Trust in Government

This Used To Be a Helluva High-Trust Country, But Our Leaders Are Destroying That

There's simply a huge cost when officials and politicians lie all the time.

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Moviegoods.com, Wikimedia

In Easy Rider, a movie about disillusionment and the failure of hippies to build their dream-country on a solid foundation, Jack Nicholson's character George Hanson says, "You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what went wrong with it." In the movie, Hanson, a civil rights lawyer, gets beaten to death, and the flick's protagonists, Captain America and Buffalo Bill (a.k.a. Wyatt and Billy, played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) also get killed. Because they deserved it, in the dramatic logic of the movie, at least (Wyatt and Billy finance their early retirement by selling drugs, which goes to show how square even alternative Hollywood is).

Anyhoo, flash-forward (just like in Easy Rider!) to the current moment and ask yourself: What went wrong with America? Writing in USA Today, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and University of Tennessee Law School, has part of the answer: Our leaders are such obviously lying bastards that we are becoming a "low-trust society."

The CIA's "accident" [in destroying the only copy of a three-volume "torture report"] was only the latest in a long rash of "accidental" losses of incriminating information in this administration. The IRS — whose Tea Party-targeting scandal is now over 1,100 days old without anyone being charged or sent to jail — seems to have a habit of "accidentally" destroying hard drives containing potentially incriminating evidence. It has done so in spite of court orders, in spite of Congressional inquiries and in spite of pretty much everyone's belief that these "accidents" were actually the deliberate, illegal destruction of incriminating evidence to protect the guilty.

Then there's Hillary's email scandal, in which emails kept on a private unsecure server — presumably to avoid Freedom of Information Act disclosures — were deleted. Now emails from Hillary's IT guy, who is believed to have set up the server, have gone poof.

"Destroy the evidence, and you've got it made," said an old frozen dinner commercial. But now that appears to be the motto of the United States government.

It's becoming increasingly impossible, argues Reynolds, to believe basic statements from government officials. According to Gallup, trust in the three branches of federal government are near all-time lows and ratings for many other non-state institutions are in the crapper too. For instance, just 9 percent of us have "a great deal" of confidence in "big business"; 12 percent have a great deal of confidence in organized labor and banks; and 10 percent have a great deal of confidence in television news.

US House of Representatives Committee of Oversight & Government Reform

Reynolds writes:

Back in the midst of the financial crisis, Gonzalo Lira looked at how people were responding to the mortgage meltdown and warned of a coming middle-class anarchy. He wrote:

"A terrible sentence, when a law-abiding citizen speaks it: Everybody else is doing it — so why don't we? … What's really important is that law-abiding middle-class citizens are deciding that playing by the rules is nothing but a sucker's game.

Read the whole thing here.

It's even worse than people cheating when trust evaporates: Citizens in low-trust societies routinely call for more government regulation and intervention, even though they don't have any confidence in officials. Consider these findings, based on the work of Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, and Andrei Shleifer:

In "low-trust countries"… 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.

Yeah, this used to be a helluva good country. Until we allowed our leaders to get away with bullshitting us to our faces. And given that the general 2016 election has yet to begin, things can only go downhill from here.

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  1. The really interesting thing is when immigrants come here thinking they have arrived in a country where there is no corruption and everyone is rich. Then reality sets in. Still better than most other countries, but we’re on a downhill slide. Like Captain Bathroom says, we can’t be the best anymore, because… well, I’m not sure, we just need to be more like the others and stop acting like we’re better. That’s the ticket.

  2. things can only go downhill from here

    Well, yes, but I do think the Trump will do a better job of calling out the Clintons’ decades-long career of “bullshitting us to our faces” than any other candidate we have had for a very long time.

    1. Hillary going to jail would at least show that it was possible to send one of these assholes to jail. that would have an enormous positive effect.

