Robert Reich, the cause of the decline in trust in government - Used under Creative Commons License

Robert Reich tells us two things in one of his recent commentaries on the state of the nation. Two things which together could make us conclude that Robert Reich is responsible for the decline in trust in government over the past century:

Why the Common Good Disappeared (And How We Get it Back)
In 1963 over 70 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing all or most of the time; nowadays only 16 percent do.

I started my career a half-century ago in the Senate office of Robert F. Kennedy, when the common good was well understood, and I’ve watched it unravel over the last half-century.

Resurrecting it may take another half century, or more. But as the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.“

From which we could and should conclude that Robert Reich’s entry into politics was correlated with the beginning of that decline, it’s been continuing all through the period of his political activity and he himself insists that trust in government will increase as he exits the process. He’s caused it all in short.

Fair and reasonable though that may be as an idea it is also cheap and not quite right. No one truly does believe that Reich’s influence has been quite that malevolent. Not quite.

But it is entirely possible for us to very slightly recast this argument to make it correct. For the 1960s are the end of small government and the beginning of large. Once we excise the amount spent on defence, something that was a rather large portion of the economy during WWII and still in Korea, that’s when government expansion really started. And the Federal government didn’t really have much to do with, other than those defence issues and the post office, anyone’s daily lives until roughly that sorta start date.

So Reich’s real contention, the one we can indeed observe to be true, is that Americans’ trust in government has declined as Americans have had more government. Hey, works for us. We can also prescribe the cure. Government should retreat to doing only those things which both must be done and can only be done by government and trust will increase. For we would all trust something which only did those things which it could do well, which would be done worse by other methods, more than something bloated and over extended into gross and abject inefficiency, wouldn’t we?

Note that it’s not true that there’s a decline in trust and or community in more general terms. As Reich points out:

The question is whether we can restore the common good. Can the system be made to work for the good of all?

Some of you may feel such a quest to be hopeless. The era we are living in offers too many illustrations of greed, narcissism, and hatefulness. But I don’t believe it hopeless.

Almost every day I witness or hear of the compassion of ordinary Americans – like the thousands who helped people displaced by the wildfires in California and floods in Louisiana; like the two men in Seattle who gave their lives trying to protect a young Muslim woman from a hate-filled assault; like the coach who lost his life in Parkland, Florida, trying to shield students from a gunman; like the teenagers who are demanding that Florida legislators take action on guns.

The challenge is to turn all this into a new public spiritedness extending to the highest reaches in the land – a public morality that strengthens our democracy, makes our economy work for everyone, and revives trust in the major institutions of America.

The basics exist as strongly as they ever did. It’s the trust in government that has gone, not the trust in humanity, neighbourliness, community or friendship. It’s not, despite the above goading, all that difficult to believe that the reason for this is the quantity and quality of government Americans have been getting these past five decades, is it? Have less of it and better and perhaps it will return?

That is, the cure for the decline in trust in the Federal Government is minarchy. On the grounds that what the Federal Government currently does pisses off a large number of people, it does less and equanimity will return.

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Spike
Member

Like the famous definition of pornography, Reich cannot define the “common good” but knows it when he sees it; more-or-less, that we cease to pursue our values and commence to pursuing the more high-minded ones of the Busybody Class. For most federal power, there is no concept of “common good” and the power’s only utility is for sale to the highest-bidding private interest. (Rick Perry once vowed to eliminate the Department of Energy, though he famously forgot its name; now, as its Secretary, he merely wants to flip subsidies away from solar and back to oil and gas.) During Obama,… Read more »

Tommydog
Member
Tommydog

“He’s caused it all in short.’

Hmmm. Perhaps we should appreciate him a bit more then.

BniC
Member
BniC

Wasn’t it Reagan that said the most frightening sentence was ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you’

Mr Ecks
Member
Mr Ecks

The same old sanctimonious Marxian cockrot. Young, blubbering teenage snot whining about guns: socialism has murdered millions of teenagers–and the rest of their families-over the past 100 years. I’d bet those teens would have been very glad to get their hands on some firepower. The speech itself gives the clue to the growing distrust–rapidly turning into hatred–for the scum of the state. Well-off, middle-class, cultural Marxist scum now think they own us all and we should live our lives at their instruction. There can be “Can’t we all get along together?” with the evil of socialism. The only people socialism… Read more »

jgh
Member
jgh

As the USA is a federation of sovereign members, surely this can be empirically tested. Which states have the smallest/largest government, and which states have the least/greatest trust in government, and is there any correlation.

So Much For Subtlety
Guest
So Much For Subtlety

He started working for Bobby Kennedy when America was almost entirely White, solidly middle class and middle of the road in its values, and Leftists by and large did not wish for America to lose wars. But that all changed. Naturally public values change too. What is he really trying to say though? He reaches for examples of public spiritedness: Almost every day I witness or hear of the compassion of ordinary Americans – like the thousands who helped people displaced by the wildfires in California and floods in Louisiana; like the two men in Seattle who gave their lives… Read more »

Ljh
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Ljh

On the most recent shooting the salient points are that government’s representatives failed: The education authorities preferred that its young charges escape getting prison records which enabled young Cruz to get clearance to buy guns despite suspension, an order that he cannot enter wearing a back pack prior to his eventual exclusion. The local police authority, summoned over 30 times to his home, never entered so much as a question mark against his character. That same police authority had four armed deputies hanging around outside when their neighbouring authority’s team arrived and entered the school building. The FBI failed to… Read more »

Ljh
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Ljh

Edit facility please!