Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Less government engagement, less civic engagement

Our political leaders may aim to spread democracy abroad, but the lessening role of government in the lives of Americans - as manifested by recent cuts to the federal budget - does little to nurture the democratic process here at home. ...the budget emerging from Congress reduces spending on social and educational programs while extending tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

These budget cuts continue a quarter century of governance guided largely by the idea that, in Ronald Reagan's words, "Government is not the solution ... government is the problem." But an assessment of these decades reveals that as government's role in citizens' lives diminishes, so, too, does active civic engagement.
While I agree that trust in government is linked to civic engagement, I never thought of government engagement as being linked directly to greater civic engagement. I've thought that private industry, government and the civic sectors as being seperate spheres competing for attention. But, I can see how good government, not necessarily bigger government, can lead to more civic engagement.

Whether people believe that they trust each other enough to develop a government that serves the needs of everyone in society would have a lot to do with whether they want to engage in that society.

It's a good read overall

For these citizens, to whom government seems at best irrelevant, political participation makes little sense. In return, they are easily forgotten by political leaders paying attention to the needs of the affluent and organized.

Until liberals realize that government exists not only to extend rights and social services but also to foster active citizenship, and until conservatives learn that market institutions alone fail to engender that outcome, democracy at home will continue to diminish.

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