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The Quality of American Government

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By Dr. Robert Holloway

The U.S. Government – Something to be Feared – or Supported?

These comments are prompted by my reading of the WorldNetDaily, an internet publication that takes a dim view of the quality of our government. This dim view apparently extends to the belief that certain elements in the government are involved in a sinister plot to reduce civil liberties. The editor of the publication also believes that certain elements of the government have gone so far as to be involved in murder. Joseph Farah, editor of WND has suggested that the deaths of Vince Foster, William Colby and a large number of other people were not due to causes that were officially cited in various investigations, but were from some sinister but as yet unspecified origin. I will discuss those issues later, but on this page, I simply want to review the evidence regarding the overall quality of our American government. Let me cite a few examples along the lines of comparison of our government with other governments. That really is the best measure of quality. All governments and all organizations will make mistakes, since they are composed of humans and humans are not infallible. The best way to measure quality is not by a comparison to some ideal, abstract standard, but by comparison to other governments of the world. How does the quality of our government compare with other governments of the world and with past governments? Are the writers in the WorldNetDaily correct in their view that we are going to hell in a handbasket? I think that a strong case can be made for just the opposite, that we have the best government in the world and that our present government is better than it was 50 years ago or 100 years ago or 200 years ago.

Let us consider the following:

1. The Record of the United States in the Area of Human Rights.

I think it can be accurately said that the record of the United States in regard to human rights is uneven and not without blemish. If we look at the entire history of the United States, our treatment of blacks and Indians has been rather poor. But if we look at trends, the trend is quite positive. Slavery was ended at the time of the Civil War. The power of the government was used decisively to end slavery and to start the black minority on the road to equal rights. In the 1950s, the power of the federal government was used to end segregation. Although it was strongly opposed at the time, there are few now who advocate going back to the days of segregation. Is this the action of an evil government? Perhaps I misunderstand the WorldNetDaily. Maybe they think these dangers and sinister forces are present only now in the government and not in the 1950s. But I was alive in the 1950s and early 1960s and I can remember the ideological cousins of the WorldNetDaily who loudly proclaimed that sinister socialistic forces in the government were behind the movement to enforce integration. There is not much new under the sun – including even the claims of evil forces in government. Over the long term, the concerns raised by the WorldNetDaily will not even rate a mention in the history books of the future. These concerns are so trivial and without foundation that I am surprised that anyone takes them seriously. In general, the policy of the United States on civil liberty and human rights will be a reflection of the will of the majority at any point in time. Since the actions of the government are improving, rather than getting worse, there is no threat in that regard, contrary to the views of the WorldNetDaily.

Some mistakes were made by our government in the area of human rights. One thing that was not admirable was the support extended by our government to dictatorial regimes. But under Jimmy Carter, that policy was changed so that human rights now play an important role in relationships with other nations. In general, the U.S. has its strongest relationships with those countries having democratic institutions and does not support those countries who oppress their peoples in various ways.

Any evaluation of the American government in regard to human rights and civil liberties must take into account the general attitudes of civilization at a particular point in time. The government founded here in 1776 was a great leap forward in human progress and was recognized as such at that time. It was an experiment in self-government where the outcome was by no means certain in its early stages. It has been so successful that our form of government has influenced many other countries around the world and has been copied to some extent by many countries. But any government, even the present government, will at times make mistakes. But an honest evaluation of the quality of the government must consider not only mistakes and errors but the many instances of success. It is not hard to find success stories involving the government. The Marshal plan that helped Europe recover from the World War, the landing of man on the moon, the aid given to nations in trouble, all these are examples of the use of American power in ways that meet almost universal approval. In general our military power has been used carefully, wisely and with good results. Oddly enough the radical right seldom comments on the use of the military outside of the United States, but frequently expresses fear of the misuse of that power within the United States. Still they can point to very few instances of any misuse of the military within this country. The danger, I think, is mostly in their imagination. I wonder about the ethical standards of the WorldNetDaily, when it implies that the President is guilty of murder, when in fact there is no evidence of that. That it is believed by a substantial number of people does not change the fact that there is no evidence supporting such a viewpoint. I know that if I were accused of a crime, without any evidence presented, I would resent it and consider it very unfair. Somehow Joseph Farah and his co-workers are able to overlook this basic element of fairness.

