News Releases
news coverage
News Media
PFF Highlights
News Release
February 12, 2004
CONTACT: David Fish
(202) 289-8928

Rediscovering Limits to Gov’t in Washington
Lt. Governor Assoc. Panel Delineates the “Inherently Governmental”

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Every so often it takes state officials – in this case, the National Lieutenant Governors Association – to remind Washington of such important notions as federalism and the limits of government. A recent reminder – this time, about limits – came from a panel at the NLGA’s Winter Meeting this week, “Inherently Governmental – For the Public Good.”

Moderated by Montana Lt. Gov. Karl Ohs, the NLGA chair, the focus of the Wednesday panel was described in the program: “At the federal level, a definition exists for what is ‘inherently governmental.’ Those items which are best left to the government for the public good are reserved for the government. Those items not ‘inherently governmental’ are specifically available for private performance, often through public partnership. At this time of fiscal shortfall, this panel examines this practice and its benefits and challenges for the states.”

Progress & Freedom Foundation Research Fellow Kent Lassman, one of the panelists, agreed with the NLGA’s conception: “In our system, we typically say something is inherently governmental if it cannot be obtained by an individual or through private action,” Lassman told participants. “This leaves a whole lot of room for blending and a mixture of roles in specific circumstances.”

Speaking as an advocate of digital technology and e-government, Lassman underscored the need in a networked society to maintain limits on government action, volunteering a few “precepts”:

“…remind your colleagues in the legislature and across the executive branch that they are not the private sector.”

“When you set objectives, rely on concrete directions of the law…[not] on fuzzy notions of ‘the public interest’ or ‘the general welfare’.”

“Non-public institutions are best equipped to recognize market signals,” so “don’t let the state get in the way of private resources, or allow the urge to do something crowd out superior solutions and private innovations.”

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation