The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
7 Points

What is the job of any government?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/23/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 536 times Debate No: 46563
Debate Rounds (3)
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Votes (2)




I will give my version of the role of government then you give yours and we will debate about the stuff we disagree on.


I assume, given Con's Round 1 argument, that we are not arguing for or against government, but are simply debating the differences in our positions.

Nevertheless, I accept. Given the stipulations that he has set, I will follow Con's guidelines and allow him to provide his view of government first. Best of luck.
Debate Round No. 1


I will keep this quite simple and short, just as the government should be

The job of any government should be to protect it's citizens and their rights, to ensure the basic safety regulations of business (protective equipment when handling deadly chemicals etc.) To carry out laws passed by both local and national government so long as they do not infringe upon the people's rights or liberties, and to provide starters care to those who have fallen on bad times. Take note of the word 'starters' meaning that this welfare will be temporary until the citizen finds a steady job.


I'll take this time to paint a portrait of the core traits that the government, in my view, ought to possess. From that point, I will move through specific areas and expound on the ways in which, specifically, government could move to meet these objectives.

Unlike many of my friends, I do not hold a deep cynicism for government. Indeed, it can do wrong and is not perfect. There is no perfect system in much the same way that there is no perfect person. That does not mean, however, that we should accept the notion that government is intrinsically, objectively, incontrovertibly wrong, inefficient, and corrupt, and thus has no proper use .

I believe the primary role of government is to promote equality of opportunity within a framework of human rights. It should set parameters such that it protects people -- police forces, fire forces, strong and capable military, counter-terrorist apparatus, et al. -- but does not infringe on their liberties through unwarranted spying; provides for people in need, but does not allow for corruption via excessive subsidies, tax breaks, and preferences to the politically connected; regulates the financial system insofar as it doesn't explode and take with it the global economy, but does not do so rashly or inefficiently; promotes environmental sustainability to tackle anthropogenic climate change, but does not severely threaten economic growth; and promotes a minimum standard of living through a living wage, but no so far as the benefits of such a policy are outweighed by the costs.

I. Human Rights

In essence, I believe in FDR's four freedoms -- freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in one's one way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear [1].

I would like to make a distinction between positive liberty and negative liberty, using definitions from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [2]. It defines negative liberty as "the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints" and positive liberty as "the possibility of acting " or the fact of acting " in such a way as to take control of one's life and realize one's fundamental purposes."

To ensure negative liberty, I would not allow the government to become so cumbersome that it intervenes in the lives of individuals. I would promote a policy such that people can do whatever they'd like in their private lives so long as they do not harm another person. Therefore, drugs, euthanasia, abortion, speech, gay marriage, prostitution, and the free exercise of religion -- the latter of which is undergirded by a separation of church and state, preventing one group from using the force of government to impose its beliefs on others.

To ensure positive liberty, I would want the government to operated in such a way that it promotes and elevates human potential. To do this, it would need to offer universal health care, universal education, a strong social safety net, a living wage, and a promise of activist policies -- when needed -- to stimulate the economy and, in the process, reduce the ever-present threat of income inequality. Positive liberty also includes a strong police force and military to protect citizens when needed. Part and parcel of positive liberty, then, are freedom from want and from fear.

II. Economic Policies

I believe the role of the government in the economy is three-fold: referee to deter and intervene amid economic calamities and ensure that everyone -- including the largest financial institutions -- operate in accordance with the same set of rules as everyone else (which means that, when Wall Street executives commit massive fraud, they will be criminally charged); spender and employer of last resorts, intervening to stimulate aggregate demand amid recessions; and a vehicle of opportunity -- whether that be through, again a living wage, labor safety requirements, single-payer health insurance, limitations on insurance companies that prevent them from denying people with preexisting conditions, etc.

