The Proper Size of Government is Big

Lakhota

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What is the proper size of government? We debate this question endlessly but fail to put it in any context. Americans would be well served by a basic understanding of the size of our government (federal, state and local), as a percentage of GDP, versus the rest of the world. To wit, the wealthiest nations on earth include a significant public sector, bar none. There are roughly 200 countries in the world today and the 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have the highest living standards with an average total public sector of roughly 46% as a percentage of their GDP; the United States is now about 40% and in the lower third of these major countries. President Clinton was fortunately dead wrong when he claimed that the "era of big government is over."

Government foes should identify what they believe should be the proper mix between the private and public sector as a percentage of GDP, as opposed to offering gauzy pronouncements about "smaller government." We often hear some version of President Reagan's old saw that "government is the problem," but the facts hardly bear this out. Americans might want to ask themselves if they were forced to choose between reducing the public sector by 15% versus increasing it by 15%, which would they prefer? The former would equal Mexico's 25% government mix and the latter France's 55% public sector. I think most Americans would choose France. Perhaps because of his experience leading a giant government operation as Allied Commander, Republican President Eisenhower believed firmly in government. Thus, in addition to signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act (the largest public works project in American history at that point), he founded new agencies like NASA and the precursor to DARPA that is credited with funding the initial building blocks of today's internet. The private sector imaginatively leveraged these public investments to which we all benefit greatly.

In fact, the wealthiest nations on earth are all characterized by economies with a dynamic and robust public-private partnership. That this fact isn't patently obvious to most citizens is puzzling. There are key functions for government including investment (education, infrastructure, R&D), civil justice, public safety, public health, national security, and safety nets. Many people do not realize the value of these functions until they lose their own benefits. Moreover, government size isn't positively correlated with government debt because many countries choose to actually pay their bills through adequate taxes instead of heavier borrowing; Canada, Germany and Sweden all have bigger public sectors but smaller government debt as a percentage of their economies. Total U.S. Federal tax collections as a percentage of GDP remain below their postwar annual average.

More: The Proper Size of Government is Big - James C. Roumell

I much prefer big government over small government. I also question the motives of those who are always pushing for smaller government.
 
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Avorysuds

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That big Government didn't do too well under Bush and it is stagnant as fuck despite historic spending under the racist, religious babbling idiot Obama.
 

Toddsterpatriot

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Large enough to maintain our infrastructure, our science institutions and fund the best ideas.

I'd double our science programs and keep us in the lead in that area. ;)
If you eliminate the stupid spending, we'd have plenty for science and infrastructure.
 

bripat9643

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What is the proper size of government? We debate this question endlessly but fail to put it in any context. Americans would be well served by a basic understanding of the size of our government (federal, state and local), as a percentage of GDP, versus the rest of the world. To wit, the wealthiest nations on earth include a significant public sector, bar none. There are roughly 200 countries in the world today and the 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have the highest living standards with an average total public sector of roughly 46% as a percentage of their GDP; the United States is now about 40% and in the lower third of these major countries. President Clinton was fortunately dead wrong when he claimed that the "era of big government is over."

Government foes should identify what they believe should be the proper mix between the private and public sector as a percentage of GDP, as opposed to offering gauzy pronouncements about "smaller government." We often hear some version of President Reagan's old saw that "government is the problem," but the facts hardly bear this out. Americans might want to ask themselves if they were forced to choose between reducing the public sector by 15% versus increasing it by 15%, which would they prefer? The former would equal Mexico's 25% government mix and the latter France's 55% public sector. I think most Americans would choose France. Perhaps because of his experience leading a giant government operation as Allied Commander, Republican President Eisenhower believed firmly in government. Thus, in addition to signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act (the largest public works project in American history at that point), he founded new agencies like NASA and the precursor to DARPA that is credited with funding the initial building blocks of today's internet. The private sector imaginatively leveraged these public investments to which we all benefit greatly.

