Two Good Questions Part II

September 4, 2009

Recently my brother asked me two good questions.  These are my answers.

Question 1.  Why should the government protect individual liberty?  

Since we were discussing the role of government and what’s better left to free markets, I think he was really asking me why not leave the protection of liberty up to free markets?  Or, why do I think the free market does well with certain things but the government does better with this one thing, the protection of individual liberty. 

Answer:  A free market without an underlying framework doesn’t work well.  It’s anarchy, Russia or the Mafia.  The powerful eventually get their power through force, not the will of the people.    

 The Federal government is meant to do one thing.  By the power derived from the consent of the governed, it protects individuals from the arbitrary use of power from others.  The government needs us, our will, and we need it to protect us from invaders and people who wish to do harm to our freedom and basic human rights.

The checks and balances in government are meant to protect us from abuse of power than can come from concentration of power in the government itself and to preserve the source of the government’s power: the consent the governed. 

A free market on top of a framework that offers a credible threat to doing harm to others’ freedoms works pretty well. 

2. Have our system of checks and balances failed since the government has grown so large?

Answer:  Yes.  The Federal government has gone far beyond its original charter.  The Department of Education is one example.  Education was never meant to be in the jurisdiction of the Federal government.  It was meant to be something governed at a local level.  The fact that the there is a Federal Department of Education is evidence that at some point in history, some people occupying their posts in the government did not carry out their duty as designed of providing a check or balance.

However, the key question here is whether the source of government’s power is still the consent of the governed and I think the answer is yes.  I don’t believe the Framers were naive enough to believe that the U.S. would be Utopia.  I believe they realized bad things can and will happen, just as bad things happen in a free market.

But, as long as the power of government remains the consent of the governed, the governed have the power to change the bad things.


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