Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big Government vs. Small Government

Yes, it's been a few days. Busy would be an understatement for my current schedule. No complaints here though, just a desire to teach. Let's see, what shall we learn today... I think we're ready for this. Big Government vs. Small Government is our topic today.

We discussed a lot about Smith and Marx and the Constitution and ways to interpret it. Today we ask the simple question: Which is better: Bigger Government, or Smaller Government?

First, we're going to go over the basics. We know that economics is directly related to government. For this reason, the difference between Adam Smith and Karl Marx is significant. Marx's security ideal, we have seen, has failed time and again. Smith's liberty ideal, we have seen, has created prosperous nations every time. More important, we understand that the liberty that Smith's ideal gives us keeps the government small and avoids using force excessively.

We've learned that using force (government) to enforce laws that don't protect life, liberty, or property not only infringes on liberty, but is innefective. We understand that excessive legislation stems from larger government and small governments are limited a great deal by their size.

Let's learn something we don't know yet. What did the founding fathers intend for our country? Did they want our government to be big or small? Let's find some quotes by them.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin

Whoa! Hello Ben Franklin. Could you lay your feelings out any clearer? I think it's clear that Benjamin Franklin chooses Smith over Marx, or Liberty over Security. Let's hear from another one.

The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills. – Thomas Jefferson

Hmm... This is actually rather unnecessary. The quote atop the page and other quotes from Jefferson that I have used in the past show that he is a Liberty proponent. This one, however, I like most because he notes an interesting point. Even God himself will not save men against their wills. It is major evidence of the importance of Liberty over Security. It emphasizes the true meaning of Smith's arguments.

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. James Madison

James Madison seems to be against big government as well. I will be using more quotes from him in the future. In any case, I can go through a number of others, but let's just assume that a good number of the founders agreed on the importance of Liberty over security. If you don't believe me, then look at the Declaration of Independence and Constitution again. I have quoted them on several occasions. Let's ask the obvious question: Did any of the founders disagree? There are quotes out there that say that Alexander Hamilton and even James Madison disagreed with this small government concept. Let's look at one such quote:

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788


Ok, sure, but what did he mean by that?

But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States.
--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 32, January 3, 1788


Hmm... So, he did expand it to point out the importance of the limitations on the Federal Government. In fact, he was a major proponent of Liberty:

A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.
--Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, February 23, 1775


And Moreso:

Good constitutions are formed upon a comparison of the liberty of the individual with the strength of government: If the tone of either be too high, the other will be weakened too much. It is the happiest possible mode of conciliating these objects, to institute one branch peculiarly endowed with sensibility, another with knowledge and firmness. Through the opposition and mutual control of these bodies, the government will reach, in its regular operations, the perfect balance between liberty and power.
--Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, June 25, 1788


So, yes, Hamilton wasn't as deeply rooted into the principles of liberty as the other founders, but he advocated it to, to a great deal even:

And it proves, in the last place, that liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other departments.
--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 78, 1788


Now that we understand which economic philosophy is best for our nation, which size government our founders advocated, and which laws are effective and 'good', we find that ultimately, smaller government is the true foundation of a good nation. How small? That's another question entirely. Take care; I'll return when I can.

Sincerely,
Ted

No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session. – Mark Twain (1866)

4 comments:

Shiwa said...

Hey, I stumbled into your blog, it is very informative. I am currently doing some writing on free enterprise system and liberty.The information is useful. Keep up the good work.

Irish said...

As I find even family members are now requesting historical references about the constitution in order for me to justify, in my opinion, my very logical comments pertaining to the inefficiencies of our government, your commentary is very perceptive and clean. So, please, as I start to devote more and more time to understanding the problems and their causes, do not stop posting your opinions, as they WILL influence and encourage mine, and I think we have very similar opinions. God bless you! -Brian

pierce79 said...

Added as an afterthought[clarification needed], but today very much a key part of the American Constitution is the Bill of Rights. After enumerating specific rights retained by the people in the first eight amendments, the Ninth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment summarily spelled out the principle of limited government. Together, these two last Amendments clarify the differences between the unenumerated (as well as enumerated) rights of the people versus the expressly codified delegated powers of the federal government. The Ninth Amendment codified that the rights of the people do not have to be expressly written in the Constitution (i.e., do not have to be enumerated) to still be retained by the people
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pierce79 said...

reverse, though, the Tenth Amendment codified that any delegated powers of the federal government are only authorized to be performed so long as such delegated powers are expressly delegated to the federal government specifically by the U.S. Constitution.
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