As an ardent believer in what the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick and others called “the night-watchman state”—that is, the bare minimum in taxes and publicly provided services such as cops, courts, defense, and maybe some roads—I should be thrilled by the hollowing out of faith in government. It should be the first step toward punching Leviathan in the nose and squeezing him down to size.
But what if distrust in government perversely drives demand for more government? That’s the implication of recent research, and it helps explain why the state keeps growing like an Anthony Weiner selfie even as our faith in it shrinks faster than George Costanza in a cold swimming pool.
Whatever we think of the federal government (only 19 percent, says Gallup, trust it to "do what is right"), the more government we have, the more we get use to it. The more we use it (however much it screws things up), the more we expect from it.
It's like that joke by Woody Allen (I think). What did you think of the food there? Oh, it was just awful, and the portions were way too small!