Free Minds & Free Markets

Everyone Agrees Government Is a Hot Mess. So Why Does It Keep Getting Bigger Anyway?

When libertarians dole out blame for the growth of government, perhaps we should take a look in the mirror.

When libertarians dole out blame for the growth of government, perhaps we should take a look in the mirror. Is it possible that our arguments—correct and widely accepted though they are—about government inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and incompetence have had the unintended consequence of fueling government's growth?

For 50 years, Reason writers and other libertarians have preached that government at all levels is bad at what it does, a view that virtually every poll finds to be widespread among Americans of all political persuasions. In his first inaugural address in 1981, Ronald Reagan famously declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." That's a tight summary of what not just a majority of libertarians but most Americans believe these days. But has all this declining trust in government actually led to smaller government? With some meaningful exceptions, the answer is no. The government spends more, controls more, and does more than ever.

A respectable and growing body of research shows that as societies move from relatively high to lower levels of trust, citizens counterintuitively call for greater and greater levels of government involvement in their lives. "Individuals in low-trust countries want more government intervention even though they know the government is corrupt," summarize the authors of a 2010 Quarterly Journal of Economics paper. The history of the libertarian movement is a decadeslong monologue inveighing against virtually every aspect of the federal government, from nation building to the drug war to the Post Office. Should we pause and—like the SS men in the Mitchell and Webb comedy sketch who notice for the first time that they have skulls on their uniforms—ask ourselves: "Are we the baddies?"

And if we are, what might be some strategies worth exploring to win over more people to the side of, you know, wanting to shrink government? Understanding that the relationship between trust in the state and the growth of the state is much less straightforward than it seems is awfully important if we actually want to persuade people that society would be better off with less government.

We Don't Trust the Government Like We Used To

First, the nearly complete evacuation of trust and confidence in virtually every part of the federal government is worth documenting in some detail.

It seems inarguable that libertarian arguments about the general inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and incompetence of most government action have won the public debate. In 1964, according to Pew Research, 77 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that they "can trust the government in Washington always or most of the time." By 2015, that figure stood at just 19 percent.

Last August, Gallup released a survey in which 21 percent of Americans—a plurality—named "dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership" the most important issue facing the country. A different Gallup poll, conducted regularly since the '60s, asks respondents whether "big government," "big business," or "big labor" is the "biggest threat to the country in the future." "Big government" has always been the top response, but the margin of fear has grown far wider over time. In 1969, the fraction picking government was around 30 percent. By 2016, it had leaped to 67 percent.

The overall decline in trust of government is, not surprisingly, reflected in attitudes toward specific functions or parts of the government. Since the early 1970s, Gallup has been asking poll questions aimed at ascertaining how people feel about various institutions in America. Respondents are asked to tell the pollster "how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one—a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little." The results are stark.

When it comes to Congress, for instance, 42 percent of Americans had either "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in our national legislature in 1973. (Throughout this article, I'll use that combined figure as the basic measure of high trust or confidence.) In 2018, only 11 percent of respondents did; the last time that number cracked 20 percent was in 2005.

The presidency has taken a similar beating. In 1975—the first time Gallup asked the question, just a year after President Richard Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal—52 percent said they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the White House. In February 1991, 72 percent did, reflecting the popularity of the first Gulf War. By October 1991, though, the number had fallen to 50 percent, and it has mostly remained in the low to mid-30s ever since. The last time a majority of respondents had high levels of trust in the White House was in 2009, Barack Obama's first year in office.

Imagine: More Americans trusted the presidency a year after Watergate than do now.

The other major branch of the federal government, the Supreme Court, has also seen a slide, albeit a less dramatic one. In the mid- to late 1970s, 45 percent to 49 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the high court. During Reagan's second term that number grew, reaching a high of 56 percent in 1988, the year after Robert Bork's nomination hearings electrified the country. The survey from 2018, by contrast, found just 37 percent had high confidence in the Court. And that poll was conducted before extremely contentious hearings over the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, so it's likely that the next iteration will reveal even less confidence in the institution.

While not directly part of the federal government, other major institutions tracked by Gallup reflect what might be considered negative spillover effects. Public schools, banks, and the nation's health care industry are all heavily subsidized, regulated to a substantial degree, or both. In the mid-1970s, up to 62 percent of Americans had high confidence in the nation's K–12 system. Over the last decade, it's been rare for that number to pull out of the high 20s or low 30s.

About half of us had confidence in banks for most of the 1980s. But following the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s and early '90s and the housing collapse and financial crisis of the late '00s, the percentage with high confidence in banks has also been stuck in the high 20s and low 30s.

Something similar happened to the health care sector. In 1975, the first time Gallup asked about "the medical system," 80 percent expressed confidence. By the early 1990s, as Bill Clinton proposed a much larger role for the government in delivering health care, the confidence level was down to the mid-30s to low 40s, where it remains.

In 1964, according to Pew Research Center, 77 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that they "can trust the government in Washington always or most of the time." By 2015, that figure stood at just 19 percent.

Not all parts of the government are losing trust. Gallup started tracking attitudes toward the military in 1975, when 58 percent expressed high confidence. During the last decade, that number has never dipped below 71 percent and has climbed as high as 82 percent (in 2009); it currently stands at 74 percent. Similarly, confidence in the police has remained at or above 52 percent since Gallup first asked about it in 1993. (It's currently at 54 percent.) Confidence in the criminal justice system has actually improved since the early 1990s, when it clocked in at under 20 percent on a regular basis; it was 27 percent a year ago and now stands at 22 percent.

These anomalies are all the more striking given the relative unpopularity of military action in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the series of highly publicized recent cases of police brutality, and increasing calls for sentencing reform.

It's (Always) Government's Fault

Who's responsible for this decline in trust and confidence? As with assigning responsibility for an overtime loss, a group project gone wrong, or a global financial crisis, this isn't easy, and any given accounting is likely to be incomplete and contested. Demographic changes, world events, religious belief, long-term economic growth, and status relative to other countries are all factors. Note also that we don't just trust government less than we used to; we trust each other less too. In 1972, according to Pew, 46 percent of Americans agreed that "most of us can be trusted." By 2015, even after a decadeslong decline in crime, that number had dipped to 31 percent.

But the most powerful reasons for collapsing trust in government are surely the actions of government. Consider even a smattering of revelations and developments going back to the late '60s. The U.S. failure in Vietnam was bad enough on its own, but the Pentagon Papers, a secret report commissioned by the Defense Department that concluded our involvement was doomed from the start, revealed a government that was incompetent at best and duplicitous at worst. The Watergate scandal and revelations of widespread corruption in the Nixon White House led to the unprecedented resignation of a president who had won re-election by the largest Electoral College margin up to that point in history. (What suckers we were, giving a crook 61 percent of the vote!) High-profile government commissions issued reports showing that intelligence agencies and the military had engaged in illegal surveillance of American citizens and tested would-be mind-control drugs on unsuspecting soldiers and civilians.

Even as the economy grew in significant ways and many consumer goods became more widely available, there was in the 1970s a pervasive feeling of economic malaise, especially because the federal government seemed incapable of reeling in double-digit inflation and unemployment. Wage and price controls were tried, along with the rationing of gasoline, that most basic of commodities. None of these interventions worked as intended. By the time inflation was tamed and unemployment brought down, the Iran-contra scandal was casting the Ronald Reagan administration in a terrible light and the savings and loan crisis was beginning to erupt. In 1989, Rep. Jim Wright (D–Texas) became the first speaker of the House forced to resign in the wake of a financial scandal.

The Clinton years seem distant and quaint now, but they were marred by never-ending scandals, only some of them sexual in nature and only some of them involving the president and first lady. Largely forgotten, the discovery of corruption involving the congressional "post office," which functioned as a bank for members, contributed mightily to the GOP winning the House and Senate in 1994. Almost two dozen congressmen were singled out by the House Ethics Committee for kiting checks and abusing various privileges afforded them. The fallout was bad enough that Speaker Tom Foley (D–Wash.), who had himself replaced Wright, was bounced from office—the first time a sitting speaker had lost a re-election race in more than 100 years.

The rise of cable and online news in the '90s meant that this sort of thing crawled along the bottom of our screens every time we flipped through an ever-growing array of channels or refreshed our web browsers.

The 21st century brought its own set of highly publicized scandals and other ugly revelations. False accounts of "weapons of mass destruction" underwrote the U.S. invasion of Iraq; more broadly, we've been waging inconclusive and increasingly unpopular wars for virtually all of this century. Secret mass surveillance programs were exposed under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Even if most people don't understand all the nuances of the banking and housing industries, they understand that the federal government was intimately involved in inflating a housing bubble that helped cause the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Perhaps more important, they have a sense that the government's responses to the Great Recession—bank bailouts, auto bailouts, stimulus spending—mostly had the effect of shunting money to well-connected industries and firms.

It's bad enough that government can't be trusted; it may be worse still when it's impotent. Often, when the state waves its wand—at the Middle East, at health care, at the economy—its magic is weaker than a first-year student's at Hogwarts.

Government Is Getting (A Lot) Bigger

And yet cynicism about government hasn't diminished government. Over the last few decades, Washington's size, scope, and spending have metastasized.

Per Milton Friedman, federal spending is the purest, or at least the most easily grasped, measure of the size of the federal government, because we eventually have to pay for it all. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the government spent about $1.3 trillion in 1968 vs. a record-high $4.1 trillion in 2018. Over the last 50 years, federal spending on a per-capita basis nearly tripled, reaching about $12,000 in 2018. In 1970, federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was 18 percent. Since 2008, it has never sunk below 20 percent, a level typically reserved for periods of major wars.

In the final budget year of George W. Bush's presidency and the first of Barack Obama's, Washington responded to the financial crisis by jacking spending up to what seems to be a permanently higher level. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next decade, federal outlays will average 22.4 percent of GDP annually. Within a few years, interest payments on the national debt—$22 trillion and growing—will be larger than annual payouts for Medicaid and the Pentagon, two of the largest single items in the federal budget. When it comes to spending, it's onward and upward.

