What Can Government Do For You?

In the wake of the financial crisis, there has been much ballyhooing about what the government will do to fix the aching economy. From bailouts to stimuli to Barack Obama personally filling the gas tank of Peggy Johnson, everyone is trying to reach their hands into the government coffers, hoping to pull out as many greenbacks as they can before seeing the inevitable bottom of the barrel. But there is an obvious fact that the moochers, CEOs and elected officials amongst us are missing: by its very nature, government is unable to do anything. Now, I don’t write this statement as a message of incompetence on the part of our representatives. I can call them incompetent without talking about government. The point I am making is that government is nothing more than a nebulous force which compels people through the actions of its agents. These agents can be elected or unelected, and form a hierarchy through which government effectively “acts.”

All agents, elected or unelected, are temporally constrained, either through limits on terms or limits on life. In the case of unelected agents, such as Kings and dictators, governments are typically formed around the power of this one person. These governments prove to be tenuous at best, since the singular leader is all that holds it together. The founding fathers despised such form of government, and believed that in the end it would serve only to suppress the rights those living under its umbrella.

For that reason, the founding fathers sought to create a less transient form of government, predicated on both individual rights and responsibilities. They recognized, to quote a wise man: that which governs least governs best. They recognized that for government to last, it must be based on the will of the people and dedicated to minimal interference in their lives.

Government, most specifically our government, is by its very nature powerless.

It is for this reason that the bailouts and economic stimulus package have failed to effect any meaningful change in the economy. Our elected officials and unelected bureaucratic officials have thrown a great deal of money at banks and taxpayers, along with an urgent plea for them to spend it. But the government cannot actually do anything to improve the economy. It is up to those who create and use wealth to actually do something. Government could attach strings to the money it gives away, in the form of regulations enforced by its agents, but in the end it is still powerless to actually enact any solutions to problems beyond writing checks.

It is up to the people, being fully responsible and aware of their rights, to do something to help the country. It is this model which has brought us prosperity throughout our long history. These notions have kept us from fully devolving into a welfare nanny state where incapable governments overreach and believe themselves capable of doing something.