Ebola

The Link Between Ebola and Secret Service Hookers: Instapundit on Trust

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Here's Instapundit Glenn Reynolds making an important connection between the Secret Service's recent scandals and the government's handling of Ebola here. From his USA Today column:

There's a connection between the Secret Service's Colombian hooker scandal and Americans' increased worry about Ebola. Both have to do with trust.

Until recently, if you'd asked Americans to pick government institutions characterized by efficiency and professionalism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Secret Service would likely have been at the top of the list. In both cases, recent evidence now suggests otherwise. And that's especially destructive because both agencies depend on trust to do their jobs.

The head of the Secret Service recently stepped down in the wake of several semi-near-misses involving the president's safety. In the "Colombian hooker scandal," which involved agents and other White House-connected folks carousing ahead of Barack Obama's arrival in that country, Reynolds points out the investigation was delayed and torqued out of political considerations. In particular, a politically connected member of the White House advance team was not reprimanded while others were canned for the same behavior.

The CDC's spate of problems with handling other dangerous pathogens like anthrax, smallpox and deadly influenza samples doesn't inspire much confidence either.

As George Will observed, on Ebola, Americans want to trust the government, but can't. And as MSNBC's Chuck Todd observed, the problem stems not just from the CDC, but from the administration as a whole: "I think one of your challenges though is a trust deficit that has been created over the last 18 months."

In support of this statement, Todd listed a litany of government defaults: The IRS scandal with its mysteriously crashed hard drives and erased emails, Veterans Affairs' lies about wait times, the Secret Service's failures, and more. And he's right. After so many lies and failures, we'd be fools to trust them.

Read the whole column.

As J.D. Tuccille noted here yesterday, generals levels of trust in the government are at or near recorded lows. The Reason-Rupe Poll found that "70 percent of people think public officials abuse their power to help their friends and hurt their enemies."

I've written elsewhere about the troubling relationship between levels of trust in government and calls for more government regulation. According to a 2010 paper comparing levels of trust in government around the world, Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, and Andrei Shleifer found "one of the central puzzles in research on political beliefs: Why do people in countries with bad governments want more government intervention?"

You got that? It turns out that the less people trust their governments to do the right thing or be competent, the more people call for the government to regulate every aspect of their lives.

Especially from a libertarian perspective, such findings are deeply troubling. As government incompetency and failure becomes more self-evident, it doesn't mean that people want less from government. They want more from government, ostensibly to protect themselves. And when you combine that impulse with the heavily discounted price of government—between 2009 and 2013, taxes covered just 66 percent of every dollar spent by the feds—perhaps it's no surprise the size, scope, and spending of government keeps growing as trust or confidence in government declines.

If the work by Aghion, et al., is accurate, one possible way forward is to actually focus on government functions and programs that actually work decently or tolerably well (add your suggestions in the comments).

Use those areas as models for re-establishing trust in government and from there make the argument that government with clear, limited missions and functions will inspire the sort of trust that allows people to start envisioning a world in which they don't need ever-bigger government to protect themselves from slightly-less-bigger government's actions.

NEXT: Poll: 59% of Democrats Say Criminal Justice System Treats White Americans More Fairly Than Minorities, 62% of Republicans Say System Treats All Equally

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  1. There’s a connection between the Secret Service’s Colombian hooker scandal and Americans’ increased worry about Ebola.

    I KNEW IT. Just like crack to the projects, it was G-men who brought Ebola into the country… THROUGH WHORES.

    1. We knew you knew it.

  2. As George Will observed, on Ebola, Americans want to trust the government, but can’t.

    Like a secret service agent paying extra to tool beat his prostitute, this is hopefully the slap in the face America needs to wake them up to the realities of Santa government.

    1. On the one hand Government touts elaborate protocols and the power of science to fight disease. On the other hand History demonstrates that an unlikely string of unfortunate errors can combine to wreak havoc with the most careful planning…

    2. I’d like to think so, but many Americans will just say, “Big Daddy Government just slaps me in the face because he loves me.”

