Why are “liberals” or “progressives” great fans of big government? (I put the words in scare quotes because it seems to me that these people are, objectively speaking, illiberal and regressive.) There are, I suggest, four reasons.
Liberals feel the need to repair the damage their moral values have done in the last half-century or so. When I speak of damage, I am thinking above all of the breakdown of the married two-parent family, a breakdown — caused largely by the liberal-promoted sexual revolution — that has inflicted immeasurable damage on fatherless boys and girls.
This breakdown is greatest among our poorer social classes — and has contributed of course to their poverty. And it is greatest of all among poor African-Americans: in black ghettos the married two-parent family has virtually disappeared. But to reverse this breakdown, to begin a return to the married two-parent family, liberals would have to proclaim that there is something seriously wrong with the ethic of sexual freedom that they have been promoting since the middle of the last century.
But to proclaim that would be unthinkable. To ask a liberal to renounce the ideal of sexual freedom would be like asking a Muslim to renounce his belief in Muhammad. So instead the liberal/progressive proclaims that we need bigger and better government welfare programs. We need more generous welfare payments, we need more day care for working single mothers; we need universal pre-K public education, and so on. In sum, we need the state to become the father to father-less children and the husband to husband-less moms.
Liberals need a mechanism that will bring about a utopian society. What will this ideal society look like? Incomes and wealth will be close to equality. All public schools will be of approximately equal quality. Higher education will be free, and the quality of education you get at a community college won’t be much lower than the quality you get at Harvard and Yale and Princeton.
Everybody will have almost equal access to high-quality tennis courts, golf courses, hiking trails, and other recreational facilities. Automobiles will be rare. Everybody will ride on solar- or wind-powered mass transit. Bicycles and dedicated bicycle lanes will be found everywhere. Everybody will exercise healthily, and nobody will eat unhealthy food or drink unhealthy drinks. Recreational drugs will be legal, cheap, and readily available, and they will have no harmful side effects.
Everybody will live to an advanced old age, and will then die via voluntary euthanasia. We will live in a sexual paradise. Thanks to breakthroughs in medication and surgery, we’ll remain sexually active until about a month before we get euthanized. And as we inhale perfectly clean air, nobody will be able to remember when mankind was so primitive as to burn fossil fuels.
But how can this social ideal be achieved except by means of big — that is, super-big — government?
And who will be in charge of this super-big government? Why, liberals of course. Liberals seem to be incapable of imagining that gigantic government, once they’ve created it, might fall into the hands of people who will misuse it. No, they are sure it will be operated by people like themselves, that is, people who are both virtuous and wise, who desire nothing but the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Since the intellectual leaders of liberalism are by and large either atheists or semi-atheists drifting toward full-fledged atheism, they will stand in need of a new Absolute once they get rid of the old God – they will need, in other words, a godless Supreme Being to which they can dedicate their lives.
And what will that Supreme Being be? The big-government state, of course. In the long term this will be a worldwide government. But in the short term it will be the Leviathan headquartered in Washington, D.C.