The Role of Government is a Referee, Not a Player, in Economics and Culture
The primary purpose of government is to provide security for citizens and serve as a referee when there are disputes between them. It is a legal operating system to allow citizens to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. It does this by protecting, policing, and adjudicating disputes when a citizen or group interferes in another citizen’s pursuit of happiness. The powers of government, especially in states, should be limited to these purposes.
The primary evils of government involve the use of the government for other purposes. These include using government force or law for (1) economic taking, (2) cultural indoctrination, and (3) territorial expansion. It is also wrong for governments to operate at an improper level. In other words, states should not impose their will on counties or federations impose their will on states. In the case this happens, the lower levels of governance should be guaranteed the right to secede. A peaceful society is based on voluntary cooperation, not force.
Force is the underlying principle of government
The underlying principles of governance are rule of law, and the force required to maintain it. When the government uses that force to pursue economic and cultural activities, it is no longer a referee but a player. It ceases to be a government for the people and becomes a player in competition with the people. It becomes an unfair player because it has monopoly power that becomes structural oppression over the citizens.
Citizens pursue happiness in the economic and cultural spheres, in which they can attain the necessities of life, have and raise children, pursue truth, beauty, and goodness, and create things that bring joy or serve others. The principles underlying the economic sphere are production, consumption, and exchange in a market. The principles underlying the cultural sphere are human relationships and knowledge The principle of volunteerism, not force, undergirds both the economic and cultural spheres.
Citizens who attempt to pursue happiness in the political sphere, by using force to attain something from others are attempting to throw the game by using the power of government to gain something in the economic and cultural spheres by force rather than productive effort. This is corruption and theft.
Examples of Government Overreach in Culture
- State Curriculum in Schools. Knowledge, learning, and the pursuit of truth is a cultural activity and belongs to the cultural sphere. State curricula use the power and the money of the state to mold citizens into its servants. This is the reversal of the order of dominion, in which state officials should serve at the pleasure of the citizens. States can be a referee to prevent school curricula from encouraging crimes, but not the source of knowledge that is properly in the cultural sphere.
- Government Censorship of Speech: This is the imposition of government over the cultural sphere, which is the proper sphere for the search of truth and values. Government does not seek truth, but enforces laws that out of past experience. In other words, government looks backwards not forwards. When it limits free speech and the free pursuit of knowledge which might question current knowledge, it stifles both personal and social development. Government is not a parent, and when it tries is usually a terrible parent because it is impersonal and backward looking. Parents have a right to shield children from harmful speech, images, and other things that might inhibit their development into self-reliant adults and good citizens. Parents get their ideas about raising children from the cultural sphere: family, churches, psychologists, and educators. Once a child becomes a legal adult, the parent’s authority is limited. Government requires adult citizens and censorship of speech prevents the development of people needed to run a good government.
- Government Control Over People’s Bodies: Whether it is abortion, vaccination, or a cancer operation. Government is not the place to decide what happens to people’s bodies. The individual citizen is the sovereign unit of society, and if individuals are children or otherwise dependent the family, which is a cultural institution, it to proper place for a decision.
- Government Advertising. This is a misuse of public money as it tells people what they need, but in a democracy, it is the people who tell the government what to provide. Rather than advertising, official government notices, available to everyone all the time. This used to be postings in specified sections of newspapers and now should be available on government websites. Use of government funding for advertising is often a mechanism for boosting the ego of an agency or spending excess money so as not to receive a reduction in the next year’s budget. Other types of government advertising, such as through the television, tend to be a form of economic activity serving the interests of lobbyists or buying the media, which is supposed to speak truth to power rather than be a servant. Most government advertising is corruption in one form or another. Advertising is also a form of government overreach into the economy.
- Establishing official government media and the banning of independent media makes the media a propaganda arm of the government, and not a cultural institution that should be reflecting the independent search for truth and reporting on the activities of the government and legislators. Quasi-government media are common. These are media that are significantly captive to government and simply repeat the things government officials say. Such media provide more clips or words of public figures than reputed cultural figures and citizens whom they are supposed to work for. Especially pernicious in recent times has been “fact-checkers” in social media using the words of public figures as truth. This turns fact-checkers into propagandists would have vacated their mission and their cultural institutions dominated by the government.
Examples of Government Overreach in the Economy
- Government Businesses are a technique that governments and bureaucracies use to raise money to fund themselves independently of taxes. Such businesses have the force of monopoly, are generally inefficient, and unfairly compete with the businesses of the citizens governments are supposed to serve. Government agencies are supposed to serve a governance purpose and should be limited to budgets approved by the people. A fee for a government service approved by a legislature, for example issuing a driver’s license is not a business, but a state-run lottery is. State lotteries are particularly perverse because they prey on the weakest people. All government businesses should be banned.
