Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What's the word?


By Bill Kraus

The stages of disaffection from and disgust with politics and government are large and growing. Everyone knows about the dismal approval rating. Untouchability is also widespread, particularly among the disgusted.

But the only words to classify this late blooming phenomenon are libertarianism and anarchy. What needs to be defined is something between those two words, with a dose of conspiracy theoryism (which is not a word) to properly illustrate what is going on here.

Putting aside the taxophobia and anti-spending movements which carry the tea party label, there are identifiable feelings evident in the behavior and statements of and from the more thoughtful self-described “victims” of our government.

The mildest form of this is distaste. Most of which is about officiousness and rigidity from those in power who take process rules to biblical levels. Government regulators get the beef they deserve for inflexibility, but this behavior is not limited to bureacrats in the public sector, as anyone who has been trapped in a telephone tree can attest.

The second level is distrust. I approached a very well informed professional of my acquaintance whose profession has brought him into close contact with the public bureaucracy about supporting a change in the redistricting system. He thought removing the crucial mapping step from the legislators who are its main beneficiaries was an admirable idea. He could not, however, think of anyone in any position in government who was trustworthy enough to do this job.

He did not suggest an alternative. Moses reincarnate perhaps?

The third level is fear of an all powerful government itself. The most striking current example of this is the National Rifle Association. The leaders of this organization clearly fear universal citizen disarmament. They see a world where only government agencies would be allowed weapons which are designed to kill people. The Milwaukee County sheriff seems to, incongruously, share this paranoia when he says that we should fear terrorists less and the government itself more.

This leads to conspiracy theories of every and all stripes and the people who espouse them. The most egregious is the one about 9/11 which is based on several very radical and improbable premises and ends up concluding that a conspiracy of private and governmental power centers brought down the twin towers in New York City and damaged the Pentagon. The airplanes which we all saw hit those places were, according to the true believers, distractions designed to conceal the fact that the conspirators had wired the twin towers to collapse and had fired a missile into the Pentagon.

There is no known cure for paranoia and looniness, but those who govern are not without trust-enhancing options.

Those options all start with openness, transparency, and a willingness to give up the power that comes with knowledge.

Government behind closed doors courts suspicion, unpopularity, and ultimately fear.

Open the doors.

Governments are elected to do the people’s business. Let them see what you are doing.

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