Why Loss of Trust Leads to Growth in Government

Counterintuitively, the less trusting of government we become, the more likely we are to call for more regulation by that same government. "When individuals distrust others, they prefer government officials to regulate and control, even when they know that these officials themselves cannot be trusted," observed Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, and Andrei Shleifer in the aforementioned Quarterly Journal of Economics article.

Their paper drew on the World Values Survey, which has collected data from 50 countries for decades. One example they cite involves relative levels of regulation on starting new businesses. "High-trusting countries such as Nordic and Anglo-Saxon countries impose very few controls on opening a business," they write, "whereas low-trusting countries, typically Mediterranean, Latin-American, and African countries, impose heavy regulations." A similar pattern occurs when it comes to setting wages. Residents of low-trust Russia, Slovenia, East Germany, and Bulgaria "exhibit[ed] the strongest support for government control of wages. Approximately 92% of Russians and 82% of East Germans favor wage control. Respondents in Mediterranean countries also strongly favor wage control by the state: 78% of the Spaniards and 60% of the French agree" that the government should control wages. Meanwhile, "in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries, less than half the population agree.…Similar patterns obtain for the support of government control of prices."

But why do people in low-trust countries turn for protection to governments they know are at best incompetent and at worst corrupt? I talked about this dynamic with one of the paper's co-authors, Andrei Shleifer, who grew up in the old Soviet Union, moved to the United States as a teenager in the mid-1970s, and now teaches economics at Harvard.

When people perceive that their world is out of control and unpredictable, Shleifer says, they want order to be restored—the faster the better. "They want regulation. They want a dictator who will bring back order." Often, he adds, the rules and restrictions create a negative feedback loop. In response to loss of trust, governments set up new regulations that make it harder to start businesses. Those policies tend to lead to fewer businesses and less employment, which in turn leads to slower economic growth, which leads to calls for more redistribution and yet more regulation.

Weak or nonexistent economic growth is the deep background for the loss of trust throughout society, according to the George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok. Like Shleifer, Tabarrok is an immigrant, in his case from Canada. Up through the early '70s, he explains, annual economic growth averaged about 3 percent a year in the United States. Since then, it has become both more volatile and weaker overall. For most of the 21st century, it has averaged around 2 percent. "When everyone is getting wealthier and the economy is humming along and things are improving, it's easier to trust other people," Tabarrok says. "If the economic pie is relatively fixed, you distrust other people more because you know the only way someone can get ahead is by screwing you and vice versa."

Then there's the populist rhetoric, coming from politicians as different as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, that accuses American leaders of selling out their own citizens while furthering the interests of the European Union, Russia, China, and other foreign powers. The idea that "the system is rigged" is far more widely represented in retail politics than it was a few decades ago. That's both a cause and an effect of the loss of confidence in government. Shleifer stresses that while things in the aggregate are getting better—for virtually everyone in the United States, the standard of living keeps ticking up—the situation is "more volatile." You don't get a job until later in life, he says, and when you do, it seems less secure than the one that your parents or grandparents had.

Shleifer points to the economic expansion that has been underway since 2009. "This economy has bounced back tremendously from the Great Recession and much faster than Japan or Europe," he says. Yet there's still a widespread perception among many people that getting and keeping a job are beyond their control. That palpable lack of agency orients people to push for government intervention.

Don't Expect Pols To Change Their Behavior

If trust and confidence in government have declined mostly due to the behavior of politicians then the country's political class should do most of the heavy lifting in restoring people's faith, right? Good luck with that.

During the last election season, the GOP challenger to Pennsylvania's Democratic governor released a Facebook video declaring he would "stomp all over" his opponent's "face with golf spikes." Donald Trump's M.O., which is clearly taking root in the Republican Party, is to alienate and polarize real and imagined adversaries. And Trump and the Republicans are nearly matched in intensity and frequency by leaders of the Democratic opposition. Rep. Maxine Waters (D–Calif.) has called for partisans to harass Republican officials in restaurants and other public places. While campaigning for Democrats, former Attorney General Eric Holder said, to great applause, "When they go low, we kick 'em. That's what this new Democratic Party is about."

You can't "be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton told CNN last fall. She added that civility will return to politics only if and when her party takes control of Congress.

If confidence in government has declined mostly due to the behavior of politicians then the country's political class should do most of the heavy lifting in restoring people's faith, right? Good luck with that.

This sort of discourse is not conducive to increasing trust and confidence in government. It's also a sign of a government that already inspires low levels of faith. Shleifer and his co-authors rely on research that shows a "causal link runs not only from beliefs to policies but from policies to beliefs as well," which suggests a sort of infinite loop.

Tabarrok is generally pessimistic that political trust can be regained any time soon, especially in a climate where candidates explicitly use the lack of trust as a means to gaining power. He says Donald Trump is exemplary in this regard, castigating his primary and general election opponents as "crooked" and "lying" and threatening not to abide by the election outcome if he didn't win. But Trump is not alone in questioning the legitimacy of the government, as evidenced by the fact that Hillary Clinton has herself repeatedly questioned the results of the 2016 race. Just a few weeks before Election Day, she tut-tutted Trump for refusing "to say that he'd respect the results of this election" if he lost. "By doing that," she added, "he's threatening our democracy." Yet in the wake of her loss, she told Mother Jones that "there are lots of questions about [the election's] legitimacy." She pointed to Russian troll accounts on social media and what she claimed were "widespread voter suppression efforts."

There are some odd ducks, such as Rep. Justin Amash, the libertarian-leaning Republican from Michigan, who seem to speak a different language. Amash has the distinction of being openly reviled by the two GOP speakers of the House under whom he has served. John Boehner famously cursed him out for forcing votes on National Security Agency domestic surveillance, and Amash says Paul Ryan literally refused to acknowledge his presence on multiple occasions.

Judging from his Twitter feed, Amash's relationship with new Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi may not be much better. Last year, for instance, he called her out for working with her predecessors to weaken privacy protections, writing, "Every time I brought Rs and Ds together to protect Americans' personal data and #4thAmendment rights, you teamed up with @SpeakerRyan or @SpeakerBoehner to defeat us. You spearheaded the Democratic charge against two separate Amash amendments on the #PatriotAct and #FISA702."

Alone among members of the House and Senate, Amash entered office in 2011 pledging to explain on his Facebook page every vote he makes. During an interview with Reason last year, he outlined a transparent approach to politics that certainly would inspire more trust if widely adopted: "I think that if you go and you put yourself before them, as I do at town halls and other things, and you explain yourself, people will connect with you. They'll appreciate what you're doing. They may find that they agree with you on so many things that they didn't think they agreed with you on. They'll find that you share the same principles that they share. You just have to put yourself out there and be open."

But to expect the political class writ large to change its behavior is surely asking too much. If trust is to return to government, the process probably won't be led by politicians.

Other Routes To Restoring Trust

A revitalized sense of national purpose might help to tamp down distrust. Of course, the one reliable cause that unites the nation is war, and even that unwelcome unifier has its limits: Since at least 2004, most Americans have considered the conflict in Iraq to be a mistake.

Tabarrok suggests that national purpose might come not from government but from figures such as Elon Musk, the entrepreneur who has underwritten private rocket launches, new ways of creating and storing power, and transportation projects such as the hyperloop, a "vactrain" that theoretically can move people and freight far more efficiently than traditional modes of ground transportation.

The most likely path to increasing trust in government is economic growth that's not only robust but widely understood to be sustainable. From 1994 to 2001, Pew data show upticks in the number of people who trust the government to mostly do the right thing. That was a period of partisan rancor nearly as intense as the current moment, when a Republican Congress led by Newt Gingrich engaged in bombastic rhetoric and Bill Clinton's Democrats often gave as good as they got. The increase in trust was surely partly an artifact of years of strong (though not uninterrupted) growth.

It also coincided with a flattening of spending: Using inflation-adjusted dollars, the feds spent about $250 billion more in Clinton's last year than in his first, a small increase compared to the spending surges seen under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Viewed as a percentage of GDP, federal spending fell significantly during that period. In 1991, it equaled 21 percent. By 2001, it equaled just 17.5 percent.

Since 2008, it has never been less than 20 percent of GDP.

The U.S. economy has been growing consistently for nearly 10 years, and the two most recent quarters have seen relatively high annualized growth rates of 4.1 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. Wage growth over the last year clocked in at 2.9 percent, the biggest increase in a decade. (While forecasts are often off, there is a broad consensus that growth in 2019 will be slower than it was last year.)

But there is an interesting disconnect in public opinion, with two-thirds of Americans believing that the country is headed in the wrong direction and about the same fraction saying that the economy is headed in the right direction. According to a poll conducted by CBS News in January, during the monthlong partial shutdown of the federal government, the top reason people cited as evidence that we're going the wrong way is "the state of politics and government" (64 percent). While attitudes toward the current economy are positive, there is a feeling of longer-term gloom, with 42 percent of respondents saying they believe life will be worse for the next generation, compared to just 30 percent who said it will be better.

Deregulatory initiatives at agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency could help keep the economy humming, as could recent tax cuts for individuals and businesses (especially provisions that allow profits made overseas to be brought home without being subjected to taxes). But when you add in Trump's trade wars and a general sense of paranoia about the country being invaded by immigrants and foreign goods—a staple of the president's rhetoric—the effect is a sense of uncertainty, not sustainable growth. And the swelling national debt, fueled significantly by those Republican tax cuts, is a looming iceberg that moves ever closer, threatening to either sink the economy or put the country through a wrenching reduction in entitlement spending.

Two full years into his first term, Donald Trump maintains historically low approval ratings. He has been less popular at every point of his presidency so far than any president since the end of World War II, which is hardly likely to make people relax and believe that the relatively strong economy is going to last. Add to that the change of power in the House of Representatives, with Democrats promising to investigate the hell out of Trump while pushing for massive expansions in spending (Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, etc.), and the future looks increasingly volatile and partisan.

