Is the United States Government Too Big?

Is the oft heard complaint that the US government is too big valid? No and yes. Some parts are too big; some parts are too small, measured by my values and the priorities I favor.

Brian Leekley

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Whether a component of the government is too big or small is relative to its intended purpose. Attribution: Ellen Levy Finch (uploaded by TBjornstad), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Source

When one considers the merits of the thesis that the United States government is too big, its relativity is apparent. The United States of America is the fourth largest of the world’s 135 countries in square miles or kilometers.¹ It is the third most populous country in the world.² Its Gross National Product or GNP (based on purchasing power parity) is the second largest in the world.³ The government of such a country can’t be other than big, relative, for instance, to the government of ancient Athens, of the USA in 1776, or of Bermuda.

Just as a particular sized screwdriver, wrench, or hammer is the right size for one job, too big for another job, and too small for another job, a government entity might be the optimum size, or too big, or too small relative to its intended purpose.

The mission statement of the US government is stated in the Preamble to the US Constitution:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

How big need the components of the US government be to accomplish those purposes? In my opinion, in terms of tax dollars spent, personnel required, and the persons affected for better or worse, their sizes are just right for some purposes, too big for others, and too small for others.

I’ve never heard a complaint that the US Coast Guard is too big or too small. The rest areas of the US Interstate Highway System have always seemed to me just right in size and services. I have heard only praise of the US Agricultural Extension…

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Brian Leekley

Born in 1942. Had an antiquarian bookseller career. Avocation creative writing. Unitarian Universalist, raised Catholic. Support Movement for a People’s Party.