Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Americans distrust government

Americans distrust government because of King George.

I got this off some show on NPR. America was founded on distrust of government, courtesy of a crazy king out of touch with his people in America.

Our own first government was essentially a confederation--the least amount of government possible. Turned out it was less than possible, however. So we reluctantly settled on the current setup. But that strain of distrusting government is in our DNA--especially in the South, thanks to the Civil War--and that's extra government-distrusting DNA for Southerners, with the vast majority Republican, and the dominant force in today's Republican Party.

Plus, when our Republic was founded the average American was a farmer with little need of government, apart from fighting foreign wars.

Um, that's changed somewhat. But when you hear protestors at Town Hall meetings expressing their distrust of government, they've got historical reasons for their distrust.

The problem today is that government always needs to be strong enough to protect individual citizens from being oppressed, but no stronger, lest it become the oppressor, as is true in many third world countries.

That said, if the gangbangers invading your neighborhood are toting assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests, the police won't have a chance with service revolvers and blue shirts. If the entity taking advantage of you is a bank or a corporation polluting your groundwater...or a local city with a yellow light trap (intersection with a camera and yellow lights timed to produce lawbreakers) need more government to protect you than a rural 18th century farmer needed. Not just better-armed, but more sophisticated as well.

Right wing pundits keep evoking the independent farmer of two centuries ago. Such farmers wanted nothing more than for King George to get off their backs. It's a powerful message for Americans. But today the true nature of this powerful message is to get you to voluntarily renounce all forms of protection against everyone who seeks to rob you, whether by "six gun" or "fountain pen."

Conservatives need to acknowledge the fact that they simply need more government than we used to. Liberals need to acknowledge that this desire for self-sufficiency and independence has honorable roots, even if it isn't as possible now.

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