US Public Learning: More Government, More Problems


EspañolIn a new set of Gallup polls released in March, 18 percent of US citizens named the government as the most important problem facing the country over the previous four months. Criticism of the state beat out other notable issues, such as unemployment and the economy, both of which tied at 10 percent to take second place.

Libertarian figures like Rand Paul must outline a strong theoretical position to capitalize on anti-government feeling. (Wikimedia)
Figures like Rand Paul must help unify disparate pro-freedom movements. (Wikimedia)

Other issues such as terrorismhealth carerace relations, and immigration have picked up steam as of late. However, government, unemployment, and the economy have been the main problems listed by respondents for over a year.

Though the ranking of the top two issues is similar to Gallup’s findings for February, anti-government sentiment clearly rose to drop economy’s share from 16 to 11 percent.

Satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States dropped to 31 percent, after reaching highs of 33 percent during the 2012 presidential campaign. Nevertheless, it’s still an improvement on 2008 figures (7 percent) when the global financial crisis was in full swing.

One thing that can be drawn from the poll’s findings is that the American people are fed up both with the quality and sheer quantity of government interventionism: the triumph of multiple liberty-minded candidates in October’s midterm elections is further proof of this.

That said, liberty-oriented movements within the history of the Republican Party are a dime a dozen: the Goldwater movement, the Reagan Revolution, and the Republican Revolution of 1994, have all come and gone. As such, the choice of Tea Party scions in October demonstrates more a cyclical “vote the bums out” mentality rather than a considered rejection of prevailing government philosophies.

Yet, in many ways, Republicans have betrayed the very principles that these earlier reform movements stood for. It is no wonder why these movements became stale and have had to be resuscitated by younger generations.

The Backlash Begins

One thing is certain though: the Bush and Obama administrations have expanded the size and scope of government at astronomical rates, giving rise to movements such as the Ron Paul Revolution of 2007, the Tea Party Movement in 2009, and Rand Paul’s bid for the presidency in 2016 .

In the same vein, countless groups in the nonprofit realm, such as Young Americans for Liberty, Students For Liberty, the Cato Institute, the Mises Institute, and FreedomWorks have emerged to challenge governmentalism from the outside. 

In many ways these organizations represent and share many of the values of the aforementioned reform movements within the Republican Party. However, while they tend to have a much more radical libertarian flavor to them, there is plenty of room for cooperation among these civil-society groups.

The latest state-level campaigns for the legalization of marijuana also demonstrate growing skepticism of big-government policy. States, not the federal government, have led the charge in these reforms.

Similarly, movements calling for firearms restriction laws to be revoked and chipping away at Obamacare have gathered momentum. Distrust in the federal government runs so deep that citizens are taking reform of misguided policies into their own hands on the local level.

Yet these disparate local struggles — in electoral politics, academia, and in public policy debates at the state level, and in the marketplace through the provision of more efficient services — have a common thread that few of their participants realize. All are engaged in an ongoing, inter-generational struggle for freedom against government control that has been waged throughout centuries.

But the backlash against government incompetence remains fragmented, and devoid of a philosophical rallying point. If libertarian-leaning politicians want their ideas to resonate among the electorate, and move beyond capitalizing on a simple “vote the bums out” mentality, they must present a passionate, unifying case for resistance against state interference that goes beyond provincial point-scoring. Rand Paul take note.

Edited by Amanda Blohm and Laurie Blair.

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