Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Should the government do __?__

We obviously have a government, many levels of government actually.  But what should it be doing?  Is it doing too much?  Easy way to tell, according to Penn Jillette.  Jilllette wrote a great article in Newsweek recently, well worth considering.
"Penn Jillette: How I Became a Libertarian"

 Jillette's description of how he became a libertarian is instructive.
I really come to it [libertarianism] from a purely hippie point of view. I have always been a peacenik, and in the '80s I met a man named Tim Jenison. I was then just kind of your standard liberal, and Tim was libertarian.

I started giving all the arguments for why the government had to be more powerful, and Tim said a really simple sentence to me. He said, “Do you think it’s OK to punish people who’ve done nothing wrong?” And I said “No”—even though I felt somewhere in my heart that it was a trick question. And then he said, “Why is it OK to reward people who’ve done nothing right?”

He said, “Can’t you see that you can’t reward without punishing? They’re the same thing.” And that shut me up for a little while.
Let's make sure you understand that, my seven* readers.  If you reward people who don't deserve it, by definition you are also punishing people who have done nothing wrong, because they are not being given the same reward.  Flip side of the same coin.

So what should government do, and not do?

Ultimately the best definition of government is that it is an organization that has a (legitimate, in some people's opinion) monopoly on the use of force.  With that in mind, it is easy to understand Jillette's guideline on what government should, and should not, be doing.  The simple rule is this: Unless you, personally, would be willing to wield a gun to tell someone else what they should and shouldn't do, then you shouldn't ask someone else to do it for you.

Again, Jillette's friend challenged him.
Then Tim started saying, “You know, you’re so against force.  [many examples given]  You are insanely peacenik in terms of the way you see war, what the country should do. Why do you think it’s so OK for the government to use force to get things done that you think are good ideas?”
To which Jillette eloquently stated (pulling out a couple key paragraphs):
I started thinking that one really good definition of government is that government is supposed to have a monopoly on force. The government is the guys with the guns, and we are the people who tell the government what they can do. So in my morality, I shouldn’t be able to tell anyone to do something with a gun that I wouldn’t do myself.
And that is, in a nutshell, my entire view of politics: that I have to look over what people want the government to do and say “If I were given all the power, would I use a gun to accomplish what they want to accomplish?”

But I do know that if this is a government by the people, and I’m one of the people, and the government is the one with guns—I know that it is immoral for me to use the government to use force, to use guns, to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. And that’s how I became a libertarian.

I'm going to repeat the key sentence, and close with it:
 I shouldn’t be able to tell anyone to do something with a gun that I wouldn’t do myself.

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