Libertarians dream of cutting back the bloated Leviathan under whose weight people now struggle simply to catch their breath—breathing freely being almost beyond imagination. A few of us dream of eliminating the state altogether, however much we recognize the impossibility of doing so. Many more libertarians, however, believe that in propitious circumstances, the state might be slashed substantially.
We want a free society, but not even cutting real federal outlays by half would allow us to attain that goal. Indeed, it would leave us with the amount of real federal outlays the government actually made in 1984; and the Leviathan of 1984 is exactly the one of which I wrote in the original preface of my book Crisis and Leviathan, as follows:Now, in virtually every dimension, our lives revolve within rigid limits circumscribed by government authorities; we are constrained continually and on all sides by Big Government. Regulations clutter the landscape. Governmental spending equals almost four-tenths of the gross national product.”In short, just half the federal government’s current real outlays would suffice to sustain what I referred to in the mid-1980s as “that awesome aggregation of forces, programs, and activities we know as Big Government.
.. cutting the government’s real outlays in half is impossible unless some freakishly unlikely event, such as an enormous asteroid’s striking the earth, should occur. The only realistic libertarian goals—the only ones with even a ghost of a chance of attainment—are tantamount to removing a few grains of sand from the beaches of southern California. Not even the realization of my hypothetical “impossible dream” can create a free society; indeed, it can’t even bring us close to such a society. We have come too far; the monstrosity the American people have built is much, much too heavy for them to push off. So far as turning the United States into a free society is concerned, we simply cannot get there from here.