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Qin Shi Huangdi
10-07-2010, 08:39 PM
What is the primary function of government? I don't mean there can't be any other functions but what should its main purpose and duty be?

Gil-Martin
10-07-2010, 08:50 PM
What is the primary function of government or what should be the primary function of government? I suppose the answer to the first question is probably staying in power. I don't know the answer to the second question as I'm not a political scientist and my recent stab at world domination missed. However, it seems that an important function of government might be the distribution/redistribution of resources with an eye toward providing citizens with things they cannot reasonably be expected to provide for themselves. I'm thinking about things like the army and the highways.

Procrustus
10-07-2010, 08:50 PM
What is the primary function of government? I don't mean there can't be any other functions but what should its main purpose and duty be?

To put out residential fires?

Qin Shi Huangdi
10-07-2010, 08:59 PM
What is the primary function of government or what should be the primary function of government? I suppose the answer to the first question is probably staying in power. I don't know the answer to the second question as I'm not a political scientist and my recent stab at world domination missed. However, it seems that an important function of government might be the distribution/redistribution of resources with an eye toward providing citizens with things they cannot reasonably be expected to provide for themselves. I'm thinking about things like the army and the highways.

Your wording is confusing since it can be used to justify anything from minarchism to socialism.

Gil-Martin
10-07-2010, 09:20 PM
What is the primary function of government or what should be the primary function of government? I suppose the answer to the first question is probably staying in power. I don't know the answer to the second question as I'm not a political scientist and my recent stab at world domination missed. However, it seems that an important function of government might be the distribution/redistribution of resources with an eye toward providing citizens with things they cannot reasonably be expected to provide for themselves. I'm thinking about things like the army and the highways.

Your wording is confusing since it can be used to justify anything from minarchism to socialism.

I apologize if I was unclear. I simply think what I suggested should be one of the main functions of any government. How a government should come to power, how a government should gain control of resources, how a government should distribute those resources and to what end . . . these things confuse me as well. I wasn't really trying to advocate a particular brand of government so much as I was trying to start the conversation by throwing out a suggestion as to what one of the primary functions of a good government should be. It's my hope that others will come along and comment on my idea, suggesting reasons why it might be right or wrong.

RickJay
10-07-2010, 09:29 PM
Maintenance of law and order, in my humble opinion.

LouisB
10-07-2010, 09:29 PM
What does the OP consider to be the primary function of government?

Qin Shi Huangdi
10-07-2010, 09:49 PM
What does the OP consider to be the primary function of government?

To restrain evil and maintain order.

Rand Rover
10-07-2010, 09:53 PM
What does the OP consider to be the primary function of government?

To restrain evil and maintain order.
Do you include fighting the dreaded gum disease gingivitis in "restraining evil"?

Czarcasm
10-07-2010, 10:12 PM
What does the OP consider to be the primary function of government?

To restrain evil and maintain order.1. Define "evil".
2. Whose order?

Qin Shi Huangdi
10-07-2010, 10:19 PM
To restrain evil and maintain order.1. Define "evil".
2. Whose order?

Evil:

Evil is intentionally causing harm or destruction, or deliberately violating some moral code. The philosophical question of whether morality is absolute or relative leads to questions about the nature of evil. Evil is usually seen as the opposite of good.

Order: Order needed to maintain prosperity and the well being of citizens.

Rand Rover
10-07-2010, 10:24 PM
1. Define "evil".
2. Whose order?

Evil:

Evil is intentionally causing harm or destruction, or deliberately violating some moral code. The philosophical question of whether morality is absolute or relative leads to questions about the nature of evil. Evil is usually seen as the opposite of good.

Order: Order needed to maintain prosperity and the well being of citizens.

That clears it all up. Thanks!

RealityChuck
10-07-2010, 10:26 PM
Establishing the greatest good for the greatest number of its citizens.

Left Hand of Dorkness
10-07-2010, 10:36 PM
Government takes over coercion so it's centralized. In a democracy, the use of coercive power is agreed on by a majority of the folks who can be arsed to care.

