Monday, November 30, 2009

The Case for Big Government

Jeff Madrick's The Case for Big Government takes a differing view than Ronald Reagan's 1981 assertion that "Government is the the solution to our problem; Government is the problem."  The book takes a long look at our governmental economic history.  He addresses one of the points we have been debating on this blog, that among rich nations there really haven't been any small governments for nearly a century.  For a little perspective  read the book review by Richard Parker in the New York Review of Books.
David Kuznet of The New York Times writes "As the political analysts Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril pointed out years ago, Americans tend to be “ideologically conservative and operationally liberal.” Many of the most informative and intellectually challenging sections of this book explore how public investments advanced the American dream of a self-reliant citizenry so effectively that most Americans are unaware of the accomplishments of activist government."

How did the wealthiest nation in history come to believe it is not wealthy?...

"America has no free and high-quality day care or pre-K institutions to nourish and comfort two-worker families.... College has become far more expensive and attendance is now bifurcated by class.... Transportation infrastructure has been notoriously neglected, is decaying, and has not been adequately modernized to meet energy-efficient standards or global competition. America has not responded to a new world of high energy costs and global warming in general. America has a health care system that is simply out of control, providing on balance inadequate quality at very high prices.... The financial system, progressively deregulated since the 1970s, broke free of government oversight entirely in the 1990s and early 2000s and speculation reminiscent of the 1800s was the result with potentially equal levels of damage.... These facts amount to about as conclusive a proof as history ever provides that the ideology applied in this generation has failed."
"The book's largest flaw is that it is not as careful and clear-eyed politically as it is economically. The Case for Big Government usefully takes aim at the ideological consensus that emerged among many academics, journalists, policy advisers, and politicians in both parties. But it devotes little attention to the rise of religious fundamentalism that coincided with America's industrial decline, and how the departure from the Democratic Party by millions of white Southern evangelicals and Northern, mostly Catholic, industrial workers—twin pillars of the New Deal—contributed to the world we face today. In many ways this shift may have been more consequential to the spread of "small government" ideology than the intellectual realignment of academics, journalists, policy advisers, and politicians."


  1. "America has no free & high quality day care or pre-K institutions to nourish & comfort two worker families." The fact that we have so many families who need to have two or even three paychecks to survive is in itself an idictment of the demands of big government--what percentage of your paycheck is docked via taxation before it gets into your hands?

  2. Yeah, and how about keeping up with the Jones' - bigger house, bigger car, bigger tv. Did you ever wonder if tv was the final nail in societies coffin? It caused us to be fat and lazy.