Yet there are potential ways forward. Local and state governments have always inspired significantly higher rates of confidence than the feds. In 1973, according to Gallup, the percentage of people saying they had a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of trust in their local government was 63 percent. It currently stands at 72 percent. State government inspired the same 63 percent in 1973. After going as high as 80 percent in the late 1990s and as low as 51 percent in 2009, it's back to 63 percent today. If voters are more comfortable with government that's closer to home, shifting decision making out of Washington and back to state capitals and city halls might help restore confidence.

That means more work is needed putting together serious, detailed policy plans that give more autonomy to individuals and communities; highlighting examples of markets and voluntary organizations succeeding in building trust, self-regulation, and common purpose; and appealing to a broad, positive vision of a strictly limited government whose goals revolve around ensuring basic fairness, equality of opportunity, continued economic growth, and rising living standards.

Parents of children who attend charter schools or other public schools of choice report higher rates of satisfaction than parents whose children attend traditional public schools based on residential assignment. For instance, according to a 2012 Education Next study using Department of Education data, 65 percent of parents with a child in a charter school reported being "very satisfied" with the school. For other forms of public choice schools, the response was 61 percent. For traditional residential assignment schools, it was 56 percent.

Libertarians should be championing policies that increase local control and individual autonomy. The various regimes that have surrounded the legalization of marijuana provide a wealth of outcomes that are better and worse. For the most part, Colorado—the first state in the country to fully legalize recreational pot—has managed to get things right by allowing municipalities to opt in or out of allowing weed to be sold, by setting taxes low enough to discourage black markets, and by tracking use rates to alleviate fears that teenage consumption would increase after legalization. (It hasn't.) That experience can and should be compared to places such as California, where regulation is more onerous, a black market flourishes, and other problems abound.

It may seem odd that loss of trust in government would give rise to calls for more government. Odder still, it may fall to libertarians to identify and promote government policies that give people enough breathing space to imagine a world where we ask the state to do less for us.

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson. Source image: podtin/iStock

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    The only answer to bad government is more government. The only acceptable response to "good" government is "more of that, please!", and the only sort of government that is acceptable is MORE GOVERNMENT, not less government. As we are repeatedly told, the "minimal govt, libertarian ideas are just a smokescreen for fascism!" MORE OF THE GOVERNMENT PLEASE.

  • Cy||

    You can either choose to get shot in the head or the heart, either way, you're getting shot. Just be happy you have a choice comrade.

  • MSimon||

    Government gets bigger as society collapses. It is historical.

    The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter - pdf The good stuff starts in Chapter 4. - about 3 minutes

  • buybuydandavis||

    My favorite story about the Khmer Rouge was why they didn't shoot people in the head.

    Bullets are a consumable resource. They cost foreign exchange.
    But you could club dozens to death with a nice stout tree branch, and the trees would keep making more!

    The Green Economy at its finest.

  • buybuydandavis||

    My favorite story about the Khmer Rouge was why they didn't shoot people in the head.

    Bullets are a consumable resource. They cost foreign exchange.
    But you could club dozens to death with a nice stout tree branch, and the trees would keep making more!

    The Green Economy at its finest.

  • morganovich||

    why are we in any way sure this is the way the causality flows? i suspect this theory has it the wrong way around and is mistaking what drives what.

    consider: as government gets bigger and more intrusive into a larger number of spheres, particularly ones like business formation, operation, real estate, labor law, safety, food, marriage, education etc etc more and more people have a direct, personal experience in which they ran up against these rules and found them to be stupid/hobbling/prohibitory, more and more people have a chance to form a reasoned, high conviction belief based on fact they are confident in.

    it is precisely these personal frictions in a sphere within which one is expert that are most likely to shape strong views about the wisdom and efficacy of regulators. regulations in something one does not understand or encounter are far easier to ignore, but those one does encounter in an area where one is knowledgeable are more likely to chafe.

    thus, one would predict that as the spread of such regulation widens, particularly into the spaces of personal commerce and lifestyle, far more people would have the opportunity to have this "chafing experience" and from it, to develop a lack of trust in government and regulation.

    this would seem to provide a strong contextual framework to suspect the correlation this piece points out is, in fact, driven by a causality that goes the other way.


  • morganovich||

    it is not more distrust driving people to seek more government, it is more personal interaction with government in spheres where individuals are knowledgeable/expert driving less trust in regulation.

    this framework, as presented, seems purely speculative and unsubstantiated.

    why, a priori, would we presume the "distrust leads to desire for more government" flow of causality based on some murky and speculative psychological process when the reverse flow is so much more plausible and backed by so many concrete and documented experiences?

    ask a small business owner or parent "what was the thing you ran into that made you lose faith in regulation?" you'll pretty much always get a concrete answer.

    that seems to me the far more fertile basis for a theory to explain this correlation.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Distrust grows when government is used *against* people, and the only practical solution is to similarly use government *against* those people who are trying to use it against you.

    That's why people want more government as their distrust of government grows. It's the only game in town.

    If people believed they could opt-out of some government sphere, such as food regulation, *including using food regulation against other people*, I bet there would be a dramatic shrinkage of government.

    Imagine you run a restaurant and get tired of crooked city inspectors wanting bribes, but this being a corrupt city, you have bribed city inspectors a few times to hurt competitors on special occasions. Now supposing you could actually truly rely on opting out of the whole game, would you? You would no longer be subject to any city inspections, but you could no longer bribe city inspectors against your competitors either. Any customers who wanted to know about inspections would have to rely on you yourself, yelp reviews, etc. You could find independent private inspectors, but would their reviews satisfy enough customers?

    I bet a lot of people would opt-out of all sorts of government intrusion under those conditions.

  • Nuwanda||

    "it is not more distrust driving people to seek more government, it is more personal interaction with government in spheres where individuals are knowledgeable/expert driving less trust in regulation."

    You're wrong. Very wrong.

    Distrust leads to cynicism which leads to the attitude that if I'm subject to these rules then you need to be as well. The anger is directed toward your fellow man since they can be more easily criticised and brought to heel. The state is too big to fight but the guy next door isn't.

    This is the experience in wealthy Western nations just like the US. We don't need to speculate about it because the experiment has been run. And it's been run again and again.

  • CE||

    Because left and right alternate advancing government in different spheres, and failing to undo what the other side built up. Because voters and special interests like the new bennies and won't give them up. Because people fall for the lie that government should stay at a constant percentage of GDP, plus or minus a little, when it should be a steadily declining share of GDP, since the constitutionally defined functions of government are limited and the economy as a whole is always adding new sectors.

  • MSimon||


  • SQRLSY One||

    All that I can say is, me, I personally, I'd be smart enough to know how to blow on a cheap plastic flute, w/o having to pay to see a doctor and get permission to blow on a cheap plastic "lung flute"!!!

    It's because of all you others (unlike MEEEE) who are low-brow, rotten, no-good, lazy, incompetent fuck-wads who would HURT YOURSELVES blowing on a cheap plastic flute W/O proper permission, as issued by a degreed, credentialed, board-certified expertologist of expertology in cheapology-flutology-blowology!!! So I am DAMNED glad that Government Almighty is here to PROTECT all of ye dim-wits!!!

    To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

  • SQRLSY One||

    Government Almighty always gets bigger because they vast majority of us are self-righteous assholes!!!

    "Well, no, if heroin was legalized tomorrow, I wouldn't get hooked on it. I'm a smart motherfucker, and I know better. It's because of all those other stupid fucks over there, who have to be protected, that we have to make Government Almighty always get bigger and bigger and bigger..."

    Notice that they NEVER 'fess up that Government Almighty needs to go on figuring on biggering, because THEY personally NEEEED to be protected from themselves!!!

    And so Government Almighty will keep right on buggering us all, because we are (collectively) all self-righteous assholes who DESERVE to be buggered!!!

  • AlmightyJB||

    + "Free" stuff

  • SQRLSY One||

    Well, yeah, there's that... I can use Government Almighty to steal yer shit from you!

    And it never occurs to me that you can use Government Almighty right back at me, to steal my shit from me!

    The poor use welfare and min-wage mandates and labor-union mandates to steal from the rich. Health-insurance coverage as well...

    The rich use degrees, credentials, licenses, and regulations to steal from the poor (keep them from competing, from working). Then of course there's "corporate welfare" as well, subsidies from Government Almighty...

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    I don't believe most of us are self-righteous assholes. I believe we only act like self-righteous assholes when pushed and shoved, and we then fight back in the same manner because self-defense is about the most fundamental human instinct.

    Specifically, we get pissed off when government sticks its nose in our business, especially when it's a competitor pushing government to mind our business; then the only possible way to fight back to to similarly push government to mind our competitor's business.

    Uber is a prime example. I believe they would have been happy to leave taxi companies alone, since they are clearly less efficient, more expensive, and less convenient, and would die on their own without any boost from government. But because taxi companies shoved government against Uber, Uber fights back using government.

  • SQRLSY One||

    I see your points and I agree... I guess I was wanting to be a bit provocative...

    But then again too, being a self-righteous asshole is all too common, and it IS part of the politics at play!!!

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    With today's government, everyone turns into a self-righteous asshole sooner or later.

  • BigT||

    We're all self-righteous assholes now.

    Nothing has changed.

  • Rockabilly||

    Speak for yourself.

    I've never trusted government.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nick left off the big reason...more and more immigrants who bring Socialism with them.

    You rarely hear new immigrants loudly advocating Libertarian fundamentals of tiny and limited government in their new adopted home.

    Even as some immigrants become more conservative in older age, they are not necessarily fiscally conservative.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Christ, that's a lunge from nowhere. All that mass Irish Catholic immigration in the early 1800s and the most that happened was the development of anti-abortion laws. Mass Chinese immigration in the 1850s and you got anti-Asian laws. Mass Italian and East European immigration in the late 1800s and you got Ellis Island.

