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News Why are people so trusting of the government?

  1. Aug 1, 2008 #1
    I'm not sure whether to put this here or in the philosophy forum, but I figure since it applies to this forum more, I could put it here. I apologize if I'm wrong...

    On this specific politics sub-forum I see a lot of people dismissing criticisms of the government, whether it be secret congressional meetings, motivations of the administration, or whatever. Doesn't matter.

    My question is basically "Why?". Why trust them further than you can throw them? I can't see any disadvantage to questioning every single move the government makes, and smacking them upside the head when they start to get cocky or screw up or it's Thursday. After all, they are public servants, with the President being the biggest public servant in the USA.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2008 #2


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    Excessive questioning wastes time and distracts attention from what real problems might exist.

    Have you considered the possiblility that some of those dismissals might actually be because the criticisms are unjustified? e.g. the reasoning behind the criticism might be specious, incomplete, or irrelevant? Sometimes, the reasoning isn't even presented!
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2008
  4. Aug 1, 2008 #3
    You can count me off the list, I'm have a lot of criticism for the government. They are central planners, intellectuals who try to be a world improver. In their hopes of achieving utopia, they reform and reform, and then try to reform some more to fix the mistakes that they caused in the beginning with their initial reforms. Too bad they can't realize that the only thing they need to reform is themselves. Don't get me started on corruption either.
  5. Aug 1, 2008 #4


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    Speaking of specious, the question in the title doesn't attach logically to the question in the OP. Ie, dismissing criticisms of the government seen in this forum does not make someone "so trusting" if the criticisms seen here are unjustified. And many are.

    In addition, if people agree with things that are said, there isn't much to discuss, so such threads don't generate much discussion.
  6. Aug 1, 2008 #5
    A lot of the documents released from the government have been released through the FOIA, meaning that they were originally written without knowing that the public was going to read them, like the earlier ones. NCS68 comes to mind. Those are to be believed.

    Really, I don't understand the question. I would trust the government on statistical info more than I would the other large, dominant institution, the corporate system.

    Frankly, I think "mistrust" and hatred of the government is wrongly directed. This hatred of the government and "anti-government" nonsense is pushed by conservative people who want to convince citizens that government is the problem, not the solution, even though they have a vested interest in seeing resources privatized, which, when it occurs, merely shifts power further into the hands of private tyrannies with guaranteed state protections.

    The government is one of the few areas left where citizens can have a rather large impact, so actually, it is the lesser evil compared to corporate tyranny that exists in the US.
  7. Aug 1, 2008 #6


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    This is really the only framework to understand governement:

    http://www.cis.org.au/policy/spr03/polspr03-2.htm [Broken]

    Public Choice:
    Politics Without Romance
    James M. Buchanan
    Click here for PDF version

    Public choice theory demonstrates why looking to government to fix things can often lead to more harm than good, as one of its leading architects and Nobel laureate James M. Buchanan explains


    Nations emerging from World War II, including the Western democracies, were allocating between one-third and one-half of their total product through political institutions rather than through markets. Economists, however, were devoting their efforts almost exclusively to understanding and explaining the market sector. My own modest first entry into the subject matter, in 1949, was little more than a call for those economists who examined taxes and spending to pay some attention to empirical reality, and thus to politics.

    Initially, the work of economists in this area raised serious doubts about the political process. Working simultaneously, but independently, Kenneth Arrow and Duncan Black proved that democracy, interpreted as majority rule, could not work to promote any general or public interest. The now-famous 'impossibility theorem', as published in Arrow's book Social Choice and Individual Values (1951), stimulated an extended discussion. What Arrow and Black had in fact done was to discover or rediscover the phenomenon of 'majority cycles', whereby election results rotate in continuous cycles with no equilibrium or stopping point. The suggestion of this analysis was that majoritarian democracy is inherently unstable.

    I entered this discussion with a generalised critique of the analysis generated by the Arrow-Black approach. Aren't 'majority cycles' the most desirable outcome of a democratic process? After all, any attainment of political equilibrium via majority rule would amount to the permanent imposition of the majority's will on the outvoted minority. Would not a guaranteed rotation of outcomes be preferable, enabling the members of the minority in one round of voting to come back in subsequent rounds and ascend to majority membership? My concern, then and later, was the prevention of discrimination against minorities rather than stability of political outcomes. The question, from an economist's perspective, was how to obtain a combination of efficiency and justice under majority rule.

