Re-Learning History: The Big vs. Small Government Debate

History is an extremely important subject. Without understanding the past, one cannot fully understand the present or identify where the fut...

History is an extremely important subject. Without understanding the past, one cannot fully understand the present or identify where the future might be going.

by Tim Bryant, guest writer

Now I for one am all about living in the present moment, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that history is there to teach us in the hopes that we can learn from it to create a better future.

With that being said, I thought it would behoove many of us to take a step back and look at a major ideological battle that has riddled the history of the United States, and which most people don’t fully understand. The results of which have had drastic ramifications on why the system currently is the way it is.

An introduction on the basics of this topic will hopefully push more people back into research on the subject and catapult the conversation back out into the mainstream. This issue is at the core of the social system and is essential to understand if the system is to change for the better.

Big Federal Government vs. Decentralized State Governments

Now big vs. small government is not an unknown topic. Even in the mainstream, especially among Libertarians, it is among the most talked about issues. What I find unacceptable however, is the lack of understanding and concern most other groups have about the over-concentration of power at the federal government level.

That is not to say one must agree with the principal of small government, but not being able to at least entertain the ideology and discuss it is a major problem. These are not black and white issues, therefore having dialectal thinking, as in looking at the problems from both sides, is paramount in a real democratic discussion.

Historically, the battle over the size of the government goes back to the very founding of the U.S. nation, where there were two primary ideologies pertaining to how the government should be structured.

There were the Federalists, who opted for big government and were led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams; and there were the Democratic-Republicans, who opted for state government and were led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The Federalists took on the ideology that the “best people,” as in those who were most educated and who financially owned the country, should rule the country. They believed that man was inherently selfish and out for himself, therefore, they did not trust the people (referred to as “the mob”) to govern themselves, believing it would lead to “error, confusion, and instability.”

This fear of the people drove their belief in a strong federal government, a loose interpretation of the constitution, and an emphasis on a manufacturing economy to build the nation as a whole, aka a central system.

For obvious reasons, this ideology was supported by the wealthy class as well as big business and those still connected to England.

Ideologically at the core, they wanted to use the federal government to build a national/central system from which the whole country operated, keeping those vested interests at the top in tact, but also believing it would benefit the country as a whole.

On the flip side, the Democratic-Republicans took on a very different ideology of rule by the people, claiming that having the “best people” rule was very much the same as rule by a monarchy or king; the very thing they were attempting to escape.

Democratic-Republican’s tended to believe more in the people, and that informed citizens were capable of making good decisions for themselves and their country on their own. Democratic-Republicans therefore favored as little government as possible so the people could enjoy their liberty without the need for external rule or control.

That is not to say they did not believe in any government, but instead opted for a strict interpretation of the constitution, whereas the federal government is only allowed the powers vested to it by the Constitution.

To replace a big federal government, they proposed state power as a way of having some type of system, but still decentralizing the power as a way to ensure too much didn’t build up in one central location (known as a decentralized system).

Ideologically at the core, they believed in spontaneous order where communities would make their own rules, and own their communities without the need of a central system to dictate everything.

Effects on Today

It is clear today that the American system, and global system for that matter, have become extremely centralized; where power of wealth and control is centralized into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

The question that everyone needs to start asking is what to do with the system from here. It is clear that those in power want to stay in power, and therefore they will claim to use the government as a way of bringing about change for the better. This is a possibility, and something everyone should consider.

However, I invite all to at least consider a new approach; something not talked about truthfully by anyone in the establishment, right or left. That approach is decentralizing the power of the central system, such as disbanding the federal government, and giving power back the states and local communities.

It would appear that the people need to empower themselves and control their own communities, instead of electing politicians, or looking to businessmen or leaders to do it for them. How many times must we be duped by politicians before the people realize they are not out for our interests.

It might be time to break the camels back once and for all by boycotting/ scraping most of the federal government and building a new system which is owned and operated by the people. This will require hard work and real action, contrary to that of electing someone to do it for us. However, nothing can beat doing it yourself.

No matter your beliefs, I think we can all agree that it is at least time to have an open and honest conversation about the issue. It will in the end, decide where our future leads.

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