  3. The IRS scandal with its mysteriously crashed hard drives and erased emails, Veterans Affairs’ lies about wait times, the Secret Service’s failures, and more.

    One of those things listed is different than the others.

  4. Alt text: “Look how far down the road we can get that can when we use a driver!”

  5. Ebola is a scare word, they should start calling it something else, like “global struggle against hemorrhagic fever”.

    1. Run by the new Office of Health-Safety Hemorrhagic Infection Transmission

      1. That was rather crafty of you “Zombie Jimbo”.

  6. It turns out that the less people trust their governments to do the right thing or be competent, the more people call for the government to regulate every aspect of their lives.

    Well, yeah. I mean, what’s going to reign in government except more government? The only reason people in government behave badly is because government doesn’t have the power to stop them. We need more laws and more regulations so government will have the power to control itself.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    And if that doesn’t work, it’s only because government doesn’t have enough power.

    1. Recursion, n.

      See: Recursion

    2. Only they prefer terms like : “funding” and “more legislation” to “power”.

      1. Reform.

        1. “We need to get us some of that re-form.”

  7. Wait, wasn’t Chuck Todd a team Blue cheerleader? Is he actually taking his new job seriously?

    1. Don’t be fooled. Acting impartial lets him get away with other partisan nonsense later on. It like shrike says he’s against Obamacare upfront so that he can slander anyone one that has a problem with Obama’s handling of it later on.

  8. As J.D. Tuccille noted here yesterday, generals levels of trust in the government are at or near recorded lows.

    I dunno…most generals I knew trusted the G….what?

  9. Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy or something like it should be taught in school – except the law applies to teachers.

    In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

  10. You got that? It turns out that the less people trust their governments to do the right thing or be competent, the more people call for the government to regulate every aspect of their lives.

    I’m going with a reverse causality on this one: as more people call for government to regulate every aspect of their lives, the government performs less competently and, consequently, people trust it less.

    1. You are assuming that the two groups being polled are the same people. We see here in America that voters who mistrust government are not the same people who lobby government and seek government regulations for their own benefit.

      I think the people who respond to the mistrust polls are different from the people who support greater government regulation. And that explains the paradox. The more that insiders can manipulate government regulation for their own purposes, the less trust the rest of the population will have in the government.

  11. All problems of the government are clearly due to lack of funding. If you gave them all your money we would all be better off.

  12. 70 percent of people think public officials abuse their power to help their friends and hurt their enemies.

    At first I thought that was depressingly low, and then I remembered that 50 percent of people have IQs below 100, so actually it’s encouragingly high.

    1. PS If anyone is planning to quibble about averages vs. medians, please don’t.

      1. I gotcher quibble right here!

        I put very little faith in correlating IQ test results to how good of a decision people make about moral questions, whom to trust, etc. There are a lot of unwise “smart” people out there.

  13. You got that? It turns out that the less people trust their governments to do the right thing or be competent, the more people call for the government to regulate every aspect of their lives.

    Instead of trying to understand this, take it for fact and figure backwards — why?

    I say it’s bacause people detest nanny government intrusion into their lives, in general, but feel powerless to prevent it, thus it’s best to assert whatever little bit of control you can before the other guys assert control over you.

    Or another way to think of it: if I am locked in a battle with a neighbor over tree branches hanging over the property line, or a gate which opens across a propery line, or smells from a bbq, or any other petty dispute, I may not want to continue the dispute, but I’ll be damned if I’ll back down without my neighbor backing down too. Otherwise he’ll think he’s won and use that to push his next petty dispute.

    It’s the same with government. There’s only one, it’s all powerful, and I’ll be damned if I give up my Social Security without my neighbor giving up his charitable deductions.

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  15. “As government incompetency and failure becomes more self-evident, it doesn’t mean that people want less from government. They want more from government, ostensibly to protect themselves.”

    Let’s keep it short and sweet: People who want more government are determined to get it and they do. To paraphrase the old saying, “The worst government is the most government.” This is not rocket science. The reason why the best government is the least government is because power corrupts. More government is more government power.

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