Brookins Head Shot

*Conservatives continuously complain about the size of government and how government is  too involved in everyone’s business. But outside of those of the libertarian persuasion, everyone (not just liberals) are to blame for the size of our national and state bureaucracies. And none of us should be surprised or upset when they expand again.

Government expansion starts with each election cycle. Every year a new crop of people are trying to gain the support of a group of voters. The most frequent strategy to gain that support is to say what they will do for folks if elected/re-elected. But this sets up a situation in which the elected official “owes” his/her constituency some program or law. This is the first point at which the expansion of our government could be stopped. But in general no one votes for a politician that says: “everything is great”. Much to the contrary, people tend to vote for the person who proclaims several problems and why they are the only person that can solve those problems. Because of this feature of the human psyche and the way our election system works it is inevitable that government expands.

Once a person is elected and has a program that they need to champion, that necessitates the need for a staff – both to possibly study how to implement the program and then to actually execute the plan. All of this must be funded of course.

Here again it is possible for the elected official to save taxpayers money and stop the expansion of our bureaucracy. This can be done in one of two ways. Either they renege on their campaign promises about the program or they try to fold their program into an existing part of the bureaucracy. But ultimately neither of these solutions are very palatable. If the politician does not follow through with their campaign promises they will not get re-elected. On the other hand if the program gets executed by an existing part of our government people will complain about how it isn’t efficient and is detracting from the workflow of important tasks that were already being done by government workers. In either case if the program is going to work as well as it should/could, a new staff is the best way to go.  And so the government expands.

At each step of the way the logical thing for everyone involved is to push toward more government services and a therefore larger government. Furthermore most government programs that are actually implemented benefit people of all backgrounds including a large number of conservatives. So after all of the belly-aching most people end up supporting new programs and perpetuating a system of expansion. And as long as we have a system of government where elected representatives are responsive to the needs and desires of the people there is no way to avoid government from expanding to meet the ever growing list of demands of voters.

The fact that the country is in a deficit is somewhat of a tangent. Because while it is logical that the money being spent would be considered, people vote based on their emotions. You give me something and I like you so I vote for you. That isn’t changing any time soon.

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.