Thanks to Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek for directing me to George Will’s latest column, The danger of government with unlimited power. Will provides an excellent history of the political origins of two schools of thought when it comes to government power. That’d be nice to throw out at a cocktail party. Ah, you’re more of a Wilsonian Progressive. Personally, I’m more Madisonian in my views.
Thomas Sowell gives a philosophical background in his book, A Conflict of Visions, which highly recommend.
Here’s a great sentence from the column:
Government’s limited purpose is to protect the exercise of natural rights that pre-exist government, rights that human reason can ascertain in unchanging principles of conduct and that are essential to the pursuit of happiness.
While I agree with it, it doesn’t operate at the level I like to operate. My pondering brain asks, what is a natural right that pre-exists government? To me, that phrase plays the same role as the creatures in the woods of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Spoiler alert: The creatures were costumes the adults used to keep the kids from wandering off and finding civilization.
I think there’s a better reason for limited government. A reason that doesn’t require faith in pre-existing natural rights. The answer is: “Power corrupts.”