      1. It’s sort of embarrassing, even Brazil sends politicians to jail and we’re a first world country, for now anyway.

        1. Holder, the head of the IRS and Hillary all three should be going to prison.

          1. They can’t even get to a trial let alone prison, that stuff is for the little people. Ugh, I plead the 5th, what hearing? I’m not coming. Fake Scandal! The dog ate my hard drive and the backups! Seriously, these people just mock congress and congress is too full of giant pussies to do anything.

      2. If Trump actually did that, it would almost make him tolerable, assuming he doesn’t do too many other idiotic things.

        It would be yuge and would put all the other assholes on notice that they might not always get away with it.

        1. If Trump actually did that, it would almost make him tolerable,

          Calling the Clintons out on their lies about Bill’s raping and molesting doesn’t count?

          1. I want to see something real happen, not just see someone using convenient political cudgels that are lying around. They deserve every bit of criticism they get on that stuff and Trump’s willingness to go there is not a bad thing, but it’s not quite enough.

      3. Yep. It might even improve her negatives in the polls.

    2. Sorry, but he already burned the “Lying” adjective on Ted Cruz. You’ll have to content yourself with Trump’s in-depth expose of Hillary’s criminality.

  3. Until we allowed our leaders to get away with bullshitting us to our faces.

    “The Republicans you put here with us, did give them jobs.”
    “The Democrats you put here with us, did give them too-generous social services.”

    “They must all be expelled from our paradise!”

    This is nothing new, it’s just that sometimes we need to learn our lesson the hard way.

  4. I will just leave this here.

    http://freebeacon.com/uncatego…..ve-groups/

    Maybe it is a false flag and the guy was lying but I doubt it.

    1. Hard to say in any particular case. People do make shit like that up. But I have little doubt that that sort of thing does go on.

  5. ; and 10 percent have a great deal of confidence in television news.

    What’s The Daily Show, chopped liver?

    1. Don’t “import” anyone. Just let free people associate with who they want to.

      1. So no more refugees? I am fine with that. But if some Latin American peasants or foreign Muslims want to “associate” by bringing poverty, crime, disease, and jihadi philosophy into this country, why should I be OK with that?

        Libertarianism is not a suicide pact. I see no reason to let in people who want to make this country less free. Which is, of course, the statist plan. Democrats and socialists want poor immigrants who will vote for socialism. They want Muslims who will increase “diversity,” and if terrorism or hate crimes happen, fine, that just proves the need for more government surveillance, more diversity training, and more “anti-racism” initiatives.

      2. Don’t “import” anyone. Just let free people associate with who they want to.

        Syrian refugees hardest hit.

  6. It has done so in spite of court orders, in spite of Congressional inquiries and in spite of pretty much everyone’s belief that these “accidents” were actually the deliberate, illegal destruction of incriminating evidence to protect the guilty.

    These clowns should not be allowed to skate any more than Joe Taxpayer is when xe can’t produce evidence.

    “We know this documentation existed, or *should have* existed. You have fifteen minutes to cough it up or face charges.”

    1. Even the Clinton FBI investigation is just a staged play to say ‘we investigated, we found nothing’, and that will be it. What it should be is simple ‘Where are the backups for the server? What, there aren’t any? You’re under arrest.’ Anything less is bullshit, because that is exactly what would happen to you or I. It also allows morons in the media to keep playing like it’s the emails, when it’s always been the server, and the general populace are too dumb to know the difference.

      1. Well said.

        1. I don’t even know where to start with these people. I’ve seen it explained to the ‘fake scandal’ idiots by people who have worked as server admins for the federal government and understand all of the rules, which are many, for retaining backups of servers, and they just don’t get it, or they don’t want to.

          Fed email policies

          Part 10, Chapter 8, Section 60, Subsection 10.8.60.4.4, explains how data backups occur with regard to the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA).

          System/Application Backups

          All FISMA-reportable systems and applications and non-applications (as defined by FISMA) shall be backed up in a restorable format on a regular basis, encrypted, and stored offsite. [Emphasis added]

          Frequency and type of backups shall be defined in the Operations/Customer SLA and documented in applicable SA&A documents.

