Your life is in there somewhere, and it sucks.
Governments are almost uniformly disliked, because they suck. Their main selling point is that they suck significantly less than no government, or really bad government, but that’s a hard sell.
How Sri Lankans Hate The Government
In Sri Lanka, there were and are many people who don’t want whatever current government to exist at all. Basically every ethnic group except the Muslims has rebelled (a lot of Burghers in the 1962 coup attempt) and even after rebellions were squashed, a lot of people are still bitchy about it.
Even now, some of the English Speaking Elite (ESE) media is almost entirely negative towards the government. Many diaspora Tamils are still calling for a separate state. The brouhaha about war crime investigations comes from this, what they really want is the decapitation of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government, brothers and all, which effectively ends the current government.
How Americans Hate The Government
America has an almost congenital aversion to governance. Their Constitution is largely a list of what government can’t do, their Declaration Of Independence an outline of when to overthrow it. In modern times, the small government idea was personified and almost deified by Ronald Reagan. The more toxic parts of his rhetoric have hung around while the realistic aspects of how he governed have largely faded.
In America it is pretty much de rigueur for politicians to campaign against government when they run. David Brooks addresses this in his latest Op-Ed
Roughly 10 percent of Americans trust government to do the right thing most of the time, according to an October New York Times, CBS News poll.
Why don’t Americans trust their government? It’s not because they dislike individual programs like Medicare. It’s more likely because they think the whole system is rigged. Or to put it in the economists’ language, they believe the government has been captured by rent-seekers.
This is the disease that corrodes government at all times and in all places. As George F. Will wrote in a column in Sunday’s Washington Post, as government grows, interest groups accumulate, seeking to capture its power and money. (Where Are The Liberals)
What Brooks calls rent-seeking is essentially corrupt douchebags taking over the government. Scholars like Joseph Tainter have tied this behavior to the complete collapse of multiple civilizations, when the corruption basically gets out of control and the whole thing has to go. This is the feeling behind much aversion in Sri Lanka and the US, but it’s important to remember that these collapses are usually horrific and take decades if not centuries to emerge from. It’s basically a last resort.
The cure here doesn’t have to be destroying the government, it is essentially re-allocating resources. The people railing against a government are essentially knocking to get in. As Chinese blogger Han Han has written:
They hate the powers-that-be and corruption mostly because they wish that they (or their own relatives) have been the beneficiaries instead; they don’t care about restricting or supervising the authorities; they pick up the vocabulary about democracy and freedom only when ill luck befell them and they need to petition their causes. (Han Han On Revolution, Democracy And Freedom)
The thing is that government is significantly better than no government, and good government is much better than bad government. Kings and all try to portray the government as awesome all the time, which is one way to do it, but as populations get more educated they are less likely to believe something so paternalistic and stupid. The modern citizen/government relationship is more teenager/parent than child/father. Hence the angst.
The Political Network
What Brooks calls for is a Steve Jobs/Martin Luther figure to ‘scrape the barnacles off the state’ and simplify everything. This could be Obama, or not. What I believe, which may sound kooky now, is that revolutions in personal and social computing will next be extended to the political network.
Modern government runs on paper and people, which have inherent problems and huge amounts of waste and opportunities for rent-seekers to emerge. As industries like music and textiles have been revolutionized by technology, so will government, soon enough. Tech has already started to empower more people, but it hasn’t yet been used by governments to really process more inputs. They’re learning the ropes via censorship and surveillance, but eventually those inputs will become part of a more modern democratic system.
Essentially, if you have bad governance, there’s an app for that, or there will be. There will certainly be a generation for whom such a thing is understood and from whom it can emerge organically. Right now, however, is like the brief interregnum (ongoing) where everybody used Windows XP, despite it sucking. It still sucked less than not having an operating system at all.