LaVarr Webb asks Utah Policy readers if they think government is always a necessary evil or if it can be a force for good. Since my answer to that question goes directly to the heart of what my blog is about I thought I’d share my answer here.
Government is not always necessary (an isolated group of people who were respectful of each other would not need any government – if it were possible to be really isolated anymore), and it is certainly not always evil. Can it be a force for good? The answer depends on what you mean by “force.” It is not possible to force people to be good so when government is being used to force people to act a certain way then you can be sure that it is not good.
Government, like any tool, is good so long as it is being used for its proper purpose. The purpose of government is to protect individual rights. Once people start using government as a force to mandate the will of the majority on the minority, or even the will of the minority on the majority, then government is not good. Unfortunately that is how too many people view government today, as a force to promote their own view on society as a whole.
No matter how well intentioned (and most of them are well intentioned) an activist is in their efforts to make the world better through some government action, they are using the tool of government incorrectly and there will be undesirable consequences.
Take the example of racism. Government cannot be used as a force to make people be not racist. It can be used to force students of different skin colors to attend the same school building, but that is not the underlying problem. The underlying problem can only be solved by using a different tool.
Racism is not right or good, but it is the right of each individual to be racially fair-minded or racially biased. Where racism is concerned, the proper place of government is to ensure that appropriate action is taken when one person tramples the rights of another. In fact, the government need not even consider whether racism was the cause of that infringement of rights, only that the rights were infringed and what the appropriate response is towards the person or persons who did the infringing.