Is bigger government always worse than smaller government?

Those of you who think you know me are probably thinking I’m just going to leave it at “yes” and walk away. (Now you’re probably wondering why you’re still reading this.) But I’m actually going to say “no.” And not just to be a contrarian, but rather to make a more important point. Someone asked me this question, and before just blurting out the obvious (and as I’ll show here, counter-intuitively wrong) answer, I had to consider the alternative. This is just how my brain works.

So I asked myself, “Is it possible for our government to get bigger, and still have more freedom? Is it possible for a smaller government to be more destructive of freedom?” Just by asking the question, an equally obvious but completely counter-intuitive answer emerges. Let me put it to you this way: Would you rather have a huge, bureaucratic government, that employs half the population but is funded mostly with user fee kinds of taxes and doesn’t have a military or a police force and somewhat mimics what the market would provide, OR a small government of jack-booted thugs that randomly kills thousands of people every day with drone strikes and imposes a version of Sharia law?

I hope the point of this has emerged clearly for you now before I put it in my own words: the best measurement of the evil of government is not it’s size, but how much it destroys freedom. Government being bigger and more vicious go hand in hand, but in the interest of intellectual integrity and precision, we must acknowledge that this relationship is not simple or linear. With this deeper understanding, we can only become more effective at striving towards a more harmonious, peaceful, and free world.

It’s important to me to understand this because it gives me great hope for the continued progress of humanity towards freedom despite the growth we see of modern bureaucratic governments in terms of budgets. Global violence is on the decline. It’s harder than ever for governments to lie us into war. Respect for civil rights is becoming the norm. The internet is creating a whole new realm of commerce, especially in cryptocurrency that governments can’t touch. Weed is so legal in America that it’s almost not fun to smoke anymore!

There are also numerous implications of this for how we go about transitioning away from a government-ruled society. Obviously, this suggests a need for prioritization, and so this is why I’m concerned more with stopping the overt violence of government than the covert theft of taxation. (Yes, if no one paid taxes, there would be no war, but they could always keep printing money for the war machine.) I’m more concerned with legalizing all drugs and restoring legal respect for civil liberties than debating gay marriage. I’m more concerned with your right to keep and bear arms than your right to cut hair without a license.

This also suggests that we can transition out of government by localizing it, and in the process, make it a better approximation of the market in the functions it retains AND far less viciously destructive to freedom. By embracing localization, we can unite left and right and center against the common enemy of big, centralized government. If we could just get all government globally down to the size of counties or city states, we could have much more relevant competition between governments, especially in the competition to see which can phase themselves out the fastest!

It’s important to remember what you’re for, especially when it’s so tempting to focus on what you’re against. Even though it’s true that if you’re pro-freedom, you most be anti-government because government by definition is an affront to freedom, it’s important to remember that we are pro-freedom first, anti-government second.

What do you think are the implications of this? Please let me know in the comments!