What is a good retort to 'government is not a babysitter'

I was at the fair today with a friend and there was a booth full of libertarians giving out bumper stickers and using that politcal compass test, although they used a very short one with only 5 questions of economic (should foreign aid be totally private yes/maybe/no with yes = 20 pts, maybe = 10 & no = 0) and 5 questions that were civil (drug laws are bad they should be repealed with yes/maybe/no)

Even though they said ‘there are no right or wrong answers’ I could tell by the looks on their faces that there were when they saw my results. I scored 90/100 on the civil libertarian questions and 0/100 on the economic libertarian questions, answering ‘yes’ to 4 and maybe to 1 of the civil questions, but answering no to all 5 of the economic questions (things like 'subsidies should be ended, foreign aid should be private, minimum wage laws should be repealed, etc).

So the woman says ‘so you support personal freedom but don’t support economic freedom’. Taken aback a little I said ‘I don’t support irresponsible economic decisions. I think the market is too short sighted to be totally relied upon without intervention’. Which is true, it may feel good in the short term to have a little more money in your pocket but if you have to abandon infrastructure at the expense of that extra money (highways, scientific advancement, education, a healthy public, a living wage) it is grossly short sighted.

Anyway, this got me thinking to some conservatives I know who always use the ‘government is not your babysitter’ line of thought and as of yet I don’t have a good retort for that.

What is a good retort for that? In my eyes the only reason government exists is to ‘babysit’ (although that is a loaded word. Provide opportunities is a better term for it) people. The only reasons we have government is to make our lives collectively better than they would be without a government or to be a tool an ogliarchy uses to further their own aggrandizement at the expense of the public.

Would a good retort be ‘the only reason we have a government is to make our lives collectively better than they would be otherwise. It may feel good to have lower taxes, but when infrastructure goes to hell it’ll cost the private sector $2 for every $1 you would’ve saved in taxes. If you don’t like it you can always vote libertarian’.

Generally when I get really annoyed with someone using the “government is not a —” argument, I simply ask “Then what is the role of government?” After about three questions the contradictions in their opinions that government should do this but not that are laid wide open.

Caution: I don’t recommend using this technique with anyone you ever expect to have contact with again.

Then who is? Surely not someone as stingy and unwilling to help others as a Conservative.


My babysitter is my aunt

And her political affiliation is…?

How about, “Yeah, 'cos your MOM’S my babysitter.”

BTW, while we Liberals use smiley faces to be polite, we need a Skull and Crossbones smiley for Conservatives.


The government is supposed to be your servant.


Actually, that is the truth, but lets all conveniently forget that, keep paying our taxes, and shut up.

Complete economic freedom is the freedom of the free fox in the free hen-house…

Conservatives are willing to help, just they feel that helping has more to do with improving schools, keeping the streets safe, and convincing people of their own self worth. Just handing over money without fixing the base causes of an issue rarely succeeds.


That government must “babysit” people could indeed be viewed as very patronizing–but the only reason it does help people is because society has voted that they want to help each other. Government just allows for there to be a force that is able to manage and point society’s abilities to help each other into something that can be effective.
Is there any reason why we should be obligated to helping each other out? Certainly mankind has succeeded throughout history by teaming up and working together–but this was still only 90% of society. Those who could not keep up were left to fall by the way-side. In modern society doing such has, however, turned around to become a sinful act.
And indeed, personally, I must admit that there are people where the more you try to help them, in the end all you are accomplishing is to weary yourself: That person either will or won’t turn around and all you can do is just tell them that when they’re ready you are there to help–if you believe they really are ready to turn around.
However, I don’t believe that as large a percentage of people that say, grow up in the projects have to end up failing at life. This isn’t so much an issue of self-conceit and personal wallowing as just bad history. Or say allowing women to join society as equals–there was no self-caused reason for women to be in such a position but rather, again, it was just a matter of bad history. And in such cases–where the mores of society must be reversed–you do need some absolute force to smack people about for continuing to behave poorly, or to make certain that an environment can come into being which allows formerly repressed individuals to be able to advance as far into society as they are of their own power able to bring themselves.

But should the government babysit people who obstinately refuse to help even themselves? Well, we have to extra money floating around to keep them alive until they kill themselves or turn themselves around–so why not? And I would much rather have society at a level where we are debating whether to help such people than one where the idea of freeing people from a history of stupidity does not exist.

This sounds much more like a GD topic to me.

For a snappy retort, there’s always: “Is too is too IS TOO!!!” Which has about the same intellectual force behind it as the original remark.

What we’re finding out here is that understanding complicated things like building a society is not helped along much by pithy sayings. People seem to function best in groups, and some mixture of competition and cooperation is probably necessary. The better-advantaged among us tend to favor more competition, and those with lesser resources cooperation, and everybody has neutral-sounding reasons for their choice, but it’s not hard to spot the self-interest. Rawls’ famous thought experiment aside (basically, what kind of a society would you design if you didn’t know what your niche in it would be?), most of us are keeping at least one eye on the main chance.

But if all you want is a quick rejoinder, you can always say, “Sure it is. Some of us are just willing to pay enough for one that won’t neglect the kids, drink all our liquor and #$@% our spouses.”

That’s hilarious! I’ll have to remember that one.

I like the replies so far.

There’s always, “I know you are but what am I?” but that doesn’t quite fit.
I think that we are stewards of this country (and world). So, to that end, Gment should be a service (or a servant) for us to be good stewards.

Government is not my babysitter; government is my secretary.

How about “Wow, that’s really deep! I’ll have to remember that! What a well thought out political philosophy! You’ve really covered every issue there!” Keep going on like this for a while and don’t forget to roll your eyes a lot, wave your hands in an exaggerated fashion, and issue many theatrical sighs.

Or just say “what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“A bumper sticker is not a political philosophy.”

The government should be responsive to the citizens and responsible for the collecitve welfare of those same citizens.

“Then stop acting like you’re FOUR!”

The problem with responding that the government is our servant, not a babysitter, is that you’ll get some smartypants who’ll notice that a babysitter is someone who takes care of kids. Those being taken care of are not the decision makers, their parents are.

I think I’d respond that government is our secretary, not our babysitter, as has been suggested. Government being our secretary is a bit closer, to what I think is the optimal relationship between government and governed. Sure a secretary is taking care of someone, but in most cases your secretary does what you tell them to do. The end result is that the boss is taken care of, but as the boss has decided to be cared for. Try telling a babysitter how you want him or her to care for you, kids, and she’ll have you in time-out right quick.

I think maybe I wrote that out in a way that makes sense. The voices in my head say they understand it, at least.

Holy shit, whos watching my kids then?