Stop government overreaching

The basic problem is not that laws have bad intentions but that too many laws go overboard. The legitimate goal of laws is to prevent people from using their liberty in harmful ways, but many laws restrict liberty far more than necessary to address the harms they're aimed at. That is to say, though well intended, far too many laws:
  • are not narrowly tailored to the problem, or
  • are not the least restrictive alternative that could be used.
  • Remember, government is made up entirely of people. Everything that government does is actually the choice and act of individual government functionaries. There are many reasons why the people who do the government's work tend to go overboard, imposing excessive restrictions on liberty. Among them are these:
  • When there is a social problem, all attention tends to focus on solving that problem. There is often little or no heed to the possible bad consequences of the chosen solution.

  • When people are given a job, they are expected to achieve results. They will typically be seen as "failures" if they don't. When people have the job of solving a social problem, they risk disapproval or even removal if fail to "perform" by solving the problem or, at least, by making a strong enough attempt.

  • Basically, the way government does its job of insuring “domestic tranquility” is by restricting personal liberty. Reducing liberty is the primary function of law. If a government worker's fulltime job is to suppress the liberty of others, it won't be long until the worker sees depriving people of their freedom as a “normal” everyday thing. There is, in other words, a atural tendency among government workers to become desensitized when it comes to taking away liberty. It’s what they do for a living.

  • Although government may not be an evil in itself, the people who are the government have (like everyone else) their own personal failings. When government's massive power is exercised by functionaries with failings, bad results can occur.

  • And finally, let’s face it: Some people just like to control others.
  • For all of these reasons, government has a natural tendency to go overboard, even when it is trying to accomplish “good” results.


    The natural tendency of government functionaries to go overboard can infect government at all levels, from the halls of lawmakers down to the lowliest cop or bureaucrat. At all levels, the persons who act for government can and do overreach, using the levers of government power to diminish personal liberty in ways that are totally unjustified by any legitimate goal to reduce harm.

    "Preventative" Laws. The problem of going overboard is particularly great when it comes to the modern trend toward “preventative” laws. A preventative law is one that prohibits, not harm as such, but activities that merely might increase a risk of harm.

    At the time our Constitution was adopted, almost all laws were aimed at harm per se (such as murder, robbery, rape, etc.). Today, most new laws are “preventative,” banning activities that are harmless in themselves, like possessing firearms, serving a glass of champagne to a 20-year old, and a lot of so-called money laundering. Obviously, some preventative laws may make sense, even in a nation where freedom is a fundamental right—for example, prohibitions on driving with dangerously high blood alcohol. But many, perhaps most, of these preventative laws go too far.

    It is extremely easy for government to go overboard on preventative laws because, unlike laws that prohibit harms per se, it is harder to how much liberty has to be suppressed in order to achieve the desired level of prevention. It is easy to know where to draw the line on murder (all of them are forbidden), but where exactly should we draw the line on blood alcohol or gun possession?

    Today we say "if in doubt, repress." Should we not say: "If in doubt, then liberty?"

    What you can do?
  • Ask candidates if they would require Liberty Impact Statements
  • Ask candidates if they would favor a Constitutional Court
  • Vote only for candidates who would demand Liberty Impact Statements and a Constitutional Court
  • Write to newspapers and blogs in support of Liberty Impact Statements and a Constitutional Court

    More laws = Less liberty