Any discussion about the proper role of government can be improved by an appeal back to the ideas upon which our nation was founded. In the Declaration of Independence, we find perhaps the most concise expression of those very ideas and beliefs. The Declaration is clear: the Founders believed in individual liberty, defined by the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, secured by a government created for that purpose, gaining its legitimate power from the consent of the governed.
The order of the words in the Declaration is important. Upon carefully reading the Declaration, as Roger Pilon at the Cato Institute has done, one will notice that there is no mention of government until the moral order of the world the Founders envisioned is laid out. Their philosophy begins in a "state of nature," where no government has yet been created by human beings. It is not until after the moral order is established that the political order-- which comes from this moral order-- is discussed.