Big government: An American vs. European view

This is a link to a recent poll of U.S. adults regarding the government: only about 22% trust or usually trust the government. A similarly small number would feel better if the government reduced services and intervention into local matters.

An accompanying AP article quoted an academician that while some of this backlash is due to the current administration, as much of it is due to the bad economy inherited from the previous administration. That’s easy enough to buy.

A few weeks ago, and I wish I had a link, there was an article that interviewed several Europeans (both government officials and people on the street), applauding America’s willingness to join the 20th century regarding health care.

For a moment, let’s set aside the debate as to whether of not this is going to be a long term good thing for the economy or something that will leave America searching high and wide for doctors willing to work for far less pay while keeping malpractice premiums as high. I have seen both scenarios spelled out, and I am skeptical of both.

My studies of Europe and its relation to government (not so much from books, but in talking to people who either are from Europe, or who spend substantial time there) is something akin to a child and parent or little sibling to bigger sibling. Margaret Thatcher took an extreme view, describing this as something more like child and nanny. Historically, American citizens have looked at their relationship with government akin to the neighborhood pit bull: something that does occasional good by keeping the thieves at bay, but something that needs to be on a chain, watched carefully, and never trusted to act like a kindly puppy.

I suspect that as Western Europe bought more and more into socialism this drove a spike between societies on each side of the Atlantic (I strongly suspect that the level of distrust or lack of respect would have grown sooner had the Cold War not been going on). I suspect this helps to explain why Eastern European nations are more likely to at least understand Americans: most of them have recent memories of governments that were not working in the best interests of their citizens, and while these nations retain certain levels of socialism, there is a mutual understanding of not trusting government.

So … right now it is pretty clear that a lot of people are not impressed with the government … and as stated, that is not necessarily a complete reflection on the current president and his ideas, as some of it is a holdover from the previous dufus to helm the government. However, no matter why people distrust the government, this always bodes poorly for the current folks in power.  To be sure, John McCain was running uphill in the last election as the outgoing Republican had done a lot to run the nation into the ground at just about every level. Now, Mr. Obama could bear the brunt of this when some of his Democrats get voted out this autumn.  While I find it unlikely that the Republicans will gain control of congress, they could severely cut into that lead, and force the president and his followers to wheel and deal (read: water down many of his plans).  That might not be the worse thing to happen.

I think we may be at a crucial juncture in the nation’s history … will we see a broken government similar to the one we have had, a better government that acts like a big brother or sister …. or will it be the worst of both?

One day, I will get around to posting about a question I have been asking myself over the last few years: Who represents me? I would hear about people in communist nations having to vote for a slate of candidates hand selected by the party … not really democracy. Throughout virtually all of my adult life, I have never really found a political candidate for president, Senate, House, or locally that I feel represents my views. I have felt disenfranchised in my own country for a long time, and wonder if and when that will end.


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