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In Nothing We Trust 910

Hugh Pickens writes "Ron Fournier and Sophie Quinton write in the National Journal that seven in 10 Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track; eight in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed, only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business. Less than half the population expresses "a great deal" of confidence in the public-school system or organized religion. 'We have lost our gods,' says Laura Hansen. 'We've lost it—that basic sense of trust and confidence—in everything.' Humans are coded to create communities, and communities beget institutions. What if, in the future, they don't? People could disconnect, refocus inward, and turn away from their social contract. Already, many are losing trust. If society can't promise benefits for joining it, its members may no longer feel bound to follow its rules. But history reminds us that America's leaders can draw the nation together to solve problems. At a moment of gaping income inequality, when the country was turbulently transitioning from a farm economy to a factory one, President Theodore Roosevelt reminded Americans, 'To us, as a people, it has been granted to lay the foundations of our national life.' At the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt chastised the business and political leaders who had led the country into ruin. 'These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men,' said FDR. 'Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.'"
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In Nothing We Trust

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  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:03AM (#39771093) Homepage Journal

    ... after all, if I can't trust Slashdot, who can I trust?

  • Why is this here? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattgoldey ( 753976 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:06AM (#39771143)
    Hey, does anybody remember when there used to be tech stories on slashdot?
  • Thanks, media (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elecmahm ( 1194167 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:09AM (#39771195)
    Yellow journalism (on both sides) is almost completely based around the idea of making us dislike and not trust our fellow humans. The more we can walk away from these inflammatory media sources, the better.
    • Re:Thanks, media (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:35AM (#39771583) Journal

      Good luck with that... from childhood (watching schoolyard fights), we've been addicted to drama, and it won't stop any time soon. My FB page (as little as I see it) is already swamped with political spam for both sides, each fervently proclaiming that the other guy is the locus of all evils... too bad neither side can go out of their way to list definitive good things about their own chosen side. I just block 'em all until after election season.

      But when you think about it, the manufactured kind of drama (brought to you by CNN, Fox News,, et al) isn't necessarily malicious in and of itself, but only serves to capture eyeballs, thus advertising dollars. The malice is just a side effect (and one that no one seems interested in alleviating).

      Look at it this way: It is a mark of maturity to know that the only way to win such a game is to not play it at all.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It is a mark of maturity to know that the only way to win such a game is to not play it at all.

        Whoops, I thought we were supposed to sell both sides inflammatory talking points with anecdotal evidence so we can steal from them while they're distracted :x

    • Re:Thanks, media (Score:5, Insightful)

      by daem0n1x ( 748565 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:38AM (#39771627)

      Don't forget the indoctrination being performed for decades on the minds of people:

      1. Society owes you nothing;
      2. if you fail, it's your own fault;
      3. Don't blame others for being treacherous, just be smarter than them;
      4. Your coworker is not your friend, he's after your job;
      5. Anything has value only if it has commercial value;
      6. Merciless competition is the natural way, live with it;
      7. If you're not rich, you're useless scum;
      8. . . .

      This is not the way our brains were programmed to work. Without a sense of community, we drown in misery. Without trust, there's no community. The USA is a few steps ahead of Europe in this stupid individualistic mentality. Don't expect your country to go anywhere with this.

      • Re:Thanks, media (Score:5, Interesting)

        by wiggles ( 30088 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:55PM (#39772861)

        I completely disagree with you on the types of indoctrination. I see the following lies being taught:

        The government will take care of you
        If you fail, it's society's fault.
        If it's not society's fault, it's your competitor's fault.
        If it's not your competitor's fault, it's the government's fault for not taking care of you.
        It's NEVER your fault, because you are a unique snowflake who is entitled to all the riches in the universe, given to you by the government
        The rich got where they are not by creating wealth for themselves, but by taking it away from others - despite the fact that those others are more prosperous as well

        Community is tribal behavior, which hurts the individual for the sake of the group. If the group then benefits individuals, then that's the way it's supposed to work, but when those groups feed off of individuals to benefit themselves as though the group is the ends and not the means, as is the case with government and many churches, then it's time for those individuals to leave the group. The solution is to break out of the shackles of 'community' and embrace individualism - only there can we be truly free. Once free, those individuals can re-form institutions, free from corruption (for a while anyway).