Private property is a coercive, artificial construct that can do tremendously cool things sometimes: it, like the written language, is a powerful cultural invention. But it's a cultural invention, not an objective fact of the universe or a moral absolute. Its reality is generally enforced by a government (via edicts like "don't steal" and "don't trespass"), but the cost of having a government enforce this construct is that the government mediates the harms caused by it: the same government that'll throw you in jail for taking what someone has declared to be their property will also take some of that property and give it to you if you need it.

Government, again, centralizes that coercive power.

Guinastasia
10-07-2010, 11:14 PM
To restrain evil and maintain order.
Do you include fighting the dreaded gum disease gingivitis in "restraining evil"?

I thought it was ring around the collar?

Alessan
10-08-2010, 06:48 AM
1. To protect the nation from outside threats.

2. To guarantee the rule of law.

Nava
10-08-2010, 06:59 AM
Government takes over coercion so it's centralized. In a democracy, the use of coercive power is agreed on by a majority of the folks who can be arsed to care.

There is another function which often comes a close second in time but which can take up as much or more of a government's resources, which is the management of collective works; what we might term non-coercive social services. Without this, a government only stays in power for as long as it takes for someone else to grab a bigger stick (cf. Goth kings in Spain, whose main past-time seemed to be surviving assasination attempts).

Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party
10-08-2010, 09:08 AM
Establishing the greatest good for the greatest number of its citizens.

Yep.

shiftless
10-08-2010, 10:10 AM
The primary function of a GOOD government is to channel the activities of ambitious men against each other so that they can't gain too much power and cause trouble. If, in the struggle of these ambitious men to gain power, some good choices are made, so much the better. Ideally the ambitious will try to please the governed in their quest to gain their approval.

Freddy the Pig
10-08-2010, 10:56 AM
The primary function of government should be to secure the lives, liberty, and property of those persons subject to its jurisdiction.

Skald the Rhymer
10-08-2010, 12:21 PM
To collect taxes from the peons I am currently refraining from executing so that they can toil in my vineyards to raise money for taxes.

Skald the Rhymer
10-08-2010, 12:23 PM
1. Define "evil".
2. Whose order?

Evil:

Evil is intentionally causing harm or destruction, or deliberately violating some moral code. The philosophical question of whether morality is absolute or relative leads to questions about the nature of evil. Evil is usually seen as the opposite of good.

Order: Order needed to maintain prosperity and the well being of citizens.

Whose moral code?

Prelude to Fascination
10-08-2010, 01:18 PM
This is a question I've thought about from time to time, and I don't have a complete answer. But at least in a broad sense, I believe the primary function of government (at any level: local, state, federal) is to do for the general population what the population cannot do for itself.

To expand, it's similar to what Gil-Martin said upthread: ...the distribution/redistribution of resources with an eye toward providing citizens with things they cannot reasonably be expected to provide for themselves. I'm thinking about things like the army and the highways.

The list can be expanded of course, nearly ad infinitum, but other examples I'd add would be food protection/inspection/regulation, etc. I certainly don't want us to go back to the type of behavior before the Pure Food and Drug Act took effect.

And to expand on the highway idea, I believe government is better suited to construct, maintain, regulate etc. our highways and other infrastructure. I'd sure as hell hate for bridges to be privatized, especially those which cross state lines (ex: those states that line the Ohio or Mississippi rivers among others).

A mostly-forgotten movie I enjoy is Head Office (http://imdb.com/title/tt0091183/), starring Judge Rheinhold. In it, Rheinhold's character utters a truth we'd do well to remember: "Corporations operate in their own best interest." Of course, that's not to say governments don't do the same, because fer cryin' out loud, it's human nature, but in certain areas, I'd rather the government run things than the private sector.

Qin Shi Huangdi
10-08-2010, 08:42 PM
Evil:



Order: Order needed to maintain prosperity and the well being of citizens.

Whose moral code?

Since government should not impose a religion or morality on people, things that actually physically hurt people such as murder, theft, etc.

Unintentionally Blank
10-08-2010, 08:48 PM
To provide the things the Private Sector cannot or should not provide, either due to an inability to do it profitably, or do it without bias or monopoly.

