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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Monday, November 27, 2023

Dan Mitchell's Sixteen Theorems of Government

By Dan Mitchell

I've been on Dan Mitchell's International Liberty mailing list for many years, and for many of those years Dan has allowed me to publish his articles.   Because Dan is a Libertarian from the Cato Institute, there are times when we disagree, and I will either say so in the article as an Editor's Note, or if I really disagree, I just don't publish the article.  

Sometimes I find his pieces are very complicated to reproduce, so I just link them.  But, one thing is clear.  Dan is smart, knowledgeable, writes well, and is prolific.  Also, most of the time we're in harmony. You may wish to view my

Over the years he'll post his Theorems of Government in his articles, and I never thought too much about it.  But, now in this piece he's posted his sixteenth theorem and linked articles with the fifteen others, which I think are probably all of them.  So, I went to each of those articles and recorded what each says.


  • The “First Theorem” - Above all else, the public sector is a racket for the enrichment of insiders, cronies, bureaucrats, and interest groups.
  • The “Second Theorem" -  It is much easier to block the enactment of a new handout than it is to take it away after it’s been created and people get hooked on the heroin of government dependency  programs.
  • The “Third Theorem” - How programs really work:  Collect money at the local level, carry the funds in a leaky bucket to Washington, waste some of it on the D.D. bureaucracy, and then use the leaky bucket to bring money back to the local level.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • The “Fourth Theorem” - The three step political argument for free markets and small government.  1.  Reduce the burden of government leads to more dynamic and competitive economy.  2.  A strong economy leads to more job creation and higher wages. 3.  Economically prosperous voters reward incumbent politicians.
  • The “Fifth Theorem” - When Considering any change in public policy, imagine how it will evolve – and how it will be administered – when the wrong people are in charge
  • The “Sixth Theorem”  - Once politicians get the power to tax one person at a higher rate, it’s just a matter of time before they tax everyone at a higher rate.
  • The “Seventh Theorem” - As governments expand in size and scope, they become less competent at fulfilling legitimate responsibilities
  • The “Eighth Theorem” - People who focus on poverty want the poor to do better.  People who focus on inequality want government to get bigger.
  • The “Ninth Theorem” - You’re partisan rather than principled if your views on policy issues change simply because you like or dislike a party or a politician.
  • The “Tenth Theorem”- Politicians and interest groups fan the flames of panic to obtain goodies that would be impossible in normal circumstances. 
  • The “Eleventh Theorem” - Big Business is happy to support free enterprise….except when those large firms want handouts, subsidies, protection, special privileges, and bailouts…..or when they see a chance to screw small businesses and other competitors with mandates and red tape.
  • The “Twelfth Theorem” - It is impossible to have a large welfare state without pillaging lower income and middle class taxpayers.  It it was possible to finance big welfare states by only taxing the rich, nations like France, Italy, and Greece would have figured it out a long time ago.
  • The “Thirteenth Theorem” - People are much less likely to support big government if it means they would pay more tax.  - This theorem applies even – perhaps especially – to leftists.
  • The “Fourteenth Theorem” - Interventionist policies to help poor people in the short run usually hurt poor people in the long run. 
  • The “Fifteenth Theorem- Anybody who opposes entitlement reform is unavoidably in favor of big tax increases on lower-income and middle-class Americans.
  • The "Sixteenth Theorem" - Progress occurs when the private sector innovates faster than the government suffocates. 

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