Political Science

What if Distrust in Government Breeds Demand for *More* Government? Nick Gillespie in Daily Beast


My latest column at The Daily Beast looks at two trends that shouldn't be connected: growth in all measures of distrust in government and growth in the size, scope, and spending of government:

What if distrust in government perversely drives demand for more government? That's the implication of recent research, and it helps explain why the state keeps growing like an Anthony Weiner selfie even as our faith in it shrinks faster than George Costanza in a cold swimming pool.

After charting the unmistakable slide in trust of government, I turn to a

2010 paper "Regulation and Distrust," written by Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, and Andrei Shleifer and published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Drawing on World Values Survey data from the past several decades for over 50 countries, the authors help explain what they call "one of the central puzzles in research on political beliefs: Why do people in countries with bad governments want more government intervention?"

The authors make a distinction between "high-trust" and "low-trust" countries. In the former, most people have positive feelings about business and government and the general level of regulation is relatively low. In "low-trust countries," the opposite is true and citizens "support government regulation, fully recognizing that such regulation leads to corruption." As an example, they point to differing attitudes toward government-mandated wages in former socialist countries that transitioned to market economies. "Approximately 92 percent of Russians and 82 percent of East Germans favor wage control," they write, naming two low-trust populations. In Scandinavia, Great Britain, and North American countries, where there are higher levels of trust in the public and private sectors, less than half the population does. As a final kicker, Aghion et al. suggest that increased regulation sows yet more distrust, which in turn engenders more regulation.

Read the whole thing (including some ideas on how to reverse the trend).

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  1. We need Government. We need Management. We need the police.

    The government is US. When you don’t trust the government, you don’t trust us, collectively. And that’s natural.

    What we should do is have good checks and balances, high transparency, and have members of the public over see the government.

    In NYC, we have the civilian review board that overlooks police. They haven’t gone far enough with it. The Civilian Review Board should NOT be appointed by the Mayor and should have the authority to terminate any government worker brought up for improper actions. Today, the commissioner can override the review board. That should change.

    We should not trust the government or anyone for that matter in authority. They need to be watched by jury-like members of the public. All salaries should be disclosed, etc.

    1. The government is US. When you don’t trust the government, you don’t trust us, collectively. And that’s natural.

      This is the worst troll ever.

    2. The government is US.

      Do you realize how fucking stupid you sound?

      1. But, but, but the man who prosecuted a war that resulted in over six hundred thousand dead Americans said it’s a government of, by, and for the people! If you disagree then you support slavery! Why do you support slavery?

      2. Taking this argument far more seriously than it deserves, let’s think about what it means. In a representative republic, the government is just a few of us. Generally, speaking, those few are elected by relatively small groups of those of us who vote, who are, by the way, in most elections a small minority of the citizenry. Think about that for the presidential election–a very large majority of the U.S. did not vote for the president.

        Since all or even most of us don’t even elect the officials who preside over us, that some is far more isolated than fans of “democracy” in the U.S. want us to believe. So, in effect, “the government is us” openly means the government is some minority of us. How is that different, really, than an aristocratic system? Sure, that involves denying the vote to some people, but the effect is the same.

        God help us if we ever went to pure democracy at a national level without any constraints on democratic power. That’s no less dangerous than giving power to a single guy. Limited government means limits on government in all of its possible forms.

  2. you know what’s scary? Alice Bowie may not be stupid. Alice Bowie may have average human intelligence here on Planet Moron.

  3. Why do we lock our doors?
    Why are there vaults in banks?
    Why are there 2 cameras, a pit boss, a security guiard, and the state gambling commission in every casino?
    Why do we have system passwords?

    We generally don’t trust each other. Right?

    But at least in America some of us do wish good fortunes on others.

    Do you know that in the Russian version of “Who wants to be a millionaire”, the “ask the audience” feature is pretty bad. The Russian audience offers WRONG answers so that the contestant loses. In that culture, they generally don’t wish good fortunes on people.

    I love america.

    How’s that for troll’n.

    1. Umm… We don’t trust each other so we trust those of us we elect? Here is a crazy idea. I trust me, you trust you, se will be our own soverigns with rights and limited government. Also just like I don’t care how people do things back north I don’t care how Russians do things.

