The late Ronald Reagan once argued that as government expands, liberty contracts. This idea is perhaps more relevant today than it ever has been, considering the fact that on virtually every level of American society, the peoples’ individual freedoms are being crushed by an army of politicized judges, power hungry lawmakers and unelected bureaucrats. Incredibly, it is now more difficult to identify institutions that the federal government doesn’t have its dirty hands on than it is to identify institutions that are truly free. From the Internet to college campuses, gun manufacturers to the automobile industry and even the food that we eat, the government really is everywhere.
One person who has experienced the crushing weight of the federal government first hand is a woman by the name of Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, who in 2014 founded a one-on-one health coaching business called Constitution Nutrition. For almost four years, Heather successfully ran Constitution Nutrition, starting in California and eventually moving her company to the state of Florida. However, in May 2017, Heather was forced to shut down her business completely after a complaint was filed with the Florida Department of Health accusing Heather of being unlicensed while engaging in the practice of nutrition and dietetics.
Even though Heather never claimed to be a licensed nutritionist, the Florida Department of Health demanded that she stop providing her services to clients and slapped her with over $750 in fines and costs. After coming to the realization that her only other alternative would be to spend years of her life and thousands of dollars working towards a degree to become a licensed dietitian, Heather followed the orders of her state and shut her business down.
Yet another story out of Florida further demonstrates just how big and intrusive the government has become. Earlier this month, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal upheld the Village of Miami Shores’ ban on front yard vegetable gardens, dealing a major blow to private property rights and individual liberty. For homeowners like Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, this means that even if they wish to grow a vegetable garden in their front yards to feed themselves (as opposed to selling their vegetables to others), the law prevents them from doing so.
Ari Bargil, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, argued in court on behalf of Hermine and Tom. “Today’s decision gives local government the power to flatly ban homeowners from growing plants in their front yards simply because they intend to eat them,” he explained. “The decision authorizes government to criminalize something people have freely done for centuries – grow food to feed themselves.”
Unfortunately, the ban on front yard vegetable gardens was upheld by the court, which concluded that it is okay for the government to ban “the cultivation of plants to be eaten as part of a meal, as opposed to the cultivation of plants for ornamental reasons.”
But when it comes to big, bloated government, it’s not only matters related to food and nutrition that are affected. The state of California recently passed a law that requires trade schools to deny admission to students that have not completed high school or a state-approved equivalent, ultimately placing the power of determining what young people learn and what they don’t learn in the hands of the government. (Related: To resist tyranny and oppression is to redeem your soul in the eyes of the universe.)
Bob Smith, who owns Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School (PCHS), filed a federal lawsuit against the state of California, arguing that the law violates his First Amendment rights and that he has the right to educate anyone he wants to, regardless of whether or not they have completed the required amount of schooling. Esteban Narez, another resident of California who wants to attend PCHS but can’t because of the fact that he never graduated from high school, is joining Bob in the lawsuit.
“Just like publishing a how-to book or uploading an instructional video to YouTube is protected by the First Amendment, so is teaching,” argued Keith Diggs, an Institute for Justice attorney who is representing Bob and Esteban. “By limiting who Bob is allowed to teach and what Esteban is allowed to learn, California has not only harmed the students most in need of an education, but also violated their First Amendment rights.”
And of course, what would a massive, out of control government be if it didn’t have its long tentacles wrapped tightly around the medical industry? Just days ago, a young mother in California was walking her kids to the bus stop when she was approached by a police officer and an official from the Claremont school district. The two immediately began asking the mother whether or not she had vaccinated her children in a rather intimidating fashion. After she refused to answer and started to record the conversation, the police officer and the school official walked away. Later, the mother called the police department and explained to them what had happened to her, only to be told that she could be arrested for refusing to vaccinate her kids.
These are just four examples out of hundreds – or possibly even thousands – of how the federal government is expanding while liberty is contracting. It’s easy to forget at times that America was originally founded on the principles of self-governance and individualism, both of which are being crushed day in and day out by government officials and bureaucrats who think they know what is best for you and your family. They don’t, of course, but they continue to insist otherwise.