Americans are out of sorts, and increasingly they're unhappy with the government. According to a Pew poll released last week, more than half of Americans view government as a threat to their freedom....
Add this to another recent poll in which only 22% of likely voters feel America's government has the "consent of the governed," and you've got a pretty depressing picture -- and a recipe for potential trouble.
What's driving the disaffection with government? Reynolds notes that as government gets bigger, more people are willing to do whatever it takes "to seize the prize" of increased power, wealth, and domination (he likes to use a Hunger Games metaphor to describe the way in which riches are flowing from the provinces into the Capital District).
That's true and it's no way to win the hearts or minds of citizens. A few weeks back, New York Times blogger Nate Silver suggested a related reason for growing disaffection: The government has morphed over the past 40 or so years from providing basic infrastructure and services to being the nation's insurance agent. That is, the portion that the feds spend on health care, welfare, and retirement pensions has steadily - and seriously - increased as a percentage of overall government spending and as a percentage of GDP.
Looking at the increase in relative and absolute spending on social insurance and the long-term declines in trust of government, Silver writes:
The declining level of trust in government since the 1970s is a fairly close mirror for the growth in spending on social insurance as a share of the gross domestic product and of overall government expenditures. We may have gone from conceiving of government as an entity that builds roads, dams and airports, provides shared services like schooling, policing and national parks, and wages wars, into the world’s largest insurance broker.
Most of us don’t much care for our insurance broker.
Glenn Reynolds notes that after the 2004 elections, liberals and Democrats started talking about taking the country back, which is similar to conservative and Republican complaints post-2012. He even suggests that if current trends persist, we might even hear calls for a Constitutional convention. I doubt that but I do hope that as support softens for the government (and as a majority continues to believe that government is doing too much), we'll see some real changes over the coming years.