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Big Government Vs. Small Government

Big Government Vs. Small Government: What You Need to Know

Is a big government the key to smooth functioning of the nation, or is it a small government that lays the foundation for efficient administration?
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Misconceptions about concepts like 'big government' and 'small government' that prevail in the society today, have resulted in a great deal of confusion about these political concepts. When asked what would they prefer―a big government with a large number of services, or a small government with very few services, people are prompt to reply that they will prefer the latter irrespective of what services it has to offer. Would that be a wise choice to make? It is difficult to come with a concrete conclusion without being well-versed with the two concepts.
Big Government
A 'big government' is a government which is excessively large and involved in numerous sectors of the society. Such government has the tendency of taking all the powers in its own hands, even if it means going against the constitution of the nation. The term 'big government' is most often used by conservationists, libertarians, and laissez faire advocates to criticize the government for its inefficiency. Such government quite often gets involved in matters pertaining to public policy or the private sector, and the critics argue that this interference on the part of the government costs the nation as a whole. Federal mandates, wherein the policies and programs are imposed on states without giving them any financial assistance, is one of the best examples of this concept.
Small Government
As opposed to the big government, a 'small government' is a government which restricts its role to the important activities of the state, and leaves other activities to companies, charities, and the individuals in the society. In most of these cases, the role of government is restricted to activities such as law, defense, and foreign affairs, while other sectors are run by the people of the society in a manner resembling the private sector. Hong Kong and Denmark are two nations which have a history of small government, while larger nations like the United States and United Kingdom have been witness to campaigns for the same in the past.
Big Government Vs. Small Government: And the Winner is ...
Those in support of the concept of small government argue that it is a better bet as it concentrates on a few, but important attributes of the society. The very fact that it doesn't monitor a wide range of sectors means it can concentrate on the important sectors and govern them with utmost efficiency. A big government, for instance, has the burden of protecting the basic rights of people as well as corporates, as a result of which it becomes difficult for any such government to bring about accountability in the society. A small government, on the other hand, can concentrate on law and individual's rights, and bring about accountability in the society. That being said, any grievances from the corporate world are handled by concerned organization without any government interference in the same.
Add to accountability the fact that a small government would have limited resources, and the prevailing circumstances become even better, as there is no distraction in the society. While the supporters of this form of government are of the opinion that an economy can flourish without government interference, those in favor of big government argue that it is government regulation, which keeps a tab on the capitalist market. The extensive legal infrastructure required for free-market capitalism can only be provided by a big government, which gives it an edge over small government.
If a small government is so beneficial, why doesn't it exist in the major nations of the world? While it is true that a big government puts some restrictions on our civil liberties, one has to understand that these restrictions are meant for our own welfare. A closer look at the corporate world, and you will realize that there are relatively more restrictions in the private sector. In such circumstances, if the reins of administration are given to the private sector, it will be very difficult to hold them accountable for proper administration―something about which we don't have to worry in case of big government.