Don Boudreaux offers these sagacious words on power:
People such as Thomas Piketty and Paul Krugman worry about accumulations of material wealth. I worry about accumulations of power. Bill Gates’s ability to force me to buy his company’s software does not increase with the number of dollars in his financial portfolio. Government’s ability to force me to do its bidding does indeed increase with the amount of power in its possession.
Mind you, dear audience, this would not be a post by your humble fiddler of ideas, if it did not envisage complications behind this basically correct proposition.
Modern government is incomparably more powerful than governments in earlier times. Yet people are a lot more free; their ability to do as they decide has expanded vastly. This freedom to act in a self-determined manner is the basis of what we call civil society, the greatest and most effective counter-weight to arbitrary, ruthlessly self-regarding power.
In that sense, big government is not the problem; it is not the size of the state that matters first and foremost. In fact, it may be true that up to a point bigger government is better government.
What matters is the quality of government, more specifically: the division and micro-structure of power in a society and its state.
The summary critic of government assumes that the modern state is a monolith, when in fact it is a complex composite of diverging interests and functions. It is a huge complicated knot tied into a huge complicated knot called society.
For government to be of a tolerable quality, you need to help tie these knots sensibly, and for that you need people to participate in the competition for defining (1) the functions of the state and (2) the concerns that government may legitimately support.
Vigilance in the face of the state's ever present disposition to overreach is an important part of political participation. The other equally important part of political participation is the willingness, guts, and acumen to accept responsibility for the positive functions of government.
Yes, there are good politicians - they are the ones who defend liberty by being vigililant vis-à-vis the state, but also know how to actively use the avenues of politics and the means of the chief enforcer of politics, the state, to help their communities and the citizens of the nation to achieve their legitimate goals.
See also The Fault in Public Choice.