||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
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In Hong Kong
Milton Friedman described Hong Kong as a laissez-faire state and he credits that policy for the rapid move from poverty to prosperity in 50 years. While some argue that since Hong Kong was a colony of Britain and Britain was not a free market, Hong Kong's success was not due to laissez-faire policies, it should be noted that during its colonization of Hong Kong, Britain implemented the policy of Positive non-interventionism in regards to Hong Kong, which led to its economic success.
A 1994 World Bank report stated that Hong Kong's GDP per capita grew in real terms at an annual rate of 6.5% from 1965 to 1989, a consistent growth percentage over a span of almost 25 years. By 1990 Hong Kong's per capita income officially surpassed that of the ruling United Kingdom.
The former Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, wrote the book From Social State to Minimal State (Danish: Fra socialstat til minimalstat) in 1993, in which he advocated an extensive reform of the Danish welfare system along classical liberal lines. In particular, he favors lower taxes and less government interference in corporate and individual matters.
In the United Kingdom
The idea of Small government was heavily promoted in the United Kingdom by the Conservative government of 1979 under the Premiership of Margaret Thatcher. There are differing views on the extent to which it was achieved. On the one hand, it allowed the stock markets and industries to compete more heavily with each other and made British goods more valued in world trade.
An important part of the Thatcher government's policy was Privatization, which was intended to reduce the role of the state in the economy and allow industries to act without government interference. Supporters blamed excessive government intervention for much of Britain's economic woes during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Opponents argue that privatization harms social programs for the poor. This argument is particularly heard in connection with the railways and the National Health Service. Small government supports point out that, although record amounts of funding have gone into transport and the NHS, they are both sub-par and do not represent value for investment.
In the 20th century, small government was generally associated with the Conservative Party and Big government with the Labour Party. In the 21st century, both parties have embraced similar economic policies leading both to be associated with big government.
In addition to opposing government intervention in the economy, advocates of small government oppose government intervention in people's personal lives. The Labour government during the Premiership of Tony Blair was criticized on this score, e.g., by giving unwanted advice about eating, drinking and smoking. This has been dubbed as the 'nanny state.'
In the United States
The origin of the United States lies in the adoption of a Constitution. The modern American Tea Party movement is based on the belief that the authors of the constitution favored small government, but in The Federalist Papers three of those authors, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, explained the need for a strong Federal Government. Alexander Hamilton wrote, "Not to confer in each case a degree of power commensurate to the end would be to violate the most obvious rules of prudence and propriety, and improvidently to trust the great interests of the nation to hands which are disabled from managing them with vigor and success."
The current "small government" movement in the United States is largely a product of Ronald Reagan's presidency from 1980–88.
The Tea Party movement is a modern reflection of this belief in small government. They claim that in the past the United States had a small government, and that it has turned away from that ideal. Some members of the Republican Party advocate small government, especially its libertarian wing, which includes politicians such as Ron Paul and his son. The Libertarian party, a third party, supports small government. A 2013 poll showed that the majority (54%) of Americans think the government is trying to do too much.
- The Hong Kong Experiment by Milton Friedman on Hoover Digest accessed at March 29, 2007
- Hanson, Daniel. "Positive non-interventionism: The policy that unleashed Hong Kong". American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Rowley C & Fitzgerald R Managed in Hong Kong: Adaptive Systems, Entrepreneurship and Human Resources Routledge, UK, 2000. ISBN 0-7146-5026-9
- Yu Tony Fu-Lai.  (1997) Entrepreneurship and Economic Development of Hong Kong. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16240-8
- "2008 Index of Economic Freedom". Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal.
- Economic Freedom of the World Report Economic Freedom Network (Fraser Institute) 2007
- East, Roger; Thomas, Richard (2003). Profiles of People in Power: The World's Government Leaders. London: Routledge. p. 140.
- Thompson, Wayne C. (2008). Nordic, Central, and Southeastern Europe. Harpers Ferry: Stryker-Post Publications. p. 72.
- Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, The Federalist Papers, p. 151, Signet Classics, 2003
- Newport, Frank. "Majority in U.S. Still Say Government Doing Too Much". Gallup. Retrieved 2 June 2013.