Acton Institute Powerblog

Fearing Big Government

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In terms of the blogosphere, I’m sure this polling data from Gallup published two days ago showing that fear of big government dwarfs fear of big business and big labor is ancient history. I only want to offer a few observations.

At one point in our history, I think a lot of Americans or even a majority of Americans looked at the federal government as a vehicle for fairness, progress, and justice. Certainly, the federal government has done quite a few things well over the years. However, as politics has become even more partisan and divisive, and more and more power has been centralized into the Washington beltway, these beliefs have eroded dramatically. In my August commentary “The Folly of More Centralized Power” I noted,

Washington’s inability to balance budgets and restore fiscal responsibility, a problem magnified by a crippled economy, has also bankrupted the public trust. Citizens who take summer vacations to the nation’s capital can easily connect the dots as they observe a Washington Beltway that is booming with jobs and opportunity as tax dollars siphon into the region, even while their own communities are ravaged by job loss and businesses struggle under regulatory burdens.

I also said in the piece,

People feel disconnected from their federal government not only because they are separated geographically, culturally, ideologically, but also because they believe that their access to the political process has been severed. They doubt whether their representatives actually have the best interests of the nation in mind.

Considering all the continued deficit spending, continued government growth, you might expect that some real progress would have been made to start digging us out of this massive hole. But more and more Americans are realizing that the federal government does not have their best interest at heart. It will be interesting to see how the disconnect between the governing and federal bureaucratic class continues to morph as even more and more money and capital is needed to preserve and protect the power structure. A lot of class warfare cards of course will be played and both political parties will do what is best to preserve their power.

When I think about liberals and the war on poverty and mobilizing the government for good, two famous photographs come to mind. I remember when LBJ visited Eastern Kentucky to declare a war on poverty and of course the famous photo of Robert F. Kennedy visiting the impoverished Mississippi Delta. But even liberals or the political left must look out on the political landscape, when well meaning and historic poverty programs were implemented generations ago by well meaning leaders who captured the nation’s conscious, and they must wonder what went wrong? With the political climate the way it is now, even the good intentions are gone and the rhetoric is so shortsighted and rings hollow.

Ray Nothstine is opinion editor of the the North State Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina. Previously, he was managing editor of Acton Institute's Religion & Liberty quarterly. In 2005 Ray graduated with a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in Oxford.


  • Ironic that you would steal the use of this masterpiece that has previously been stolen, to advance the premise that we should not fear our corporate masters, and should fear our democracy.  Our democracy is us, Pogo; are we into self-loathing?. Americans, get off your butt, turn off the hate-radio and the FOX News, read a book and become a precinct person, register your fellow Americans to vote. 

    • Joe o’mara

      Our democracy is NOT us………..We Americans have lost control of our Republic.

      You are saying, “nothing here to see……move along now………… and take with you some cake”

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Our democracy is us. But yes we should fear the majority. The founding fathers of this nation feared the majority. That’s why they insisted on the Bill of Rights. The majority has decided that the Bill of Rights, treating all people equally under the law, and respect for private property are no longer important.

      Blacks, Indians and Asians have always had to fear the majority. Now capitalist must fear them as well.

  • Ken

    I question the premise that LBJ, at least, ever meant well. His famous “…have ’em voting Democrat for 200 years” line is evidence of his intention.

  • Steve Vinzinski

    To declare war on poverty is wonderful.The problem is when does the absolute war end do we continue another fifty years similar to the past fifty years then we have incurred an one hundred war.These is why our government is incurred a lot of debt.The programs are wonderful and helped millions but they can not go on for ever.I think the Kennedy’s and LBJ would realize this the answer I do not have one.If medicaid ends many will go without medical attention do away with food stamps millions go hungry.The Christian thing to do is keep trying certainly putting things on hold has to happen for economic freedom.I guess along as can give to the church and pay the taxes we must continue for how long I do not know.