I like the tea party. It’s probably the most active force for relative political good today. They helped get some true liberty-minded individuals in Congress, like Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, Justin Amash and Ted Cruz among others. They have been going toe-to-toe with the establishment and really taking the fight to DC. A fairly large contingency within the tea party are libertarian, or at least libertarian-leaning. However there is also a faction of traditional Republicans who are in it for little reason other than that the current president is a Democrat. This group supports the typical Republican platform, pro-life, anti-gay marriage, anti-drug, low taxes, and pro-military. The primary push of the tea party is “smaller” government. Murray Rothbard once noted that “the ultimate goal of total liberty must always be upheld”, in other words that a clear goal must be in mind and our eyes must remain fixed upon it if we are to reach it. The tea party’s greatest inherent fault is that it has no clear goal. It is a group marching in the right general direction, but without a final destination plotted out! Without a point around which to concentrate its effort the tea party will eventually fade away well before it reaches its true potential – most likely when the next Republican president is elected.
The three common Tea Party tenets are “constitutionally limited government”, “free markets”, and “fiscal responsibility”. These all sound good and resonate with a lot of people. But each one is inherently flawed, and hypocritical when taking in the context of the whole. Let’s consider these in turn…
Constitutionally Limited Government
This phrase itself is rather fluid depending upon what interpretation you choose to take of the constitution. Many of the politicians in DC who have helped create the current bloated government believe, in large part thanks to the commerce and general welfare clauses that all of their pet projects and policies are constitutionally justifiable. The Supreme Court agreed with this ridiculous concept when it allowed the so-called Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to continue living under the guise of a tax. Clearly, this goes to show that a government cannot be “constitutionally” limited. The idea that words on a piece of paper can, by themselves restrain the will of useful idiots, well-meaning fools, busy-bodies and tyrants is laughable. The power of words come from the meaning given unto them. The US Constitution is a perfect example of how meaning can be manipulated and contorted into something that is but a shadow of the binding statute it was intended to be. In this case the tea party generally takes the side that the constitution should be taken its literal words – no interpretation beyond writings from the Founders who wrote it used for clarification. This creates a problem for the traditional Republicans who call themselves part of the tea party. Taken at its words, the constitution gives no authority to regulate drugs, marriage, or abortion, or anything that could be construed as 18th century versions of the same. Those who demand a literal interpretation but stand by banning drugs, abortions and non-traditional marriages (among other things) quickly find themselves without a leg to stand on.
On the subject of “binding”, we need to consider the circumstances that make something “binding”. For something to be “binding” it must be agreed to by all parties involved. No one now alive on the face of Earth was alive when the constitution was ratified, creating the federal government. Therefore, consent to the contract has been lost by attrition.
Many people like to believe that because you live in the US, you accept the government as a term of your residency. This idea grossly undermines the idea of private property. If you own land within the borders oppressed by the US government, you cannot be said to have accepted the government’s rule, unless you have also willingly subordinated your right of ownership to the same. For acceptance of government rule to be a term of land ownership is to supplant the idea of ownership entirely. If the government ultimately has the final word over whether or not you can live on your property and what activities you can participate on it, you do not really own anything. You are simply renting, and the government owns all. This is the unfortunate state of reality in the US – where the EPA can label your parcel “wetlands” and throw you in jail for improving it, or where your local government can foreclose on your property because you didn’t pay property tax, even if you own your home outright. Surely no one in their right mind would have agreed to such outrages.
This tenet in and of itself is quite respectable. Unfortunately a pure free market is not what the tea party at large is really after. A true, pure free market is incompatible with government. So long as there is a government exercising a monopoly on force, there will be those exercising that force against the market. Examples of this which I have witnessed wide support among tea party members firsthand include restrictions on drug use, prostitution, and foreign trade (embargoes and sanctions). Even anti-discrimination laws as justifiable as they may seem are a gross violation of a true free market. Taxation, business regulations, industry oversight boards and committees, environmental regulation all constitute violations of free market principles. These interferences and the government that commits them along with the lobbyists who push them are the fount from which cronyism springs. When liberals talk about the evils of corporations they aren’t entirely incorrect. Big corporations with big lobbying budgets use the government and its monopoly on force to implement measures which impede the ability of their competitors to compete. Perhaps a smaller government would result in smaller infractions against the free market, but the only true resolution here is to eliminate the tool of economic oppression – the government. Without it, businesses will be forced to compete on the level playing field a true free market provides.
This is probably where the height of tea party hypocrisy can be found. In my experience most tea party members are highly patriotic in the military sense and believe that the United States Armed Forces are an unquestionable force for freedom and goodness the world over. The US military spends 39% of the combined military budget of the world – more than the budgets of China, Russia, United Kingdoms and Japan combined. Yet if anyone so much as breaths a whisper about cutting military spending they are ostracized as unpatriotic, un-American, or of wanting to turn us over to the terrorists. Even the sequester cuts from a few years ago were labels “draconian” and they were only cuts to a planned increase in spending, not existing spending. The American Empire runs in stark opposition to what the tea party claims to stand by as its core pillars. The constitution and those who wrote it did not support a globe-trotting foreign policy. Someone who claims allegiance to limited government cannot support maintaining a global empire at the same time. It used to be the British, now it is the United States. Today we can truthfully say that the sun never sets on the American Empire – we have troops stationed in over 130 countries last I checked.
Don’t get me wrong, the tea party is a diverse group. Many of the libertarian leaning members don’t support the military empire. The large contingency of Obama haters on the other hand seem to carry the most weight at the present time. This isn’t really addressed at them, because they are generally nothing more than garden variety Republicans. The libertarian wing though can hopefully glean some insight from this and push the tea party in a more principally consistent direction. Generally I like the tea party, but I’d hate to see the energy and fight that they have dry up when a Republican enters the White House. That is why it is so vital that the tea party have a target – an ultimate goal – that they can focus their energies on and stay on track when a pacifying temporal victory comes about. After all, the tea party has gotten more libertarians elected than the Libertarian Party ever has – let’s keep that up.
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Based on a work at http://www.considerliberty.com.
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.