According to my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary, society is defined as a group of persons forming a single community or the system of living together in such a group.
Government, as defined by professors Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore Lowi, and Margaret Weir, is the institutions and procedures through which a territory and its people are ruled. To govern is to rule.
I recently posted on my Facebook page the question, “Are government and society the same?” The responses were roughly 50-50. The reason I posted the question resulted from my musings about whether it is the responsibility of government to solve the issue of poverty or whether this task was best left up to society.
One commentator reconciled the two, admitting that government and society were not the same, but that government as a construct and reflection of society could be used by society to resolve the poverty issue.
Fair enough, but should government be used for that task? Is government even equipped for the task?
If to govern is to rule, and government is this artificial construct subject to hostile take-over every two years with the victor taking the spoils, the existence government may be used as proof that the “haves” gained their wealth at the expense of the “have-nots” and that the only way to bring balance is to transfer some of that wealth by force. While that may be society’s view of government, I argue that was never the intent of the Framers and today that should not be government’s purpose.
The intent of this artificial construct was to yes, govern, but to govern with the goal of protecting individual liberties. Nowhere in our Constitution does it say that government is to address wealth imbalances between the haves and have-nots even if society feels those imbalances should be addressed. Society should and can use other tools to address poverty without using the enormous authority and power of government.
It’s not that government is purposed and designed to combat poverty. Government’s involvement in the eradication of poverty resulted only from the hostile takeover of government by those who believe that government should be treated as the hub for wealth distribution.
I would also argue that the progressive faction that acquired government did not determine that government programs provided an optimal solution for eradicating poverty, but rather that offering poverty programs was an optimal way of getting votes.
Fortunately, society and government are not the same which gives society the flexibility to pursue a non-governmental solution to eradicating poverty short of involuntary wealth transfers.