Does the government do too much or too little?
Acton Institute Powerblog

Does the government do too much or too little?

“There are many things government can’t do—many good purposes it must renounce,” said Lord Acton. “It must leave them to the enterprise of others. It cannot feed the people. It cannot enrich the people. It cannot teach the people. It cannot convert the people.”

Unfortunately for us, too few of our fellow Americans would agree with Lord Acton on that point. Many people think the government can feed, enrich, and teach us—and even convert us to the “right” (i.e., politically correct) way of thinking.

The good news is that a slight majority of our neighbors (54 percent) still say that government is attempting to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. But according to a new Gallup survey, 41 percent say government should do more to solve the country’s problems. As Gallup notes, the divide breaks down along political party lines:

These broad general population trends mask the fact that Republicans and Democrats have widely divergent views on the issue, consistent with each party’s philosophy on the role of government. Republicans overwhelmingly favor the “doing too much” option, and Democrats are almost as likely to favor “should do more.”

Currently, 82 percent of Republicans say government is trying to do too much, while only 24 percent of Democrats say the same. Gallup also notes that  women, minorities, and young adults are more likely to be Democrats and are least likely to say the government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.

In this video, Dennis Prager explains why it matters whether government does too much or too little.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).