What does government do?


What may be the stupidest question I’ve ever asked, I asked yesterday while enjoying a pleasant meal with friends: “Just what, exactly, does the government do?” It must not have been that stupid a question because the only reply I got was, “Well, they fix the roads, maintain our, you know, infrastructure.” Ironically, no one thought of anything more, so the conversation quickly moved on to something else entirely.
So, on to the trusted source of all information, Wikipedia. It’s definition of government is this:
…government is composed of a specialized and privileged body of individuals, who monopolize political decision-making, and are separated by status and organization from the population as a whole. Their function is to enforce existing laws, legislate new ones, and arbitrate conflicts via their monopoly on violence.
That’s what I thought. It’s a spoiled bunch of privileged brats who are too good for the rest of us to play in our sandbox that is our day-to-day life. And, by the way, they have the monopoly on violence. With a definition of “government” like that, it’s no wonder that some throw their hat in with anarchists.

No, I am not an anarchist, nor am I anti government. At least, I don’t think I am. Still, I would like to know just what our government does.

The Constitution of the United States begins with a thesis that defines the purpose of our government:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Vague, isn’t it? Scanning down through the pages, I see that it outlines the step-by-step rules of Congress’ membership and money, taxes, citizenship, Army, Navy, militia to squash domestic uprisings, and surprisingly, gives creators exclusive rights to their creations.

No answer to my question of what, exactly, the government does. Well, no answer to be had besides taxing us poor sods and spanking our patties should we misbehave. But, at least, what we create is our own.

In my cynicism, I tend to think of the laws, the government, the status quo as a means of keeping the general population within the geophysical borders while letting the elite, spoiled, privileged brats wander unfettered. Pare off the politically correct words and what you have is a gigantic pasture full of ready slaves. Yes, it’s cynical. But is it true? I have a vote, the right to throw my voice in with the gazillion others with the same right to vote, but we are limited to a small hand full of spoiled brats that dress in blue or red to choose from. Still, there’s no answer to my question of what government actually does besides keeping little ol’ me enslaved.

I scan the news headlines every day in an effort to get a handle on what’s going on Out There, outside my door, and how it might affect my country, state, city and neighborhood. It’s a puzzle of meaning: If I understand how it all works, I can contribute to the best of my ability.

For the last week, the uprising and overthrow of the Egyptian government has dominated. How does that affect me? Nothing explicitly comes in the form of information, but gas prices have shot through the roof again. (It was the sudden hike in gas prices back in 2008 that started the so-called recession and now it’s happening again. It’s funny that gas companies have posted record profits through it all.) Egypt pulls our spoiled brats’ strings, and so it starts again. In order for me to get to work to make money, I will have to eat a lot less since food prices go through the roof too. Hopefully, I won’t starve to death in the process of keeping gas in my car. Zoom back out again, and oil once again brings the United States to its knees. Is it political? No, it’s just plain greed. Where is the government in all this ruckus?

It’s all a game of Connect The Dots, isn’t it? It seems futile. I must not have found all the dots because it all doesn’t make sense to me. Still, on the endless quest for meaning, my search continues. I’m past the point of burying my head in the sand.

So, do you know? What, exactly, does the government do?
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