Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge on the Growth of Government

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micklethwait and wooldridge“In America, government spending increased from 7.5 percent of GDP in 1913 to 19.7 percent in 1937, to 27 percent in 1960, to 34 percent in 2000, and to 41 percent in 2011.  But these figures do not fully capture the way that government has become part of the fabric of our lives.

“America’s Leviathan claims the right to tell you how long you need to study to become a hairdresser in Florida (two years) and the right to monitor your emails.  It also obliges American hospitals to follow 140,000 codes for ailments they treat, including one for injuries from hitting a turtle.  Government used to be an occasional partner in life, the contractor on the other side of Hobbes’s deal, the night watchman looking over us in Mill’s.  Today it is an omnipresent nanny.  Back in 1914, ‘a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman,’ the historian A. J. P. Taylor once observed.  ‘He could live where he liked and as he liked . . . .  Broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves.  It left the adult citizen alone.’  Today the sensible, law-abiding citizen cannot pass through an hour, let alone a lifetime, without noticing the existence of the state.”

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, “The Fourth Revolution,” in Cato Policy Report (July/August 2014)