Tea Party


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Celebrating the Historic Roots of Today’s Tea Party Movement

December 16, 2013

Two hundred forty years ago today, December 16, 1773, to protest a tea tax that implied unlimited power on the part of Britain to tax the colonies, members of the Sons of Liberty boarded British ships and dumped 340 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. This protest was the first significant act of defiance in the American Revolution and is known as the Boston Tea Party. Prior to this Tea Party, many colonists considered themselves proud Englishmen and believed that the increasingly tyrannical government was a corruption of Britain’s legacy of liberty, a problem that could be solved within the framework of British government. After all, their English forebears had produced the Magna Carta, the body of common law, and Parliament—elements of representative government that checked the power of the king. But, with the passage of the Stamp Act (which taxed all formal documents), the Quartering Act (which gave British soldiers power to demand food and lodging from colonists), and like measures, colonists increasingly doubted the possibility of internal reforms. The final straw was the Tea Act of 1773, which granted the East India Company a monopoly on tea trade and preserved British taxes on tea, while implying that more taxes were to come. Following the Boston Tea Party, Britain tightened its grip on the colonists by passing the Coercive Acts, which closed the port of Boston and denied Massachusetts the same self-government standards that the other colonies had. Soon thereafter, the Shot Heard Round the World was fired (by which side is unknown) at Lexington and Concord, and the Revolutionary War had begun. During the war, the Founding Fathers, who were inspired by British philosopher John Locke’s ideas on individual rights, conceived of a new nation based on the principle that individuals possess the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Following the war, in 1789, the revolutionaries—Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and others—established a constitutional republic as the protector of these rights. The United States of America consequently became the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. Fast forward to the present. Again, liberty-minded Americans, opposing the expansion of rights-violating government policies, are looking to better aspects of the nation’s past. Rather than consistently protecting individual rights, government has been increasingly violating them for the alleged sake of the collective. These violations have caused (among other things) major financial crises—which the government has sought to “fix” with further rights violations in the form of bailouts funded by more taxation (direct or indirect). In 2009, CNBC analyst Rick Santelli famously condemned the government’s practice of punishing the fiscally responsible to reward the “bad behavior” of others. Santelli identified himself as “an Ayn Rander,” rightly drawing the connection between Rand’s advocacy of individualism over collectivism and that of the Founders. Santelli called for a new Tea Party and launched the movement that now—however inconsistent in its advocacy of individual rights—goes by that name. Several months later, speaking at a Charlotte Tea Party rally, historian John David Lewis contrasted the individualism predominant in the Founders’ era and the collectivism rampant today: Our so-called leaders . . . don’t see autonomous moral beings at all. They see only serfs, sniveling and whining, begging their masters for the scraps needed to survive, acting as a collective mob rather than as thinking individuals. Look at yourselves . . . Do you see in your face, and in the face. . . Continue »


IRS Targeted Groups over “Anti-Obama Rhetoric”—As Enabled by Bad Laws

September 20, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for “special treatment”—this we already know. But newly discovered details about the case show that the IRS’s assault is even more shocking. USA Today reports: Newly uncovered IRS documents [from 2011] show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status. Why do tax agents care about whether an organization uses “anti-Obama rhetoric” (or “pro-Obama rhetoric” for that matter)? As Steve Simpson explains in “The Roots of the IRS Scandal” (TOS, Fall 2013), after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the campaign finance laws on the grounds that they violated the right of free speech, “supporters of campaign finance laws went apoplectic” and called for increased reporting of political activity. Simpson summarizes the results: The government had both the motive and the means to go after the loudest and most effective groups. The motive came from the premise underlying the campaign finance laws—the notion that influencing voters, elections, and candidates is bad, and anyone who does it well is worse. The means ultimately did not come from the campaign finance laws themselves, because the courts had struck down some of those laws, and the critics of campaign spending were unsuccessful in getting additional disclosure mandates passed. So critics turned to the IRS to “do something,” and, not surprisingly, it did. It investigated Tea Party groups for doing what everyone already thought was bad—spending too much money on political speech. It just did so under a different set of laws—the tax laws—and based on a slightly different rationale—that nonprofits get a special gift under the laws that they must pay for, either by avoiding political speech or by disclosing their donors. To learn the details of what happened and why the case illustrates a major threat to free speech, see Simpson’s article. Even though the IRS is currently on the defensive for targeting conservative groups, the laws under which it acted remain in effect. If we Americans want to protect our rights to freedom of speech, we must demand that our representatives work to overturn these laws and to get the government entirely out of the business of monitoring and restricting political speech. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: The Roots of the IRS Scandal IRS Violates Americans’ Rights Every Day


“A Born Free American Woman” Tells Government “You’ve Forgotten Your Place”

June 6, 2013

On June 4, Becky Gerritson, a founder of the Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama, testified before congress about the IRS’s abusive practices toward Tea Party groups. Her poignant words deserve repeating. Gerritson began by explaining what motivated her to become involved in the Tea Party movement: In order to paint a clear picture, I need to explain how the Wetumpka Tea Party came into being. My husband and I had never been involved in politics before 2008. We’d always been patriotic and deeply proud of our country. We’ve always felt that the United States is the greatest country in the world. In September 2008, when we had our first $700 billion “bailout,” we along with millions of Americans were very concerned. That bailout was confirmation that our government was out of control. . . . We were worried, and we knew we had to do something to sound the alarm. . . . The government was mortgaging America’s future. And we knew that Washington wasn’t going to stop by itself. Then Gerritson lambasted the government for discriminating against Tea Party groups: In Wetumpka, we are patriotic Americans. We peacefully assemble. We petition our government. We exercise the right to free speech. And we don’t understand why the government tried to stop us. I am not here as a serf or vassal. I am not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born free American woman, wife, mother and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well-being, and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty. And you have faltered. I would likely disagree with Gerritson on various issues. But, hearing these courageous words in defense of liberty, I can only thank Gerritson for speaking them to Congress—and urge Congress to listen. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: To Help Save America, Tea Partiers Must Fully Embrace Individual Rights Should Tea Partiers Abandon or Embrace Ayn Rand?


