Polticial Alignment of Big and Small Government

What is the liberal foundation for support of - generally speaking - larger government?

I certainly understand why conservatives want to see smaller government and more power to the states, but unlike many other political battle lines such as abortion, taxes and defense I do not understand why liberal leaning voters would be opposed to providing more power to the states in which they live.

How does a liberal voter in say Chicago not agree that the needs of the people in Chicago are different (or at least prioritized differently) than those of say San Francisco or Boise Idaho?

And if you can agree to that, why would you not also agree that your local government, being closer to the ground, has a better idea of how to use any funds for problems in your area? Would this not leave the federal government to concentrate on federal issues such as taxes, social security and defense?

If it comes to something like, whether there should be a curfew for teenagers to get them off the street by 10pm or not, sure, I think local government is just the tops.

When it comes to things like, whether teenagers in State A are going to get crappy education compared to teenagers in State B; I think that the Federal government is in a good position to tell/ask/help/require State A to get their friggin’ act together.

One commonly offered answer is that states and localities don’t all share equally in the wealth. If so, then a federal government that redistributes the wealth would theoretically make things more balanced by taking more taxes from the wealthier parts of the country and sending them to the poor parts. Whether it actually works that way in practice is an open question.

A less charitable answer would be that many liberals are obsessed with issues where they want the national government to override local and states decisions made via the democratic process. Examples of that would be the endless attempts to outlaw religious statues and displays on public property. By contrast, issues in which the federal government intervenes to stop things that liberals want, such as legalized marijuana, get vastly less attention.

That’s only true on certain issues. On others, they are happy to let the feds have the power. Case in point: legalized marijuana use. Despite a couple of states voting to legalize recreational use last night, it remains a federal crime. This has caused some amount of conflict in California as I recall. But so far, I have failed to notice the outcry from the right on this issue. This is one reason I’m highly skeptical whenever I hear someone make a case for states’ rights.

I’m OK with that in theory. Only problem is, where I live the local government is filled with idiots. The sort of people one typically finds in homeowners’ associations. So I’m also OK with a certain amount of oversight by the feds.

As i see it if your local government is filled with idiots, then more state power would in fact make them more accountable and less likely to stay in office as they could no longer blame “Washington” for the problems in their area when dumb decisions/spending is made.

People who say that they want things pushed down to the lowest level of government have never dealt with the local government.

Tiebout competition keeps localities from raising taxes enough to fund the amount of government desired by liberals. Since the federal government has very little competition it is free to tax at much higher rates than localities. For this reason only the federal government is able to be big enough to suit liberal preferences.

I agree with the theory. In practice, local and state government are less accountable and are more likely to include crazy people. Many voters barely know who their congressperson is. Almost nobody knows who their state representative and senator are.

I’m of the belief that whenever possible, the more local the responsibility lies, the better the population will be served. I’ve seen no proof that since the fed raised the dept of ed to a cabinet position, our education is better.

Do you know what the Department of Education does?

Represent the teachers union

I’ll take that as a no, then.

Speaking as a liberal, I have no generalized opinion about the size of government. I want it to be able to do what I think it should do. Other than that, I don’t care whether it’s short, tall, grande, or venti.

Pretentious elite! :wink:

I’ll bet you don’t believe that with regard to health insurance regulation.

I don’t have an ideological position on local vs centralized, simply a pragmatic one. Generally things undertaken by the Federal government are done better: the federal highway system is better than state maintained roads which are better than local roads. Same with parks: few states have parks that can compare with the national Parks. It’s be had to argue that our centralized military would be better if it were a collection of state militias, or that a state could have put a man on the moon. We saw the results of what happened when states were left with the responsibility of protecting civil rights and it wasn’t pretty. I’d rather see a uniform set of traffic laws than a hodgepodge of local ones, but that is getting better with the threat of withholding Federal highway funding.

Most local school systems are a joke, state college systems are better, and universities that receive federal research funding are world class.

