Why we need government

Why do we need a government? Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek looks at the answer provided for children in kindergarten through second grade by the U.S. Government Printing Office’s web site.

Why do we need a government? Imagine what your school would be like if no one was in charge. Each class would make its own rules. Who gets to use the gym if two classes want to use it at the same time? Who would clean the classrooms? Who decides if you learn about Mars or play kickball? Sounds confusing, right?

This is why schools have people who are in charge, such as the principal, administrators, teachers, and staff. Our nation has people who are in charge and they make up the government.

Despite the use of Ben Franklin on the site, the Printing Office seems a little weak on democratic government.

Roberts’ challenge: Remembering that the audience is five to seven years old, write a better explanation.

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Comments

  1. Have you ever watched men building a road? It takes many people and machines to get the job done. No one could build a road alone.

    When we all work together, we can do really big things. We can build roads and parks. We can help other countries after earthquakes and floods. We can explore Antarctica and go into space.

    When a group of people bands together for a common purpose, they can form a governent. Your neighborhood may have a government that makes sure the roads get plowed and the pool gets cleaned. Your town has a government to make sure the schools educate children and that the parks are kept clean and safe.

    The United States have a government too. It keeps our country safe and makes laws that help us get along with each other. We say this government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.

    That means we choose the people who work in the government. Their job is to help us do the really big jobs that are too big for one person to do alone. If the government does not do what we want, we can choose new people who will do a better job.

    This is because we live in a Democracy.

    In some countries, there is no democracy. Instead, the government bosses people around and does not do a good job. In these countries, people do NOT get to pick who is in charge.

    Your school is not a democracy. You did not get to choose the principal. He is free to ignore your needs in order to advance his own career. You cannot fire him. If you try to complain about him, you will get in trouble.

    Which seems like a better form of government to you? A Democracy where everyone works together for really big things? Or a Kleptocracy, where the people at the top make themselves rich while neglecting responsibility?

  2. This pro-democracy propaganda has been brought to you by your local homeschoolers! :)

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Umm… but homeschooled children don’t vote on their parents, either.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    That means we choose the people who work in the government. Their job is to help us do the really big jobs that are too big for one person to do alone. If the government does not do what we want, we can choose new people who will do a better job.

    This is because we live in a Democracy.

    That means we choose the people who run the government. People like the president and congress. If the government does not do what we want, we can choose new people who will do a better job.

    This is because we live in a Republic.

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    …homeschooled children don’t vote on their parents, either.

    But they could! We could use the same rules for voting eligibility that the US uses and have an annual vote for who the parents should be.
    :-)

    We don’t do this in my house because we run the system as a patriarchal dictatorship. But I would have no objection to having voting!

  6. Good point, Mark. And Michael– while the family is the basis of Democracy, it is not one. Though, if I fail in MY responsibilities to the children, they are removed from my home. If the schools fail….. not much happens. ;)

    I haven’t been able to get the pre-schooler to understand the difference between direct democracy and a republic yet. So we’ll have to work on that. I assume that distinction is something we gradually introduce as the kids get older….

  7. Also, I did freely admit it’s propaganda~ :)

  8. Oooh… Mark, I think I WILL try to sell the kids on running the house as a democracy and “Electing” parents on a weekly basis! That would be AWESOME!

    Until week 2, when they realized that the ‘parents’ exist to serve the needs of the ‘children.’ And then I’d have to go back to cooking and laundry and dishes and they’d go back to playing outside and whatnot.

    (Yes, we have chores. But the peeps in this house are AWFULLY short, so the bulk of them fall on my husband and me.)

  9. As a single mother with one child, I ran the house as a democracy. I could vote. My daughter, being under 18, could not. I won a lot.

    Seriously, we had an explicit arrangement: “I’m the boss. You’re the kid. As the boss, I will provide you with food and housing and protect you from wolves and bears. As the kid, you have to listen to me and do what I say.”

    If she ignored me, I’d say. “Are you the boss now?” She’d back down immediately. She knew she wasn’t ready for the wolves and bears.

  10. Matt Hauer says:

    Why we have a government is a different question than what type of government we should have.

    I think the problem here is to distill the language of the Declaration of Independence to a K-2 level:

    Declaration –
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

  11. “Our nation has people who are in charge and they make up the government.”

    Uh, no. The people are in charge and they both choose and make up the government. It’s the first thing children of any age should know because it’s the most often and easily forgotten. It’s similar to the “correlation is not causation” routine in a statistics class–first thing taught, first thing forgotten.

  12. Forget about kids – most adults in the U.S. don’t understand the differences between a republic, a dictatorship, and a pure democracy (which the Founding Fathers equally loathed with dictatorships).

    A dictatorship: One wolf eats all the sheep he wants.

    A pure democracy: Three wolves and two sheep get to vote on what’s for dinner.

    A republic: The sheep are armed, and voting on what’s for dinner is expressly forbidden by law.

    Think about that next time you hear a teacher, politician, police officer, or journalist talk about “our democracy” instead of “our republic”. For every 100 times you hear either phrase, 99 of those 100 times it’ll be “our democracy”…

  13. Yeah, I guess that explanation might be difficult for little children especially five to seven year-old kids to understand. It should be made simpler. But if adults were to read that explanation, the purpose of government should be included which should serve as a reminder to government officials.