By J.D. Thorpe
The emergence of the Tea Party movement has brought to light the deep dissatisfaction of Americans with the current direction of the government. Tea Party members have been the target of countless defamatory attacks by liberals and other establishment types. Janeane Garofalo characterized them this way, “This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea bagging rednecks.”
So what is it that the Tea Party has done to engender such hysterical outrage? This group has had the audacity to protest against the taking away of their liberties. It is viewed as unacceptable that these Americans are unwilling to give in to the dictates of our paternalistic government. Herein lies the root of the philosophical differences between those who belong to the Tea Party and their liberal opponents. Their main goal is to stand up against government intrusion in their lives. The Tea Party Patriot’s mission statement promotes the core values of “fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.”
The Tea Party is upset, because liberties are being taken away from them. This group ascribes to the view of individualism, meaning that individuals are the foundation of society. Therefore, the role of government should be determined with the individual as the most important component. The opposite view holds that government bureaucrats are more important.
The biggest champion of individualism was Austrian economist/philosopher F.A. Hayek. Throughout his long and illustrious career, Hayek taught about the benefits of promoting the individual in society and developed the important concept of spontaneous order which maintains that order in society arises spontaneously through individuals pursuing their own interests and using their own unique knowledge. Before Hayek, Adam Smith wrote “By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.” This is the philosophy driving the Tea Party. They believe not only that individuals should be responsible for themselves but that everyone in society is better off when this is the case.
This worldview is very different from the left whose anger is generated by the government not giving something to them. Think about what liberals demand. They protest in support of universal healthcare, minimum wage laws, the extension of unemployment benefits, welfare entitlements and many other government handouts. In each of these examples, their anger originates from the government not giving enough. The government is not a business and does not produce anything, therefore it must engage in wealth redistribution by both taking property away from people and telling people how they can and cannot use their own property. Both methods contribute to a loss of liberty and that is why the Tea Party movement has been so active in attempting to arrest, then reverse the continued drift toward statism.
Liberals are vehement practitioners of the religious cult of statism. They believe that the state should solve all of society’s problems. This ideology is inherently anti-liberty and anti-freedom because in order for the state to solve such problems, they must infringe on the rights of the individual.
The real debate between the Tea Party and those who oppose it is captured in the dichotomy of individualism versus statism. The Tea Party movement is a group of individuals promoting the cause of liberty. They fight for the preservation and restoration of liberty for all members of our nation (yes, that includes you too, Ms. Garofalo). It is time that liberals recognize the legitimacy of the Tea Party’s views, and for more Americans to recognize what is at stake in this fight. If we don’t wake up soon, our liberty will be irretrievably lost.
J.D. Thorpe is the Assistant Director of Programs at The Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, at which he organizes citizen activists and promotes constitutional rights. An historical intellectual and former political staffer, Thorpe has garnered an original insight on ideological movements.