The American public seems to be losing faith in its government. Only 30 percent of American citizens are satisfied with the state of the nation, according to the Pew Research Center, and a whopping 36 percent surveyed believed with conviction that the average person on the street could do a better job running the country than a member of Congress, according to an Opinion Dynamics Corp. poll. Generally, people are less willing to trust the federal government to execute programs intended for the promotion of its citizenry and the maintenance of our national security. The sentiment of skepticism appears to be mutual, however. The cumbersome role the government has come to assume over our personal lives and decision-making demonstrates a similar lack of confidence in the American public on the part of Congress. Indeed, the unprecedented size of our government and the ever-abundant number of societal domains it has elected to regulate could only be an indication of how inept a population Congress believes it governs.

The irony is agonizing. As the federal government expands and augments its everyday presence in the personal lives of its citizens, apparently believing that we are wholly incapable of making those decisions alone, the citizens grow ever more resentful and believe the government to be less effectual. When the liberals succeed in augmenting the government’s realm of authority, either at whim or in an underhanded effort to enlarge their voting base, personal liberties dwindle in tandem with public support for the federal government. Liberals may claim to always be looking out for the little guy, but what they don’t tell you is that it’s because they think he’s stupid and his vote still counts.

The proclivity for big government is not a secret tenet of the liberal ideology, but its potential to do damage to our democratic society is craftily rephrased by liberal strategists in each effort to expand the reaches of the obese hand of government. As the pro-choice party, the Democrats’ claim is incongruous with most of their anti-choice platform. Democrats oppose the right of the people to keep and bear arms despite its place in the Bill of Rights. They oppose the Right to Work laws that allow people to choose if they want to be in a union, school voucher systems that would allow parents to choose schools for children, as well as the elimination of affirmative action, although the state of California voted overwhelmingly against it and most of the country disagrees with it. They think that the government has more right to your money than you do, and debate on how much to allow you, the taxpayer, to keep.

Unfortunately, the longtime liberal commitment to stifling personal liberty is not the most distressing item I have to share with you. Two more recent developments are even more anxiety producing: conservatives moving away from their traditional protection of a limited government, and the ignorance of the general public regarding their diminishing democracy. Despite Jefferson’s many warnings against the tendency of government to grow and personal liberty to dwindle with it, so far, no one seems concerned.

Bush and the Republican Congress passed legislation to prohibit Internet gambling. The same body wants to expand FCC’s censorship power beyond basic television to include cable and satellite TV. Even in states where the voters have overwhelmingly supported more relaxed regulation on physician-assisted suicide, medical marijuana and gay marriage among others, the Bush White House has mandated the federal government maintain vigilant authority over these decisions.

The only force that can compel a reverse in this trend is an active democracy. Unfortunately for us, there is also a wealth of data indicating that we are moving further and further from that as well. “Civic literacy”, which means an understanding of America’s history and political institutions, has never been lower among students attending four-year universities – i.e., YOU. According to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 51 percent of seniors didn’t know that the Bill of Rights prohibits the establishment of a national religion. Civic apathy is now the norm. Most college students don’t vote, don’t involve themselves in political campaigns and don’t follow public affairs, according to the American Political Science Association.

We may have already failed to heed Jefferson’s earlier warning, but let’s try to acknowledge another: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”

Daily Nexus columnist Courtney Stevens will never be fed by the obese hand of government.