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Huge but "Limited" Government

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Hermes
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The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. -- "Galt's Speech"

Tricornered hats atop yeoman farmers and harbor town merchants come easily to mind. But the word "police" appears nowhere in the US Constitution. In John Locke's Second Treatise, the three branches of government were legislative, executive, and diplomatic. The courts were not a branch of government, but an institution of the local community to protect people from government: the king's men needed to get orders, writs and warrants from the court; and the actions required might be carried out not by them, but by other officers sworn to the court. Today, the police, the judges, the prosecutors, the public defenders, and pay for the jury (when there is one; 90% of criminal cases are pleaded out) all are in and of the government.

We would like to privatize the post office, but does the government have no right to transmit its own messages? If the government can publish legislative minutes and proposed laws and notes of enforcement and judicial proceedings, then can the government not own its printing presses, television and radio stations, websites and other communications media? What mandate is there that the government must pay private contractors to provide any or all of its services?

Should the police only be contracted, not employed directly? Should judges and legislators be hired from competing talent agencies? If not, then, why should the government not be allowed to operate its own police and army training academies, law schools, legislative seminaries, and bureau or agency colleges?

The legislatures, courts, police stations, army posts, air bases, naval docks, all are the only responsibility of government. Today, many military bases are guarded by hired security. Why? Why not have government facilities guarded by government defenders? Over 8,000 privately contracted plainclothes police guard our federal courts. Why not have this work done by government employees, trained at government schools, clothed from government factories, fed from government farms?

What mandate is there that government employees cannot as part of their modest compensation be given homes? What prevents the govrnment from constructing them, using government trained skilled trades workers from government craft programs?

How are such facilities to be built and maintained? Military academies train military engineers. Why would the government not have other schools for training civil, mechanical, electrical, etc., engineers and scientists? What prevents this, given that the only proper functions are those listed atop?

Who maintains the facilities, including these academies? Surely, with sensitive responsibilities for information security and physical confidentiality with police, army, and courts, only trained maintenance workers should be allowed to care for these buildings. Who paints the walls and who trims the grass and who clears the snow and ice? (See above about skilled craft training.) If these building are not to be insults, they must be decorative, and thus we can imagine government schools of art and design. What prevents the existence of government craft manufacturers to make the things created by the designers and artists for use in government facilities?

If the legislature decided that its work could be better engaged listening to music, could there not be a government orchestra? After all, the military has its bands and orchestras, why not the courts and police?

Courts need support, of course, from recorders, bailiffs, and clerks.

The police need dispatchers, clerks, receptionists.

The military feeds itself. What prevents the police and courts from having their own internal departments for food production and preparation? Who produces the pots and pans and stoves and refrigerators?

You think that this is going too far - or went too far some paragraphs back - but this all derives from the assumption that the only purposes of governments are the ones listed by Ayn Rand: police, army, and courts. If they cannot produce their own paper and pens, if they cannot produce their own guns, then what do you have? Would the only allowable alternative be that a constituted "government" (so-called) must deliver services via competive bid for monopoly award? Private police agencies vie on the basis of cost-benefit by contract and one just one wins a monopoly contract? For how long? A year? A century? How do you decide? On the basis of what standard?

Before Eli Whitney demonstrated interchangeable parts for military firearms, it was assumed by all that the government would operate its own arsenals. Should the government not be allowed to have such manufacturies, and the mines and farms that provide them with raw materials? We like to see private providers bidding for work, but, ultimately, we have to admit that the procurement model has problems of graft and corruption. Not the least of them is that businesses becaome dependent on such contracts with inevitable consequences of failure and foreclosure as the best lobbyists beat the best engineers.

But how could a limited government grow so large as to have its own music schools, mines and farms?

Every society has the government it deserves. When a significant fraction of the people have an explicitly objective personal philosophy, the rest will follow logically and inevitably.

Edited by Hermes
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Today, many military bases are guarded by hired security. Why? Why not have government facilities guarded by government defenders?

