The Blog

News and stories from the campaign to reclaim individual responsibility and liberate Americans from bureaucracy and legal fear.


Are we in the end times of trust in government?

From The Washington Post, February 7, 2013:

It’s no secret that the American public views its elected officials with some combination of disgust, disappointment and distrust. Congress’s approval rating is in used-car-salesman territory, and with every legislative crisis it dips, somewhat amazingly, lower.

But, as bad things are, there is a tendency to assume that the current attitude toward the federal government is sort of how it always has been. Except that it hasn’t always been like that.

This chart is taken from a broader interactive project from the Pew Research Center that aims to document public attitudes toward the federal government from 1958 to the present day. It documents the percentage of people who said they trust the government in Washington either “just about always” or “most of the time.”

There are any number of interesting storylines in the chart  – for much of the 1960s, more than seven in 10 people expressed considerable trust in the government in Washington! — but what struck us most was how the current low period of government trust is, unlike past periods of distrust, seemingly unconnected to an obvious event or events.

When public trust in government collapsed from 53 percent in 1972 to 36 percent in November 1974, it made sense. The Watergate investigation, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, was just the sort of ugly — and prolonged — episode to make public perception of government erode in a relatively rapid manner.

Ditto the historically low trust ratings reached in Pew polling in the early 1990s, as a series of congressional scandals — with the House Bank scandal being the most prominent — produced large amounts of media coverage focused on what the heck politicians were doing in the nation’s capital.

But the recent drop, which began in earnest after the goodwill toward Washington surrounding its actions in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks wore off, seems disconnected to any single notable event. There have been a fair share of legislative standoffs and scandals in recent years, but nothing nearly as heavily covered or broad as Watergate or the House bank.

Instead, it appears to be a political death — or at least bloodletting — by a thousand cuts. No one event is to blame. Rather, something even more corrosive to government appears to be happening — a steady and growing belief that politicians in Washington are simply not to be trusted.

(It’s worth noting that this decline in trust in government has corresponded with a decline in trust in other major pillars of American life — from the financial sector to sports. Thanks a lot Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire!)

The depressing reality of Pew’s long-term trend on trust in government is that there is no obvious cure for what ails the body politic these days. Without a clear cause, a sure solution isn’t available. It’s possible that we are simply in a new era in which trust in institutions like our government simply won’t ever approach — or come close to approaching — its historic highs.

The end times of trust in government may well be upon us.

Comment ›

Video: Is America a “Kludgeocracy”?

Liberals and conservatives may disagree about the appropriate size and reach of the federal government, but according to Johns Hopkins professor Steve Teles, that debate is largely a red herring. In his article "Kludgeocracy: The American Way of Policy," Teles suggests that the most important questions about modern American governance concern efficiency rather than scope. "The issues that will dominate American politics going forward," he writes, "will concern the complexity of government, rather than its sheer size."

Teles presented the idea of "kludgeocracy" in Common Good’s 2010 forum on "Fixing Government Paralysis;" here are some of his comments:

From healthcare to education to infrastructure, the works of government are gummed up by convoluted, piecemeal, and reactionary laws and regulations. As Teles puts it, "For any particular problem we have arrived at the most gerry-rigged, opaque and complicated response."

Philip K. Howard, founder and chair of Common Good, made a similar case recently in The Atlantic: "Simplification does not mean eliminating government oversight. It makes oversight better by allowing people to use their judgment. Rules can't think. Nor does it give tyrannical powers to officials. Checks and balances can safeguard against abusive decisions--but these checks must also be based on judgment."

That’s why Common Good is producing issue briefs that describe common sense reforms to simplify government, cut deficits and create jobs in our economy. Take a look at our briefs on education, obsolete law, infrastructure, and more here. And read Steve Teles’s essay here.

Comment ›

Video: “Need to Know” looks at our medical malpractice system

On the second of two inauguration specials examining Common Good’s proposals to end bureaucratic gridlock and get the United States moving forward, “Need to Know” anchor Jeff Greenfield explores how malpractice lawsuits contribute to rising healthcare costs. Correspondent William Brangham travels to Denmark, where medical disputes are settled by experts without ever going to court. Here’s the video:

For more information, read Common Good Chair Philip K. Howard’s recent essay on Health Courts at the Health Affairs blog.

Comment ›

Video: PBS looks at the obstacles to rebuilding America’s infrastructure

On the first of two inauguration specials examining Common Good's proposals to end bureaucratic gridlock and get the United States moving forward, "Need to Know" anchor Jeff Greenfield explores why it now takes nearly four times as long to complete infrastructure projects in the United States than it did in the 1970s.

Here’s a 90-second preview from WNET:

Watch the full program here or below:

For more information, download Common Good's issue brief "Rebuilding America: Fixing the Infrastructure Process".

