It is not as simple as limited government and big government. Will Wilkinson explains,
In reality, Americans get a mix of all this from their government. We get some totally legit public goods. We get certain goods and services, generally at a reduced level of quality, that some people would have paid for anyway but others can’t afford. We get a lot of straight-up destruction of wealth and welfare from deadweight loss, negative-sum transfers, and stupid wars. We get a lamentable amount of authoritarian police state infrastructure and activity. If we could cut in half the percentage of the budget dedicated to stupid wars and Gestapo stuff, I’d happily accept a permanent 5% increase in the size of government devoted entirely to digging vast holes and filling them in. Freedom isn’t free!
This paragraph spurred me on to think about policing. We have a smaller government compared to Western Europe, but the police state here is much worse than anywhere in Europe. I am not completely sure why it is that policing has gotten so bad, so here are a couple of theories, not wholly unrelated
- There is a natural connexion between American individualism and lower levels of trust resulting in a need for higher levels of policing
- American ideology blinds us to the reality of various policing practices and the government (via public choice) has a natural tendency to expand
- The prison industrial complex has its own sort of demands for continuing profits and for more prisoners
- Discrimination has been institutionalized