What Role Should Government Play In Our Lives?

We pay taxes — income, property, sales — to the government. We vote for the people who hold public office at the local, state, and federal levels. What, then, should we expect in return?

In some circles, government is seen as a bad thing. However, it must play some part in our lives.

For example, perhaps that role is to protect us from other countries and threats across the world. A strong military would perform that task.

Maybe, though, the government can keep us safe from other dangers besides bad actors around the world. The current pandemic is an example. A strong state or federal entity can coordinate efforts that individuals, or even powerful companies, might not be able, or motivated, to do.

Does that also extend to other threats? Climate change? Dirty food or water? Guns?


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where we discuss the questions ‘Where does authority come from?’ and ‘What does your favorite music say about you?’


Whenever disputes between individuals arise, there needs to be some intermediate to resolve them. The legislative system serves as a way to codify this, and the courts allow for interpretations of those laws. Is this a valid governmental role?

There are many other tasks that the government oversees: education, land governance, roads and bridges, libraries, postal service, and on and on. Are there areas that the government currently manages that they shouldn’t, in your opinion? Conversely, are there roles it should have, but currently doesn’t?

If you like the government or not, it is true that in a democracy the government is a manifestation of the will of the people. In your mind, what do you want our civic institutions to do? What role should the government play in our lives?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? Where does authority come from? What role does technology play in your life? How much power does an individual have?

What Does The Word ‘Border’ Mean To You?

When you hear the word ‘border’ what do you think of? Is there a particular idea that comes to mind?

In some cases, a border is a sharp delineation between two things. For example, the drawings in a coloring book use borders to tell the green part from the blue part.

However, the idea quickly grows more unclear. Let’s use a border between two properties. That boundary is an imaginary line that serves as a legal distinction between, say, me and my neighbor. On this side of this imaginary line is my property; that side of the line belongs to my neighbor.

But that line is not real. A tree growing on one side may have limbs and/or roots that pass through this imaginary edge to the other side. Birds fly right through this line, and snow piles up the same on either side. Borders between countries, or even continents, are similarly porous.

For another example, how about a border between a forest and a prairie. That’s pretty straightforward: where the trees end and the grass begins is the boundary.

But seeds from the grass can blow underneath trees and grow there. And an acorn from a tree on this boundary can fall into the prairie. The border is not so fixed.

Or in a more abstract sense, what about two areas of study? What is the border then? This one thing is physics; that one thing is astronomy. But in that middle ground is astrophysics.

If you look more closely at the edges, any two areas can blend with each other. So does the boundary really exist? What does the word ‘border’ mean to you?

Related questions: Where does authority come from? When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? What do you measure? What is your bubble?