December 6, 2011 by David K. Sutton
An Ideology Built On Misplaced Trust
The United States government is a government of the people. It is a representative democracy and not a direct democracy because there’s no reasonable way to get anything accomplished in a direct democracy with such diverse opinions on any number of issues. This diversity can be a source of strength but it can also shackle us when it comes to dealing with really big problems.
It seems to me a fundamental component of right-wing ideology is a lack of trust in people to do the right thing. It’s a belief that people will not do what’s best for others unless given an incentive. This kind of belief is unproductive. Elect enough people with this belief to government positions and it will have a corrosive effect on our representative democracy. The idea that people need an incentive to do good deeds – as it relates to business – is the ‘profit motive’. Of course this begs the question of why good work is done every day within the realm of non-profit organizations, but I digress. This distrust applies to anything that represents the people even if the intentions are good. You can quickly see how this extends to distrust of government and the demonizing of government. It’s as if the Right sees government as a sentient being with covert – even evil – intentions.
Those of us that sit left of center believe in the framework of this country. We believe government is a collective way in which “we the people” can solve our problems to make a better life and a better world collectively. We are not naive, however. Nobody on the left wants to see bloated, inefficient, ineffectual government – or worse – tyranny, but we believe it is up to us to make government work and not tear it down. We don’t view government as an evil entity because we know government has (and can) work for the people. It’s always healthy to have skepticism but a stringent ideology of – government as evil, government as the root of all problems, government can never solve problems – is not constructive to solving the big problems we face on an array of increasingly complex global issues.
At the same time that many on the Right attempt to crush government – to make it as “inconsequential in your life” as Texas Governor Rick Perry stated – they place enormous amounts of trust in private companies and the ‘free market’. This should be objectively problematic to anyone not clouded by a pre-formed idea of how things should work. But the right-wing ideology of “government bad” and “free market good” has no room for tempered interpretations. If a majority of our elected officials share this ideology we should expect a few wealthy elites to continue to increase their influence on our government, shaping it into more of a representative oligarchy than a representative democracy. If Rick Perry wasn’t part of the problem he would make sure the powerful, wealthy elites were as “inconsequential” to how government works.
To my friends on the Right: Why do you have such overwhelming trust of private businesses to make important decisions that affect our lives while simultaneously attempting to crush the only entity that truly is of the people? Sure, much of the time it doesn’t feel that way because of money in politics but how will embracing less regulation and smaller government solve that problem?