I’d like to respond to Morgan Lowder’s letter to the editor in last Thursday’s paper, titled, “Big government can be conducive to progress.” In short: no, it can’t.
Let’s first look at big government and its effect on the economy. Lowder claims that the difference between the success of Scandinavian countries and that of African countries is a good example of the relative benefits of big government versus small government.
There are two main problems with this argument. Firstly, Scandinavia and Africa weren’t exactly on a level playing field when modern government developed in the 1800s. Entire novels have been dedicated to the initial causes and lasting effects of the different developmental timelines for the Eurasian and African continents. Second, many of the developing African countries that Lowder alludes to have big governments compared to his Scandinavian examples.
According to the World Bank, Sweden’s government consumed 27 percent of everything its country produced in 2011, meaning that in proportion to the country it governs, it is fifth largest government in the world. That puts it behind two of Morgan’s “small government” African countries — Lesotho (No. 1, with 33 percent consumption) and Burundi (No. 3, with 28 percent consumption). Norway, the other main Scandinavian country, ranked 20th on the list of government consumption, behind five of those “small government” African countries — Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
If you’re going to compare two entities with different economics, then at least make sure the countries are relatively similar. For example, take North and South Korea. They were one country until 1950, at which time North Korea decided to become a big government and South Korea became a small government. Sixty years later, the difference between small government and big government is literally visible from space. Looking down from a satellite at the Korean border, nearly all of the southern half is lit up with the bright lights of industry, wealth and prosperity. In comparison, the North Korean capital of Pyongyang flickers with a dim glow..
If North and South Korea are too different for you, let’s look at a single country. Between 1950 and 1979, big government China experienced an average gross domestic product growth rate of 4.4 percent. In 1979, facing massive civil unrest from a starving populace, the Chinese government passed sweeping reforms that greatly decreased the size of government, especially in the economic sector.
Beginning that very year and until the Great Recession, China’s average GDP growth rate increased to nearly 10 percent. China’s economy progressed more than twice as fast once big government took its grubby paws off it (or at least had its paws on less of it).
Also, take a moment, and Google “economic freedom versus GDP per capita” and page over to the “Images” tab, so you can see for yourself the graphs compiling the data from dozens of studies that show the general trend that these few examples have demonstrated. For those of you who are too lazy to take out your smartphone and do so, I’ll summarize it: The less government interferes in a nation’s economy, the more prosperous that nation will be.
Small government doesn’t care what you do with your life, as long as you aren’t hurting other people. Small government doesn’t care which sink you drink from, whether or not you’re able to decide what you choose to do with your own body or which person you marry (as long as that person wants to marry you too).
Claiming now that big government is wonderful because it has finally responded to the will of the people and cleaned up the mess that it originally made is ridiculous, especially when you consider that small government wouldn’t have made the mess in the first place.
It’s not small government that interferes with your civil liberties; it’s big government. If Lowder wants to ride the big government train, then I wish him the best of luck. I fully support his right to choose things for his own life, as long as he doesn’t make me get on the train with him. But can you really blame me for not wanting to go with him on a train whose most famous stops are the Soviet Union, communist Cuba and North Korea?