James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What Happened to Big Government?

The era of Big Government started in 1913, when the Federal Reserve System was created, and the Income Tax and Direct Election of Senators Amendments were ratified. Within 20 years, America had passed its first anti-drug laws, participated in a Great War it had no interest in, passed Prohibition and tremendously increased the federal government's police powers, and suffered the worst Depression in history. Within the next twenty years - 1933-53, the federal government's mismanagement caused six more years of Depression, we fought the Second World War, implemented the National Security Act, and fought an undeclared war in Korea. Within twenty years of that, 1953-73, we lost a war in Vietnam, had our first severe bout with inflation, and our first energy crisis.

But through it all, Big Government has some accomplishments that some liberals would more or less call successes: WWII, Social Security, great advances in civil rights, Head Start, funding for college, Medicare, the Clean Air Act. For the sake of argument, I won't dispute these things.

Since 1973, America won the Cold War - and again, I won't dispute how it was won. Other than that, what has the federal government accomplished, aside from inflation and debt? Yes there has been minor tinkering with previously-established programs. There were some tax cuts - and many more tax hikes. There was some de-regulation - often in just one segment of an industry but not other segments, leading to disasters like the S&L crisis of the late 1980's and the California energy crisis of the early 2000's.

It appears to me that for the last 35 years the federal government has generally done nothing but harm to the American people, and the people "stick with it" mainly because of federal funding of programs established generations before. The people are a dependent class.

While technology has improved the standard of living in many ways, it seems that real wages are still not what they were in the early 1970's. America's prison population has increased 700%, largely from the War on Drugs. Post-Cold War foreign policy has made Americans more at risk of terrorism, and if Social Security and Medicare won't bankrupt America, wars and defense budgets will.

I think if the USA is better off now than in the early 1970's, it's mainly to the extent government stayed out of the way.


  1. Hey Jim!
    Isn't it great that in addition paying for a war by borrowing from our children and grandchildren (and putting the burden of the war largely on the backs of the poor, who are fighting it), we'll be borrowing a tax rebate from them too - is it an election year or what?
    Seriously, while I won't turn down the money, how much will each dollar we receive this year from the government cost us in the future?

  2. Anonymous10:18 PM CST

    More small government in action: