The phrase "big government", paired with its more-virtuous twin "small government", is a conflation of several aspects of government – most of which are generally agreed to be harmful, but some of which are beneficial. The phrase is often used to covertly condemn the positive aspects by conflating them with the negative ones – an argument-in-a-box.
Traits of "big government" which are near-universally agreed to be harmful are:
- aggressive government (starts wars)
- invasive government (spying, arbitrary rules and paperwork for individuals and small businesses)
- oppressive government (restrictions on personal freedom)
- unconstitutional government (violates its contracts with its citizens)
Traits of "big government" which are arguably beneficial:
- supportive government (provides welfare, builds infrastructure)
- regulatory government (rules and paperwork for large businesses)
"Big government" is therefore often used as a semantic bait-and-switch to argue against the beneficial aspects of government which are nonetheless unpopular with plutonomists, frontierists, and other authoritarians.