Imperial Government

"Imperial Government," Commentary, June 1978.

Excerpt: The question of size and of effectiveness in American government is beginning to take on aspects of constitutional as against merely political debate. For the better part of a century now, those who have objected to the size of government, especially the national government, have typically been objecting to the new functions the government was seeking to carry out. There was always, that is, a not especially well hidden agenda in the objection to government growth as such. Of late, however, we encounter the argument that government growth has not added to the effectiveness of government, but may even have impeded it. The question appears even where it is not directly posed. Thus, a year after the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter the nation was awash with wonder that so much was being attempted and seemingly so little achieved. At first, political explanations were put forward for this, principally that the President’s difficulties were of his own making. But then, with increasing frequency, commentators began asking whether the more important explanation was perhaps to be found in the way our government at present works, or does not work. It is a matter that deserves inquiry.