Anti-Government Movements

The past five years have seen four major anti-government movements gain momentum. These movements have not been revolutionary movements, but rather movements that pushed to limit the scope of government in various ways.

The Tea Party movement began in 2009 with the motivation of electing candidates to office who supported a reduction in the size and scope of government. The Tea Party leans Republican, supporting lower government spending, lower taxes, and reduced regulation.

The Occupy movement, which began in 2011, is more associated with the Democratic party, and objects to the cronyism in which government policy favors the 1% over the 99%. Despite the apparent political differences with the Tea Party movement, both are objecting to the scope and power of government, so have more in common than first meets the eye.

Next, the revelations of government surveillance programs by Edward Snowden in 2013 led to a global backlash against government surveillance both by the federal government and by lower-level governments. While this backlash didn’t include political rallies, as with the Tea Party, or demonstrations, as with the Occupy movement, the substantial negative reaction was bi-partisan and widespread.

More recently, demonstrations across the nation in response to the police killings in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, were protests against the arbitrary use of police power, and the perception that the legal system and government policies more generally work to the disadvantage of the nation’s most disadvantaged citizens.

The common element in all four of these movements is that they object to the scope and power of government, and the way government power is arbitrarily used for the benefit of the elite and to the detriment of the masses. Currently, these anti-government movements are separate entities, and the main players in each have not appeared to recognize the objections they share in common to the scope and power of government.

Indeed, despite their objections to the abuse of government power, many members of some of these movements often favor enlarging government, even as they object to the way the government uses the power it currently has.

If all of these groups, who are very motivated to pursue their own narrow anti-government agendas, would wake up to the common anti-government agenda that unites them, the nation could see a much stronger backlash against its bloated and power-hungry government.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas.
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