    • Re:Thanks, media (Score:5, Insightful)

      by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:03PM (#39772033)

      "Yellow journalism (on both sides) is almost completely based around the idea of making us dislike and not trust our fellow humans. "

      No, it's based on drama.

      Reading HISTORY is ample reason to dislike and not trust our fellow humans. That's HEALTHY. I grew up in the "transition era" of the 1960s when the US became drastically less conformist.

      Things are MUCH FREER now. Contention between idea and uncertainty is scary. So fucking what?

      We should question everything. We should "kill our Gods" and reject superstition which has been passed on by UNTRUSTWORTHY "fellow humans".

      More of that is happening. That's GOOD.

    • Besides it is considered political doom, for anyone to be considered a Moderate.
      Every decision you make has a trade off. When you give a political answer you either focus on the Positive or Negative of the argument, not allowing for a full discussion of the wider issue.

      Beware of Power Words, These are words that give us a strong feelings, however have little meaning to them. This happens all the times, When asked before the Iraq War if there were WMDs they said it was a "Slam Dunk". A Power Word to make us

  • And yet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oGMo ( 379 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:11AM (#39771227)

    They'll post every detail about their life on Facebook.

    • Re:And yet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:47AM (#39771789)

      Somebody asked me why I posted a fake birthday on my profile. I said I don't want my data publicly posted and available to Facebook, google, and other advertisers, so almost everything on my profile is fake or deliberately left blank (except my name/school). That person told me I shouldn't be lying to people. (sigh) They just don't understand how data is being collected and sold, not just by corporations but also the DHS.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Stiletto ( 12066 )

        Oh, my god! Your data is being sold! I'm sorry to hear how horrible this must be for you. I can't imagine the daily pain and anguish this is causing you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They'll post every detail about their life on Facebook.

      This is a big problem with Slashdot. If they don't like what you say, you'll be modded off-topic. But if they like what you say, you can be as off-topic as all hell and still get modded insightful. What's the point of having a moderation system if it won't be used properly?

  • by characterZer0 ( 138196 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:11AM (#39771233)

    People do not trust Their Party, but they still distrust The Other Party, so they will keep voting party-line.

    So nothing will change.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cpu6502 ( 1960974 )

      Is there really any choice? I support Ron Paul's plan to cut 950 billion dollars and FINALLY balance the budget, but it's pretty clear Mitt Romney will be selected at the party convention. (Romney is 1st; Paul is 2nd.) So my choice is between one banker-funded man named Obama and another banker-funded man named Romney..... both of whom are pro-bombing/pro-killing. I might as well just stay home on election day, since there is not real choice.

      And don't say "Vote third party." Been there; done that with

      • And don't say "Vote third party." Been there; done that with Harry Browne, and it does no good. Third parties have never won any seat higher than the Congress.

        Stop focussing on winning, and then maybe you can experience victory. Winning isn't everything -- affecting the dialogue is important and can lead to real change, and THAT is victory. With a few losses for the major parties (to the other side), it won't take a brilliant partisan hack to realize that selling out their constituency is not the way to win elections, and because the Repubs and Dems are concerned primarily with winning, not issues, they will adjust their issues to win back dissidents. But your voice won't be heard if you join the masses of disinterested by not voting. A protest vote, even though you know your candidate will lose, has value and the more people who realize that, the more likely we will see change. Not this year, not in four years, not in eight -- but long term. It is the short-term lesser-evil thinking that is the true evil.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:11AM (#39771243) Homepage Journal

    People complain about spouses and jobs which they in fact want to keep.

    Might the same thing be happening here? People still keep their money in banks, shop at big businesses, and don't use any of the many tools for influencing the government. They still call 911 when there's an emergency.

  • Not natural (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fnj ( 64210 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:12AM (#39771245)

    The most remarkable thing about this abject collapse is that not a single facsimile of a leader who understands what is happening and has a glimmer of an idea what to do about it is in evidence. It's just not natural.

