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100 Qs for Govt: Do we really need government?

March 2, 2013

This is Question 2 from the “100 Questions (that may be politically incorrect) for Government” series.

Do we really need government?

Obviously, if the answer to this question ends up being “No”, it’s going to be a challenge to create another ninety-eight questions about a topic of no importance. The good news, from the book’s perspective at least, is the argument for government is relatively straightforward when you consider its four key roles:

a)     Slay the dragon (defend your citizens)
b)    Beacon of justice (hold all to the highest standards)
c)     Foundation of greatness (facilitate your citizens’ achievement)
d)    Protect the unprotected (help those who can’t help themselves)

If any of these services seem valuable to you, there’s a decent chance you can see the merits of some form of collective control mechanism.

While I’m certain there’s the occasional sub-machine gun owner who’s prepared to go it alone, I need my government to defend me. You could argue it’s because I’m a wimp, physically unimposing, or just because I’m highly unlikely to successfully resist any multiple person force – all would be correct.

If the government didn’t exist, the onus for my defense would be entirely my own. This doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons, primarily because I’m:

  1. A wimp (see previous admission)
  2. Highly unlikely to successfully resist any multiple person force (armed or unarmed)
  3. Unable to afford or operate a tank
  4. Open to flying a Harrier Jump Jet (if Arnold Schwarzenegger can do it, surely I can too?), but a bit short on flying time
  5. Out of naval vessels after selling my kayak

Also, recognizing the absence of government would probably result in me calling my three friends and setting up the local resistance force, why not subscribe to an organized, trained force rather than a disorganized rabble?

Outrageous as it might seem, I’m not really confident in my ability to enforce or get justice without an independent arbiter (whether your or my government achieves this is another question altogether). If there’s no legal system backed by an organized enforcement process, breaking the law or committing injustices becomes significantly more attractive to individuals with less qualms than myself – as an affirmed lightweight, this seems an exceedingly unpromising situation.

While I may be kidding myself, and recognizing there will be some people who are more adept at self-defense, I suspect most people will be supportive of my views on the first two roles of government – the last two are where the entertainment begins.

In the red corner (the red corner is called “red” because it is red, no political affiliation is implied or should be construed), we have those people who feel the public sector has no role to play in facilitating the greatness of its citizens. These individuals feel:

a)     Roads are over-rated
b)    Airlines should be responsible for their own safety standards
c)     Education is for those who can afford it
d)    All health care can be managed fairly and equitably by profit oriented corporations
e)     The aftermath of major natural disasters can be adequately handled by the collective efforts of any survivors
f)      A barter system can be just effective as a single currency
g)     Property rights can be effectively maintained through the “honor system”
h)    International relations should be conducted by each individual

If none of these concepts seem unreasonable to you, you are firmly in the red corner and seem very (perhaps overly unless you are Carlos Slim, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet) confident of your ability to “go it alone”.

In the blue corner, we have those persons who are convinced their administration should assist them every step of the way. Their expectations are simple:

a)     A subsidized college education for anyone who wants it
b)    Free universal health care
c)     Perpetual unemployment benefits for the unemployed, regardless of the reason, effort or motivation given
d)    Perpetual disability benefits regardless of the cause, effort or associated motivation
e)     Everyone gets the chance to go on “Dancing with the Stars” – no exceptions
f)      Every child shall have two quality parents provided to them
g)     These parents shall be supervised by two other professional parents to ensure the job is done correctly
h)    No child shall be allowed to cry or have a bad experience for more than ten minutes a day or a cumulative hour in any one week

If none of these concepts seem unreasonable to you, you are firmly in the blue corner and may be overly reliant on help that may never come.

If you’re not in the red corner, you can see some role for government in facilitating the success of its citizens. If you’re not in the blue corner you might agree there is a limit to how involved any administration should get in the day to day activities of its population. If you’re not in either corner, you may be in the purple open space – who knows?

While defining the unprotected may be an exercise in its own right, I feel confident of two things:

  1. If the government doesn’t protect the unprotected, there’s no guarantee anyone else will
  2. “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” (attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, amongst others).


Government may be messy, poorly executed, ridiculously political and exceedingly frustrating, but it is necessary for our society to function and prosper. The alternatives we have, and the areas we can improve, are for us to explore and resolve.


  1. sberoza permalink
    August 30, 2011 8:38 pm

    As a political science instructor, I appreciate you supporting and giving answers to why we need a government! I may pose this same question to my students and see what kind of answers they can come up with.

    One small grammar note (sorry…I grew up with a journalist as a mother and it’s hard to turn it off)…In the sentence, “f) A barter system can be just effective as a single currency” I think you are missing an “as” between “just” and “effective.”

    • Justin permalink
      August 31, 2011 6:18 am

      Thanks for the comments and grammar note – all are appreciated (and grammar sanity has been returned! 🙂 Thanks!

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