          Every person in IT, even down to helpdesk employees know this shit. And you have the head of a federal agency and the entire media acting like they are totally clueless?

          1. Principals, not principles.

  7. Eh.

    I doubt the country is really “worse” then it was, it’s just with the information age upon us, we know about it now. It’s like people’s fear of hitchhiking, or being mugged or what-not. Generally speaking, we’re safer now then we used to be. A *lot* safer. But because of the easy disperssal of information, when something *does* go wrong, we all hear about it very quickly. So most people *feel* like we’re in more constant danger.

    That is to say… lacking evidence that modern politicians are *actually* more corrupt then previous generations of politicians, I’m inclined to think that the previous generation just had an easier time of hiding their sins.

    1. I’m sure politicians have always been as corrupt as they are now. The problem is that they have control (or at least try to) over a lot more than they did in the past.

      1. Yep. It’s not so much that power corrupts, but that it is a magnet for the corruptible. (paraphrasing Frank Herbert)

    2. I doubt the country is really “worse” then it was,

      It is worse now. Back in the day, a President was forced from office for 18 minutes of deleted audiotape.

      Nowadays, nobody gets fired or disciplined for much, much worse than that.

  8. It’s even worse than people cheating when trust evaporates: Citizens in low-trust societies routinely call for more government regulation and intervention, even though they don’t have any confidence in officials.

    I guess this is what makes us Libertarians all asberger-ey. We have that autistic-logic gift allowing us the prescience that endowing more power in the people we already don’t trust won’t engender better results. Funny that.

  9. You could say the same exact thing about magazines, too.

  10. I think government is indeed to blame, but for different reasons. As government continues to criminalizes victimless activity, it encourages people to drop a dime on one another. Don’t like your neighbor? Watch him for a while until you see him committing one of his three felonies a day. Then drop a dime. It creates an environment where people legitimately feel a need to live double-lives. Got a professional job, but like to enjoy a joint after work? Don’t tell your coworkers. One of them might drop a dime.

    If criminal law was limited to acts of force and fraud that harm the life, liberty or property of someone else, then I think there would be a lot more trust in our communities and nation.

    Of course it also doesn’t help that the news media exaggerates crimes like child abduction and such to the point where people like my wife are afraid to let children play in the back yard without supervision.

    Ugh. I need a drink (and perhaps something else, please don’t drop a dime).

    1. I saw an interview with some long-haired former cop with LEAP and he made this case very well. Victimless crimes completely pervert the justice system, which only works well when it is there to protect people from harm at the hands of others. If people are victimized, they will likely report it. But victimless crimes require people getting in each other’s business and police to behave in shady and secretive ways to investigate such “crimes”. It is impossible to have a high trust society and a war on drugs/prostitution/etc.

      1. Worse than that, with the proliferation of victimless crimes, crime victims are discouraged from asking the police for help. I know from personal experience. Every time I’ve been a crime victim, be it assault by a drunken neighbor to being mugged at gunpoint, all the cops did was search me and run me for warrants. They wanted an easy arrest. They didn’t give a shit about the crime I called them about, because that would require actual work to investigate. So they tried to arrest me for asking them to do their job, then left crestfallen when they couldn’t find an excuse. I’m sure there are entire communities where people refuse to call the cops for anything less than a dead body for which they have a good explanation, and I’m also sure that the cops in their arrogance cannot comprehend why they are met with hate and distrust.

        1. Good points. People learn that the police are either going to be uninterested in actual crimes short of murder or will actively fuck with you and try to bust you on something.

          1. Even with crimes like murder, unless the victim has family with means to light a fire under their asses, the most cops will do is wait by the phone for someone to drop a dime.