In fact, the wealthiest nations on earth are all characterized by economies with a dynamic and robust public-private partnership. That this fact isn't patently obvious to most citizens is puzzling. There are key functions for government including investment (education, infrastructure, R&D), civil justice, public safety, public health, national security, and safety nets. Many people do not realize the value of these functions until they lose their own benefits. Moreover, government size isn't positively correlated with government debt because many countries choose to actually pay their bills through adequate taxes instead of heavier borrowing; Canada, Germany and Sweden all have bigger public sectors but smaller government debt as a percentage of their economies. Total U.S. Federal tax collections as a percentage of GDP remain below their postwar annual average.

Government detractors often cite the superior capital allocation mechanisms in the private sector as the basis of their thinking but engage in cherry-picking of the highest order. For instance, often cited is the government's investment in Solyndra as proof positive that the government doesn't know how to invest. However, modern day computing clearly rests on government defense initiatives in England and America. The US Department of Defense's DARPA division noted above is most often cited as where today's internet was born. Polio and cholera are no longer threats because of Uncle Sam's contributions and today we all vitally depend on the scientists working at the Center for Disease Control. Many of the returns from Uncle Sam's initiatives are too far out into the future to attract private investors.

I'm a committed private-sector loving guy who invests capital for a living, so why the appreciation for the public-sector? For one, I've seen first-hand for nearly 30 years how private allocators of capital often get it terribly wrong, too. In 2011 Hewlett Packard bought Autonomy Corporation, PLC for $11 billion and in 2012 wrote off $9 billion. Oops. In fact, perennial corporate write-offs from over paying for acquisitions are routine in the private sector and in each instance represents a poor capital allocation decision.

Second, it's clear to me that public sector investments enable private market success in a myriad of ways and are necessary to a vibrant, fair and productive society. As a resident in the nation's Capital area I meet and know lots of fabulous, hard-working government employees. My friend Woody who works at NASA is the first to leave our block early in the morning and the last one home at night. Before he retired, Vince used his PhD from MIT to insure the safety of our nation's drugs at the federally funded FDA. The Clean Water Act of 1972 that Steve helps implement at the EPA has been a hugely successful piece of bipartisan legislation that relegates the burning of the Cuyahoga River in 1969, the result of corporate polluting, to a distant past.

Government haters remind me of adolescents pumping their chests to proclaim that they don't need mom and dad. And then Katrina, Sandy or Ebola hit and the most ardent detractors, and often their Republican Governors, come crawling to Uncle Sam asking for help. Or a malady strikes a family member and the erstwhile detractor supports a big government-funded research effort in that disease. Representative Ryan wants to reduce government social spending but when his father unexpectedly died when he was 16, it was Uncle Sam showing up in the form of a social security survivor's check that helped him pay for college. Was he one of Romney's "takers" during this period?

More: The Proper Size of Government is Big - James C. Roumell

I much prefer big government over small government. I also question the motives of those who are always pushing for smaller government.
All dogs have fleas, therefore dogs must benefit from the fleas. That's the logic behind the OP.
 

ScienceRocks

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Large enough to maintain our infrastructure, our science institutions and fund the best ideas.

I'd double our science programs and keep us in the lead in that area. ;)
If you eliminate the stupid spending, we'd have plenty for science and infrastructure.
Except the spending on the military, right?
And the spending on the massive fucking drug war!

Screw clean air and water
Screw regulating the economy to make sure the super rich don't rule us like barons of old Europe.
Screw our science programs
Screw our bridges, roads and infrastructure

Let's just have a unregulated pure capitalist hell!
 

Little-Acorn

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What is the proper size of government?
Large enough to fulfill its purpose. Which is the real question.
And since its only purpose is to protect our rights (not provide health care or set minimum wage or workplace conditions or control the size of our toilets, state/local govt should do those if at all)....

....the proper size of the Fed govt is small. Unless we're in a major war.

The Fed govt should do only those things that private persons or groups CANNOT do. National defense, coining money, solving interstate disputes, foreign relations etc. There's a handy list in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, and a few other places.

