Americans, as individuals, have become afflicted with a loss of faith in themselves. As evidenced by their chosen leaders and political rhetoric, most Americans believe they are incapable of living their lives without guidance and assistance from the centralized collectivist system we call government in the United States.
Americans have put their faith and confidence in this constantly expanding system for generations. Whatever problem (real or imagined) society faces, people look to government to solve it. Whatever needs or desires people have, people look to government to fulfill them. Whatever fears Amercians have (real or imagined), they look to government to provide them with security or protection.
This faith in government is misplaced and is not based on reality or past performance. More often than not, government creates new problems or exacerbates existing ones. Empty promises from smiling politicians go unfulfilled while they continue to spread fear and false hope. Despite a long record of failures, lies and scandals, politicians promise more and more utopian plans. Yet, Americans continue to place their faith in these politicians and the government managed by them.
The faith in government has become so entrenched and pervasive that most people refuse to even entertain the idea that their faith in government is misplaced. Just as disfunctional families of alcoholics are in denial that they have a problem, Americans are in denial that their government is the source of many of society's problems. Some people react in anger, shouting nonsensical jingoistic platitudes, when it is suggested that government is acting against their own interests.
People will defend their favorite government programs, even if it can be shown that the program has failed or that the program has cost many times more than any benefit derived. Some will claim any amount spent for a program is worth it if the program is for children or "if it will save just one life" - ignoring the staggering debt they are passing on to their own children.
A politician representing those benefiting from a certain government program may go so far as to complain that a program is facing severe cuts even when the program's funding is actually being increased - if the amount of the increase is less than the politician had proposed. The beneficiaries of these programs will insist that they are being cheated or face extreme hardship due to these so-called "cuts" - even when they can plainly see that the budget of their favored program is actually being increased.
These imaginary budget "cuts" work both ways. Politicians who represent those who wish to see certain programs cut or eliminated will claim they have cut funding when in fact, funding has been increased. Of course, the funding has not been increased as much as their political opponents had proposed - but this is not a cut.
Some partisan Americans are in denial only as it relates to the political party they are wed to. They will gladly admit that the programs of their political opponents harm America, but when their own political party proposes the same thing, they will become defensive and insist it is a good thing.
Consider the following scenario: a President enters into a war of choice under false pretenses with a nation that poses no threat to America without a resolution from the U.N. Security Council. The members of the President's politcal party support the war and many members of the opposition party support the war also, but Congress never formally declares war. Some members of the opposition party criticize the war, but are ignored or chastized for their criticism.
This scenario describes both Cinton's war on Yugoslavia and Bush's war on Iraq. How bizarre that despite significant opposition, the Iraq war continues. Yet, those who support the Democrats (who originally supported the Iraq war), continue to support them despite the failure of Democrats to even attempt to stop the war. How bizarre that anyone who criticizes Bush over the war is often called a traitor and accused of hating America, but when the Republicans criticized Clinton over his war on Yugoslavia, they did so apparently without being traitors.
How often do we hear the Republicans claim the Democrats are big government socialists, yet Bush has had the biggest budgets, deficits, and national debt in America's history? Bush has created the largest federal agency (the Department of Homeland Security) in history. Bush has increased entitlements under Medicare (the prescription drug benefit program) by the largest amount since the Great Society days. Yet, Republicans continue to criticize Democrats because they do similar things - even though not to the extent of Republicans.
The sad truth is that there is little difference between the two major political parties. The Republican rhetoric is often paternalistic and tough while the Democrat rhetoric is generally maternalistic and empathetic. The two parties represent slightly different special interest groups, although in some cases they represent the same special interests.
The ability to compartmentalize the actions of political leaders is a necessary element of America's misplaced faith in government. Despite there being a long history of corrupt politicians who take bribes (or political contributions) from special interests, lie, and start unnecessary wars, Americans trust their leaders to provide them with security.
Americans do not seem to realize that when they support a government program that will provide them with some benefit, the issue will become politicized. Suppose the program is health care related. All those powerful lobbies with an interest in the outcome will become involved. The interests of corporations will be pitted against individuals and the interests of certain groups of individuals will be pitted against other groups. Once an issue has become politicized, it is unlikely that the average person will benefit. The most powerful special interests will be the winners and the least powerful will become the losers.
How can anyone expect politicians to care about the health care of Americans when they receive millions of dollars from medical corporations, drug comapnies, and insurance companies?
How can anyone expect a politician to care about the education of children when the same politician routinely denies responsibility for massive failures, engages in cover-ups to avoid scandals, and mistates facts regarding the economy? This politician wants an ignorant public. In addition, teacher unions contribute vast sums of money to politicians.
The ability to ignore the failures of government is also a crucial element of America's misplaced faith in government. Many of these failures require no special knowledge or investigation to be apparent. American foreign policy and domestic policies have resulted in repeated failures.
America has been involved in the Mideast for over 50 years under the pretense of insuring stability and protecting "national interests" (oil company profits). Billions have been spent over the years and many people have died. Yet, the Mideast is less stable than it was 50 years ago. America's Mideast policies have been a failure, yet America stays there ensuring further death, destruction and instability. Our foreign policy would be a smashing success there if the goal was to create chaos and perhaps that is the true goal - either way, none of this has been of any benefit to the average American.
Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union may have had the ability to hurt America, but it is unlikely that they could have actually taken over America and forced us to speak German, Japanese or Russian as some people suggest. Today we are warned that a small group of Muslim extremists with little to no state backing, with no air force or navy, and with miniscule funding could invade America with rifles and home-made bombs - and impose Sharia law! We are told that if American troops leave the Mideast, these extremists will follow them home. We are told that if we weren't fighting "terrorists" in the streets of Baghdad, we would be fighting them in the streets of America. Some Americans actually believe this nonsense.
Shouldn't it be obvious that the politicians and their corporate backers who advance this sort of propaganda are vicious liars? How could anyone expect a politician who does not denounce these notions to care about the education and welfare of Americans? There is no debate as to whether America's foreign policy is a horrible failure. Instead, the "anti-war" politicians tell us that we can't just pull out of the Mideast or there would be terrible consequences.
American politicians constantly throw the words "freedom" and "liberty" around. We are told that America has more freedom than any other nation in the world. Yet, America houses more prisoners than any other nation in the world. Shouldn't it be obvious that an enormous prison-industrial complex is not consistent with freedom? Are we to believe that Americans are inherently bad people who engage in more criminal acts than the citizens of other western nations?
Much of the prison population is incarcerated because of victimless crimes. The war on drugs has been a major factor in the large incarceration rates. Despite billions of dollars spent, there are as many drug users as ever. Shouldn't this fact lead people to believe that the war on drugs has been a tremendous failure?
There is no constitutional basis for the federal government to prohibit drugs. Yet, in states where drugs have been decriminalized or legalized, the federal government has stepped in to enforce its drug prohibition. When there was an alcohol prohibition, the federal government was empowered to enforce it by virtue of a constitutional amendment. This amendment was eventually repealed when alcohol prohibition led to an increase in crime and corruption. Although drug prohibition has led to similar increases in crime and corruption, and there is no constitutional basis for it, the drug war continues - even though it has not worked.
Meanwhile, our children are turned into gangsters, our prison population continues to grow, and we are told how free America is. The war on illiteracy has not fared much better than the war on drugs. The more government has become involved in education and the more that is spent per student, the worse things have gotten. High school dropout rates are high and many students are functionally illiterate. America is falling behind in education compared to many other nations in the world.
Like the war on illiteracy and the war on drugs, the war on poverty has not fared well either. Billions of dollars have been spent since the sixties on this war with little results. In fact, it is the economic and monetary policies of America that has caused much poverty. Today, families with two incomes have a harder time getting by than one-income families did 40 years ago.
We are told that the economy is great, inflation is under control, and employment is up. But those of us who work at ordinary jobs, pay rent or mortgage payments, and actually shop for our groceries know that inflation is up. In constant dollars, wages are relatively stagnant despite increases in productivity. The cost of housing and local real estate taxes are up. Energy costs are up. Food costs are up.
The reality is that the federal government alone spends almost $10,000 for each man, woman and child in America. These costs are paid by taxpayers, both individual and corporate. Corporate taxes are passed on to the consumer and result in high prices paid for items and services purchased. High taxes, high prices, and government created inflation are a heavy burden on most people. So, isn't it rather obvious that a family of three isn't getting anywhere near $30,000 worth of services from the federal government?
I could continue with more failed government programs or the government's failure to meet expectations after Katrina. I didn't even address the bankrupt Social Security and Medicare programs with over $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities that taxpayers will have to pay to avoid default. I also did not address the diminishing privacy in America - domestic surveillance, data-mining, and national IDs. These issues beg the question - are politicians that lie to adults about government policies and treat them like children capable of caring about ordinary people?
America would be better off with no government than with the government we now have. It would be no utopia. People would struggle to survive, but not has hard as they are struggling now. Bad things would still happen to people, but not so much as now. But, I know Americans would never accept no government - they have too much faith in government.
The radical anarcho-libertarian elimination of much (or all) of the federal government will probably never occur. However, the ugly collapse of the current system will eventually occur because it is unsustainable. Perhaps 200 million people will die in wars as was the case in the 20th century. Perhaps economic collapse will bring chaos and violence to the streets of America.
The unfounded and misplaced faith in government is very disturbing. Instead of a decentralized system of voluntary economic cooperation and individual freedom, the misplaced faith in government will probably lead to an authoritarian/totalitarian type of government headed by a dictator with a nice smile, a tailored suit, promises of stability, and an iron fist.
The child-like faith in government and politicians combined with the denial that centralized government does not work will most likely result in a Hitler or Stalin taking charge after an economic or political collapse in America. Having no faith in themselves, Americans will fall into the trap of placing their faith in a strongman selling the same promises they have been used to buying for so many years.
This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.