            1. This is completely true. My mom got a police report on a piece of rubber ring from an orange barrel that hit her car from the local PD when she was traveling for work (so she would be able to file an insurance claim for accidental damage ,$250 deductible vs. $1000), and the cop didn’t want to or believe her. There’s some police officer encounters that end well, like when I was a tiny baby, screaming my head off (I had just turned 1), we were on our way back from Grandma’s b-day in the middle of a blizzard (her birthday usually falls near MLK day, so we could take a 4 day weekend and make it to her), and my dad was speeding. The cop pulled him over, took one look at me screaming, and said, “Drive safely, have a good evening.” and left.

    2. Very insightful, sarc.

      1. That means something, coming from you. Thanks.

    3. If criminal law was limited to acts of force and fraud that harm the life, liberty or property of someone else

      Yeah! Like 2nd hand smoke!

      1. 2nd hand vape!

    4. It’s now at least 2 quarters, you old timer!

  11. Aren’t more diverse areas lower in trust in general? Of course politicians can be blamed here, but I don’t think the Gillespie-Libertarian would resemble the trust level of Iceland or Japan. (Crazies like myself are convinced that the government purposefully settles refugees and sets up projects in ethnically homogeneous areas with the very purpose of destroying those societies.)

    1. True. Society can be self-segregating. Heck, you see it in school when the black kids sit at their table, the jocks at theirs, the dorks at mine, and anyone who tries to sit at the wrong table is met with distrust or worse.

    2. And I wouldn’t really want to be like Japan or Iceland. These ethnically homogenous countries also tend to have highly regulated societies, high taxes, strict drug laws and all that.
      I think diversity (real diversity, not just different skin colors, but probably that too) brings a certain dynamism to a society which is beneficial, and part of why the US is still so culturally and economically dominant despite our many problems.

      On the subject of immigrants or refugees, I think it depends on where they are coming from culturally. A lot of Cambodian refugees moved into my small town in the 80s when I was a kid. They still have their own little community to some extent (and some awesome parties), but they also definitely became a part of the broader community. I don’t know if it’s purely culture, or if the fact that these people were fleeing genuinely horrendous and violent situations and were appropriately grateful for the opportunity they had to have a decent life.

      1. It’s also worth noting that Japan is a lot more corrupt than people think. Its corruption has been institutionalized at several levels, from amakudari where high-level civil servants are given high-paying sinecures in corporations upon retirement to the begrudging acceptance of the yakuza (there is nothing like RICO in Japan).

        1. Japan’s corruption is largely represented in the unwillingness of the government to allow banks and large corporations to fail. They just switched from zaibatsu to keiretsu during the reconstruction. They’re as monopolistic and corrupt as they ever were.

      2. “And I wouldn’t really want to be like Japan or Iceland. These ethnically homogenous countries also tend to have highly regulated societies, high taxes, strict drug laws and all that.”

        So the US is the worst of both worlds now? I think those particular societies structure really has more to do with the particular people than anything. However, I agree that DC would still be larger than it was 50 years ago today, just that the increasing lack of homogeneity has greatly exacerbated its rise.

        “I think diversity (real diversity, not just different skin colors, but probably that too) brings a certain dynamism to a society which is beneficial, and part of why the US is still so culturally and economically dominant despite our many problems.”

        I think it can be very beneficial or dangerous, it depends on the people and the numbers.

        “On the subject of immigrants or refugees, I think it depends on where they are coming from culturally…”

        Agreed. I think 1) some cultures simply get along better with others and 2) people who escaped communism (or any fanatical totalitarian system) are generally more grateful to be Americans. One can look at the phenomenon of “white flight” (it’s actually a global thing now) and now “black flight” to see that some diversity isn’t always valued.

  12. It’s part and parcel of having a coercive government. Eventually it sticks its nose in so much private business, and hands out so many benefits, that it becomes more productive to cajole government to get your own than to mind your own business.

    Government interactions are so ill-defined and vague that there’s plenty of scope for finagling the system, and everybody knows that, so everybody knows there’s tricks to be played. Being a zero-sum game, it’s better to get your own at everybody else’s expense than let others get their own at your expense.

    Corrosive is what coercive government is to a society.

