I though now is a good time to share what I believe the ideal government is. By doing so, I’m allowing my ideas to be criticized. Of course, I reserve the right to change my ideas over time.
The purpose of government is simply to serve the people by protecting their rights. I won’t discuss here how we can keep the government on the right track (that’s a much larger discussion), but what a government that protected the people’s rights would look like.
First, we need to discuss what rights are and are not. Rights enable people to do things that they can do independent of others. Thus, something like the “right to receive health care for free” isn’t a right at all (since it obviously means someone will have to do without to supply the person with health care), while something like “the right to contract for medical services with a willing partner” is.
The first order of business for a government is government itself. A good government will have a sound and obvious structure. A good government will operate openly and deliberately (as far as it is reasonable), with plenty of input and feedback from the people. Thus, a good government is approachable and reacts to the desires of the people to some degree.
The second order of business for a government is security. A good government provides security for its people, from aggressors within and without.
For foreign aggressors, a good government has a sound system for waging war. During times of war, the entire nation is dedicated to fighting and completely obliterating the threat. During times of peace, warfare is a thought at the back of everyone’s minds, and the good government will free its people from any war fighting but be preparing for inevitable war. Think of it like your body. You are either sick with fever, thus completely engaged in fighting the infection, or you are healthy without only a little thought to potential diseases and threats.
On that subject, a good government inspires mortal terror in all who might want to wage war with the nation it protects. Nations who have bad intentions will think carefully before engaging in warfare. Those foolish enough to do so are freed from responsibility for such future decisions by death.
Of course, a good government is never the aggressor in a conflict. That is, in all cases, it prefers peace and open and free trade over war and conflict, and it will bend over backwards to negotiate such a peace. However, once it is obvious that the other power is belligerent and unwilling to bend, then we prepare for the inevitable war.
Internally, the good government provides a way for the people to secure themselves. A police force is hardly necessary, and in fact, encourages the people to take little responsibility for their own security. It is impossible to impose order on any people, including our own. Rather, we should give everyone the tools they need to govern themselves.
When conflicts arise, a good government encourages resolution first by negotiation, then by the legal system. Those rare cases that are brought before the courts are tried by a jury of the peers as far as it is reasonable. Frivolous suits are dismissed altogether. Those who work in the legal system should not profit much by it. Those who try to profit through legalities should be held accountable by the juries, who in all cases may override the law as necessary for a good conscience.
In cases where life or property is threatened, the people should be empowered to protect themselves and their neighbors, free to assemble in militias which should be required to be in good order. These militias composed of people who actually live in the area should be strong enough to expel any threat that any gang of bandits may pose.
That should satisfy security. Once the nation is secure from physical violence, then the question is economics. Economics is the pursuit of maximizing happiness. Such maximization cannot occur if the people are not free to act in their best self-interests.
Of course, those who put a premium on material wealth are free to do so, but should they prize material wealth above virtue, then we would have nothing but a nation of thieves. As such, the people need to be held to a higher standard than material success. This is why most nations over history have always had a vested interest in unifying the church and state.
However, modern philosophy and observation shows us that this need not be the case. A government can exist as an entity separate from the church, and indeed, both benefit by doing so. On the one hand, government can set the bare minimum standards of behavior, and standardize other important items that need standardization. The church, on the other hand, is free, unthethered to the state, to preach whatever morality it feels is imperative.
Thus, the good government divorces itself from the church, while legislating only the most basic standards of behavior.
Among these basic standards are two important issues: life and property. Among life, the issue of how people are brought into the world and how people may leave it. On that note, the state has a duty to define the basic structures of society, the family, and has a duty to ensure that everyone born into the world is born in the best conditions possible, namely to a loving mother and father. This is why governments, I believe, should legislate the family structure and should legislate that sexual relations only belong between married men and women. What to do with those children, innocent yet born into unmarried couples, is a matter for the church to handle as it sees fit. Hopefully, the church can inspire enough people to open their homes to adoption.
Among property, the issue of who owns what, how property is transferred, and how to resolve property disputes is of utmost concern. There is another issue: who is responsible for what damage and to what extent. From time to time, cases may arise where the general system isn’t working. For instance, a polluter may be causing pennies worth of damage to hundreds of millions of people, and having those people sue for their damages is simply not reasonable. In these cases, the state may step in and legislate a tax or penalty for bad economic behavior, distributing the benefit or simply repurposing it for the general welfare.
What to do with the poor, sick, and disadvantaged? The state cannot survive long if it has a policy of taking from one for the benefit of another. Instead, the church must be completely entrusted with this question. They solicit economic goods and services in the name of charity, and manage the distribution of such resources so as to maximize the benefit.
That, in summary, is all that a good government needs to do. Note that I haven’t discussed whether the good government is democratic, a republic, or a monarchy. In the end, if the effect is the same, it doesn’t really matter. However, we know from sad experience that different forms of government become corrupted in different ways at different rates. And so the majority of our discussion about governments in America concerns how to stifle the corruption and permit a rebirth of government through peaceful revolutions. We rarely take the time to think about what a good government looks like.