James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government

James Madison and the Future of Limited Government


This book looks at the ways in which James Madison's ideas might instruct and inform our era.


James Madison advanced the cause of liberty before, during, and after the Constitutional Convention of 1789. His constitutional vision of limited government has enabled Americans to enjoy liberty and its material and spiritual rewards. As we begin what may be the next American century, the 250th anniversary of Madison's birth offers a chance to reflect on the future of his legacy. the essays in this volume, first presented at a conference at the Cato Institute in March 2001, explore the relevance of Madison's ideas for the future of the United States and the world. Madison, it turns out, may offer as much to coming generations as he has to the living.

Reviving Limited Government

In the Federalist Papers, Madison noted that the Framers tried to create a government strong enough to control the governed and yet somehow able to control itself. the Framers saw the Constitution as a social contract that delegated power from the people to advance the goals cited in the Preamble. That delegation was both limited to the powers enumerated in the Constitution and constrained by the Bill of Rights.

Judge Alex Kozinski and co-author Stephen Engel as well as Roger Pilon point out in their contributions to this volume that the original Constitution did not grant Congress a general power to spend. It did grant the authority to raise money to pay national debts as well as to provide for the common defense and the general welfare. Madison denied that the “general welfare” clause gave Congress unlimited authority to tax and spend. the clause granted authority to spend only in pursuit of the powers enumerated in Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution.

Contemporary American government has slipped free from these constitutional constraints. Kozinski and Engel document how the general welfare clause of the Constitution became an excuse for . . .

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