Does a big government lead to the fall of democracy?

When very large and powerful government institutions are not held accountable by a functional democracy, then those institutions will certainly run amok over the citizenry and compromise other freedoms and rights in civil society — including the right to vote. This has tended to happen either where citizens are apathetic about their participation in the democratic process (as has been the case in the U.S.A. for many decades), or in places where a populist strongman deliberately consolidates their own power and undermines democracy itself (as has been the case of late in places like Turkey, Russia, Hungary, India, and multiple nations in Africa and Latin America).

But if the democratic institutions and public participation in democracy are strong, and authoritarian/autocratic leaders are voted out of office before they can wreak substantial damage on civil society, then the size of the government is not relevant, IMO. In the U.S.A., where the government is very large, Trump’s elevation to POTUS definitely woke up the country in terms of stimulating a more passionate participation in democracy…and his being voted out after one term likely saved U.S. democracy. But the size of the U.S. government did not really play into these variables.

What is much more critical in the preservation of democracy is carefully mitigating large concentrations of wealth and power and their impact on democratic institutions. The greatest erosion of democracy in the U.S. can easily be laid at the feet of the largest corporations, corporate media organizations, and wealthy campaign contributors. Their level of interference with functional democracy in the U.S. is truly astonishing — and it’s getting worse. To appreciate how organized and extensive this interference is, take a look into the history of American neoliberalism, which has relentlessly and systematically sought to consolidate wealth and power in the hands of as few people as possible (see link below), and effectively crippled democracy in the process.


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