Why do people trust the government?

In the threads debating war with Iraq, there are always some people who say that they trust the government to act properly on proof they say they have, but cannot show for security reasons.

I do not want to debate war with Iraq; there’s plenty of other threads for that. I’m curious how people feel they can trust their government so much. The US government may be one of the more trustworthy on the planet, but that’s like being the tallest pygmy in the village. Governments and politicians have shown time and time again that being truthful is not their primary concern. I hope you really don’t need a cite for that, but if you must do a Google search on “Gulf of Tonkin” or “Watergate” or “read my lips” or “Lewinski” or whatever is your favorite presidential or government lie. The list is endless.

Is it that some think “Sure, politicians lie, but not when there’s lives in danger!” This is a dangerous attitude. It is when lives are at stake that those making the decisions must come under more scrutiny, not less.

I’m no Dale Gribble conspiracy nut, but I really don’t see how anyone can trust ANY government so much.

Do you think that to a certain extent the fact that administrations change renews people’s faith? I wouldn’t trust anything Clinton said after he had lied so many times to the public, but G.W. hasn’t done that, yet. So, maybe there is a bit of a “we trust you until you screw us” attitude. Also, the people around GW, especially Colin Powel, have good reputations amoungst the people. Just one possible explination.

It doesn’t help that the government controls education, or that the mainstream media practically fawns over anything the government says, and repeats it as if it were unadulterated truth.

I think we’re largely uncritical of government because we’re not exposed to things that would teach us to be critical of government, as a whole. And since there seems to be an upsurge in people, historically speaking, who want to use the government as a central authority to remold society (no cite, just a gut instinct from what I’ve read of American history, so feel free to dismiss it outright), you have more government-as-benevolent-nanny sentiment.

And it’s easier to trust your government. It makes things harder for you if you don’t think you can trust your government, and you have to do more thinking on your own. If you think there’s a big nanny out there who is always right, always tells the truth, and always cares for you - well, some people prefer that to a more cynical view. It’s more comfortable.

You make it sound like religion, SenorBeef! Which is a good analogy, both are beliefs based on faith and not on evidence.

We want to trust our government. We’re human, we want our emotions and our patriotism unsullied and uncomplicated. We want to be able to sing our national anthem without reflecting on the crimes and injustices inflicted in our name. We want to look at our President and see a statesman, not a politician. We wish to ignore that obvious truth that no virgin is ever going to be elected Queen of the Harlots, and that only rats win rat races.

As to Rhum Runner’s charming assertion that G.W. has not lied to us yet…stunning. Simply stunning.

And the curious part is that our Consitution divides power the way it does in large part because the framers didn’t trust anyone who was given power. They had seen it misused by rulers again and again and seemed to have the knack, which is now largely vestigal, of learning by experience.

Politicians are career liars. I’d sooner put my faith in a used car salesman to give me a straight story. Hence, I suggest we organize a coup d’etat to install Cecil as our undisputed philosopher king for life… of the universe.

cainxinth, it’s not that all politicans are career liars. It’s just that people are usually too stupid to elect the honest ones.

He’s absolutley correct. Our educationsal system is very careful reject any teaching materials or textbooks which might cause children to criticize our leaders, even if they’ve been dead for 100 years. One of the goal of social studies/history classes is to instill patriotism in children. (Which, of course has the side effect of boring kids to suicide. Uncle Sam is always good, just and right, and the opposition is always bad, corrupt, and faintly evil.)

Mel and Norma Grabler Special interest groups have enormous influence over what goes into our children’s textbooks, and editors are loath to make any updates that might cause protest by any particular group. Instead of scholars, surprisingly enough, among the people with the most power in textbook approval are a married couple living in Texas, Mel and Norma Gabler. While having only basic education in history, through their vocal and organizational efforts, they have become a powerful influence in textbook approvals/rejections, and most of the textbooks in use across the nation are there because Mel and Norma approved them. (The Grablers keep books from being used in Texas, and publishers, not wanted to print an edition just for one state, use the same version all over the country.)

They include in their guidelines that these books should “encourage loyalty” and avoid any material that might lead to students to criticize the nation’s leaders, because that, in turn, might make them criticize their parents and other authority figures. Mel Gabler has said: “Too many text books and discussions leave students free to make up their minds about things.” )The last thing we want American students to do is * think.) *

Texas guidelines for textbook approval state “textbooks shall not contain material which serves to undermine authority.” Textbooks that focus too much on “negative” aspects of history are not approved. But in making our forefathers into sinless, heroic, and perfect people, they’re also made into bores.

