Walter E. Williams

In the political arena, the Framers gave us reasonably fair and neutral rules of the game, otherwise known as the United States Constitution. If our government acted, as the Framers intended, as a referee and night watchman, how much difference would it make to any of us who occupied the White House or Congress? It would make little, if any. It would be just like our basketball game example. Any government official who knew and enforced the rules would do. But increasingly, who's in office is making a difference, since government has abandoned its referee and night watchman function and gotten into the business of determining winners and losers.

In many places around the world, the prospect of, or the result of, national elections leads to all manner of violence and mayhem. Why? Because the political arena plays a much larger role than ours in determining winners and losers, and in some cases who wins can literally mean life or death. We need only to look at the history of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Where governments decide winners and losers, the most effective coalitions are those based on race, religion, region and ethnicity -- the bloodiest coalitions in mankind's history.

So which is it: Do we want government as referee and night watchman or the decider of winners and losers?

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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