    You can believe if you want that all 300 million citizens without exception are either STUPID or have no leadership skills whatsoever. But methinks Occam's Razor suggests that there is a powerful, sinister organization which is ruthlessly stamping out any leaders who even start to surface.

    • Re:Not natural (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gambino21 ( 809810 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:30AM (#39771493)

      Occam's Razor suggests that there is a powerful, sinister organization which is ruthlessly stamping out any leaders who even start to surface

      I think it's more like a pattern of corporate owned media and politics, than any single sinister organization. Any leader to tries to spread ideas outside the accepted dogma is quickly attacked and/or ignored by the existing powers. The media had an extremely strong negative reaction to Wikileaks when it started gaining popularity because it went outside the normal power structures. The mainstream media also had a pretty negative initial reaction to the Occupy movement. They also had/have a significant bias against Ron Paul. Whether you agree with RP or not, I think it's difficult to deny that the media did a lot to marginalize him. []

    • Repeating myself (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:29PM (#39772451)

      I've posted this before inthis same thread, but...

      Rocky Anderson aims for real campaign finance reform, real healthcare reform, and prosecuting corporate and governmental law-breakers. Which is why you haven't seen him on any major news outlet in the past few months other than Al Jazeera. It's not just politicians who like the status quo. Reduce the amount corporations can spend on politicians and you reduce the amount politicians can spend on advertising.

      There is not a vast conspiracy in as much as they don't NEED to conspire. They all have settled into a niche they like in the current ecosystem. Everyone wants to keep everything the same, and so they all contribute to it. Large corporations, politicians, the parties and the media. They all want the same thing: to keep things basically the same, which incrementally increasing spending and reducing taxes. They don't care that it's CLEARLY a train wreck in progress.

      Each person in power does his or her bit to keep things as they are. They stir the pot, but only enough to keep people upset, not to cause change. Abolition will never be legal or illegal. Mexicans immigrants will never be embraced or sent packing. Campaign finance reform will never get completely killed or actually happen.

      The system works. And so we are all doomed unless a force which has a different priority gets some leverage, and forces the above players to look for a new niche.

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:12AM (#39771247)

    The first past the post democratice system essentially forces a 2 party system so you can "win" the election. If there are N parties then they split the vote N ways, any 2 parties in a N party system can combine and gain position. By reduction you get a 2 party system if it is irreducable or 1 a party system if reducable.

    Two party democracies do not represent their populace. You can't divide an entire populace into box A or box B on all issues. The two party democracy staggers back and forth from side to side never doing real compromise and never meeting in the middle. Both sides make a mess.

    • by Gordo_1 ( 256312 )

      Yup. For all the bluster I hear about the constitution and the institution of democracy in the US, I just can't bring myself to trust the system. The way things are going, it looks to me like in the next say 50 years we'll be essentially stuck in a 1984-style surveillance dictatorship in all but label. Kind of like China or Iran or Russia where they may let you vote in a new leader from time to time, but he's really part of the same machine that brought you the last one.

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:51AM (#39771859)

      To become president you need to get 270 electoral votes. Not the most, but 270 (or more). So what happens if you have more than two candidates and it ends up such that nobody gets 270? You have no majority and nobody wins. There's no revote or anything, instead the House of Representatives elects the president, and the Senate the vice president. Yes, really, and it happened in 1825.

      Well that gives a real incentive for a two party system. With two people it is nearly impossible to not have a majority winner. It is technically possible to split the EC, but hard. However with each additional serious contender, a no-majority situation becomes increasingly likely.

    • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:01PM (#39772001)

      No, uneducated democracies are bad. The assumption that one persons' opinion is automatically granted the same validity as another's is the core of the problem. The world has gotten complicated vastly faster than the population's aggregate understanding of it. People generally no longer have the education to be able to have a legitimate opinion, so they have to blindly follow the opinions that are given to them. And *that* is the source of the problem with the two party system.

      You can fiddle with the style of voting, or try to set up new parties, or twiddle with how the electoral system works, but its all band aiding the core problem -- letting people vote on issues they don't understand.

      Things have been getting worse in the US because the people in power in the parties *know* they can manipulate voters that way.

