Cato Institute’s David Boaz draws wording from Thomas Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolution to clearly drive home this historically accurate point. Mr. Boaz writes.
Why shouldn’t we trust the government, as President Obama and Chairman Rogers urge us? Because we know who and what government is. Government is force. We need some minimal government to constrain and punish evildoers. But that doesn’t eliminate our skepticism about the dangers of empowering some people to use force over others. And government is people. It isn’t some Platonic form. The power that government holds is wielded by people, and people are imperfect. Some are corrupt, some are even evil. Some of the worst are actually attracted to state power.
That’s why Americans have always distrusted government. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Kentucky Resolution of 1798 condemning the Alien and Sedition Acts:
Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power. . . . In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
Constitutions don’t enforce themselves. The people still have to maintain eternal vigilance; to do that, we must always remain suspicious and distrustful. Given
the behavior of governments, it’s not that difficult.
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