    People didn't distrust government then.

    Your theory is full of holes.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "People didn't distrust government then."

    Some did.

    "Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

    "There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."

    –Mark Twain

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Others come to mind. Many of the people moving west were trying to get away from government. They had a choice. We don't.

    The Erie Canal and other public works were seen as crony government by a lot of people. The central bank had a big part in spawning Jacksonians. The slavocracy was a terrible example of crony government, and the slavocracy was disgusted by Northerners, both individuals and states, thumbing their nose at slave catchers.

    But it was different from today.

  • Cloudbuster||

    There was no "mass Chinese immigration" in the 1850s, there was a very small amount. From the 1850s, Asians went from effectively 0% of the population to 0.1% of the population. The total number of Asians in the US didn't top 1 million until about 1970.

    Irish, Italian and other European immigrants DID cause major social and political change, greatly increasing US levels of crime and political corruption and forming the base of today's socialist, redistributionist Democratic party, but at least that came from Western nations, so they weren't operating from an entirely different cultural framework.

  • vek||

    Uhhh, except immigrants NOW, and THEN did lean more towards big government than the native born?

    It is documented in polling from the early 20th century that recent immigrants from Italy etc DID favor more socialist policies, as did their children. I once saw a rundown of vote totals that said FDR would have LOST his first election if not for the immigrant vote + their children. I do not find this hard to believe from other things I know from the era.

    We eventually converted Italians and the Irish to being proper Americans... But it was still ultimately a negative thing for native born Americans. Had we not allowed in as many the US population would have been smaller, but the Americans here would have been better off. More natural resources available per capita, higher wages without them being pushed down by immigrants, etc.

    I don't buy into the international freedom of movement as a right thing... It's just too idiotic if taken to its logical conclusion. Once you give up on true open borders as a concept, it's just a matter of managing it in a saneish way. In the 21st century it seems pretty obvious that only skilled immigrants should be allowed in... Other than that, there's a lot of fluff room. But the overall numbers need to be limited somehow, or else you get a leftward lurch EXACTLY like happened in the early 20th century, and is happening again now that we've matched the level of foreign born from then.

  • Tony||

    You're such a racist fuckhole

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    No Tony, that would be you.

  • 0x1000||

    Probably both :(

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    You're saying that's hot, right?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Poor Tony. He never has identified what race Americans are, so we can be racist against people that are the same race as Americans.

    Another Lefty attempted insult that means nothing.

  • Tony||

    "I don't see color!"

  • CE||

    I've only heard new immigrants pushing for more freedom and less government -- they tend to be pro-business entrepreneurs who want less regulation, or highly compensated high skill workers who'd appreciate lower taxes, or barely compensated low skilled workers who don't want the government poking around in their business.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    America has nothing to worry about then.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Because your anecdotes are totally representative.

  • vek||


    The ridiculous thing is that some people believe that BS... Despite every single poll ever done showing that they're far to the left of native born Americans, and always vote accordingly.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Just look at the few political parties that had at one point fiscal conservative fundamentals- the LP and GOP.

    These two parties are full of LINOs and RINOs who are not fiscally conservative. These non-fiscally conservative people tend to run the parties.

  • Eric||

    Politicians yield an enormous amount of power to "do something". It takes a hell of a lot of calloused principles to pass by a starving child when you have an armload or food you could offer. And that's how every metastic government program starts...with good intentions.

  • Nardz||

    So the progressive will walk past that starving child with an armload of food, go home and throw half of it out, then scream for more power and resources to government to solve the plight of the starving child that they would never dream of helping themselves

  • SQRLSY One||

    Another way to look at it is, Government Almighty MUST get bigger, since it has taken over the job of God Almighty!

    "Trust in God" (whatever it meant) has been replaced by "Trust in Government Almighty".

    Government Almighty is now the BOSS of God Almighty! I will now prove this to you...

    Here is PROOF!

    We read in the papers, every day almost, of federal judges (servants of Government Almighty) sitting in judgment (using their magical mind-reading powers) about whether or not our religious beliefs are "sincerely held", or not.
    Yet I have NEVER heard of credible evidence concerning God Almighty, sitting in judgment about whether or not our beliefs in Government Almighty are "sincerely held", or not!!!
    Brain case closed!!!

  • Rat on a train||

    We just need Top Men. Then trust will be restored.

    How much of the change in trust is like approval pols? Some people don't approve of X because it is too Y. Others don't approve because it isn't Y enough.

  • Sevo||

    Bicycle food deliveries to grocery stores required!

    "Diesel trucks would be nearly eliminated in California under proposed law"
    "A proposed law that would phase out diesel trucks in California was introduced Friday in an ongoing effort by state legislators to control pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but it will likely face major opposition from trucking companies and other businesses that transport products in big rigs.
    The bill, by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would direct the California Air Resources Board to require a 40 percent reduction in diesel emissions by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, cuts that experts say would not be possible without a major overhaul of the trucking industry."

  • SQRLSY One||

    "Bicycle food deliveries" my ass!!!

    Just use unicorns or flying reindeer!!!

    Or maybe Government Almighty could just mandate the immediate invention of anti-gravity pods...

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    I wonder what the Commerce Clause would say about that..... I can't imagine the trucking industry lying down and letting government be used against it like that.

  • Sevo||

    Imagine the costs of goods which have to be unloaded from trucks at the CA border and reloaded on to the unicorns for intrastate deliveries.

  • BigT||

    ". I can't imagine the trucking industry lying down and letting government be used against it like that."

    Teamsters are pussies. Right??


  • strat||

    Remember that the ascendance of the trucking industry at the rate it did was largely due to the Interstate Commerce Commission and USG policies savaging rail transportation. It's manipulation of the economy all the way down, like turtles.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    CA needs martial law.

  • Longtobefree||

    Uh, look around you. They got it already.

  • Peter Duncan||

    And what would that solve, Shiteater??

    What is your preferred method of extermination?

    Gas Chambers?

    Mass starvation?

    Firing squads?

    How incredibly Totalitarian of you, Kunt.

  • Nardz||

    Gosh, Peter, you're an empty headed imbecile.
    Here's a tip: don't post unless you have something to say.
    Note: above, you have nothing to say

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Stop at the border and fling all goods into CA via trebuchet.

  • Sevo||

    More OT

    "Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushes to break up big tech companies like Amazon and Facebook"
    ""Today's big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy," Warren wrote. "They've bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.""

    She's an expert regarding how businesses are run, and she knows making a profit means they are evil.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I linked this in the Seasteading thread. I'm not sure it's completely off topic. Here's the part that got me:

    "Ms. Warren's proposal contained two main parts.

    First, it called for regulating dominant tech platforms like Google and Facebook as utilities and prohibiting them from both operating the platforms and owning and operating related businesses that run on those platforms . . . .

    Secondly, the senator said she would appoint regulators who would unwind "illegal and anticompetitive tech mergers" that the government has previously blessed.

    Deals Ms. Warren targeted for attack included Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods."

    Yes, here's an example of someone who may be the next president promising to solve the American people's privacy problems (among other things). Meanwhile, I can give you a list of things you can do to solve your own privacy problems. Which solution do you think will be more effective--Elizabeth Warren's on the ones you choose for yourself?

    People who don't want to take responsibility for solving their own problems are doomed to disappointment. Satisfaction comes from autonomy.

  • Sevo||

    "Yes, here's an example of someone who may be the next president promising to solve the American people's privacy problems (among other things). Meanwhile, I can give you a list of things you can do to solve your own privacy problems. Which solution do you think will be more effective--Elizabeth Warren's on the ones you choose for yourself?"

    This is a corollary to Sevo's law:
    Any time a third party sticks his nose in a free transaction between to parties, at least one, and likely both, of those parties suffer.
    She's proposing to 'protect' our privacy by sticking her nose in there, and it's dollars to doughnuts that the data will end up in the government's hands with far more nefarious ends than Google ever dreamt of.

  • CE||

    Senator Warren could have been written by Ayn Rand.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Ronald Reagan famously declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

    Reagan got the first half right. "Government is not the solution to our problems". However, government is not the problem. No politician would ever speak the real problem's name in public.

    Reagan wouldn't identify the real problem. Ron Paul wouldn't identify the real problem. Rand Paul won't identify the real problem.

    The real problem is the American people, and the correct statement is, "Government is not the solution to our problems. You are the solution to your problems".

    You are the solution to your children's education. You are the solution to being unemployed. You are the solution to your retirement, and you are the solution to your parents' retirement. You are the solution to drug addiction. If your problem is that your children are uneducated, you're unemployed, you haven't saved for your retirement, your parents can't live on their own anymore, and you're addicted to drugs, then the problem isn't the government. The problem is you. You were the only effective solution to avoid your problems, and you are the only effective solution to your problems.

  • creech||

    Sure, but what the "government growers" tell us is that "Y ou are the solution and the action you need to take is to vote for me, cause I'm an expert, and I'll take care of it while you go back to texting your bff or gobbling your organic chicken wings."

  • Ken Shultz||

    As I detailed below, I think the break is that people don't want to take responsibility for their children, parents, and their own well being. As the government takes on more responsibility, people feel less responsible for themselves--and they like that feeling. They don't like the results, but they're highly reluctant to take ownership of their own problems.

    I know a guy. He's divorced. His kids are out of control and can't stand him. He's employed in a menial job--he's bounced around a lot. He lives in a shit hole. It's all somebody else's fault. If you met him in a bar and listened to him talk about his history, you'd think he'd never made a mistake in his life. He's just a victim of other people, the government, etc.

    He's not unusual. He's typical. The libertarian question is how to get people like him to accept responsibility for their own lives. This is where libertarianism meets existentialism.

  • BigT||

    Very true, personal responsibility is out of fashion among progressives and RINOs. But all that does not mean that government is not the problem, just not the only one.

