Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their power: that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society, and this is all the laws should enforce on him.

—Thomas Jefferson. Letter to Francis Gilmer, Monticello, June 7, 1816.

The job of the legislature is not to ‘administer’ the country, nor is it to ‘plan.’ The planning and administering in a free country are carried out by individuals and associations of individuals pursuing their individual aims. The role of the legislature is to make laws that provide a legal framework within which individuals may operate as they please without violating each other’s rights. When the legislature deviates from its proper sphere and begins to meddle in things that do not concern it, it commits aggression on the natural rights of individuals—the very evil it was instituted to prevent.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove