When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men 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.

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

Thomas Jefferson

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  1. Anthony November 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Oh!?! Jefferson, not Jesus.
    Good twist on expectations.
    I have to say, this is a sobering piece, and I will be honest, I trust Mr. Jefferson’s sense of the limitations of government as I think he had a far better understanding of it, both from the inside and out, than I do. And, yet, I do think there is a positive role for government, a role that is deeply connected to our human nature, but is hard to see in a positive manner, as our nature is blighted by sin. Having said, this, I cannot explicitly draw a boundary around what the positive role of government is. I’m sure I have to clarify these matters for myself.
    For now I will say that it seems human, in the best sense of the word, to want to see that resources are genuinely available to all so that their basic needs, body and soul, are covered.

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