Do You Want Bigger Government?

Alexander S. Peak

18 July 2005

It would seem logical that the last thing we would want is a big, Orwellian government, as depicted in the novel 1984.  After all, the book is based on a fictional, then-futuristic Stalinist regime, complete with sprawling bureaucracies, government-mandated propaganda, and all the other lovely things we come to expect of totalitarian cesspools.  The government, in its strive to end poverty, ended up subjecting the entire populace to it.  It waged war after war to inspire strident Nationalism amongst the masses.  London was constantly being bombed as a result.  Simultaneously, individualism was suppressed.  The government maintained for itself the ability to take whatever it wanted from the people, and it afforded to its citizens none of the tools necessary for protection.  Simply put, it was a police state.

The vast majority of Americans will agree that 1984 wasn’t a blue-print for utopia, and that in fact such a liberticidal system of governance is the opposite of that for which we should strive.  Further, most Americans want smaller government.

Yet, it seems that regardless of who is in power, whether it be the Democrats or the Republicans, the size, cost, and scope of power of government keeps growing and growing.  Take the most recent Federal budget, for example.  (Please, take it!)  Despite the claims on both sides of the isle that cutbacks were being made, the budget still seemed to increase from the previous year.  And not just by a percent or two, but by a whopping 7%.  That’s 41% higher than the last budget passed under the Clinton administration.  (Most of these expenditures are unconstitutional, anyway.)  It seems that no matter who mans this ship named S.S. Leviathan, government gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

Of course, the politician ruling class has its excuses.  They claim, for example, that the citizens would be upset if they lost all the wonderful government programs the politicians provide.  But is this really true?  Are Americans so apathetic about their freedoms that they’re willing to sacrifice them for inefficient (and usually ineffective or destructive) government programs?  Or, rather, do they see this approach as a net loss?

In truth, the majority of Americans do see this as a net loss.

The following list of statistics may be of interest to you.  (My thanks to Mr. Harry Browne for assembling these statistics.)

55% favor smaller government with fewer services, as opposed to a larger government with many services.

Los Angeles Times poll, September 2003

50% favor smaller government with fewer services.

ABC News / Washington Post poll, June 20, 2004

64% prefer smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes.

Rasmussen poll, February 16, 2004

31% have a great deal of confidence in the Presidency.  29% have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court.  13% have a great deal of confidence in Congress.

Harris Poll, February 2004

65% believe that government is the biggest threat to the country in the future (compared with 22% who think big business is the biggest threat and 7% who named big labor).

Gallup Poll, October 2000

27% trust the government to do what’s right most of the time.

Newsweek poll, October 9-10, 2003

73% believe “the federal government is much too large and has too much power.”

Luntz Research Companies, November 9, 1994

67% believe “big government is the biggest threat to the country in the future.”

The Roper Center for Reader’s Digest in 1994

63% think “government regulation of business usually does more harm than good.”

The Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press, July 27, 1994

Only 22% “trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time.”

CBS News and The New York Times, November 1, 1994

60% want a strong third party to provide a true alternative to what they’re getting now.

The Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press, June 24, 1993

Alex Peak served as President of the College Libertarians of Towson, 2004–2006; Membership Chair, 2006–2007; and Vice President, 2007–2008.

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