When the Founders of our great nation put their lives on the line to escape the oppressive rule of the British Crown, they had in mind a government large enough to provide only basic services to the people who empowered it, a revolutionary concept for the mid-18th century.
They would be shocked at what has happened to their ideals and to the historic system they designed over the intervening 232 years.
Thomas Jefferson’s own words tell us the story:
"With all [our] blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.
"[Some] seem to think that [civilization's] advance has brought on too complicated a state of society, and that we should gain in happiness by treading back our steps a little way. I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. I believe it might be much simplified to the relief of those who maintain it." --Thomas Jefferson to William Ludlow, 1824.
"Government as well as religion has furnished its schisms, its persecutions, and its devices for fattening idleness on the earnings of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Clay, 1815.
"When we consider that this government is charged with the external and mutual relations only of these States; that the States themselves have principal care of our persons, our property and our reputation, constituting the great field of human concerns, we may well doubt whether our organization is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices and officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily and sometimes injuriously to the service they were meant to promote." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801.
"It is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:122
"Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821.
"I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. It places the governors indeed more at their ease, at the expense of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.
"A... chief [executive] strictly limited, the right of war vested in the legislative body, a rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823.
"A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in happiness. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1802.
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