Why Government is Mistrusted

This is not about government that is so often counterproductive, incompetent, or corrupt. It is not about anonymous bureaucrats making irresponsible or selfish decisions. It is about We the People taking care of each other, as we would want to be taken care of. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his second inaugural address (1937):

“Democratic government has the innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable… a strong government with powers of united action sufficient then and now to solve problems utterly beyond individual or local solution.”


Why Government is Mistrusted

Mistrust of government is now commonly accepted in this country. Not commonly known, however, is how and why that mistrust came about. It was orchestrated by the economic interests and turned into a powerful propaganda drumbeat by right-of-center think tanks, the media, and certain religious organizations.

The purpose of that effort was to take away hope from the people, that the one institution that can effectively control greed is sidelined. This is not just my own observation. Many writers and political scientists have so concluded.

In Edward S. Herman’s Triumph of the Market: Essays on Economics, Politics, and the Media, he explains how we have gotten to the “now almost universal acceptance of market exchanges and private ownership as the exclusive way of organizing economic life.” Other options, like use of government for public purposes have been muscled off the stage. In his words:

“In brief, markets, money, and the media now work in tandem to allow substantial change in institutional arrangements and policies only where this will serve the larger corporate interest (now called the ‘national interest’), but quickly quash threats to those interests posed by political leaders responsive to popular demands (i.e., the ‘special interests’).

A massive propaganda campaign has successfully inculcated the idea that Big Government is the source of our problems, with spending for social reform a pernicious manifestation of out-of-control government – an ideological/propaganda coup that discredits government actions that benefit ordinary citizens.

“Ordinary citizens will gradually lose interest in the election game, cynically write off politics and politicians, and withdraw from the political arena. They are disillusioned and angry, but they seem to have lost in a fair electoral fight (at least this is the impression conveyed by the mainstream media.)”

The idea that government cannot function is pure propaganda and quite at variance with the truth. How does one counter such propaganda? By reading and speaking out on the point. The weakness of a propaganda-supported position is that, in time, its woven message unravels, unable to cover up realities that loom ever larger behind a false facade.

In the context of the environment, the realities that loom ever larger behind the facade include increases in disease and disability, loss of educability, and a decline of consciousness itself. The idea that AT&T and General Motors are going to fix that is a tissue thin lie. Only government can do that.

– Michael Diamond

Domestic Violence Clause