A Question for Liberals on Trusting the Government

In the midst of the health care debate, many on the left have dismissed arguments about the Democrats’ health care plan as hysterical paranoia, even dangerous hysterical paranoia. Not trusting the federal government has become so passé with the election of Obama and the focus on domestic policy. But I recall not one year ago, the left was warning that we could not trust the federal government. In particular:

We heard that Bush was breaking the law with his war on terror policies. Now that Obama has continued most of those policies, does this not render his government just as lawless? And why would you want a government that has waged unjust wars, is in the middle of two undeclared military occupations, and has committed torture and violated habeas corpus to handle American medicine? If a government would dare to wage war on false pretenses, why is it irresponsible to generally distrust everything about it?

We heard people questioning the legitimacy of Bush’s election. Whatever the merits of the arguments, it was respectable to raise such questions. When people question the legitimacy of Obama’s election, the left now claims that any one who would wonder if the president legally rose to power must be insane, even a threat to American security.

We heard that it was patriotic to dissent, and not assume that politicians had the best of intentions. Now it is seen as paranoid and lunatic simply to suggest that politicians don’t have our best interests in mind as it concerns health care.

In antiwar protests, people donned t-shirts calling Bush an “international terrorist” and held signs likening Bush to Hitler. Even I, a staunch opponent of the entire U.S. reaction to 9/11, thought that some of this imagery was counterproductive and over the top — but as the right warned about the “hate-Bush” crowd wanting to see America fail, I agreed with most on the left that these incendiary protesters were certainly no real threat to anyone, much less the American way of life. Why is it all of a sudden evil and anti-American to compare the federal government’s ambitions to those of the Nazis or extremists, when virtually everything that Bush built up has been left in place and expanded upon by Obama?

Liberals, now that their guy is in power, will generally respond to the health care debate with a dismissive reaction at best, rolling their eyes and patronizing the tens of millions of Americans suspicious of the president’s health care agenda. At worst, they warn that opposition to Obama’s plan is a threat to America. Almost all of them seem to think it’s ridiculous to assume that Obama wants a “government takeover of medicine.”

It is true that some opponents of Obamacare have raised poor arguments, just as there were poor arguments raised in opposition to the Iraq war and much else under Bush. But don’t pretend there’s only one civil side of the debate. Many of us have raised serious constitutional, moral and economic arguments against giving the government more power over American health care. Simply dismissing them out of hand on the basis that we should trust our leaders in power to do what is right, or at least what they think is right, is not just a poor argument; it’s totally inconsistent with what the left was saying for eight years under Bush.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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