Someone posed an interesting question to me yesterday, one that is probably relevant to all of us at some point in our lives, but one which we probably don’t often think about. A marriage and family therapist friend of mine to whom I was explaining libertarian philosophy and my own positions on current American politics and events asked me: Do you think that your hostility toward government is displaced anger that is really aimed at some other part of your life? Talk about being thrown a wicked curve ball! The short answer that I gave her was, yes and no. To be sure, I have some issues in my life that I’m now dealing with that involve a great deal of anger and frustration. It is possible, at least subconsciously, that some of that anger is crossing over into my general disgust at American political culture in general. However, I think the truth is that my anger at what America has mutated into in the post-9/11 world is more a parallel extension of my overall anger than a projection of it. It’s a bit too complex of an issue to address with a simple single-word response. As a libertarian I believe that my anger, while certainly a normal emotion felt by other humans of every political persuasion, should ideally be focused constructively on the proper target; my anger at the government’s misconduct should not translate into a reaction against someone or something else. To illustrate, if congress passes an enhancement of the Patriot Abomination, I don’t react by spanking my grandson. Similarly, if my grandson decides to practice his best Van Gogh imitation on the living room wall in crayon, I don’t respond by huffing my way upstairs to my office, sitting down at the computer, and banging out an angry editorial excoriating the federal tax code. The target of one’s anger must be that person or object which is clearly the root cause of said anger. To react vicariously in frustration or anger against a third party is to compel that person to suffer unjustly for something for which they are not at fault. This represents the very essence of the modern nation-state, in which punitive laws are enacted against everyone due to the (alleged) misconduct of one or a few members of society. The current Sudofed™ panic is an excellent example of this practice in action. It just so happens that I’ve developed the first late-summer cold in living memory and went to the supermarket this morning on my way to work to buy a simple remedy. Sudofed has always been my drug of choice, due mostly to the non-drowsiness factor. After searching the supermarket’s pharmacy section in vain, I saw a piece of paper folded over some empty shelf space. After unfolding the paper I saw in big, bold letters the announcement: SUDOFED PRODUCTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE AT THE CUSTOMER SERVICE DESK. The clear implication is that we as consumers are now criminals in the eyes of the State, which compelled said supermarket under penalty of law to remove a perfectly legal non-prescription product from its shelves, because a handful among us have chosen to use this perfectly legal product to produce a substance (methamphetamine) that is harmful only to those who voluntarily ingest it into their own bodies, but that causes no harm to anyone else. Because the puppeteers of the State do not approve of this practice (methamphetamine is produced by individuals in their own homes, not by one of the State’s legally-sanctioned manufacturers of pharmaceutical poison who have purchased an indulgence through their beltway lobbyists), they have decided that we are all errant children who must submit to their paternalistic control. We are no longer considered mature adults capable of reading a label and using a legal, over-the-counter substance in the way it was intended, or to deciding for ourselves how much of that substance our bodies need. No, the Nanny State, through its coerced proxy (in this case the supermarket, in other cases, a pharmacy) is going to decide for us how much of the substance we will be allowed to purchase with what little or our own earnings it has allowed us to keep. In this way the Nanny State is projecting its own anger at the conduct of a few (conduct that is none of its business in the first place) onto the mass of its subjects as a whole. While I am not a methamphetamine manufacturer, I am being treated as if I were and am suffering a needless and unjust penalty as a result. So next time anyone asks you about “displaced anger” at government, just respond that there are too many easy and deserving targets for any anger to displace itself.