By Fareed Zakaria
For partly cultural and historical reasons. Americans have always been suspicious of government. Talented young people don’t dream of becoming great bureaucrats. The New Deal and World War II might have changed that for a while, but over the past 30 years, anti-government attitudes have risen substantially. Two national commissions on public service have detailed the dangers of having too few talented people go into government. The ever-increasing obstacles — disclosure forms, conflict-of-interest concerns, political vetting — dissuade and knock out good candidates.
The problem is bipartisan. On the right, too many people believe that their role in Washington is simply to attack, denigrate and defund the government. This relentless onslaught erodes public trust and robs federal agencies of any sense of mission and ambition. Continual budget cutbacks have limited the government’s ability to take on new challenges. There is no attempt at ambitious thinking and planning, whether in space or in infrastructure. Seemingly every agency is in cost-cutting and damage-control modes. The persistent politicized attacks — whether blocking the confirmation of hundreds of officials or investigating them at every turn — have helped create an atmosphere of caution and risk-aversion.