No Coercion
31Mar/101

No such thing as limited government

A recent piece at the Mises Institute site by D.W. MacKenzie, Politics Cannot Be Fixed, touches on some important points about the problems with democracy.

I agree with most of what he says up until he advocates a "return" to limited government. I don't think such a government is possible on logical grounds--even a government that claims to be limited to some piece of paper (which they wrote for themselves) is, in fact, unlimited since it has a monopoly on justice and the legal 'right' to initiate force. It would be a simple matter of a constitutional amendment or even an extra broad interpretation of the General Welfare clause for our current government to become a full totalitarian state (or at least try to before they remembered how many of us are packing heat).

MacKenzie also says: "Constitutional government limited to providing internal and external security can be evaluated by objective criteria."

I think he's right that such things could be evaluated objectively (i.e. we can see clearly whether someone is invading the territory claimed by the state or whether criminals are assaulting people and stealing property), but you still face the problem that everyone from Molinari to Rothbard have pointed out--that the government has no rational way to actually determine how to allocate resources in pursuit of such security. Do you spend more on police cars and less on judges? How much do you spend on prisons, security systems, and district attorneys? Every question government is faced with can only be answered by arbitrary political means rather than by response to consumer demand. Also, it glosses over the fundamental moral question of why one group of people (the state) has the right to impose a legal system on everyone rather than allowing voluntary legal systems to spontaneously evolve on the free market (as they already do to the limited extent allowed by the state).

But I do agree his "limited government" is a far sight better than the imperial-welfare-police-state by which we are currently ruled.

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  1. I always find it interesting when people denounce gun ownership as a practical anti-tyrannical vehicle. “What will your gun do against a tank?” They ask. Then I see our military, overseas, with all its advanced weaponry, smart bombs, artillery, air support, etc. having a ridiculously tough time dealing with a determined local populace with a few outdated guns, RPGs, and improvised explosives.


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