My apologies to a multitude of priests, gurus, theologians, philosophers, physicists, astronomers, biologists, anthropologists and miscellaneous other deep thinkers who have contemplated the question I am about to ask. Most of them were or are smarter than I am, but considerably less flippant.
The question being: Why are we here?
Boiled WAY down, there seem to be two main theories to answer that question.
Based on sheer numbers, the most common answer we humans have come up with is the God theory. It can be summarized by my recollection of the Baltimore Catechism, as drilled into me by the nun who taught first grade. Question: Who made me? Answer: God made me. Question: Why did God make me? Answer: To know Him, love Him and Serve Him in this world, and be happy with Him in the next. The idea being that we were created, directly or indirectly, by a Supreme Being. We are given standards (The Ten Commandments) to guide our actions. If we adhere to those standards, we will be rewarded after we move from the top of the food chain to the bottom.
Self styled sophisticates, backed by a lot of empirical science, adhere to the “really lucky” theory. The Big Bang created (eventually) stars that provide energy to, and gravitational control of planets, one of which is earth. Over billions of years, and after a few fortunate asteroid collisions, an atmosphere evolved on earth that was conducive to life, out of which our species emerged about 200,000 years ago. There were some similar species of humanoids, whom we probably killed off. We are a statistically improbable accident (which might have been duplicated somewhere else in the vastness of the universe) with an average lifespan approaching 80 years, after which our rotting carcasses provide sustenance for other life forms.
Whichever one of these theories you adhere to, I would submit that neither justifies the level of government interference in our lives that we currently experience.
If you are a God person, you should be free to act in a manner that will gain for you the eternal reward. If the Nanny State regulates your behavior and sanctions deviation from its rules, the goal is not achieved. Even if mandated behavior comports with God’s Law, forced compliance isn’t going to cut it with a Just God. Free will is a cornerstone of theology.
If we are here by the luck of the evolutionary draw, our only purpose is to enjoy the lottery proceeds before they are exhausted. We should be free to act as we see fit and enjoy the fruits of our labors without interference.
Does that mean I am advocating anarchy? Absolutely not. We are herd animals. We live in groups, not in isolation. We have to organize ourselves to protect our opportunity to enjoy the freedom to regulate our own actions. As Hobbs rightly pointed out, we trade some of our freedom to Leviathan for security. Without effective government, the clever/ruthless will exploit those less clever and less ruthless (a pretty good summary of human history to date). Your freedom of actions must be constrained if your actions damage other people.
What kind of government fills the bill? We need national defense to protect us from invasion. We need police and courts to protect us from violence and theft of our property. We need a modest level of regulation to detect tainted products and level the economic playing field. We need a patent office to protect intellectual property. We need research to extend and improve human life. We need a regulatory regime that promotes economic growth so that our time on earth will be more comfortable and more financially secure. If local communities want to create a Nanny State, and if that is approved by the members of that community in a convincing fashion, so be it. But, under no circumstances, should that community be able to impose its notions of proper behavior on anybody else. Those who don’t like the rules can vote with their feet. And those who lust to have their behavior proscribed can move in.
What about the poor, the sick, the disabled? Have you no pity? Believers in God believe they owe alms. The sophisticated believe that they can feel good about themselves (and buy votes) by taxing the well off to take care of the less well off. We can certainly decide, as a society, to tax ourselves and devote resources to helping those who are incapable, due to physical or emotional impairment, of supporting themselves. However, most of the 47 million people currently drawing food stamps do not fall into that category. Nor do a great many of the 9 million drawing disability. There is nothing inherently wrong with informing every capable citizen that they are responsible for saving for their old age and medical needs. Every human being should be self-supporting, not a burden on other human beings. Even the impaired can be partially self-supporting. If a believer or compassionate individual wants to help another human being, I’m all for it. But the effort should be voluntary, not mandatory.
Government, at all levels, is about 1/3 of our economy. That’s $6,000,000,000,000. Every year! In Western Europe (a model many on the left side of the political spectrum want to emulate), it’s closer to 1/2. Most voters seem relatively content with that outcome. Correct that: They tolerate high taxes (mostly on others); they want a high level of benefits and a low level of taxes for themselves. In our electorate, those of Libertarian perspective might amount to 15% of population on any given day. Am I wasting my time with this advocacy? Maybe not. A greying demographic means that the Welfare/Nanny State will have a harder and harder time keeping its promises. When the money runs out, the alternative of less intrusive government might start looking more attractive.