that force to the protection of life, liberty, and property. Markets, both formal and informal, could then be relied on to bring about economic prosperity and social harmony.
In a free society, the relationship between the individual and the state is simple. Thomas Jefferson stated it well: “Man is not made for the State but the State for man, and it derives its just
“The task is not to reinvent government or to give politics meaning; the task is to limit government and revitalize civil society.”
powers from the consent of the governed.” The fact that the Founders never fully realized their principles should not divert attention from the importance of those principles for a free society and for safeguarding the dignity of all people.
Behind the U.S. Constitution lies the tradi- tion of natural rights: individuals have certain inalienable rights, the most fundamental of which is the right to be left alone, to be free, with the cor- responding obligation to respect the freedom and property of others. Under the higher law of the Constitution, justice requires equal protection of persons and property. As James Madison, the chief architect of the Constitution, wrote, “that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”
From a classical-liberal perspective, the pri- mary functions of government are to secure “the blessings of liberty” and “establish justice”—not by mandating outcomes, but by setting mini- mum standards of just conduct and leaving indi- viduals free to pursue their own values within the law. The “sum of good government,” wrote Jefferson, is to “restrain men from injuring one another,” to “leave them . . . free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement,” and to “not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
The Jeffersonian philosophy of good gov- ernment was widely shared in 19th-century America. Indeed, Jeffersonian democracy be- came embodied in what John O’Sullivan, editor