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100 ?’s for Gov’t: Who is government against?

March 9, 2013

This is Question 7 from “100 Questions for Government” series

If you’re conspiracy theorist, this question offers all sorts of opportunities to explore. However, if we start with the premise that government is supposed to serve the people, it’s reasonable to conclude it is against those who are enemies of the people. While we continue to have nation states[1], those adversaries could include other countries or foreign organizations created to oppose our interests (Al-Qaeda would be an example).

Historically, the United States has a proud history of playing well with others, and a strong group of partner nations who have a relatively similar perspective on the world. While the congeniality of these relationships can ebb and flow with particular issues or conflicts, it seems fair to suggest a preparedness to work with other nations towards mutual goals is an intelligent approach and role for any self-respecting administration. Throw-in the relative success of a less diplomatic nation like North Korea, and the “us against the world” mentality doesn’t have great track record.

If dealing with entities based outside a nation’s shores is fraught with grey areas, conflicts of interest and the need for compromise, working out who’s the enemy within your own borders is even more complex. Every country has to decide what they believe in as a collective and create a system that protects what they hold most dear. As far as I can tell, the US has declared itself as the beacon of:

  1. Democracy
  2. Capitalism
  3. Individual rights
  4. Legal Immigration
  5. Law and Order

If this is a reasonable assessment of the basics of the social contract Americans have with their government, its leadership should probably be at odds with any individual, organization or entity that inhibits or opposes those goals, particularly within the borders of the US. Unfortunately, the five “values” mentioned above don’t interact perfectly and can often be in conflict. For example, pure capitalism might impinge on individual rights or some aspects of law and order. Add the implicit impact of having a government in the first place (i.e. it may get in the way of one or all of the goals) and who’s the enemy become even murkier.

For the purpose of this question, we’ll suspend any arguments about the government being its own worst enemy and assume it operates the way it’s supposed to. With the five “values” previously identified, our rulers should be looking for ways to protect us from:

  1. Domestic terrorists
  2. People who want to subvert the democratic process
  3. Businesses that illegally take advantage of individuals (or is it individuals who take advantage of businesses?)
  4. Criminals
  5. Socialists, communists or any other entity not committed to the joys of free trade

Okay, I may have got a little carried away towards the end, but the premise remains the same – whatever country you’re in, there is genuine expectation that your leaders will aim to do the right thing by you. In addition, anyone or anything working against your country’s common values is your nation’s opponent to some degree.

Initial Opinion:

A government should protect the values of its citizens in the international arena and domestically. This could be as “simple” as direct confrontation with a terrorist group or as complex as working out whether a particular financial derivative breaks the law.

The key touchstone for assessing who (or what) the administration is against is perpetually returning to “for the people”. While intrinsic values like honesty, justice and the greater good may occasionally leave some of the people in harm’s way, “for the people” should be the reference point for any retributive actions.

[1] See “100 Questions for the Future” for our thoughts on this

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