Recently we considered a series of questions (see UNSOLVED MYSTERIES: QUESTION 3). We took the same question, and we phrased it four ways. That is, we came up with a version of the question “designed” by Conservative Republicans to challenge the assumptions of a Liberal Democrat, another “designed” by Liberal Democrats to challenge a Conservative Republican, and two more “designed” by “Moderates” to make certain that they are getting the best deal. Those last two questions challenged the assumption that being a “Moderate” necessarily means that we are somehow more wise and more noble because of our “moderation.”
Here I would like to throw up a question that challenges everyone’s assumptions.
What sort of government is sustainable?
These days when we someone uses the word “sustainable” we usually think of environmental sustainability. That is, we don’t want the ecology of our environment to suffer under a greater load of pollutants than it can sustain. So, instead of dumping overwhelming quantities of industrial waste products directly into our environment, we try to come up with industrial practices that involve treating wastes in order to largely mitigate their toxicity or industrial practices that involve recycling both toxic waste products and finished products that are worn out.
We call effective waste treatment and recycling practices “sustainable,” but the word “sustainable” has been around for a while.
sustainable (adj.)1610s, “bearable,” from sustain + -able. Attested from 1845 in the sense “defensible;” from 1965 with the meaning “capable of being continued at a certain level.” Sustainable growth is recorded from 1965. Related: Sustainably.
Given the older meaning of the word “sustainable,” it is rather obvious why environmentalists adopted the word as their own. Nevertheless, we don’t want to forget the older meaning. Otherwise, the newer meaning will lose its proper context. We want what we do to be “sustainable” for the sake of people, not the environment.
So, what sort of government is sustainable? What are some of the questions we need to consider before we can properly answer that question?
What is the purpose of government?
Is the Preamble to the Constitution correct?
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript
What about these purposes?
- Equalize the distribution of resources.
- Perfect the People so as to make them better citizens.
- Deliver essential services.
- Provide employment and retirement income.
- Provide food, clothing and shelter to the poor.
- Make national economic decisions.
- And so forth.
The purposes of government can be very comprehensive or quite limited. If a society choose to have a Capitalist economic system, for example. then government merely regulates commerce. On the other hand, if a society has a Socialist economic system, then government owns and operates all economic activity.
In practice, most modern societies have economic systems that are some sort of hybrid between Capitalism and Socialism. Much of the political debate involves the tug of war between those who advocate for Capitalism and those who promote Socialism.
How much government is economically sustainable?
Depending upon the purposes we choose for government, government will have to exercise more or less control over the distribution of the assets of society. Considering that much of the political debate involves the choice between Capitalism and Socialism, that raises a question. How much government is economically sustainable with respect to:
When the people of a society choose unwisely, they can bankrupt their nation. https://usdebtclock.org/ currently shows that USA has a national debt of over $31 trillion dollars. Is that sustainable? Why, or why not? At what point does the national debt become unsustainable?
How much government control over the people is morally justifiable and sustainable?
Consider some of the different types of government.
- Little “r” republican.
- Majoritarian rule.
Of course, there are many types of government, but the object here is to get across the idea that different forms of government involve establishing different levels of control over the individual people of a society.
The desire of some people to rule over and control other people poses a moral problem. The more power we give the government, the less control individuals have over their own lives. Who do we belong to? Our self? Our government? God? Does it even matter who we belong to?
What is the tradeoff between allowing the people to manage themselves and government direction?
This is a practical problem. The issue is centralized versus decentralized management. Do people do a better job managing themselves or does government do a better job of managing the people? Are there some situations in which government needs to be in control and other situations where individuals should make their own choices? What criteria should we use in order to judge the matter?
How can the people exercise effective control over the government?
Presumably, most of us would not choose to live in a totalitarian state, but totalitarian states exist, and their formation is difficult to prevent. If we don’t want to live in a totalitarian state, how do we prevent the formation of one? Why should we do to prevent the formation of a totalitarian state?
Is the primary issue here leadership? Can we choose honorable leaders?
- What makes a leader worthy of being honored with leadership responsibilities?
- Are all men, even honorable men, susceptible to the temptations of power?
- Can corrupt leaders corrupt the people they lead? Is the moral character of a society formed top-down or bottom-up?
Is the primary issue here about choosing the right system? Can we devise a system of government that prevents the formation of a totalitarian regime.
- What form of government works best?
- Are certain checks and balances necessary?
- What has worked best in the past?
Is the primary issue here the character of the people — what we believe? Do Americans have the moral character necessary to rule themselves?
To Be Continued.
- Purpose of government (zambianguardian.com)
- The Purpose of Government (billofrightsinstitute.org)
- The Purposes of Government (ushistory.org)
- What Are the Four Main Purposes of Government? (reference.com)
- What Are the Different Types of Governments? (livescience.com)
- List of forms of government (en.wikipedia.org)