There is only one worthy role of government: to protect our rights. As George Mason wrote in the opening to the Virginia Declaration of Rights: “rights do pertain to [the citizens] and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government.”

We have lost this shared vision of the purpose of government. Americans have always disagreed on the finer details, but many academics, politicians and activists now argue that we live in a system which is systemically corrupt, and the only way to live in an oppression-free society is to dismantle it top to bottom.

But the government’s purpose is not to create a utopia. There will always be human needs and wants, and no government could possibly satisfy all of them. The only person who can make you happy and content is you. Certainly, the government can make it difficult to be happy and content, but in the past, that was because they took away the freedom to search for truth, goodness and beauty.

The government can only protect what we already possess. Since the government is not creating new value, to provide any good or service requires confiscation of value from someone else. Whenever the government “gives” something, such as land or a stimulus check, that came from someone else’s possession because the government took it through eminent domain or taxation.

America’s patriotic moments were not when the government started taking funds from some people and giving them back to other people. It was when the government made true the promise in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal by finally protecting African Americans’ God-given rights to exist as both humans and citizens. It was when Americans sent 16 million servicemen to liberate other people from tyranny in World War II. It was when women were finally granted the right to participate in government on equal terms as men.

The beauty of America is that we learn from our history and try to do better. If the system is broken, how have we progressed so far from where we were? Such advances should be continued, not thrown out wholesale.

Our system makes progress towards justice slow but inevitable. We take a step backwards each time we abandon our process and traditions in favor of the feelings of the mob for the current moment. Think of the example of Japanese internment, which was done by executive order during wartime hysteria, and you’ll see how rejecting principles like checks and balances and equal rights under the law can lead to terrible results.

It is unfair to judge something only by its flaws. Rather, consider our improvements. Using their free speech rights, abolitionists were able to pull public support away from slavery. Suffragettes were able to convince men to allow them a voice in the democratic process. The beauty of our system of putting rights above material things is that rights are permanent and material things come and go.

The needs and wants of citizens change. But being human is more than just perpetuating self-existence with things like housing, food, healthcare or education. It’s about our quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and governments are instituted to make that quest possible.