Re: The Purpose of Government.
"Step back and think a moment of why we actually have governments. At it's most basic level it is to provide services."
Not quite. There's many services that could be provided by government that o not have to be provided by government. There's also certain things that must be provided and can only be provided by government. Finally, there's a set of things that it would be great to have which would be better provided by government.
so, in that first group we might put the notional National Food Service. The Soviet Union had one of those, government can definitely do it, and it was shit.
In the second we've got things like national defence and a criminal justice system. In the third we've got "public goods". These are not things that are good for the public, goods consumed by the public, but goods (and services) that are non-rivalrous and non-excludable.
We have to be very precise when we define these though. The common example is vaccination. But vaccination isn't the public good: because, obviously, if I am given a vaccine then you cannot have that same dose of vaccine (ie, it is rivalrous). Similarly, a vaccine is obviously excludable: I can give you one or not as I the producer decide.
However, the effect of 90% and up of the population being vaccinated, that herd immunity, is a public good. Once it exists we can't exclude anyone from benefiting from it, nor does someone doing so reduce the amount available to others.
Thus there's a very good case for government action to encourage vaccination up to the point that we all gain that herd immunity. Could be the way the NHS does it, paying for and providing it directly. Could be the american way, no school for the kiddies 'till they've had their shots (however much in the breach that is these days) .
Adam Smith though that being part of a generally literate and numerate society meant government subsidy of primary education was a good idea. So, all we've got to do now is design a state education system that makes people generally literate and numerate.
More specifically, things like short journey commuting in and out of London is probably a public good. There's just no way the place could work without commuter rail: so some subsidy seems fair enough. Long distance rail travel not so much really.
But there's nothing in this that says that government should be providing goods or services. That government may provide more of a public good can be used as a reason to provide certain good and or services, true, but the government provision is the route to the public good, not the delivery of the goods themselves being the point.