Restricting government to its proper functions, defined by law

Articles

Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Jun 1976
Explains mercantilism, the rationales for political power, the proper role of government, Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand", his concept of "equality, liberty and justice" and how a free society allocates economic goods
"Government always acts with power; in the last resort government uses force to back up its decrees. The government of a society is its police power, and the nature of government remains the same, even when office holders are elected by a vote of the people. And when the police power — government — is limited to keeping the peace of the community by curbing those who disturb the peace — criminals —then there is maximum liberty for peaceful citizens. "
Related Topics: Politics, Adam Smith
Ayn Rand on Aristotle, by George H. Smith, 4 Mar 2016
Examines Rand's appreciative view of Aristotle based on his epistemological theories while disregarding his comments on slavery, racism and coercive government laws
"In addition, Aristotle's doctrine that the state grows naturally from the family became the major argument of later philosophers who rejected the liberal argument (as found in Locke and many other political individualists) that legitimate governments must be grounded in the consent of the governed. ... Aristotle's political views were the reverse of the theory of limited government defended by liberal individualists."
Related Topics: Aristotle, Epistemology, Ayn Rand
Book Review: A Sacred Union of Citizens—George Washington's Farewell Address and the American Character, by George Leef, The Freeman, Nov 1997
Review of the 1996 book by Matthew Spalding and Patrick Garrity, deeming it "indispensable" for those "interested in learning more about the workings of George Washington's mind"
"Readers who take up this book expecting to find unfailing Washingtonian support for minimalist government will, however, be disappointed. The authors note that he favored the establishment of a national university, for example, not seeing the long-run dangers of allowing the government to become active in the provision of education. He also favored a national bank and held an ambivalent attitude toward foreign trade, maintaining that the nation might develop better if the people produced more of their own goods."
Bureaucracy and the Civil Service in the United States, by Murray Rothbard, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1995
Historical account of the evolution of the United States Civil Service and attempts to reform it, from its beginnings through the early 20th century
"The program of at least the dominant libertarian-republican wing of the Founding Fathers consisted of ultra-minimal government: ... generally binding down governmental Power with chains of iron, and watching government like a hawk and with vigilance and deep suspicion, lest it resume its natural tendencies and extend Power beyond its strictest bounds."
Conscience on the Battlefield, by Leonard Read, 1981
Pamphlet written in 1951, during the Korean War, updated with prologue in 1981; Read recalls the 1918 incident when the troopship he was on was sunk by a German submarine and wonders about his thoughts if he were dying (in 1951) on a Korean battlefield
"Most persons believe some form of government to be necessary as a means of achieving maximum liberty. But unless they succeed in properly limiting government, they will surrender some – or even all – of their personal rights and responsibilities to it. Unless they understand the nature of coercion – its power only to suppress, restrain, destroy – they will yield to it and lose their ability to act creatively. Government has the necessary and logical function of protecting the property and life of all citizens equally."
Crony-in-Chief: Donald Trump epitomizes Ayn Rand's "Aristocracy of Pull", by Steve Simpson, 2 Feb 2017
Examines the issues of "cronyism" or "pull-peddling", suggesting --as Ayn Rand did-- that the solution is "to limit government strictly to protecting rights and nothing more"
"There are no rational answers to any of these questions, because 'the public interest' is an inherently irrational standard to guide government action. ...Rand's answer is to limit government strictly to protecting rights and nothing more. The principle of rights, for Rand, keeps government connected to the reason we need government in the first place: to protect our ability to live by protecting our freedom to think and produce, cooperate and trade with others, and pursue our own happiness."
Forced Funding vs Freedom, by Chris Lewis, The Free Radical
"If ever there were a problem that desperately needs fixing, this is it - and I say that the government really should do something. It should get out of the economy and out of our lives as soon as possible. What would soon follow is such a massive flourishing of the gold medal-winning character virtues ..."
"I Have a Plan...", by Ron Paul, 18 Oct 2004
Criticises political ads and speeches that present plans for government to "run" the economy or the country
"At the end of the recent presidential debate ... the Democratic nominee recited a litany of supposed cures for nearly everything that ails us, beginning each sentence with the phrase 'I have a plan ...' The problem is that government is not supposed to plan our lives or run the country; we are supposed to be free. That our public discourse strays so far from this principle is an unhappy sign of our times. Those who believe in limited constitutional government should worry every time a politician says, 'I have a plan.'"
