What is the purpose of government?
The Founders said (in the words of Thomas Jefferson) that the governments are instituted to guarantee our God-given rights. (Read the Bill of Rights)
The vast majority of government spending today (combining state and federal budgets) is not for these purposes — but rather to provide for our needs.
There is a fundamental difference between a government with the chief aim to protect our God-given rights compared to a government aimed principally at providing for the needs of the people.
But some would say that the needs of the people are actually rights and thus there is no distinction.
But what is the philosophical difference between rights and needs?
When rights come from our Creator, they are above the whims of man. They cannot be legitimately denied no matter what any current regime says.
Our freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights follows this theory. These are God-given rights. The Bill of Rights don’t create these rights—our rights are created by God and secured by the Constitution.
Needs are not found in our Constitution. It is not because food, clothing, housing, or medical care are unimportant. Needs are essential. They are not in our Constitution because in God’s order the family was instituted to satisfy these needs.
Government secures rights. Families meet needs.
Knowing those two sentences is the key difference between freedom and socialism.
How are everyone’s rights protected?
Governments punish wrong-doing and those that break the law.
Punishing evil is often directly related to protecting rights. Someone steals a car. The car owner has a God-given right to property. The thief has violated the moral law of God and the rights of the owner.
A free nation requires understanding the proper purposes of government. Protecting our rights and punishing evil are the principal purposes for a legitimate government. Needs are to be supplied by the work of the individual and the family.
When government becomes deeply involved in supplying needs, inevitably the protection of rights become secondary.
Government should secure rights and punish wrong-doing. Individuals and families should meet needs. Free people need to understand this, as it is the only philosophy consistent with true freedom.
(Abridged from Convention of States)