Tocqueville and the Limits of Limited Government

Speak: BYU Political Science Professor Ralph Hancock

The idea of limited government is a natural corollary of the value of individual freedom. Lincoln’s statement of the purpose of government as that of lifting “artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all” in order “to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life” is at once noble in its aspiration and sober in its conception of the proper scope of political power. On closer inspection and in practice, however, this conception of limited government proves to be hard to define and inherently fragile. Tocqueville’s profound study of democratic society and the democratic soul shows that the defense of the equal liberty of individuals cannot be severed from the moral and religious question of the meaning of a “laudable pursuit.” Securing limits on the scope of government requires some public consensus on goods understood to be beyond those limits.

Hancock (PhD, Harvard University) is professor of political science at Brigham Young University. He is the author of "Calvin and the Foundations of Modern Politics" (Saint Augustine’s Press, 2011; Cornell University Press, 1989) as well as "The Responsibility of Reason: Theory and Practice in a Liberal-Democratic Age" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011). He is also the editor of America, the West, and Liberal Education (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), translator of a number of books and articles from French, and has published many journal articles on the intersection of faith, reason and politics.

ASU School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Susan Kells
Mar 15 2018 - 6:00pm
Tempe Institute of Religion, Multipurpose Room
Tempe campus