Related Topics: Capitalism, Socialism
In Search of a Word: Limited Government versus 'Anarchy', by Spencer H. MacCallum, The Voluntaryist, Oct 1996
Contrasts the positions of Hornberger, who endorses "limited government, with that of Baldy Harper, who preferred to hold "the ideal of a 'total alternative' to political government" as a guiding light towards a voluntary society
"The 'limited government' concept cannot serve reliably as a guiding star because it is relative; any government at virtually any time or place in the world is limited with respect to some other government, real or imagined, that might be named. So we must ask, limited by comparison with what? The same criticism is often leveled at the label 'conservative.' Conserving what? Neither of those two could serve as a north star to keep us to a true heading toward a totally voluntary society, which heading may or may not be asymptotic. So Baldy Harper was an idealist, for the most practical of reasons."
Limited Government--A Moral Issue, by C. W. Anderson, Feb 1992
Ludwig von Mises and the Justification of the Liberal Order, by William Baumgarth, The Economics of Ludwig von Mises, Nov 1974
Critically examines various Mises' writings on liberalism, democracy, the wisdom of the masses, special-interest politics, equal treatment under the law, anarchism, self-determination and of course economics
"Limited government became the explicit political goal of the classical liberals, because the limiting of government simultaneously frees economic transactions in the social sphere. Freeing economic exchange from, say, the shackles imposed by mercantilist forms of monopoly provides society with a social cohesiveness brought about by the mutual interdependence of economic agents in an ever-widening complexion of the division of labor. ... The meaning of liberalism as a political program is obscured because its language has been usurped by parties and movements that wish to substitute an entirely different program for that of limited government and unregulated commercial exchange."
Lysander & Limited Government, by Fred Miller, Reason, May 1976
Argues that Spooner, although critical of the government instituted by the U.S. Constitution, was in favor of a legitimate, limited government, i.e., one that is voluntarily financed
"But the fact relevant here is the last: 'That no government, so called, can reasonably be trusted for a moment, or reasonably be supposed to have honest purposes in view, any longer than it depends wholly upon voluntary support' (p. 22). Spooner is here laying down a necessary condition for legitimate government: it must be voluntarily financed. He is asserting, not that no government is legitimate, but that no government that is financed by extortion is legitimate. Since the possibility of a legitimate government is thus left open, it is clearly consistent with the limited-government libertarian."
Mencken, H. L. (1880-1956), by Rod L. Evans, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
"Like Jefferson, Mencken held that, although some government is necessary to preserve peace and perform a few other duties individuals cannot easily perform for themselves, government beyond that minimum would likely be exploiting citizens, advantaging one group by disadvantaging another. In an editorial ... he wrote cynically about persons in favor of an expansive role for government: 'A Progressive is one who is in favor of more taxes instead of less, more bureaus and jobholders, more paternalism and meddling, more regulation of private affairs and less liberty. In general, he would be inclined to regard the repeal of any tax as outrageous.'"
Related Topics: H. L. Mencken, Prohibition
Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand, by Roy Childs, The Rational Individualist, Aug 1969
Published by the Society for Rational Individualism (later merged into the Society for Individual Liberty); responds to five of Rand's arguments in her essay "The Nature of Government"
"... limited government... holds a monopoly on retaliation but does not initiate the use or threat of physical force ... It is my contention that limited government is a floating abstraction which has never been concretized by anyone; that a limited government must either initiate force or cease being a government; that the very concept of limited government is an unsuccessful attempt to integrate two mutually contradictory elements: statism and voluntarism."
Regime Libertarians, by Lew Rockwell, 12 Jul 2005
Criticises the "Iraq Exit Strategy: America's Path Forward" proposal, made by the Libertarian National Committee on 29 June 2005, and suggests the name "Regime Libertarianism" for those who make proposals such as these
"... we are not speaking here of merely the belief in limited government, or what is sometimes called 'minarchism.' There is a difference between believing in the need for government to preserve and protect freedom, and the view that government is the first condition of society, responsible for giving birth to freedom. In one view, some government is unavoidable; in the other view, power is the benefactor of freedom, the force to which all liberty owes its conception."
The American Heritage of "Isolationism", by Gregory Bresiger, Future of Freedom, May 2006
Criticizes the use of the word "isolationist" by the media, "internationalists" and other foreign intervention promoters, looking at the heritage of noninterventionism as exemplified by Washington's Farewell Address
