Why Do People Dislike Government Workers?
And why do they vote for politicians who promise programs that will require more bureaucrats?
We’ve all heard the anecdotes in the news and among friends. Law-enforcement agents refused service at restaurants. People spouting verbal abuse at IRS workers. Elected officials stalked in public and even physically assaulted. A lot of Americans — particularly the leftists perpetrating the aforementioned abuse — just plain don’t like government workers.
This complete breakdown in civility toward members of the civil service is a recent phenomenon, and it’s growing worse. Public ire toward government has reached a point where people are growing more comfortable with taking out that frustration on the men and women who work for the same government agencies that make people’s blood boil. The old adage, “I’m just doing my job,” no longer buys one a pass.
In any society where disdain for its government reaches such a point of open hostility, woe be the elected official who refuses to heed the signs. But the signs are not entirely universal. Like anything related to politics in this country these days, there is very little overlap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. In short, Americans can agree that they hate government, but they cannot agree on why.
As one might imagine, 72% of self-identified Democrats look unfavorably on agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a 2018 Pew Research Center poll. An identical percentage of Republicans look favorably on ICE. Among Republicans, 65% believe the Border Patrol is too lenient on enforcement, while 40% of Democrats believe it is too harsh.
And on it goes. Both IRS and FBI enjoy greater support among Democrats than Republicans, who have been stung by both organizations for their roles in targeting conservatives and for potentially involvement in the attempted coup to oust President Donald Trump from office.
Conservative and independent citizens, at the behest of our Forefathers, have always held a healthy distrust of government. That distrust is essential to the survival of Liberty, because, as Thomas Jefferson warned, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
What we see now, though, is not healthy for Liberty or our republic. And unfortunately, the rising level of distrust and lack of respect for government institutions is unlikely to lead to a libertarian renaissance of smaller, more responsive government.
If only the disdain for certain government agencies or policies led to a more concerted effort at reform. But that is unlikely to happen in this hyper-partisan atmosphere where political affiliation outweighs allegiance to the Republic.
Take federal spending for instance. For decades we have watched the minority party in Washington savage the majority for its spendthrift ways. But this rancor only lasts until the next election changes party control. Do spending patterns change? Nope. The only thing different is who’s doling out the perks to keep their party in power.
This is why Democrats continue to run on more government, more centralization of power, and more regulation — even in the face of the growing anti-government trend among the public. They know that dangling “free” college, “free” healthcare, and “free” money in front of people will ultimately get their votes, so long as Democrats successfully hide its true cost. This is why Congress can be the least popular institution in the country with 10% approval, but still enjoy a nearly 90% reelection rate every two years. “Throw the bums out. Just not my bum.”
Our Founders established a constitutionally limited government based upon Rule of Law. It’s understandable, therefore, to see conservative and independent perception of unconstitutional government interference decline in tandem with the rise of unconstitutional interference in our lives. Likewise, it’s concerning how successfully leftists have promoted rule of man, including policies that will increase the very number of government workers few Americans want running their lives.
After all, there’s a reason Ronald Reagan famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
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