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Argument: Republicans believe the best govt governs the least

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"He Governs Best Who Governs Least." The Headstrong Club: "He Governs Best Who Governs Least The proper nature and role of government has no doubt been hotly debated since the notion of government itself first arose.

In Europe we take almost for granted the expansive presence of the state but in America the current row over whether government should widen public access to health cover has brought the question of the scope and ambition of government once again to the fore.

The young American republic was founded in large measure in reaction to the remote and unaccountable government of the American colonies from London. In this context two great proponents of democracy, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, both argued that the role of the state should be as limited as possible.

In Common Sense, published in January 1776, Paine declared; “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Meanwhile Jefferson is often quoted as saying both; “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government,” and “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.” The Jefferson quotes are problematic because they do not appear in his writings and the earliest known attributions were made only decades later. The remarks attributed to Jefferson may merely be the efforts of lesser men to appropriate the statesman’s authority for themselves, nevertheless he certainly made a case for government to leave plenty of room for business so let us consider the proposition that small government is best."

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