With Small Government Dead, What Now?

By Alan Stewart Carl | Related entries in Congress, Conservatism, General Politics, R.I.P., United States

With the $700 billion market bailout inflating the power of government and a big-spending, big-regulating lDemocrat or a big-spending, big-regulating Republican poised to take the White House, a lot of experts and politicians are giving last rites to small government.

Just today, I’m reading the era of small government is over. And Reagan capitalism is a goner. And, dang it all, we need even more government.

Dick Meyer, writing for NPR, claims that small government was done in by 9/11, Katrina and the credit crisis. That sounds accurate, but I would add that the Bush-led inflation of spending is also to blame. Once you add money to budgets, it’s hard to ever take those dollars away.

So, should those of us who are wary of big government just roll over and hope we get a big ole’ federal belly rub? Nah. I’ve always said this an issue that doesn’t have to be either/or. The choice has never been between an overinflated government and a skeletal one. You can chart a more reasonable course. And, lucky for me, Meyer describes this viewpoint better than I could:

The modern federal government will and must be big, but it ought to be as little as possible, too. The American take on statecraft is to be wary of bureaucracy, sensitive that taxation is a curb on liberty, respectful of local authority, wary of centralized planning, and impressed but not blinded by the virtues of free markets and uncomforted by Big Brother. Common-sense adherence to these civic impulses is what constricts the vices of big government, not just the size of budgets.

It is precisely the lack of that common sense that has brought us to the Era of Huge Government, where our capacity to flexibly deal with new and unforeseen problems will be sorely constrained.

The major challenge for the next president is to figure out how to wield the bloated apparatuses of government so that they don’t cause more problems than they solve. I would suggest the new president could start by streamlining the areas that are inflexible and bulking up the areas that have grown ineffective. Of course, prioritizing would depend somewhat on ideology. But at the very least, we need a commitment to creating well-targeted government services rather than just tolerating the unwieldy, potentially oppressive government we are currently building towards.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 and is filed under Congress, Conservatism, General Politics, R.I.P., United States. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “With Small Government Dead, What Now?”

  1. gljunket Says:

    Thank you, Alan! As the rare sane voice, even among Independents, you’ve captured a very important reality that no one (except Meyer) is talking about. Our political system, especially the campaigns for office, are so perverted they don’t even ask the right questions. Neither Candidate has even come close to addressing America’s strategic role going forward in a globalized world. Talk about a vacuum around the vision-thing! A complete void of real leadership.

    And now all the finger-pointing, panic and knee-jerk reactions with the financial crisis. Where is any evidence that Obama/Reid/Pelosi have a clue about prioritizing and a “commitment to creating well-targeted government services rather than…..” the proven “oppressive government we are building towards?” I could “tolerate” a ray of hope in that direction!

  2. George Mauer Says:

    Obama is an IDemocrat? Did you come up with that? I sincerely like it.

    As to your post I mostly agree. What I don’t understand however – and I suspect that this is actually a lack of research on my part and would love it if you did a post on it – is how exactly how is the government growing even bigger? There might be a handful more agencies and obviously taxpayer equity in the market but how big is government really now as opposed to say a year ago?

  3. Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    George: the I before Democrat seems to be an inadvertant line … |. But, I agree, iDemocrat is a kinda cool term for the new wave of dems. Serendipity. So I’m keeping the line, at least in this post.

    As for how government is getting bigger … the $700 billion bailout alone is giving government all kinds of new powers. Add that to powers enacted in the Patriot Act and the formation of Homeland Security and you have the government handling a lot of new priorities on top of its increasing expenditures on old-school entitlements and subsidies. Both Obama and McCain talk about what new regulations/controls they will add and what new entilements/subsidies they will create but neither is really saying whether or not they’ll clear out the brush, let alone what brush they think needs clearing.

    IMO, there’s too much focus on adding powers and not enough focus on appropriately managing those powers.

  4. SaneInSF Says:

    I’m frustrated. Everyone is blaming deregulation for causing this problem, but the fact of the matter is that Financial Services is one of the most regulated industries around. Have any of you actually seen the regulations to which they have to comply?! The list is HUGE.

    The problem was not deregulation, it was piss-poor regulation. Now we’re getting saddled with craptastic government bloat. Anyone want to see what America will look like in four years? Come by San Francisco and you’ll see.

  5. SaneInSF Says:

    I’m frustrated. Everyone is blaming deregulation for causing this problem, but the fact of the matter is that Financial Services is one of the most regulated industries around. Have any of you actually seen the regulations to which they have to comply?! The list is HUGE.

    The problem was not deregulation, it was piss-poor regulation. Now we’re getting saddled with craptastic government bloat.

    Anyone want to see what America will look like in four years? Come by San Francisco and you’ll see.

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