Fear of Government: A Chart


An unsurprising graph from Gallup:

The top of the box doubles as the trend line for members of the Libertarian Party.

Paul Waldman of the liberal American Prospect responds by zeroing in on the Republican line:

The next time you get an urge to say that the country is gripped by a belief that government is dangerously out of control and that it's threatening our freedom, remind yourself that the country is not in fact gripped by those beliefs. Republicans are gripped by those beliefs, and the fact that they're yelling them very loudly doesn't mean they're shared by everyone else.

Will Wilkinson reacts:

This is fair enough, I suppose. But it would be equally fair to note that Democrats are "gripped" by similarly impugnable beliefs. The advent of the Obama era has evidently put Democratic minds at ease. But why? Is government now, as a matter of fact, less of a threat to American citizens? President Obama seems no better than George Bush on those issues that presumably led a majority of Democrats to view Washington as a threat. Indeed, the continuity between the Obama and Bush administrations on these issues is so complete, it would be misleading to characterise Mr Obama as "Bush light". Mr Obama's stance on civil liberties and executive power amount to a vigorous affirmation of the very policies he openly deplored during the campaign. He has, for example, asserted the authority to order the assassination of American citizens, which seems pretty threatening to me. The fact that the Obama administration is deporting record numbers of undocumented immigrants may not seem a threat to citizens, but it is. And as we noted the other day, the Obama Department of Justice has directly threatened to arrest and imprison Californians who buy and sell marijuana, whether or not California voters choose to make it legal in their state.

Mr Waldman is right to suggest that today's Republican alarm and Democratic light-heartedness are partisan phenomena. But one is no sillier than the other. The majority of Democrats who saw government as a threat in 2007 were right to do so, and nothing truly significant has changed since then.

I disagree with Wilkinson on one point: I think one is sillier than the other. Even if it's mostly for partisan reasons, the Republicans at least are moving in the right direction. For now.