Convinced by woeful and eternal experience, societies found it necessary to lay restraints upon their magistrates or public servants, and to put checks upon those who would otherwise put chains upon them; and therefore these societies set themselves to … form national constitutions with such wisdom and art, that the public interest should be consulted and carried on at the same time.

—John Trenchard. Cato’s Letters No. 60, All Government proved to be instituted by men, and only to intend the general good of men, January 6, 1721.

A written constitution is a mechanism to prevent public officials infringing the liberties of the people. There are eight categories of behavior by which public officials do this:

  1. Subverting the manner and form of government.
  2. Breaching fundamental rights.
  3. Breaching the rule of law.
  4. Burdening the people with excessive, counterproductive, and pedantic laws.
  5. Taxing and spending excessively.
  6. Debasing the currency.
  7. Perverting the availability of credit.
  8. Improperly starting wars.

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