Having spent almost six years living in various parts of Asia and traveling to over 50 cities, I always made a deliberate effort to absorb as much of the local sentiment as possible. Sometimes this is very difficult given time constraints, language barriers, etc.; however, certain aspects of my travels were very clearly spelled out and remain very vivid to this day.
When I found myself engaged in meaningful discussions with people who understood their society and seemed genuinely connected to their society, I would always ask "what do you think is the biggest problem in society?". From my time spent in places like Philippines, India, Vietnam and China, the overwhelming majority of times, I received a similar response--"Government".
They would cite off numerous examples of how the government forcibly took away peoples' land or how they manipulated elections or how people were given the death penalty for reasons that many citizens could not justify. They explained the fact that it is difficult for an individual to succeed professionally without exploiting relationships to the government. Politicians use their political power in order to grow rich. Politicians corruptly do favors for other people or companies in order to maintain their political status or position. Another major complaint that I often received is that the government constantly wasted money.
The latter issues are easy for most people around the world to acknowledge and identify with whether it be citizens of Sweden who can identify countless wasteful government spending projects or citizens of Afghanistan who lived under the rule of warlords who killed their fellow citizens for reasons difficult to justify. Obviously, from one country to the next, there are varying degrees of government corruption, injustice and inefficiency. Nonetheless, there is no denying the fact that governments are corrupt and inefficient.
How does this relate to American society?
American politicians are not much different than politicians in the rest of the world. Politicians in America do favors for others; they constantly waste money; and they constantly make decisions in order to maintain/increase their own power/wealth. The Obama Administration has even begun to justify the assassination of American citizens when accused of being affiliated with terrorism.
Yet given our understanding for government and politicians, many Americans still continue to place trust in this government and grant more power to this government while dis-empowering the individual. They would rather voluntarily handover the freedoms granted to them, especially in times of crisis or extreme circumstances. Is a crisis a justifiable reason to abandon rules and principles? Wasn't America intended to be "The land of the free"? As Americans continue to give up their freedom and expand the role of government in society, what makes our nation any different from the rest?
In 2010, Americans still genuinely believe that this is "The land of the free". They still perceive us as different from other nations. Some even mistakenly believe that we were attacked on 911 because of our freedom.
Unfortunately, all Americans must come to the reality that America is not nearly as free of a nation as it once was. The role of government in society is bigger now than ever before. Therefore the level of corruption, inefficiency and wasteful spending is also at an all-time high.
Corruption and inefficiency levels obviously vary from one nation to the next but why would we voluntarily empower and expand authority to a group of corrupt and inefficient bureaucrats? Are we no longer capable of governing ourselves and managing our own lives? Unlike many parts of the world, we have the democratic right to choose which direction to move in; more government or less.
Although I met many Barack Obama enthusiasts during my travels, the majority of these people supported Obama because of his antiwar message, which we now know was pure rhetoric. However, when I explained to these people that Obama wants to expand the size of the government they often became puzzled, "But politicians and government bureaus are corrupt and wasteful, why would you want more of them?"