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Milton Friedman Quote

The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminatedóa system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement.

ideas > Three Pillars of Any Good Government

Three Pillars of Any Good Government
There is no one form of government, when instituted, will guarantee the protection of its citizenís right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and property. History has proven this to be true. The United States is an example of democratically elected government that generally has respected the rights of most of its citizens better than most governments throughout history. Germanyís government under Adolph Hitler was also democratically elected, yet it seriously abused the rights of its citizens until the end of the World War II, even turning its anger, frustration, and vitriol upon its own citizens both Jew and non-Jew by brutally murdering hundreds of thousands. If no form of government can guarantee the rights of its citizens, what are the key principles that determine whether or not a government becomes tyrannical or not?

The answer to this question is determined by three key principles.

First, the citizens must be active participants in the government. Active participants will be less likely to allow a government to restrict or take away their rights. They must elect good leaders, not corrupt leaders. If the leaders become corrupt, the citizens must elect other good, decent leaders. Corrupt leaders do not respect a citizenís rights, but instead seek to gather more and more power into their hands. Often they do this with clever messages of change or by creating false enemies. Either way, the people must be wise and good enough to remove corrupt leaders and replace them with wise and good leaders.

Second, the leaders of the government must not be corrupt. A good leader is one, who when given great political powers, still chooses to respect the God-given rights of the people. These rights were set out in the Declaration of Independence and include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and also property. A perfect example of this type of leader is George Washington. He was the hero of the Revolutionary War and could have become a dictator, yet relinquished his power to Congress upon winning the war and went back to Mount Vernon only to be called back into to service as the President of the United States. It is vitally important for the citizens to elect good leaders, because corrupt leaders will consistently work round the clock to consolidate their power, thus eroding the rights of the people. A good leader realizes that they do not have all the answers. A corrupt leader believes falsely that they have all the answers.

Third, a government must be designed so as to artificially limit the power it can wield over its people. Humans are naturally corrupt and selfish beings and often will choose their own selfish interests at the expense of others rights. One of the primary ways to limit the power of any government is to restrict its ability to tax. Money is power and lack of money is lack of power. Man by nature is selfish and power seeking. Therefore, the government must be able to curb these appetites and the best way to do this would be to spread the powers of government throughout various branches of governments and states and limit the ability of the government to tax its citizens. The founding fathers did this marvelously by creating three separate branches of government, assigning the federal government limited duties clearly spelled out, and limiting the federal governmentís ability to by tax its citizens directly.

These three principles of active citizens, good leaders, and a limited form of government, when followed, have the greatest likelihood of producing a government that will respect the rights of its citizens for an extended period of time. As I have thought of these three principles, I realized that all three principles do not need to be followed to ensure that the government respects the rights of its people. A couple of examples will prove this point. If the people are active and the government is limited, yet the leaders are corrupt, the limited government will restrict the damage the corrupt leaders can inflict until the people vote the corrupt leaders out. If the leaders are good and the government limited, yet the people are inactive participants in the government, the leaders will refuse to implement policies and laws that will not harm the peopleís rights. If all three pillars are not followed, then eventually the government will become tyrannical. One cannot always count on good leaders to save the people if the people do not care. One cannot always count on the government remaining limited because eventually corrupt leaders will find a way around the limitations.

The United States of America began following these principles, but now it follows none of them with any regularity. Its citizens are not active participants in their government. At least fourty percent of those eligible to vote do not vote. The people seem to be fine with corrupt leaders who work day in and day out to consolidate more and more power in the governmentís hands in the form of regulation, direct involvement in the economic affairs of its citizens, and on and on. The leaders in general do not respect the rights of the people to enjoy their life as they see fit, to pursue their happiness as they see fit, or to even respect their private property. The federal government is no longer limited. It no longer seems to care that the Constitution states it can only act in certain spheres of influence, leaving the rest to the states. It instead has usurped many of the stateís rights and the rights of its citizens. How did this happen? It happened because the 16th amendment gave the federal government the power to tax its citizenís income at any percentage they liked. This allowed the federal government to grow to what it is today. A government that has no limitations on taxation is a government that is destined to become tyrannical. If the people do not become active again and elect good leaders who respect their rights, the federal government will ultimately devolve into a tyrannical entity. Corrupt leaders will always turn any government into an entity that will serve their interests, not the interests of the people.
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