In what he calls bad news for libertarians (which it certainly is), Reason‘s Nick Gillespie points to a very depressing study which confirms a painfully awful truth.

The less faith people have in government, the bigger government grows. 

Which brings us to the 2010 paper “Regulation and Distrust,” written by Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, and Andrei Shleifer and published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Drawing on World Values Survey data from the past several decades for over 50 countries, the authors help explain what they call “one of the central puzzles in research on political beliefs: Why do people in countries with bad governments want more government intervention?”

The authors make a distinction between “high-trust” and “low-trust” countries. In the former, most people have positive feelings about business and government and the general level of regulation is relatively low. In “low-trust countries,” the opposite is true and citizens “support government regulation, fully recognizing that such regulation leads to corruption.” As an example, they point to differing attitudes toward government-mandated wages in former socialist countries that transitioned to market economies. “Approximately 92 percent of Russians and 82 percent of East Germans favor wage control,” they write, naming two low-trust populations. In Scandinavia, Great Britain, and North American countries, where there are higher levels of trust in the public and private sectors, less than half the population does. As a final kicker, Aghion et al. suggest that increased regulation sows yet more distrust, which in turn engenders more regulation.

Concludes Gillespie,

It turns out that government may be growing not in spite of our confidence in it, but because of our lack of confidence in it to  This self-defeating spiral will only get worse if the United States fails to stem its slide toward being a low-trust country. The first step should entail the government and politicians recognizing that they’ve got a problem. As with any rehab plan, it would do the government—and the rest of us—well to start small and take it one day at a time.

Rehab for the government? I don’t think that will work out too well, because they provide their own unlimited supply, they are in complete denial, and see absolutely no need to quit.