If Americans prefer smaller government, why does it continue to grow?
Inin the Wall Street Journal, AEI President Arthur Brooks and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) discuss why America continues to have big government even though Americans consistently tell pollsters that they'd prefer smaller government. The Left answers that Americans suffer from some form of cognitive dissonance, in which they retain nominal loyalty to an outmoded view (from the Left's perspective) of the government's role , while in practice embracing the benefits of expansive government.
Brooks and Ryan answer that, despite Americans' broader preferences, elected officials present the public with marginal choices in which bigger government always wins. Feed hungry children? Check. Keep grandma out of poverty? Check. Once you check enough of these boxes, you end up with big government even if you say you'd prefer something smaller. Brooks and Ryan argue that citizens need to be presented with larger, macro-oriented choices rather than incremental ones, since only with big choices do voters focus on the larger decisions that need to be made.
Government grows a little at a time, so incrementally that people don't notice till one day, whoops! it's gargantuan. It's like gaining a pound a day and not noticing till one day an old friend drops by and rudely points out how fat you've become.