The FBI crime labs (despite recent scandals) are generally better than state and local labs.

But I would like to see local govts able to give people more rights. Problem is that rights often conflict; e.g., the right to employ who you want vs the right to not be discriminated because of your race.

No, you don’t understand that. Conservatives (where conservative=Republican) haven’t toed the small government line in years and years. Look at our recent national* election as the epitome of the differences between conservative and liberal: there was limited significant difference between either candidate.

Not really a national election, but an appropriate expression of the power of the states (and not the people) to elect the president. But since we all think it’s a national election, it’s easier just to call it that.

FWIW, Really Not All That Bright, I’m IN the education system, and I’ve not noticed that the Federal efforts on behalf of general education have done much of anything positive. Certainly, the very poorly mis-named No Child Left Behind law has done little to solve education problems in either of the states in which I’ve been involved (Ohio or South Carolina). Special education, on the other hand, has been almost exclusively the result of federal laws and regulations, and that’s a very important result.

As to the OP:

There was a fundamental shift of political viewpoint caused by the Great Depression and its aftermath. If you read the proposals of the Democratic Party prior to the GD, Democrats as a whole were not particularly in favor of big federal government. For example, in 1924, both the Republican and Democrat candidates were essentially “conservative” socially and fiscally; Robert La Follette ran on the Progressive Party ticket to offer liberal voters from both parties an option. But the GD re-aligned the political conversation. The Democrats went with the idea that a strong federal government was needed to solve the underlying problems of unemployment and poverty resulting from the crash of the stock market and the failure of the financial system. They embraced along with this shift large-government viewpoints on a large number of issues, such as labor laws, food safety, etc. In short, they argued a paradigm shift was needed in how the country was to be governed. When the Supreme Court for a few years stood in the way of this popular shift in thinking, the Democrat administration threatened to revamp the Court to remove the obstruction. Coincidentally, the Court decided to de-obstruct, and threw away the use of “substantive due process” to invalidate federal programs.

In the decades since that paradigm shift, the Democrats have consistently been supporters of a “top-down” strategy for solving the country’s important issues. Whenever it becomes apparent that some or all of the states are not dealing effectively with an issue, Democrats seek a federal resolution. Civil rights, education, poverty, transportation, interstate commercial uniformity, environmental protection, you name it, the Democrats have advocated federal programs to deal with them. In this, they are not always opposed by the Republican Party; it’s a relatively recent phenomenom that Republicans are advocating small federal government. Nixon, you will recall, instituted federal wage and price controls to try and solve the economic issues of the early 70s. Republicans also were in favor of national transportation schemes such as the interstate highways (they help business tremendously). Republicans also are not opposed to most interstate commerce legislation, as long as the business community sees it as removing barriers to smooth economic flow (that’s why your toilet has a limit on gallons per flush, etc.). But Republicans do tend to object to the idea of solving personal issues with federal legislation. Thus, they oppose extensive federal entitlement programs (though you’ll notice how they tend to soft-pedal opposition to entitlement programs that help out their core consituents, like social security and farm supports).

The interesting question is: are we about to see another paradigm shift?

Agreed. I don’t think there’s really anyone in favor of increasing the size of government for its own sake. I suspect I’m somewhat in the mainstream of people who don’t overtly embrace “small government” in wanting government to be as big as it needs to be, but no bigger.

I say that, I do deal with the local government. I live in small city (a couple hundred thousand). I can get face time with a member of the City Council or the School Board much easier than I can with my Assemblyman, Congressman or Senator. I have been able to impact things at the local level to my satisfaction, and I have been able to get around some silly bureaucracy gone bad as well.

As to the OP - both sides like to use the Federal Government when they can. I am enjoying watching the Left discover States Rights with medicinal and now legal marijuana. This has also helped ID the libertarian conservatives vs. the social conservatives (in case you wondered where someone aligned).