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Fellows with Friedman

Collectivism after World War II

David Davenport

David Davenport argues that the size-of-government debate is really between “big and bigger, not big and smaller.” Except for one brief period during the Reagan administration, government size and spending has grown steadily larger. Although Democratic presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama increased their administrations’ roles, the Republicans haven’t historically done much about actually shrinking government. In fact, Republicans during the George W. Bush administration “essentially changed their rhetoric away from smaller government, arguing instead that the goal should be using big government for conservative ends. It’s as if Republicans have, perhaps grudgingly, acknowledged that big government is here to stay.”

Davenport further argues that the debate ought to focus on whether the federal government should have more significant reach and involvement in areas traditionally assigned to state and local governments, such as K–12 education, health care, and the environment.

“As Lyndon Johnson’s chief domestic policy advisor Joseph Califano later admitted about the Great Society of the ’60s: ‘The government simply got into too many nooks and crannies of American life.’ It’s about the growth of federal regulation and rulemaking, which is at an all-time high.”

To learn more, read “The Era of Big Government Is Back—Or Did It Ever Leave?”

Richard A. Epstein

“One of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the relentless concentration of power in the federal government. Ever since the New Deal, the classical liberal vision of limited government and strong property rights has taken a back seat to a progressive vision of a robust administrative state, dominated by supposed experts, whose powers are largely unimpeded by legal constraints. Wholly apart from Congress, the new administrative state has adopted and enforced its own laws and regulations, and is defined by unilateral actions by the President and other members of the executive branch, all of which threaten the system of checks and balances built into the original constitutional design.”

To learn more, read “The Perils of Executive Power.”