Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Error of Big Government.

Charles Kesler has a fascinating essay in the latest issue of Imprimis.

In brief, Kesler reminds us that we need to distinguish between limited (or constitutional) government and small government on one hand, and expansive government and unlimited (or unconstitutional) government on the other.

Limited government can be distinguished from small government. The two concepts are easily confused because they usually overlap. We are in the habit of invoking, for example, the percentage of Gross Domestic Product that is consumed by government as a sort of criterion. If that percentage goes up, we become alarmed for our liberties. If it goes down, we breathe a sigh of relief. And there is something to this: It is illuminating, for instance, that in 1930, before the New Deal, federal spending was 3.4 percent of GDP, whereas today it’s about seven times that. But there are other instances, perhaps more instances, where that figure can be misleading. At the height of World War Two, for example, the federal government spent 43.6 percent of GDP. But was this big government in the pejorative sense?

No comments: