1930’s, our welfare system exploded under Lyndon B Johnson with his Great Society. His War on Poverty granted to government an even greater slice of our freedoms with the 1965 creation of “new government entitlements”–Medicare and Medicaid. (1933[vi], 1965[vii]) Suddenly it is the norm that government’s purpose is to provide social programs.
1981: Ronald Reagan. As a response to runaway inflation and national tragedy on various fronts, Ronald Reagan implemented conservative and economically responsible policies which for a time stemmed government growth. Reagan recognized “government is the problem” not the solution.[viii]
2009: Barak Obama. Under Barak Obama (2012[ix]), the US, now like many European countries, provides national medical insurance and extensive welfare benefits (with more than one-half receiving government assistance.) [x]
2016: Choices Before the AR Voters. In Arkansas under Governor Beebe (2013) and continued under Governor Hutchinson (2015), we have expanded Medicaid enrollment by 47%[xi]. Many criticize welfare programs of today as expensive unsustainable ventures that destroy the individual’s sense of responsibility for his/her own well-being. Like Maine,[xii] we in Arkansas may soon discover what necessities have been lost due to out-of-control government welfare program.
SUMMARY: Government has been allowed to expand and thus consume our individual freedoms by ratcheting upward its purpose from protecting us from conflict and chaos, to protecting our national economy, to now providing more and more social programs. The following charts give you a visual of how government growth over the past 80 years has increasingly dominated our overall economic activity–which translates into less economic freedom for us all.[xiii] The debate over the proper role of government in providing for its people’s general welfare is alive and well and needs to be attended through the involvement and vote of the governed this election cycle. It is crucial. Vote in the primaries for candidates who want smaller government and whose past votes reflect agreement with their stated small government policies.
JMM: Government. Why do we need government at all? To keep people from doing wrong? But can we identify those who will do wrong? No! Then why do we elect these same people to make laws to govern us? Won’t they have the same tendencies? Begs the Solution–Keep small keep limited, don’t kill or take stuff.
Response: Ronald Reagan made this same observation in his first inaugural address: “But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?)[xiv] BVT.
 Ronald Reagan (first inaugural address January 20, 1981
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/reagan1.asp “It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government.”
[ii]Thomas Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence) http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/Politics_NecessityOfGovernment.html
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness –That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men..” Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence.
[iii] John Locke-1632-1704 (influential political philosopher to our founding fathers)
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/ “He argued that people have rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property that have a foundation independent of the laws of any particular society. Locke used the claim that men are naturally free and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result of a social contract where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government in order to better ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty, and property. Since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and replaced with new governments. Locke is thus also important for his defense of the right of revolution. Locke also defends the principle of majority rule and the separation of legislative and executive powers.”
[v]Franklin D Roosevelt (his first inaugural address) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/froos1.asp
[vii] Lyndon B. Johnson (his first inaugural address) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/johnson.asp
[viii] Ronald Reagan (his first inaugural address) http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/primary-sources/reagans-first-inaugural-government-is-not-the-solution-to-our-problem-government-is-the-problem “The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom…In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
[x] More than one-half receive government benefits-2014
http://www.ijreview.com/2014/08/170299-percentage-americans-welfare-will-shock/ “It is clearly not sustainable to have a country where more than half of the country is receiving benefits from the government. [emphasis added] It will force tax rates to go up and lessen flexibility on other federal spending as the tax base shrinks…We need to find ways as a country to reduce the number on welfare and help them become more self-reliant.”
[xi] Arkansas Medicaid/CHIP enrollment in 2013 stood at 556,851 people. But it had grown to 820,769 by June 2015- a 47 percent increase. https://www.healthinsurance.org/arkansas-medicaid/