The fundamental difference between private action and governmental action—a
difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today—lies in the fact that a
government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force. It has to hold
such a monopoly, since it is the agent of restraining and combating the use of
force; and for that very same reason, its actions have to be rigidly defined,
delimited and circumscribed; no touch of whim or caprice should be permitted in
its performance; it should be an impersonal robot, with the laws as its only
motive power. If a society is to be free, its government has to be controlled.
Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally free to take any
action he pleases (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), while
a government official is bound by law in his every official act. A private
individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a
government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted.
This is the means of subordinating “might” to “right.” This is the American
concept of “a government of laws and not of men.”