2013 December 18 Wednesday
72% See Big Government As Threat To American Future

Only 21% see big business as a threat.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question.

But most people want the subsidies they get from government: Medical care for the old and the poor, disability payments (increasingly when not disabled), more spending on education, and other stuff. Try polling these opponents of big government on what they would cut from the US federal budget and I bet a conflicting picture would emerge.

Possibly a large part of the fear is of government as spy and government as regulator of whatever it is that people want to do. Well, we face a very very monitored future regardless of how much of it is done by the US federal government. Why? Hard disk capacity and RAM keep getting cheaper. Ditto microprocessors, sensors, and fiber optic cable capacity. The cheaper it gets to record and retain information the more recording and retaining is going to go on.

Neighbors will record their street views. Cops record what is in front of their police cars. Stores record people walking around and they record transactions. Cities record people on streets. The very large number of web sites track who visits. I could go on. We face a tracked and recorded future with lots of computer processing of it all.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 December 18 08:44 PM 

destructure said at December 19, 2013 5:42 AM:

72% See Big Government As Threat. 28% say "Si se puede!"

Wolf-Dog said at December 19, 2013 8:56 PM:

Although the majority knows that big government is harmful, they still want some government because they are also aware that without any government, the Darwinian forces will use technology to leave the rest behind, and at some point the top 0.001 % will accumulate enough relative wealth (=power) to demote the remaining 99.999 % to serfdom or worse. The top 1 % Americans (i.e. top 3 million Americans) only have an IQ of135, but the top 0.01 % who have IQ scores close to 156 (i.e. the top 40,000 Americans) would laugh at the intellectual mediocrity and incompetence of the top 1 % who have inferior IQs. The even the majority of the 99th percentile have every reason to fear the top 99.99 percentile. Robots can give more freedom and prosperity to the majority, but these devices can also be used to maximize profit and demote the majority to unemployment and starvation.

radical centrist blogger said at December 19, 2013 10:25 PM:

it is more complicated than that.

White americans, in general, see the federal govt as their enemy.

And it is. In fact the fed govt was DESIGNED from the very start to be the enemy of the majority and the friend of the rich.

The designer of our current structure of federal govt, james madison, wrote that the structure of the federal govt would 'protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.'

And that still holds true--the structure of 'big government' (i.e., the federal govt) is the enemy of the white working class majority.

And the white majority is starting to awaken to this fact.

Jersey said at December 20, 2013 7:20 AM:

I've seen enough polling evidence to believe that most Americans have very little idea what actually comprises the federal budget. There is a belief that huge sums go for foreign aid, the arts, etc. They have no idea that the federal budget is OVERWHELMINGLY dominated by entitlements they enjoy. So I assume that a lot of the opposition to "big government" is driven by an incorrect assumption that stuff they don't like is a much bigger slice of the pie than it is. And so the functional illiteracy from which most Americans suffer when it comes to what their government actually does helps to drive these nonsense debates in which people ask for spending cuts while convinced the big stuff they like doesn't need to be touched.

I remember someone did a series of recorded man-on-the-street style interviews with a bunch of Tea Party types, who of course are the most rhetorically hostile to "big government." After confirming that the interviewee did, in fact, want to cut down government spending, the interviewer went through a list of proposed cuts, including the biggest sources of outlays. The interviewees disagreed with every one. Social Security, Medicare + Medicaid, defense, education, infrastructure, scientific research. Not one dime less for anything, period.

destructure said at December 20, 2013 10:29 PM:


In spite of anecdotal interviews, the majority of Tea Partiers support cutting most of the programs you mentioned and often by a very wide margin. About the only spending they don't support cutting is roads and transportation (infrastructure), terrorism defense and veteran's benefits. They're roughly even on education, military defense and combating crime. The rest aren't even close.


Rather embarrassing for someone who began their comment claiming to have seen the polling evidence and accusing others of being ignorant. But that's what I'd expect from a liberal.

Jersey said at December 21, 2013 8:50 AM:

First: I'm not a liberal. Grow up.

Second: see http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2011/02/04/Voter-Ignorance-Threatens-Deficit-Reduction

Or http://reason.com/archives/2010/11/01/entitlement-reform-not-their-c

Or http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2011/03/03/tea-party-voters-by-almost-2-1-oppose-social-security-cuts/

Or http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704728004576176741120691736


This took me a few minutes of Googling.

Randall Parker said at December 21, 2013 12:07 PM:


Your web search findings mirror what I've read elsewhere: the Tea Partiers support old age entitlements. Given that the old age entitlements are a Ponzi scheme that is disappointing. They oppose other entitlements in part because a bigger overall budget deficit to fund the new entitlements increases the size of future cuts to the old age entitlements. But in my view it is good they are opposed to some other entitlements.

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