What is the Purpose of Government??

This weekend, I got into a philosophical debate with my conservative neighbor, Robert. Which yielded interesting results. At the center of our debate was the purpose of government. What is it’s role in society? How has government contributed to follies of the American culture and economy? As you may imagine how interesting  a government conversation with a blind, black, born again Christian conservative may be. Here are some of the poignant points that came out of our conversation. I also will be throwing in a couple quotes by a few dead guys most would consider to be smarter than the average bear.
Because I am lover of ideas and slightly masochistic, I asked Robert what is the purpose of government? He answered it was God’s will. Okay, that didn’t really give me much to go on, but during my days at UW-Milwaukee I remember reading St. Thomas Aquinas answer on this subject:
” Man too has an end towards which all the actions of his life are directed, since all intelligent beings act an end. Yet the diversity of men’s and activities means that men proceed to their objectives in different ways. Therefore man needs someone to direct him towards his end.”
                                                                                           ~ St. Thomas Aquinas
The basic argument surrounds around the fact intelligent beings have their own interest at mind and we need government to lead humanity in the same direction. Awesome. 
I pressed Robert for more information. I then asked him “What was government’s role in society?” Robert then gave me the standard republican talking point about government should get out of the private sector way. He believe that through the private sector, we can provide education, health care and possibly road maintenance. This was God’s way, believed Robert. Let’s see what St. Thomas Aquinas said:
“Private concerns divide the community, while common concerns unite it. Those differences exist for different reasons. Therefore besides what moves each person to his own private good there must be something that moves everyone to the common good of the many”
                                                                                  ~St. Thomas Aquinas
 For St. Thomas Aquinas, government has a responsibility for the common good. It is not always in the best interest of private individuals to work in the best interests of everyone. That can be extrapolated towards individuals involved in trying to privatize education and how it is in the best interest of insurance companies not to pay claims in order to maximize profits. Government is the tool of the common good. Boom.
 I will continue with this conversation on the next blog.

2 thoughts on “What is the Purpose of Government??

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