WASHINGTON, October 7, 2014 — The Gallup polling organization asked Americans, “How much of the time do you think you can trust government in Washington to do what is right?” Eighty-one percent answered, “Only some of the time” or “never.”
In July 1979, a befuddled President Jimmy Carter addressed what he called America’s “crisis of confidence.”
“The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us,” said the former Georgia peanut farmer. “For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world… As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government … the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.”
Carter’s concern was not for concerned Americans whose productivity dropped in relation to their tax burden, but over their evaporating faith in the legitimacy of bloated government and the veracity of its slavish promoters in the media.
That explains why Ronald Reagan was hated by the proponents of big government, like Carter and the press, and why American voters were attracted to the man who said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”
Meanwhile, an Associated Press survey found that “Americans lack confidence in the government’s ability to protect their personal safety and economic security, a sign that their widespread unease about the state of the nation extends far beyond politics.”
According to the Gallup survey, when Americans were asked about their confidence in the “government of the state where you live,” a stunning 62 percent said they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in their state’s institutions.
This is precisely what the nation’s Founders intended when they agreed to unite the original thirteen republics. “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined,” wrote James Madison in Federalist #45. “Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”
For 80 years, the federal government has grown in size and power on the pretext that modern life is too complex for a free people to manage. We have allowed government to redistribute our incomes, invade our privacy, threaten free speech and impose mandates with the understanding that our overlords will give us security.
The overlords failed.
Contrary to what Jimmy Carter said more than three decades ago, there is no crisis of confidence in America’s founding principles, but in our post-constitutional nanny state.
It’s a crisis in utopia. It is a grudging recognition that the Founders were right to restrain the powers of the federal government while the powers of the individual states “are numerous and indefinite.”
“Trust thyself,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
America is having a 10th Amendment epiphany 225 years after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
Enjoy More than Right with Stephen Z. Nemo