Loss of legitimacy

Americans increasingly are dissatisfied with the results of power centralizing both in government and in business:

The poll… indicates that the public’s trust in government is at an all-time low.

Just 13% of Americans say the government can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time, with just over three-quarters saying only some of the time and one in 10 saying they never trust the government, according to the poll.

“The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said…

The survey indicates that skepticism doesn’t stop at the White House and Capitol Hill: Only 17% of Americans believe that big business can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time.

Distant, consolidated power in any form or function is less connected to, and thus less responsive to the people.  That is why the Constitution expressly gives the Federal Goverment few and defined powers, reserving the remainder to “the States, or to the People.”  We have ignored that arrangement, and the concept of sovereign States as bullworks against Federal encroachment, to our deep and lasting detriment.

Big Business has amassed significant power over the past two decades or so for two reasons: the tendency of the public to look only at the price tag on shelves, ignoring the hidden costs that often are involved with “everyday low prices” (i.e. offshoring of American jobs, corner-cutting on safety and environmental practices, etc), combined with significant regulatory lobbying by industry leaders that make it increasingly difficult for legitimate competition to gain traction.  The combination of Big Business with the force of Big Government is extremely dangerous to individual liberty.

I’d like to believe such poll results show the jig is up: that American are realizing they aren’t ‘free’ just because they can choose between 30 different types of toothpaste at the supermarket (made by a handful of powerful companies, of course).  They’re not ‘free’ just because we can vote, either — especially when the integrity of the process is questionable, and the collection of ‘representatives’ routinely disregard the public’s position on important issues… like whether borders are still important enough to be enforced!

I’ve watched these “trust in government” poll results head steadily downward my entire adult life.  One has to wonder at what point the citizenry just decides “this isn’t working anymore” and chooses to stop playing along.  Several recent lurches between House Elephant and House Donkey seem to prove the point that just changing the party in power isn’t the answer.   Something is systemically wrong with our social order, and people are realizing it.

I don’t think it’s oversimplifying to boil it down to a handful of factors:

1)  Few candidates for office (elected or appointed) are consistently more civic-minded than they are self-interested.  At the same time, we’ve forgotten the principle that human beings are inherently fallible and corruptable, so should always be limited in the power they wield.

2)  A public that has jettisoned what was once a broad consensus on right and wrong, embracing instead a “50 shades of gray” worldview.  A nation that once had bi-partisan certainty what Nixon did 40 years ago was wrong now tends to give “their team” far too much benefit of the doubt.  If you believe it’d be wrong for ‘the other guy’ to do it, why do you tolerate it in your own associates?

3)  A Constitution that was designed to separate powers, but did not build in enough solid provisions to prevent ever-less-enlightened generations from selling out their birthright.  As Benjamin Franklin is said to have told a passerby in Philadelphia, the Constitutional Convention had produced a “republic… if you can keep it.”  Apocryphal or not, the tale makes a valid point.  We were given the power as individuals to prevent the consolidations that have occured.  But nothing can force us to remain vigilant and wary about principles well before the approach of danger.

4) An aversion to accountability.  From individual relationships to official capacities, our society has lost much of the will to confront and correct behavior.  This is exacerbated by the aforementioned “50 shades of gray” view, as well as today’s preference for spin over substance.  “With great power comes great responsibility,” the saying goes.  Which begs the question why MANY people still hold their positions of power (both in government AND in business), much less why they aren’t in some cases warming a prison cell somewhere.

The key for the immediate future hinges on whether thoughtful Americans accept the need to resume the individual and local responsibilities that attend to liberty, or whether they go all-in on the idea of letting others take care of them (in return for being handed the keys of power).  Closely related to this is the issue of whether those who see what is wrong (i.e. the loss of equal protection under the law, and the unprecedented lattitude the Executive has asserted to ignore enforcement of laws he disagrees with) will speak out, regardless what ad hominem attacks (“Racist!” “Nativist!”) are hurled their way.

Which will it be?

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2 thoughts on “Loss of legitimacy

  1. History moves slowly, The Law of Cause and Effect is as irrefutable as the Law of Gravity but sometimes the effect is so removed from the cause that we fail to connect the two. The centralization of power both politically and economically began long ago with the misnamed Civil War when it was the War for Southern Independence and States Rights. Open your mind and research the archival documents and you will know it had almost nothing to do with slavery. It was about money and power…as usual.
    “An organization (Union) created by the States to secure the blessings of liberty and independence against
    foreign aggression, has been gradually perverted into a machine for their control.”
    “The creature (federal government) has been exalted above its creators (the States).” President Jefferson Davis. This was…..THE BEGINNING OF CENTRALIZED POWER

  2. Pingback: Trying to buy legitimacy | A True Progressive

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