While recently reading a biography of Che Guevara I came across a interesting passage. In it, a pro-United States friend of Guevara's was attempting to convince a young Che that that American foreign policy in regards to the whole of Latin America was primarily a product of incompetence, rather than deliberate malfeasance. The quote, which I have modified slightly to expand its original meaning is as follows:
United States policy in action is, more often than not, the bumbling creature of ignorance and error rather than the well-designed strategy of sinister intentions.
The Right and Left use different language, but the presentation is basically similar. At the moment, the Right is playing to populist fears by insisting that government bureaucrats (politicians) will force people who are happy with their health insurance coverage and happy with their doctor to switch to a government plan based on Washington, DC's, nefarious, meddling terms. However, they'll also be quick in the same breath to cite Reagan-era rhetoric implying strongly that the Federal Government is so massive and so useless that, taking their prior assertion into account, it couldn't possibly be capable of being competent enough to set terms for anyone, much less the American people as a whole.
We on the Left have at times been guilty of this very same thing, to some extent. We eagerly place our firmest certainty of the existence of the latest coordinated Republican effort towards evil, greed, and destruction when the latest batch of clear-cut evidence that reveals a party in a state of turmoil routinely becomes common knowledge. We discount and dismiss far-right fringe groups like The Birthers as a bunch of wishful thinking loonies, even though it must be said that several prominent Republican politicians have taken up that latest drumbeat of grasping at straws in recent weeks. Whether it was Hillary Clinton's claim that her husband's unfair treatment at the hands of the media and the GOP was a product of a vast right-wing conspiracy or, more recently, the conspiracy theory rumblings about the true political influence of The Family, the fact of the matter is that there must be something about humankind that likes to believe in the the idea of the man behind the curtain---the existence of modest sized groups of powerful people who are the ones secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes. Perception, as the saying goes, is 90% of reality. A corollary to that thought could be to never underestimate the power of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Perhaps also we like to hedge our bets. If, in fact, we might accept that we're giving government and our elected leaders too much credit in assuming their basic competence, we might also wish to prepare for the other extreme, just in case. In so doing, it would be easy to believe that government leaders really were as invasive into our personal lives and meddlesome in our own individual affairs as we had always feared they could be. The truth of the matter lies, as so much does, somewhere in between those two poles. But the fear of government and the fear of centrally concentrated power that disregards popular sentiment for its own selfish, exploitative purposes is an idea whose roots go well beyond the present day.