    • You might be right. But we could go a long way in the US by finding a way to eliminate Gerrymandering [] which would at least have the effect of allowing moderates a voice in the discussion.

  • money is your god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:13AM (#39771263)

    Money has replaced God, even in churches where the preacher stands in a 1000 dollar suit asking for cash

    Money aint a score in some kind of game, you have a whole society who thinks "get rich or try dying" was a prophecy not a ignorant statement from an ex-drug dealer
    you have entire TV culture based on how much you can earn (auctions/antiques/cars/houses/music), shows that glorify money, hell even some people here dont primarily choose their careers on what they will be doing, but how much its worth in cash and then openly mock Arts students and the like for their "worthless" choices while the best minds on the globe are figuring out how to get more people clicking on adverts for shitty companies with shit ideas.

    may you get whats coming

  • no agreement... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:14AM (#39771269) Homepage

    ...other than to disagree. Of those 7, 3 are conservatives who believe that things would be just fine if we could undo the damage those liberals have created. Three more think that Obama is too conservative and has abandoned the very people who elected him. The other one is just sick of the other six.

  • Huzza! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:15AM (#39771287) Journal
    Statistics like that are almost enough to make you believe that people had finally worked out the practical applications of 'statistics' and 'empiricism'.

    This pleasant feeling only lasts until the next barrage of polling about the existence of guardian angels or horoscopes or whether coffee enemas cure cancer; but so it goes.

    In all seriousness, this article manages to have a very important point(trust is an extremely valuable asset in a society, far cheaper and more pleasant than the alternatives of investing in lots and lots of contract lawyers and prisons); but its pessimism masks the counterpoint that loss of trust isn't exactly some sort of mental pathology. If anything, continued trust in the face of getting screwed over is pathological. It is important to distinguish the trust-loss scenarios where paranoia is the problem(eg. violent crime, for most of us. It's available 24/7, anything messy that happens worldwide; but actual levels are deeply unimpressive by historical standards) and trust-loss scenarios where the problem is that they really are out to get you(If you trust banks, I have a loss-proof CDO tranche to sell you)...
  • Agreed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:15AM (#39771293) Homepage

    I agree. I don't have any faith whatsoever in politicians, in businessmen/corporations, capitalism, the justice system, or - in particular - the media. It seems the sentiment of the day is a combination of "the end justifies the means" and "everyone for themselves".
    North American culture (I live in Canada but we are much the same as the US) has become a celebration of ignorance, shallow interests, self-interest, denial of scientific fact, rabid support of political positions with little or no thought about what they mean, and a major drive to eliminate person privacy from our world. Corporations seemingly give politicians their marching orders and they go enact legislation that benefits the corporations at the expense of the people for whom the government supposedly exists. Companies who fail miserably are bailed out - and pay their CEOs massive severance packages using our money, then ship the majority of their jobs overseas by way of thanks. No one cares about the common man, its all a scrabble to get to the top walking on the bodies of those who get in the way. We fight wars based on lies for the benefit of corporations who supply the wars.
    I think we have lost any moral compass - and modern religion is not going to provide that moral compass because it is seen as corrupt, power-seeking and backward in its attitudes. I think the world is far too cynical, but then I am trapped in that attitude as well.
    I can't honestly think of a single politician in office today whom I believe is honest and working for the benefit of their constituents.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      A common sentiment. Unfortunately, a majority of Slashdotters will proclaim the answer is to increase government power to finally reign in those nasty corporations. Because, obviously, that's super-duper wise when you don't trust the government because it's been captured by corporate interests.

      This is why I personally don't trust any of these institutions and individuals: because the people involved want power to impose their wishes on their neighbors. Corporations and unions and government-check-cashers

  • by Nematode ( 197503 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:17AM (#39771325)

    I wonder how much of this is related to the decline of the old media as the "gatekeepers" of information and analysis.

    When you're able to get all the information and opinion you want, pre-filtered for your ideological comfort, the echo chamber seems to foster a real information tribalism. Confirmation bias ends up adding to the idea that institutions are being run by the "others" -- whose motives are necessarily corrupt/selfish/based on ignorance. Just go to any political blog/aggregator and read the comments after a particularly big SCOTUS decision - those lousy conservative/liberal justices just serving their big business/labor masters, and we need an ideological clean sweep in the next election to ensure better outcomes next time around etc etc.