    2. it’s not a lack of trust in one another, per se, it’s knowing that there are criminals among us who will think nothing of taking what isn’t theirs. The actions you cite are reflective of our awareness of a minority of shitheads among us, not an indictment of society as a whole.

      1. our awareness of a minority of shitheads among us

        Electing them to office turns their shit to gold.

  4. I came to post my usual “PEAK RETARD IS A MYTH”

    But Alice beat me to it.

  5. We need an anti-government. BuSab, the Censor, whatever. Constitutionally recognized but operating outside of the government. It wouldn’t be perfect–no human institution is–but we need to do something. Of course, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    1. We need an anti-government in equal measure and strength to the government. That way they will annihilate each other.

      1. If we ever could pull it off, every incentive should be given to the anti-government to stop the government whenever possible.

      2. With the size of the government, the explosion would kill all human life.

    2. Sed quis custodiet, ipsos custodiem?

      Warty. Warty and STEVE SMITH. If they stray, they either get raped to death or turned over to Warty for…worse.

  6. You see, government is us, while the rich and the corporations are them. The problem is that rich people and corporations control the government. Which is us. But it’s controlled by them, even though it’s us. But that’s only because the people through the government do not have enough power. We need to give more power to us, to the government, so that we can control the rich and the corporations that control the government which is us. Only by giving more power to the government that is controlled by the rich and the corporations can we the people control the rich and the corporations that control the government. See?

    1. Schizophrenic musings of the left. Throw more legalese at it! Pass another raft of bills! Eventually we’ll defeat the people writing and lobbying for new laws.

    2. We need a new word. Them and us. Thus? Ushem?

      1. Themanus. No, wait.

        1. “Us and them” anagrams to “dame shunt.”

        2. The mandus. Sorta like mandate & mandamus.

    3. What makes you think the rich and the corporations are not part of US?

      They are people too.

      Rich and Poor people do shady stuff.

      You libertarians like to think that liberals don’t like corporations.

      That’s not true.

      The custodians in government and the custodians in corporations (publicly traded corporations, that is) are both capable of committing all sorts of nasty things. There should be oversite.

      1. There should be oversite.

        Really? How does that work? Who oversees the people with the last word in violence? Citizens who are powerless to those they oversee since the people who they are overseeing can beat them to death in front of their children without consequence?

        There is no government oversight. That whole concept is stupid and thoughtless.

        1. Of course there is government oversight.
          We disclose the salaries of all government employees. We have regular elections.

          I say we need more. And, the oversight can be done in a similar fashion as I brought up earlier in my Civilian Review Board example in NYC.

          But anarchist generally don’t like government. And crooks hate it when government intervene. Anarchist and crooks are part of US as well.

          1. Ah yes. The familiar refrain of the ignorant liberal who insists that limited government equals anarchy. Or that by choosing from a list you somehow control government. Or that disclosing salaries somehow means something. Or that Citizen Review Boards actually have power.

            Saying that the solution to out-of-control government is more government to control the parts that are out-of-control is like saying the solution to a cancerous tumor is more cancer.

            1. I’m telling u Mr Sarcasmic, the review boards would probably not be perfect. They would work like today’s jury with members of the public weighing in on official conduct.

              Look how great the Cameras are working out with the police. Pretty soon, I hope, the supreme court, with the exception of the Scalia, will probably rule that it’s ok to video the cops.
              This is the BEST civilian review board one can ask for. The public overseeing government officials.

              And BTW, in the vaccine scenario, we do give the disease to people in order for them to build an immunity to the disease.

              1. Look how great the Cameras are working out with the police.

                Yeah. They’re working out just peachy. Cops caught on tape showing blatant disregard for the law and what happens? At worst a paid vacation. You’re not just ignorant, you’re willfully ignorant.

              2. Review boards? We’ve already got a review board: it’s Congress. This is supposed to reflect the will of the United States electorate. Instead it concentrates power in the hands of a few hundred self-interested and largely autonomous actors. I’m all for diffusing power, but what you describe is corporatism on progressively marginal levels. Citizens cannot sit on review boards: even assuming they remained sacrosanct bastions of unalloyed influence, we lack the expertise, the time, and the wherewithal. Which means we’re again left with technocrats staffing the ranks of yet another influence-peddling machine.