The tone of most of the writing in the WorldNetDaily is that we should return to an earlier era when this country had an ideal balance between the power of government and the rights of its citizens. I contend that this golden age never existed and that we as citizens enjoy much more freedom than at any time in our past history. If you were a black citizen, ask yourself at what time period would you prefer to live, now or prior to 1900. The turn of the century was a time of lynchings when the rights of many citizens were ignored, especially if you were black or an Indian. Are there more sinister forces in government now than in the past when the government ignored the murder of many of its citizens? Are there more sinister forces in government now than when women and blacks were not allowed to vote? I find the pages of the WorldNetDaily filled with opinion that is not at all logical. Perhaps the WorldNetDaily can point out exactly what point in time these sinister forces came into the government. Was it after World War II, when the inhuman Nazi governments were defeated? If there is something to be feared from this government, maybe some victims can tell us about their own personal experience of how their relatives were killed by the sinister forces in government. Evil governments do that, and examples are not hard to find. There were real victims with real names connected with the Nazi rule. Where are the victims of the sinister forces that are so feared by the WorldNetDaily? Perhaps they can point to some, such as the Waco incident, but it is far from clear that the government was at fault in that instance. When two sides are heavily armed and distrustful of each other, it only takes a spark to cause problems. There is no reason to expect other such incidents as Waco. Incidents such as Waco would have to happen on a routine basis before I would lose confidence in the basic decency of most government officials.

The government has never oppressed me or my family. On the contrary, I have benefited greatly from government aid through various forms of educational loans – and I am sure some of you critics have too. These benefits are not unusual and not difficult to get. It is difficult for me to see any evil intent in a government that makes so much effort to help its citizens. Recently I bought a collection of audio tapes of Civil War music and I have been reading a number of letters written by soldiers during that period. I am amazed by their steadfast determination to support the government, in many instances at the most supreme risk to themselves.

The attitude today of many on the extreme right is almost total distrust of the government, not only of the President, but of almost everyone and every agency in government. Oddly enough these extremists consider themselves loyal citizens. But if their distrustful attitudes are ever transformed into illegal acts, then there will be no choice but to deal with them according to the law. It seems to me that much of their agitation is already harmful to society, even though it is protected by law. The purpose of these pages is to examine and expose the mistaken beliefs of these extremists. These mistaken ideas are sincerely held, but they have the potential of needlessly disturbing the peace and prosperity of the country.

I consider the present government, including the President, the Congress and the various agencies of government, as deserving of support as any that we have ever had and as deserving of support as any that we are likely to have in the future. Also, those who cannot support the present government, are in my mind not likely to be able to support future governments and therefore should be recognized as impediments to good government rather than as good citizens. Hopefully, some of them will recover from their delusions and learn to think clearly again.

Perhaps I should be clear about definitions. When I say that the present government deserves support, I do not mean that there is an obligation to vote for incumbents. I mean that one should refrain from spreading lies about the government in general, and in particular a very high level of proof should be required before spreading rumors of coverups and murders. The WorldNetDaily and other organs of the extreme right have required no threshold of proof on stories of this nature. You need only to search the Internet, using such terms as Waco, Oklahoma City, and TWA Flight 800, to see what is happening with these false claims.

Recently a cousin sent me an account of an American who had a heart attack in a remote corner of Brazil. The American was a missionary and had no special political influence. At the request of the American Embassy in Brazil, a military plane with medical personnel was sent to Brazil from the East Coast to pick up the man and return him to the states for medical treatment. He was an American in trouble in a foreign country and the government responded. Is this the action of an evil government? I hope that those of you who believe that the government is infiltrated by evil forces, will consider whether you are evaluating all of the evidence or just picking what suits your preconceived ideas. The account of this rescue does not say whether the plane was black with no markings, but surely the man who was rescued would not have objected to a black airplane. And he probably did not ask if there were any UN personnel aboard! I would be willing to wager that if any of you were in trouble in a foreign country, the first thing you would do would be to contact the American Embassy, and you would not ask them if they were ideologically pure and readers of the WorldNetDaily!

2. Prosperity – The Product of Good Government

Nothing so proves the high quality of our government as the high level of prosperity that we now enjoy. I believe that prosperity and good government are closely linked. There are very few instances in history in which a tyrannical government has been associated with a high degree of prosperity for any length of time. Historically the United States has enjoyed a higher degree of prosperity than most other nations of the world. This is true now and it was true 150 years ago. The present time includes one of the longest periods of economic expansion that this country has ever known. The best antidote to the paranoid views of the WorldNetDaily is travel outside of the United States. Each time I go outside of the country and return, my first thoughts as the plane is touching down is how lucky I am to live in the United States. There is no evidence that any alleged sinister forces are at work in the United States government. On the contrary, there is an ever expanding respect for human rights in this country that refutes the idea that our civil liberties are being taken away.

