When half of the population sees the government as a threat this should set off alarm bells. In the United States the citizenry should NEVER see the government as an immediate threat. Sure, perhaps in some sort of abstract philosophical sense government itself should always be seen as a kind of threat. But we are supposed to be a country of limited government, per the Constitution. The government should not be something the average American citizen is concerned about from day to day. But many of us are.
There was a time when government in the USA was little more than background noise. There was a time when the only interaction the average person had with the federal government was the post office. There was a time when most of life was private and wasn’t managed. A time when there was no income tax. A time when Washington was kept in check for the most part by the states. Government power was relatively small. It was inexpensive. There were few services to be sure, but there were few taxes. What one made one could keep. We didn’t have to pay tribute to a king. And that’s one of the main reasons we became the richest nation the world had ever seen.
Was America before the welfare state perfect? Certainly not. Nothing is. But people, it appears for the most part didn’t see their government as a malevolent force. How could they? The government wasn’t the beast it is today. It had few teeth and little appetite.
(Most people weren’t concerned with the government; if I was black I would have absolutely feared the government during this time. American Indians had much to fear also. Both groups felt the pointy end of what state apparatus there was pre-welfare state.)
That half of Americans now see government as an immediate threat is a very bad sign.
And yet there are those who still push for even more government.
In the 21st Century, there is absolutely no reason for a government built in the 20th Century highly centralized style. No reason. Progress is smaller, less intrusive government. Progress is the degree to which the average person can actualize his or her potential free from coercion. Government at best should be a very light app. Progress is NOT more government. It shouldn’t be an operating system.
Still, the persistent finding in recent years that half of the population views the government as an immediate threat underscores the degree to which the role and power of government remains a key issue of our time. As a case in point, a question in this same survey asked Americans to name the most important problem facing the nation, and found that issues related to government were the most frequently mentioned. Plus, numerous other measures show that the people give their government some of the lowest approval and trust ratings in the measures’ history.
From the people’s perspective, then, a focus on the appropriate role for government should be at the forefront of the nation’s continuing political discourse and should be a key point of debate in the current presidential election campaigns.