Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 23 Share on Twitter 1 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds   

Size matters, but not as much as quality: More good government, less bad government, please!

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   14 comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Don Smith
Become a Fan
  (21 fans)

Most debates about politics in America concern the question of how big the government should be.

Conservatives want small government. Liberals want big government. At least that's the standard framing of the issues.

Of course, it's not quite true that conservatives favor small government.  When it comes to national security, most conservatives have been strong supporters of  high Pentagon spending, military adventures, and expansive powers for the NSA and CIA.

And while conservatives are eager to cut spending for food stamps, education, regulatory agencies, and public health care, for example, most of them are quite happy with subsidies for corporate farming, Big Oil, and other favored industries.  (For more examples of how conservatives feed at the government trough, see Dean Baker's book "The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer.")

And most conservatives are OK with intrusive government when it comes to cultural issues: abortion, marriage, and drug policy.

Yet the Big versus Small framing of political debates isn't totally wrong.  The libertarian wing of the conservative movement wants small government not only for social welfare, but also with regard to the military, the police, and cultural issues.  For example, many supporters of Ron Paul and of the Tea Party movement are disgusted with the corruption and waste surrounding government spending on the military, corporate subsidies, the Wall Street bailouts, and the failed war on drugs.

In short, the libertarians are the ideal conservatives. They really do want small government, not just for social spending.  Mainstream Republicans don't consistency follow libertarian principles, but they often appeal to libertarian ideals in their speeches.

But the Big versus Small framing doesn't address the real issues we face.

The problem isn't that we have too much government or too little government.

The problem is that we have too much bad government and too little good government.

Some examples of bad government:  the Vietnam War, the second war in Iraq, the F35 Joint Strike Fighter, NSA surveillance, subsidies for Big Oil, the war on drugs, and bailouts for Goldman Sachs.

Some examples of good government:  public libraries, parks, childhood vaccination, contract law,  civil rights legislation, labor laws, pollution laws, invention of the Internet, medical research, Head Start, The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Social Security, Medicare, and public transit systems.

Anarchists and others on the further left resemble libertarians in that they oppose Big Government and fail to acknowledge all the good that government has done.  But anarchists go further and oppose corporations as well. They oppose all forms of hierarchical structure and favor bottom-up, horizontal, worker-owned, local enterprises.

I support efforts to implement such horizontal means of production. But they can't account for the entirety of society and the economy.  Government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, civil rights laws, and other top-down, hierarchical programs have been a great boon to people, building the middle class, creating many technology and medical innovations, and protecting people from harm.    Hierarchical corporations such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, and auto makers are often efficient and innovative at producing products.   Horizontal, bottom-up enterprises do exist (open-source software, for example), but they are the exception.  Furthermore, how do anarchists propose stopping the formation of corporations?  Don't you need big government for that?

In any case, we need laws and regulations, and those require government. Society without government regulation would be like football with no rules.

Five Political Ideologies, in one easy image
Copyrighted Image? DMCA

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Don Smith Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, activist, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See and for my (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The myth that the Dems are as bad as the Repugs

Why Abortion Isn't Murder

Don't buy from Fox News advertisers: Progressive, Capital One, Applebees, IHOP,, Angie's List, Home Advi

Why Dems should be furious at Obama

Image essay about blood soaked NRA

Government is like a computer's operating system: a response to libertarians

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend