5.4 Growth Of Government
From Economic Freedom by LJM Cooray (1996)

The placing of limitations on the power of governments through a system of checks and balances has been an essential factor in the rise of western civilisation. Paradoxically the current in democracies has, in the last half-century, been flowing in the opposite direction - that of increasing centralisation of State power. The limited gains of liberal and representative democracy are being lost. The tide has turned towards accumulation of powers in the hands of the executive, with the substitution of the Government for the King. The Government is now very much more powerful than the feudal King ever was. It has more material resources and more bureaucratic machinery than any king ever had. It is also equipped with the products of modern science and technology and able to impose prohibitive restrictions on individuals and groups. The potential for corruption, abuse of power and exploitation is growing.

It is unrealistic to ignore the size of government or to deny that government should have a role. The time is ripe for an attempt to roll back, over a period of time, some of the accumulated powers of government. The evils and abuses resulting from exercise of government power receive minimum exposure (compared to the increasing effort by academia, the media and the left in politics to exaggerate and distort the problems created by private enterprise). Proposals to increase governmental power could with advantage be made subject to stringent cost benefit analyses. These analyses should seek to ensure that where powers are being demanded by government or government authorities, to overcome stated evils and abuses, those making such a case should be asked to evaluate:

  1. the loss of individual freedom;
  2. the financial and other burdens;
  3. the manner in which government power actually functions
  4. a comparison of the costs and the benefits.

The failure of so many regulatory schemes as a consequence of the inevitable imperfections of legislators, bureaucrats and judges, arising from their human fallibilities should be taken into account in relation to (3).

The proper role for government, the manner in which government has expanded and the ensuing problems are analysed in other parts of this book (sections 16, 26 and 29, 30, 31).