Comment ›

Common Good online forum on obsolete law solutions

Obsolete law is a significant––yet largely ignored––cause of government budget deficits and an obstacle to economic growth. Yesterday’s laws and regulations do not adequately address today’s needs; worse yet, they often senselessly tie the hands of government officials and Americans in every sector of society, preventing them from making common sense decisions to address challenges or create opportunities.

For these reasons, Common Good is hosting an online discussion of obsolete law and what to do about it––enabling leading experts to engage with concerned citizens.

The discussion will begin December 12 at and will continue through the coming week. Among the participating experts are:

  • E. Donald Elliott – former General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; current partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Adjunct Professor at Yale Law School;
  • Mary Kiffmeyer – Member, Minnesota House of Representatives; former Secretary of State of Minnesota;
  • James Maxeiner – Co-Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law, University of Baltimore School of Law; author of the book Failures of American Lawmaking in International Perspective;
  • Stuart Taylor, Jr. – author and journalist, who has written extensively on legal and policy issues and has taught “Law and the News Media” at Stanford Law School;
  • Ron Faucheux – former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and a U.S. Senate chief of staff; currently President of Clarus Research Group.

The topic of this online discussion is straightforward: What approach would you recommend for addressing obsolete law, and why and how would you implement it? The experts will each share their perspectives, engage in an online discussion, and respond to members of the public, who are invited to comment as the discussion unfolds.

Follow the conversation and add your thoughts at!

Comment ›

Health Courts offer common ground between former rivals

In an era of divisive politics, it’s critical that leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize those areas where progress can be made independently of party lines and political interests. As President Obama and Governor Romney meet for lunch today at the White House, one such issue where common ground may be found is health courts.

Both candidates—in addition to numerous members of Congress—have expressed support for the health courts model of medical malpractice reform, which would decrease costs, increase reliability and improve access for patients.

Now is a good time for these two leaders to join together in pushing health courts as a bipartisan step forward for American healthcare.

Comment ›

Defining “Big Change”

Common Good Chair Philip K. Howard, in a new article for The Huffington Post, outlines a bold platform of eight structural reforms to address the unsustainable waste and inefficiency that plague government. "These changes would balance the budget, end government paralysis, and begin to transform America's public culture," he writes. "Americans know we need it. Are any leaders bold enough to say it?"

Howard’s proposed reforms include radically simplifying regulation, freeing schools from crushing bureaucracy, cleaning out obsolete laws and programs, and ending tax subsidies for the rich. Read the rest of his proposals here.

Comment ›

Rules Can’t Think: Why Government Needs Radical Simplification

Six months ago, Common Good and The Atlantic teamed up to create an online forum series, America the Fixable, about common sense answers for America’s pressing challenges. Now, to conclude the series, Common Good Chair Philip K. Howard has written a final essay on the urgency of big change. “Today,” he writes, “government is too dense for anyone to act sensibly, much less make a difference. Leadership is impossible, and often illegal. Accountability is nonexistent.”

Serious change isn’t a choice anymore, Philip writes—it’s a necessity. “Nothing much about government works sensibly today. The public spigot is wide open, wasting almost as much as it is helping. America can't afford it. Everyone knows the structure must be rebuilt—that's what this series reveals.”

Read the rest of Philip Howard’s essay here, and see the full America the Fixable series here.

Comment ›

Poll: Voters Say Complicated Regulations Hurt Job Creation

A new survey conducted for Common Good by Clarus Research Group reveals that 64% of U.S. voters nationwide believe "complicated" rules and regulations are "major impediments" to job creation.

According to the survey:

  • 87% of voters believe "there is a need for Congress to go through old laws, regulations and programs on a regular basis to eliminate those that are no longer needed or that may not work as originally intended."
  • 57% of support the idea of a "one-stop shop" for small business approvals and permitting.
  • 59% think "Congress should create an infrastructure super-authority to reduce permitting and regulatory delays so that new transportation, energy, and environmental projects could be approved within one year of application."

Read our press release for more survey results.

Comment ›

69% Of Small Business Owners Say Complicated Government Regulations Impede Job Creation

Common Good recently commissioned a nationwide poll of 500 small business owners and managers that looks at the effects of government regulation on job creation. The results were striking:

  • 86 percent said regulations would be more effective in protecting public health and safety if they gave business "clear, certain goals" as well as "more freedom to use common sense in making daily decisions."
  • 68 percent said more businesses are investing in new technology rather than new employees "to avoid complications created by federal employment laws, mandates and regulations.”
  • 89 percent said most government bureaucrats make decisions "based on rules and not on common sense."

For more results from the small business survey, see Common Good’s press release.

Comment ›

‹ First  < 11 12 13 14 15 >  Last ›