Friday, October 2, 2009

Thank the Lord for Watergate

I was reading an article by Gene Healy (of the CATO Institute) today and came across an interesting figure. It seems that back when Lyndon Johnson pushed the "Great Society" program through congress, two thirds of the American people polled said they trusted the federal government to do what was right "most of the time" or "just about always". Today, only 30% of Americans polled would respond in that fashion.

So Americans have lost their trust in the federal government since the days of FDR's inescapable government propaganda, and the "good old days" of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. We can probably pin that on Nixon's corruption and law breaking, The Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter's mismanagement or our economy, Reagan's Iran Contra scandal, Bill Clinton's blowjobs, and President Bush's miss-handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All of this scandal and miss-management looks bad at first, but in my opinion, American's losing their trust in the federal government is almost certainly a good thing.

Let's be honest, it's not like the federal government was squeaky clean and efficient in the days before Nixon. Lord knows FDR oversaw some of the most blatant corruption and waste our country has ever seen. But to a large extent, they were protected by a friendly press, and there was no way to disseminate information quickly outside of a few major print publications. The fact is that "conservatism" and "free market" principles have taken a bashing thanks to George Bush.

This may not be fair, since Bush was no conservative, and our recent economic downturn is more likely the fault of government meddling than it is a true market driven bubble. But perception is reality, and we need be willing to recognize the reality of the political situation today. The only thing standing between Barack Obama and even bigger growth in government is the American people's mistrust of that government.

As a libertarian, I would never expect the federal government to act responsibly. We can all love our country, but we are correct to be skeptical of our government. Thanks to Watergate, and the scandals that followed it, even some moderate and left-leaning citizens are less likely to support the sorts of bills Obama is trying to muscle through congress. There are many liberals (I know some of them) who are at least a little skeptical of Nancy Pelosi and those other animals in congress. What seems like a black mark on our country is probably the only thing currently checking the growth of government and the loss of our freedoms.

When I look at the political landscape right now, I can only come to one conclusion. The Watergate scandal was a very, very good thing.


Harry Paget Flashman said...

It would all be a moot point if they had just shot Archibald Cox instead of dismissing him. They have no right to call it "The Saturday Night Massacre" for such weakness of resolve. I'm just saying.

Shatner said...

I really wish I were old enough to get that Harry... I really do.