Each state has its own guidelines. To get on the “approved” list means millions of dollars for the publishing company, so they’ll change anything a state might find objectionable. The adopters look for mentions of their own state (woe betide the text proposed in Texas which does not include a lengthy section on the “heroes” of the Alamo). For years any text books sold in the South had to call the Civil War “The War Between the States” or even “The War for Southern Independence.” They smoothed over the civil rights movement by highlighting peaceful marches and avoided any mention of the violence against the protestors. In textbooks everywhere, it’s okay to talk about the attacks by the Indians on the settlers, but not to talk about settlers’ attacks on the Indians. Textbooks also avoid any mention of religion, or social class and tiptoe carefully around controversial topics like the bombing of Hiroshima and the Vietnam conflict.

The history profession does not review textbooks. The only review process is that of the raters, whose purpose is to look for a colorful, eye-catching layout, and make sure certain historical events are mentioned. Glaring errors often go unnoticed. The *American Pageant, * a high school textbook, said that President Truman “easily settled the Korean War by dropping the atomic bomb.”

Textbooks are usually written by a group of editors, not historians, who base their texts off of previous ones. Publishers dislike using true historians as authors, because they prove “less tractable” when it comes to editorial changes to suit the market. Advertising for textbooks use phrases like “helping students to discover our common beliefs” and “appreciate our heritage.” No publisher tries to sell textbooks with the claim that it is more accurate than its competitor. Accuracy is much less important than making students feel good about America.

How can it be said that we are uncritical of the government? I don’t know anyone that is not critical of the government. Either, there is too much government or not enough; taxes are too high or too low for the rich; pro-corporation or pro-union, etc., etc., etcetera.

As to accepting something the government says at face value; in the case cited I am willing to do so, since there are reasons for not making more available (yes, security reasons). If Congress says they are passing a bill that you approve of, do you need to know all the clauses in that bill? Also in the case cited, the polls show that a majority approves of how things are being handled.
I assume that means they feel they have enough information.

Just wondering, but which edition would this be? I have one edition in my backpack, and my friend has a more modern one. The book is frequently used for Advanced Placement American history classes in high schools (classes that are the same in curriculum as a college freshmen American history course).

Indeed! Perhaps he should check out spinsanity.org, especially all of the stuff about the tax debate. And a good example of lies and deception on environmental issues is given here.

And then there are all the attempts to withhold information (such as the decision to henceforth classify details of missile defense tests so that organizations can no longer point out the ways in which these tests are unrealistic).

This Administration is making “Slick Willie” look like a paragon of truth and openness by comparison!

Actually the OP asked about “trust” not about “criticism.”

This might or might not be legitimate and gets to the issue of trust. Claiming that you can’t release something for security reasons is an open invitation to hide news that is unfavorable to those in power.

More often than not, I think, failure to disclose conceals facts from the population at large, things that are common knowledge to the security apparatus of prospective enemies. They also have expertise in how intelligence work is done and could probably tell us quite a bit about our intelligence activities if they chose to.

I have trouble believing that experts couldn’t sanitize news releases so as to get information to the public without revealing sources. The methods are doubtless already known to others.

Reasonably complete records of the debate and hearings on legislation is made available the the public at large for use by those who want it.

I don’t know what particular “case cited” you mean re "the poll"s, but one more time: The polls do not show support for a war against Iraq in the absence of UN approval.

I’ll try to find out. This came from James Loewellen’s book * Lies My Teacher Taught Me. * This book came out a few years ago, and I’m sure that he wasn’t the first person to notice the error, so I’m sure that it was immediately corrected in subsequent editions.

I’ll go down and get the book, and see if the footnotes list which edition or year of this error.

No worries. I have copies of both Lies My Teacher Told Me and The American Paegent. I’ll make a note to scour them later.

Now having scoured Lies I’ve been unable to locate any mention of the error in the textbook. Do you know which page it was on, perhaps?

Well, Loewellen cites * Publisher’s Weekly * an article published on March, 2, 1992, entitled “Texas Schoolbook Massacre: 5200 Errors found in 10 History Books.” Lowellen notes: “Not all 5,200 were errors, and many errors were trivial or arguable.” Apparently, though, he found the Korean War cite credible. The Appendix lists an * American Pageant * 1991 edition as one of his sources, but does not say if this is the edition in question.

*Publisher’s Weekly’s * archives only go back to 1997, and a Google search turned up nothing pertinent, so I wasn’t able to get a link to the article.

My paperback edition has it in Chapter 11, page 280, second paragraph. (Footnote number 32.)

The book mentioned I have read as well. Perfectly stunning. I no longer have a copy, having already urged it on others, and I indulge this brief hi-jack to urge it on others as well.

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
Its a wonder I can think at all”
Paul Simon, Kodachrome

Preach it, brother.

I think the book is fairly good, although I believe Loewen seemingly puts his own agenda into it too much. OTOH, it’s well researched and exposing.