The Cost of Lack of Trust
Tibor R. Machan
Over the last couple of days a bunch of announcements came from our government, including warning about travel to Europe where terror plans are said to be afoot by Al-Qaeda. Another warning came from the man convicted of trying to blow up Times Square--he said after he was sentenced to life in prison that Americans will be victims of terror big time. And I could go on but my point can be made with just these cases. I do not trust the warnings from our government although neither do I know them to be unjustified.
The government of the United States of America is on a power crusade, taking every opportunity it can to deprive its citizens of their resources and control over their own lives and seem to be intent on imposing on them endless rules and regulations. These are, I am convinced, true believers in state fundamentalism: Every problems must be solved by means of expanded government, both in size and, especially, in scope. So how can I believe it when the government declares that there is increasing danger around us, all of which seems routinely to require that government gain greater and greater power over us?
I am no conspiracy buff and don’t have the idea that what these folks do is done deliberately simply so as to gain raw power over others--most people need some kind of tall tale to tell themselves in order to rationalize such power--but I do believe firmly that their sincere convictions lead them in that direction, whether these be about how the economy needs more of their regulation or how they must have greater access to our lives (including it appears to all our electronic communication capabilities), or how without them we would all be left helpless in the world, or how some other problems faced by us all requires exactly their expertise and good will and, most of all, legal power over us. I am eager to be disproved about their basic political corruption, in part because of my belief that human beings in all walks of life can do well or badly or somewhere on the continuum in between and I do not see politicians to be fundamentally evil.
Not being an anarchist, I do not hold that all who work for governments must be vicious--judges, the police, soldiers, bailiffs, border guards, or whoever. But those in government--especially in offices that have no business existing in the first place since they have nothing to do with protecting our basic rights--do seem to me to be much more tempted to seek power over other people than are the rest of us. And they do very often yield to this temptation, with long stories about why what they are doing is no vice but a virtue! They have mostly convinced themselves that all the more or less coercive meddling in our lives is a good thing for them to carry out--regulators, however much they fumble around trying to figure out what on earth their efforts could do to improve matters, are probably quite proud of what they do in their jobs. Maybe even IRS employees consider their work honorable!
I recall an associate of mine at the Reason Foundation had gotten a post in one regulatory office of the federal government and she came back to report on just how impressed she was with all the hard work she witnessed by the people who worked where she became one of the officials, despite the fact that she never gave up her idea that government regulations are ultimately more harmful than helpful! Pretty amazing.
The seductiveness of government work appears to be very powerful, even with those who are sworn to uphold principles that fly in the face of what the officials are called upon to do. Perhaps this is in part because many people hold to the belief in life that it is “the thought that counts,” never mind how destructive the results over which they believe we have little control. (This, by the way, is the common sense version of the famous doctrine of the highly influential 17th Century German philosopher Immanuel Kant who taught that there is only one absolutely good thing in the universe, namely, the good will, i.e., the sincere intention to do the right thing whatever it may be.)
With all the misconduct that emanates from seats of political power, all the BS produced by politicians and their apologists, all the out and out corruption evident throughout the land by politicians and bureaucrats, it is awfully difficult to suddenly become trusting when these same people tell us that there is danger lurking from terrorists. And frankly even if there is, is it more severe than the danger we face from fellow drivers on the roads where we would be spending time if instead of traveling abroad we stayed home? (Why, BTW, are there no studies publicized about that? Back during the brief scare from Libyan terrorism in Europe in Spring of 1986 I believe it was, after the US had an altercation with that country, an economist calculated the probability of death or injury from terrorism to American tourists traveling in Europe versus from road crashes here at home where they would be spending their time instead and it appeared that the latter posed a great threat than the former!)
When government is as big, corrupt, and unruly as America’s is these days, how can you trust anything said by government officials?