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Benjamin Franklin Quote

Those who live under arbitrary power do...approve of liberty, and wish for it; they almost despair of recovering it...Hence it is a common observation...that our cause is the cause of mankind, and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own. It is a glorious task assigned us by Providence; which has, I trust, given us spirit and virtue equal to it, and will at last crown it with success.

ideas > What is the role of government?

What is the role of government?
What should the government do? What should the role of government be in the lives of the citizens that it serves? What is the proper role of government? These are some of the questions that I was thinking about as I was reading and memorizing the Declaration of Independence while riding into work this morning. And then it hit me. To my mind came the perfect example that answered all these questions. Iíve learned recently that when I have ideas, I must write them down. Here is the example that came into my mind.

Letís assume that life is like a game of basketball. Basketball has a set of rules that each team must follow. Each team member knows the rules before playing the game. The referee is the one who enforces the rules. To put it simply, the players of the game are you and I as individuals. The referee is government. Governmentís job is to enforce the rules of the game. That is it. The game should be decided by the players, not by the referee. The focus and spotlight are on the players. Now letís assume that the referee decides that one player is too short, too fat, too slow, or whatever and decides to give that player an advantage by calling more ticky-tack fouls on players who are guarding him. He might even call phantom fouls. What will happen to the game? The other players will become very frustrated. The players will no longer be deciding the outcome of the game. A few of the players will voice their frustrations and be kicked out. The fans will not enjoy the game as much. Eventually, the other players will just give up and the allow the player who is getting the calls to either score uninhibited or they will hurt him because the game is no longer being called by the rules. When the referee no longer enforces the rules, but actively decides the outcome, he has stepped beyond his bounds. The same goes for government. Governmentís role is not to actively determine who wins or loses, but to only enforce the rules. If the government determines actively who wins or loses, it makes the game less exciting, frustrates most of the other participants, and makes it so the other players donít know what they can or canít do.

This example to me explains perfectly the proper role of government. Its role is to only enforce the laws, not actively determine the winners and losers of this game of life. To step beyond this role only leads to confusion, frustration, anger, and resentment for the majority of the players of the game.
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