To work toward this end, it would be pivotal to raise taxes on the very affluent. We know that taxes today are nowhere near the point where they would stifle economic growth. A study from the Economic Policy Institute placed the top marginal effective tax rate at 68.7% [3]. Moreover, the study said the following:

"Analyses of top tax rate changes since World War II show that higher rates have no statistically significant impact on factors driving economic growth"private saving, investment levels, labor participation rates, and labor productivity"nor on overall economic growth rates." [4]

A Congressional Research Service study, which studied tax rates since 1945, came out with similar results, and I have another quotation cited below [5]:

"The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of
income at the top of the income distribution."

III. Fair Elections and Democracy

I believe it is a travesty that elections today are largely bought, most of which is a function of the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs The Federal Election Commission [6], which effectively legalized bribery by solidifying that money is speech and corporations are people. This allowed corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to non-profits and Super PACs and thus heavily sway elections, against the will of the majority, and bribe politicians to promote policies that help corporations, but not the average American. Therefore, all elections would be 100% publicly financed.

IV. "Strength through Peace" Foreign Policy -- with credit to former Congressman Dennis Kucinich

My foreign policy would be nearly identical to the one Dennis Kucinich advocated in 2008 when he ran for president [7]. In essence, this policy states that the U.S. will state out of the foreign affairs of other countries unless American's national security is at stake, because interventionism is ineffective, highly expensive, and simply creates more enemies. This would also mean significantly curtailing the drone program -- in the process, banning drone strikes without a target that lead to the deaths of innocent civilians, including children.

Back to you, Con.

4. ibid
Debate Round No. 2


I would like to start with Pro's statements regarding cynicism towards the government. It is true that I am cynical about the government and their doings, and for a good reason. I have an extensive knowledge of history, if I do say so myself, and i have seen that when ruling institutions gain too much power they will misuse their power. I'm sure that I don't need to name what institutions have done this, since i'm sure that most people could think of these on their own. But I will anyways. Nazi Germany, The Soviet Union, The Roman Empire, The Russian Empire, The Russian Federation, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, fascist Spain, fascist Japan, fascist Italy, communist Poland, communist Albania, communist East Germany, communist Hungary, communist Czechoslovakia, communist Yugoslavia, communist Bulgaria, communist Romania, communist Cambodia, communist Vietnam, communist Laos, China, Burma, Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya. Just to name a few. All of these institutions where ' wrong, inefficient, and corrupt' All of these nations were given great amounts of power over business, health care, and taxes. I take my feelings about government from nations like these, It is not inconceivable to see why I distrust government power.

Human rights-
Side note, you had universal health care marked down as a positive liberty but was categorized as a right, which would you consider it?

I believe that the rights of man are not provided to him by the government but rather are given to him by god the second he is conceived and it is the government's job to protect these rights. I believe that we can agree on that. I also believe that liberties, which are not rights provided too us from conception but are freedoms worth protecting, should be protected by the government. On that note I will list some things that you mentioned were rights " freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in one's own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear." I would agree with all of these things except freedom from want. I looked up your source and was still not sure what freedom from want was, so until I know for sure I will not say I support it. Please explain in next round. I believe that you missed a few rights that I will show here: the right to defend one's self, property, or loved ones; right to a chance at life; the right to habeus corpus; and the right to privacy. These along with what you had previously said are the rights that the government should be protecting.

As for liberties, we have quite a distinction. you say quote " I would promote a policy such that people can do whatever they'd like in their private lives so long as they do not harm another person." you then went on to name some of these liberties: drugs, euthanasia, abortion, speech, gay marriage, prostitution, and the free exercise of religion. You contradict yourself, you said " can do what ever they want in their private lives so long as they do not harm another person." Abortion, in all but failures, kills it's intended target. this also violates man's right to a chance at life. Drugs, should not be liberties that the government protects either. The number of violent crimes committed last year by criminals on drugs can be rounded to about 78,000. Not to mention the mental effect that it has on the users. I don't give a damn if it hurts them and them alone, but if say they have a job or a family to take care of, then they cannot be whacked out on drugs, for everyone's safety. euthanasia, no strong opinion on the matter. Gay marriage, I am against this from a moral stand point but hey what you do in your free time is your own business. Prostitution, I am against this from a moral and a scientific stand point. first off, your heart should be promised to only one person and one person alone not any women that catches your eye. Secondly, although we have contraception today, it is still not anywhere near as effective as it needs to be. With prostitution, I could predict a higher count of venereal diseases, which is harmful to anyone partaking, and a spike in the birth count. You had previously named speech and free exercise of religion as a right so I will not comment on those.

