When a Government “Does Good”

  • Sumo

People who live in the United States ought—all of them—to be about the business of doing good. But the government of the United States has no business going about doing good. Serving justice, yes—when justice needs to be served. But for the government to actively do good? That’s going beyond its function. Humanitarian organizations and churches ought to be about doing good. The private citizenry ought to be moved to do good. But no entity that gets its resources by force of law has any business doing good. Such action by a government is a usurpation of the rights of the individual. Whatever resources, assets, and/or funds such a government is expending and dispensing in such ventures ought to be restored to the individual members of the public who surrendered those funds under penalty of law. Let the individual do good. The collective has no mind of its own, no conscience of its own—no matter how much one might want to posit that voting and representation give the government a “mind” or a “heart.” None exist there. Such qualities exist only at the level of the individual. C.S. Lewis rightly challenged the idea that the “collective” exists at all. It is an abstraction only—it is nothing concrete, has no “will” of its own, and its deeds bring glory not to God nor even, necessarily, to the electorate or to “constituencies,” for at the grassroots level those individuals were passive in any given act of “government do-good-ism,” and the elected officials who appropriated the funds deserve no credit for spending others’ sacrifices—all such sacrifices themselves having been taken by force of law. It is not a good system, this business of nations behaving as though they have, or that they represent, a conscience. It weakens a people, by taking their own conscience away from them, constantly sapping their own resources that would otherwise make them able to exercise fuller virtue in their own lives, exercise greater free will, and enlarge their own souls by making uncoerced sacrifices as opposed to forced ones undeserving of personal credit. And, too, they could bring glory to something greater than themselves—thus performing an act of which government is intrinsically incapable.



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