    Is the drug war a problem? Of course, and it's pure government.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The problem with the drug war is that people don't want to take responsibility for their own addiction, and they don't want to take responsibility for protecting their own children. The problem is that people want the government to solve their problems for them.

  • MSimon||

    People definitely need to take responsibility for their own addiction.

    Dr. Lonny Shavelson found that 70% of female heroin addicts were sexually abused in childhood. http://powerandcontrol.blogspo.....eroin.html

    Addiction is a symptom of PTSD. Look it up.

  • MasterThief||

    So much of this. I think your average conservative voter is actually in line with this sentiment. The average democrat voter is 180 degrees opposed. They look to the government to resolve every problem they have/see. Using Reason as an example, the big L libertarians don't actually oppose government either. Ultimately, we fall to shifty republican politicians either not standing up for principle or actively supporting the big gov agenda of democrats. Thankfully we at least have guys like Massie, Paul, and Amash arguing and using principle

  • Ken Shultz||

    All this stuff makes me think of King Lear

    King Lear wants to abdicate the responsibility of taking care of himself in his old age, so he divides his kingdom among the daughters according to the extent that they flatter him.

    They basically send him off to a nursing home.

    We abdicate our responsibility to take care of our own problems because the politicians who say they'll take that burden off of our hands flatter us and make us feel like they care.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The socons in Ohio love big government when it comes to forcing others not to do things they disapprove of. DeWine is a major asshole.

  • BigT||

    Yes, but not as bad as the other guy.

  • Eric||

    I think a lot of conservatives think that they are for small government but aren't if we look at it objectively. Farm subsidies, corporate handouts, military service, military pensions, military contracts, and the protection of "traditional" values all require quite a bit of government. Conservatives just justify their handouts better than dems, because they are more "apple-pie" than "welfare queens".

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    You really are obsessed with a false equivalence between the parties, aren't you? As bad the current GOP leadership is, the democrats are a thousand times worse.

  • Eric||

    It's liberating once you've rid yourself of team blinders. It allows you to see the stones in every eye.

  • MJBinAL||

    It IS liberating ... and generally useless.

    In the real world, you seldom, nearly never, have choices between best and worst. The choices are going to be bad and worse, good and better, or just pretty good and really bad. You seem to be entirely focused on noting that none of the choices are what you want, with what you want defined as perfect.

    It is worth noting that if you refuse to chose between the shades of gray, the long term trend will be towards black.

  • vek||

    I think there are plenty of things to bitch about with the GOP... But the Dems ARE objectively 1000 times worse from a liberty perspective.

    Also, a question to ask yourself: Would the GOP have done half that stuff if the government wasn't already so big, gobbling so much cash anyway? I think their spending would be more restrained if it actually seemed possible to have a balanced budget etc. When you know the Titanic is sinking, might as well get as many glasses of champagne down as you can before it sinks.

    ALSO, there is a MAJOR disconnect between what the shit heel GOP people do in DC... And what the actual GOP voters want, and even what local and state GOP politicians do.

    The DC ones are mostly all garbage. But I know of a TON of awesome local GOP politicians, including governors who ACTUALLY balanced their states budgets etc. And almost every GOP voter I know would be game for cutting government in half, or more.

    As for defense, we NEED an army. It SHOULD be the best in the entire world. But we could probably do that for 200 bil a year instead of 700... It's squabbling about the details for something that actually makes sense fundamentally.

  • AFSlade||

    "It is largely in this way that the progressive conversion of social power into State power becomes acceptable and gets itself accepted. When the Johnstown flood occurred, social power was immediately mobilized and applied with intelligence and vigour. Its abundance, measured by money alone, was so great that when everything was
    finally put in order, something like a million dollars remained. If such a catastrophe happened now, not only is social power perhaps too depleted for the like exercise, but the general instinct would be to let the State see to it. Not only has social power atrophied to that extent, but the disposition to exercise it in that particular direction has atrophied with it. If the State has made such matters its business, and has confiscated the social power necessary to deal with them, why, let it deal with them."

    - Albert J. Nock, "Our Enemy, the State"

    To your point, Ken, perhaps not contradicting it, but placing the moral blame squarely where it belongs. The Great Depression became the cause celebre that justified turning We, the People - all of us, perhaps too willingly - into wards of Government Almighty. It's all been a slide since then, varying only by the pace of he slide.

  • Ricardo Vacilon||

    Brilliant. I'm going to steal it.

  • Ricardo Vacilon||

    Brilliant. I'm going to steal it.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    You're 100 percent right. With freedom comes responsibility. and the current LP will never win anyone over when they talk about freedom without discussing the responsibilities that come with it.

  • Ray McKigney||

    Water runs downhill, sparks fly upward, and governments get bigger.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeap, once the first government official is created, government growth to eventual collapse is inevatable.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The entire subject matter of this book which I recommend.

  • Ray McKigney||

    Added to cart. Thank ye kindly.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I think you'll like it. Any Libertarian would.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Water runs downhill -- it also runs uphill -- ever seen pentstocks?

    Sparks fly upward -- anyone who has ever ground anything knows sparks fly in all other directions too.

    Whereas governments never get smaller except by revolution, usually replaced by a bigger government.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Sparks fly upward -- anyone who has ever ground anything knows sparks fly in all other directions too.

    Grinding or welding, the direction invariably ends up being toward my face.

  • Sevo||

    And when using a cutting torch, the slag will find its way between your sock and the side of your shoe.

  • Deconstructed Potato||

    Good point, I need me some nomex socks.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Surely, there must be an inverse relationship between autonomy and their expectations of what the government is supposed to do.

    Autonomy in this sense is about feeling like your destiny is more or less up to you. Autonomy means that whether you end up successful, living in a home you like, retiring comfortably, etc.--that these things ultimately depend on you. I may have to change jobs because my boss is an idiot, and I may have to move to another part of the country. Ultimately, however, autonomy means that if I choose to work hard and smart and if choose to save and invest my money, eventually, I will be successful in solving the problem of my own future. This is what I'm talking about when I'm talking about autonomy. It's hard to feel like a victim when you feel like your future is up to you.

    When you feel like it's the government's responsibility to educate you, create jobs for you, protect your job for you, and provide for your retirement, you come to believe in the opposite of autonomy--that your destiny is determined by government officials you can't control in a pluralistic society--and you are likely to be highly disappointed in what the government does for you.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This is the key to understanding why people are both highly disappointed in government and yet reluctant to abandon it. I think the reason for that is because they're instinctively reluctant to take responsibility for their own lives. They don't think of themselves as being successful as a result of their own efforts. They hate thinking, "If I'm a failure, is it because of me?". Here's a famous painting of what it feels like when people realize the life they live is up to them:

    Lots of people find the idea of taking responsibility for their own lives horrifying and panic inducing, but it doesn't have to be that way. Autonomy shouldn't be frightening. You are the solution to your own problems. It's the idea that your destiny is determined by forces beyond your control that should be horrifying.

  • BigT||

    Self reliance is fine for most. What about the severely retarded or handicapped? If they don't have very effective family, they could expire. Then people elect government to help. Voluntary charity is better, but charities were always short funds in the era before guv became Big Charity.

    Calibrating the correct size and shape of the safety net ain't easy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    If we stopped squandering so much to have the government try to solve fully capable people's problems for them, we'd have enough to care for the severely retarded many times over--and better than they're cared for now.

    Just because there's an outlier doesn't mean there isn't a general rule.

  • JFree||

    You do know that the biggest impact on charitable giving would be to jack up marginal rates at the top. That's just the fact.

    Charitable giving as % of income is highest among the working poor. It is lowest among the high income - and much of that goes to ego-boosting 'giving' to the opera, arts, etc not to any 'safety net'.

    Even so, when marginal rates are high, the high income give more so that they can get the tax deduction.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Let's not get distracted.

    If we started taking responsibility for solving our own problems rather than funding the government's miserable solutions failures, the hopelessly retarded would probably not starve to death.

    That's what we're talking about, right?

  • JFree||

    I'm not distracted. You are making a mere assumption that in fact is not necessarily true. Based on the commentariat here, those folks WOULD almost certainly starve to death. There's not the remotest sense here that posters have ever done anything in their lives to help anyone less fortunate than they. The opposite - there is a rather smug moralizing contempt that those people are inferior and that 'helping them' would be reinforcing their bad habits. And every Randian I've ever known has the same mindset. Fuck you I've got mine. And BTW - you've also got to protect my property cuz that's the only thing govt is for. Ain't no one here ever called for nullification of property laws.

    That is not the mindset that anyone should take seriously when considering what society/group should do. Any reform of govt welfare is going to occur at the urging of those who are ALREADY doing something and who can therefore identify what govt is doing that is preventing them from doing more. Who can see how those needs are better met privately/voluntarily. It won't come at the urging of those who don't know anything and don't give a shit either.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Based on the commentariat here, those folks WOULD almost certainly starve to death. There's not the remotest sense here that posters have ever done anything in their lives to help anyone less fortunate than they."

    Surely you don't think that assumptions based on the commentariat, here, are more compelling than assumptions based on the fact that Americans gave $410 billion to charity in 2017 and typically give about 2% of GDP going back to since forever.

    The fact is that if people were taking care of their own children, themselves, and their own decrepit parents, private charity would provide more than enough to care for the hopelessly retarded--and even if the government weren't taxing the fuck out of everybody to educate your children for you and take care of your elderly parents for you, they could still tax us for whatever little is necessary to take care of blind and retarded orphans--at a fraction of the taxes we're deprived of today.

    You taking care of your own children and elderly parents does not threaten the hopelessly retarded in any way--your read of the commentariat here notwithstanding.

  • JFree||

    What I'm saying is that the solution is going to have to come from those who are currently doing charity (and mostly from those who are more involved/knowledgeable than just writing a check). Those who are already involved are going to find reasons why the change will be a positive. And yes those changes could easily be libertarian.

