Nation of doubters has lost faith in government

Trust is a fragile commodity, easily lost and difficult to regain. As an asset in the public arena, honesty appears to be in shorter and shorter supply. Even as considerable rhetoric continues to be devoted to restoring “trust” in government, recent studies clearly indicate we remain a society awash in dishonesty and mistrust.

One of the more revealing annual surveys of this phenomenon is conducted each year by the non-partisan Ponemon Institute . The institute’s annual “Privacy Trust Study of the United States Government” probes the views of citizens across the country to gauge their level of trust regarding various federal government agencies.

For the past four years, the U.S. Postal Service has received the highest score . Although that may surprise some people, what should universally shock Americans is the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice is among the least trusted of federal agencies. That’s right — the one government office tasked above all others with maintaining the standards of justice, fairness and privacy , is among the least trusted. Nearly four times more Americans found the Postal Service worthy of their trust than they did Justice.

Confidence in the Justice Department’s ability to operate according to high standards of fairness is essential to upholding the rule of law in America. Lack of trust in government erodes the ability of the Justice Department to successfully prosecute important cases, including those involving corruption in government. If the citizenry lacks trust in law enforcement, especially at the federal level, they will be more hesitant to bring information to the government’s attention . If the average citizen perceives top government officials as thumbing their noses at the law, those citizens may feel emboldened to themselves violate the laws.

Recognition of standards for honesty and trust in government at the top likely led Attorney General Eric Holder to affirm the administration will in fact abide by the laws prohibiting torture. This move was buttressed by his recent release of disturbing memos by Bush administration officials that attempted to justify the use of torture by its operatives in the CIA (which, in the most recent Ponemon trust survey, ranked even below that of the Justice Department).

The administration of President Obama, however, appears still unsure of how far to go in demanding that agencies other than the Justice Department take steps to convey openness and honesty in their dealings. The administration still refuses to order the Treasury Department and other federal offices responsible for the “bailout billions” to disclose how they are spending the taxpayer monies entrusted to them. And prosecutions of the massive frauds that aided the mortgage meltdown still are far too few.

Another study conducted by the Josephson Institute for Ethics presents a chilling picture of just how difficult is the task of restoring a sense of trust. In its 2008 survey, Josephson found that nearly two-thirds of high school students cheat in school; nearly one-third of those same students admitted stealing from stores. (Both figures were increases over the institute’s 2006 survey.)

Finally, yet another survey conducted by KPMG found that businesses suffer equally distressing levels of dishonesty. KPMG’s 2008-2009 “Integrity Survey” of corporations, revealed that three-fourths of corporate employees observed misconduct in their organizations, with half of those indicating such transgressions were of such severity as to cause a loss of public trust if discovered. Dishonesty truly is an equal opportunity endeavor.

Nearly 2,500 years ago, Diogenes roamed Greece looking for an honest man, reportedly with little success. He’d likely have an even harder time now.

52 comments Add your comment

Matt W

May 6th, 2009
7:48 am

Mr. Barr,

I agree that many are losing faith. I also understand that any institution has a propensity for corruption over time. This was the case in the age of Diogenes as well as today. I’d like to remind everyone that corruption takes many forms – from outright bribery to setting aside campaign promises when they become inconvenient in a major campaign contributor’s eyes. Our founding fathers understood the nature of corruption well and worked their tails off to develop a Constitution which set our government on the right course. More and more in our country, the career politicians are becoming adept at influence over redistricting, finding the big campaign money, whatever it takes to stay in office. And more often, these moves are not to made maintain the course of what started off as a patriotic career choice.

Term limits for congress will be a great start to end a broken cycle for our government. There are plenty of intelligent, patriotic folks out there who can make a difference, but who currently have zero interest in throwing their lives at a broken system. If we re-establish our government (elected officials and federal/state institutions) to where we trust propensity for corruption has been minimized, I’m sure we’ll see that culture propagate to our commercial institutions as well.

Respectfully yours,

Davo

May 6th, 2009
7:51 am

Time is ripe for the libertarians. Ron Paul is making progress in his effort for transparency and accountablility from the federal reserve; seems like some in the GOP are starting to come around to thinking about the proper role of govt.