    ... If the government is empowered to grant monopoly rights or tariff protection to one group, at the expense of the general public or of designated losers, it follows that potential beneficiaries will compete for the prize. And since only one group can be rewarded, the resources invested by other groups-which could have been used to produce valued goods and services-are wasted. Given this basic insight, much of modern politics can be understood as rent-seeking activity. Pork-barrel politics is only the most obvious example. Much of the growth of the bureaucratic or regulatory sector of government can best be explained in terms of the competition between political agents for constituency support through the use of promises of discriminatory transfers of wealth.

    Objections to public choice
    There is a familiar criticism of public choice theory to the effect that it is ideologically biased. In comparing and analysing alternative sets of constitutional rules, both those in existence and those that might be introduced prospectively, how does public choice theory, as such, remain neutral in the scientific sense?

    Here it is necessary to appreciate the prevailing mindset of social scientists and philosophers at the midpoint of the 20th century when public choice arose. The socialist ideology was pervasive, and was supported by the allegedly neutral research programme called 'theoretical welfare economics', which concentrated on identifying the failures of observed markets to meet idealised standards. In sum, this branch of inquiry offered theories of market failure. But failure in comparison with what? The implicit presumption was always that politicised corrections for market failures would work perfectly. In other words, market failures were set against an idealised politics.

    Public choice then came along and provided analyses of the behavior of persons acting politically, whether voters, politicians or bureaucrats. These analyses exposed the essentially false comparisons that were then informing so much of both scientific and public opinion. In a very real sense, public choice became a set of theories of governmental failures, as an offset to the theories of market failures that had previously emerged from theoretical welfare economics. Or, as I put it in the title of a lecture in Vienna in 1978, public choice may be summarised by the three-word description, 'politics without romance'.

    The public choice research programme is better seen as a correction of the scientific record than as the introduction of an anti-governmental ideology. Regardless of any ideological bias, exposure to public choice analysis necessarily brings a more critical attitude toward politicised nostrums to alleged socioeconomic problems. Public choice almost literally forces the critic to be pragmatic in comparing alternative constitutional arrangements, disallowing any presumption that bureaucratic corrections for market failures will accomplish the desired objectives.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Aug 1, 2008 #7
    Buchanan, who openly supported selling yourself into slavery, is completely misdirected here. All markets have been constructed with huge government intervention, first of all, and it takes a big government to determine who can and can't own property. This is especially true in the third world where markets are forced "open" under totalitarian regimes.

    I've never seen it "proven" in economics that democracy does not work, and private capitalism does work, either. The US' most prosperous times were (1) when trade was heavily controlled and (2) when there was a large expansion of social democracy.
  9. Aug 1, 2008 #8


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    Where has James Buchanan, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in economics, ever "supported selling yourself into slavery"? How does examining critically the motives and incentives of political actors constitute an attack on the neccessity of government or laws?
  10. Aug 1, 2008 #9
    Do you have any examples of this?

    Did you not read my post? My argument is that isn't it better to stay on the safe side and assume that politicians are corrupt and self-serving instead of letting them roam free thinking that they will do what's best for the public?
  11. Aug 1, 2008 #10


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    You seem to be suggesting a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy" [Broken], which is common. That is, it is a practical impossibility for you to examine 'every single move' your representative(s) make(s), absent quitting your job and sitting in their office 24/7, repeat for each local/state/federal representative.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  12. Aug 1, 2008 #11
    Sure, but all too often people who criticize the government or propose doing so get ridiculed. Like the people who said the Iraq War would be for oil being called conspiracy nuts.

    Everybody knows Cheney outed Valerie Plame, yet there's a huge charade going on instead of just kicking his *** for it.

    Things of that nature.
  13. Aug 1, 2008 #12


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    Everybody, does not know. Cite?
  14. Aug 1, 2008 #13
    See? This is what I'm talking about. "He didn't admit, therefore it didn't happen!"