And a Fed govt that does only what the Constitution lists, would be a WHOLE lot smaller than the monstrosity we have today. Lower governments, or private people or groups, should do all the rest.
 

The Rabbi

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The OP raises a clown question.
The Constitution enumerated the powers of the federal gov't for a reason. It was to insure a small federal gov't, the Founders understanding that unlimited power leads to tyranny and corruption. About where we are now.
"every civilized country" is bunk. The European countries are beset with stagnant population growth, stagnant economic growth, growing gov't dependence, and terrorist threats. Yeah, let's import that model here. For sure.
 

Mac1958

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Opposing Authoritarian Ideological Fundamentalism.
.

Equilibrium - somewhere between the far Left and the far Right - is the key.

Large enough that people are not left wanting in the most powerful, democratic and prosperous nation on Earth.

Small enough that the personal growth of a healthy individual is not retarded by a dependence on someone else.

The hard Left has this bizarre romanticism with government as some utopian "the government is the people" fallacy, some loving, benevolent central authority, the Right has become paralyzed by its Libertarian wing to automatically reject any presence of government regardless of the macro consequences that could result.

Both sides are immovable, and the sink continues to sink as the deckhands point the finger at each other.

.
 
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LordBrownTrout

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What is the proper size of government? We debate this question endlessly but fail to put it in any context. Americans would be well served by a basic understanding of the size of our government (federal, state and local), as a percentage of GDP, versus the rest of the world. To wit, the wealthiest nations on earth include a significant public sector, bar none. There are roughly 200 countries in the world today and the 34 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have the highest living standards with an average total public sector of roughly 46% as a percentage of their GDP; the United States is now about 40% and in the lower third of these major countries. President Clinton was fortunately dead wrong when he claimed that the "era of big government is over."

Government foes should identify what they believe should be the proper mix between the private and public sector as a percentage of GDP, as opposed to offering gauzy pronouncements about "smaller government." We often hear some version of President Reagan's old saw that "government is the problem," but the facts hardly bear this out. Americans might want to ask themselves if they were forced to choose between reducing the public sector by 15% versus increasing it by 15%, which would they prefer? The former would equal Mexico's 25% government mix and the latter France's 55% public sector. I think most Americans would choose France. Perhaps because of his experience leading a giant government operation as Allied Commander, Republican President Eisenhower believed firmly in government. Thus, in addition to signing the Federal-Aid Highway Act (the largest public works project in American history at that point), he founded new agencies like NASA and the precursor to DARPA that is credited with funding the initial building blocks of today's internet. The private sector imaginatively leveraged these public investments to which we all benefit greatly.

In fact, the wealthiest nations on earth are all characterized by economies with a dynamic and robust public-private partnership. That this fact isn't patently obvious to most citizens is puzzling. There are key functions for government including investment (education, infrastructure, R&D), civil justice, public safety, public health, national security, and safety nets. Many people do not realize the value of these functions until they lose their own benefits. Moreover, government size isn't positively correlated with government debt because many countries choose to actually pay their bills through adequate taxes instead of heavier borrowing; Canada, Germany and Sweden all have bigger public sectors but smaller government debt as a percentage of their economies. Total U.S. Federal tax collections as a percentage of GDP remain below their postwar annual average.

More: The Proper Size of Government is Big - James C. Roumell

I much prefer big government over small government. I also question the motives of those who are always pushing for smaller government.

We all know that you need to be led around by the nose.
 

Toddsterpatriot

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Toddsterpatriot

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Large enough to maintain our infrastructure, our science institutions and fund the best ideas.

I'd double our science programs and keep us in the lead in that area. ;)
If you eliminate the stupid spending, we'd have plenty for science and infrastructure.
Except the spending on the military, right?
And the spending on the massive fucking drug war!

Screw clean air and water
Screw regulating the economy to make sure the super rich don't rule us like barons of old Europe.
Screw our science programs
Screw our bridges, roads and infrastructure

Let's just have a unregulated pure capitalist hell!
Idiot.
 

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