What we’ve been debating here in Washington over the last few weeks will affect the lives of the students here and families all across America in potentially profound ways. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page; it’s about more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future that we want. It’s about the kind of country that we believe in. And that’s what I want to spend some time talking about today. From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government. But there’s always been another thread running through our history -– a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.


This is a part of President Barack Obama's Speech on Fiscal Policy at George Washington University. I am not sure what "with a healthy skepticism of too much government" means, especially, "too much government" part. I am guessing it might mean "a healthy skepticism about too much management from the government. Could you please help me? Thank you in advance as always.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqoxZRRAqkc

  • 1
    It means “too large a government”, “shifting too much autonomy and authority from the individual or local levels to the federal level”, etc.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 16, 2018 at 12:23
  • This article gives some interesting insight into the emerging realisation (in ancient Greece) that democracy, however well founded, necessitates a degree of bureaucracy, and then necessitates a degree of control on that bureaucratic organisation.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:04
  • de Tocqueville had interesting observations here too.
    – lbf
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:50
  • @DanBron Thank you. Um then it means there are people with a good skepticism about too much autonomy and authority on the government? Mar 16, 2018 at 14:08
  • @MangoGummy Yep.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 16, 2018 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


In the Federalist Papers (number 51), James Madison wrote the following:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

The key to understanding a healthy skepticism of government is the intensity of Madison’s opening words. Men are clearly not angels, but neither are they wholly evil, or evil to the extent that they must be ruled for their own good. A healthy skepticism is one which accepts the imperfection of human nature, but which retains a hope for the future, and a willingness to persevere in the face of many discouragements.

  • +1 good answer ... answers in previous comments remove impetus for more answers.
    – lbf
    Mar 16, 2018 at 16:19

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