In preceding articles, I have railed against government's eclipsing of liberty, lust for power and pursuit of special interests when it should be protecting our rights to life, liberty and property. But please don't conclude that I'm a pessimist. I have great faith that once the American people figure out what's going on, our democracy possesses an astounding ability to self-correct and I believe that we are coming to the conclusion that the bigger the government, the bigger the failure.
Every year Congress produces 60,000 pages of legislation - most drafted by staff and enforced by bureaucrats - leaving our elected representatives near clueless as to the content and consequence of their efforts. (Now you know how senators can spend two years out of the office running for president.) There are some who believe that this much government is necessary and beneficial in a complex society, but that's difficult to defend considering that the four greatest institutional innovations in human history (language, case law, money and markets) all developed without government direction. I contend that the more government interferes in the affairs of free people, the worse things get. This is unavoidable simply because regulation by definition creates a legal structure where A can demand that B provide it with things that A does not want to pay for (like publicly funded education and health care). Once this game is institutionalized, special interests proceed to inject their agendas into regulations via the political process and conflict results (i.e. Santa Claus gets expelled from public schools). But in a free society, parents would receive school vouchers and with them the freedom to send their kids to the school of their choice - including Santa-friendly schools. In short, the freedom to choose avoids conflict while government-imposed monopolies create it.
In addition, there are those who believe that government must be involved in the economy to make things fair. Again, the opposite is true. Poverty and ignorance are no more "givens" of the human condition than are wealth and knowledge. The true state of nature is that each of us is free to use our talents and intelligence to create them all. We are all born ignorant, yet some achieve wisdom while others do not. Some are born to wealth yet die paupers while still others are born in poverty yet build fortunes. It is therefore no more government's job to produce economic equality than it is to oversee the distribution of beauty. Furthermore, there are also those who believe the point of economic policy is to produce jobs. No, the point of an economy is to produce goods and services that people want to buy.
In closing, let me clarify that limited government is not government restrained by size, but constrained by purpose. Nor does limited imply an ineffective government, but an effectively focused one. Nor does limited imply a detached government, but one instead that is enthusiastically engaged in the protection of our rights. This is the government Madison had in mind when he crafted the concepts of Delegated and Enumerated powers into the Constitution. Yet, this is the vision we are losing to a government that grows in pursuit of powers not granted it by the Constitution, but bought and paid for by special interests. I wish there were someone running for president who understood that.
Rich Shields of Scottsdale is a visiting professor of economics at universities around the world.