Big is Bad?

Slogans are a substitute for thinking. We hear too many of them these days. One of the most annoying is about “big government.”

I think I know why it works. A lot of people are hurting. Maybe they lost their job or maybe they haven’t done as well as they hoped in life. Maybe the world hasn’t treated them well and they want to blame somebody. Why not “big government”? After all, we have a democracy and have been brought up to believe that the government is there to serve us. So if things aren’t going well, let’s blame the government.

You say that isn’t logical? You point out that the government doesn’t control my employment opportunities. You suggest that maybe my problem is that government is too small to control the forces that are injuring me? But logic isn’t the issue here. Who rails against big football players or big basketball players? Sometimes size is an advantage.

In fact, it’s the faceless bureaucrats in the health care system who deny me the treatment I need or drop me from coverage when my need is critical. In fact, it’s the faceless bureaucrat in a distant office who just outsourced my job to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, I don’t vote for them and they don’t care what I think. It’s useless to rail against them. But I can rail against “big government” as if it’s all their fault.

You want a smaller government? The biggest expense item in the government budget is the military. If we want to hunt down terrorists in Afghanistan, we need a government big enough to do it. If we want a smaller government, maybe we could begin by shrinking the military. Maybe we could reduce the size of the CIA and FBI.

Will a reformed health care system expand the government’s role in society? Yes, it will. But the result might be a government able to ensure that I get the treatment I need for a devastating illness and that any faceless bureaucrat who denies me treatment will hear about it from my congress member.

Government, it seems to me, should be big enough to make sure I get the help I need. If a small government can do the job, that’s fine too. But it really isn’t size that’s the issue; it’s effectiveness. Let’s argue about effective government. I want a government that can do the job and I don’t want to hear mindless tirades against “big government” as if size were always evil.

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