In surveys administered by Gallup since 1965, “big government always wins—by a lot” (Thank you Wall Street, may we have another? ). Initially I was surprised by the fact that the American people believe the biggest future threat to the country is not big business, or big labor but rather it is big government. Even in the face of the recent financial meltdown, big government is still believed to be the biggest threat. I can’t help but wonder how this could be?
Critically thinking about it, one can’t help to explore multiple questions: What have American people tacitly learned to assume that supports this perception? What does the general public know and understand? What is it about big government that is more threatening than big business, especially in light of the recent near depression? What is more threatening in society than runaway self-interest or unabashed greed?
I will spare you the details of my ruminations and offer only brief concluding thoughts then request that you offer yours’ in the spirit of collaborative dialogue.
It seems there is a general tendency for people to think in either/or terms. If it is not ‘A’ then it must be the opposite of ‘A’. Hence what Americans spontaneously reject is even the slightest smell or hint of socialism/communism. Accordingly, we are hypersensitive to ideas that challenge what we believe to be so-American, individualism as unfettered self-interest. So big government means government control of things and that is at minimum socialism. The good news for bankers, big corporations and yes politicians is the game plays on without much interference from the American people. Yes the people! In the American system the people are the government, which we too often forget. Why? Likely it is because government has been run by special interests—big banks, big corporations, big anything with money for access—especially for at least the past 30 years. So the people don’t really feel they have control of over what goes on in Washington—hence the fear of big government. How might this advance or inhibit progress?
If we can keep this out of political debate, and instead focus on collaborative critical thinking, then I think we’ll all gain a lot more from the conversation.