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Freedoms and restraints

Politics

"Why has government been instituted at all?" asked Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 15. His answer: "Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint." The overwhelming majority of the founders of the American republic and the citizens of the new nation recognized and worshipped God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the universe. They had the biblical understanding of their role as stewards responsible to the One who owns it all. And they knew enough about human nature to realize the need to restrain themselves from injuring one another by delegating some authority to a very limited government.

Having learned from history that the worst enemy of human freedom is unrestrained government, the authors of the U.S. Constitution left us rules that help prevent the concentration and abuse of political power. The Founding Fathers carefully crafted their language to remind the future members of government that they were nothing more than hired servants and that they had no rights except those lent to them by the people.

In his latest novel, Unseen Academicals, bestselling author Terry Pratchett provides a clever justification for the system of checks and balances that slows down our legislature and executive decisions to the frustration of any temporary majority. The book points out that power can do a lot, but it can't stop people being stupid. You can try to prevent by forcing someone from growing fat on a diet of doughnuts or from smoking and catching lung cancer. But you will have to go on using more and more power to prevent people from breaking the rules and engaging in other even more dangerous behaviors. The only sensible thing to do is make sure that the process of paternalistic intervention does not begin. Every time the government goes beyond its very limited function of securing our life, liberty, and property, it produces more numerous and more severe problems than the ones it tries to solve.

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Alex Tokarev
Alex Tokarev

Alex is the chair of the Department of Business at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill., and teaches at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The native of communist Bulgaria fanatically supports the Bulgarian soccer team, Levski.

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