After 8 years of Obama (that’s right, 2 terms easy) the tables will be turned yet again…I hope We The People will get wise to this nonsense by then and vote in a 3rd party.

Democrap Party

May 6th, 2009
8:55 am

Well, looks like Reagan was right after all.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Ronald Reagan

Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.

Ronald Reagan

Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.

Ronald Reagan

Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.
Ronald Reagan

Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.
Ronald Reagan

Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.
Ronald Reagan

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Ronald Reagan

Governments tend not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.
Ronald Reagan

PoliticalMan

May 6th, 2009
9:02 am

After eight years of Bush and Cheney how could anyone trust gov. In some ways gov reflects us. Apparently we do not trust us. If we don’t trust gov, what must we think of corporations in particular financial institutions? If corps aren’t incompentent, they are corrupt. And the CEOs are paid millions. We are a sick society. RE: libertarians. Libertarianism is total nonsense. That’s just what we need: more free-running. It has worked so well.

Davo

May 6th, 2009
9:15 am

PoliticalMan,

“Apparently we do not trust us”

Liberal thinking, in a nutshell. Go on back to bed now…Obama will tuck you in.

ByteMe

May 6th, 2009
9:15 am

So let me get this straight, Bob: you spend your time in Congress parroting the Party line that “government is the problem” and that “less government is always better”. And then you’re silent for most of the last 8 years as that same Party in power screws up so badly that no one trusts it.

And now 100 days into the new regime, you want to act like it’s a sad thing that the government can’t be trusted?!? You really think trust destroyed after 8+ years of screw-ups can be re-earned in a mere 100 days?

Unbelievable.

clyde

May 6th, 2009
9:24 am

Politicians from both parties are stealing us blind and we’re worried about torture.Torture is a red herring dragged across the trail to divert attention from real problems.

Politicians are corrupt by nature.Corporations are corrupt by nature.They are in bed with each other for money.Our money.They want it.They want the power that goes with it.And now they have it.We the people keep electing politicians because they’re the only ones that run for office.

Karl Rove

May 6th, 2009
9:33 am

Nice Ascot Mr. Barr!

[...] Bob Barr thinks a nation of doubters has lost faith in government. [...]

George American

May 6th, 2009
9:52 am

We need to put our trust in smart rich guys and big business.

GodHatesTrash, Superstar

May 6th, 2009
9:55 am

Ashcroft, Gonzalez, Mukasey. Not names to inspire confidence.

Incompetents and flacks all. The kind of garbage we came to expect from the Bushies.

Will Jones - Atlanta

May 6th, 2009
10:16 am

Gee, how “odd” former CIA man, and known hypocrite, Barr failed to mention the publicly announced Jury Forewoman’s judgment, Leslie Armstrong, in United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. – 824 F.2d 916 which determined that the CIA, yet to be brought to the Bar of Justice for it, assassinated President Kennedy six weeks after he ordered us our of Vietnam…or that the son of one of the principals in that assassination, George W. Bush, after being cheated into office by a patently unconstitutional majority opinion consisting only of those Roman Catholic on the Supreme Court, committed 9/11 Viz. http://www.angelfire.com/biz/hankramey/The%20New%20Pearl%20Harbor.pdf

Obama is only a good start. The Roman Anti-Christ’s Fifth Column must be extirpated in America.

The Truth is The Truth.

Trust only G-d. It’s essential to America’s Creed: Annuit Coeptis

Death for Treason

dbm

May 6th, 2009
10:38 am

To PoliticalMan:

Government has been very heavily involved in business and the economy in very many ways, all the time, for a long time. *That* is what has caused this mess.

vuduchld

May 6th, 2009
10:51 am

Government is only as good as the people who are entrusted with the keys. Don’t blame government, blame the persons “we the people” elect to steer the country. President Obama inherited a mess from the previous idiot occupying the White House and it is his solemn duty to clean it up. People’s comments on here and other articles is a testament to the fact the we all want to “have our cake and eat it too”. It has to be understood that we can’t “cherry pick” laws and revise institutions to suit our whims of the moment.

