We never stop being told, and we never stop telling one another, that we live in an age when politicians have never been so despised. Every move they make is seen as self-serving, every statement is presumed dishonest, every policy called a sham
And yet, and yet. Was there ever a time when we screamed so much at our politicians to take more and more responsibility to themselves? When we were willing to let them look into and control aspects of our lives in ways that previous generations would have found either ridiculous of downright abhorrent?
In the UK, the government happily spits at such quaint notions as habeas corpus and trial by jury. But the public cheers Charles Clarke on.
In the US, even more astonishingly, the administration has been caught red-handed spying on its own citizens in apparent blatant disregard of both laws passed by Congress and the clear instructions of the fourth amendment of the constitution. Yet 51 per cent of the US public support the government's actions, considerably more than support the Bush presidency itself.
The New York Times has a choice quote from Benjamin Franklin, the 300th anniversary of whose birth is being celebrated this week:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety