First Principles: What is the Primary Role of Government?

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show Brian gave a preview of the First Principles event tonight with Yaron Brook and Miles Rapoportthe first of three debates in a series on the moral underpinnings of today's politics. The event is co-sponsored by Demos, The Ayn Rand Institute and It's A Free Country. Brook and Rapoport have also been debating in advance on It's A Free Country.

Read more and watch video of the event March 10th at 6pm»»

What is the proper role of government?

Depends who you talk to.  Yaron Brook, the President of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and Miles Rapoport, the President of Demos since 2001 and the President of The American Prospect magazine, have very different ideas, as you might expect.

They do agree on one thing: Coercion is bad.

Rapoport sees government's role as protecting people from coercion:

 If a company is polluting the water supply behind its factory because it's cheaper for them to do that than to dispose of the hazardous waste safely, I would call that a coercive act and we need a government that will protect people from that.

While Brook sees government programs and regulations as a form of coercion unto itself.

Somebody getting a minimum wage, or somebody getting Medicare, or somebody getting stuff from the government, whatever that happens to be, comes at somebody else's expense. Somebody has to pay for it. And that expense is coerced. I believe that government has no right to coerce its people to do things they don't want.