Small government or big government

August 26, 2008


There is an interesting interview with Rick Warren that took place after the presidential forum that was held at his church. In it, the interviewer stops just short of saying that Dr. Warren endorses John McCain, and then later states that he will not make an endorsement. Fair enough. I’m sure the same could be said of many others who are not making endorsements.

But there is a quote that I find odd, and that I feel is worth a look:

But the other important distinction Mr. Warren notes is the candidates’ approaches to government, which he says are “totally opposite.” “McCain is more of a limited government guy and Obama sees government as the solution to major problems in society.”

This is, of course, a classic argument between conservatives and liberals. Since I began to have my own political views, I have been somewhat troubled by the thought that I could be a person who “sees government as the solution to major problems in our society.”

However, in recent days it has become clear to me that this argument is no longer valid in 21st century politics. There are many valid arguments between conservatives and liberals, but this is not one of them.

For an example, watch the beginning of this episode of The Daily Show. In it, you can see a look at various media responses to this ad from John McCain, likening Barack Obama to a celebrity. Which is fine. And the media responses look at whether Obama is an elitist, whether he makes unrealistic promises, and so on. All of this is also fine. They should ask these questions.

However, the implication of course is that John McCain is not an elitist, and that he does not make unrealistic promises. The beauty of the above linked episode of The Daily Show is that it shows the other side. By 2013, apparently, McCain will lead us out of Iraq, give us economic growth, a secure Southern border, a balanced budget, $100 million in tax breaks (of course, mostly to “the wealthy” who make $5 million or more each year), and any number of other things.

And this is a small government that does not see itself as the solution to major problems in our society? Hello? Is there anyone who sees these kind of claims, whether or not they are valid, as representative of a small government? Is there anyone who still believes that George Bush runs a small government? The sweeping intrusions into civil liberties alone should keep anyone from believing that, even without looking at budgets, or taxes for people who are not wealthy, or military engagements, or political intrusion into the Justice Department, or …

So. I propose that the question of United States politics, from where we currently stand, is not whether we will have a small or big government. The question is what kind of big government we will have.