chapter  2
18 Pages

The Rise of "Big Government" in the United States: Competing Explanations

InChapter1,Iattemptedtohighlightsomeofthemostpuzzlingaspects ofourpoliticallifeandtoraiseforconsiderationanissuethatis troublingmanyAmericans,namelytheundeniablecontrastbetween thepresentrealityofgovernmentintheUnitedStatesandthe traditionalAmericanidealoflimitedgovernment.Howdoesoneaccountfortheemergenceofagovernmentwhosesize,reach,penetration,andimpactexceedthewildestimaginingsofthefoundersofthe AmericanRepublic?Ibelievethatthereisanexplanation,onethatis theoreticallyandlogicallyconsistentandempiricallyverifiable,andin thenextchapterIshallbegintosketchitsoutlines.Beforedoingso, however,Iwanttopresent,inasfairamanneraspossible,themost popularandinfluentialalternativeexplanationsfortherise,development,andongoingoperationsofmoderngovernmentintheUnited States.Inthepagesthatfollow,Iwillpresenttheviewsofthreeschools ofthoughtthatarefamiliartomostAmericans:free-marketconservatism,mostcommonlyidentifiedwiththinkerslikeMiltonFriedman; reformliberalism,synonymouswiththeliberalpresidenciesofFranklinRoosevelt,HarryTruman,JohnF.Kennedy,andLyndonJohnson; andneo-conservatism,currentlyinvogueinWashingtonandinAmericanintellectualcirclesandmostcloselyidentifiedwiththeworkof IrvingKristolandhiscolleagues.Iwilldiscusseachschool'sconceptionoftheproperroleofgovernment,itsdescriptionofthecurrent statusofgovernmentintheUnitedStates,andmostimportantly,its explanationforwhyagaphasdevelopedbetweenidealandreality.

What will emerge from this discussion is not only a description of the range and content of political discourse in the United States today, but an appreciation of the fact that each of these perspectives, despite its insights, is seriously and inescapably inadequate. This discussion will serve to open the way to a serious consideration of an alternative and unfamiliar perspective in the next chapter.