What Americans fear most

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.

3 thoughts on “What Americans fear most

  1. I am a British National and perhaps it unfair of me to engage in this debate. However I think we British actually share the same problem and so do a number of other Governments in the western world, so here I go.

    One reason why we fear big Governments is because of the tendency of them to attempt to micro manage the lives of individuals. This is true of many facets of the current administration in the UK. I also see a number of similar things happening in the US. In the UK it is even down to the control of what should go into children’s school lunch boxes.

    Another big fear is that big Government is expensive and is the economy is not big or in good shape them very high tax rates are required to support big Government. In the UK theses taxes have actually reached a tipping point where the costs to individuals and business are so high that we have seen the whole sale export of our jobs to other parts world. These high taxes also reach a point where they are disincentives to productive activity. The complexity of the tax systems also causes great concern.

    I am a great believer in health and safety and environmental legislation, but this is being applied with such zeal in the UK that to get round the situation, business exports jobs to china and other counties where there is no such legislation or where if there is it is not applied at all. I have walked around factories in China and actually shuddered at what I have seen, there is an almost criminal disregard for safety and the environment, Similarly with child labour in other parts of world namely India. Environmentally in India and China I have seen factory discharges both liquid and atmospheric that have left me gasping for breath and my eyes streaming, In short the shocking fact it is legal to import goods into many western countries made under conditions where the business owners and managers would be in prison if they tried the same thing in the west.

    I do have very great concerns between the relationship between big business and government. The shear number of government lobbyists that big business employs world wide is staggering. The ability of policy making senior public servants world wide to critically rebuff what is being proposed is questionable.

    In the UK there is a major concern with large supermarket chains which between receive about 30% of total of peoples private expenditure. At a national government level and EU level agricultural policy is almost totally dominated by there dictates with a massive loss to society as a whole. Whole swathes of UK farm land now lies unproductive, At a local government level out of town new supermarkets are destroying the hearts of our smaller towns and cities.

    Part of the problem with the world banking system is that certain very large banks are running so far out of control that even there highest senior management do not know what certain divisions of the bank are up to. Since these banks are operating globally it is difficult to understand how any single government can control them, even if the government had that ability or capability.

    My perception is that we already have big government but it attempts to control and influence the wrong things. My perception is that it attempts to control and micro manage individuals rather than actually do the difficult things like govern countries as a whole and control the excesses of big business. Indeed I think no single government including the US is actually capable of exercising control over the largest of big business.

  2. I did love your article, but I feel that written between the lines of what you are saying is the answer to controlling big corporate business.

    My very small sole proprietorship single employee “Me, myself, and I” is dedicated to the answer to the problem you have described.

    So here is what the answer to controling these run-away big businesses.

    Lets start with the greatest fear big businesses have to date. What is that fear???

    It is the middle class and lower middle class of all western global consumers telling big business that “They or We don’t need you any more!!!”

    Not just the words but backing it with one concept that is, Off-the-grid or sustainable living.

    That’s Right! all of us need to live sustainable and with great restaurant in what we need and spend.

    We only need to cut back on all things that require fossil fuels. Which today is almost everything. Just living below out means a very small amount over a large population is the key.

    If only one million people in the us could cut back 10% on all they consume would send these large oil companys and the like reeling into a downward spiral.

    The reality here is that corporate America and I am sure in most parts or Europe as well do not know their limitations. They have been living in greed and getting away with it for so long that they have become diseased with their own greed.

    As rich as they are, they have not allowed for any redundancy or contingency plans to survive. Their greed is all consuming and puts them in a corporate house of cards.

    They give only enough to get the tax break and/or to look like they are not, GREEDY!

    In helping people live off the grid I have encountered only federal, state, and local government restrictions and impossible bloated impact fees making it next to impossible to disconnect.

    Thanks to a micro management style of government it is even illegal to collect rain water in my state!!!!

    Can t put up a windmill due to height restrictions, or drill a well due to oil companys who are drilling and perforating old gas and oil wells.

    In spite of all of that it doesn’t take much to tip over the corporate apple cart.

    Just live a hair below your means and its all over for them! Add to that by start buying American or supporting local mom and pop industries we the people can and should take control.

    We need to empower ourselves today and stand up for our Earth if nothing else.

    Big business is telling us that there is a hole at our end of this Earth boat and its our problem.

    Yes they are that stupid and goliath can be taken down with the above described stone.

    If you agree please pass this along we really need to do something now before we loose out place on this Earth to big busness.

  3. Pingback: A Wake Up Call « For Progress, Not Growth

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