          2. I deal with government bureaucracy every day at work. The entrenched bureaucrats understand that elections mean nothing. It’s the bureaucracies that hold the power, not the elected officials. The officials can pledge to change a bureaucracy, but they can’t. They come in saying they will do change and the bureaucrats mock them to their face. Bureaucrats can’t be controlled. They can’t be fired. They can’t be told what to do. They are the ones with the power. If you think elections matter as far as controlling government, then you are an ignorant fool. Sure elections matter as far as creating new bureaucracies, but as far as controlling existing ones go, it can’t be done short of cutting them out like the cancer that they are.

            1. But, but CITIZEN REVIEW BOARDS!!!

            2. Of course elections matter. The best example I can think of was given in The Voluntaryist, where it was pointed out that East Germany was abolished as a country by election. Politicians ran on a platform of abolishing their own jobs, and won. And it was done. If politicians can run and win on abolishing their own gov’t, what can’t be done by popular elections?

              Not only that, but consider that the E. German gov’t that abolished itself was legally continuous with the same gov’t (same constitution, no violent revolution) that had been ruled by communists for decades. If such a stark change can be accomplished electorally, what can’t?

      2. You libertarians like to think that liberals don’t like corporations.

        That’s not true.

        Uhhh…by and large, this is very true. Go to any liberal/progressive forum and read the comments regarding corporations and then tell us that they “like” corporations.

        1. They like “their” corporations, but not “our” corporations.

        2. Liberals only like corporations that are cronies and in the pocket of liberals. Otherwise they despise them.

  7. What if distrust in government perversely drives demand for more government?

    in a hole we are

    digging gouging scrabbling down

    we cannot stop now

  8. Any excuse to make me remember Weiner’s pics, eh?

    1. if that’s the way you roll…

    2. You misspelled “pecs”.

      1. You misspelled “penis”.

      2. I’m convinced those are pec implants. Look closely and you’ll see the same kind of distinct edges and odd wrinkles that you see with a lot of breast implants.

  9. What we need are more office holders who are Libertarians. Unfortunately, 99% of voters disagree.

    1. Libertarians are US as well. And are capable of good and bad. They are not gods chosen people.

      You would need a much healthier fiscal society and a lot smaller gap between the regular guy and the 2% before you see most offices held by libertarians.

      Remember what happened to Romney. Smarty pants felt that he could win a national election by professing that he would take away entitlements (like unemployment insurance) from a population of people that are experiencing wage stagnation, job loss, outsourcing, and yes…UNEMPLOYMENT.

      1. I think this highlights the fallacy in relying on Rousseau’s volont? g?n?rale as the basis for law. The problem with that is that it requires someone to say they know what the general will of the people is, which is either impossible (in reality, this is the case) or it spirals into mob rule.

        It’s rather sickening for Obama to go down that road, as what he clearly means is that the government is his opinion on what is good for us, or, more honestly, what is good for him. Not our will. His.

        1. I do agree with you.

          This is a general problem of people in power (government, corporations, teachers, cops, etc., project managers, people in the PMO office) do abuse that power.

          That’s why you need oversight and transparency. I don’t think it’ll be perfect but possible.

          1. Oversight does not work. Power will be abused. Period. The only way to limit abuse of power is to limit the power. Giving more power to someone with the intent that they’ll stop others from abusing their power just creates a cycle where power and abuse increases. If you can’t see that then, well, you’re an idiot.

            1. And how do you limit the power? Whatever answer you give, how you gonna do that? And whatever answer you give to that, how you gonna do that?

              1. There needs to be a mechanism and incentive for the repeal of legislation and regulation from which they derive their power.
                They can only do what is authorized, and we can do anything that is not explicitly prohibited. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. As they increase what they are authorized to do and increase what we are prohibited from doing, their power increases and our liberty decreases. If limits could be put on what they authorize and prohibit, then their power would be limited. In theory.
                How would this be done?

                I note one proposal to make this Congress a two-house body. Excellent ? the more impediments to legislation the better. But, instead of following tradition, I suggest one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority… while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?
                The Moon is a Harsh Mistress -Robert A. Heinlein

        2. What happened to you? You didn’t used to be like this, PL. You were fucking beautiful, man!

          1. I was shot. . .like I was shot with a diamond. . .a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God, the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.