I keep hearing from the doubters that our government is charging over the hill, ready to take away our freedoms. Well, I’ll be fifty-one next month and I have yet to see that occurring. Have curbs been put in place, yes, but only because there is a certain element out there who are hell bent on chaos and destruction to the majority’s determent. If “we the people” begin to honor and respect the rights of others, then most of the laws, rules and regulations will disappear. However, there is always a “creative class” who feel the need to rule, subjugate and destroy for their various causes.

Don’t blame government, blame WE THE PEOPLE!

William

May 6th, 2009
11:18 am

“Republicans say government can’t work. Then they get elected and prove it”–PJ O’Rourke.

PoliticalMan

May 6th, 2009
12:03 pm

Pretty funny. Gov made the Wall St fat cats sell bogus securities and sell insurance with no backing. With no gov just imagine how pure and virtuous our economy would be.

Re: gov is not “me.” Sorry dude, it’s you too. Maybe Bush was your man. Painful, isn’t it. But then many prefer their presidents to be unable to speak in complete coherent sentences.

herbK

May 6th, 2009
12:09 pm

Bob, how can anyone have any faith with anyone in DC? All politicians we have today are merely there to support and supplant their personal agendas. The unwashed masses matter little to the blue-suited brown shirts in washington. Once you understand this and accept it, you’ll understand why so many in the world hate the USA.

Eric

May 6th, 2009
12:21 pm

Excellent writing as always, Mr. Barr! I always look forward to your columns.

Regarding lost faith in government, I would say that is definitely the case and extends to so many other areas of our lives. Consider the average work week for the average citizen–so many companies now require overtime, evenings and weekends. What happened to the labor laws that limited the work week to 40 hours? People fought and died for this back in the early 20th Century. Today, in a weak economy, employers can and do demand all hours and workers are powerless. So much for freedom! Any thoughts?

SaveOurRepublic

May 6th, 2009
12:24 pm

The distrust of bloated, overly empowered Government is completely justified. However, most “sheeplized” Americans fail to realize that “Crapitol sHill” & the White House is filled with (mostly) puppets of the Globalist Elite. A conglomerate of the Central Banking Cartel (& its (private) “Federal” Reserve branch), Old Money Elite & B/C leaguers (Soros, Murdoch, Gates, etc.) truly call the shots & set the agenda. Leveraging incessant mindless fluff, blatant disinformation & Bernays-esque propaganda, the Globalist Elite keeps the majority of the populace deeply deceived.

http://www.infowars.com

Fred

May 6th, 2009
12:31 pm

Vietnam was so worth it and Afghanistan will be too. Let’s try price controls again like Nixon did. And we can confiscate everyone’s gold like FDR did and also extend the depression like he did. And lets incentivize executive bonuses by eliminating tax write-offs like Clinton did with the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1993 and lets do more irresponsible social engineering with Government Sponsored Agencies like Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac and legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act and lets nationalize the oil industry like Maxine Waters threatened and lets jail millions of drug users and enable a violent black market and lets up the Pentagon’s 600 billion budget and lets ignore the 60 trillion unfunded medicare, medicaid, and social security liabilities and the 14 trillion dollar debt and lets let the Treasury and the Fed bail out their rich banking buddies and monopolize the money supply for their own gain and wreak havoc with the markets and catalyze epic booms and crashing busts -

Because Were The Government And Were here To Help

PoliticalMan

May 6th, 2009
12:50 pm

“What happened to the labor laws that limited the work week to 40 hours? People fought and died for this back in the early 20th Century. Today, in a weak economy, employers can and do demand all hours and workers are powerless.”

