Some needed perspective on “big government” in the United States

big_governmentNPR’s All Things Considered has been travelling the country recently and asking Americans if government is the problem or the solution. As you can imagine, the results are mixed. This story connects these conflicted modern views of government with the history of debates about “big government.” Moreover, it examines the politicization of the term “government” which has led to the situation today in which two-thirds of Americans view government as “part of the problem.” Here are a few highlights from this relevant story:

“The concept of big government goes back to around the beginning of the 20th century. Princeton historian Julian Zelizer traces the idea to the Wilson administration and its initiatives, including the creation of the Federal Reserve.

“Woodrow Wilson, who is still conservative by modern liberal standards, does allow for a pretty dramatic expansion of government,” Zelizer tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

The real turning point, though, was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he says.

“That’s the president who not only accepts and pushes for the growth of government, but tells the American people that it’s absolutely essential that we have a government deal with the very big social problems that we faced as a nation,” he says. “And by 1936, when he runs for re-election for the first time, FDR gives a full-throated defense … of this idea that government is a positive part of American society.”

. . . She (Granholm) says that effective as the message may be, disdain for government is “a curious form of self-loathing.”

“How can you hate government, which is the product of democracy and a constitutional structure that is revered?” Granholm asks. “How can you hate the service that government provides but love America and love democracy?”

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