Bob Herbert of the New York Times may consider it an “ominous trend”
but some of us think it’s encouraging. In yesterday’s
the Times’ resident ritualistic liberal discusses a recent poll
commissioned by an outfit called the Council for Excellence in
Government that shows a large majority of
Americans feel disconnected from government, and the proclivity to feel
that the government is “them” rather than “us” is especially strong
among younger Americans.
Hallelujah! Maybe there’s hope after all.
According to the poll, conducted for the council by Peter Hart and
Robert Teeter, more than twice as many Americans (64 percent) feel
disconnected from government than feel connected to it (30 percent).
Among adults 18-34, 68 percent feel disconnected from government — as
compared to 60 percent of those aged 50-64 and 56 percent of those over
65. About 30 percent of young adults feel “very disconnected” from
government, while only 12 percent of seniors feel that way.
The pollsters find a good deal of significance in their finding that
more than half of Americans refer to “the government” rather than “our
government.” Only 25 percent believe the government pursues the
The term chosen by the pollsters is more than a little odd. What does
it mean to feel “connected to” or “disconnected from” government? I
feel very connected every April 15, but I’d just as soon be disconnected
from the IRS. If I could arrange a disconnect from the permit granters,
inspectors, enforcers and other nabobs of the Nanny State I would be
pleased beyond telling.
But I’m not sure that’s what the pollsters or the respondents had in
mind. It sounds as if they were looking for a warm and fuzzy feeling or
a subjective attitude of being a part of the grand enterprise of
government making everybody’s lives better through programs. How many of
us feel an emotional attachment to the government? Shouldn’t such an
attachment be viewed as an alarming sign of an unhealthy desire to
anthropomorphize what is essentially an impersonal institution when
This country wasn’t built on warm and fuzzy feelings of connection to
government. It was built on a desire for personal liberty to pursue
one’s own conception of happiness, combined with a mature and healthy
distrust of concentrated and distant power based on experience and a
solid knowledge of history. More precisely, it was built on the
colonists’ decision to disconnect themselves from a distant power whose
depredations and incursions against liberty were rather mild compared to
the monster that stalks the land today.
As usual, the pollsters, the council and Bob Herbert got it wrong
when trying to analyze this supposedly disturbing trend. They suggest,
as the Hart-Teeter summary and analysis puts it, that “government seems
to them to be driven by special interests, politicians’ career
interests, or government’s own institutional self-interest — but rarely
by the public interest.” But “they continue to have hope that
government once again will be responsive to citizens’ needs” and “point
to increased citizen engagement as the single most important change for
producing the right kind of government.”
Patricia McGinnis, president of the Council for Excellence in
Government, says that “clearly we have to identify more effective ways
to get people, particularly young people, more involved in
government.” Her organization has formed a Partnership for Trust in
Can you imagine devoting your life to making people more trustful of
government? Thomas Jefferson would have apoplexy. And can you imagine
devoting a career in journalism to serving the interests of the State?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of journalists can not only imagine it,
they revel in it.
Sorry to disappoint all these legions of state-worshipers, but
insofar as Americans feel more “disconnected” from government the
reason is that government has become too big, too remote, too complex,
too overbearing, too arrogant and too arbitrary for any sane person to
view it with anything other than guarded mistrust. How can you feel warm
and fuzzy and connected to a bureaucracy that treats you like a serf or
And it isn’t because people in government are bad or evil or even
misguided. It’s because the institution for which they work depends on
coercion — the use of force — to accomplish its goals rather than
persuasion, friendship or community fellow-feeling. A large, complex
institution built on force will only become more remote and more
impatient with even mild-mannered dissenters the larger it becomes. But
our modern state-worshipers want us to become more engaged with such an
institution? What are they thinking? It’s difficult to avoid the
inference that they view society not as a group of free people who have
decided to live together and try to get along, but as a vast
interconnected web of loyalties and feelings with the government at the
very center, directing and guiding the whole enterprise.
Like a spider.
I, for one, am encouraged that most of the flies don’t feel a sense
of identity or connectedness to the predator in their midst. And if
distrust of government is especially strong among younger people maybe
some of us old fogies can start feeling a bit less apprehensive about
Alan Bock is senior editorial writer and columnist at the Orange
County Register, Senior Contributing Editor at the National Educator, a
contributing editor at Liberty magazine and author of “Ambush at Ruby
“Of all the things published about Ruby Ridge, Alan Bock did the best job. We appreciate his hard work and dedication to getting as many facts straight as possible.” — Randy and Sara Weaver
“This work intelligently presents the current distrust of the government among many individuals in modern society and is recommended for all libraries.” — Library Journal
Autographed copies of this landmark book, “Ambush at Ruby Ridge,” are available to WorldNetDaily readers for $17.00 (list price $22.00) plus $3.00 shipping and handling. Send check or money order to Alan Bock, c/o The Orange County Register, 625 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, CA 92711.