If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.

 

The Heavy Burden of Government

A Commentary By Scott Rasmussen

Friday, August 03, 2012

In my hometown, everyone is required to have a landline telephone so local officials can reach us with a reverse 911 call.    

It's a nice idea, but it doesn't work. In my family, we never use the landline. We talk on cellphones. Occasionally, telemarketers call. So do people looking for someone named "Danny," but we no longer answer. So, if a call came from our local government, we'd never hear their message. But when you're building a house and need to pass inspection, it's easier to put in the phone than fight city hall.

Overall, 68 percent of Americans believe there are too many unnecessary laws in the United States today. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters all recognize the problem.    

Most excess laws are just a nuisance and not a real problem. But there are plenty of horror stories where individual lives are ruined for technical violations of unknown and unnecessary laws. Sometimes the harassment is aimed at a particular citizen; sometimes it's just bureaucracy gone wild.    

In his 2009 book, "Three Felonies a Day," civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate shows that "prosecutors can pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior."    

That's one reason 51 percent now believe that the government is more of a threat to individual rights than a protector of them. It's why people react so negatively to nanny-state proposals like banning the sale of large sugary drinks. Just 24 percent support that idea.    

Encountering unnecessary laws is just one reason people have come to see government in America as a burden. Half (50 percent) believe more government involvement makes society less fair. Only 22 percent believe it increases fairness.    

Government is also seen as a burden on the economy. And this extends beyond the heavy cost of taxation. Every entrepreneur can share war stories of overcoming government-imposed obstacles to succeed.    

Here's a basic point that many politicians miss: Just because a problem exists doesn't mean people want the government to fix it. For example, 69 percent believe executives at major companies get paid too much, but only 17 percent want the government to regulate their pay.    

To hold people and companies accountable, Americans believe in competition more than government. By a 2-to-1 margin, people believe more competition and less regulation is the way to fix the financial system. By a 3-to-1 margin, they say the same about health care. That's because competition puts consumers in charge, while regulation puts bureaucrats in charge.    

Put it all together, and it's easy to understand why 66 percent believe that the best thing government could do to help the economy is cut spending. Americans have come to view the government as a burden that is weighing down the economy and the nation.    

This is not an anti-government attitude, it's simply a desire to have government play its proper role in society. Too many politicians, from both political parties, believe the government's job is to run the country. A healthier view is to recognize that our government was designed to play a support role rather than take the lead.    

As I wrote in my book "In Search of Self-Governance," the American people do not want to be governed from the left, the right or the center. They want to govern themselves.

COPYRIGHT 2012 SCOTT RASMUSSEN

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

See Other Political Commentaries.

See Other Commentaries by Scott Rasmussen.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $3.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.