Bigger is Better

November 12, 2001

Bob Edwards: “Big Government” can be an epitaph meant to deride as meddlesome or molasses slow. Commentator Paul Light says, concerning the war on terrorism, “‘Big’ is not such a bad thing for government to be.”

Paul Light: Looking back at the past fifty years, it is hard not to be proud of what the Federal Government and its civic partners have achieved. Name a significant domestic or foreign problem and the Federal government has made some effort to fix it, often to stunning success. America rarely conquers enemies such as poverty, disease, discrimination and pollution, through a single great law such as Medicare or the Voting Rights Act. Rather, the U.S. tends to wear its adversaries down, year after year, law after law, until victory is won. Poverty among the elderly has fallen because of twelve separate increases in Social Security benefits since 1946. No single president or political party can claim credit for the success…

listen to the entire piece (Real Audio 2:28)

Paul C. Light is Vice President and Director of Governmental Studies at the Brookings Institution and Senior Adviser to The Presidential Appointee Initiative.