    Normally we'd take a guy like that on trial to find out, but that isn't happening, now is it? Go ask yourself why that is and you'll know why I think the way I do.
  15. Aug 1, 2008 #14


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    Ah ok. I accept your logic and assert you did it WarP. The absence of your admittance proves nothing. You must be tried.
  16. Aug 1, 2008 #15
    Okay. Put me on trial.
  17. Aug 1, 2008 #16
    This does happen a lot. Often it is best to ignore the people who do this. To call someone a 'nut' or 'crazy' usually means that person (who is doing the insulting) is being ignorant or can't see from the other perspective. It stems from group think and mob behavior which is something you must avoid at all cost. Be open to all points of view and don't make the same mistake that they did!
  18. Aug 1, 2008 #17


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    I can only hope that the people here that see a conspiracy around every corner or think anyone in government is corrupt and can't be trusted, or is into endless bashing listens to this.
  19. Aug 1, 2008 #18
    I look at it the same way as I look at a gun: it's always loaded.

    Giving someone power is inherently putting them in a position where they have a conflict of interest. If it's a sheriff or mayor that I know because they live right around the corner, I can trust them better.

    But when it's people who usually come from big business being given power by some 300 million people, that's a setup for a disaster.

    Of course, that's why we have checks and balances, but even those are just people, as we can see with Senator Ted Stevens*, and Nixon.

    *he hasn't been convicted yet, but other people involved have already been convicted or plead guilty. Doesn't look good for him.

    I don't think the government is out to get me, I just think many of them care more about themselves than their people.
  20. Aug 1, 2008 #19
    Criticism is easy. What do you advocate ? Anarchism ?
  21. Aug 1, 2008 #20


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    Does that suprise you?

    Look at Obama. I'm voting for him, or at least I was, because I am pro-choice, I am against offshore drilling and drilling in environmentally protected areas, a lot of reasons that are party based, but honestly his recent behavior has made me question if he's not egomaniacal. What is with his "logo", what is with his fake "presidential seal"? That display abroad. The 'note" in the wall in Jerusalem. :rolleyes: I'm afraid that he has one interest and one interest only, in becoming President and I don't know how out of touch with people he is becoming. His campaign people say they are are putting him in smaller towns to make him appear that he hasn't lost touch. BIG RED FLAG. Letterman was spot on in his criticism. I still wouldn't vote for McCain because I disagree with basic issues, but the choices are looking less desirable.
  22. Aug 1, 2008 #21
    I have not seen this discuss anywhere else, and maybe I should not distract the discussion, but I really do not understand how "display abroad" can be considered negatively. Are you not happy that at least one candidate makes Europe so optimistic ? It is very hard to interpret, is it a feeling of disapproval of foreign intervention ?
  23. Aug 1, 2008 #22
    Err... why would I?

    I advocate more transparency and more scrutiny. Overall I think this is the best system humans have developed so far, it's just that we as the populace can't be lazy and let politicians run free.

    Voting for the lesser of two evils is a whole separate issue.

    I'm talking about Obama saying he's doing X for the people, but instead doing it for himself.

    We can say that about the recent FISA bill decision. He voted for it claiming it would help with national security. It ended up eroding more of our freedoms and gaining him some points with people who think he's bad on national security. That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about.

    If more people had said "Hey Obama, what's with your FISA decision?" we might have done something or at least made him feel like a fool.

    People are starting to do that more and more thanks to The Youtube. Look at McCain's campaign. But I think we could do better and catch people on BS whenever it happens.
  24. Aug 2, 2008 #23


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    Assume all you want. But if you wish to assert something, you need to support it.

    So? You asked why criticisms were dismissed -- I responded that it was because many are unfounded. You say that we should be wary, but that doesn't change the fact that those criticisms are unfounded....

    Another part of the problem is that criticism alone is useless -- to make an informed decision/opinion/whatever about something, not only do you need to consider its bad points, but also its good points, and how it compares to alternatives. An unsettling number of people don't seem to realize that....
  25. Aug 2, 2008 #24
    I had thought about starting a thread on this. Essentially alot of people feel that he was acting as though he was already the president.
  26. Aug 2, 2008 #25
    Thank you for your answer. :smile: I think if it comes to this aspect, it's more the people who were acting like that than the candidate himself. And by people, I mean even the official organization was more serious, and Sarkozy even said something like "we met previously, neither of us was president yet". Honestly I don't find that funny at all, but that's even another discussion about Sarkozy constant borderline behavior. That's how I came to think about "intervention".
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