    The solution will not come from those who don't even give to charity (this commentariat). Because they are selling moralizing and theories and 'find someone else who gives a fuck'. It is very reasonable to believe that whatever they are selling will be worse. Even more reasonable to just ignore them as the peanut gallery.

  • MJBinAL||

    Charitable giving is much higher for Republicans that Democrats (who generally give nearly nothing) as well.

    It is worthwhile also to separate % given from amount given as well.

  • Ken Shultz||

    P.S. Here are some interesting statistics from Charity Navigator.

    ----Total giving to charitable organizations was $410.02 billion in 2017 (2.1% of GDP). This is an increase of 5.2% in current dollars and 3.0% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2016.

    ----Giving has increased in current dollars every year since 1977, with the exception of three years that saw declines: 1987, 2008 and 2009.

    ----The average year-to-year change in total giving between 1977 and 2017 was an increase of $8.94 billion (in current dollars), making the current-dollar change in total giving between 2016 and 2017 much larger than the 40-year average.

  • Agammamon||

    Is it possible that libertarian arguments about government inefficiency have had the unintended consequence of fueling government's growth?

    Nope. Because for that to happen someone would have to be listening to us.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||


  • Tony||

    I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it's because your premise is faulty. Are we talking about the public sector as a percentage of GDP, regardless of what the money is spent on? How very thrilling.

    Or are we talking about specific programs you don't like? But for the programs you do like, spare no expense. Some of you even advocate spending exponentially more on the judicial branch so we can replace regulations with torts.

    I'm sure you must want to spend the extra public money to take care of pollution complaints and aren't cynically proposing something ludicrous in order to cede more power to harm to powerful private interests. For that matter, I'm sure that all the bitching about the social safety net and the classism and even racism required to inform your rhetoric against it ("free stuff!" never refers to tax differentials that benefit the wealthy).

    Just defend your policy proposals on their evidence-based merits and stop with the lame, childish "it's too big!" stuff. Especially if you want to Build a Wall.

  • Sevo||

    I hope this is clear enough for the resident caveman to understand:
    The overall size of the government, and the resultant impact on lives is the subject under discussion, regardless of you special pleading regarding those areas where *you* really prefer your hired thugs to enforce things.
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • Tony||

    I want to thank you for your ceaseless penetrating and witty insights.

  • Sevo||

    "I want to thank you for your ceaseless penetrating and witty insights."

    You're more than welcome; you deserve every bit and more.
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • ace_m82||

    How big of a government would be too big, Tony?

  • Sam Grove||

    Government is like Audrey II, the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.
    It began to feed itself.
    That's what political governments do. They are self feeding monsters.

  • JFree||

    Libertarian ideas will result in smaller government if a woman is ever found to present them.

  • BigT||

    We need a Maggie Thatcher!!

  • JFree||

    Yes but a very different personality/background. The main issue on Thatcher's plate then was denationalization and taking down the union stranglehold on the economy. Unlike the US, the UK had actual socialism and a combative personality was needed.

    We have a smaller but more subtle problem - centralization and no vision of what an alternative 'social welfare' or 'safety net' looks like. Which is gonna take more of a Reagan personality/vision but governor experience with actual libertarian cred. But it's gonna have to be women voters who buy that alternative vision since they are otherwise the ones who will be coerced into 'doing that work for free'. IOW - women actually understand that the welfare state liberates them from household/family servitude - and they ain't going back. And unfortunately even though its a smaller problem to deal with, I don't see anyone who's ever done that.

  • Let freedom ring||

    "Libertarians should be championing ideas that foster personal autonomy ". If only.
    There are two economic reasons behind the growth of government- central banking, and the income tax. Individuals can find alternatives to government monetary monopoly power in crypto currencies and other strategies. But how to get around fueling the welfare/warfare state by paying income tax?
    In my blog , or " Tax Honesty" , I have tried to illustrate (without a lot of statutory quotes)ihow what I call the "libertarian/conservative establishment", is clueless about the income tax. I also point out how the original
    Tax Honesty" movement, while it brilliantly pointed out the legal and constitutional problems with the tax, often provided the wrong tactical strategy, which I termed, don't file, don't pay and force them to prove their jurisdiction in the courts. The leading proponents of this strategy, like Irwin Schiff, father of Peter, wound up in prison and or bankrupt. Federal judges and US attorneys simply refused to obey the law as it is written, and juries could not see through their devious tactics.
    So, libertarians continue to mouth childish slogans like"abolish the IRS", or else propose a flat tax or a fair tax that attempts to make the tax simpler, ie, more convenient, but does nothing to preserve the Constitution or the rule of law. (Continued)

  • Sevo||

    "Federal judges and US attorneys simply refused to obey the law as it is written, and juries could not see through their devious tactics."

    They are saving space for you in prison.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    OK, basic human nature.

    People are afraid, or at least suspicious, of others, especially others that are different. (Up yours, diversity). Thus low social trust.

    People are lazy, and will readily off-load effort and responsibilities. Thus support for ever growing and micro-level interfering private and government agencies.

    People are afraid in general, or at least easily convinced to be afraid. Thus support for authoritarian government.

    People, especially most born after 1970, have been overly protected and pandered. Thus a desire for a nanny state.

    People are simple emotional animals, and respond mostly to patently false information. Thus obvious methods of manipulation by candidates and elected officials.

    You want less government? You want people to be autonomous, intelligent, brave, and willing to work hard and take responsibility? Good luck.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Sad to say, I see the truth that you speak...

  • Let freedom ring||

    Then in 1996 taxpayers forced the insurgent Republican Congress to hold hearings on the income tax, in which IRS abuses were dramatically illustrated. The primary issue involved the burden of proof. Why did the IRS force the burden of proof to be on the taxpayer, and not themselves, in an audit? Congress passed laws that said the way to overcome the burden of proof was to Challenge the information returns, the W-2 and 1099 forms. But the laws did not specify how to challenge them, or why. Surely if the dispute was simply over the amount of the tax, an accounting error for example, this was not a revolutionary idea.
    Then in 2003, a libertarian named Pete Hendrickson filed the first "educated" return, in which the IRS form used to dispute the information returns was filed along with a 1040, claiming zero taxable income. And complete refunds of all withholdings, state and federal, even payroll taxes, began rolling in. 14 years later, tens of thousands of such refunds make Hendrickson the most successful Tax Honesty advocate ever.
    Yet, the libertarian conservative establishment refuses to join him. Pete's strategy is met with indifffrence or even hostility by the libertarian/conservative establishment. Why? See
    ' s actively

  • Dillinger||

    >>>Why did the IRS force the burden of proof to be on the taxpayer ...?

    criminal in itself. repeal the 16th.

  • Let freedom ring||

    Then in 1996 taxpayers forced the insurgent Republican Congress to hold hearings on the income tax, in which IRS abuses were dramatically illustrated. The primary issue involved the burden of proof. Why did the IRS force the burden of proof to be on the taxpayer, and not themselves, in an audit? Congress passed laws that said the way to overcome the burden of proof was to Challenge the information returns, the W-2 and 1099 forms. But the laws did not specify how to challenge them, or why. Surely if the dispute was simply over the amount of the tax, an accounting error for example, this was not a revolutionary idea.
    Then in 2003, a libertarian named Pete Hendrickson filed the first "educated" return, in which the IRS form used to dispute the information returns was filed along with a 1040, claiming zero taxable income. And complete refunds of all withholdings, state and federal, even payroll taxes, began rolling in. 14 years later, tens of thousands of such refunds make Hendrickson the most successful Tax Honesty advocate ever.
    Yet, the libertarian conservative establishment refuses to join him. Pete's strategy is met with indifffrence or even hostility by the libertarian/conservative establishment. Why? See
    ' s actively

  • No Yards Penalty||

    My takeaway from all that polling is that people are too stupid to be trusted with the franchise.
    Voting should be for property owners only. Society's leeches should get no say whatsoever.

  • SQRLSY One||

    How about, votes allocated per taxes paid?

    That's roughly how corporations and shareholders work, and corporations behave far more responsibly than Government Almighty, much of the time, IMHO... Corporations don't suffer nearly as much from the freeloaders at least...

  • vek||

    Pretty much.

    The founding fathers were SMARTER and more thoughtful than those that came after them. They restricted voting to white male landowners FOR A REASON. Because they paid the taxes that supported the government for one, hence some sort of net positive tax payer requirement would be legit.

    Also being a property owning male back then was likely to correlate with being at least more educated than average. Nowadays, perhaps a history/civics test?

    Finally, men... Because women are too emotional to be trusted with voting. Their voting record since they got the vote proves you cannot have a small government with women voting... Period. "But what about the children!" works on the majority of them EVERY SINGLE TIME. You ultra egalitarians can bitch all you want about reality being what it is, but it is simply a fact.

    MAYBE if you had tax and education requirements, the women that passed those might be legit, because it is not ALL women that are mush brains.

    Any way you want to slice it, universal suffrage is THE primary problem since it has been brought into being. If we had nothing but educated net tax payers voting, we'd straighten the country out in 5 years. If we don't, it'll never happen without a war.

  • Tony||

    How about people as fucking insane as you don't get to vote and the rest of us do?

  • MSimon||

    You are not a person?


  • vek||

    Aaaaaand name anything I said that isn't true?

    Not all facts are pleasant. Women ARE more emotional in their thinking, study after study has shown this scientifically. Therefore if you want logic dictating policy, women voting will get you less of that sort of thing.

    Likewise letting 85 IQ morons who can't even speak proper English, or know what year the damn country was founded should NOT be voting. That was the INTENT of the way they structured the laws. Prevent idiots from voting.

    I am perfectly fine with gender and color blind rules that bar uneducated morons from voting. I just so happen to know, from statistics, that this will leave a strong majority of high income men being the voters... What demographic is the only one that actually likes smaller government again...??? Oh yeah, men. Especially high income men.

    So I'm cool with that.

  • Rich||

    Obviously the solution is a Constitutional amendment to the effect that if two-thirds of the population does not trust the government then then a special election is held for Supreme Dictator.

