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Views on what the social responsibility of business is are varied. Some people believe that the most important and only responsibility that publicly traded businesses should have is to earn profits. Those with more statist inclinations tend to believe that businesses have an obligation to serve the “greater good” of society by pursuing other, more charitable, objectives. Nevermind that these sorts of debates overlook the fact that it is, in fact, private businesses, that have led to the greatest alleviation of human suffering ever known to man, as an unintended result of their profit-seeking behavior.

Rather, I would like to ask where all of the people are questioning what the social responsibilities of government are. I don’t happen to think that the Constitution is a particularly special document (more on that in a future post), so I am asking this question on the same grounds as those that ask it of private business.

I don’t care what powers are statutorily given to government or what are implied or what are not permitted, I would like to know, really, what the social responsibility is. I would like to know even more when and where such a question is ever asked, or if it will ever be asked and addressed seriously in my lifetime. But isn’t asking this question of your government far more important than asking it of any private business? After all, private businesses are voluntarily organized, patronized and employed. Nothing similar can be said of government. Like it or not, you get it. With such power should come even more “social responsibility.” But perhaps I take the word responsibility to mean something different than the layperson.

Is it the responsibility of government to purchase things collectively that we as individuals cannot afford ourselves? That seems to be the same thing as saying that if Billy has 10 cents to buy gum and Johnny has 10 cents to buy gum, but they want more, they can get a gun, call themselves government, and force “society” to spend 50 cents on bubble gum. Far from responsible.

Is it the responsibility of government to insulate people from taking losses when they go the casino?

Is it the responsibility of government to have a monopolistic and regulatory hand in every single economic transaction that takes place in America? It does have monopoly power in the production of bank notes, and has the power via monetary policy to inflate/deflate the money supply at its whim. Not even dreaded Exxon can claim such a prized position!

Is it the responsibility of government to provide goods and services to a minority of powerful citizens at the expense of the unwitting majority? Again, when an evil private corporation produces “uselss trinkets and baubles” it does so voluntarily, and without the point of a gun making people buy it. If Charlie down the street does not like iPods, he does not have to buy one, nor do any of his tax dollars have to be used to support Apple. However, if Joe down the street does not want to buy a monorail, and even if a majority of the citizens agree with him, there is a very good chance that they will not only have to buy it, but be sent to prison if they refuse to financially support it. Far from responsible.

Is it the responsibility of government to encourage citizens to spend more? Save more? Eat less? Have safer sex? Obtain more schooling? Get licensed to cut hair? Buy a house? Sell a house? Or any of the millions of things it is encouraging its subjects to do? Certainly no private corporation uses the power of a pistol to do any of these things. Talk about the role of advertising all you want … it is still a form of persuasion, not coercion. So if you wish to condemn the private market for “altering” the innate preferences of individuals, take a look at what good Ol’ Mikey Bloomberg has been up to in New York.

Is it the responsibility of government to make sure that everyone can have a television that gets a particular type of signal?

Ask yourself seriously, what is it that a government is supposed to be doing, with the best interests of “the people” in mind. My understanding was that governments are organized among men to take care of the things that no individual or voluntary group of individuals would find it in their interest to do, or physically be able to do. Of course, that definition is so vague you can drive a ten ton truck through it, and the statists surely have.

Do we not form governments to protect us when we privately cannot do it ourselves? Look at how much a share of your government activites are done in the true interest of defensive spending.

Do we not form governments to prevent special privileges from disadvantaging citizens? Look at the orgy of pork in the new “stimulus” bill to disavow yourself of that notion.

Do we not form governments to prevent the abuse of minorities by a majority? Or of majorities by a minority? Look at the soaking of the less than 50% of the population that pays Federal income taxes for the former. Look at the clutch the teachers’ unions have on the education of America’s youth for the latter.

It would seem that given the awesome firepower and financial power at the disposal of governments that they are held to standards that no saintly corporation could possibly ever achieve. Instead, what has evolved is that quite the opposite is the expectation. Conventional wisdom forgets that the “firm” with the largest revenues in the world is the US Federal Government. Conventional wisdom forgets that the “firm” with the most power to destroy lives literally and figurately is the US Federal Government. Conventional wisdom forgets that the only “firm” that individuals are forced to do business with, even if they are so ideologically opposed to it that it makes them ill, is the US Federal Government (you can move across state and local jurisdictions). Conventional wisdom seems to forget that the world’s most profilgate and indebted “firm” is the US Federal government – which now spends annually approximately $1 trillion more than it receives, and has a debt load of anywhere between $10 trillion and $70 trillion based on how legitimate you consider its entitlement liabilities and unfunded liabilities from other organizations with implicit backing (remember Fannie and Freddie, well there is something called the PBGC, and there are innumerable state and local governments that have the implicit backing of Uncle Sam when they inevitably do something silly). Conventional wisdom seems to forget that the only “firm” to have ever dropped a nuclear bomb on human beings is the US Federal Government, and that was developed and decided not by some vast right-wing military industrial conspiracy … they are ALL in on it. Conventional wisdom seems to forget that the only “firm” ever to cause prices in the United States to increase by over 10% per year is the US Federal government – how is that for price gouging! Conventional wisdom seems to forget that not one of the wonderful inventions, innovations, comforts, conveniences, activities, that we enjoy today have ever come from the largest and most significant “firm” in the world – the US Federal Government.

But conventional wisdom never seems to address the question about what the rightful place of government is. And now, in this time of “turmoil” we are being fed a ginormous expansion in the reach of government that is masquerading around as a “stimulus.” It is a gigantic increase in government spending. It is the launching off point for every single dream a statist has ever had about how they wish to exert control over your lives. And the only damn thing I can do about it is sit here and point out that the emperor has no clothes. And in saying it, I feel like the millions of folks out there would respond that no, I am just wearing some pretty bad beer goggles.

I have never, not once, asked my government(s) to do a thing for me. I have never, not once, agreed to any of the tax increases, fee increases, restrictions, rules or regulations that have been imposed on me. I am morally opposed to funding public schools, to having my tax dollars fund “charitable” organizations that I am in opposition to. I have never, not once, wanted to be part of the Medi-fraud system or the Social Insecurity system, yet me and my employers (read ME if you understand payroll tax incidence) have already contributed well over $100k to that system over my young life. I did not vote for this President. I did not vote for the last one. They do not speak for me. No Congressman speaks for me. Yet, they invoke my name to accomplish all manner of things that horrify me and my family.

Yet this same “firm” is seen as virtuous, as being an agent of change, and emblematic of all that is right with America. At the same time, every real firm that sticks their necks out (yes, to make a buck) does so by having to endure the self-righteous scorn of people who bristle at their exploitation of workers, lack of concern for the environment, pschological attacks to encourage mass consumerism and all manner of hobgoblins – when, even if true, would represent yet a grain of sand in the hourglass of destruction and hypocrisy occupied by the guys with the guns.

And I am the reactionary.

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