Americans love government. Why?

In his article Americans Love Government, Walter E. Williams wonders why we rely on something that we have so little faith in:

According to latest Rasmussen Reports, 30 percent of Americans believe congressmen are corrupt. Last year, Congress’ approval rating fell to 9 percent, its lowest in history. If the average American were asked his opinion of congressmen, among the more polite terms you’ll hear are thieves and crooks, liars and manipulators, hustlers and quacks. But what do the same people say when our nation faces a major problem? “Government ought to do something!” When people call for government to do something, it is as if they’ve been befallen by amnesia and forgotten just who is running government. It’s the very people whom they have labeled as thieves and crooks, liars and manipulators, hustlers and quacks.

So why do people rely on government so much? Here’s what Williams says:

I don’t think that stupidity, ignorance or insanity explains the love that many Americans hold for government; it’s far more sinister and perhaps hopeless. I’ll give a few examples to make my case. Many Americans want money they don’t personally own to be used for what they see as good causes such as handouts to farmers, poor people, college students, senior citizens and businesses. If they privately took someone’s earnings to give to a farmer, college student or senior citizen, they would be hunted down as thieves and carted off to jail. However, they get Congress to do the identical thing, through its taxing power, and they are seen as compassionate and caring. In other words, people love government because government, while having neither moral nor constitutional authority, has the legal and physical might to take the property of one American and give it to another. (Emphasis added.)

What does this lead to? Williams paints a grim picture, but if you’ve read Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (or see the cartoon version), you know very well the danger that we face. Here’s how Williams explains the danger:

The path we’re embarked upon, in the name of good, is a familiar one. The unspeakable horrors of Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism did not begin in the ’30s and ’40s with the men usually associated with those names. Those horrors were simply the end result of a long evolution of ideas leading to consolidation of power in central government in the name of “social justice.” In Germany, it led to the Enabling Act of 1933: Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Nation and, after all, who could be against a remedy to relieve distress? Decent but misguided Germans, who would have cringed at the thought of what Nazi Germany would become, succumbed to Hitler’s charisma.

Today’s Americans, enticed, perhaps enchanted, by charismatic speeches, are ceding so much power to Washington, and like yesteryear’s Germans are building the Trojan Horse for a future tyrant.

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