Who’s Afraid of Big Government?
You often hear politicians complaining about Big Government, even though they work for the government. Our fear of government in the United States borders on pathological. After all, there’s nothing wrong with government per se. Just like any other big institution, it is prone to Byzantine bureaucracy and corruption. But in this country, many people seem to think that government is more prone to corruption then business or education or religion or other large organizations. The fear of Big Government is deep-seated within our collective unconscious. Let’s take a look at history and see where this comes from.
The American Revolution
The most obvious start is the American Revolution. Just about every kid in America knows about the evil King George III and the relentless taxes put on the American colonists. But the problem didn’t start with King George. The American colonies had been having problems with the crown for years. After all, these colonies started because people left England in disgust. Either they left in religious dissent, off to Massachusetts, Maryland or Connecticut. Or they left for economic reasons, going to Virginia, the Carolinas or Georgia. This means that our fear of Big Government goes all the way back to Merrie Old England. And since the English have mistrusted their (constitutionally limited) monarch for centuries, we can date this back to the Magna Carta. But why did the Magna Carta come from England and not France or Spain? To understand this, we have to go back the Norman Invasion.
The Norman Invasion
In 1066, William the Conqueror took over England. When he did, he removed almost every aspect of the native Anglo-Saxon government, replacing it with a French-speaking one. For several centuries, the government of England spoke Norman French. In essence, the entire country was run by foreigners. This is the primary source of our collective fear. This is why we view the government as alien. As foreign. As something that comes from above and oppresses us, like the alien spaceships in Independence Day.
The Conquest of America
If the fear of Big Government dates back the Norman Invasion, why do Americans seem to hate government so much more than Britons? After all, England has a queen, a socialized healthcare system and more CCTV cameras than George Orwell could have imagined. The reason is because the Norman Invasion is not the only time in history that foreigners have taken over a country for their own and oppressed the people living there. The English colonists in America did the exact same thing to the Native Americans. We live in a stolen country. Land that was taken from thousands of small Native American tribes.
There are theories out there that there was a lot more intermarrying between whites and Native Americans than previously thought. Which means that if your family has been in America for more than a few generations, you probably have at least some Native American blood. Add to that all the immigrants who come from oppressive regimes over the course of American history, and you can see why our fear of alien monolithic government is so pervasive. Big Government will always be one of our biggest bogeyman. As long as that fear is kept within reason, there’s nothing wrong with that.