I certainly hope that the writer of this understands that the NLRB has been packed by those who are there precisely because they will not enforce the labor laws. Is that a gov problem. Not really. It’s a problem of Repubs rewarding their backers by selecting similar people for those positions. In this day and age, approx 25 % of people who are leaders in trying to organize a union are fired by their employers and they get away with it because of the NLRB and the fact that the law is toothless. The big question is when corporations take over gov, who are you going to blame. Some say gov. I would say the more basic problem are corps. Their money needs to be gotten out of the process.

luangtom

May 6th, 2009
12:58 pm

Just how in the world can “we, the people”, trust any government ruled over by a person with a number of aliases…. Barack Obama, Barry Soetero, Barry Dunham….from his formative years? All of the people that have anything to say or do with this scam will most likely suffer the Vince Foster-syndrome and either be dead or disappear. Trust…..we the people do not have it.

williebkind

May 6th, 2009
1:45 pm

If you are going to blame Bush and Chaney, please refer past the two years liberal democrats were in charge of congress. Yes, I know, Prime Mistress Pelosi did not know they were talking about doing enhanced interrogations…liberals sure can spin the truth.

Well, as I read before, they will do all evils and receive an approbate mind. That is it in a nut shell. I do not trust government, especially a liberal socialist government.

Approbate mind–please if you are a liberal, learn this term and know to whom it applies.

Will Jones - Atlanta

May 6th, 2009
2:27 pm

Here is the free, downloadable, irrefutable proof, by a distinguished scholar of proven integrity, that Bush and Cheney committed 9/11:
http://www.angelfire.com/biz/hankramey/The%20New%20Pearl%20Harbor.pdf

Anybody have a guess as to whether Bob Barr will read it? He was made aware of it at a public meeting, ~2005, on a panel discussion at Dad’s Garage Theater.

The People must rally with mattocks and tines sharpened. “They” know perfectly well and good what’s going on, same as the rest of us…but they’re interested only in protecting the traitors, not the truth.

Truth the truth. Trust G-d.

Death for Treason
Annuit Coeptis – That America be blessed once more

jabster

May 6th, 2009
2:29 pm

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. Dumb, bad laws cause people to not trust all law, and not follow any of them. A free society cannot thrive under a distrust of all law. Dumb, ill-conceived laws undermine the whole law code and eventually all of morality.

I don’t trust the government and most of the legislation it passes, for reasons that should be obvious if you’re paying attention.

SaveOurRepublic

May 6th, 2009
4:59 pm

Will Jones – Greetings sir. No doubt 9/11 was a false flag op (leveraged as a pretext for the rising Orwellian police state, Middle East entanglement, etc). I’m sure you’ve seen “Loose Change”, but for those who haven’t….

http://www.seeloosechange.com

P.S. – “Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup” is scheduled for release in September this year.

Saul Good

May 6th, 2009
9:05 pm

The only ones that have lost “faith” are the Talibangelical Right Wing religious fundamentalists. The party you hijacked was ruined by those of you that made it the “taliban” party of the USA. Democrats have not lost faith in government. There are more of us in this nation now thanks to you “believers”… Thanks Evil-gelicals! You’ve brought us back into power stronger than ever! I expect at least 70 democrats sitting in the senate by 2012. You party is well on it’s path to be the party of “nothing” for another 40 years… get used to it. Stop whining and take responsibility for your actions by voting republican over the past 8 years. You helped ruin this nation! Your party of “less” government??? Yeah… intrude into people’s private lives…their sex lives and murder people overseas that never were a threat in the first place.

The USA is now again seen as a beacon of hope around the world. Compare that to what your boy “Dubya” the Connecticut Cowboy did….

Take a deep breath and hold it for a while… thanks for making our party stranger than ever!!!

Saul Good

May 6th, 2009
9:10 pm

Willie… IF we dems are “socialists” as you all use as your new “catch phrase”… what was Reagan? The wealthiest 5% paid 10% higher taxes under Reagan. All Obama is doing is let the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest 5% of Americans expire and go back to what they were at the beginning of Bushes “ruining” of our nation. I would guess that if Obama is a socialist…that would make Reagan a Communist…RIGHT?!

jt

May 6th, 2009
9:21 pm

Saul- first you said this ” You helped ruin this nation! ”
Then you said this “The USA is now again seen as a beacon of hope around the world.”
You ended with this.”Take a deep breath and hold it for a while… thanks for making our party stranger than ever!!!”
I bet you voted for Obama.

