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The Size and Scope of American Government

Richard M. Salsman

Presented at: OCON 2012

Date: Jun 30, 2012

This course examines the history and theory of the size and scope of American government since the founding period, beginning with the influence of Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian principles and ending with today’s burgeoning welfare state.

Mr. Salsman shows how the nation’s prevailing moral code, whether egoistic or altruistic—as embodied in disparate theories of rights, justice and democracy—determines its fiscal affairs, whether for good or ill. After reviewing the vast empirical record (1790–2010) and quantifying key trends in government spending, taxing, borrowing, money-creation, regulation and bureaucracy, the course explores various non-philosophical theories purporting to explain these trends. The course analyzes the flaws in such theories and presents an alternative theory that identifies the nation’s predominant moral code as the key determinant of broad trends in the size and scope of American government. Based on this deeper moral theory, the course concludes with conditional projections of the possible future growth of government in America.


Parts: 4

Handout: none