Living with Leviathan: Americans Coming to Terms with Big Government

Paperback
Big Brother just gets bigger. Are we worried? Distrust of a strong central government has been a recurrent theme in our political culture, from the Antifederalists through the Bush administration. What lies behind our preference for a weak central government? Are Americans still fearful of being swallowed whole by the leviathan? The Bennetts say not. Charting trends in American public opinion about big government from the 1930s to 1989, with emphasis on the last 25 years, they trace how we have adapted to a growing national government. They analyze what these opinions tell us about changing themes in American popular culture and document the significant differences in public opinion about big government, the positive state, and citizens' obligations. Typically, Americans want more government for less money. They want the feds out of their pockets but not necessarily off their backs. Reflexively opposed to higher taxes, they want more government spending for a host of programs and can be convinced of the need for more regulation. The Bennetts also look at how Americans of all ages feel about their duties as citizens and what the declining sense of obligation, particularly among the young, means for American political culture. Their findings have relevance for public opinion, public policy, democratic theory, political socialization, and presidential studies.