Radley Balko’s response to Mori Dinauer’s post is so good it’s worth quoting in full. Testify:
“The American Prospect’s Mori Dinauer is just a hair off in this post.
I don’t promote government failure, I expect it. And my expectations are met fairly often. What I promote is the idea that more people share my expectations, so fewer people are harmed by government failure, and so we can stop this slide toward increasingly large portions of our lives being subject to the whims, interests, and prejudices of politicians.
I will concede that there’s a problem, here. In the private sector, failure leads to obsolescence (unless, of course, you work for a portion of the private sector that politicians think should be preserved in spite of failure). When government fails, people like Dinauer and, well, the government claim it’s a sign that we need more government. It’s not that government did a poor job, or is a poor mechanism for addressing that particular problem, it’s that there just wasn’t enough government. Of course, the same people will point to what they call governmentsuccess as, also, a good argument for more government.
It’s a nifty trick. The right does it with national security. The fact that we haven’t had a major terrorist attack since September 11, 2001 proves that the Bush administration’s heavy-handed, high-security approach to fighting terrorism worked! But if we had suffered another attack, the same people would have been arguing that we need to surrender more of our civil liberties to the security state. Two sides. Same coin.
That Pew poll is also a pretty good indication that the more government tries to do, the more poorly it does it. Your usual caveats about correlation and causation apply, but the federal government certainly didn’t shrink over the period the trust-in-government trend line has taken a nosedive. Note too that during the Clinton administration, federal spending actually shrank as a percentage of GDP, and the federal workforce shrank by nearly 400,000, leaving it at its lowest level since 1960. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s one period in the last 50 years over which trust in the federal government took a sharp climb.
But in general—yes—I think the fact that more people are realizing that government isn’t capable of solving all of their problems is an encouraging trend. Because it isn’t.”