Thomas Paine said: “That government is best which governs least.” Thomas Paine

What did he mean by that? Governments are inefficient – Yes, but in his mind that would be a good thing.

Those who run governments are tyranical? – Yes, but that is not the point.

Government, no matter how benevolent and well meaning, will interfere with the desires and rights of someone!

A government by its very nature controls power over individuals. Paine’s thesis is that individuals should cede only enough power to the government to undertake its necessary functions.

If we want to strip down what a government has to do to be successful there are few functions that fit the necessary category.

  1. Protect itself from invasion or predation by other sovereigns.
  2. Provide a method for settling disputes among its citizens.
  3. Provide a method for conserving and fairly distributing the natural wealth of the sovereign lands.
  4. Provide for regulation of securities.
  5. Provide for standards of weights and measures.
  6. Provide for protecting the populace from criminal activity.
  7. Provide a method for peacefull succession of leaders.
  8. Enter agreements with other sovereigns concerning trade, access to resources and mutual defense.
  9. Provide a method of exchange.
  10. Provide for funding the operations of the government.
  11. Provide for recovery from natural and other disasters.
  12. Provide for orderly immigration and entry of visitors.
  13. Provide for statistical information on its citizenry.
  14. Provide for childhood nutrition and education.
  15. Provide for veterans of wars.
  16. Provide for the public health against infectuous diseases, and assuring sanitary facilities.
  17. Provide for orphans, the infirm and elderly.
  18. Provide for national holidays and honors for illustrious citizens.

Is there anything else which is the necessary function of government? One might argue, as our founding fathers did, that establishing communications is a necessary function, although it is obvious that free enterprise will meet this need.

If there are more things that a successful government must do, or I have listed things that are unnecesary, please comment!