So now you’re mad at the government?

Elliot Engstrom Lead Counsel, Civitas Institute
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Headline: So now you’re angry at the government? ( – If this works; if not feel free to use a different headline/kicker)

Kicker: Welcome to the club; we’ve been waiting for you.

As a libertarian, I am quite used to being labeled an extremist or member of fringe politics. Whenever I call out the government for things like an imperial foreign policy, a dangerously inflationary monetary policy, or a corporate welfare system that socializes the losses of corporations while privatizing their profits, there is always someone waiting to criticize my views as treasonous and near-terroristic in content.

While leftists usually attempt to actually engage me in debate, it is more often than not people who consider themselves “moderates” or “moderate conservatives” that label me such an extremist. While I will not get into the philosophical buffoonery that typically entails “moderate” political thought, I do have to admit that since the recent passing of health care I have been astounded and somewhat confused at the reaction of much of the moderate political community.

When I logged on to Facebook and Twitter following the health care vote, my respective news feeds were full of posts by individuals claiming that it was time to revolt against the federal government or secede. Considering who some of my friends on Facebook are, such posts are normally not all that unusual. However, these posts were not being made by my “extremist” libertarian friends. They were being made by the very people who have for years called me “crazy” for my anti-government views.

I was fascinated at this phenomenon. My protests over things like a criminally inflationary monetary system, a war on drugs that punishes the poor at the benefit of pharmaceuticals and law-enforcement agencies, and wars in the Middle East that have been raging on and off for over 30 years with no end in sight won me the label of an extremist loon. But advocating extreme reactions in the face of health care reform seemed to be a perfectly acceptable position.

I had to be sure that I was not making a hasty generalization about the behavior of millions of people based on nothing more than my Facebook feed. After a bit of research, it would seem that this sort of reaction is at least to some degree occurring across the United States.

It seems to me that such protests are fueled by anger at the government for getting involved where they do not belong and passing legislation that could have dire consequences for both our freedom and our economy.

Not to be smug, but I have to ask the obvious question—is this anything new? Firstly, government-led destruction of our health care system has been going on for decades. Obamacare is simply the latest in a pattern of government claiming to solve problems while merely creating new ones and exacerbating old ones. However, health care is far from the only arena where this takes place.

If protesters are so angry and hostile at a government takeover of health care, where is this anger on other issues? This is not to say that I disagree with those protesting the new health care bill—I am right there in the trenches with you. However, I also would advocate reflecting on why a government takeover of health care is such a terrible thing. If moderates and conservatives are unwilling to tolerate a government takeover of health care, then why has there not been a similar uproar over things like the Federal Reserve, which currently has the power to regulate our entire banking system, the war on drugs, which is essentially just another example of the government playing both paternalist and doctor, and an imperial foreign policy that has expanded into a $1 trillion economic leech with no reduction in sight?

Big-government liberals won a big victory yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t fight back. However, if we are going to win that fight our political ammunition cannot be pragmatically-based double-speak attempting to push the government out of one part of our life while holding onto government intervention in other sectors. If we do not want our government running our lives for us and always doing what they think is “best,” then we need to figure out what place government should take, and keep them within these limits. Government cannot be confined to certain sectors and left out of others—for example, government control of health care involves government control of the insurance sector, which involves control of the financial sector, and so on and so forth.

I empathize with those moderate Americans who are livid with the government after this weekend’s events. I hope that the recent health care bill will be a wakeup call to this demographic that our fight against big government cannot be one of pragmatism, but rather must be one of principle. We have to make it clear to our government that we do not need them telling us how to live our lives or intervening in the economy against our will simply because they “know what’s best.” When we are able to rally together and denounce such intervention with one consistent voice, we then will be able to begin rolling back programs like ObamaCare.

Elliot Engstrom is a senior French major at Wake Forest University, and aside from his schoolwork blogs for Young Americans for Liberty and writes at his own Web site, Rethinking the State.