The purpose of government/Talk

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Quibble: Socialism doesn't refer to a level of government control, merely to a level of economic equality. It would be difficult to say all fascist governments are socialist. And on the other hand, anarchism is sometimes libertarian socialism. I would fix this but I don't know the actual term...maybe despotism suffices, but it has a lot of connotations associated therewith.


Maybe I'm confused, but I always thought socialism was a system of government. The traditional (academic) definition of 'socialism' has it that the state ought to own all the means of production. (Ordinary folks in the United States think this is what 'communism' means, but 'communism' refers to the final, ideal socialist state, one of anarchy, in which the state has withered away and SocialEquality, or whatever you'd like to call it has been achieved. Remember, it used to be the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. 'Socialist' was not a euphemism.) The word expressing total economic equality, I suppose, is social equality or equality of outcome (as opposed to equality of opportunity). The word for the view that we ought to achieve social equality is egalitarianism. -- Larry Sanger


Well, ok, strictly speaking socialism doesn't refer to the equality but to whatever system that equality exists within. State control, though, is not at all implied. Conversely, government control doesn't imply socialism - consider most traditional fascists and tyrannies.


Anarchists have had no qualms describing themselves as socialists. As for academics ... standard class warfare analysis has workers associated with Anarchism, the rich with fascism and the academics with Stalinism. This shows that the academic definition is wrong and also shows why it would be so wrong. Finally, the soviets in the Union of Soviets were originally conceived as anarchic. They didn't stay that way for long under the Bolsheviks but that's another matter.

In order to define right versus left or socialist versus anything, one must discern a meaningful difference betwee Fascism and Stalinism. Authoritarianism and justice are not it. The only difference I observe is in Stalinism's acknowledgement that the social good derives from individual good and not vice versa, that egalitarianism and freedom are to be desired. -- RichardKulisz

I think it fairly obvious that the differences between Stalinism and Fascism are relatively minor points of emphasis and justification. I also think this points out the inherent conceptual confusion involved in attempting to lay everything out on a single left-to-right spectrum. If Fascism is far to the right, and Stalinism is far to the left, and if both amount in practice to pretty much the same thing... then... --Jimbo Wales

Stalinism and Fascism have a lot of similarities thanks to both being totalitarian governments, but that doesn't mean one should overlook their differences. Stalinists promised a worker's utopia and go on the left, Fascists promised a good police state and go on the right. Other axes are usually added to reflect their commonalities, but that doesn't mean we get to ignore the coordinate difference on the one we have! If you do, you shouldn't expect to get a meaningfully discerning system. -- JoshuaGrosse


I am waiting for one of you know-it-alls to supply a better definition. Nothing's stopping you. -- Larry Sanger


Credit where credit's due, those weren't first espoused in the U.S. Constitution, they were espoused by John Locke. A quote from the original and a link to an article about him would be appropriate, I think.

Some other good philosophers to look at and include are: Plato, Aristotle(?), Marx, Kant(did he write anything about actual governments?), and that comment that starts out, "If men were angels..."

I agree with this. Obviously, we need to give a lot more details about different views about the purpose of government. Please don't just give one view, though. --LMS

Mike, your rewriting of this article, so that it highlights the U.S. Constitution, was not an improvement. It states nothing useful, from a philosophical point of view, though admittedly it might be useful to Americans who want to help educate others in American civic virtues. --LMS

While John Locke may be the original source, you did not quote him, nor was there a historical reference in your text. While I agree that it adds nothing philosophically, I feel that the U.S. Constitution is the first very well known example from which to base the argument. I agree that it may be highly U.S. centered, but many other constitutions around the world have used it as a source. --Mike Dill
I see, but John Locke was not my original source; I was doing my best to state some generalities about the purpose of government, not enunciate a Lockean theory of the purpose of government. --LMS
I do not feel that the ideas in the preamble that I quoted are currently much part of american civic vitrues.--Mike Dill
I would agree with you there--especially the part about securing the blessings of liberty. But now we're not talking about the article anymore.  :-) --LMS

This article seems very much centered on political theory. What about mention of economic arguments? Libertarians often argue that a minimal state would be better for the economy, and anarcho-capitalists argue for no state, while many economists argue that government regulation is necessary to deal with market failures, i.e. government is needed because there are some things the government does more efficently than private enterprise. -- Simon J Kissane