Clarity

May 7th, 2009
12:29 am

Mr. Barr, I think this needs some clarification. YOU have lost faith in government. LIBERTARIANS never had faith in government because, like petulant 2 year olds who want to go to bed at midnight, they regard any regulation as a nefarious plot. REPUBLICANS engender distrust in government for political gain. DEMOCRATS rely on government to change hearts and minds. And then there are those of us who are grounded in reality.

Government (which, at its heart, is comprised of hard working people) is, generally, trustworthy. It is POLITICIANS who are untrustworthy. Politicians appoint their friends to lead government agencies and departments and, more often than not, those friends are incompetent sycophants who do the bidding of the politicians (or, more accurately, the lobbyists who put the politicians in office). That relatively small group of people — the politicians and their appointed toads — are the people who are untrustworthy. The regular public sector employees who have no control over policy but are used as whipping boys for the politicians and appointed toads are the “government” that can be trusted. Unfortunately, articles like this which paint them all with the same broad brush are the reason so many of them give up trying to do the right thing and serve the public; their only reward is propaganda from the whiny, ungrateful public that put the real sources of the problem in power.

S

May 7th, 2009
2:25 am

May the radical Republican’s wander in the Jungle for 40 years. They want everything deregulated so the Jungle is the perfect place(everyone for himself)…May you all be as happy as an Elephant in Quicksand…

hop

May 7th, 2009
5:21 am

it was the lack of oversight with fannie and freddie that cause the housing mess.

yes, your friends barney frank and bill clinton put much heat on the banking group to make loans to everyone, regardless if they could afford the loan or not.
as recent as last summer barney frank said the freddie/fannie were doing just fine.i guess so in his view since he and many dems were getting huge campaign funds from this group.

the ecomomy was doing just fine until the dems took over congress and let fannie and freddie go up in flames.

now, obama will bankrupt this country with this crazy economic plan that has never worked.; just ask the japanese who tried to outspend themselves in the 90’s that did not work and failed under jimmy carter who allowed double digit unemployment, inflation,interest rates with mortgages.

inflation is about to take off with this unabated sending with the messiah who does not have a clue about economic growth. i just hope he does not lose his tele-prompter or he will be totally lost.

Rick Cole

May 7th, 2009
5:53 am

After reading all of these postings, I think the government actually doing a good job of reflecting the citizenry. It is myopic, incoherent, self-aggrandizing, and bent on expressing and exploiting narrow views for narrow ends.

Lincoln’s government “…of the people, by the people, for the people…” doesn’t have much to work with on AJC blogs.

Dave

May 7th, 2009
6:06 am

Basically most politicians and the corporations who lobby them hard believe the American consumer and tax payer are like the ocean you fish it for all it can supply and milk it as hard as you can to get all there is tomorrow may not even be there.

trudy

May 7th, 2009
7:25 am

The end of the American Empire is in sight. Its credibility is gone – destroyed by the gop and bush administration. GOP LOVES TORTURE

bobby c

May 7th, 2009
7:46 am

are you kidding? is this a serious attempt at news? with spector bailing like a dog who can’t get elected in his party, nathen deal jumping ship cause its the in party over there, with a socialist in charge, with money cheap as it is, gas as costly as it is, the world opinion of the leader we are supposed to be, with political correctness at every turn, surely you jest. and do i detect this guy blaming me, us for doubting? come on, wake up to reality, it is what it is. a bunch of loosers, lawyers, and political hams, up there spending our money on their issues, and wants and needs, while i struggle to find way s to pay my taxes, and watch them in their inefficiency to the max.
i am disgusted with the entire mess from the belt way to 285.
rac

Road Scholar

May 7th, 2009
8:10 am

Clarity: well put!

Oh so the government (Frank and Clinton) made the banks give bad loans! So, did they also cause executive bonuses and compensation not to be based on performance, profits, and outcomes? So did they also cause AIG to sell “insurance” w/o putting assets aside to cover posiible loses?

I beg to differ. Those in charge of businesses are suppose to be “businessmen and women” who have the knowledge and experience to make financially sound decisions. They appear to be more interested in getting theirs and becoming rich. It’s called greed. It’s a fraternity at the top; the whole executive system is corrupt, which also has penetrated Government.

