George P. Marsh, The Earth As Modified By Human Action (1864)
The apophthegm, "the world is governed too much," though unhappily too truly spoken of many countries--and perhaps, in some aspects, true of all--has done much mischief whenever it has been too unconditionally accepted as a political axiom. The popular apprehension of being over-governed, and, I am afraid, more emphatically the fear of being over-taxed, has had much to do with the general abandonment of certain governmental duties by the ruling powers of most modern states.
It is theoretically the duty of government to provide all those public facilities of intercommunication and commerce, which are essential to the prosperity of civilized commonwealths, but which individual means are inadequate to furnish, and for the due administration of which individual guarantees are insufficient. Hence public roads, canals, railroads, postal communications, the circulating medium of exchange whether metallic or representative, armies, navies, being all matters in which the nation at large has a vastly deeper interest than any private association can have, ought legitimately to be constructed and provided only by that which is the visible personification and embodiment of the nation, namely, its legislative head.
No doubt the organization and management of those insitutions by government are liable, as are all things human, to great abuses. The multiplication of public placeholders, which they imply, is a serious evil. But the corruption thus engendered, foul as it is, does not strike so deep as the rottenness of private corporations; and official rank, position, and duty have, in practice, proved better securities for fidelity and pecuniary integrity in the conduct of the interests in question, than the suretyships of private corporate agents, whose bondsmen so often fail or abscond before their principal is detected....
The example of the American States shows that private corporations--whose rule of action is the interest of the association, not the conscience of the individual--though composed of ultra-democratic elements, may become most dangerous enemies to rational liberty, to the moral interests of the commonwealth, to the purity of legislation and of judicial action, and to the sacredness of private rights.