Those of us who want to put government in its proper place and keep it limited sometimes come across to others as naysayers. Because we’re not suckers for the promises of politicians to take care of every corner of our lives, we get accused of being mean and uncaring.
But we should be quick to point out that we are opposed to excessive government because we are in favor of some incredibly positive and important things. We want to limit government ultimately because we support freedom, without which life would hardly be worth living. The meanest and most uncaring societies in the world are the ones where government monopolizes everything.
We want to limit government because we want to maximize opportunity, entrepreneurship and creativity. We want to permit individuals to go as far as their talents, ambitions and work ethic can take them. We want to limit government because we want people to dream and have the room to bring those dreams to fruition, for themselves and their families.
We want to limit government because we want to strengthen other institutions of civil society that tend to shrink as government grows—institutions such as the family, church, community, and the many voluntary associations that form the bedrock of liberty, prosperity and self-reliance.
And we want to limit government because we have learned something from the thousands of years of experience with it—enough to know that it should be confined to certain minimal but critical functions and otherwise leave us alone. Providing for the common defense, establishing justice, keeping the peace and protecting individual rights would be a full-time job all by itself—and the more that government does beyond those duties, the more it tends to perform them poorly.
History is littered with the wreckage of government planners and their presumptuous visions of “the common good.” They claim that to make an omelet, they must break a few eggs. But as they accumulate power, they kill or impoverish millions along the way. If Big Government ever earns a final epitaph, it will be this: “Here lies a contrivance cooked up by know-it-alls and busybodies who broke eggs with abandon but never, ever created an omelet.”
At the core of our principles are these indisputable truths: Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you’ve got.
Keep government small and keep your eye on it because it will grab whatever power it can get its hands on at your expense.
To help us all remember these truths, let’s ponder the wisdom in these words:
“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty” — John Basil Barnhill.
“There can be no greater stretch of arbitrary power than is required to seize children from their parents, teach them whatever the authorities decree they shall be taught, and expropriate from the parents the funds to pay for the procedure… A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state” — Isabel Paterson.
“Government, when it is examined, turns out to be nothing more nor less than a group of fallible men with the political force to act as though they were infallible” — Robert LeFevre.
“In demanding that men in Government be responsible for his welfare, a citizen is demanding control of his affairs by men whose only power is the use of force…Then the citizen must lose the use of his natural human rights; his exercise of free action…must be checked and curbed and prevented, by force” — Rose Wilder Lane.
“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself… Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable” — H. L. Mencken.
“Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys” — P. J. O’Rourke.
“Socialists cry ‘Power to the people,’ and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean—power over people, power to the State” – Margaret Thatcher.
“A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned…is the sum of good government” – Thomas Jefferson.
“True friends of liberty… ought constantly to be on the alert to prevent the power of government from lightly sacrificing the private rights of individuals to the general execution of its designs. At such times no citizen is so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed; no private rights are so unimportant that they can be surrendered with impunity to the caprices of a government… [because] men accustom themselves to sacrifice private interest without scruple and to trample on the rights of individuals in order more speedily to accomplish any public purpose” — Alexis de Tocqueville.