George Will, Michael Gerson, and our own Gene Healy are among the columnists who reminded us – in the wake of the IRS and AP snooping scandals – of President Obama’s stirring words just two days before the IRS story broke:
Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity. . . . They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.
No road to serfdom here. Just us folks working together, to protect ourselves from sneaky reporters and organized taxpayers.
And now lots of people are noting that a series of scandals in government just might undermine people’s faith in government. John Dickerson of Slate writes:
The Obama administration is doing a far better job making the case for conservatism than Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, or John Boehner ever did. Showing is always better than telling, and when the government overreaches in so many ways it gives support to the conservative argument about the inherently rapacious nature of government….
Conservatives argue that the more government you have, the more opportunities you will have for it to grow out of control.
And Paul Begala, the Bill Clinton operative, notes:
This hurts the Obama Administration more than similar issues hurt the Bush administration because a central underpinning of the progressive philosophy is a belief in the efficacy of government. In the main almost all of the Obama agenda requires expanding folks’ faith in government, and these issues erode that faith.
“Faith in government” indeed. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, putting your faith in government is, like a second marriage, a triumph of hope over experience.
But most particularly this week I’m reminded of Murray Rothbard’s comment in 1975 about what the era of Vietnam, Watergate, and stagflation had done to trust in government:
Twenty years ago, the historian Cecelia Kenyon, writing of the Anti-Federalist opponents of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, chided them for being “men of little faith” – little faith, that is, in a strong central government. It is hard to think of anyone having such unexamined faith in government today.
Another 38 years later, it should be even more difficult to retain such faith.