What is the purpose of government? The public debate in America has once again turned to this all-important question and for the first time in a long time, the country elected legislators last fall who adhere to a radically different view about the role of government than is the consensus.
Most politicians — and voters — left and right agree that government should not only provide basic security but ensure a basic standard of living. Democrats favor more generous social provisions than their Republican counterparts but conservatives usually agree that government should extend a safety net to those who seem unable to fend for themselves.
Government, moreover, is supposed to “equalize opportunity” and has therefore to provide access to education and health care to everyone. As former Vermont governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean told MSNBC’s The Last Word last week, “what governments do, is redistribute” income.
Dean, who sought his party’s presidential nomination in 2004, argued that the debate about the role of government should not resolve around the question whether or not income is redistributed. “The question is how much should we redistribute,” he said, adding, “The purpose of government is to make sure that capitalism works for everybody.”
Without income redistribution, entitlement programs as Medicaid and Social Security would not exist, Dean claimed, which is true, nor would the government build roads, which is not true. Infrastructure is not a form of income redistribution because everyone can make use of it freely.
Dean’s attempt to sidestep the bigger debate about the role of government is futile as Americans are increasingly aware that the price of “income redistribution” is their freedom. It also attests to the utterly detached mentality of some Democrats who seem incapable of believing that there are people who don’t want the government in their lives.
Leftists everywhere both fail to comprehend the meaning of capitalism and have a vision of government that is deeply misguided.
As one public-sector initiative after another fails, time and time again, the left continues to call for more government, arguing that this time, it will work. All the while, they blame the free market for corrupting their noble schemes, refusing to see that it is the market they have bound and it is government that is corrupting.
Once government tries to make capitalism “work for everybody,” it is on a path to socialism that it has embarked. That path ends when “fairness” is achieved and no man is allowed to make more money than his neighbor.