A debut book advances an argument for limited government on economic, political, and—most important—moral grounds.
According to Lipse, the great promise of the 20th century was sadly unfulfilled despite great leaps forward technologically and a surfeit of enthusiasm. He blames the widely held belief in “economic interventionism,” or the view that government regulation and policymaking are the keys to growth. Most, though, attribute the failures of that approach to bureaucratic incompetence or the fiascos engendered by political partisanship. The author contrarily contends that the real issue is “predatory jurisdiction,” understood as a government’s unjust proscription of basic individual rights within the bounds of its lawful authority. Lipse anatomizes several problems from this perspective: the erosion of individual property rights, the unlimited accumulation of public debt, overregulation, and government-induced inflation. In one chapter, Lipse targets entry regulation, which not only creates a shadow economy or “informal sector” of business for those refused access to their chosen professions, but also denies citizens their basic rights to function as free economic actors. Repeatedly, the author prioritizes the moral argument that any iteration of predatory jurisdiction is a trampling of rights: “Ultimately, the essence of this book is to remind people of that great republican ideal: that the state is an entity instituted by the citizenry to serve the people.” Lipse also discusses the issue legally, contending that the Constitution does not provide a powerful enough catalog of basic economic rights, in the absence of which any reform will be limited. The author’s argument is both comprehensive and painstaking; he uncoils it carefully and lucidly. In addition, he avoids the trap of tendentious hyperbole so typical in reformist books—Lipse makes it clear he’s not against government regulation, just its unrestrained exercise. More could be said in these pages, in the spirit of the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, about the ways in which the people themselves are complicit in the failings of democracy and have acquiesced, if not contributed, to the technocratic oversight performed to their disadvantage. But this remains a thoughtful reminder of the moral stakes in government policy.
A thorough and accessible consideration of government regulation.