Column on The Cost of Lack of Trust

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?

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