Ethics & Public Policy Center

Big Government Is About to Get Really Popular

Published in The Washington Post on March 17, 2020


The Trump administration’s intent to ask for an $850 billion stimulus package to reduce the coronavirus’s economic impact is just the first example of the new normal. Big government is about to get much more popular.

There’s nothing small-government advocates can do in the short term to fight that move. Only concerted government action can enforce the social distancing that experts tell us is the necessary means to limit the virus’s march. Even most libertarians grant that this is a legitimate government police power that can be used in emergencies to save lives. Everyone expects that government power will recede as the threat is reduced.

The next stage of big government expansion, however, is likely to be difficult to unwind. Whatever form the stimulus package takes, the fact is that millions of individuals and businesses will become largely dependent on government funds and programs for their well-being virtually overnight. That dependency will be much harder to upend, for obvious reasons. Withdraw the support too soon, and people’s lives are undone. Keep it too long, and they get used to the protections and support and are less likely to want to go back to the risks that markets and self-reliance bring.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at the Washington Post’s website.

Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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