To your comments of how the government should offer universal health care, I say 'Hell no!' take for example two men. One, a responsible 35 year old man who works at patent office, the other, a 20 year college student who spends his nights partying and doing-all around- stupid crap. You said and I quote "I would not allow a government to become so cumbersome that it intervenes in the lives of individuals." With universal health care, an institutionalized form of healthcare, what the college does now becomes anyone who is paying their health insurance business therefore intervening in people's private lives. Lets say one night that the college student gets far to drunk for his own good and decides that it would be a great idea to go and play with his neighbor's overly aggressive rottweiler. Needless to say, it was NOT a good idea. The college student has gotten his arm broken and needs to have the proper medical procedures conducted on him in order to heal. Normally, the college student would pay for his own insurance and he would be paying for the costs. Not in this world! The patent clerk will be paying for his insurance, even though he had nothing to do with the student. What the student does in his free time now is not his business, it is now everyone's business. this is depriving everyone of their right to privacy and denying their right to protect is theirs. As for universal education, I agree with that, although I wouldn't mind to see a bit more private schools. A living wage, so long as it is not the minimum wage. To reduce income equality, it is not the government's job to say weather or not a person can keep the wealth they have accumulated, rather it is the individual. How would you feel if I took 68% of all the money you make, distribute it to people the that you have never met and whom you are supposed to believe are poor for causes outside their control while in far to many cases are simply lazy, while simultaneously making you poor now making you on of the people whom this 68% tax must be redistributed to. I am starting to run out of time for me to write my rebuttal tonight, I think I will leave it off here. I do await your reply


I would like to thank Con for his argument and for a great debate.

1. Argument on Government Tyranny
Listing of a whole host of countries with totalitarian regimes does not bear out such cynicism about any form of government. Your argument is a reductio a absurdum fallacy. The flawed logic is in thinking that, by disproving a truly radical example in reference to a base, that you have in some way refuted the initial claim. There is no plausible argument that the US is analogous to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, fascist Italy, etc. Moreover, the policies that I am advocating are in no way totalitarian. The case, for instance, that Hitler "pumped the prime" in Germany is a fundamental post hoc fallacy. You cannot causally link, say, stimulus spending or universal healthcare with a dictatorship, largely because helping people is antithetical to enslaving them.

There are actually plenty of threats from lack of government interventions, with the crashes of 1929, 2006, and 1986 serving as prime examples of the dangers of deregulation and market economies run amok. You haven't addressed how your system would handle massive deleveraging and Wall Street fraud, or insurance companies operating as a cartel and denying people with preexisting conditions.

2. Positive Liberty and Rights
Liberty and freedom, to me, are virtually interchangeable. "Positive liberty" and "positive freedom" are the same. The case, ultimately, is that being free from want and free from fear allows people to achieve their potential. If you cannot afford health insurance, or cannot access a quality education to equip yourself with the necessary skills to fulfill your dreams -- that is, if it were necessary to this end -- you can are truly free to live your life to the fullest in the way that you desire. Lack of these opportunities strictly curtail choices and maintain a social hierarchy where the affluent and powerful maintain their wealth, while others become progressively worse off. A Harvard Medical School study linked 45,000 deaths per year to lack of health insurance [1], which I find to be a tragedy. I think the government has a moral obligation to provide this needed standard, and this is part and parcel of equality of opportunity -- a concept absent from your analysis.

3. Freedom from Want
Let me clarify that this is not intended to be a solution to the fundamental problem of economics -- between unlimited wants and limited resources. What I mean is -- and this is essentially what FDR meant -- that when people cannot make ends meet, that is, cannot afford basic necessities of life (food, heating, utilities,et al.) -- they are not free. They long for and need help in order to achieve sustenance. I think, fundamentally, that the purpose of government is not to level the playing field such that we have a perfectly equitable distribution of income; rather, I want a system that operates for everyone. At a time when corporate profits and stock portfolios are at all-time highs [2], when CEO pay is 380 times that of the average worker [3], when 95% of the gains of the recovery of 2009 when to the top 1 percent [4], we cannot say that people are free to fulfill their potential.

