The extraordinary thing about the modern age is that Western government's now spend something like half of the wealth of the nation: 50% in the UK, for example, 55% in France, 45% in Canada.
Which raises the question, what value do people get for the money that government takes from them to spend on their behalf? In calculating GDP it is assumed that every dollar of government spending on services, administration, etc., yields similar value to a dollar spent by the individual making his or her own choice as to how their money should be disposed of.
But what if every dollar of government spending yields less than a dollar in value? What if it yields much less in value that a dollar spent privately? What if many dollars spent by government create negative value?
In America, how much value does the average citizen receive from the Department of Homeland Security's expenditure this year of $57 billion dollars? Might it not be a negative quantity? How much negative value is there to the average traveler to being sexually groped by a rubber-gloved TSA agent? And what is the cost of the time consumed in airline security checks, which according to a former TSA Chief, are a complete waste of time?
Similar questions arise concerning most other expensive government programs. In England, how much value do parents find in having schools teach their children the art of fellatio, or how to put on a condom? How much value do the British find in a police force that is so stupid it outlaws the use of the four-hundred-year-old English word "blacklist" because they think the term is RACIST.
In addition, what about the costs of regulation, and the grotesqueness of nearly every nation's tax code that wastes endless hours of citizens' time, and billions of dollars of legal and accounting fees to achieve compliance?
One has only to ask the question to realize that most reductions in government spending would result in increased prosperity, although the benefits would be unevenly distributed. Welfare cheats would be the losers, others of the indigent classes might be subject to the humiliation of receiving charity, i.e., aide given voluntarily rather than taken by force from Peter and forked over to Paul as a matter of right.
But the biggest losers in any move to reduce government to a sensible size would be the huge army of bureaucrats who administer or carry out government programs and earn more than those doing equivalent work in the private sector, have greater job security and an index-linked pension.
But the "public servants" needn't worry. If the political class know nothing else, they are masters of the politics of envy. They know how to win Paul's vote by promising rob Peter, while convincing many Peters that they are Pauls who will benefit from the scam.
Still there may be some hope for us. The supply siders are still with us and making a great success of the Swedish economy, by all accounts.