I am still considering your larger argument, but I thought I'd interject here. "Normally" (whatever that means), military bases are guarded exclusively by the base's security personnel -- commissioned officers and enlisted men, normally called military police (MP) or security police (SP), who specialize in base defense and law enforcement within the base. However, since 9/11 the vast majority of these personnel have been deployed to the Middle East to perform those and other duties there, so the military has had to resort to hiring "rent-a-cops" such as Pinkerton contractors to fill positions such as checking ID's at base entrance gates.

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The government is limited to those functions, and can do whatever it wants in addition to that. It can't tax though, so they need to conserve money for essential things, not orchestras.

Maybe some provisions need to be made so the government can remain objective.

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Hermes, It's not clear to me if you're advocating this "bigger-but-limited" position, or if you're against it and are using it to demonstrate that one has to say much more than simply "army, courts, defense"; i.e. that there need to be more detailed principles which stop a government from growing "huge-though-limited".

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... normally called military police (MP) or security police (SP), who specialize in base defense and law enforcement within the base. However, since 9/11 the vast majority of these personnel ... resort to hiring "rent-a-cops" such as Pinkerton contractors ...

Yes, "normally" that is the history. Within that though there have always been exceptions. Moreover, Federal office buildings were long guarded by hired agencies, rather than federal police.

Pinkerton's was purchased over a decade ago by Securitas AB, a Swedish firm. Securitas acquired Pinkerton, Burns, and Loomis, the largest American firms. Wackenhut is now owned by G4S ("G-Force") of the UK. G4S and Securitas vie for the claim of being the largest private security firm in the world: revenues, manpower, installations, etc., whatever metric works best, but the broader point is made.

US military bases are guarded by foreign firms, though Allied Barton and Guardsmark remain Amerian-owned.

That all being said, a constitutionally "limited" government could still fill the rosters with its own employees, however convenient contractors may be.

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The government is limited to those functions, and can do whatever it wants in addition to that. It can't tax though, so they need to conserve money for essential things, not orchestras.

Well, inflation is a tax on the future, so there is that. The government can always borrow on its own credit, create its own currency any number of ways. The traditional mode is to reduce the size and fineness of coins, but modern methods such as financial derivatives ("patriotism futures") are even more effective. Libertarians and Objectivists endorse the lottery concept. We know about the suggestion for "contract insurance" but that raises other issues. (All contracts would come to include the contract tax as a surcharge. On a deeper level, Ayn Rand specified that protecting contracts was a fundamental responsibility of government, so how could it be specially charged for?)

Could the government charge for admission to courts or the legislatures? How about charging for admission to the National Archives? Or renting out the Declaration of Independence: in your home for a million dollars a year. Or for only $40,000 you could rent the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. Or how much would you pay for the Gettysburg Address? Could it be sold outright? Why not? Who owns it? Sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom has been a money-maker before.

The governnment could sell Days the way an NPR radio station does. For a million or a billion, you could be President Pro Tem of the Senate for a day, or have the National Orchestra play your favorite songs on the National Radio Station. (Back to the original post: if the government can print the daily journal, then it can own other media as well.) Also, it could accept advertising not only on The Government Channel but in the pages of the Congressional Record.

In short, there is no way to limit the money that the government can get or create once the motivation is engaged.

Maybe some provisions need to be made so the government can remain objective.

Ya think?

Edited by Hermes
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Hermes, It's not clear to me ...

You are right: I am not arguing for bigger government, but only showing that the assertion that a consitutionally limited government restricted to army, police, and courts can be huge, as long as its officials have the will to expand it.

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If they cannot produce their own paper and pens, if they cannot produce their own guns, then what do you have?

There is a simple solution: the government buys the paper and pens from some private company. Same with guns.

The way I see it, *all* government funding should only be through donations. There is no need for that nonsense about a National Orchestra or National Radio Station, in addition to all the functions you mentioned that are far beyond any proper role of government.

Edited by Eiuol
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