Working real well, ain't it?

WarmNPrickly
10-08-2010, 09:07 PM
Order needed to maintain prosperity and the well being of citizens.

Leave out the first to words of this sentence and you have a winner.

Der Trihs
10-08-2010, 09:22 PM
I don't think it really has a "primary function" as such; government is a generalist institution, not a specialist one like for example the military. It is there to maintain order, guard against external threats, promote the general welfare and prosperity of its citizens, and act as the implementation of the general collective will of the populace. The latter basically meaning that the purpose of government is in part whatever the people it governs say it is.

The Flying Dutchman
10-08-2010, 10:59 PM
To provide for and protect the common good.

Crafter_Man
10-09-2010, 10:15 AM
The primary function of government is not to "help" me or "give" me things. The primary function of government is to assist in the protection and defense of my individual freedoms & liberties.

Unintentionally Blank
10-09-2010, 11:04 AM
The primary function of government is not to "help" me or "give" me things. The primary function of government is to assist in the protection and defense of my individual freedoms & liberties.

Except for things like, you know, roads. And hurricanes...and education...and the development of things like Nuclear power...

Government can't easily be lumped into one or two things.

panache45
10-09-2010, 12:42 PM
To protect and defend the lives and rights and well-being of its individual citizens.

And yes, I realize how vague that is.

pravnik
10-09-2010, 01:04 PM
To establish justice, secure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. Y'know, like in that song.

An Gadaí
10-09-2010, 01:28 PM
Ask not what the primary function of your government is, but how goverment primarily functions you.

Peremensoe
10-09-2010, 02:10 PM
The primary function of government is not to "help" me or "give" me things. The primary function of government is to assist in the protection and defense of my individual freedoms & liberties.

Except for things like, you know, roads. And hurricanes...and education...and the development of things like Nuclear power...

Government can't easily be lumped into one or two things.

Some people don't agree that government should be providing hurricanes.

Unintentionally Blank
10-09-2010, 06:54 PM
Except for things like, you know, roads. And hurricanes...and education...and the development of things like Nuclear power...

Government can't easily be lumped into one or two things.

Some people don't agree that government should be providing hurricanes.

Ha. Or sending assistance to the folks that have suffered under one?

samclem
10-09-2010, 07:49 PM
What is the primary function of government? I don't mean there can't be any other functions but what should its main purpose and duty be?

First you have to understand that "function" and "purpose" aren't the same thing.

Since you're really asking "What should be the main purpose of government,"(at least, I assume this is what you're asking), this should be a Great Debate. Moved.

samclem Moderator, IMHO.

Grumman
10-09-2010, 08:02 PM
What is the primary function of government? I don't mean there can't be any other functions but what should its main purpose and duty be?
To prevent Person A from inflicting harm on Person B without their consent, and vice versa.

Establishing the greatest good for the greatest number of its citizens.
*cough* (http://boingboing.net/2010/08/11/tom-the-dancing-bug-15.html)

Perciful
10-09-2010, 09:38 PM
The Constitution specifically divided the American Government into three distinct functions, made from three distinct types of ruling principles. Typically in history, you see rule of the masses, the rule of the monarch, and the rule of the intellectual elite. The Founders created a clever role for each kind of governance.

The Constitution places the first and foremost authority with the masses in Congress. It's mentioned first in the Constitution for good reason. This body is the only one allowed to create laws, ratify decisions like treaties, raise & spend money, and approve appointments. It is also the only branch allowed to remove elected officials from office.

The Executive Branch, headed by the President, represents the rule of a single person. The Executive is tasked with enforcing the laws passed by Congress, and making those decisions (like defense of the country) that can't be decided in a timely manner by the Congress. Keep in mind that the Executive Branch is supposed to merely enforce the laws, not interpret them. However, if the President disagrees with Congress in a law, he can veto the bill before it becomes law.

The Judicial Branch, which is the rule of the intellectual elite, determine the application of law. The Supreme Court can also strike down laws that violate the Constitution, or -- depending on your view of the Court's role -- it can strike down unethical and immoral laws that violate human rights.

