Why are all these people reinventing government? For one thing, Americans have every right to a government that "works better and costs less." They did not fight and win the Cold War for democratic values--paying trillions in taxes over the last half-century--only to give up without a fight when their government is broken.
The cause, however, extends far beyond the common complaints of high taxes and poor service. At issue is the very idea of self-governance, of a free people coming together--often through the instrument of government--to solve its problems. Public confidence in government has sunk to frightening levels. Thirty years ago, when asked whether they trust government to do the right thing, 76 percent of Americans said yes. Today, only 20 percent say so.
Can the federal government, alone, solve all of the nation's problems? Hardly. It needs the help of states, cities, schools, churches and synagogues, businesses, civic groups, nonprofit organizations, and other institutions that can work together and impart healthy values to the young. Most of all, it must rely on individuals and families.
But, just as certainly, the federal government has a role to play on a wide spectrum of challenges--helping to spur economic growth, provide wider access to affordable health care, devise a long-term solution to crime, and so on. And without public trust in the federal government, Americans will not deploy it to help reach those goals.
The nation, then, faces a challenge--to re-establish confidence not only in its government but in itself as a free people. It can do so only by dramatically changing the way the federal government works.