Recent polling shows that Americans prefer a government that provides more services rather than less, including increased federal spending. My answer is maybe. As Trump’s election shows, this sentiment is likely starkly divided by state. More important is the question that is asked. Do Americans want more spending and government just for its own sake or do they want a government that works better? What is the root of the grievance?
There are few things that the government, especially at the federal level, does well today. The criminal justice system is burdened by arcane policies that often create more crime and prisoners than it deters. Our military can defend the country well, but most of its time is tied up playing an international game of risk driven by activist elites. American education ranks at the bottom in the developed world and is in no small part responsible for the immature and mindless screaming match that has become our political dialogue. However it does rank at the top in per student spending. American infrastructure is often sorely lacking in comparison to its peers. And the newly semi – public healthcare system was designed without addressing two of the main cost drivers that make American healthcare so much more expensive than in other developed nations; litigation and administration.
The debate should not be about more or less government, but rather about better government. And better does not always equal more spending. It means using our resources wisely. Ending our permanent state of war and mass incarceration would be a good start. Want free college? Ok, great. Then live at home and go to college in a monotone office building near you rather than $150K safe space that helps you find yourself in the hills of California or support a 100,000 seat football stadium. Want cheaper healthcare? Fine. Stop suing doctors into oblivion and creating layer upon layer of administration.
America almost certainly already has the necessary resources to give its citizens a government that works. More of what we already have won’t do anything except clog the arteries of efficiency.
Proponents of a more activist government, namely Democrats, are going to have to ask themselves what they really want out of government. Do they want to just watch rich people get money taken from them because it makes them feel good or do they want the government to serve the needs of the people? The two are not the same. (The right suffers from similar dissonance wherein they confuse security with kicking sand in the face of Muslims.)
Supporters of an active government often point to the efficiency of public solutions in Europe as a model. If we use northern Europe, with its healthy respect for competitive markets and budgets that are paid for, then there is a way forward. But if we use southern Europe as a model, we will soon find ourselves bankrupt and with a government that continues to be increasingly unresponsive to the needs of Americans. Unfortunately, America is on the latter path.