The Growing Illegitimacy of Big Government

A new Gallup poll indicates that 82% of all Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job

by /Danny de Gracia II

“But as the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an object, the revenues of the states increasing, tyrannies were by their means established almost everywhere”

–Thucydides, History of the Pelponnesian War (431 BCE)

“The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide.”

–Luo Guanzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1321)

Last week during a session of Waipahu Neighborhood Board a resident poured his heart out like water before a room packed with elected officials and government administrators as he complained about how he could get no relief from the constant noise of a recycling center oddly located within earshot of his residence. He had called the city, who referred him to the state; the state then referred him to the EPA, who then referred him back to his local government. In the end, no one helped him or even knew how to help him. Desperate, exhausted and complaining how he hadn’t been sleeping much despite working hard, the man begged us to do something.

“Let me get this straight,” I asked him on the record, “you went through three layers of government – city, state and federal – and out of all of that big government no one was able to get you the relief you sought?” He shook his head. “Not one.” In the end, the recommendation that was given to him was that he seek legal counsel regarding the unbearable noise. Despite all our regulators, lawmakers, administrators and their essential services they provide, a man with a public complaint was forced to take private action for himself and his neighbors. To say that man was angry with his government would have been an understatement, but he is certainly not alone: according to recent polling by Gallup conducted over the weekend, a historic 81% of the American population now says it is dissatisfied with the way they are being governed.

In 1973, amidst Nixon Shock, Watergate and Vietnam, the same research by Gallup shows dissatisfaction with the government was only 66%. In 1992, despite the bad economy and unemployment, only 39% were dissatisfied. What is even more surprising is that Gallup’s poll indicated that 49% of Americans say the “federal government poses an immediate threat to the rights and citizens of ordinary citizens” and that a whopping 82% disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job. America is more upset than ever before in its history.

Ironically, while the President and Congress proactively advance regime change policies towards numerous foreign leaders they cite as having “lost legitimacy with their people” – more recently, including Muammar Qaddafi – our own elected leadership looks increasingly illegitimate in view of these numbers. I can only imagine that if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran or Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il of North Korea were polled to have an 81% disapproval rating, the cries for them to step down would be deafening from the pulpits of elected power. If our government wants to be zealous about “regime change” it ought to start with our own flawed regime right here in the United States.

History teaches us that empires fall because an expansionist government always embitters and impoverishes the population to ruin. We need to downsize our bloated government, abolish whole agencies and the unconstitutional regulations they enforce and restore independence and a free market to the people of America. This means state legislatures and city councils need to exercise their Tenth Amendment and home rule rights to keep Washington’s power restricted. This also means that we as voters need to stop looking towards government for answers and start looking towards markets, community and family. The mistake that we have made for too long is to think that change begins in our nation’s capital. It doesn’t. It begins right here in our neighborhoods and in our home towns. It’s time for a new era of freedom to arise in America.


Danny de Gracia is the economic policy adviser for Grassroot Institute and is an elected member of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board. He holds a master of arts in political science from Southwest Texas State University. Contact him by e-mail at degracia@fas.harvard.edu.

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