"In this 54-year period, the United States accelerated its transformation from a government with at least some of the remaining principles of limited government to one of openly embracing empire abroad and an unlimited welfare state at home. ... But an unanswered question is at the heart of any efforts to restore limited government in America. Just what is isolationism or noninterventionism? Is it an extreme un-American belief, at odds with limited government? Or is it at the heart of limited government, an inescapable component of any government under law or what liberal German philosophers once called the Rechtsstaat? "
The Case For a Libertarian Political Party, by David Nolan, The Individualist, Aug 1971
A few months before the founding of the Libertarian Party, Nolan presents his rationale for establishing a new political party, after discussing four other libertarian activist strategies and admitting that "political approaches are inherently coercive"
"The second popular argument against a multi-party system - that is produces 'chaos' - is, from a libertarian viewpoint, actually an argument in its favor. The prospect of a coalition government, where any of a number of small parties can veto legislation, is far from horrifying to anyone who is inclined toward a limited-government (or no-government) philosophy."
The Delusion of Limited Government, by Butler Shaffer, 14 May 2002
The Myth of "Limited Government", by Joseph Sobran, 20 Dec 2001
The Roots of Limited Government, by Alan Barth, Feb 1991
The Sphere of Government: Nineteenth Century Theories: 1. John Stuart Mill, by Henry Hazlitt, The Freeman, Jan 1980
Critiques Mill's ideas on what are the "necessary" and "optional" functions of government
"In a later chapter, Mill considers some of the reasons for limiting government power. 'There is a part of the life of every person who has come to years of discretion, within which the individuality of that person ought to reign uncontrolled either by any other individual or by the public collectively. ... A second general objection to government agency is that every increase of the functions devolving on the government is an increase in its power'-which may soon become 'arbitrary.' ... 'A third general objection to governmental agency rests on the principle of the division of labor. ...'"
The Spirit of Humility [PDF], by Stanley Kober, Cato Journal, 1997
Discusses the recognition of the limits on human knowledge, which the author claims leads to the title spirit as evidenced in "the American experiment" and its possible lessons for European unification
"This recognition of the limits of our knowledge has two implications for civil society. First, it means that government must also be limited. According to the American Founders, democracy did not mean the election of a government that had total power. On the contrary, they were very conscious of the dangers of the tyranny of the majority. In particular, they were hostile to the idea of concentrating power in a single individual, even if elected. As James Madison warned the Constitutional Convention, the United States had to avoid 'the Evils of elective Monarchies.'"
What It Means to Be a Libertarian [PDF], by Randolph J. May, Cato Journal, 1997
Review of Charles Murray's book What It Means to Be a Libertarian, contrasting it with Tocqueville's writings in Democracy in America
"For example, Murray identifies the following federal programs and functions to be eliminated entirely: Social Security, Medicare, welfare, agriculture, housing, training and employment, energy, and the Post Office. He advocates the repeal of most consumer and product safety laws leaving redress to traditional tort and contract remedies. He would also repeal civil rights laws in favor of a constitutional amendment to the effect that (1) no government at any level shall pass any law that requires discrimination by ethnicity, race, religion, or creed; and (2) no government shall pass any law limiting freedom of association for private individuals and groups."
Why Limited Representative Government Fails, by Michael S. Rozeff, 17 Apr 2008
Presents a four-element theory of why limited representative government fails
"Once we accept the premise of government, even if it be limited government, we tend to follow out the implication of having others govern us, which is that more government is desirable. The two concepts, limited and government, logically conflict with one another. ... This conflict between limited government and simply government has evidently been resolved in favor of dropping the limited part in favor of the government part."
Related Topics: Government, The State, Voting

Cartoons and Comic Strips

Aren't You Thankful You Voted For the Party of Limited Government?, by Chuck Asay, 16 Apr 2004
Non Sequitur: Federal Dept. of Making Government Smaller, by Wiley Miller, 12 Oct 2004

Books

Leviathan: The Growth of Local Government and the Erosion of Liberty
    by Clint Bolick, 2004
More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well
    by Walter E. Williams, 1999

Videos


Is Limited Government an Oxymoron?, by Doug Casey, McCuistion, 18 Oct 2009
Dennis McCuistion interviews Doug Casey and Thomas E. Woods, Jr., on their views about the role of government

Sympathy for the Minarchist..., by Stefan Molyneux, 11 May 2009
Questions for minarchists set to the tune of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil"