Do "Libertarians" Equal Limited Government

"From a certain point of view—let’s call it, for shorthand purposes, the libertarian point of view, or the view associated this year with Ron Paul—every dollar that government spends comes at the cost of freedom. The premise of this view is that government and freedom are opposites—that all government is oppression. By this way of thinking, limited government is simply limited oppression, differing in magnitude but not in kind from tyranny. Interestingly, this notion does not come originally from any libertarian thinker or friend of freedom. It comes from Machiavelli, the great analyst of open and hidden power, of force and fraud. From Machiavelli’s point of view, there’s no difference between just and unjust government, which are the same phenomenon called by different names. All government, whether considered to be just or unjust, is oppression. Just government is the kind we happen to agree with and profit from, and unjust is the opposite kind.

Against this view stand the American Founders and the greatest statesmen, who have always sharply distinguished between just and unjust—or between free and tyrannical—forms of government. What is the Declaration of Independence but a great meditation on the difference between the absolute despotism contemplated by King George III and the freedom that the Americans hoped to enjoy under their own form of self-government? The Declaration does not proclaim that just government is merely less oppressive than unjust government—as if the American republic and, say, Nazi Germany were separated only by degrees of tyranny. Our ancestors thought that republican governments like ours were good because, grounded in human nature and operating by law and consent, they affirmed human liberty. Though fundamentally devoted to the protection of our natural rights, such governments, especially at the local level, might also provide instruction in morality, because republican habits and customs are needed to shape a republican citizenry who can keep government limited, and who have the character to make liberty something good and enduring."

Charles Kessler
Editor, Claremont Review of Books

Read more at Imprimis.


Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Actor said...

Shouldn't that be a sea of red ink those Republicans are swimming in?

Roadkill said...


You impress me with the breadth of your reading; you could do far worse than to quote from Charles Kesler. Here’s a major point in his piece:

“In short, it is not the limited Constitution of the Founders, but the living Constitution, which is the ideal of Progressives and of modern liberal theory and practice. A fixed or limited Constitution would make sense if human rights are fixed and unchanging, as the Declaration affirms. But if human rights are essentially historical or evolutionary, then we should want a Constitution that is free to adapt and evolve along with them. In theory, then, no a priori limitations on government power—whether property rights, speech rights, or even religious freedom—can be allowed to impinge on government’s ability to bring about historical liberation.
“A new theory of the Constitution corresponded to this new theory of rights. FDR put it memorably in his 1932 Commonwealth Club Address: Government is a contract under which “rulers were accorded power, and the people consented to that power on consideration that they be accorded certain rights.” According to this view, we give the rulers power and the rulers give us rights. In other words, rights are no longer natural or God-given, but emerge from a bargain struck with the government. And it is up to liberal statesmen or leaders to keep the bargain current, redefining rights constantly—adding new rights and subtracting some of the old ones—in order to keep the living Constitution in tune with the times. Entitlement rights—rights created and funded by government—replace natural rights. Given this new relationship of people and government, we don’t need to keep a jealous eye on government anymore, because the more power we give it, the more rights and benefits it gives us back—Social Security, Medicare, prescription drug benefits, unemployment insurance, and on and on.”

GRH Actor,

Yes, it should be a sea of red ink.

The GOP's abandonment of fiscal responsibility and smaller government is the reason they are in the minority today.

The Republicans have lost way, and conservative voters are not going to support them any longer. Their profligate and wasteful spending has contributed to the squandering of much of the budget surplus left to them by the Clinton Administration.

Let them drown (not swim) in their own red ink; good riddance!

Sunny Badger said...


I find it so interesting that the Bush administration has strayed so far of the idealogocial check list he originally verbally embraced. Of course, we saw the same thing happen with his father. Notice that both Bush's are going to end their terms with huge deficits and bigger governments. Bush Sr. turned his back on his religious right and conservative base components. Bush Jr. has turned his back on the conservative base and made those war-voters in 2004 look like idiots for swallow the GOP fear campaign.

Now McCain is going to drive more of the conservative base off the reservation by embracing global warming. Of course, this will make McCain easier to swallow for the swing voters.

In 2008, the politcians are running from the ideological tea parties along the rails of the ship and heading for the pragmatism in the middle of the ship. The outcome of the 2008 election won't make left or right wing idealogues happy, by it might creat an atmosophere where our elected officials might actually be able pragmaticall triangulate so solutions to real problems facing the future of our nation.

But then again, I'm in supply chain management and might be full of shit up to my ear lobes...