Instead of critiquing specific policy proposals or ideological specifics, there instead are sweeping claims that “Big government is bad” as a political rhetoric that cannot possibly be argued against. Who could possibly reply to that and be charged with accusations of the obviously frightening, a scenario that Orwell poignantly warned us of, an authoritarian state in which the government interferes with and effectively controls day-to-day lives of private citizens? It’s nonsensical, and the vast majority of Americans, whether conservative or liberal, do not want a fascist, absolutist ruler.
Yet most who support the notion of a “small government” are arguably in many ways, creating a sort of Nietzschean irony by favoring exactly the sort of big government that they apparently fear and dread. But there is a slew of policies, most often social programs, sponsored by liberals and rejected by conservatives, for the exact reason of being far too demanding, invasive, and ultimately, constraining. It only helps when there exists a party figurehead (read: President Obama) who can then be swiftly accused of executive overreaches, some of which may be warranted, others profound exaggerations, especially in the context of preceding American presidents whose rule was more authoritatively damaging than most of us would admit.
President Obama has embodied this sort of criticism, exemplified by jibes from conservatives, such as calling him “Emperor Obama,” and highlighting that this sort of unilateral action must be unconstitutional. Everything from environmental regulations, such as a carbon tax, to immigration reform, to promoting LGBTQ+ rights, has been characterized as an assault on the American way of life, and more importantly, has been painted as a sort of unyielding liberalism that is permeating its way into American lives in unprecedented ways to transform the once Land of the Free to a Socialist Utopia.
Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher hit the nail on the head by summarizing it as such: the Democrats have a better product, but are awful at selling it; the Republicans, on the other hand, are geniuses at being able to convey their message. And confirming Maher’s analysis, the liberals have no way of shooting back. They can’t possibly say that big government is good, something that would deeply tear at the fabric of a nation that prides itself on having a president, not a ruler or king, of sustaining the world’s most powerful democracy, encouraging and protecting freedoms of expression, and having a system of government founded upon checks and balances to prevent unilateral action from any one body of government. Or so we like to believe (as there are legitimate reasons to suspect that America is more of an oligarchy than may be apparent).
But the vast majority of social programs, which liberals admittedly are renown for, are aimed at using taxpayers’ dollars to support an equal playing field and ensuring equal access to opportunities to capitalize on each citizen’s potential. Simple developmental biology explains the necessity of nutrition for the growing child, so perhaps ensuring equal access to food items and eliminating hunger isn’t an abuse of power, but a guarantee of having a shot at the American dream. Polluted oceans killing ecosystems damages our environment, could contaminate our water, disrupt or potentially ruin local businesses, and effectively harm a pocket of our nation on multiple levels across various areas of concern.
However, and with all due respect, liberal politicians (or the majority of them) are spineless in being able to defend their ideas, and more importantly, at refuting claims made by the opposing side. Instead, each and every policy initiative is seen by the American public—as a result of being casted as such by opposition—as an infraction of rights and an unconstitutional approach of disrupting the American way of life by bulking up a central government that is far too strong and powerful for its own good. And the opposition may have a point here, but not in the way in which they’re imagining it.
Why is it that the same cluster of politicians so desperately hell-bent on ensuring a small government are proposing ideas that are governmentally invasive of the most intimate aspects of our private lives? Why do these politicians support absurd methods of mass surveillance, including the PATRIOT Act, which has now been confirmed to have been highly ineffective, or by decrying whistleblower Edward Snowden as guilty of treason, despite his enormous contribution of making the American public aware of gross violations on the part of the NSA, despite having initially trying to reach out to them.
These same “small government” politicians are ready to define love and marriage, are prepared to be experts on women’s reproductive health choices, and are ready to dictate spiritual life in the country. Because, of course, controlling love relations, uteruses, and one’s spirituality is by no means governmentally invasive.
So before believing that the Americans in favor of “small government” are as they claim, find out exactly what it is they are against, and more importantly, what their views are on these sorts of issues. This is not to say that there don’t exist in our nation subsets of libertarian and/or liberal individuals who truly wish to be and let be, without unnecessary government intruding into citizens’ lives. But until these politicians can be crystal clear about their views on the role of government without selling dishonest and inconsistent political rhetoric regarding what “small government” means, it is best to assume by default that their motive may be trying to make certain aspects of government smaller, while retaining and even drastically expanding areas of government that they see most fit, whether that be militaristically, nationalistically, theocratically, or authoritatively.
This article was written by Amar Ojha, founder and writer at dusk magazine.