Analysis: Should We Trust Government?

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

In President Obama's address at Ohio State University on Sunday, he began byexhorting the graduates to be conscientious, active citizens throughout their lives. Then he pivoted. "You've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems," he said. "They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted... The founders trusted us with this awesome authority. We should trust ourselves with it, too... when we don't, when we turn away and get discouraged and cynical, and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who will gladly claim it."

Almost no one in America actually believes that government is "nothing more" than a sinister entity, or that it is "at the root of all our problems." Obama erected that strawman for rhetorical convenience.

Even setting that aside, his history is mistaken and his analysis is flawed.

The founders did not trust anyone with awesome authority. They built institutions predicated on the core belief that men are not angels, and that no one should be "trusted" including the citizenry itself. The founders began with a loose confederation of sovereign states. When it proved insufficient, the central government they established was restrained by a written constitution. That constitution limited the federal government's role to specific, enumerated powers. Obama believes, rightly or wrongly, the federal government should exceed that limited role.

(So do most Republicans.)

Read the rest at TheAtlantic.com.

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