Does more government = less liberty?

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Recently, I saw a Tweet that made me think, “more government = less liberty <- you can’t pare it down any more than that.” This was from Brooks Bayne (@brooksbayne). He is a writer from the website,, a site that seemingly aligns itself with a Libertarian ideology.

So, how do we determine if in fact, more government would equal less liberty? First, we need a few definitions.

What is Liberty? says:

-freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.

-freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.

-freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.

-freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint

Wikipedia says:

Liberty is the concept of ideological and political philosophy that identifies the condition  to which an individual has the right to behave according to one’s own personal responsibility and free will.

Individualist and classical liberal conceptions of liberty relate to the freedom of the individual from outside compulsion or coercion and this is defined as negative liberty. Social liberal conceptions of liberty relate freedom to social structure and agency and this is defined as positive liberty.

These are pretty good definitions from my point of view.

The only thing I would add is that some people think of Liberty in an even stricter sense. Some think of the condition of work (being an employee to an employeer) would reduce liberty. Some feel that Liberty either exists or it does not exist. So, one could not have partial Liberty.

What is ‘more government?’

In referring to the US government we can use Federal Spending as a % of GNP/GDP as a measure to determine when the US had the “most government.”

We can easily see that US Federal spending as a % of GDP was highest during WWII.

Okay, so we know that Liberty is “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control” And/or “freedom from external or foreign rule; independence”

And, we know that the US government was largest during World War Two.

So, the question remains, does more government = less liberty?

During World War Two the United States was fighting against the most evil regimes that have ever existed in the history of the world. The Germans, Italians, Japanese and others formed the Axis powers. They had committed horrific acts of genocide, tortured many US troops and killed millions of people. Their goal was to take over the world, divide it amongst themselves and rule with an iron fist.

The United States and the Allied powers were the only force standing in between the Axis and world domination. The history of every single human alive today would have been dramatically different if it weren’t for the US.

One could say that Nazi rule in the United States would lead to a direct decrease or elimination of Liberty for US Citizens.

Without us outspending and outmanufacturing the enemy, the United States would have lost this war. If we would have lost the war, the Nazi party possibly would have come to power and enacted laws that violated rights and Liberty.

Nominal GDP Federal Spending Defense Spending
Year Total $ % Increase Total $ % Increase % of GDP Total $ % Increase % of GDP % of Federal Spending
1940 101.4 9.47 9.34% 1.66 1.64% 17.53%
1941 120.67 19.00% 13 37.28% 10.77% 6.13 269.28% 5.08% 47.15%
1942 139.06 15.24% 30.18 132.15% 21.70% 22.05 259.71% 15.86% 73.06%
1943 136.44 -1.88% 63.57 110.64% 46.59% 43.98 99.46% 32.23% 69.18%
1944 174.84 28.14% 72.62 14.24% 41.54% 62.95 43.13% 36.00% 86.68%
1945 173.52 -0.75% 72.11 -0.70% 41.56% 64.53 2.51% 37.19% 89.49%

My response to Brooks Bayne’s Tweet was this:

“@brooksbayne I wish it were that easy. But, that is not the case 100% of the time.”

He replied to me right away, “@TheDavidBrooks sure it is. unless you fancy yourself smarter than our founding fathers. if that’s the case, u should start ur own country.”

I am someone who believes that the States should have more collective power then the Federal Government. I do not think a person in Washington DC who has never been to Minnesota could govern Minnesota more effectively than us.

But, I also understand the purpose of the Federal government. Without it, we would not have defense, many social safety nets and commerce would grind to a halt. Even though I want less Federal Spending and I want states like Minnesota to have the Liberty to do as they wish, I do not want the Federal Government to disappear.

Without a federal government, states like Montana, Idaho, Mississippi and other poorer states would suffer greatly. They would not get the federal dollars that help with their education, transportation and other major projects.

More government does not always equal less Liberty, but often times it does.

And, to respond to the follow-up question from Brooks Bayne. Do I think I am smarter than the Founding Fathers? The only answer I could come up with is, I don’t know. I have never met one of our Founding Fathers.

Follow me on Twitter by going here.

Follow Brooks Bayne on Twitter by going here.

Here are some of the sources I used in finding out this information. Check them out, am I wrong? Let me know!

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