US Capitol Building
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

When folks advocate for an increased scope of government as a form of compassion, it troubles me that they do not zoom out to look at the bigger picture. If they did, it would quickly be revealed to them that a government that can “meet your needs” can also kill your dreams. 

Take, for example, novelist John Hart. He was acting out his dream, “Making a living off pure imagination.” He was leading a happy life in Charlottesville, Virginia, earning an income by typing from his dining room table. 

That is until the government showed up. 

Hart, along with fellow Charlottesville novelist Corban Addison Krug, was demanded to pay several years worth of overdue business license taxes. One problem with this: they were never required to hold business licenses in the first place. 

Institute for Justice explained

“But John and Corban aren’t businesses. They don’t have a storefront that requires city infrastructure—which business license taxes are intended to defray—and their readers span the globe. What’s more, if they wrote magazine or newspaper articles instead of novels, they would be automatically exempt from any business license taxes.”

We could focus on how Charlottesville is attempting to earn revenue by giving officials the authority to enforce vague tax language however they please. Or, we could focus on how Charlottesville is offering unequal and unconstitutional application of the law. 

Instead, we should let Institute for Justice talk about those things. After all, they are the ones teaming up with the two novelists to build a legal case against Charlottesville. 

Let’s focus on a third component: the ability of government to kill the dreams of entrepreneurs and small business owners through a web of licensure requirements, vague taxing instructions, and unequal enforcement of the law. The regulatory state that has been built up to “do good” is often causing harm to people simply trying to follow their dream and earn a living. 

And, this doesn’t just apply to business owners. 

I’m thinking of my friends and fellow Millennials who are forced to give hundreds of hard-earned dollars to social security when they know the funds will be gone by the time they go to draw from them. Instead of being able to invest those dollars in the retirement fund they think fits best, they are forced to give them away to a big government program that will never benefit them. 

I’m thinking of property owners who simply want to use their land and buildings how they see fit, adding on or renting how they choose. But they can’t – they are hamstrung by government. 

I’m thinking of people who could save money by buying health insurance across state lines, but who are incapable of doing so because of government restrictions. 

Yes – if you allow the government to grow, it may be able to provide for you in certain places. But at what cost? Is it worth liberty? Autonomy? The right to the American dream? 

Our American independence enshrines our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Allow the scope of government to grow, and these rights will fade.

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