29 November 2013

Effective Government, not Anti-Government

I often hear people claim that business can do everything better than government can. Without qualifications, this bothers me for a very important reason: if business can do everything better, why not have businesses be governments, that is, make government privately managed?
Under feudal governments, for example, the military belonged to the nobility, not to the nation as a whole. Military obligations existed among the peasantry to their noble overlord, who in turn owed military obligation to his overlord. As such, the military was privately managed, though few had standing armies.

Rather than support a modern form of corporate feudalism, why not support the free market? Capitalism, or the free market, is based on both private ownership and competition. For competition to be maintained, a third part enforcer of the law is needed to be an "umpire" between parties. This third party must have the means to enforce the law, which means it must have powers not possessed by private businesses. In other words, this third party cannot be a business itself or be equal to a business because it must have sole possession of sovereign power such private companies do not possess. What do we call this third party enforcer of the law? Government.

What is the best form of government for a civil society? After reading many great works of political theory, I conclude The Federalist Papers is one of the best sources of wisdom about creating a government, at least in the American context. Ironically, the purpose of The Federalist Papers was not to decrease the power of government (which at that time in the United States was the Articles of Confederation), but to increase the power of government in order for it to be effective, while at the same time not increasing it so much that it becomes oppressive to the natural liberties of the people. The type of government recommended is the US Constitution.

Why is this ironic? Because many of the people I hear praising private businesses and taking anti-government stances sound more like the Anti-Federalists than they do the Federalists. This is ironic because business was difficult to conduct under the Articles due to it lacking a strong central government that issued common currency, provided national security, and enforced common laws regulating commerce, etc.

The national debate should be about the role of government in civil society, not a business v. government debate. This debate should concern what governments must do in a civil society, what governments can do, and what governments should not do. Anti-government or pro-business-only attitudes do little to further the debate but instead antagonize those in opposing camps. This leads to the lack of progress we currently are seeing in public debate. Let's focus on what really matters. It is time all sides acknowledge the need for a strong, effective government in American civil society, as did the authors of The Federalist Papers.