I don't always agree with John Stossel, but he penned a good piece for Reason Magazine, on how Americans typically view government, philosophically and realistically.
People on both sides think of themselves as freedom lovers. The left thinks government can lessen income inequality. The right thinks government can make Americans more virtuous. I say we're best off if neither side attempts to advance its agenda via government.
Let both argue about things like drug use and poverty, but let no one be coerced by government unless he steals or attacks someone. Beyond the small amount needed to fund a highly limited government, let no one forcibly take other people's money. When in doubt, leave it out—or rather, leave it to the market and other voluntary institutions.
But this is not how most people think. Most people see a world full of problems that can be solved by laws. They assume it's just the laziness, stupidity or indifference of politicians that keeps them from solving our problems. But government is force—and inefficient.
That's why it's better if government didn't try to address most of life's problems.
People tend to believe that "government can!" When problems arise, they say, "There ought to be a law!"
George W. Bush ran for president promising a "lean" government, but he decided to create a $50 billion per year prescription drug entitlement and build a new bureaucracy called No Child Left Behind. Under Bush, Republicans doubled discretionary spending (the greatest increase since LBJ), expanded the drug war, and hired 90,000 new regulators.
Bush's increases in regulation didn't mollify the media's demand for still more.
Then came Barack Obama and spending big enough to bankrupt all our children. That fueled the tea party and the 2010 elections.
The tea party gave me hope, but I was fooled again. Within months, the new "fiscally conservative" Republicans voted to preserve farm subsidies, vowed to "protect" Medicare and cringed when Romney's future veep choice, Rep. Paul Ryan, proposed his mild deficit plan.