Your Opinion: Government growth reflects nation
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Much of Republican and Tea Party thinking flows from the root proposition that big government is necessarily bad. The trouble is that the unthinking commitment to the idea that big government is bad fails to take into account much of our history.
After achieving independence from Britain, the U.S. first organized under the Articles of Confederation. These set up a weak national government that could neither tax nor regulate commerce among the states.
That government failed, and a movement began to amend the Articles. The result of that movement was the constitutional convention in 1787 where our Constitution was written. The new Constitution created a federal government with both the powers to tax and to regulate commerce among the states.
That government has consistently funded and promoted the expansion and development of the country in ways that private individuals and businesses could not do.
One of the first major projects was federal organizing and funding of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. Lewis and Clark explored the Missouri River, crossed the Continental Divide and made it to the west coast. They created valuable maps of our inland waterways and established our claim to the northwest territories.
In 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Act and gave states tens of thousands of acres of land if the states would establish colleges to promote, among other things, “agriculture and the mechanic arts.” Sixty-nine land grant colleges were established and American higher education was off and running.
Also in 1862 Congress promoted the building of a transcontinental railroad by offering railroad companies for each mile of track laid 20 square miles of land in alternate sections. Nearly 20 million acres were thus given away and about $60 million in loans was provided. The country was then connected, coast to coast.
Congress has also funded massive federal employment programs during the Great Depression, funded our military in fighting two World Wars and other conflicts, funded disaster relief, funded scientific and medical research and funded various large social safety networks.
As the country has expanded from four million people to 300 million, from 13 states to 50 states, from horse and buggy technology to airplanes and electronics, the government has necessarily grown. It must continue to do so.
A reactionary hatred of big government is uninformed and is detrimental to the political process, as the Tea Party demonstrated in the recent debt ceiling crisis.