From :h defaults.vim:
If Vim is started normally and no user vimrc file is found, the
$VIMRUTIME/defaults.vim script is loaded.
Perhaps an empty vimrc is the same as no vimrc...? Anyways, try this...
Near the start of $VIMRUNTIME/defaults.vim you'll see:
So put something like this near the start of your ...
/usr/share/vim/vimrc is always sourced regardless of your vimrc (assuming $VIM doesn't point somewhere else - :h system-vimrc). The settings you're probably missing are in defaults.vim, a file that only gets sourced if you don't have a personal vimrc. To get them back add these two lines to your vimrc:
set fo-=r fo -=o
'formatoptions' 'fo' string (default: "tcqj", Vi default: "vt")
local to buffer
This is a sequence of letters which describes how automatic
formatting is to be done. See |fo-table|. When the 'paste' option is
on, no formatting is done (like 'formatoptions' is empty). ...
I looked at the source and I don't see any user-facing way to disable the bell limit. You'd have to build your own version as you mentioned. Think twice about that, though...
Rather than being a killjoy "feature" this apparently was implemented for the sake of Vim stability. I saw a couple comments indicating that rapid bell sequences can hang Vim. Here's ...