• When Did 'Anti-Government' Become a Bad Thing?

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    You’d
    think that, after a couple of centuries of major American figures
    describing government as, at most, something to be tolerated, political
    pundits would have made their peace with the idea that skepticism
    toward state power has a core place in American political life.
    If your toes tingle at the thought of more coercive programs, laws,
    politicians and bureaucrats, you’re the (very) odd duck, not the
    folks with anti-government views. And yet, we still get the likes
    of Frank Rich throwing high-profile
    hissy fits
    because "the unhinged and sometimes armed anti-government
    right that was thought to have vaporized after its Oklahoma apotheosis
    is making a comeback," as heralded by … Andrew Joseph Stack
    III’s Kamikaze-style airborne attack on the Internal Revenue Service
    building in Austin, Texas?

    For those not
    in the know, Stack, like many people, had a bone to pick with the
    I.R.S. and with the federal government. But the manifesto
    he left behind also accused drug and insurance companies of "murdering
    tens of thousands of people a year," charged that poor people
    get to die for the mistakes of the wealthy, and quoted Karl Marx.
    Anti-government Stack was, but his ideology, such as it was, doesn’t
    appear to have been coherently right-wing or left-wing so much as
    ticked-off and populist.

    Rich does appear
    to be aware that Stack isn’t a very logical stick with which to
    beat the Tea Party movement that has him and his government-cheerleading
    chums so knicker-twisted. At least, he concedes "it would be
    both glib and inaccurate to call him a card-carrying Tea Partier
    or a ‘Tea Party terrorist.’ But he did leave behind a manifesto
    whose frothing anti-government, anti-tax rage overlaps with some
    of those marching under the Tea Party banner."

    Nice how Rich
    works that gratuitious "Tea Party terrorist" bit in there,
    eh? But even as he smears his political opponents as guilty by distant
    and tortured association, he manages to overlook the fact that the
    anti-government sentiment he so regrets is neither a wholly owned
    subsidiary of the Tea Party movement and the Right, nor an aberration
    coughed up every decade or two by by unenlightened neanderthals
    briefly emerging from the philosophical swamps.

    Frank Rich
    is a well-educated man with an Internet connection paid for by a
    respected news organization that has a vast historical archive of
    its own, so it’s impossible to believe that the New York Times
    scribbler is unaware that Thomas Paine wrote
    in one of the more popular political tracts of the revolutionary
    period that "government, even in its best state, is but a necessary
    evil; in its worst state an intolerable one." Nor can we believe
    he’s unaware that James Madison hedged on Paine’s sentiments only
    to the extent that he wrote,
    "It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would
    be more proper to say that the necessity of any Government is a
    misfortune." And certainly he knows about Thomas Jefferson’s
    warning
    that "[t]he natural progress of things is for liberty to yield,
    and government to gain ground."

    Read
    the rest of the article

    April
    10, 2010

    JD
    Tuccille [send him mail] is
    an Arizona-based writer and political analyst.

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