  • Longtobefree||

    Actually, no socialist, few 'liberals', and several 'conservatives disagree that government is a hot mess.
    A majority of the US populations, legal and otherwise, think government is doing fine, and would do better if we whiners would shut up and pay our taxes.

    The basic fact is that statists will always increase the government, and the use of government force; individualists will always try to decrease government and reduce government force. But you cannot force people to be free, you can only force them to be un-free.

  • Eddy||

    As the saying goes, "do unto others before they do unto you."

    If you think the government is crooked, yet vastly powerful, then it's rational to get the powerful crooks on your side, screwing your enemies, otherwise they'll be on your enemies' side, screwing you.

  • Eddy||

    Not moral, just rational. (I hope I didn't stir up too many philosophical debates)

  • CE||

    people hated the government more in the 1970s. I was there.

    Reagan got the right to love America again.
    Clinton and Obama got the left to love America again.
    Bush didn't do much, but his administration's security lapse got Americans to love fascism again.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    All this distrust in government and the LP still pulled less than 4% in the last presidential election.

    I say that people are naturally inclined to statism. And that's because it works for most people. And has throughout history.

    And that's in spite of the manifest evils that can come from giving people coercive power. And in spite of the failures of government to do even the basic things it's "supposed" to do.

    There's a term in economics called "revealed preference" and it applies to the political realm as well.

    We have over 5000 years of history to draw from and we see people creating explicitly or allowing to happen various forms of coercive government with which to organize their societies around. This isn't a fluke or coincidence. It keeps happening. Therefore it must have a utility that is greater than the potential downsides.

    Now if people were naturally inclined to libertarianism it would be very difficult to create a government or to keep it extant, let alone cause it to grow.

    So be insulting to or psychoanalyze people all you want, the inclination towards statism is not going to disappear.

    Therefore trying to convince people to reduce government from a large size to a small size or eliminate it all together is not a workable solution.

    Concentrate on eliminating specific things within the coercive framework. Things like the drug war, gun control, excessive regulation and taxation. Reduce the scope piece by piece.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    In other words: Contra-Thoreau, stop striking at the root and focus on the branches.

    The roots ain't going away and it's the branches that actively do the evil.

  • Tony||

    Good advice. But in defense of libertarians, many of their ideas have informed Republican party politics for a generation or two now. The party duopoly is a separate issue, and we can't get out of it at the moment. I don't find this to be a terrible crisis; it just means you pick one and make yourself as powerful a constituency in it as you can. Republicans have not succeeded in ushering in a small government. In fact, they tend to grow it more than Democrats in terms of dollars spent, but they do cut taxes and regulations on corporations every chance they get, and that's something, I guess.

  • Rich||

    We have over 5000 years of history to draw from and we see people creating explicitly or allowing to happen various forms of coercive government with which to organize their societies around. This isn't a fluke or coincidence. It keeps happening. Therefore it must have a utility that is greater than the potential downsides.

    Suppose for the sake of discussion we replace "forms of coercive government with which to organize their societies around" with "physiological diseases". Would we claim those diseases have a utility that is greater than the potential downsides? Perhaps people have not yet discovered the knowledge or developed the technology that enables non-coercive government.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    I don't see how "physiological diseases" could provide a system of organization.

    Perhaps people have not yet discovered the knowledge or developed the technology that enables non-coercive government.

    This may be, but so far, at every stage of technological development government has survived. Whatever development that would cause government to recede would have to be categorical in nature and be unstoppable in it's spread.

    Years ago I thought it would be the internet. I was wrong. It was categorical and unstoppable, yet here we are.

    Bitcoin or alt-coins didn't do it. And won't.

    Perhaps some amazing revolution in personal transportation? The easier it is to move about that harder it is for governments to control you.

    Maybe someone comes up with some longevity advance and we all realize that since we can now live to be 200+ years old we all calm down since we have so much more time to get things done. And a calmer, less needy population may have less need for a government.

    I'm open to those possibilities I just don;t think they're likely.

  • Rich||

    I don't see how "physiological diseases" could provide a system of organization.

    A fatal pandemic?

    Seriously, decent response. 8-)

  • Brian||

    "We have over 5000 years of history to draw from and we see people creating explicitly or allowing to happen various forms of..."


    How far does that argument go, really?

  • Trigger Warning||

    All the way to dick pics.

  • Brian||

    If people treated the institution of government the way they treat religion, we would expect an ever-growing population of atheist/anarchists.

  • vek||

    "I say that people are naturally inclined to statism. And that's because it works for most people. And has throughout history."

    You're totally correct. Here's the thing that libertarians like to ignore: SOME abuses of the NAP make the world a BETTER place, as far as most people are concerned. I am TOTALLY down with violating the NAP on a couple issues, because it would make America a FAR NICER place to live. FUCK low skill immigrants. They can pound sand in their native shitholes. I don't want or need their bullshit here in MY country.

    Likewise, having some form of collective action is a VASTLY better system than actual anarchy for surviving and thriving. Having a collective defense, or indeed going on the offensive against those with shit you want to take, it 100% rational and practical often times. Europeans taking the Americas from the Indians was a FUCKING AWESOME IDEA. It worked amazingly.

    So, the reason we have this natural inclination is because IT WORKS in certain spheres at certain times. The PROBLEM is that this inclination makes us try to use collectivism in the other 99% of areas where it does far more harm than good. But I agree that it is hard wired in, and there ain't shit all to be done about it. We brain washed people in the USA in a GOOD WAY for a couple hundred years, and were juuust barely able to hold it together. Without brainwashing from birth, humans are inclined towards pretty top heavy systems IMO.

  • chipper me timbers||

    Goddammit all these fucking racists make us libertarians look bad. Jesus.

  • Nardz||

    Don't see any racism there, chipper.
    Care to elaborate?

  • vek||

    You mean the part Mexican and part Native American dude who is cool with the fact that his European ancestors won the war over the Americas instead of his Native ancestors? It's simply a fact that the Americas are far wealthier and better off. And the world at large too. The world might have ended up with 2 more Africas in North and South America if they hadn't been taken over, we'll never know.

    As for immigration... I'm okay with non whites coming here, if they're educated and not murderers and rapists.

    Soooo, what were you saying again?

  • IceTrey||

    It's quite simple. The problem is the government initiating force. The solution is to prohibit it from doing so.

  • JeremyR||

    Because people always want more free stuff from the government and for the government to handle things they think are problems.

    The trouble is that different people want different free stuff and different problems handled.

  • Cloudbuster||

    A respectable and growing body of research shows that as societies move from relatively high to lower levels of trust, citizens counterintuitively call for greater and greater levels of government involvement in their lives.

    And what made US society low-trust?

    Diversity and multi-culturalism. Reducing the majority White share of the population from more than 87% around 1960 to about 61% now and falling, entirely because of mass immigration. One of the largest demographic shifts in such a short time in world history.

    Populations that don't share a common culture trust each other less, and demand more government mediation between them. Polls also show that immigrants don't trend libertarian at all -- most immigrants are bringing their big government, redistributionist politics with them. Turns out that libertarianism is almost entirely a phenomenon of Western Civilization.

    Yet this article only addresses immigration once, to call Trump paranoid.


  • vek||

    Yup. You are 100% correct on all this. The culture of the USA has been completely shattered, and we have nothing to bond us together anymore. This makes people basically feel fatalistic about everything, even if the economy is going well.

    Sure, I want low taxes and regulations... But I am more freaked out about the future over all THE OTHER shit that is going wrong with our civilization. It has completely come apart at the seams, and is turning into a completely non functional dumpster fire before my eyes. So really, I don't give a fuck how the economy is doing if all our guns our going to be taken away, my entire culture is literally destroyed by sick leftists propaganda, my nation is going to tear down statues of all our heros because they're evil white men, etc etc etc. These things are ALL far more troubling than if the GDP grows at 2% or 3%.

  • chipper me timbers||

    I almost have to wonder if you're just a rabid lefty Dem partisan trolling here with this racist nonsense.

    No, the reason people trust government less is NOT because their neighbors aren't white. WTF.

  • Nardz||

    Chipper, why not present an argument?
    Instead, you just sound like a reflexively progressive little bitch

  • vek||

    Actually chipper, every single study ever done on the subject shows EXACTLY that.

    Not just white people mind you. Blacks trust more and feel safer around other blacks. Asians the same. It's hard wired into our biology. We consciously fight this, but it is still there churning in the back of our brains.

    Haven't you seen the libertarian studies that were arguing that the lack of trust in America created by our greater diversity is probably one of the reasons whites are so against a social safety net? Because the money goes to "the others" instead of "our own" people? Cuz that's a thing. Reason even wrote articles about it. Leftists use these facts to support their all white people are racist narrative too, ignoring that the results showed ALL groups have in group preference.

  • vek||

    As I said in my post immediately above this, it's not JUST the economy. This is a completely retarded thing that many libertarians seem to really believe...

    People care MORE about other things than GDP growth. Seeing the entire American culture being shredded before my eyes is FAR more troubling than the top marginal tax rate. Watching shit heel commies demand we tear down statues of founding fathers, which is happening now, is FAR worse than the rate the GDP is growing, because it is a symptom of larger and greater problems: That people want to destroy EVERYTHING this country stood for.

    You morons don't even seem to grasp that this is what is REALLY troubling most of the country. A sense of having their country taken away from them. Feeling like you have a place and belong in the world is more important to a persons soul than if their paycheck went up 2% or 3% this year. Many people don't even consciously realize this is why they feel so uneasy about things, but mark my words their subconscious knows.

    As I've said numerous times, we're either heading for a peaceful secession or a violent civil war IMO. We have all the signs that always show up before countries have civil wars or collapse. MAYBE if the leftist coalition completely shattered into a million pieces due to infighting we might avoid it... But I don't see it happening.

  • IceTrey||

    Now you know how the Natives felt.

