I understand the allure of "small government" - indeed, there are areas, specifically around military expenditures where I'd like it to get a lot smaller - but in general, it is not a world where I want to live.
The arguments for small government come from two general directions. First, that people should be responsible for their own lives. What they earn, they keep. Where they stumble, that is their problem. They make their choices and live with them. This argument, in its best incarnation, assumes that everyone has equal access. This is, blatantly untrue. Some people are recipients of the hard work, good luck, or unlawful activity of their ancestors while others suffer because of mistakes made in previous generations or as the result of injustices suffered in years before. And of course, there are cultural differences, often related to the above issues, that come into play as well. Some people run the entire marathon with no training and no shoes while others start 10 feet from the end and could crawl across the line and still win. In its worst incarnation, the argument doesn't care that things aren't equal. "I got mine, so screw you."
The second direction is tied to the first, that people should not be forced to help others. Some would argue that they will do it on their own without the government interfering. In the case of businesses, the free market will push them to ethical behavior. In the case of individuals, compassion for others will push them to build a more just society. Beyond the fact that history shows otherwise, this argument requires a belief that human beings are by nature altruistic, compassionate, far sighted, and interested in the needs of others. There is no doubt that we see hints of this and that there are individuals who exhibit those traits, but as a species... I wouldn't count on it. The Christian tradition has a theological concept that applies here - original sin. I do not believe that people are by nature depraved or evil, but I do believe that when push comes to shove, most people put their own needs first and most people are predisposed to ignore the needs and pains of others. How many times have we heard someone ho has returned from a trip to Haiti or India or Africa or even some of the US inner cities or the Gulf Coast and remark, "I never imagined such poverty." Well, if you never imagined it, it was only because you closed your eyes. It has always been there. And of course, there is the second thread in this argument... people should not be forced to help others because they are where they deserve to be.
So what do we hear from the Tea Party, the bastion of small government thinking? I have heard arguments that we should terminate unemployment benefits, social security, welfare, and Medicare. There is no question that these kinds of programs cost significant money. Terminating them would shrink government significantly. Imagine our nation without them. Picture a time without social security. I know many elderly folk who live off of that small income alone. Without it, they literally would have no income. And if you take away their Medicare, many would face astronomical medical bills. And, given their health issues and age, no other insurance would ever take them. That would be a stupid business decision. So what happens to them? They would die miserable deaths in abject poverty. So the argument might go, "that is their fault. They should have saved for retirement." All well and good unless during your working years you live so close to the edge that you must make choices between food and heat.
Imagine if we did away with unemployment, as meager as it is, for that 9+% of people who are not able to find a job? What would happen to them and their families? Our current economic structure requires that somebody be out of work... what should happen to those people?
Imagine an infrastructure that has completely disintegrated as government spending on roads, bridges, public transportation, etc. disappeared completely.
Imagine nobody ever checking food or drugs for safety. Every trip to the grocery store might be a game of Russian Roulette. Think of cars without any safety features. Imagine no public utilities. Picture businesses polluting communities and poisoning workers with no constraints because no government agency is looking over their shoulders.
Imagine no public higher education and perhaps even no public schools at all.
Those are all scenarios that Tea Party candidates have endorsed.
Yes... taxes would be much lower... but it is not a world where I want to live.