DanBlather
10-09-2010, 11:42 PM
To reflect the will of the governed. Luckily our system has some hysteresis built into it with the bill of rights and the balance of powers.

Fear Itself
10-09-2010, 11:57 PM
To protect the weak from the strong.

Blaster Master
10-10-2010, 12:15 AM
Seems to me that it's to declare the rights/responsibilities of the governed and to protect/enforce them. In a government leaning toward totalitarianism, it will tend to have fewer rights and more responsibilities for it's citizens, and it will tend to use lots of force, or threat of force, to enforce them. In a government leaning toward libertarianism, it will likely have more rights and fewer responsibilities, but is also likely to do much less to enforce them. A modern democracy will tend to be somewhere in the middle, declaring a number of rights (speech, religion, etc.) and responsibilites (taxes, laws, etc.), and will use some force (imprisonment, fees, etc.).

Nobody
10-10-2010, 05:38 AM
A government should;

Maintain order and stability.
Related to that, set and enforce safety standards.
Help people who cannot help themselves.
Protect people from unnecessary harm.
Allow people to do whatever they want, unless it negatively impacts other people.

Johnny L.A.
10-10-2010, 09:09 AM
Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare.

Bryan Ekers
10-10-2010, 02:07 PM
To establish justice, secure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. Y'know, like in that song.

I'd'a said the function was hooking up words and phrases and clauses, but yours is good, too.

BrainGlutton
10-10-2010, 02:48 PM
The primary function of government is not to "help" me or "give" me things. The primary function of government is to assist in the protection and defense of my individual freedoms & liberties.

Except for things like, you know, roads. And hurricanes...and education...and the development of things like Nuclear power...

Government can't easily be lumped into one or two things.

A lot of conservatives like Crafter_Man are still thinking in terms of the pre-industrial political philosophy of John Locke. Well, so were the Framers. But that dissonance shows an important point: The proper "primary function of government" is not timeless, but varies by the historical circumstances of the society it governs. E.g., the U.S. is a modern scientific-industrial state -- not having public education would be unthinkable if we are to remain competitive in a global economy -- therefore education is a proper primary function regardless of whether it can be fit into a "protection of individual freedoms" paradigm.

sleestak
10-10-2010, 06:11 PM
This is very enlightening thread.

My response is that the function of government should be protection of individual liberty. That, of course, gets messy and complicated in the real world. However I still believe that the government should not exist to provide things to people but to provide the liberty needed so that individuals can create and use those things that they need/want.

In other words, each individual should be responsible for providing for their own life and the government should be responsible for protecting the liberty of each individual so that they can do so.

Slee

Bryan Ekers
10-10-2010, 06:27 PM
Deliver the mail and protect the coast.

Peremensoe
10-10-2010, 06:34 PM
E.g., the U.S. is a modern scientific-industrial state -- not having public education would be unthinkable if we are to remain competitive in a global economy -- therefore education is a proper primary function regardless of whether it can be fit into a "protection of individual freedoms" paradigm.

Why should assuring that we "remain competitive in a global economy" itself be a function of government?

Spoke
10-10-2010, 07:17 PM
E.g., the U.S. is a modern scientific-industrial state -- not having public education would be unthinkable if we are to remain competitive in a global economy -- therefore education is a proper primary function regardless of whether it can be fit into a "protection of individual freedoms" paradigm.

Why should assuring that we "remain competitive in a global economy" itself be a function of government?
I'd say that falls under the heading of "promoting the general welfare" of the nation's citizenry.

Peremensoe
10-10-2010, 08:17 PM
nm

SteveG1
10-10-2010, 08:52 PM
To collect taxes from the peons I am currently refraining from executing so that they can toil in my vineyards to raise money for taxes.

Hail Ming! :D

BrainGlutton
10-10-2010, 08:54 PM
To collect taxes from the peons I am currently refraining from executing so that they can toil in my vineyards to raise money for taxes.

Hail Ming! :D

:mad: Ming shall kneel before Zod!

SteveG1
10-10-2010, 08:57 PM
Ummmm, well then...


Hail Zod!