  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:18AM (#39771339)

    When people say "I don't trust government" or "I don't trust religious institutions" what you usually find when you dig a little deeper is that what they REALLY mean is "I don't trust government from the other party or other states--but MY party/guy is great" and "I don't trust other religions/denominations/parishes by MINE is fine."

    In other words, people express displeasure , but it's always for different reasons and against those they already opposed anyway--so no coherent third party ever forms and nothing ever changes.

  • by arcite ( 661011 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:18AM (#39771341)
    Could this not be a general consequence of a collective malaise permeating across all the developed world right now? Here we are the beginning of the 21st century, just starting out the second millennium (depending upon which calendar you follow)...nonetheless, we have crossed a psychological barrier in our human, or civilization's development. We expect more. Here we have the internet, instantaneous communication, global village blah blah blah... yet we also have signs of stagnation, threats of ecological apocalypse, rise of extremist views (not only religious mind you) but also a growing divide between the have's and the have nots'. Is this just a basic power struggle over increasingly limited resource? A temporary phenomenon brought on by protracted economic downturn? We may yet triumph through this great adversity. Crisis is the mother of invention after all. Solutions are all around us, but we need to maintain a cohesive vision for that entails.

    So are we permanently losing a 'confidence' that we once had? Arguably no. There is a schism in the world however. It's one that has existed for as long as civilization. The thirst for power, political power, personal power, economic power...and ideology and religion. Ah, the boogeyman finally appears. No matter where you look, the world is now more secular that it has been in two thousand years, and it only grows more so. Traditional gatekeepers in society are becoming less relevant, while new technology is creating new forms of control. All of this creates a climate of fear, which leads to uncertainty and pessimism.

    Can technology save us from ourselves? This is the question for the ages, a question that will be answered in our lifetime; consider the pace the world is moving in. Climate change, overpopulation, increase incidences of natural disasters, and even protracted economic chaos. Most of us will live in a world of more than eight billion people. The salvation for everyone lies in our collective ability to innovate, invent, new solutions to the same old problems. Life was not that much different two thousand years ago, it was just a whole lot more boring.

  • by Bigby ( 659157 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:19AM (#39771349)

    "... But history reminds us that America's leaders can draw the nation together to solve problems. ..."

    I would argue that is the source of the problems. Why can't we just admit that you can't bring 300+ million people together on how to spend 30% of the resources. Maybe cut that down to 10% and let the other 20% go back to smaller governing bodies. We need to "draw the nation together" to agree to separate a little bit.

  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:25AM (#39771425) Homepage Journal

    Our system of government is broken and dysfunctional. It's in need of reform. Left or right, nobody thinks this is working as designed.

    Government is not the same as country. The american people are still mostly decent people trying to get around with bloated fat bureaucrats mucking up the works.

    Our biggest problem is people in charge trying to brainwash us into believing only one political party has all good ideas. There's a word for that kind on blind faith. It's called religion.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:32AM (#39771513)

    I don't recall any moment in history when Americans trusted institutions like the banks or the governments. Which is why they killed-off the central bank in the early 1800s (sadly it came back in 1913), and wrote constitutions to limit government power. Americans fundamentally don't trust giving power to strangers.

  • Scared Politicians (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:32AM (#39771521)

    I'm a US citizen and have voted in every major election since 1984.
    I come from a US military family. Dad was a pilot in the USAF.
    I'm a law-in-order guy.

    I really disliked the made up invasion of Iraq, but I didn't speak out at the time. For that, I am sorry. Invading Afghanistan did make sense, but now we need to leave to let them deal with their own issues. They want our help (money), but aren't interested in our education bias and beliefs that women/girls are just as equal as men/boys. That is a long held culture/religious belief. We aren't going to change it in 10 years. Good enough - we need to take our money and leave. Until the citizens of Afghanistan choose to change, we can't help or get our wish list.

