Government’s Justification: Protecting Individual Rights

By Bradley Harrington

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.” — James Madison, “Virginia Ratifying Convention Speech,” 1788 —

WTE3 Column #92 Illustration -- James Madison Federalist QuoteOnce in a while I’ll get asked a really good question by a reader — and, this time around, it’s this:

“Please write a column in detail outlining your manifesto on how our country’s government should function. Respectfully, Mac Jones.” (“Letter,” c/o the WTE.)

I’d be happy to do that, Mr. Jones. Your question, however, can only be answered properly in the context of the answer to a more fundamental question still, which is: “What is the PURPOSE of government?” Why do we even have it at all?

Once we answer that question, then we’ll be in a position to outline government functions — since those functions will be based on and rooted in the fulfillment of that purpose.

And, when it comes to the purpose of American government, the “Declaration of Independence” makes it clear: That “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” Governments, in other words, derive their just functioning powers from their stated mission of protecting individual rights.

This is an extremely important point to grasp, and it simply cannot be overstated: The purpose of American government is to protect individual rights. PERIOD!  So, as we determine the proper “functions” of government, that’s the standard we’ll be applying.

So, now, let’s ask ourselves: Just what functions of government are essential to the protection of individual rights? And that question, in turn, leads to: What forces are capable of aggressing upon them, and what institutions are required to prevent such aggressions from occurring, or to adjudicate their occurrences afterwards?

Well, we need a military, to protect U.S. citizens from foreign aggression; and we need the police, to protect ourselves from the criminals; and we need a court system, to provide for the adjudication of contractual and other disputes.

And that, Mr. Jones, is just about it. That’s ALL the government needs to be doing to protect our individual rights; those are the only institutions required to fulfill that purpose.

And, since government in its present form functions on the basis of collectivist taxation, which is rooted in the use of force, it therefore follows that any OTHER “functions” of government — such as “welfare” wealth redistribution or economic regulation — actually violate the stipulations which make proper government possible! Right?

(Sidebar: Once government has been pared back to its legitimate function of protecting man’s individual rights, it’ll be possible to end this collectivist farce of taxation once and for all. For further discussion on this topic, see “Morality ends where a gun begins,” WTE,  Feb. 17, 2017.)

So: What does all of this mean? That most of what is considered as “government,” today, needs to be wiped out completely, as those programs and policies attack the very freedoms government functions are intended to protect.

“Social Security”? Sorry, it’s not the government’s job to be your Big Daddy and plan your retirement. “Welfare”? Sorry, the government has no right to steal money from your neighbor and hand it to you. “Education”? Sorry, that isn’t the government’s job either.

No, far from “protecting” our freedoms, such approaches achieve the exact opposite effect, adhering instead to a principle the Founding Fathers understood quite well: That, it’s unrestrained government itself that poses the biggest threat to our individual liberties.

So, “in framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” (James Madison, “The Federalist No. 51,” 1788.)

I would submit, therefore, Mr. Jones, that in order for the United States to achieve a true consistency with its own moral-social-political principles, all of these “multitudes of new offices,” along with the “swarms of officers” sent out by them to “harass our people and eat out their substance,” need to be gotten rid of — and the faster the better.

For, as it sits right now, what we now have instead is exactly the kind of government “functions” Madison warned us of, “the gradual and silent encroachments of those in power.”

Yet no man nor no society can function in the midst of conflicting principles for long; and, given the degree to which such encroachments have been made over the last several decades, I don’t think it’s alarmist at all to state — when it comes to these needed corrections — that the continued survival of our future liberties hangs in the balance.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:

NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on April 8, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.

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