- Insider Trading is possible when governments pass laws related to specific businesses or business sectors. Laws will impact the value of a stock and many legislators have enriched themselves. Insider trading is banned on Wall Street for reasons of conflict of interest. Martha Stewart was put in jail for it. Legislators should be banned as well, from any trading of stocks while in office. The same principle would hold for members of any regulatory agency like the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
- Pandering is the promise of money or other economic service in exchange for a vote. Pandering is most possible when there are no intermediary institutions to check it. The US government was founded with the idea that the Senate would be a separate body, composed of people knowledgeable in governance who could provide a check on pandering to the masses. The Senate would be a check on “mob mentality” and citizens voting directly for economic benefits from government. The role of government is to act as referee, not as an economic provider. This check was eliminated by the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution, which was an act of corruption that violated this check and balance on pandering and the bankruptcy of the government by its own citizens.
- Government fees on public monopolies. Because governments regulate public utilities, it is not ethical to profit off them by taxing a monopoly, Government then abandons its role as referee and become a player, profiting from another party’s business.
Examples of Government Overreach into other Governments
- Redistricting. The idea that a government entity should impose divisions on its people is evil. In a voluntary society, rooted in the people. Smaller governments should organically organize into larger federations, with each level of government performing role specific to that level. Imagine if every census, the United States redrew the boundaries of all the states. This is exactly what states do when they redistrict. Peaceful government is based on voluntary association and the right of secession. A self-organized community on the border of two states should have an equal right to join either state or remain independent.
- Federal Income Tax on Citizens. In a properly ordered integral society, each level of government should consist of governments of the immediate level below it. In other words, a federal government should receive any income taxes from states, not directly from the citizens of those states. By gaining funds directly from citizens, the role of the state is displaced and marginalized. This can be used for a federal tyranny over the states. The US Founders seemed aware of this principle when they wrote in the US Constitution Article 9: “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” This principle was destroyed by the 16th Amendment (passed 1909 and ratified 1913): “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” This enabled the Federal government to bypass the states, partly removing them from their own voluntary union. The sixteenth amendment would need to be repealed to improve integral functionality of US governance.
- Using Arms Against Lower Levels of Government: The use of arms by a government should only be used to defend against aggression from parallel or higher-level government entities. This enables the federation of states to defend against foreign enemies, but not to coerce any member state against its will. Member states should have the right to secede if they feel oppressed by any entity they have joined. This principle enables all people and levels of government to be based on voluntary association and not oppressed by conquest.
- The Right of Citizens to Migrate: This follows from the principle of free association of sovereign individuals. Citizens should be free to reside on any territory on the condition they abide by the laws of that territory. This principle provides a check and balance on governments, by encouraging them to compete for citizens. In such a competitive environment, governments are more compelled to provide the best services with the lowest taxes. Note that economic payments to citizens by governments is an obstacle to free migration because taxpayers do not want freeloaders moving in and using their services. As much as possible, social welfare should be kept in the economic and cultural spheres.
Examples of Economic Overreach in Government and Culture
- Lobbying by monied interests is economic overreach into the government. Government should not be an economic player and has no role in providing money or economic advantages to individuals, corporations, other groups, or foreign governments in return for bribes or economic favors. When governments take economic favors, they cease to be an impartial referee. This is corruption. This should be the role of the economic and cultural spheres. Political parties have become a vehicle for the lobbying of laws for moneyed interests, and omnibus legislation a means of stuffing “pork” for these interests into bills. Omnibus legislation is a corrupt practice that has gotten around the founder’s intent that legislation be single-subject–with an up and down vote on all items of pork. Holding each legislator accountable for every item of legislation is an essential aspect of democracy and lobbyists and political parties have crafted mechanisms around this.
- Advertising for prescription drugs is an example of economic overreach into the cultural sphere. It is banned in most countries and was banned in the United States until 1985. The idea of a prescription drug is that it can be a harmful substance that needs to be prescribed by a medical professional who knows a patient’s history and the side-effects of the drug. Advertising a drug directly to a consumer skirts the role of government as a referee in determining whether a medication needs to be prescribed. It also causes undo patient influence on a doctor. Health information about drugs and their side-effects should be available to consumers but economic pressure that encourages over prescription or ill-advised prescription. This is an area for media corruption as well, for when prescription drug advertising becomes a significant percentage of media revenue, the media will vacate their role in providing truth about drugs to their customers and instead put money over service to the people.
- Advertising by public monopolies is a form of economic waste and abuse of consumers. Rates are set by negotiations between the government and the public utility, such as a power company. These rates are to prevent abuse of the monopoly by overcharging customers in the absence of market competition. Because customers are required to use the utility that serves their area, they have no choice in the supplier and advertising is unnecessary. Rather, advertising represents an attempt by the utility to mislead the government on expenses required to fill its purpose. And, it can be an attempt to buy favors from media companies, or serve cronies who get paid for unnecessary advertising jobs. Advertising activities that do not serve the economic purpose of a utilities represent the failure of government to act as a good referee.
Examples of Cultural Overreach in the Government and Economy
- Establishment of Religion is the most historically evident example of cultural overreach in society as it allows religious leaders to pass laws that do not reflect the will of the people. Particularly pernicious is the attempt by a religious institution to use the power of the government to only consider its members as true citizens and other people as second-class citizens, or as enemies. Religious control of government has been the cause of genocide and wars. A second problem is making religious law–such as Sharia law–the law of an entire society. Not all religious laws are bad, such as laws against murder. But such laws ought to be civil law, approved by the consent of the governed and not imposed by religious leaders. Also pernicious is the use of an established religious institution to seek government funding for its leaders and activities. This creates an unfair economic advantage for one religion over another. When there is an established religion, government fails as a referee and becomes a player on the side of one religion.
