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This will encounter a great deal of discussion. I would say that one reason why a liberal prefers a larger scope on government is the belief that government can be the source of equality and remedying wrongs in economic reality and political structures. In this light, liberals believe that government can be part of the solution, to equalize out or redress that which is wrong or improperly applied. For the liberal, social justice and equity are the most important elements, necessitating the reality for government action and a larger scope of it. On the flip side to this coin would be the conservative point of view, which stresses freedom and individual action as the most important element to be protected. In this light, government should be reduced in order to maintain this sphere or zone of freedom. With this, government is seen as "part of the problem" as it stifles or intervenes in the realm of personal freedom. In this light, the need to sustain and maintain freedom is the reason why conservatives traditionally favor a narrower role of government.
There are two major reasons for this:
First, liberals tend to believe that it is important to have relative equality among all the people of a society -- even in economic terms. They believe that there should not be huge disparities between the rich and the poor.
Second, and more importantly, liberals believe that only the government can be trusted to bring about this and other sorts of justice. They feel that companies and people will, if left on their own, make selfish choices that will hurt other people and society as a whole. Therefore, they believe, government must rein in the companies and the people to make sure they don't hurt others.
Please note that liberals tend to prefer less government when it comes to moral issues -- things like regulation of private sexual behavior.
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