4. Rights that you claim I missed
You mentioned the rights to habeas corpus, the right to defend oneself and one's family, the right to a chance at life, and the right to privacy. I did not miss these rights, however. The right to do as one wishes so long as they do not harm others -- which I mentioned -- is the essence of a right to privacy. The right to self-defense manifested itself in the parameters by which government ought to operate within and in the notion of "freedom from fear." Protection provided by government ensures the right to a chance at life. Habeas corpus coincides with the existence of police forces. Of course people who are criminally charged deserve a fair trial. So I do support these three rights. I'm going to be arguing later, however, that your statements do not speak to support for a right to privacy.

5. Sources of Rights
I do believe that there are fundamental natural rights - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- that come to us by virtue of our humanity. There's a distinction between inherent rights and legal rights, however. Legal rights are an extension of natural rights. For instance, in order to live, to be free, and to pursue happiness, you must be healthy. Therefore, a legal right to medical care is part and parcel of that end.

6. Privacy
Privacy, again, is the ability to do as you wish so long as you do not harm others. This includes doing with their bodies as they wish -- e.g., using drugs, consenting to sex (even for pay), and terminating an unwanted pregnancy. You are opposed to these rights, however, and have provided no evidence supporting your claims.

6A. Drugs
First, you have not cited that figure, nor have you specified which drugs were used. Marijuana, for instance, is safer than alcohol, which is of course legal. You seem to be insinuating that, if the government legalizes drugs, it is endorsing them, and use will skyrocket. This is simply incorrect. Not only can the government regulate and tax these drugs -- possibly to ensure that, say, pot isn't laced with other harmful toxins -- but there would no longer be a stigma for people who are suffering from an addition (and this is an addiction, or an illness) to seek help. Violence is another story entirely. Violence should always be dealt with. But the US Government spends way too much money incarcerating non-violent offenders for victimless crimes, or people who are ill and in need of help. I want to help people in need, and to rehabilitate them -- not senselessly throw the book at them.

6B: Prostitution
Your first claim has to do with regulating private morality, which is antithetical to protecting a right to privacy. Next you comment that legalized prostitution will need to an increase in births and venereal disease, but this is simply not the case, and you have cited no data to this effect. To the contrary, it is legal in Nevada, and has seen success in the areas because there is regular STI testing and mandated condom use. Moreover, we know from extensive research that, even in places where prostitution is legal, it still occurs, but is even more dangerous and violent because it is pushed off to the black market and the government cannot regulate it [6].

6C: Abortion
You comment that abortion kills a life. However, this view is not only highly contested -- and we have to examine whether a zygote or fetus is a life, which is largely rooted in religious faith, which the government cannot and should not endorse -- but we know that, like drugs and prostitution, abortion will occur whether it is legal or not. Women will simply seek back-alley abortions, and will suffer grave consequences and even death as a result, which is why government regulation (e.g., contraception coverage) has been proven to reduce abortions.

7. Healthcare
Your example is anecdotal and not grounded in fact. Even in private insurance, the risk is spread such that less risky people subsidize risky people, so this point is utterly moot. If anything, covering everything so that people without insurance don't go to the emergency room and raise premiums is responsible.

8. Inequality
Your argument about a 68% tax is a strawman. I never advocated for one. You're insinuating that poor people are lazy, which is a baseless assertion, and ignores the data that I provided earlier.

Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Jifpop09 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con did not set this up as a real debate. He did not specify a resolution. Anyways, Pro convinced me that it is best for the government to not interfere in things that do not directly harm someone else. Con made some good counters, such as abortion harming infants, and drugs are sold and people get addicted, but pro refuted them quite well. Con had no sources.
Vote Placed by Actionsspeak 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:02 
Reasons for voting decision: I lean Pro but not by enough to award points, however sources was an easy win.