There’s a sort of myth that the Tea Party is something new altogether in American politics. I agree with that in the sense that the Hippies were something new – a more numbered, rabid, and motivated version of a political constituency that already existed. However that is not the Tea Party’s “claim to fame”, instead they get there “street cred” from the idea that somehow they’re an extension of the Libertarian ideal. Without the Libertarian ideal, they’re just extremist right wingers in new packaging.
However the fact is the Tea Party is not Libertarian and if I were a Libertarian I’d want to distance myself as much as possible from the Tea Party movement.
Because most of the “rank and file” Tea Party movement believes in viewpoints that are an anathema to Libertarian ideals.
I’ll highlight a few points to explain:
First, Tea Partiers are not for religious freedom. Most are enormously Christian fundamentalist and anti-Muslim. Now that in itself doesn’t make you non-Libertarian, but these same people are also activist in these views – that is they want to shape the government so that it promulgates Christian ideas (such as demanding the posting of the “10 Commandments”) and prevents Muslim ones (such as creating regulations against anything relating to Sharia Law). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for Sharia Law (quite the opposite), but these activist viewpoints are anything but Libertarian – they are more government and less freedom.
Similarly, most Tea Partiers are enormously pro-military (actually I would say, “pro-militant”, because there’s nothing wrong with supporting the military, it’s the wars that ensue that are the problem). A recent Gallup poll shows this clearly – only 27% supported cutting Defense spending to balance the budget. That’s not Libertarian at all. Died in the wool Libertarians are against these endless wars that require taxation and almost invariably, the restriction of freedom.
Finally, and perhaps I’m extrapolating too much here, Tea Partiers aren’t exactly against all government regulation, they’re against government regulation that they’ve been brainwashed to think is bad for business (which really is for who has the most lobbyists – big business). Thus they want to cut some laws but not others.
While I am doubtful that Libertarianism can stand even on its own (something I will address in a future post I hope), there is a vague possibility that it might work if implemented in its complete form. It is potentially true that things like monopolies exist because of government intervention, not lack of it, however the only way to truly test the Libertarian ideal is to fully realize it.
The alternative, which is to half implement, in my opinion only leads to the worst of both worlds:
Eliminating those things that prevent the abuses of the landed interest, while maintaining all the icky stuff that promotes the abuses. That is, we remove the laws that protect us, while keeping laws that allow the powerful to go amuck.
For instance, in order to really do Libertarianism we have to eliminate or severely limit the constraints of Intellectual Property (IP), which create virtual monopolies. We have to scale back the “limited liability” granted by incorporation – without doing so there is enormous government distortion of the market (you can’t have a viable contract system if when something goes wrong the liability doesn’t match the damages). Also you have to get rid of all sorts of random incentives and rules that favor one entity over the over, including business over labor.
However that isn’t what the Tea Party is asking for, they want to mix both worlds – Libertarianism and the current model. The result is the worst of both.
Honestly, with no insult to anyone, I think both Libertarians and Tea Partiers are getting “played” here. Probably “Progressives” are as well (certainly Obama has severely abused the “Progressive” ideal to favor the rentier class). We’re being fed, brainwashed frankly, with policies that curiously most benefit the powerful in the guise of helping us, the little guys.
There’s really something to the phrase, “Follow the money” – when we consider these policies, who most benefits? Sure, we get a bit of “tinkle down”, but the truth is the vast majority goes to the top. It’s sort of like saying, “I’ll give $10 if you give me $1000” – in a strange way sounds consistent and like we’re getting given something, but obviously the truth is we’re not.
There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll stop there. Unfortunately I think that there’s a lot of good people being sucked into doing bad things, particularly (ironically), bad things for themselves.