Merely because governments routinely undertake to do a large number of things, most people tend to assume that it is not only legitimate for governments to do so but also believe that only governments can, should and must do them. This is a mistaken attitude that has enormous social costs that in the worst case impoverishes nations, and in the best case prevents nations from being as rich as they are capable of.
Why do we need a government in any case? The answer could lead us to an understanding of the proper role a government in a free society. But what do we mean by a free society? A society is a collective comprised of individuals, and a free society is one in which every individual is free to do what he or she pleases provided that he or she does not impinge on the corresponding freedom of other individuals.
This freedom of the individual comes with a constraint, namely, that the individual does not initiate force against others, and respects the private property of others. The primary injunction can be stated as, “Do not harm others, and don’t take their property.” Continue reading