by Graham Paterson

Some people have raised the question of whether or not a Government is necessary. This immediately raised the question of what alternatives are available.

Advocates of the “free market” claim that “the market” can take care of all contingencies, and any form of government represents a hindrance to the proper functioning of the “market”. The “free market” is based on the belief that individuals in a society have the right and responsibility to make a free choice on how to conduct their life.

In a totally honest society where each member has the same capacity, ability and opportunity, the theory of a “free market” without need of a Government, may offer an alternative existence.

However, such a society doesn’t exist, never has, and, if history is any judge, never will.

If we assume for a moment that a “free market” is a workable concept, it would only be workable if it conformed to a set of universally agreed rules. The basic rule would have to be honesty in any transaction between individuals. Unless the system of a “free market” is confined to barter trade, the introduction of some form of acceptable exchange media would have to be agreed by the society. Creating and issuing these “tickets” of exchange raises the question of how this might be accomplished. Every individual could create and issue their own “tickets” because, after all, these “tickets” do represent each person’s potential to produce something that someone else wants. As long as that something is of acceptable quality and serviceability, then that person’s ‘tickets’ would be deemed valuable.

The problem with this system would be the vast variation in the number and style of “tickets” created and the subsequent problem in valuing one lot of “tickets” in comparison to others.

The obvious solution is to create a single universally accepted “ticket” that can be used by the whole society.

BUT — who is going to create such a universal “ticket”? In a “free market”, it is hardly acceptable to allocate this responsibility to one person by giving them the opportunity to charge a fee for creating this “ticket”, and include a profit margin as well.

Whatever costs involved in creating such a universal “ticket”, logically, should be shared equally by everyone in the society. The profit incentive doesn’t come into this “business” because it is undertaken as a service to the whole society.

To me, setting up some basic rules for the way a “free market” will operate, and the creation of a common “ticket” system, is an automatic and essential first step of a management function.

Part of the management function is the responsibility to ensure the rules are followed and, in our totally honest society, this would not present a problem as no infringement would occur and no action would be necessary.

Of course, this raises the question of how the rules will be set and how the decision would be made on the form of the universal “ticket”.

It is hard to conceive of these things happening by a process of osmosis, divorced from any concerted organisational effort by at least a portion of the community.

This is very, very basic and, to me, represents the foundation for the argument of why leadership must evolve if a society is to coalesce into some form of workable and organised group.

The crucial challenge for every society is the way they are going to control this leadership. Can they ensure it is there for their benefit, or will they let it degenerate into a force for its own benefit?

Every society, “free market” or otherwise, has the choice to apply this control in one of two ways. Either they can do it by force or they can use a system based on rules and law.

In a “free market” world there are things that the market cannot, or will not, supply. For example, the coastline of a nation is a highly valuable asset that has a huge impact on every aspect of a nation’s existence. The occasion of cyclones and oil spills provide the evidence for people to understand that it is in the common good — good for business and good for the economy — that coastlines are properly maintained. As an entity, a coastline is not something for which the “market” is prepared, or able to, take responsibility. The “free market” can certainly exploit those sections of the coastline that offer the opportunity for making a profit but they cannot, or will not, make an assessment of the impact of that exploitation on the associated environment. Most of the costs for maintaining such an asset could, rationally be argued, as a cost on the society as a whole.

One of the earliest arguments for establishing a Government was to defend the society from outside aggression. Some “free market” advocates claim that the defence of a society can best be delivered by private enterprise. Of course, that defence would be on the basis of user pays and could only operate if it makes a suitable profit. Were an aggressor willing to offer a more profitable contract to the defence supplier, the society could be handed over on a platter without the need of forcing a destructive war. This could be rationalised as an outstanding benefit attributable to the “free market” system — the elimination of war!

The principle reason society chooses to form a Government is to ensure a supply of, what they class as, “essential services”. These include such things as a drinkable water supply, a workable sewage system, a continuous and reliable electricity supply, a similarly reliable postal service and a convenient road and transport system. These are but a few of the essential services a modern society needs in order to function and is the reason society chooses to delegate the responsibility to a Governmental system to provide these essentials.

To the extent that the private market can produce sensible and affordable services in selected and designated parts of these essential services, they are encouraged to do so. The private market’s main area of interest and responsibility is in the commercial enterprises of manufacturing, service industries, resource development, sales and marketing.

In today’s world of Commercial businesses, everything is controlled by the bottom line and, consequently, anything that hinders the all consuming profit motive is abhorred. Things like regulations, unions and taxes.

However, many citizens of a society understand the need for regulations, unions and the things taxes, if intelligently spent, can do for them. “If intelligently spent” are the key words in respect to the way the Government uses their income. It is in this respect that the people of a society will always get the Governments they deserve — UNLESS — the people control their Constitution which sets out the fundamental rules for regulating the way they allow their Government to operate.

Only then will they have a chance to get the type of Government they WANT.