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Small government is literally attainable, but it is very unlikely given the kinds of expectations that have grown up in the American public over the last 80 years or so.
Literally speaking, a small government could be achieved this year by Congress cutting all but the essential programs run by the government. They could preserve the military and police and fire protections and cut everything else. It would be literally possible. Practically speaking, it would probably take quite a bit longer to pass all the laws and such, but it is certainly not physically impossible to reduce the size of government.
However, it seems very unlikely that the size of government can be reduced by any large degree. The reason for this is that Americans have in general grown to like big government, or at least those parts of the big government that they encounter. For example, Social Security and Medicare are major "big government" programs. Even so, there is so much support for them that the Republican House of Representatives pledged not to touch those programs in their cost cutting efforts.
Americans tend to like the programs that benefit them and do not want them cut. Because of this, it is going to be very difficult to diminish the size of government because almost every program has some group of people whom it helps and who, therefore, support it strongly.
Depends on two things: what you define as "big", and what you expect your federal government to do. If you expect the government to administer your retirement and health care systems, then some big government is necessary. If you want cheap(er) gas and for the US to remain an empire, then a big military is necessary. Smaller government might make a nice campaign pledge, but most Americans seem to balk at the concept once it means giving up cherished services.
I'm for no government at all. All kinds of services and institutions can still exist without government as we know it.
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