When the Constitution was ratified, government was exceptionally small. The military was practically non-existent, taxes were minimal (and still highly resisted), there were no social programs, and while we certainly had national debt, it wasn’t anywhere near what it is today. So how has our government gotten so big and invaded so many parts of our lives? While there were certainly major events that increased its growth, I would argue that the vast majority of the government’s growth over the last 200+ years was from the moral failings of the citizens of the United States. This probably won’t be a popular opinion, but hear me out.
Let’s consider some examples:
- Companies decide that their bottom line and executive perks are more important than their people or the environment – minimum wage, the EPA, government regulation of trading, etc.
- People decide that they don’t want to give to nonprofit programs that provide services to their fellow humans that need support – welfare.
- Universities decide that their football coach needs to be paid more than half their teaching staff combined and jack up tuition to cover the associated costs – “free college for all.”
- Medicine becomes a business instead of a ministry – Medicare, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and a host of new proposals.
Now before someone goes off on me and accuses me of saying that people shouldn’t be paid for their work, I’m not saying that at all, even at the executive level. But when an executive can fail at their job and be separated, but still receive a severance package that’s worth more than 4-5x the average of other workers’ pay, that’s an issue. An easily fixable issue.
Capitalism is an amazing system. Our system of government (constitutional republic) is an amazing system. Together, they have the ability to create incredible opportunity for the people of the United States. But they are only as good as the morals of the people inhabiting and governing the country. Government is probably the absolute least efficient method of delivering needed services, but if we the people fail to take care of our own, the government will step in and do what our fellow citizens demand of them. We have gotten ourselves into this mess, and we’ll have to get ourselves out of it.