Again: Is this really something people don't understand? Or is it something people just pretend not to so they can make those silly "but why do conservative support the military" arguments?
When someone says "big government" it seems to imply size to me; irregardless of what powers that government has taken on.
I'm not sure how you separate those two though. If a government takes on more things, then it can be said to have grown in "size". Everything else being the same, right?
Number of people employed or money spent seem to a natural measure of that.
It's *a* measurement of it, but not the whole picture. Certainly, a big government will employ more people and will spend more money, but that's not the sole reason it's "bad". It's also about what the money is being spent on and what those people are employed to do. If we were talking about personal finances, you'd certainly make a distinction between money spent on groceries and rent/mortgage versus money spent on 5 premium cable channels and a trip to Vegas. One set are things you actually need, while the others are extras you might want, but are not necessary.
Both spending on rent and spending on a trip to Vegas increase the total amount of money you're spending. But when looking at cutting spending out of your budget, most sane people would cut the trips out first, right?
If that's not what y'all mean, then you probably what to try using a phrase that wouldn't be so easily misinterpreted. Might I suggest the phrase 'Broad Government' instead of 'Big Government'. Worst case there I'm picturing a hot blonde or something; win/win in my book.
Why? Because you imagine that Big means size and then assume a very narrow meaning for the word "size"? It's a phrase that has a very specific meaning in politics. Why go out of your way to ignore the meaning of the phrase meant by those who use it? Does every term in your field make perfect literal sense? But you use them anyway, right? So isn't it basically a form of denial for some to pretend that "big government" means something different?