How Big Should Government Be? Left vs. Right #1

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Dec 14, 2015

How big should the government be? And what is its proper role in the daily lives of Americans? The Left and Right have opposite answers.

Dennis Prager's Left-Right Differences Series Part 1: How Big Should Government Be? How do Conservatives and Liberals differ?

The Left believes that the state should be the most powerful force in society, ruling over everything from education to healthcare.

  • The political Left is defined by its belief in the dominant role of the state, believing it should be the ultimate authority on everything from healthcare to education to how businesses are run.View Source
  • Conservatives believe that government is best when limited to the few absolute necessities where the market may not do as good a job as the government, such as national defense, law enforcement, and serving as the last resort for those who cannot be helped by themselves, their friends, their family, their church or their community.View Source
  • Related reading: A Republic No More - Jay CostView Source
  • Related reading: Wealth and Justice - Peter WehnerView Source

The 20th century was the bloodiest century ever in large part because tyrants took control of big, powerful governments. 

  • As a government expands, so does its ability to inflict terror and harm on its citizenry and that of other nations.View Source
  • The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history in large part because of the combination of big governments with particularly deadly weaponry.View Source
  • An estimated 187 million people died in the wars of the 20th century, most of which were instigated by power-hungry, tyrannical governments, including socialist Germany and communist China and Russia.View Source
  • Related reading: A Conservative Vision of Government – Michael Gerson and Peter WehnerView Source
  • Related reading: A Republic No More - Jay CostView Source

The bigger the government, the greater likelihood of mass evil. 

  • A large government has greater potential to supercharge corruption and reduce liberty.View Source
  • It also has the power to impose higher taxes, which stifle economic growth.View Source
  • As a government expands, so does its ability to inflict terror and harm on its citizenry and that of other nations.View Source
  • The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history because of the combination of big governments with particularly deadly weaponry.View Source
  • Big governments also cause evil by encouraging citizens to shirk their moral responsibilities to each other, in the expectation that the government will “take care” of everyone.View Source
  • Related reading: Wealth and Justice - Peter WehnerView Source
  • Related reading: Gifts of Time and Money - American Enterprise InstituteView Source

Governments have far more power to do evil than corporations.

  • A large government has greater potential to supercharge corruption and reduce liberty.View Source
  • It also has the power to impose higher taxes, which stifle economic growth.View Source
  • As a government expands, so does its ability to inflict terror and harm on its citizenry and that of other nations.View Source
  • Read Dennis Prager on the impact of big government.View Source
  • Related reading: A Republic No More - Jay CostView Source
  • Related reading: The Road to Freedom - Arthur BrooksView Source
  • Related reading: A Conservative Vision of Government – Michael Gerson and Peter WehnerView Source

Big government is a prerequisite to genocide.

  • As a government expands, so does its ability to inflict terror and harm on its citizenry and that of other nations.View Source
  • The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history in large part because of the combination of big governments with particularly deadly weaponry.View Source
  • An estimated 187 million people died in the wars of the 20th century, most of which were instigated by power-hungry, tyrannical governments, including socialist Germany and communist China and Russia.View Source
  • Related reading: A Conservative Vision of Government – Michael Gerson and Peter WehnerView Source
  • Related reading: The Road to Freedom - Arthur BrooksView Source

The Right believes that the individual, not the government, is the fundamental building block of a decent and productive society. 

  • Conservatives believe that government is best when limited to the few absolute necessities where the market may not do as good a job as the government, such as national defense, law enforcement, and serving as the last resort for those who cannot be helped by themselves, their friends, their family, their church or their community.View Source
  • The Right believes that family, churches and charities are more of a source of societal good than government.View Source
  • Related reading: A Conservative Vision of Government – Michael Gerson and Peter WehnerView Source
  • Related reading: Gifts of Time and Money - American Enterprise InstituteView Source

187 million people died in the wars of the 20th century, most of them casualties of tyrants empowered by big governments. 

  • As a government expands, so does its ability to inflict terror and harm on its citizenry and that of other nations.View Source
  • The 20th century was the bloodiest century in history in large part because of the combination of big governments with particularly deadly weaponry.View Source
  • An estimated 187 million people died in the wars of the 20th century, most of which were instigated by power-hungry, tyrannical governments, including socialist Germany and communist China and Russia.View Source
  • Related reading: A Conservative Vision of Government – Michael Gerson and Peter WehnerView Source
  • Related reading: The Road to Freedom - Arthur BrooksView Source

One of the most important differences between the Left and the Right is how each regards the role and the size of the government.

The Left believes that the state should be the most powerful force in society. Among many other things, the government should be in control of educating every child; should provide all health care; and should regulate often to the minutest detail how businesses conduct their business -- in Germany, for instance, the government legislates the time of day stores have to close. In short, there should ideally be no power that competes with Government. Not parents, not businesses, not private schools, not religious institutions; not even the individual human conscience.

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe the government’s role in society should be limited to absolute necessities such as national defense and to being the resource of last resort to help citizens who cannot be helped by family, by community, or by religious and secular charities.

Conservatives understand that as governments grow in size and power, the following will inevitably happen:

1. There will be ever-increasing amounts of corruption. Power and money breed corruption. People in government will sell government influence for personal and political gain. And people outside government will seek to buy influence and favors. In Africa and Latin America, government corruption has been the single biggest factor holding nations back from progressing.

2. Individual liberty will decline. With a few exceptions such as an unrestricted right to abortion, individual liberty is less important to the Left than to the Right. This is neither an opinion nor a criticism. It is simple logic. The more control the government has over people’s lives, the less liberty people have.

3. Countries with ever expanding governments will either reduce the size of their government or eventually collapse economically. Every welfare state ultimately becomes a Ponzi Scheme, relying on new payers to pay previous payers; and when it runs out of the new payers, the scheme collapses. All the welfare states of the world, including wealthy European countries, are already experiencing this problem to varying degrees.

4. In order to pay for an ever-expanding government, taxes are constantly increased. But at a given level of taxation, the society’s wealth producers will either stop working, work less, hire fewer people, or move their business out of the state or out of the country.

5. Big government produces big deficits and ever increasing -- and ultimately unsustainable -- debt. This, too, is only logical. The more money the state hands out, the more money people will demand from the state. No recipient of free money has ever said, “Thank you. I have enough.”

Unless big governments get smaller, they will all eventually collapse under their own weight -- with terrible consequences socially as well as economically.

6. The bigger the government, the greater the opportunities for doing great evil. The twentieth century was the most murderous century in recorded history. And who did all this killing? Big governments. Evil individuals without power can do only so much harm. But when evil individuals take control of a big government, the amount of harm they can do is essentially unlimited. The Right fears Big Government. The Left fears Big Business. But Coca-Cola can’t break into your house or confiscate your wealth -- only Big Government can do that.  As irresponsible as any Big Business has ever been, it is only Big Government that can build concentration camps and commit genocide.

7. Big government eats away at the moral character of a nation. People no longer take care of other people. After all, they know the government will do that. That's why Americans give far more of their money and volunteer far more of their time to charity than do Europeans at the same economic level.

Without the belief in an ever-expanding government, there is no left. Without a belief in limited government, there is no right.

I’m Dennis Prager.

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