The Proper Function of Government
Guest Editorial by Rep. Karey Hanks
What is the “proper function” of government? It is debated on TV, social media and election campaigns. Many people don’t care much, as long as they have gas in the car, a paycheck, food to eat and a little spare time. Life is good! How many people actually take the time to vote in any given election?
Laws were established by our Founding Fathers to preserve freedom–not restrict it. They believed laws should be enacted only to protect against physical harm, theft and involuntary bondage. Government should not be a means of compelling citizens to perform acts of charity against their will—“redistribution of wealth” in current terminology.
Frederic Bastiat, a French economist, called this redistribution of wealth “legalized plunder.” He explained:
“See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to
other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen
at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” (The Law)
A simple analogy might be, say my car breaks down and my next door neighbor has three cars. Do I have the right to demand he surrender one of them to me? Isn’t that fair? I may ask to borrow a car and he has the option to lend it to me, or not, but I do not have a right to the “fruits of [his] labors.”
In a similar vein, if it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend me morally to do it? Actions, immoral at the individual level, do not magically become virtuous when carried out by government.
If I have a right worthy of protection (life, liberty, property), then I may delegate my power of self-protection to the government to implement such laws as are necessary. If, however, I do not have a right individually, then I cannot support my government in carrying out an immoral action to secure any so-called, or made-up right I think I or others deserve.
George Washington warned, ”Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master!” This is why we must be ever vigilant in holding our leaders accountable for their actions and then vote accordingly at election time.
Although we have, as a nation, strayed far from the principles our Founding Fathers espoused, I believe as we become educated about these principles, it will motivate us to become more involved and engaged in reestablishing limited government with leaders who also uphold liberty and freedom.