    1. Government must be coercive. It is force. That’s all government is. It’s the people who use coercion and violence to get their way. We cede that power to government so we can leave our house and not have to post an armed guard to keep it from being robbed, or send goods to market without chaperoning them. The problem is that government will always abuse this power. It starts off using force legitimately to protect property and do other things that would be legitimate uses of force by an individual, and then expands the use of force to things that would never be legitimate if done by an individual, until it forgets its mission entirely and ignores things like crimes against individuals.

      1. That can’t be repeated enough. Before saying “there oughtta be a law” about something, one should consider whether that thing justifies holding a gun to someone’s head to make them do it (or not do it). It drives me nuts when people say “well the government should just do this or that” without considering the violence and coercion involved in any government activity.

        1. This, so much. But people try to pretend that violence is not “inherent in the system”. I think it makes them too uncomfortable to admit it.

      2. “She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1821

        1. Sadly prophetic.

  13. Why show Lois Lerner? She was probably honest – her answers could probably have been used against her in a criminal prosecution.

  14. RE: HIT & RUN BLOG
    This Used To Be a Helluva High-Trust Country, But Our Leaders Are Destroying That

    The people only trust their political leaders when socialists are in power.
    Then all is good.
    Anyone advocating a capitalist ideas or capitalism that enjoys significant power are not to be trusted.
    Just the Washington Post, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, CBS, CNN, NBC, the New Republic etc.
    They’ll set you straight.
    Socialism is the only way to go.
    Just ask Fidel Castro and his sycophants and admirers here in Amerika.

  15. Ach, more of this “doom and gloom” stuff. Think about the trees! And we’ll have some spiffy new technology what won’t be rationally allocated due to a lack of a free market (we wouldn’t have made THAT) coming down the pike! All will be well.

    Seriously, once upon a time Nixon had to resign because he tried to cover up Watergate and some of his office tape recordings went missing. IT WAS THAT TERRIBLE, and he left because people shouldn’t have to think “their President is a crook”. That HAD to have counted for something. It STILL has left a mark on the Republicans (even though Nixon was a thorough interventionist – rent control, wage freezes – and was in power when the economy crippling EPA was put in). And today? His female equivalent – a lying, cheating, sociopath not only isn’t shamefully retreating – SHE’S RUNNING AND WILL LIKELY WIN.

    The Romans used to settle lack of confidence to an extreme degree with knives, hooks, and a local river. The Potomac IS nice and handy. Just sayin’.

    (and nary a woodchipper in site).

    I JOKE about it, but I have little doubts as to what the future will bring. Extreme lack of confidence with a $70,000,000,000,000 collective balance sheet discrepancy to reconcile is hardly a good combination. With such hatred and distrust, I can’t think 25% across the board tax increases with 50% slashing of “services” is going to be sloughed off.

    1. “Think about the trees!”

      Fuck trees, bitch, cock and squeeze!

  16. Man, tough to keep up with Reason. “Don’t believe the doom and gloomers! Things are getting better the world over!” Just this past week two articles like that.

    But today? Everything is falling apart. “Coming middle class anarchy” and it’s all “downhill from here.”

    Just as bad as all the other doom and gloomers, Nick. Guess you didn’t read Bailey’s book.

    1. Some things are getting better, some things are exaggerated, while other things really are getting worse. Get a clue.

      1. I’m sure libertarians know which doom and gloom scenario is righteous. In the meantime, you’re just another preacher on a soap box screaming the end is near. Yawn.

        1. In the meantime, you’re just another preacher on a soap box screaming the end is near.

          Says the guy who preaches the AGW religion like a drunken Baptist. Sure, dude. Whatever you say.

          1. I’m confident we will make adjustments in the right direction on AGW. We already are. See Paris. We’re just ignoring libertarians now on climate change.

            1. Wow, it’s good that you’re ignoring libertarians since libertarians are soooo powerful. I guess you’ve got it made then. Just one problem, only about 8% of Americans now see global warming as an important issue. Sorry, you cultists are the ones being ignored, nothing much to do with libertarians.