A.Selene
10-11-2010, 10:49 AM
To maximize both the freedoms and securities of the people it governs.

kanicbird
10-11-2010, 07:12 PM
What is the primary function of government? I don't mean there can't be any other functions but what should its main purpose and duty be?

To me Governments function is to restrict the rights of people by punishment for a people who do not know the ways of Love. It's the devil's alternative to God.

Skald the Rhymer
10-11-2010, 07:33 PM
Hail Ming! :D

:mad: Ming shall kneel before Zod!

Like I wouldn't keep kryptonite bullets around just in case.

sisu
10-11-2010, 08:03 PM
To govern to the laws agreed via a democratic vote, ensure a strong economy and to supply those services that the market cannot or wont provide at a reasonable cost. protection from external parties is a role of government if that is what the populace wishes.

Qin Shi Huangdi
10-11-2010, 09:09 PM
What is the primary function of government? I don't mean there can't be any other functions but what should its main purpose and duty be?

To me Governments function is to restrict the rights of people by punishment for a people who do not know the ways of Love. It's the devil's alternative to God.

Except according to Romans government is instituted by God and agents of the government are His servants (indirectly of course).

Damuri Ajashi
10-11-2010, 09:26 PM
What does the OP consider to be the primary function of government?

To restrain evil and maintain order.

To promote good too.

adhay
10-14-2010, 01:58 PM
According to Madison, the proper function of govt is to protect the property/interests of the "opulent" minority from the depredations of the poor (much larger) majority. That exactly is what the Constitution provides for with enough "democracy" thrown in to make it reasonable with the masses.

It mostly worked fine while there was land/resources to steal from the indigenous Americans and anyone could become rich by moving West. Now, who has a chance but the CEOs and big investors who own the govt? Has the "common man" really ever had anything to say about our foreign and domestic policies?

I think the proper functions of govt should be to protect its citizens from coercion be it economic, physical or moral and assure and facilitate the equitable distribution of the country's resources.

Nobody
10-14-2010, 02:26 PM
I think the proper functions of govt should be to protect its citizens from coercion be it economic, physical or moral and assure and facilitate the equitable distribution of the country's resources.
Having laws and law enforcement is coercion. Taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor is coercion.

adhay
10-14-2010, 03:42 PM
I think the proper functions of govt should be to protect its citizens from coercion be it economic, physical or moral and assure and facilitate the equitable distribution of the country's resources.
Having laws and law enforcement is coercion. Taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor is coercion.How about a 10% flat tax on wealth and property?
Fair enough?

Omar Little
10-14-2010, 04:01 PM
The answer depends on what level of government you are asking about. If it is the Federal government you are inquiring about then Alessan, I believe stated it well.

1. To protect the nation from outside threats.

2. To guarantee the rule of law.


If you are referring to my Homeowners Association, well, my answer will be something entirely different.

Nobody
10-14-2010, 04:03 PM
ETA: Response to adhay.

I'm partial to a flat tax across the board myself, although I've heard it wouldn't be a very good idea.

At any rate the government needs taxes to operate*. The debate is, what should the money collected on taxes be spent on?

I personally think it should be limited to

Education
Medical and emergency services
Law enforcement
Military and intelligence agencies
Infrastructure
Programs to help those who cannot help themselves (I.E. unemployment benefits, disaster relief)
And probably one or two other things I'm forgetting right now.



*I guess Libertarians would probably disagree.

Grumman
10-14-2010, 04:19 PM
At any rate the government needs taxes to operate*.

*I guess Libertarians would probably disagree.
Anarchists would disagree. Libertarians only disagree on how much money the government needs to fulfil its duties.

adhay
10-14-2010, 04:30 PM
ETA: Response to adhay.

I'm partial to a flat tax across the board myself, although I've heard it wouldn't be a very good idea.Applied to income, probably not. Wealth should be taxed across the board at the same rate for all. At any rate the government needs taxes to operate*. The debate is, what should the money collected on taxes be spent on?Your list is a good start. Let the people decide locally and nationally the tax rate and what it's spent on.

adhay
10-14-2010, 04:35 PM
To protect the weak from the strong.Essentially.

