• town hall leveled

    Heemeyer leveled Town Hall in Granby.

Antigovernmental Antihero

Marvin Heemeyer may not have been particularly anti-government. Marv even says he sees himself as an American Patriot (which has other connotations too). But his fan base has taken his perceived anti-government stance and made it into a cult of adoration for Marv.

This works to create an irrational sensation about government.  After all,  government has been taking it on the chin in America.

It was in the Seventies when the American public’s perception of their government began to change. Because of the war in Vietnam,and exposés like The Pentagon Papers and Watergate, people began to see that the U.S. government would lie to its people. Government was knocked out of the ivory tower that had been so carefully constructed since the end of WWII with the economic postwar boom and the building of the “Great Society.”

From both the left and the right, skepticism flourished.

In Nixon’s presidency, during the Seventies, Vice President Spiro Agnew disparaged his own federal government workers as “pointy-headed bureaucrats,” setting the tone for a backdoor attack on government.  President Ronald Reagan ushered in the new anti-government trend with statements like the “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” President Reagan set out on an agenda motivated by attacking the very government he had been elected to run. Conservatives embraced this rhetorical approach since it opened the door to cutting taxes, eliminating messy social programs and getting government reduced in every category but the military. Never before had the existing government been singled out by its leaders as an enemy and a problem. Government was painted as something that existed to hurt the people, not help them. Permission was given for verbal attacks on the federal government and, by extension, most any form of government.

The cat was now out of the bag.

Enter the Nineties and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with his “Contract with America.” This was a renewed attack on government and messy social services under the guise of budgetary restraint and fiscal prudence.

But even more startling at that time was the ratcheting up of anti-government rhetoric tinged by strong partisan leanings. If Bill Clinton was the President and the head of the government and Gingrich and his ilk were against Clinton, then attacking the government was the same thing as attacking Clinton. And the lines got blurred to the point where partisan attacks merged irrevocably into attacks on government.

Then the “open market” line of attack on government began to take hold in which it was posited any governmental regulation or rule that constrained the “free” market in any way was seen as a barrier to economic growth and prosperity. Not only was it the EPA that was beginning to be seen as blocking growth, it was any and every form of governmental intrusion, whether it was a question on a form for a license to drive or a new income tax form.

There’s then what I call the free market, trickle down line of attack on government which posits that any money paid in taxes to the government will automatically be better for the economy if it’s put back in the hands of the private sector where more efficient use of the resources will take place because the market is better at allocation and use of resources than government. This “open market” theory of the best utilization of resources works fine if markets are truly open and completely unregulated. But no market in place now is truly open and unregulated.

But this line of attack was used as a way to take away from government the very resource it needs to function: tax revenue. Never mind the social benefit of government use of funds; it was simply assumed without question that better use comes from funds in the private sector. Despite the fact that numerous studies and most economists will agree that “trickle down” economics doesn’t work, many people have been educated to believe otherwise. The conservative, right wing think tank hegemony, funded largely by the very wealthy who are intent on dodging taxes, set out to inculcate the absolute good of the laws of supply and demand and trickle-down economics.

All this has resulted in a perfect storm of anti-government sentiment where any and every tax is decried and where any and every form of government is seen as intrusive and somehow suspect.

And that’s how we get antiheroes who become praised by attacking and disparaging government, whether its law enforcement, the local town council or even the President, him- or herself.

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