appeared today in the Scotsman & I absolutely agree with it. I believe in democracy as a normally practical way of producing fairly good government but I believe in liberty as a basic principle & the 2 do not always pull in the same dirction.
By the 19th century, the victory of liberalism seemed complete, and government had little power to tax and meddle. The extension of the franchise was seen as a further enhancement of popular liberty. But without formal limits on the power of government, it triggered the cycle of the ever- expanding state we have seen since then.
In the US, a formal constitution has preserved the division of power, and entrenched certain liberties. But it has failed to halt the accretion of state power. In terms of the volume of taxes and legislation, the US hardly differs from any other western democracy.
Further reading: The Policy Institute Site with paper in full
Should liberals despair at this trend? It is certainly hard to see how the tightening dynamic of democracy and big government can be stopped. But it is well to remember that in historical terms this is a recent phenomenon.
Even the oldest modern democracies have only developed fully in the last hundred years or so. Things can change quickly. We must strive to remind people of the benefits of limited government, and urge them to transfer their allegiance away from democracy as an end in itself, and back to liberty.
I would suggest here that my hobbyhorse of economic growth may provide some answer to this question. Growth, over any period of time, increases the standard of living of everybody far more than even the most serious redistribution ever could. If a massive state sector not devoted to production is inimical to growth then it is & can be shown to be, inimical to the economic interests of voters.