When libertarians dole out blame for the growth of government, perhaps we should take a look in the mirror. Is it possible that our arguments—correct and widely accepted though they are—about government inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and incompetence have had the unintended consequence of fueling government’s growth?
For 50 years, Reason writers and other libertarians have preached that government at all levels is bad at what it does, a view that virtually every poll finds to be widespread among Americans of all political persuasions. In his first inaugural address in 1981, Ronald Reagan famously declared that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” That’s a tight summary of what not just a majority of libertarians but most Americans believe these days. But has all this declining trust in government actually led to smaller government? With some meaningful exceptions, the answer is no. The government spends more, controls more, and does more than ever, writes Nick Gillespie.