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Government & Politics

Economy
January 23, 2017
How to Dismantle ‘Social Justice’
The prevailing political discourse seems to be consumed with the bromides of social justice, carefully tended by political and intellectual classes claiming special knowledge of its demands.
Government Spending
January 22, 2017
Lawmakers’ Deal Sets Stage for April Budget Bill
Lawmakers’ last-minute approval of a bill appropriating temporary federal government spending will delay federal budget battles until April 2017.
Government & Politics
January 20, 2017
Trumping the Media
The President-Elect upends a news media that’s still in denial about its vanished world.
More News
Government & Politics
January 20, 2017
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast on Trump’s Inaugural Address
‘Trump’s repeated promise to put the interests of Americans first sounded odd, to me and probably to many people listening to this address, because it is so rarely heard from our national elected leaders.’
Government & Politics
January 20, 2017
Smaller Government is the Best Cure for Political Brain Freeze
Americans must face up to the facts: politics has most likely blinded them, obscuring their view of significant facts and all but blacking out the portion of their brains devoted to critical thinking.
Regulation
January 17, 2017
Undoing Obama: Who Should Do Which Government Rollbacks?
Donald Trump will on Friday be sworn in to succeed President Barack Obama. Trump is the incoming – in large part because he repeatedly promised to undo much of what has been done by the outgoing.
 

The Issue

Throughout the course of human history, there have primarily been two distinct, fundamentally different views of the role of government. The position that has dominated in much of the world – now and for the overwhelming majority of history – is the view people in any given place ought to entrust a select few from society to rule over the masses. These governing authorities are given the power to control economies, regulate speech, and determine the extent of personal freedoms granted to individuals – all with the understanding the authority granted to them will be used responsibly to improve the lives of all people.

The second, more-radical view holds that every person – regardless of race, religion, age, or gender – is guaranteed certain inalienable liberties that no authority has the power to reduce, deny, or destroy, and it is the duty of government to safeguard these freedoms against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

Under the first view, the success of society is dependent on a small group of people who have by birth, by privilege, or by force taken for themselves the lion’s share of power, and success is often determined based on subjectively defined, easily manipulated measures. Under the second view, each individual is treated equally under the law, is free to chart his or her own course in life, and is empowered with the liberty to pursue his or her own interests, to attain success, and to improve the lives of others without the heavy hand of a higher authority coercing the course of human events.

In his 1981 inaugural address, President Ronald Reagan, with the nation facing economic turmoil and growing international threats, denounced those who would trade their liberty for a more powerful government.

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” said Reagan. “From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”

Reagan’s refutation of the expanding role of government in Americans’ lives echoes the desire of the Founding Fathers to establish a government that would exist to protect the liberty of every individual, rather than to seize freedom from the people in order to better control and manipulate society.

Our Stance

Government doesn’t exist only to serve the people; it exists to serve the people by protecting their liberties. When individuals are empowered to act with one another freely, innovation, economic growth, and virtually every other factor affecting people’s quality of life improves.

One of the greatest threats to personal liberty and destructive government overreach is the centralization of government’s power. Local and state governments should return to their constitutionally defined role of being the primary lawmakers on all those issues not specifically granted to the national government in the U.S. Constitution. Legislators and executive agencies should also reject all those laws and regulations that do not enhance personal freedom, and term limits should be imposed so that lawmaking is a public service, not a lifelong profession.

Featured Subtopics

Boy child giving flowers to girl child
Federalism is the philosophy that certain powers taken up by the national government should be transferred back to the states, where they originally resided.
A woman running freely
Libertarianism is a political philosophy that puts the protection and advancement of individual liberty before all other values. In the conventional political debate, this means libertarians call for less government and more freedom.
Two men in suits whispering to eachother
Term limits restrict the number of terms of office and lawmaker may hold. They have been a feature of democratic systems of government since Ancient Athens and the Roman Republic.

Additional Subtopics

  • Campaign Finance
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  • Gerrymandering
  • Incumbents and Candidates
  • Initiatives and Referenda
  • Leglislative Process Reform
  • Liberals

Videos

Title: Heartland Institute 2016 Election Wrap-Up Event
Description: Donald Trump shocked the world. He’s the next president of the United States. Our country – and our politics – may never be the same. Watch AM 560 hosts Dan Proft and Joe Walsh, Illinois Opportunity Project's Kathleen Murphy and Pat Hughes, and the Heartland Institute's Jim Lakely break down the 2016 election.

Government & Politics Experts Team

The Heartland Institute's experts on government and politics are available for legislative testimony, speaking engagements, and media interviews.

Heartland Staff Policy Experts

Benjamin Ginsberg
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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