American public opinion and limited gov

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American Public Opinion and Limited Government

American Public Opinion and Limited Government

For many years now, Americans have been divided almost in the middle as to how big the U.S. government should be. The United States has one of the largest governments in the world comprising of the federal government and 52 state governments (Clement, 2012). For many years, the conservatives have been pushing for a scale down of the government because of the relationship between economic development and the government size. President Obama also triggered this debate just recently in 2014 when he claimed that the persistent debate regarding the size of the government as a major obstacle to his administration getting reforms pass through a divided Congress (Jeffrey, 2012). By making this statement, President Obama appeared to support a leaner government. Support for a leaner government has been growing almost every year. In 2009, the Washington Post Poll found that 54% of Americans were in favor of smaller government against 41% that favored a larger government (Jeffrey, 2012).

The growing favor for a smaller government has been linked to a number of reasons, according to the Washington Post study. According to the study, Americans in favor of a smaller government cited high tax burden associated with a larger government as one of their reasons for favoring a leaner government. Those pushing for the shrinking of the government argue that ordinary Americans are burdened by high taxes that they have to pay to fund the large government (Welch et al., 2013). As such, they feel that the solution to tax burden is shrinking the government so that it becomes smaller as this will result in low taxes on the people.

Secondly, proponents of a smaller government argue that the government currently spends a lot on things that do not impact positively on the ordinary person. In particular, Lammam (2014) cites that the government has not been spending adequately on the social welfare because of the large size of the government. As such, they believe that, by scaling down the size of the government, this would enable the government to prioritize its spending by increasing social welfare spending for the benefit of the American poor. In fact, some of those pooled argue that the cost of health care and education have been high in America because the government is too large to the extent that only a small part of the budget goes to the social welfare (Welch et al., 2013). Therefore, to address the gap and increase the social welfare spending, American government must be scaled down.

Thirdly, the majority of the Americans polled believe that the large size of the government is to blame for the poor state of economic. They cite a study by Livio Di Matteo that found that a smaller government is linked to faster growth in economy than a larger government (Page, 2010). The researcher found that a country’s annual per capita GDP growth is optimized when government spending is capped at 26%. Unfortunately, the size of the U.S. government is about 40% of its GDP (Jeffrey, 2012). Therefore, to boost economic growth, Di Matteo suggests that the Obama administration should scale down the size of the government to book economic growth. This is supported by a number of bodies of research that have found that a smaller government size translates to higher growth in economy. This would in turn result in a reduction in the poverty levels in the country. Proponents of a leaner government have also cited Canada as a good example of a country that has realized positive economic benefits after reducing the size of its government (Jeffrey, 2012).

Additionally, proponents of smaller government argue that reducing the size of the government would promote fare distribution of wealth (Jeffrey, 2012). They argue that, with the current large government size, where is only concentrated on the hand of a few elite. As such, by scaling down the size of the government, this would enable fair and equal distribution of resources, which would be of immense benefit to all Americans.

In conclusion, the debate about the size of the government has been going on for several years and is not about to go away. However, currently, most Americans are in favor of a smaller government citing benefits that they believe could accrue by America scaling down the size of the government. Despite increased favor for a smaller government, American legislators must weigh also the benefits of having larger government before deciding on which way to go.


Clement, A. (2012, Aug. 27). People want smaller government — and they think Mitt Romney does too. The Washington Post p. 3

Jeffrey, T. P. (2012, Aug. 19). Wash Post Poll: Large Majorities Want Smaller Federal Gov’t, Say Gov’t Controls Too Much. CNN News

Lammam, C. (2014). The proper size of government. Retrieved from

Page, S. (2010, Nov. 10). How big government should be stirs debate. USA Today, p. 1

Welch, S., Gruhl, J., Thomas, S., & Borrelli, M. (2013). Understanding American government. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.