“We sacrifice a little bit of freedom for every dollar the government spends.”

– Lance Dutson, CEO, Maine Heritage Policy Center


That is one of those self-evident statements that is intrinsically true, equivalent to saying, “When you let go of a rock, it will fall to the ground.”

And yet all my liberal readers cringed while reading it, because they think our government is beneficent in its general actions, and even its excesses are excusable because they are, after all, well-intended.

That is, weighing the value of liberty versus government-provided “security,” the latter wins hands down. Who would want the risks of freedom when government can provide for all your needs and wants?

Except when it can’t. Conservatives like Dutson aren’t anarchists. They know there are public purposes worth funding. But paying taxes is a sacrifice even when necessary, and debate over what is necessary, and what isn’t, is central to the democratic process.

I believe that many, if not most, Americans see that we have arrived at (indeed, greatly surpassed) that nexus of history described in a statement attributed to Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.”

On Wednesday, I went to a well-attended gathering sponsored by the Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC), where the people present thought Dutson hit the mark.

They came to the group’s annual luncheon in a celebratory mood, enjoying the fact that for the first time in decades in Maine, conservatives aren’t on the outside looking in. With majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a Republican holding down the governor’s office, they are very much on the inside of the state’s political and policymaking life, while Democrats, whose candidate could only muster 19 percent of the gubernatorial vote, are the ones with their noses pressed to the glass from the outside. (Disclosure: The MHPC bought me lunch, but I would have written this even if they didn’t.)

The speaker, columnist-author-TV host Michelle Malkin, thinks that taxpayers are not merely sheep to be sheared by “progressives,” the liberals who think if income is allowed to stay in the pockets of those who actually earned it, that’s a “tax expenditure” – a vile collectivist phrase if there ever was one.

Malkin believes that taxpaying sheep need to grow some teeth, instead.

She confounds liberal stereotypes of conservatives by being young, female and a member of a minority group – her parents are immigrants from the Philippines (“legal immigrants,” she edgily points out). She has a writing and speaking style that is unabashedly pro-freedom and anti-statist.

But we live in an odd time, in which it is “radical” to believe in self-reliance and the right to keep and enjoy the fruits of one’s labors without turning them over to those (like the denizens of Occupy Wall Street’s “Obamavilles”) who would rather live on your income instead of earning their own by imitating your hard work, patient saving and investment.

It matters little whether the money goes for expanding government or into the pockets of liberals’ friends, as in the $525 million Solyandra scandal, where the risk was borne by the taxpayers but any profits (there were none) would have gone to well-connected “crony capitalists.”

That and similar “green” fiascos, plus the ineffectual stimulus plan, the crushingly expensive Obamacare program (defended by “medigoguery,” Malkin says) and other dollar-redistribution schemes are all about what she called “the boodle” – our confiscated tax money freely given to those who back the administration’s priorities.

Life is more than politics, she notes, but when those for whom politics is everything become unbearably aggressive toward others, standing up to them is both politically necessary and morally wise.

So Malkin launched her “See, I Told You So” tour to promote a book – “Culture of Corruption” – and to tell people that the solution to the problems posed by an overweening national government is “devolution of power to local and state governments” instead. She noted proudly that Colorado, where she now lives, this week defeated a “temporary” education-funding income and sales tax hike by a huge 65-35 margin.

The use of “liberals’ human shields” – highly paid government workers and a bloated school system –  didn’t work this time, she said.

“I’m an optimist,” she told me after her speech. “This country has overcome bigger problems than these, but we have to remember how we did it.”

If sunlight is the best disinfectant, “the ballot box is the ultimate sanitizer. We have term limits every election cycle, and people have to let their big-spending representatives – of either party – know they won’t be going back if they don’t act responsibly.”

That’s something Maine made a start at in 2010. Now, let’s see if the lesson has sunk in for 2012.


M.D. Harmon is a retired journalist. He can be contacted at:

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