ON-Lion Letter
Following a vast expansion in the 20th Century, government is beginning to creak at the joints under its enormous weight. The signs are clear: a bloated civil service, low approval ratings for Congress and the President, increasing federal-state conflict, rampant distrust of politicians and government officials, record state deficits, and major unrest among public employees.

In his compact, clearly written book from Harvard University Press, Design for Liberty: Private Property, Public Administration, and the Rule of Law, Bradley Prize recipient and noted legal scholar Richard Epstein advocates a much-smaller federal government, arguing that our over-regulated state allows too much discretion on the part of regulators. This discretion results in arbitrary, unfair decisions, rent-seeking, and other abuses.
Epstein is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and a senior lecturer at The University of Chicago Law School.

Epstein bases his classical liberalism on the twin pillars of the rule of law and of private contracts and property rights -- an overarching structure that allows private property to keep its form regardless of changes in population, tastes, technology, and wealth. This structure also makes possible a restrained public administration to implement limited objectives. Government continues to play a key role as night-watchman, but with the added flexibility in revenues and expenditures to attend to national defense and infrastructure formation.

Although no legal system can eliminate the need for discretion in the management of both private and public affairs, according to Epstein in Design for Liberty, predictable laws can cabin the zone of discretion and permit arbitrary decisions to be challenged. Joining a set of strong property rights with sound but limited public administration could strengthen the rule of law, with its virtues of neutrality, generality, clarity, consistency, and forward-lookingness, and reverse the contempt and cynicism that have overcome us.
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