So let’s reduce restrictions, reduce oversight, and everything will be ok! Right! If you tell your children to do their homework, rest assured that that is the only thing they are doing regardless of the music, noise, or other distractions that are taking place in the kid’s room. Smart parents instruct, check, follow up, and ensure their direction is being done. They reward measurable success and punish poor performance. They set clear and responsible goals or processes to ensure the results are favorable.

It is clear that those who do not trust government, or follow the laws, are not commited to be good citizens. They turn into whiners who do not take responsibility, or who do not provide the effort to ensure their work is done correctly, or, even worse, they mouth off with their mindless succession dreams.

Copyleft

May 7th, 2009
8:31 am

“The end of the American Empire is in sight.”

Good! America was never supposed to be an empire, and we did a lot of damage to our ideals by trying to become one.

Democrap Party

May 7th, 2009
9:26 am

trudy, you love abortion. Can we abort you and the democrats?

Copyleft, and you were never meant to be an American citizen. You’re more like cow $hit to America anyway. People like you were properly shot or hung for treason. Boy do I wish we could shoot treacherous scum bags like you. America would be far better off without uneducated trailer trash like yourself.

Copyleft

May 7th, 2009
9:47 am

Thanks for your enlightened and well-reasoned comments, “Crap.” You truly represent the libertarian mindset well.

As long as the far-right loons display the reasoning skills and good common sense you regularly demonstrate here, the REAL America has nothing to fear from you.

RetLTC

May 7th, 2009
10:02 am

Bob, it is very easy to lose faith in a government that considers it’s citizenry the enemy to the point that they have us all under surveillance 24/7. When our rights under the 4th Amendment are returned to us in totality maybe some of that faith can be restored. The Bush/Cheney administration mounted a full scale assault on the 4th amendment in the largest power/control grab in United State history and it will take some time to recover from those facists.

Jefferson

May 7th, 2009
10:54 am

Its getting better. Get on board, childish attacks are the work of children. Use the system, it one of the best around.

Peter

May 7th, 2009
11:41 am

After Bush………. “mission Accomplished”……..then “Faulty Intelligence”…….. not getting Bin Laden………which now has us into (2) WARS……. Bailouts for the RICH Wall street guys…..Millions given as Bonus’s to guys who ran their companies into the ground……………Religion mixed in Politics…….Tax dollars spend on WAR, and not the people……..why would we believe in government ?

Democrap Party

May 7th, 2009
11:43 am

Copyleft, like I said, people like you, who hate America and blame America need to leave. Please, leave America and go live in your native land of North Korea.

[...] via Nation of doubters has lost faith in government | The Barr Code. [...]

Democrap Party

May 7th, 2009
12:22 pm

Copyleft, go back over to Bookmans blog and pretend like you’re an important person. You idiot libs are on these blogs day in and day out. WHY? Because none of you have jobs. You all live in your mom’s basement pretending to be important people when in fact you trolls are nothing more than high school dropouts.

Peter

May 7th, 2009
12:55 pm

HA HA HA …….Democrap Party ………. HA HA HA…talk about self importance…….. you can blog and no one else ?

Why don’t you actually say something instead of attacking someone……typical Rebublican action.

Democrap Party

May 7th, 2009
1:43 pm

Peter, yeah, this coming from someone who blogs and name calls on Bookmans blog day in and day out.

HA HA HA HA Peter!

hryder

May 7th, 2009
3:06 pm

Obviously, many if not most of the so called adults in the country are not well schooled or responsible economically. Otherwise, the average per person debt load would never exist at its current level. Congress is raising our national indebtedness at a faster and greater level than ever, yet only its majority members believe that such efforts will result in the countries standard of living being raised or even maintained. Keep it up Congress and we will have no illegal or legal immigration problems as being able to increase ones socio-economic status through ones efforts will be impossible for almost any and all residents of the United States. Other countries will become the beacon on the hill as this country was once recognized.

Peter

May 7th, 2009
4:47 pm

Got the wrong blogger Democrap Party………or shall we say Mr Important ?