Interestingly, the Y2K problem occupies an important role in the thinking of the radical right. But in my view, the worry about Y2K merely shows how well we are doing economically. There are millions in Russia worrying about how they will eat on an income of $100 per month. THAT is a real problem, not the hypothetical danger of disaster due to the Year 2000 problem. I am sure millions of people in the world would be happy to exchange problems with those of you who are distressed about the Y2K problem. The Y2K problem is of course a real problem, although there is disagreement over what will happen. It is considered unusually important by the extreme right as demonstrated by the WorldNetDaily. It is curious that this non-political problem should so capture the imagination of the right. Possibly it is because much of the attraction of the right is based on fear of various unknowns. The Y2K problem offers the slight possibility of a major social disruption in which the right can introduce all of the half-baked conspiracy theories that they have nursed for so long. It is the high level of prosperity in the country that allows the extreme right to worry about a problem such as Y2K. My own view is that any disruptions caused by the Y2K problem will be short-lived and insignificant.

3. The Dangers of False Viewpoints

I believe that there is a real danger in spreading false information and false viewpoints about the quality of government. Quite often the belief that there are sinister forces in government is based on “facts” that are not true. Today’s email brought a criticism of my views and alleged that in the Oklahoma City bombing, there were various coverups by the government. I don’t know of any solid evidence to that effect and if there is no solid evidence, then spreading such information will do more harm than good. It is not logical to believe something unless there is good evidence. Yet some readers of the WorldNetDaily and even some writers continue to do that.

The best example of how false viewpoints can be dangerous to society is in the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma. It was carried out by those who were obsessed by ideology, in this case the ideology was that the government was corrupt. I don’t accept that and in my view the bombers were criminals and not people to be admired. Thankfully, only a small percentage of the public will ever be so lacking in common sense as to share their views. The real danger is the some unstable individual will be inspired to terrorism by the extreme and unfounded paranoid views expressed in the WorldNetDaily.

4. Reasons for the Discontent

It is a curious question as to why the views of the militia and other fringe groups appeal to a small fraction of the population. The answer cannot be found in discontent over the economy, given the level of prosperity that now exists. Views similar to these have existed for a long time, at least as early as 1960, especially in regard to conspiracy theories. During the Clinton administration, much of the investigation and reporting involving Bill Clinton has been paid for by Richard Mellon Scaife who has left no stone unturned to remove the President from office. Some of this money has flowed to the American Spectator and other publications that have concentrated on investigating the President. Naturally, if one a wealthy person is willing to spend enormous amounts with only one objective, then it can have an influence.

The extreme right is not without its disagreements, however. There is a difference between those who are merely Clinton haters, such as Ken Starr, and those who think he is the devil incarnate, capable of all manner of evil, including murder. In my opinion, those in the last category show very little capacity for rational thought and I wonder how they are able to think clearly enough to function in the world. I suspect that some of the most extreme are perhaps not able to work within an organization and find some way to distance themselves from people and from the government that they hate so much. The political right seems to be a continuous gradation, from responsible conservatives, all the way to eccentric loners who become obssessed with weapons and ideology, increasingly fearful of black helicopters and the United Nations. Never mind that the United Nations has never had any role within this country – that does not prevent them from fearing it.

The paranoia of these fringe groups has been heightened by real blunders on the part of the government in Waco and Ruby Ridge. But in my view, the blunders were of judgment and not of objective. I don’t believe that the government wanted either incident to end with loss of life. In the case of Waco, there was at least as much fault on the part of the sect. They could have, after all, agreed to surrender. Very little would have happened to them if they had surrendered to the law officers. At most they might have been charged with a minor weapons violation. To resist by force, all of the resources of government, is not a very bright thing to do. The unfortunate thing is that force invites force. To an already unstable individual, such as Timothy McVeigh, the Waco incident served as a catalyst for the Oklahoma City bombing. Can similar incidents be anticipated in the future? Accurate reporting can do a great deal to prevent such events.

Consider a case where false information might set off someone like Timothy McVeigh. Although there is not a shred of evidence, many people believe, for instance, that the President is somehow involved in the deaths of many people (see the body count elsewhere on this site). It is disgraceful that publications such as the WorldNetDaily, continue to spread these unfounded rumors. When dealing with such serious matters, accuracy is important. There are many other cases where the “facts” known to the extreme right are just plain wrong. Let’s hope they don’t do something illegal based on mistaken information or on bad interpretation of available information.