How do we get back to smaller government?

“I think we have more machinery of government than is
necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the
industrious.” --Thomas Jefferson
Just look at us now.
Gov’t. grows, and grows, never shrinks.
Gov’t. spends more, and more, seldon cuts off programs or spending.
Doe anyone have the answer or is there one?

I’m certain one of the mods will move this to a more appropriate forum.

That said, IMHO, we will probably not ever get back to a smaller government because there are people interested in keeping one or other part of it going. That hunk of fat that we may think the US can do nicely without is bound to be a sacred cow for someone willing to fight to keep it.

Cut all services except the ones I need.

(That’s the most honest answer you’ll get to this OP :wink: )

As intimated, all those ‘parasites’ are doing real work that benefits people. If you get rid of them, we all lose something.

Reasonable people can certainly disagree about the value of any given government program, and in any organization there’s waste and duplicated effort, but in general government employees are a net plus.

Consider that in Jefferson’s time, average life expectancy was what? 35 or so? Now it’s something like 70 as I recall. The biggest reason for the change is public health departments and public water treatment and sewage plants.

Jefferson also didn’t have fire departments and safety inspectors, interstate highways, airlines, free public schools, state colleges, and government-funded research to create the internet.

I think it would be fun to take, say Arkansas, and turn it into a ‘1790s’ state, where government taxes and services were at a 1790’s level, and let whoever wanted to go live there. Of course, that means no FBI to hunt down the guy who raped your wife, no jobs other than farming and life-threatening manufacturing jobs, no internet, and because of no public sewage or clean drinking water that life expectancy thing. But you can spend all of those 35 years enjoying the low taxes!


Never mind “how” until you make a persuasive case as to “why” – which you haven’t yet, spingears, and for that matter neither did Mr. Jefferson.

Debate your heart out, spingears.

But, please try to post questions that have a discreet factual answer in GQ.

Otherwise, post them to IMHO of GD. Or the Pit.

Moved from GQ to GD.

samclem GQ moderator

There are now 300 million ± a mill or two people in the US.
In Jefferson’s time, the total population of the US was less that the population of Greater New York today.

Of course it’s bigger! :smack:

The flaw in your analysis is the assumption is that all want smaller government. I like big government.

And even if you don’t actually like big government, you still have the problem of how small government would effectively counterbalance big business. Let’s face it, when several dozen of your business organizations have economies larger than those of some European nations, you need something to act as a counterweight.

Stop electing the taller guy President.

Make a law so that any civil servant who proves that someone else’s job is unnecessary will get half that persons salary added to his own, until retirement.

Eventually there will only be three civil servants.


The thing is that there are certain services that we find indespenilble.
However, I’ve yet to run into anyone who thinks that government bureaucracy equates to efficiency. I’ve not seen any reason to challenge this assumption. If someone would like to make the case that gov bureaucracies do equate with efficicency, be my geust. Until such time, we’ll take this as a given.

This means that to acquire the services that we want we’re using an inefficient method. This means that more of our resources than necessary are expended. To most people, this is a self evident “bad thing.” (Though I suppose there are the perverse among us who find the wasteful allocation of resources a joy to behold.)

This is but one of the easier to describe reasons to desire a lean gov.

Hope that makes sense.
There’re certain function that by there nature cannot be turned over to any other entity. Specifically, I’m thinking of the use of force- law enforcement, military (yes, I have issues with the use of tens of thousands of private contractors/mercenaries in Iraq). These services must remain in the hands of a gov responsive to the people.

rfgdxm as to your desire for a larger gov- ugfhxm

I’m not so sure if gov does counterbalance big biz. Gov tend to be a tool of big biz. The golden rule and all. ([soapbox]Just as we don’t allow artificial persons to vote, we should not allow artificial persons to lobby our legislatures nor to contribute to election campaigns.[/soapbox])

Have you ever been to Arkansas? Man, we’re not really that far off that mark, at least not in the rural areas. It’s not called ‘The Natural State’ for nothing…actually, it is. There’s really nothing here to speak of.

Anyway, as much as people gripe about ‘big government,’ everybody likes the perks too much to give it up. Frankly, I could do with bigger government, like you’ll find in most other industrialized nations.

Little-known fact: the number of Federal employees in 2000 was at its lowest level since 1960. The Clinton administration launched an extensive down-sizing effort, and it cut the number of employees by 17% between 1993 and 2000. This chart shows the numbers.

The mystery is why they haven’t updated this information since 2000. But this table, dating from March, 2004, indicates that executive branch employment is back up to 2,640,212, whereas at the end of 2000, it stood at 1,784,032. I have the feeling there might be some differences in precisely what’s being counted, but these stats may provide a hint about why the OPM hasn’t updated the year-by-year chart. I’d say “embarrassment.”

I don’t think anyone has an issue with the “perks.” To me, the issue is, “What’s the best way to get the perks?” I argue that gov bureaucracies are not likely to be in the top five answers to that question.

AR rocks.

Team Bush are “big-government conservatives” whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean.
Neocons aren’t really all that con. These folks are acting like liberal entryists.

An aside: in my experience, bureaucracy is always inefficient, whether it’s public or private. Over the past 30 years, the stories I could tell about wasteful, stupid stuff going on in the public sector could always be matched by the stories told by friends who worked for large private organizations. In short, it’s not a question of “public vs. private;” bureaucratic inefficiency seems to arise whenever an organization exceeds a certain size.

I have a theory that I call the Rule of One Hundred. Whenever an organization, be it a business or a government entity, has more than one hundred employees, bureaucracy starts to creep in. Whenever there are more employees than one person can adequately supervise and organize, things start to go downhill.

Unfortunately, it’s simply not possible to run a large commercial enterprise or any kind of government bigger than a small town without running smack into this problem.

The federal budget as percent of GDP decreased from 22.9% in 1985 to 18.4% in 2000.

I have used dates up to 2000 because data is readily available and because a post 2001 shift in spending and employment is attributable at least in part to increased homeland security requirements.

Neither of the OP’s assumptions about monotonic growth in federal spending or employment is true. However I would agree that it is unlikely that we will ever return to a Pre-WWII, Pre New Deal or Pre Civil War level of government.

SimonX: WRT to government and big biz. I agree that the government is somewhat of a double edged goon squad with respect to backing “the little guy” vs backing big business, but it at least has some responsiveness to and accountability to voters, and the Feds moreso than local’s. And to your soapbox I say “hear, hear”.