People seem to throw out the terms big government and small government without looking deeper to see what these terms really mean. Many seem to believe in generalities like big government impedes on their personal freedom and gives their hard-earned money to lazy poor people. But, government is necessary to provide rules for how we live together as a society. Our representative democracy allows us to have input through voting for and contacting our Congressmen and Senators.
President Thomas Jefferson said that a “…wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
The government restrains “…men from injuring one another” through regulations like inspecting meat processing plants, pollution control, product safety rules and law enforcement just to name a few. If profit is the only measure of success, safety is often overlooked.
The Department of Labor, for instance, regulates minimum wages, working conditions and child labor so that men “shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” Lately, however, collective bargaining has been greatly diminished and many do not earn a livable wage for full-time work.
Without government regulation there would be no protection from careless practices and for fair wages. There is, seemingly, a tendency in human nature to do what is best for “you and yours” with complete disregard for the other. The religions of the world recognize this shortcoming in human beings and try to reach the higher self of each soul in order to treat others as they would want to be treated (the Golden Rule).
William Golding in Lord of the Flies, demonstrates what happens when rampant self-centeredness and underdeveloped empathy lacks the wisdom of a teacher and keeper of the norms. Life became uncivilized and ruthless.
The answer isn’t big or small government, its smart and compassionate government. I find it interesting that some small government proponents who do not want their personal freedoms impeded, want to tell others who they can love and who they can worship.