    I really dislike the government watching everything in the name of preventing terrorists acts. Monitoring telephone, Internet traffic for everyone without a court order is bad. Any organization doing it needs to be held accountable to the fullest extent of law. FBI, NSA, telecommunications companies and even google, twitter, facebook, etc. - there are thousands of other companies doing this.

    I really dislike having the freedom to travel impacted by organizations who are trying to prevent every possible failure from happening. It is a lost cause and the impact to our society is 100x worse than a few downed planes. The terrorists have already won since we sheep have given up so much of our freedoms. I say that everyone should be allowed to carry a 12inch knife blade on an aircraft if they like. I bet we are more polite.

    President Bush started this out of fear. A scared country like the USA is bad for the entire world. We need to be open and honest, not secretive. Our welcome to all visitors was our main strength.

    President Obama has been scared into retaining AND expanding the monitoring, watching, surveillance, and he's left his promises behind. It is sad. Our elected officials don't stand for freedom anymore.

    Being afraid of what might happen is foolish. Our minds can come up with millions of terrible scenarios. That is not a waste of time for a small group of experts, but the rest of the country needs to not be impacted.

    Don't get me started about religious beliefs that are harmful to entire segments of our population. Religion has no place in US politics. That goes for abortion, science books and gay marriages. Whether religion makes sense in other countries like Iraq or Afghanistan is not my concern.

    In the next Presidential election, there isn't any candidate who I can vote for with a clear conscience. This is sad.

    I will vote for the least scared politician.

  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) * on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:32AM (#39771523) Homepage Journal
    23% still have confidence in banks?
  • So, does this mean (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:33AM (#39771539) Homepage Journal
    It's time to refresh the tree of liberty?
  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:37AM (#39771615) Homepage

    People are always dissatisifed with how things are going lately, because they haven't got a clue how things are going or what to do about it. It's just how they feel at the moment that determines things... and there's always something new to be outraged about.

    The truth is that we've got an uninformed and unengaged electorate who picks a bunch of people to run things, then immediately starts complaining about them. And whose fault is it if you don't like the politicians? It's the voters. Nobody wants to tell the people that they're the ones to blame for all of the stuff they bitch and moan about (as people would rather hear pandering lies about Washington insiders and evil big business), but they are.

    You replace the current crop of voters with a group that actually bothers to get informed and refuses to tow the party line, and you'll see things change real fast. Without that, there's no particular reason for anything to change. After all, politicians want votes. If you vote for it, you're encouraging more of it.

  • Our government is so large that it becomes frustrating to the common person to sort it out. Throw in a political class which is adept at maneuvering the public so that this political class avoids being the focus of attention.

    As in, the news is replete with stories about how I should be concerned about how much other people have and how they spend it. Yet I am not supposed to think the same of those in government. Where there the press should be bullying the politicians on how they spend OUR money instead they join right in and do endless stories about how other people spend THEIR own money.

    A government which takes every care away from you in life so you don't have to think fully expects you not to. Unfortunately far too many people buy into that.

  • by Remus Shepherd ( 32833 ) <> on Monday April 23, 2012 @11:51AM (#39771857) Homepage

    'Kyklos', meaning 'cycle' in Greek, describes the course of human political systems. In the days of the ancient Greeks the Kyklos was said to take the form of Anarchy->Monarchy->Aristocracy->Oligarchy->Democracy->Anarchy. No matter where on the cycle you start, human nature takes over and tames Anarchy, corrupts Aristocrats, steals power from the Oligarchy, and dissolves Democracy back into Anarchy again.

    I'm not sure the old Kyklos works in the modern day, however. It seems to me that we started with Democracy, formed an Aristocracy out of that which has now corrupted into an Oligarchy. With people losing faith in the institutions of the Oligarchy (and thanks to the internet, able to spread their dissent and doubts), we may be headed toward Anarchy now. Or the internet may allow some leader to leverage his charisma and steer us into Monarchy. Either way, Democracy is long done and people have good reasons to worry about the future of America.

  • It's not that the institutions are (significantly) different than they used to be, but, rather, that people are more cynical. Hell -- go back to the 20's, to any manufacturing or mining town -- you could believe in those companies, because you *knew* they didn't give a damn as to whether you lived or died.

