For years the Republicans have been preaching small governmnet. They try to paint the contrast that you are either a small government republican, or a tax and spend democrat, however this is and always will be a straw man argument. But there is a deeper problem with the small government philosphy. The fact is, that political theory for the most part trickles down. The reason for this is that for the most part, the most prolific (or atleast well known) political thinkers on both sides of the aisle exist on the national level. While I am sure there are many people with great ideas in individual counties here and there, it is rare that nationwide movements originate from the office of a county commissioner. At best now and then one of their ideas makes it into a national publication, and a ‘national’ thinker then claims it as his or her own when they implement it.
The problem with this is that not all ideas can be scaled down. When house and senate republicans talk about small government, they are talking about small federal government, an idea that goes well in conjunction with states rights. The idea behind this is that state and local governments can manage themselves more efficiently than the federal government, resulting in less spending. In theory, it is not the worst idea ever, one that I may disagree with, but I can at least recognize it’s intellectual merits.
The problem is, that the idea of small government has trickled down to small government. Basically, the federal (SGers) have passed responsibility down to the state SGers who pass it down to the municipal SGers who effectively say, government is bad, lets keep it small and not do anything. This view then gets bounced back up, and what was atleast a semi decent theory of using small scale government has been twisted and perverted into all government is bad.
Take for example North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. This was a city that had been pumelled by job losses in the manufacturing sector. Their one remaining large employer in town was the headquarter of Lowe’s, the big hardware store chain. Lowe’s went to the Wilkes County Commissioners, and said that they wanted to stay in Wilke’s, but needed the quality of education to be improved. If the county would build new highschools, Lowe’s would provide the modern tech such as computers. The Republican dominated (all 5) county comission agreed, but then when the time to vote on it came, decided to make it a referendum issue. Then the issue changed from building new schools to sustain the needs of the area’s largest employer to a ‘subsidy for Lowe’s’. The referendum failed, and Lowe’s moved, taking literally thousands of jobs with it.
Now I not a small government guy for a lot of issues, I strongly believe that the federal government is responsible for issues like civil rights, education, not to mention nationwide industrial programs. However this was the exact situation that should have illuminated the benefits of the small government model. A local county was knew what kind of infrastructure (schools no less) was needed for a local employer to be able to maintain operations, the county commission makes a deal with the employer to help with the project, the county takes out a bond for it, the project gets done, and everyone wins. Instead, a perversion of small government stopped this from happening, and effectively doomed the city’s economy and left a lot of people hurting, not to mention a dramatic drop in tax revenue, all because people did not want to pay any more taxes so they could build new schools.