Should the size of the government be large and centralized or small and localized?


Fact Box

  • Government size (whether it is “big” or “small”) can be measured in several ways, a few being: its power or influence, amount of employees, and by how much it spends in comparison with the nation’s economy. Big governments are characterized by “centralization of political power, high taxation and spending, as well as extensive bureaucracy and various regulations and policies [...] while it’s opposite in the case of the “small” government.”
  • There are over 9 million employees currently serving in the US federal government as of 2019. That’s 6% of the total 156.92 million US workforce.
  • A 2019 Pew Research Poll indicates a gender gap between preference of large and small government size of the US Federal government. 58% of women say they prefer “bigger government providing more services” while 36% of men do. Conversely, 59% of men prefer smaller government while 37% of women do.
  • The US Constitution’s aim “was to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that fundamental rights would be at risk.” The separation of powers between the Legislature (Congress), the Executive (Presidency) and the Judiciary (Supreme Court) branches was one way to create checks and balances on government power. Read the entire Constitution here!

Stephanie (Small and Localized)

It has been proven through countless examples that the small and localized government model is significantly more beneficial and effective than a big, overreaching government. A small government allows individuals to make decisions for themselves and truly have personal free will and the power of choice. This freedom can be tangibly measured through an individual's wealth that is not tied up in government efforts.

While goals for the benefit of 'public interest' may seem commendable, this catchphrase essentially implies that the government will provide for some 'at the expense of others.' Such plans can be detrimental for societal relations, as government programs such as social security, healthcare, and education programs can benefit some more than others, consequently creating an 'us versus them' attitude among the population. Life expectancy has also been proven to increase as government size decreases.

The big government model can also be risky in terms of power. Once a big government has arguably too much control, such as in a socialistic society, it is hard or even impossible for citizens to take this authority back. Economically, small government is ideal, as it places financial decisions in the power of the people. This is much more effective than the converse, as big government actions may be politically motivated while taking money from individuals and, subsequently, wealth from local economies. By allowing local governments to retain jurisdiction over their own territory, citizens can experience the highest level of freedom, since individuals often choose where to live based on various lifestyle factors determined by the state in which they reside, rather than dictated by the federal government.

Jessica (Large and Centralized)

Small government is often misleadingly associated with the expansion of individual freedoms and the opportunity to accumulate wealth by working hard. This caricature also typically casts large government as the 'nanny state' for giving lazy people free money. Let's consider each of these associations.

Under small government, individual freedoms are actually denied and eroded. Without large government intervention, Black people would still be enslaved; women could not live self-determined lives; disabled people would not receive necessary public accommodations; and the majority of workers (including children) would still be toiling away at long hours for low wages in poor working conditions and with no legal recourse.

Likewise, without large government intervention, individual 'choice' would be nothing more than a flimsy platitude. If the government does not act to prevent a particular market's monopolization, individuals have no choice but to purchase that market's goods at whatever price that monopoly sets. Without large government protections, individuals have no choice but to live with the side effects of corporate pollution and shady practices.

The 'nanny state' caricature disguises the fact that large corporations receive more freebies than the social welfare system

It also fails to understand how personal responsibility can only go so far in the real world, as it's continuously constrained. Studies show that implicit biases work against specific demographics. It's wishful thinking to believe all individuals who belong to these groups can overcome concrete obstacles by the sheer power of will and hard work. But any governing body that functions independently of its citizenry's needs should rightly be feared.

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