” Can government simultaneously be empowered and constrained? This “paradox of government” is the central question of constitutional political economy (see Buchanan 1975; Brennan and Buchanan 1985; Weingast 1995; Gordon 2002). In order for a government to function, individuals must allow governing forces to control different aspects of their lives. The danger in granting such powers, however,is that the government may abuse this authority and plunder the citizens.
The common solution is to establish checks and balances on government to prevent such abuses. History has demonstrated, however, that effective checks on government power are elusive. Nazi Germany; Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda; the dictatorships of Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Pol Pot; and the present-day Syrian regime are but a few examples of the tragic consequences of unconstrained government power. Beyond these examples, the poorest countries in the world today suffer from the actions of rapacious states, most of which are largely unconstrained in their predation against citizens.
One reason governments can exploit their citizens effectively is that they maintain a monopoly or near monopoly of military force. The concentration of military power, with its weaponry, organizational structure, and tactics, serves as the ultimate tool of government abuse. The threat of violent force raises the cost of deviations from government decree and can be used to repress citizens.”