Is it possible to be a socialist and want small government?

Paul Smith
Jun 29, 2016 · 4 min read

First of all, what is a socialist?

Dictionary: A person who advocates or practises socialism.


Socialism (Wikipedia): Socialism is a range of economics and social systems characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production; as well as the political ideologies, theories, and movements that aim at their establishment. Social ownership may refer to forms of public, collective, or cooperative ownership; to citizen ownership of equity; or to any combination of these.

So, pretty much most countries around the world are socialist in some form or another? I’m all for a mix of public and private production.

What are the implications of small government?

Why is small government the ideal scenario of, let’s say, more conservative governments? Supposedly it’s because of the belief in the private sector and basic freedoms from oppressive government controls. But we have seen in more recent times that conservatives are more than willing to bypass their basic beliefs in areas where they fear the tide of change. For example, women and minority rights, climate change etc.

It is my belief that these types of governments just want to privatise everything because they don’t want to be held responsible when things go wrong, but do want to take credit for handing things to the private sector when thing go right. They are the ultimate in a lack of integrity and, in some cases, backbone.

Now, extreme left governments are just as bad but for different reasons. They want to take the power from your hands because they don’t trust us humans to do the right thing, assuming the right thing is in fact the right thing. But, that’s a whole other rabbit whole!

The public sector needs to understand and stimulate the rise of the conscious business. Business leaders and boards need to understand the a conscious business can be more profitable.

The private sector as social leaders?

I do believe that the private sector can be a leader in social and environmental issues. You can see it through the rise of Shared Value, B Corporations, Conscious Capitalism, Ethical Investment, Social Enterprise and so on. The private sector is full of businesses and leaders that want to, and do, do the right thing.

What we need to rid ourselves of are the self-serving sociopaths that tend to get to the top. We need to shift away from the money flow going to the top and not feeding down. Trickle-down economics just doesn’t work unless there are incentives for the super rich to spend more on services, pay their fair share of taxes, create more jobs and alike. I want to be wealthy but that doesn’t make me a capitalist over a socialist. I still want my work to be good and make the world a better place. I’m not greedy, I just want to be comfortable so I can focus my time on helping others.

It is possible to be a socialist and want small government?

Yes, but both the private and public sector need to jump through some major hoops first before you’ll get it. The public sector needs to understand and stimulate the rise of the conscious business. Business leaders and boards need to understand the a conscious business can be more profitable.

  • They retain and attract better people
  • They turn their customers into advocates and attract more customers
  • They have a social license to operate, which far from being something fluffy, this is now a cost containment exercise since a business’ community is no longer restrained by geography, but limited only to the reach of the Internet.
  • Making sound environmental choices is a cost benefit too. Did you know businesses can save huge sums just by making some simple structural and personnel changes?
  • All this is good for the owners too. Happy shareholders means for more capital to invest in expansion.

So, being a conscious business is good, for business.

Public sector incentives are necessary

So, that’s the private sector doing the right thing. Now, time for the public sector to incentive them some more. Tax breaks, better infrastructure, support for job creation and job seekers.

People value themselves by what they do. Most people just want a good job that make them feel good about themselves. Sadly, that’s not the case as employers seem hell bent on forgetting that all businesses are people businesses. Your leaders, your boards, your staff, your customers, your supply chain, YOUR society. All human beings, all of whom want the same basic thing; to feel good. It’s pretty simple really.

If governments and business work together consciously, them ultimately we could end up in a healthier society and economy, with better services, low unemployment and of course lower taxes. Yep, less need for big government means lower taxes. Lower taxes mean you get more of what you earn. Again, what’s not to love.

Want more, connect with me at

Paul Smith

Written by

Founder & CEO of Future Directors Institute | Chair, Jane Goodall Institute Australia | Co-founder Gin Lane Australia and Start-up Boardroom | Husband, Father

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