Tea Partiers are hit with a lot of criticism that’s unjust, but this latest one from Howard Fineman strikes me as particularly wrong-headed. He writes:   

They are shouting “NO!” as loudly as they can [to the Obama agenda], even as they rely on their Social Security and their Medicare, on their Interstates and tax cuts and credits, on student loans and weather satellites and air-traffic-control-systems and research earmarks.

The implication is that Tea Party participants are somehow hypocrites because they uses services of the state while arguing for more limited government-it’s a charge that most libertarians and conservatives have heard before. But it makes little sense, because people have essentially no choice but to rely on the state for these services, because government has crowded out the private sector.

There is no meaningful private market for health insurance for seniors, which means that only the ultra-wealthy can afford to opt out of government’s near monopoly on senior health services.  Even with Social Security, Americans have been forced to fork over 12.4 percent of their earnings to Uncle Sam to “save” for their retirement. After paying, on average, another quarter of earnings in other taxes, many Americans have little left to put away for retirement on their own. They are left to depend on Social Security for much of their retirement income in part because government created a system that forced them to do so. And now, the federal government has essentially wiped out the private student loan industry-can you really fault students for using the only option that’s left available to them?

Economist Henry Hazlitt’s highlighted a key principle in economics: you can’t just look at how resources are used, but you have to consider how else resources might have been used. A brick thrown through a window may be good news for the window maker, but it’s bad news for the other business owners who were hoping the home owner would spend that money in their stores.

This is also an important principle when it comes to government. Yes, we all may have to depend on the federal government for weather satellites, but what might have happened if government hadn’t been supplying that service? Another service-and we are talking about government programs, probably a more efficient, effective, service-would likely have developed.

Government has been increasingly taking over all aspects of American life. Therefore, you really can’t fault people for accidentally using government services, even as they argue for their elimination.