Madrick on Case for Big Gov’t


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Dave says:

    I’m working my way through this as we speak and will try to comment on it at some point.Report

  2. Avatar Will says:

    Chris –

    This post from Roderick Long on the forgotten history of government intervention in the United States is a pretty great supplement to Madrick’s argument:

  3. Will – good job finding that link! That Long piece, despite some slight disagreements with it, was one of my favorite posts from AOTP. It’s good to know someone managed to syndicate it before AOTP closed down. And yes, the shut down of AOTP made the C11 shut down doubly painful for me.Report

  4. Avatar Will says:

    What actually happened to AOTP, Mark? I never figured that out.Report

  5. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


    Thanks for the link. That is an excellent one to keep in tension with Madrick. It’s still not clear in my head what if any normative implications (as Will Wilkinson would say) there be to this history. Must be some I suppose, but I don’t know.Report

  6. Will:
    Mona wrote a bunch (much of it filled with some fairly justified bitterness) about the circumstances that led to the site’s demise at Unqualified Offerings. The bottom line, though, was that the site’s owner had put together a truly terrible business model for the site. Eventually, I think his real world business went to hell as well and that was pretty quickly the end of the site.Report

  7. Avatar Bob says:

    Below is a very rough beginning of a long piece I was working on something along the lines of the video you linked. In my notes I have well over 100 examples of government growth. In the examples I wanted to write about I made no distinction between “good” or “bad” government action. For example, establishing land grant colleges, bad, interment of the Japanese, good. I only wanted to show that small government is a myth. Conservatives can complain about big government in theory, but practice and history label any claim bogus.


    The post Civil War American conservative movement is largely biased on four concepts: (1) small government, (2) free markets, (3) strong national defense. In the late 1970’s Jerry Falwell, at the urging of Robert Grant, founded the Moral Majority and thus added (4) fundamental Christian ideals to the modern American conservatism. Regardless of party affiliation conservatives will generally embrace these four principles as necessary in any attempted definition of a conservative movement.

    The ideal of small, limited government, is part and parcel of both classical conservatism and classical liberalism. In short, government should should interfere as little as possible, freedom should be maximized. In classical economic conservatism this takes the form of laissez faire theory, owners, not government, are best equipped to set the rules governing business and setting the conditions of labor. For classical liberalism the ideal rests in human rights and popular sovereignty, both of these can be traced back, at least, to the 16th century School of Salamanca. Humanism and freedom of thought are also concepts associated with classical and modern liberalism.

    Ideals are one thing, practice, history, is another. So the question is, Just how how successful, historically, have those touting small government been?

    In recent days President George W. Bush admitted that he has had to surrender some of his free market ideals in order to confront the banking crisis, thus growing government interference in that area and leading some conservatives to call it a “nationalizing of the banking system.” Maybe so. But this is not the first time Bush and small government types in the Republican Party have grown government. It is not difficult to find other Bushian growth. Expansion of Medicare to include prescription drugs is just one costly example of governmental growth passed by a Republican, and a self defined conservative, administration. This insults the very idea of small government. Now, I am not passing judgment on the rightness or wrongness of those two actions. They are just growth of government instituted by an administration talking but not walking the small government meme. Recent history.

    The question, asked above, deserves a longer historical view in the context of America after the Revolution.


    In 1777 the Second Continental Congress proposed the adoption of the Articles, this was broadly an attempt to bring about greater cooperation among the newly established states in the prosecution of the continuing Revolutionary War. Ratification of the Articles was finalized in 1781, the War would end in 1783. The War clearly demanded larger governmental powers in order to successful expel the British army. After the War the Articles proved inadequate to the needs of a functioning government. Shays’ Rebellion, 1786-1787, exemplified the internal weakness of government under the Articles. In 1787 Charles Pinkeny proposed that the Articles be revised in order to expand government in the areas of foreign and domestic commerce and in allow Congress to collect money from state treasuries. Delegates were sent to Annapolis, later Philadelphia, to revise the Articles. Any revision would need to be accepted by all thirteen states but as the delegates continued meeting it was decided that the Articles should not be revised but discarded. More important, the delegates decided, in contradiction of their instructions, that only nine states need ratify the new document for it to take force. The result of the meetings was The Constitution. It represented a huge increase in governmental power. The Constitution had its critics. Some feared that it represented a much to large grant of power to a central government. To quell these fears The Bill of Rights were added, limitations on Congress, “Congress shall make no law….” With this addition the Constution was ratified in 1790. This is about the last meaningful attempt to limit government in the United States.


    I did not take long for sides to form in the battle over the nature of the new government.Report