One of the fundamentals of making good decisions is to know the purpose of what you are doing. If you don’t know the goal, you won’t make a good choice in how to get there.
In making a good decision about who should lead the country next, it would be smart to remind ourselves of the purposes of government in the first place. There are few better places to go than the Declaration of Independence. Here is what we read:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.—That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among them, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
So why does government exist? To protect life, to protect freedom, and to protect opportunity. There is nothing in here–or the Constitution–about “spreading the wealth around.” In fact, the wealth is “spread around” better through the decentralized function of the free market than through centralized government control.
In the age of Google, I am amazed that there are still people that do not appear to believe this (or, while believing it in theory, do not accept it in practice). The internet revolution is an incredible illustration of the power of decentralization. Yet we still have people holding firmly to the idea that when it comes to politics and economics, the need is for greater centralized control (higher taxes on the wealthy to redistribute income, etc., etc.).
Let people be free. This is both right in principle (based on “unalienable rights” given by God) and results in greater welfare for society. Government exists to protect this freedom–not encroach upon it in the name of the “greater good.”
We cannot separate out economic freedom from political freedom, either. As Milton Friedman said, economic freedom is an essential part of total freedom.
For more on the purposes of government, I would recommend Justin Taylor’s post where he breaks down an article by Robert P. George into an interview to make it easier to skim.
The original article, Law and Moral Purpose, was published in January of this year in First Things. Robert P. George is Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.
I found Justin’s post very helpful. Especially helpful was the distinction between government’s primary and subsidiary roles.
The post also covers the common objection that since the Constitution says that one purpose of our government is to “promote the general welfare,” vast and sweeping governmental powers are called for. In reality, George shows how this clause actually requires limited government–which is a fundamental principle behind the entire constitution.