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    « You Are What You Tolerate | Main | Strategies in a Downturn »

    September 30, 2008

    The Purpose of Government

    I often reflect back on my first day of high school civics class. In the first five minutes the teacher wrote on the board "the purpose of government is to provide to its citizens services that they are not capable of providing themselves or are not motivated to provide as individual citizens." Examples he gave were military and various types of infrastructure. This also includes regulation and large scale crisis management. Adam Smith believed that the “invisible hand” of a free market would self regulate. I am generally a proponent of less government, but there are situations where citizens whether they are people or companies when left to their own device will not self regulate themselves. There are also times of crisis that require acts of courage and oversight to get citizens out of the crisis, because they cannot do it themselves. The invisible hand cannot overcome a crisis. The current financial crisis is just that. We can argue over the excesses and lapses of judgment that got us into this situation or we can correct it. I believe it is the government’s primary responsibility to get the financial system "unstuck". This is a crisis that the citizens cannot fix by themselves. At this point it is not productive to argue about how we got here.

    Comments

    Leo

    Attending to the current crisis is important, but not as important as assuring that it will not happen again.

    Our represenatatives, (the represenatatives of the people) have shrunken from this responsibility. Arguably they lack courage.

    During the Great Depression, safe guards were eventually put in place to assure that the crisis of their time would not be repeated.

    Ultimately self "regulation" must be framed by laws. We are a government of law and the reality of the current situation is that few if any of of our leaders has suggested how, by law, we can limit our risk in the future.

    It is no wonder that reasonable people choose not to support the measure as offered most recently.

    Patrick Feely

    John,

    You listened well in your high school civics class. Duringme of financial upheavel and with the rapidly approaching elections it would serve all citizens (including individuals serving in elected capacities) to review the lessons contained in these textbooks and Mr. Smith's best piece of work The Wealth of Nations.

    Our great nation requires and demands as our whole economic system teaters on further demise. I still firmly believe we have the greatest political system in world which ensures freedom of speech, individual freedoms, choice and encourages debate. Unfortunatley, our current system portrays one of partisanship, fingerpointing, political positioning

    Patrick Feely

    John,

    You listened and, more importantly, learned the lessons of your high school civics curriculum. During this time of financial upheaval and with the rapidly approaching National elections it would serve all citizens (including individuals serving as elected officials) to review these civic lessons and the principles Mr. Smith espoused in The Wealth of Nations.

    I still believe we have the greatest political system in the world which ensures choice, freedom of speech, individaul freedoms and opportunity. Unfortunatley, our current political leadership portrays and continues to demonstrate partisanship, political positioning, fingerpointing and territoriality. As our economy teeters on further demise we require and demand our politcal leaders perform the responsibilities they were elected to provide -- informed, clear, collective and decisive leadership.

    We as citizens have an ongoing responsibility to stay informed on issues and exercise our right & obligation to vote our beliefs. Our political leadership has the critical & difficult responsibility of leading this great Nation through the crisis and ensuring it doesn't happen again.

    Anyone can lead in times of prosperity. The true effectiveness and mettle of a leader should be assessed during times of crisis.

    Cathie Duff

    There was a very interesting article in Newsweek last week about the Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin, and their positions as leaders during economic crises. Separated by more than a generation and politics in and outside the family group, they both took decisive leadership roles at a time when bipartisanship was not cosidered a virtue and were willing to stretch outside the office to enact guidelines to repair the economy and improve the business climate in the country without embroiling government in buiness. I agree with Pat that it is every citizen's responsibility to be informed and require leaders to disseminate information. It should be an interesting winter.

    mike Duff

    Hi John,
    I talking about the upper 1.5%, not the upper 10 to the lower 5% and it's ok with me to put the this republic back in the middle class "A republic is a state or country that is not led by a monarchy State"

    John Adams defined a constitutional republic as "a government of laws, and not of men."Also, the power of government officials is checked by allowing no single individual to hold execcutive, legislative and judicial powers. Instead these powers are separated into distinct branches that serve as a check and balance on each other. A constitutional republic is designed so that "no person or group can rise to absolute power."

    I do want a change from the last 8 years, I do not want the Congress and the Senate to to be a Democratic majority I do believe in checks and balances.

    Independit Duff

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