As the health care debate unfolds, and the teabaggers protest/disrupt/make asses of themselves at town hall meetings across America, I’m reminded of one of the most important questions the Founding Fathers had to deal with when they were drafting the Constitution.
What is the purpose of government?
It isn’t often that a nation gets the opportunity to start from scratch like we did (unless you’re France). We got to ask ourselves in 1788 the most fundamental question a society can ask: What is it that we want our government to do for us?
The FFs had plenty of information to work with: the Greek and Roman philosophical tradition, the various examples of history, and, most recently, the English Revolution and the responses to that revolution from the Enlightenment philosophers. The FFs were, however, dealing with a rather unique set of circumstances. They had, after all, just gotten out from under the thumb of what they perceived to be an oppressive government. That definitely colored their perception of what a “good government” would look like.
All things considered, I think they did pretty well. But I do think it’s fair to ask the question again now and then. In a modern world, with modern issues, has the answer to that question changed at all? Is what we want out of our government different from what the FFs wanted? And more specifically, what does “limited government” really mean any more? Have we strayed too far from the ideals of our founders, or have we not strayed enough?
As always, I have my own thoughts on these questions, but I’d like to hear what you all have to say.