Douthat on the Role of Government

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat makes sense here.

A taste: 

…In this (liberal) worldview, the government is just the natural expression of our national community, and the place where we all join hands to pursue the common good. Or to borrow a line attributed to Representative Barney Frank, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”

Many conservatives would go this far with Frank: Government is one way we choose to work together, and there are certain things we need to do collectively that only government can do.

But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres….

One thought on “Douthat on the Role of Government

  1. Good governance is by consensus. One of the problems of liberal democracy is when it acts—or chooses to act—via majoritarianism, 51% imposing their will on the other 49. This is where government is purely artificial and not some organic reflection of society.

    [The same can be true of constitutionalism, esp of the “living” variety.]

    Hence, the notion of republic over democracy; the former privileges consensus over “fairness.”


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