A Model for determining the Purpose of Governemnt

What is government?  Why are they formed?  What should the limits of government be? These are questions that run through my head often as I develop inside myself a political philosophy.  Why? So that I can compete in the great debate of ideas and so I can help share why I think my ideas are sound (I say my ideas as though they have never been thought before, but I am not that naive).  

I am going to share how I determine the roleof government.  It isn't something I've perfected, but maybe you can add your two cents in the comments.  

I start with 4 families who live on 4 plots of land with room for a road between them.  They live on the corners of an intersection of two crossing paths.  From there I think...what would cause these families feel the need to form a government.  

Try it yourself...allow that community to grow.  What are the basics needs that will bring the community together to see to common needs?   The first thing I think of is the two roads.  What about resolution to commerce disputes between the families? What about domestic disputes as the families intermarry? What about the rights of the four original families and their offspring vs. other families that seek to move in or who simply seek to do commerce with the four families?  

I start here because it simplifies things for me.  I put in different variables to see if they fit.  Stop lights...that might make sense if the intersection were to get busy.  Marriage...what if you had one man decide that the children he bore with a woman were not his (clearly they are his as he lived with the woman)?  What is the woman is unable to support herself and the kids?  What happens when the townsfolk are called upon to take care of this woman?  I guess that they wouldn't be to happy with that idea knowing that she had a mate that should be supporting her.  Maybe they create the institution of marriage as a way to bind that man legally to his family and assure that he will be responsible for them despite leaving the family home. Now, I'm not say that that is what happened...this is just my way of coming up with possible reasons for political and legal traditions we have today.  

I imagine these four families want to live in peace and freedom.  They only create government to take care of those things that no one family can deal with which I suspect is a government that starts out as a mere family council.  

I'm going to stop the example there.  But as you think about the role of government.  I suggest you use something similar to my model.  I sometimes like to use a town in the Old West for variety and because those towns sprang up just as organically as my four family example.  

Here is a modern example I have been contemplating recently.  The city where I live seems to have a lot of toll roads.  I have a problem with this.  Toll roads come about when government officials tell us that there isn't enough money to keep up the roads.  But using my example above, I think isn't building roads one of the essential purpose of government?  Where does the money go if it is not there for purpose number one (or at lease one of the top 10 reasons for government) of government?  

How about this?  Is it the government's role to start or own a business?  How does that fit into the model?  Why would those families have a need of a government owned business?  I'm not making any conclusions here.  I'm just running these things through my mind.  I go back to this model constantly when deciding whether any particular policy is the role of government.    

Another topic would be entitlement programs. How might the families feel about taking care of one of the four families?  Short term...long term.  What about paying for the education of the children of that one family AND the education of their own.  What if that one family did not contribute anything in the common fund that was used to keep up the roads and the other services of the government? 

It is a work in process for me...just thought I'd share.  I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts.


  1. Building roads!!? The reason why building roads falls to the public is because there is no real efficient mechanism to collect payment for use of the service of driving on the road. The best way to do this is to have people pay taxes for driving. So when we fill up our car, in theory we are also paying for the roads. When we pay a toll road, we are having double taxation.

    If we could make all roads toll roads, I wouldn't be against it as long as they did away with all gasoline taxes.

    On another level, I can justify toll roads in the case that they give us a better highway than our taxes have paid for. But that highway better be pothole and traffic free. In Dallas they have a tollroad, that has just as much traffic as the freeway and all of the bumps too.

    The real question is at what level should we pay for those roads... at the local, state or federal level. I find no prevailing wisdom for not having it at the local level. Having it at the federal level has given us an interstate highway in Hawaii.


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