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The best Government is that which governs least

By Peter Coulson - posted Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The best Government is that which governs least

This is the central premise of libertarian political theory and is designed for two main aims. Firstly it protects the rights and liberties from a government pursuing a course of action that requires coercion of the public to achieve its desired outcomes.

The second reason for this theory is the belief that government should "focus on its knitting": providing a stable economic management framework, with robust and predictable rules within which the market can effectively operate to create wealth for its participants. The second reason is why the Gillard Government's leftist Greens-dominated agenda will make Australia poorer.


Briefly, let me outline why it is preferable for a Government to be restricted in its actions for the protection of rights and liberties. There has long-been the recognition that a stable society requires a government with certain powers to facilitate an orderly and secure society within which its individuals can thrive.

One of the first principles however of allowing a state to be ruled by a central governing power is that the powers given up by individuals to the government must be regulated and restricted lest the power of the government to coerce individuals be improperly and excessively applied.

By restricting the operations of government to a limited number of areas, the number of individuals in society who oppose the government's decisions are likely to be reduced. By reducing the number of opponents who require coercion, the utility of society is maintained, whereby the good of the state is facilitated by the coercion of the fewest number of individuals as possible. Thus the rights and liberties of the general population is protected, because the litmus test of liberty is not the freedom of the majority, but the price paid by those whose rights are trampled by the state.

In relation to the latest announcements by the Gillard Government, those of gay marriage and euthanasia, some might say that the rights of marriage and death are being trampled by the state. However, by way of response I would say that there has never been a right to marriage by homosexual couples. The power to grant such a right does not lie with the state but with the church for the fundamental reason that marriage is not a creation of the state in legislation but a creation of religion as stipulated in the Bible. Thus proponents of gay marriage are not resisting the withdrawal of a right, but advocating the creation of a new one; one that is not within the authority of the state to provide.

In that regard, I fully support the proposal of homosexual partners to celebrate their commitment and love for each other through a civil union and I believe that a secular recognition of this nature is the most reasonable outcome.

In relation to euthanasia there are very strong arguments with layers of merit that warrant the restriction on assisted suicide. For brevity's sake I won't cover these here, but would simply say that euthanasia falls into a category of private actions for which the state should have a right to mandate outcomes for the betterment of society. Simply put, it is not in society's interests that society should support the death of its members.


It is my opinion that by making these radical changes to society, The Gillard Government is raising issues to national importance which are divisive and engage passionate interests on either side of the debate. While the debate should occur, the national government should not be focusing on these issues at the cost of other actions.

This leads into the economic arguments of why the Gillard Government's leftist agenda will weaken Australia's society and make us poorer. There are two reasons why Julia Gillard's announcements will make Australia poorer, and they both stem from the fact that in raising these radical social issues to such levels of importance Gillard is increasing the scope of the federal government and simultaneously eroding the focus of its operations.

In contrast to the Gillard Government, the 1996-2007 Howard Government was the best example of strong economic management in Australia's economic history since the Second World War. The reason for this was its uncompromising focus on economic issues as its single-most important responsibility.

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About the Author

Pete Coulson is a Brisbane-based student of economics at Griffith University. He is a keen observer of Queensland politics and shares his thoughts at Queensland Politics.

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