> not everyone who needs to install packages on the system they use either "has root"
The key word there is "need." Who defines "need"? I've been on the side you describe many times in the past and desperately "needed" a package that I just couldn't get on the corporate machine. On the other hand I would never suggest that it was inappropriate for them to make it difficult for me to install what I thought I "needed".
When I put myself in their shoes and think about it I'm not sure that if I would choose to use a distro that made it easy for users to install packages without root or some administrative proxy permission.
If I'm setting up a linux box for you and I don't give you root/wheel/sudo/admin access then I'm doing so for a reason. I can think of three reasons:
a) The all software must follow corporate policy. If I retain root I can ensure that you don't install anything that violates policy. Whether that be "no dancing bikini babes on the desktop", to "we use GCC version X not Y." Sure this is heavy-handed, annoying, and (usually) easily circumvented, it does make clear that when you download something from the web you are responsible for it. If your adult background turns out to be a virus then you get fired, and if your usage of a newer GCC means your code doesn't compile on the server and causes a project delay thats YOUR fault.
b) Disk space (ie shared over NFS). Sure everyone could install a cutting edge desktop to their $HOME, but if that is made easy then everyone will do so and then everyones $HOME ends up being full which becomes my problem.
c) To avoid confusing Grandma, who really doesn't know how to administer the system and shouldn't be doing it. I much prefer she call me so I can SSH in or drive over and fix it for her, rather than try to figure out what she did.
For (a) I personally think: "Employeers should trust their employees" and not put in ineffective "security restrictions" that only server to frustrate their employees attempts to get the tools they need to be most effective. BUT as long as the company pays the check its their decision to make about the relative risks of giving employees access to software, and the company has the final say on "need."
Just because all the construction workers have easy access to a crowbar to break the lock on the dynamite case, doesn't mean you give them all the key to the dynamite case.