- Establishment of Political Parties has many of the same problems as the establishment of religion, except doctrines tend to be secular and goals economic. Thus, they are used as vehicles of economic interests to use the government to gain legal advantages over others in their pursuit of wealth. But ultimately political parties are cultural entities because they are assembled groups of people. As with religion, political parties should be free to assemble and promote their ideas, but they should not use the power of government to do this. The US Founders expressed primary concern about the non-establishment of “religion” in the First Amendment, but they failed to curtail the establishment of political parties. Party name on ballots, and party leadership shaping state and federal laws are examples of how parties have become established in governments today. While the non-establishment of religion has a been successful constitutional principle separating governance and culture, the separation of political parties from governance is a failure.
- Establishment of Ethnic, Racial, and Sexual groups in governance is a more recent phenomenon. One way this occurs is to put representatives of cultural institutions organized to serve such minority groups on government panels, or to distribute funds to such organizations in the same way religions have been “established” in the past. Establishment of any cultural group in governance is an anti-democratic practice that officially elevates citizens’ group status over the proclaimed right to individual equality and equal treatment of all individuals under the law. In hindsight, the First Amendment should have prevented the establishment of any group.
- Establishment of Political, Ethnic, Racial, and Sexual groups in corporations is often referred to as “wokism” or “cancel culture.” Social pressure is used to form corporate policies on culture issues and to hire or fire people from corporate employment on group identity or doctrinal belief. Some of these “woke” activities have been considered by scholars to have the characteristics of new religions. Their separation from economy is as essential as separation other forms of discrimination against individuals in civil rights legislation. Otherwise, government fails to serve as a referee and social injustice and structural violence can develop.
Modern complex societies have developed institutions in three social spheres: governance, economy, and culture. When these institutions overreach into the spheres that are not in their own domain we see social dysfunction, structural violence, and the undermining of peace. An integral society is one in which social institutions remain true to their purpose, mission, or task and do not overreach into the mission and purpose of other institutions.
We have focused on the abuse of government power because it can be used for total control and genocide if it usurps cultural and economic institutions. However, the examples of the overreach of economic and cultural institutions can also cause serious harm to individuals in society.
The division of social institutions into spheres was made possible in the Netherlands and then the United States with the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. This made possible the rise of an independent economic sphere, and the media, which are cultural institutions, but often referred to as “the fourth estate.”
The examples above only refer to a few of the hundreds of types of institutions in each sphere of society. There has been a lot of study of human nature. But, in our complex world, the study of social institutions and their role, the limits of their activity, and the extent to which they should be refereed is a largely undeveloped field of study. Rather, institutions have arisen in a rather ad hoc nature, and typically, when their founders pass away, they are turned over to others who use them for selfish or nefarious purposes. Particularly, government bureaucratic institutions seek to escape their mission and become self-sustaining opportunities to create jobs for jobs’ sake–enterprises that become parasitic on society as a whole.
Other articles in this blog are intended to address issues of integral societies in a more detailed way, often analyzing particular social institutions. However, understanding that social institutions fall into social spheres with different underlying principles is important. In other complex systems, like the human body, the purpose of one organ–say a brain, a heart, or a bone–is different from another. The attempt to envision a bone performing the role of the brain or vice-versa seems nonsensical. So, it is with a government trying to do the role of a manufacturer, a bank, or a parent, However, our lack of knowledge of understanding social institutions as social organs that need to integrally function together for happy, peaceful societies and individuals is enormous. All of our wars, bigotry, and starvation can be traced to the abuse and misuse of modern social institutions.
Recent events that have caused massive suffering and war–global climate concerns, social media censorship, the covid pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine–have begun serious questioning of a new generation about the nature, and the hijacking, of governments, their agencies, the mainstream media, large corporations, and universities. Many of these institutions no longer serve the people as intended, but their elites use institutional power in ways that exploit and oppress citizens instead.
It is hoped that the above examples of institutional overreach can help us think about the purpose, structure, and control of social institutions. There are solutions to all the problems outlined above. Unfortunately, we cannot look to those institutions to reform or limit themselves. Like designing an automobile or a smartphone, social institutions should be better designed to serve their intended purposes. Many of these solutions are evident or can become evident with research, but they will not be implemented without widespread knowledge in the cultural sphere. These solutions will not come from the economic sphere, which is based on wealth, or the governance sphere which is rooted in power. Cultural institutions–the media, universities, churches, and clubs–need to lead the way and not fall prey to economic and government pressures to become servants of government or corporate elites. The internet opened up new opportunities to free cultural activities from the control of power and money. Today, people searching for genuine answers have new opportunities to expose corruption and the overreach of social institutions, developing solutions to collectively hold them accountable, rein them in, and improve their productivity.
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