    It almost seems to me that it's the other way around; now that we can afford to become somewhat complacent, now that we have time on our hands and a means for easy bi-directional communication, many have decided that "things suck." Additionally, I have to lay some of the blame on the hard-core right-wing media: to many of them, stuff *always* sucks. Government is, by definition, bad. Teachers are out to brainwash your children. Etc. (Granted that several of these themes have been held by the hard-core liberals over the years, but not since, or prior to, the 60's did they really give voice to it.)

    The bottom line, I suppose, is that more media makes us more cynical.

  • by jdavidb ( 449077 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @12:11PM (#39772153) Homepage Journal

    If society can't promise benefits for joining it, its members may no longer feel bound to follow its rules

    That's okay. People don't have to live by everybody else's rules, anyway. As long as people are not permitted to violate each other's rights to life, liberty, and property, people should be perfectly free to make their own rules and should not have to feel that they are "married" to every single person for 3.8 million square miles with no possibility of divorce.

  • The Best: People decide what our government will be.
    The Worst: People decide what our government will be.

    Reaping what we sow. No matter how bad it gets, we all continue looking around complaining and doing the same things with even more enthusiasm.

  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Monday April 23, 2012 @01:12PM (#39773035) Homepage

    I have a different opinion than most of the posters here on the problem with the U.S. policy machine and electorate right now. I think it has to do with the ideology of unity, i.e. that we are the "United" States of America, that we are basically all the same, that we share interests and goals, that we are all in this together.

    This is untrue, but here and elsewhere, I see no national awareness on the part of the political machine or the electorate that there is basically no unity and no way to achieve it. If we could all acknowledge that, there would be an understanding of the need for compromise.

    Instead, over and over again I see people assuming that their understanding of what is wrong is shared by virtually everyone, and that if virtually everyone knows what's wrong but it hasn't been fixed yet, it must be because of those "other" people that are in the minority but that are somehow pulling the strings in "today's America" and are somehow corrupt/oppressive/dangerous/evil.

    Just in this discussion I see people saying that the problem is obviously:

    Franklin Delanor Roosevelt
    The Welfare State
    The end of religion
    The pill
    The wrong understanding of God
    Selfish banks
    Selfish politicians
    Selfish media
    Poor public education
    Global overpopulation
    Technological malaise
    An active sense of entitlement
    An overly passive population
    Centralized government
    The absence of an external threat
    The decline of the family
    The decline of values
    and so on.

    And each presents the argument as if it's authoritative. And many seem to imply that there is some kind of majority involved ("More and more countries..." "The American public..." "we this..." "we that...")

    The framing in terms of "we" or in phrases that imply a majority place everyone that disagrees outside of a presumed collective. I see this on both sides of the political aisle right now. In 2011 I lived both in New York City (very liberal) and in Utah (very conservative) and both populations have the same certainty, with a different focus.

    For the New Yorkers in lower Manhattan, it's obvious that America has had it with a tiny minority of crazy conservatives trying to destroy the nation, and if Obama doesn't win the next election, it's because this minority has stolen it from the American people. For the Utahns, it's obvious that America has had it with a tiny minority of crazy socialists trying to turn America into the Soviet Union with Islamist tendencies, and if Obama wins the next election, it's because this minority has stolen it from the American people.

    Both refer to American values and American history constantly, but totally different versions of these.

    There is limited or no understanding that monotheism and polytheism and atheism are all American values, that black slaves and white colonialists and native tribes are all "founding members" of our present society in some way, that the populace includes sizable blocks of both highly conservative pro-life, pro-national religion, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant libertarians and highly socially liberal pro-choice, pro-secularism, pro-feminist pro-immigration social democrats, and everything in between.

    Somehow the "melting pot narrative" has broken down and the Utahns imagine that "most Americans" drive a truck, own horses, have a rifle under their seat, and are married with children and mom staying at home while dad plays provider, while the lower Manhattanites know that "most Americans" take public transportation, are more and more concerned with global warming and local green economies, are down on cars and big oil and guns, and are living in "alternative" family situations to that "traditional narrative that was never representative anyway."

    When told about the other side by me, people in both groups had the tendency to say about the other that "those people just c

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