  • Skyhawk||

    You mean the primitive tribes that were constantly warring against each other, who lacked a single cohesive culture and civilization?

  • vek||

    Pretty much. I have native on both sides. I am totally fine with my white ancestors conquering the Americas. I think we're better off for it. But it obviously did suck for Indians at the time.

    The thing that is infuriating about it this time though is this: The Indians didn't have a choice... They were not strong enough to hold their land from Europeans.

    WE CAN. We're destroying ourselves out of misguided, altruistic, bullshit, feelz based thinking. And in 30 years everybody will realize how big a mistake it was, and what an amazing thing we destroyed. The problem is many know it now, and have known it for decades... We're basically at the point of no return now in the USA. We're probably already fucked, sans splitting the nation.

    But Europe can still save itself if they come to their senses.

  • afk05||

    Tear down statues of founding fathers? I hate commies, but I haven't heard of too many people tearing down statues of Washington, Jefferson, Madison or Hamilton.

  • vek||

    Google it. When all the hoopla about confederate monuments being torn down started up, people said "Next they'll be coming for the founders because they were white males, and many owned slaves... Slipper slope etc." and sure enough people have started calling for it. People have called for Jefferson statues to be removed. None have been that I know of, but the mere fact that people are demanding it is terrifying.

    We say it's ridiculous now, and it'll never happen... But people said the same about things like General Lee statues. And we see where that went.

  • eyeroller||

    Earth to Nick Gillespie: libertarians are not causing the government to get bigger.

  • Tony||

    If you go by the libertarians who make up 90% of the commenters here, they sure are, because they all vote for Republicans.

    And defend their every misdeed until it makes us all uncomfortable. And they don't neglect the balls.

  • ace_m82||

    If you vote for (almost all) Republicans, you are likely responsible for bigger government.

    You are correct, Tony.

  • TJJ2000||

    If you vote for (almost all) Democrats, you are likely responsible for bigger government.

    You are both spouting, "Uh, UP is really DOWN", propaganda. Which platform is based on "Limited Government" again?

  • Rockabilly||

    But AOC and Bill Nye says the goober mint isn't big enough and can save the world only if we can dream.

    AOC Surprised by Bill Nye at SXSW

  • Tony||

    If only Democrats could have real scientists on their side like noted geologist Pat Robertson.

  • Rockabilly||

    They make a cute couple. Their offspring will save the earth for the transgender seals.

  • Brandybuck||

    Bill Nye the Nice Guy. It's a nice guy, and generally pretty smart. But he's an entertainer and science educator, not an economist. He's actually far far over on the kooky green end of the spectrum. He's green only because he is naive in thinking a green economy will be run by rational people only looking out for the good of others.

    Just like actors need to stick to acting instead of advising politicians, Bill Nye needs to stick to science programs instead of imagining he can run the world.

  • Nardz||

    I've seen no evidence that bill nye is a nice guy.

  • ace_m82||

    Needs a little lesson on Bastiat's "Seen vs Unseen"

  • Ben45||

    Whenever, I see conclusions based on data that do not match my intuition, I assume that the authors are making a correlation equals causality mistake. As others have mentioned in the comments, I think that applies to the study Nick Gilliespie used as the basis for his article.

  • afk05||

    Your intuition is inherently biased. Not acknowledging our biases and being cognizant of them is how we get in this mess.

  • TJJ2000||

    Modern day so called "science" in politics which is 99% of the time paid for by special interest to get the "right" result based on epidemiological or statistical cherry-picking study cases which generally cannot even meet the most gullible significance --- Is how we got into this mess.

    Look no further than the climate warming or should I say cooling or heck just "changing" hoaxes.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "A respectable and growing body of research shows that as societies move from relatively high to lower levels of trust, citizens counterintuitively call for greater and greater levels of government involvement in their lives"

    Nick conflates a low trust *society* with low trust in *government*.

    The US used to be a high trust society, with low trust in government, and a very small government, with widespread support for keeping the government small.

    You know what lowers trust in society? Diversity.
    You know what makes for big government? Importing big government voters.

    Import Not Americans
    Become Not America

  • Brandybuck||

    We have more government because we can afford more government. It's as simple as that.

    Ancient governments did rule over their subjects in ways that are hard to imagine today, but the size of those governments was small compared to day. Taxes were much lower, regulations almost non-existent. It was corrupt and violent and but small. Today we have massive, but mostly non-violent and rule abiding government. That doesn't make it moral however.

    As one of the privileged few (white, male, keeps my head down) I have only had to interact with the government twice in the past year, both times using online forms. Even if I were not privileged, we still live in one of the most freest societies in all of history. Our lives have long since ceased being nasty, brutish, and short.

    We would be doing much better, we would be living in an amazing time, if only government was much smaller. But other than we weirdo libertarians, people actually want government. And the wealth of our society gets people all the government they can afford. Society always gets the most government they can afford.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    Properly using small government prevents large scale wasteful governments. An example would be immigration reform, including a wall that funnels all southern border immigrants to a checkpoint before entry. But the leftists around here refuse to acknowledge this small governance would result in less overall governance, and use terms like racism and SLAVER to beat down anyone who lives in the real world.

    In the post-modern era, leftists are free to be delusional about the real world, and blame the successful countries for the problems of the shitholes

  • Skyhawk||

    And yet, Reason continues to advocate for the unfettered invasion of the world's low IQ and low skilled poor, which requires more government services for police, EFL public school teachers, more prisons, prison guards, more social workers, etc. and more confiscated tax money for redistribution for healthcare, welfare, section 8, food stamps, child care, WIC, SNAP, etc.

  • Architect of Liberty||

    The jacket sez:

    "But there is an interesting disconnect in public opinion, with two-thirds of Americans believing that the country is headed in the wrong direction and about the same fraction saying that the economy is headed in the right direction. According to a poll conducted by CBS News in January, during the monthlong partial shutdown of the federal government, the top reason people cited as evidence that we're going the wrong way is "the state of politics and government" (64 percent)".

    I sez:

    Too many folks equate the condition of the "country" with the current condition of "Government" or "politics". These folks need to quit wrapping the status of their own lives around what's going on in DC -- they will be healthier for it.

  • 2VNews||

    Top 6 ideas for new constitutional amendments:

    1) Make government involvement in education and tuition illegal at all levels of government. Only direct financial assistance (cash/voucher) at the state and local levels for those who qualify should be allowed.
    2) Abolish the Federal Reserve. Make government (even quasi-government) involvement in banking, money and interest rates illegal at all levels of government.
    3) Abolish the tax code. Make taxing income, assets and property illegal at all levels of government. Only sales tax should be allowed at any level of government.
    4) Make government run entitlements illegal at all levels of government. Only direct financial assistance (cash/voucher) at the state and local levels for those who qualify should be allowed.
    5) End the drug war. Make it illegal for government to regulate the personal consumption of products by adults at all levels of government.
    6) Make minimum wage laws illegal at all levels of government. Make it illegal for government to dictate terms of employment at all levels of government.

  • TJJ2000||

    1) Socialized education is already UN-Constitutional
    2) Fiat money is already UN-Constitutional
    3) Yes, abolish the 16th Amendment
    4) Entitlements are ALREADY UN-Constitutional
    5) Federal drug law is already UN-Constitutional
    6) Minimum wage is already UN-Constitional

    So short of income tax - Find a way to enforce the Constitution so Judges don't rule >

    A central basis of these challenges is that the "individual mandate," the reform law's requirement that all Americans have health coverage, is illegal because the government can't compel citizens into economic activity. Judge Collyer's ruling suggests that the government may already have been doing this in the area of health care for the past 46 years. you-cant-opt-out-of-medicare-without- losing-social-security-judge-rules-9017

  • Disenchanted libertarian||

    Reading this was a great waste of my time!!!!!!!!!

  • afk05||

    Not to get all philosophical, but we don't trust anyone or anything anymore. Government is the primary focus of libertarians and some conservatives, but we don't trust corporations (even if we trust small businesses and we trust actual capitalism) and we don't trust one another.

    Between 24/7 news, media, social media and general information overload, as well as the 2008 recession and Too Big To Fail, most people have become skeptical of everyone and everything. The only reason people want more government is because they trust corporatism and the sanity, safety and decision making of their fellow humans just as little, and they want government to be able to do something to keep them safe when their personal weapons aren't enough.

    People were pissed at the government for bailing out the banks in 2008, and we all know that politicians are self-serving scum owned by corporations and fueled by cronyism, but what are the alternatives? Amazon and Apple will soon become one big megacorp and if we don't like their employment contract or their products, well, screw you.

    With better knowledge, information and awareness, we are learning that most people are far more fucked up, angry, unhinged or just flat out strange than we ever suspected, and the 1950's idealism has been shattered. As much as we despise it, we still need the cops and the judges and the food inspectors to stand in between us and them.

  • Morgan44||

    The only way to reduce the size of the federal government is to charge people for the actual cost. Too many people get a lot of government without having to pay for it...including many taxpayers. When people are charged, i.e., taxed, for all this government they appear to want, only then will they begin to question whether they really need all of it. As long as the federal government can continue to borrow, politicians never have to ask people to pay the full bill. Whether all this borrowing will eventually wreak havoc is an ongoing debate. But I don't think it's debatable that it's really the only way the federal government can continue to get bigger without much pushback from the citizenry.

  • EWM||

    Unless you are riding the moral high ground, you're going to be ignored or ridiculed. Calling for small thieves or murderers is not the same as calling for zero thieves or murders.

  • John McElroy||

    No one wants their piece of pork eliminated, so no pork ever gets eliminated, kind of a NIMBY.

  • tlapp||

    A nation of fools. They put their trust and vote themselves into government dependency. Then when the problems arise they ask the same government to fix it.

  • Tweak||

    Most people are terrified of accepting responsibility for their own lives, because if they end up not being happy they cannot blame their misery on circumstances, government, or anything else but themselves.

    Often what we resist persists. I'm not using that phrase as a defeatist mantra here either.