Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

John Zumbrunnen




liberty, power, government, citizens, examined


Libertarians, both the intellectuals and members of the political party, claim that America does not provide for its citizens the freedom and liberty promised by the founding of the nation. They argue that the federal government has asserted too much power over the private lives of individual Americans, and that growths in federal power at the cost of state and individual autonomy have abandoned Federalist principles upon which our nation was founded. In order to determine if libertarians are correct in asserting that American liberty has been corrupted, I examined how several relevant political thinkers defined liberty, and then how the founders intended to balance liberty of the citizens with the power of the government. I determined that the founders intended on protecting negative liberty, as Libertarians assert, but that they also accounted for a type of positive liberty—the attainment of collective benefits as described by the Constitution and the people themselves—that Libertarian arguments fail to take into account. I then examined liberty in the modern context, by first investigating the libertarian critique, and then turning to an examination of the relationship between the American citizenry and the government, to find out how the liberty of the citizens and the power of the government have been reconciled throughout modern history. I examined the growth in legislative and executive power to try and determine if our liberty has been compromised. I found that it has not been compromised in the legislative branch, but certain growths in executive power are troublesome to the balance between positive and negative liberty, and the liberty of the citizens compared to the power of the government.