BB&T Academic Programs
What Capitalism Is
The Nature of Government
Economics of Capitalism
The Proper Purpose of Government
The government in a capitalist system is the agency by which the citizens of a country protect their rights. To banish the initiation of force from human relationships, a society must create an institution with the power and authority to stop anyone who uses force against other individuals. To accomplish this end, the government is the sole possessor of the right to use retaliatory force against those who initiate force. It holds a monopoly on that power. In a rational society, all individuals agree to delegate to the government their right of self-defense, that is, their right to ward off and defend against those who initiate force against them.
This delegation of the power of self-defense is the way that citizens can ensure that the use of retaliatory force is made objective. The use of retaliatory force cannot be left to the discretion of individual men who may disagree about its use in particular circumstances. By delegating this power to their agency, the government, the citizens can ensure that objective rules in the form of objective laws guide its use.
To protect the rights of its citizens, a government must protect them from the initiation of force both by other citizens and by the government itself. The means to accomplish this is to limit the government, via a written constitution, to its proper functions. These include the provision of a domestic police force, the provision of a military force, and the provision of a court system to adjudicate disputes between citizens. By properly limiting government to its essential functions, a constitution places the retaliatory use of force under objective control. It delimits and strictly defines what powers are permitted to government officials and agents. It restricts their action to only that which has been granted by the citizenry, leaving the citizens free to take any action that does not violate another's rights. The laws in a capitalist society have only one purpose, to prohibit those actions that involve the initiation of force by one citizen against another. Under such a system, men can enjoy a rule of law rather than the rule of men.