Grumman
10-14-2010, 05:19 PM
Applied to income, probably not. Wealth should be taxed across the board at the same rate for all.
Absolutely not. Your method is more difficult to implement, encouraging fraud. This incentive for the government to over-value assets would cause future bubbles of the sort that caused the last recession. It would also destroy the freedom to retire, by constantly leeching away the assets a retiree needs to survive.

In short, your ideas are terrible.

Thudlow Boink
10-14-2010, 05:27 PM
Establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare.This is the first thing I thought of—thanks to the Founding Fathers by way of Schoolhouse Rock.

Also, 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, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

adhay
10-14-2010, 05:45 PM
Applied to income, probably not. Wealth should be taxed across the board at the same rate for all.
Absolutely not. Your method is more difficult to implement, encouraging fraud. This incentive for the government to over-value assets would cause future bubbles of the sort that caused the last recession. It would also destroy the freedom to retire, by constantly leeching away the assets a retiree needs to survive.I believe you describe the system in place. It's what happens when the wealthy own the govt.

In short, your ideas are terrible.:p

Nobody
10-14-2010, 06:33 PM
At any rate the government needs taxes to operate*.

*I guess Libertarians would probably disagree.
Anarchists would disagree. Libertarians only disagree on how much money the government needs to fulfil its duties.
I thought that Libertarians (big L) preferred everything be pretty much privatized (I.E. police forces, fire departments, etc...)

Grumman
10-14-2010, 06:53 PM
I believe you describe the system in place. It's what happens when the wealthy own the govt.
You do not understand the system currently in place, or the system you propose. Under your system a retiree who owned their own $100,000 home and wanted to retain it for even just 15 years (retiring at 70 and living to the age of 85) would need an additional $386,000, just to cover the taxes. That's the equivalent of an 80% income tax rate, and that's before you count the taxes paid while they were still working.

I thought that Libertarians (big L) preferred everything be pretty much privatized (I.E. police forces, fire departments, etc...)
No. Those are the things that shouldn't be privatized, because they are there to stop you inflicting harm on random bystanders without their consent.

adhay
10-14-2010, 07:11 PM
I believe you describe the system in place. It's what happens when the wealthy own the govt.
You do not understand the system currently in place, ...I dissent.

Freedom Is Not Free
10-14-2010, 07:27 PM
To maximize both the freedoms and securities of the people it governs.

"Maximize" made me cringe. Sorry. Maximize, and maybe this was not your intention, invokes a sense that the government is standing over my shoulder. Which is why the Health Care Bill scares me. The government knows better than I do? But the bill itself is not the whole problem, it's how it was passed... (but that is a discussion for another thread I am afraid).

I think the framers got it right the first time and we should not deviate. Life, libery, and the PURSUIT of happiness.

Life = Laws protecting citizens obviously from such things as murder. Enforcement of those laws.

Liberty = No law prohibiting discussion or assembly. Does not mean complete freedom of speech. Inciting violence for example should not be lawful.

Pursuit of happiness = The ability to have oppurtunity. Often misinterpreted as equality. Equality is not a good thing. Oppurtunity is a better word. Civil rights should allow oppurtunity, not ensure equality. We are individuals and equality is impossible.

Simple, but this attitude would solve a lot of problems in government. Take the auto industry. Why did we bail them out? For the economy? Yes, but not entirely accurate. They were fiscally responsible and their failing was not their fault? No. They asked nicely? No. To bail out the Unions? Ah... If the government took this attitude with every industry, just to save jobs (or votes), we will end up back in the Dark Ages. Imagine if the government propped up the gaslight industry, ignoring light bulbs and electricity. Or bailed out the canal system even though railroads made it obsolete. Let the U.S. auto industry die if they cannot handle emerging technology. Someone else will take their place.

adhay
10-14-2010, 08:42 PM
... I think the framers got it right the first time and we should not deviate. Life, libery, and the PURSUIT of happiness.Actually, in his first draft, Jefferson had it, life, liberty and the pursuit of property. :p No kidding.

adhay
10-17-2010, 05:04 PM
Qin?

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