              1. Paris. That was some ignoring.

                1. Paris. That was some ignoring will be ignored, just like Kyoto.

                  ftfy

                  1. Yeah, the Paris thing was/is a total joke, just like the warmist cult.

            2. You’re going to think warming in another 15 years when the sun starts into another deep minimum cycle like the one that caused the little ice age in the 1800s. We’re eventually going to another period of glaciation and all of your imaginary warming isn’t going to stop that. But then again, that’s a real problem, leftists don’t deal with real problems, only imaginary ones where they see a chance to scam people.

              1. Like I said, keep it up. The world is moving past you.

                1. If you think for a second that global warming is as bad as you say it is, you might as well kill yourself and your children now. There is no way that the first and second worlds will truly and willingly cripple themselves to save the third world or anybody else. China and India will never choose economic regression over climate change.

                  If all of the bad climate things are going to come true then the only thing you can guarantee is multiple wars over resources.

            3. I’m confident we will make adjustments in the right direction on AGW. We already are

              Mouse in pocket….check!

              /Fuck your collectivism

        2. That’s rich coming from you, of all trolls.

        3. Also worth noting (while ignoring your obviously false accusation that I’m preaching form a soap box), libertarians see problems arising from the use of force and want less force. You want more government force, coercion, and violence to get your way. Even if your false accusation was true, you’re still an immoral slug compared to worst libertarians have to offer.

          1. Have a great evening, Sarc!

        4. In the meantime, you’re just another preacher on a soap box screaming the end is near

          Aren’t you the dude screaming incoherently wearing the AGW sandwich board downtown?

          1. Keep up. Already discussed that. Better yet, go back to sleep.

    2. Give him credit for not segueing a story about Trump. Though it might actually have made sense in this case.

    3. Nick is a little down in the dumps because it looks like the Trumpalo might give the Hildog a tougher fight than anyone thought.

      If Hillary wins as expected, he’ll be fine. But if Trump shocks the world, I give it a 50% chance he either commits suicide or moves out of the country.

      1. What? No cutesy misappellation for Nick?

        1. Nothing I could ever come up with could possibly touch “Goth Fonzie”.

          1. Fonzie with AIDS

            Get it right

      2. Can you blame him? I always admit when I’m spectacularly wrong, and it looks like I’ve been pretty wrong about Trump. I don’t recall but I’m pretty sure I was blowing off that Trump would ever win the nomination. That seems in the bag. I was definitely saying he’d never be president, but I’m becoming more circumspect about that daily because I honestly can’t even find reliable progressives who much like Hillary.

        There’s much to be in the dumps about.

        1. I’ve been in a bad mood for a pretty long time now. But I don’t venerate Block Yomomma like Nick does.

    4. The world as a whole is improving even though America isn’t. Not sure why that’s such a confusing concept, unless you’re one of those people who thinks the world begins and ends with the U. S. of A.

  17. Still an aristocratic system as always, still two sets of rules. Rule of man, etc.

    1. Life is good…if you’re an ruling elitist turd.

  18. Another interesting viewpoint from Nick G.. Let me add that having what is essentially a 2-party system running the country at every level makes things even worse. And when they really don’t disagree on big issues then we are in deeper crap.

  19. Until we allowed our leaders to get away with bullshitting us to our faces

    The problem with this argument is that the same people who support the likes of Trump and Sanders *also* flip their shit if you tell them the truth. What they want isn’t honest leaders, but leaders who tell them the right kind of lies — lies like “you don’t have a job because of them damn furriners and bankers” and “Muslim terrorists are an existential threat to America”.

  20. Everyone in America knows the problem. It would be nice if just one of you journalist would point to a solution that didn’t require voting for the lesser of two evils.

  21. Man, I wish these journalists, all of them, would stop referring to these people as “our leaders”. They aren’t leading me anywhere nor will they ever.

    Also, spoiler alert for a 50 year old movie.

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