What Do You Want?

For many people, this time of year is about gift-giving and -receiving. Little children are expected to sit on Santa’s lap and tell them what they want for Christmas. Even for adults, this time of year can be a good opportunity to answer the question: What do you want?

As an added bonus, it doesn’t even need to be Christmas specific. In general, what is it you want — for yourself, for your community, or for the world at large?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘How do you define success?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


This question, when tied to the Christmas holiday, tends to be focused on the commercial. What present should someone wrap and put under the tree? However, in our thought exercise, it can be more than that. Not there is anything wrong with wanting a material good, like a new smartphone or a video game console. But you may also want something abstract, like justice, or peace, or happiness.

Knowing what it is that you want, some would argue, is the first step to getting it.  After all, if you don’t know what it is that you want, how will you know if you have achieved it?

So, like a child standing in line at the mall, waiting for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap, think about what you plan on asking for. What do you want?

Related questions: What new technology do you want? What do you want to do before you die? Why do we like what we like? What would you do with a million dollars?

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?

Democracy Or Tyranny?

Democracy or tyranny?

Democracy Or Tyranny?

What Is Justice?

When a tragedy occurs, we often hear pleas for justice for the victims. This raises a difficult question: Just what, exactly, is justice?

Ideally, perhaps, justice should mean the application of the law. We want to see our laws applied evenly to all, regardless of class, race, political party, or income. But what if the law itself is unjust?

More generally, we want people to be held accountable for their actions. But what “accountable” means can vary from person to person. What one person thinks is fair and just, another may think is too harsh, or too lenient.

Does the victim’s opinion on what exactly is considered just for the crime committed against them matter? What if the opinion of the victim does not match what society as a whole believes?

From a legal standpoint, the victim’s opinion might be taken into account, but the victim does not get to make the final decision on what is just. That is up to a jury and a judge. However, if a jury and judge come to a conclusion, but the victim does not feel that justice has been served, has it?

Justice is an important concept in our society. There is even an entire federal organization, the Department of Justice, whose sole job is to see that justice is done. But what recourse is there if people feel that fairness is not being achieved?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? Where does authority come from? How much power does an individual have? When should you not follow the law? What is the purpose of incarceration?