      2. No but libertarians are the only ones arguing for true freedom. Not some stupid review board putting out their little bowl like Oliver Twist asking “please sir, may I have a little freedom?”

      3. A gap between the rich and poor is not some horrible injustice. There are rich, smart, productive, innovative people who deserve their wealth. This whole argument that the world will be fixed when there is less of an income gap is more closely related to an argument for Marxist theory than free markets. These stupid 1% sob stories by supposed libertarians is why libertarians are so often matched with dip-shit hippies. The real libertarian argument is for free markets which leads to wealth, which can foster unlimited riches for those that are smart and good at what they do. Then when too many people get in on the game and start to make bad decisions, the free market clears out the losers through creative destruction, without any bailouts or subsidies, and opens the door for new players. The world needs ditch diggers too.

  10. I hope Nick is at least getting paid well for writing for that shit rag. The comments section is disgraceful. The staff is disgraceful. Rand Paul is a “neo-Confederate” racist pig, like his father because he hired some “shock-jock” and TEH NEWZLETTERZ!!!!!

    TDB used to be, at least, bearable until Newsweek took over.


    1. Newsweak is still around? Huh, you learn something everyday.

      1. As long as hospitals still have waiting rooms, Newsweek abides.

  11. What rock did Alice climb out from under today?

    1. It showed up some yesterday. I’m guessing laid off, or maybe summer vacation from his job sucking golf balls through garden hoses.

      1. it’s probably a teacher

      2. Alice could take his craft to Washington and quickly become a 2 percenter.

    2. What rock did Alice climb out from under today?


  12. What if? Sadly, the growth of government and spending has gone parabolic. Even the Marxists know it is over so they are going for it now to see how long it will last. I would like to see most Washington politicians end up like Mussolini.

  13. Democracy is evil, and a representative republic is barely better. The only satisfaction that we have is that today’s representative republic is marginally less evil that most of the forms of government tried throughout history.

    1. I thought we were an autonomous collective?

      1. You’re fooling yourself.

  14. “The whole thing” we’d really want to read is the study, but that’s behind a pay wall. This is the sort of thing I’m interested in, but not enough to pay academic article access rates. Nick’s gloss on it is just a tease, unfortunately. Not your fault, Nick.

    I’m very interested in the why of how things are the way they are, and how they get the way they get. I can hardly fathom the attitude expressed by some posters here that surveys are worthless.

    I think one problem here is lumping “gov’t”. It makes sense sometimes, but many times the details matter a lot, and parts of gov’t are very different from each other in important ways. I can understand the attitude of people who distrust gov’t and therefore desire more gov’t oversight agencies and employees; they want people to watch the watchmen…and then people to watch those watchmen, and so on.

    1. Behold! Remember, Google (or a Google-enhanced search engine) is your friend.


      1. Wait, sorry, that’s a 2008 paper with the same name. Probably the same idea, but older data.

        1. They seem to have published several versions of this paper, with 2010 simply being the latest. There’s also a 2009 version:


          They’ll probably differ somewhat, but I expect the data, analysis, and conclusions to be somewhat similar.

          1. BOOM! My search for the 2010 version has been fruitful. A sincere thank-you to Scribd for having hosted the file, and to rcouch8313 for having posted it:


            1. Damn. Free preview of the first 4 pages only.

              1. Finally. Verified this one, it’s the whole thing AND from 2010. Found through “EBSCOhost Connection”.


                The site says “Courtesy of Indiana State Library” for me, if you guys can’t see it here’s a link to the PDF file I was able to download:


                1. Wow, really kewl mathematic model therein.

                  1. Basically it says that in a highly regulated society, you gotta be a crook to get ahead, and everybody knows you gotta be a crook to get ahead in such a society, so they assume you’re a crook if you’re getting ahead, so they’re for more regulation. Meanwhile, in a highly unregulated society, you gotta be honest to get ahead, and everybody knows that, so they’re not for more regulation.

                    At the extreme in the regulated society nobody produces anything, and everybody spends all their time watching everybody else to make sure they don’t take anything, so at least they won’t lose their fair share of what’s left.

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