04 Jul

#11 What is the Proper Role of Government?

In this episode we ask “What is the proper role of government?” We consider three broad possible answers: “None”, “Specific & Limited” and “All-Encompassing”, the arguments for and against each of them and what answer the American founders gave us. We mentioned Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke , the Founding Fathers , and quote extensively from Frédéric Bastiat.


We referenced this famous text from James Madison in Federalist #51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

For the Catholic Church’s view of the necessity of government, see paragraph 1898, for her view of the necessity of private property see paragraph 2211.

We mentioned Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of “the noble savage”.

We mentioned Franklin’s reply to an eager American at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. See here for a historical note on this and here for more context relating to democracy.

We mention John Locke’s influential phrase “life, liberty, and property.”

All the text quoted from Frédéric Bastiat in this episode are from “Economic Harmonies” and “Selected Essays on Political Economy”. You can find the entire text of the quotes used by searching on this page for the following text:

“However, the founder of a nation must set a goal for himself”
“Rousseau was convinced that isolation was man’s natural state”

And searching this page for the following text:

“Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where”
“People not only want the law to be just; they also want it to be philanthropic”
“But, I repeat, these two functions of the law contradict each other”
“Do not forget that the law is force, and that, consequently, the domain of”
“When law and force confine a man within the bounds of justice”
“But when the law, by the intervention of its necessary agent, force”
“Socialism, like the ancient political ideology from which it emanates”

You can find Congressman Ron Paul’s speech “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” here, which we quoted the following from:

“The nature of a republic and the current status of our own are of little concern to the American people in general. Yet there is a small minority, ignored by political, academic, and media personnel, who do spend time thinking about the importance of what the proper role for government should be. The comparison of today’s government to the one established by our Constitution is a subject of deep discussion for those who concern themselves with the future and look beyond the fall election. The benefits we enjoy are a result of the Constitution our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to write. However, understanding the principles that were used to establish our nation is crucial to its preservation and something we cannot neglect.”