IRS Violates Americans’ Rights Every Day

May 15, 2013

News that the Internal Revenue Service targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny rightly has blown into a major scandal. But the scandal points to a deeper question: Why are most Americans not outraged by the IRS’s daily violations of individual rights? Consider the main abuses. The IRS serves as the collection agency for the government’s programs of unjust wealth confiscation: The agency forcibly collects some $2.7 trillion per year in taxes, transferring vast amounts of wealth from productive Americans to the unproductive. This clearly violates people’s rights to keep and use their wealth and property as they judge best. Part and parcel of this coercion are the IRS’s demands that Americans turn over reams of personal information, ranging from details about their employment to their business expenses to their mortgage payments. And now, the IRS will enforce key provisions of ObamaCare, giving the agency access to details about our personal health as well. Of course Americans should be outraged that the IRS has harassed select groups for ideological reasons. Americans should also be outraged by the IRS’s violations of virtually all Americans’ rights on a daily basis. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty How Would Government Be Funded in a Free Society? Image: Wikimedia Commons


Jonathan Hoenig Calls for Return to Americanism

April 27, 2013

At the fifth annual Tax Day Tea Party in Chicago, Jonathan Hoenig delivered an excellent speech on the principles of Americanism and the need to return to them. Focusing on what made America unique in history, he pointed out what it means to be free and what it means to be enslaved, and he made one crucial point after another with crystal clarity. For example, regarding the meaning of freedom: In a free nation, the government does not regulate citizen’s lives. It doesn’t tell you what type of health insurance you have to buy, it doesn’t tell you what type of light bulb you have to put in your home, it doesn’t tell you what size soda you have to buy. You’re free to make those decisions on your own. And regarding what we should fight against and what we should fight for, Hoenig accentuated the positive: We should fight against taxes. We should fight against regulation. But what we should fight for is Americanism: individual rights, the rebirth of the self-interested, individualistic American principle that regards each of us, not as sacrifices for “the greater good,” but as sovereign individuals, each with our own life, our own liberty, and our own happiness. If this country is to survive, that is the Americanism we must fight to revive. Watch Hoenig’s speech below, and share it with your freedom-loving friends. This is a message everyone should hear. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: An Interview with a “Capitalist Pig” Jonathan Hoenig: Hopeful and Fearful about the Future Image: CapitalistPig.com


Kibbe: Tea Party Aims for “Hostile Takeover”

April 13, 2012

The Tea Party is ready for a “hostile takeover” of Washington, or so argues Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks. Recently I interviewed Kibbe about his forthcoming book, Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America. Kibbe said his book “works on the analogy of what a hostile takeover is in an industrial organization, when you have entrenched management circling the wagons and protecting their interests at the expense of the shareholders.” Kibbe continued: And the shareholders rise up, and it becomes a hostile takeover because management doesn’t want that. I think it’s a perfect analogy for what’s going on in America, with the pushback that the Tea Party movement has created with grassroots Americans, in a decentralized way, of pushing against entrenched management in Washington, DC. Hopefully the Tea Party will not only continue fighting against federal abuses of power but also ground its hostile takeover explicitly in the benevolent principle of individual rights—the fact that each individual is morally an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others or society or government. If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to The Objective Standard and making objective journalism a regular part of your life. Related: The Evolution of the Tea Party Tea Party: “Cut It or Shut It.” Capitalism and the Moral High Ground


The Evolution of the Tea Party

April 10, 2012

Last week, at the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education, I interviewed Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, about the development of the Tea Party. Kibbe said, among other things, that the Tea Party is becoming more directly political, focusing on get-out-the-vote efforts and the like, and, more importantly, that “the community is now seeking out the ideas of liberty. . . . They want to understand what it is they’re fighting for.” If anyone has the pulse of the Tea Party, Kibbe does, so his analysis can be taken as good news. Enjoy the interview. If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to The Objective Standard and making objective journalism a regular part of your life. Related: Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice To Help Save America, Tea Partiers Must Fully Embrace Individual Rights


TOS’s Week in Review for April 10, 2011

April 10, 2011

Noteworthy news and opinion items from the week ending April 10, 2011 1. The Budget Showdown The top story of the week is that Republicans in Congress—having been elected in large part on their promise to cut this year’s federal spending by $100 billion—and having then retreated to $61 billion—finally retreated all the way down to $38 billion, which amounts to a 1 percent reduction in spending for the year. What matters here, however, is less the numbers than the compromise—which, throughout the week, was praised by some as a virtue and condemned by others as a vice. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Tea Party remained uncompromising: A national tea party leader warned Republican leaders . . . that if they “fold” on the budget talks, they risk losing the trust of tea party voters. “If [House Speaker John Boehner] agrees to less than $61 billion in cuts, then the GOP will have broken their campaign promise,” said Debbie Dooley, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group for the movement. “If they fold on this, then they will fold on the debt ceiling and they will fold on budget 2012. Why should we trust them further to keep their promises?” said Ms. Dooley, a 52-year-old from Duluth, Ga., where she works in information technology. Unfortunately, the WSJ itself—showing that its editors have no idea of the nature or consequences of compromise—called for compromise, claiming that “Republicans will have more credibility over fights that really matter if they show they’re willing to compromise now.” Would that the nation’s top business journal understood that compromising on principle thwarts one’s credibility (not to mention one’s integrity, and, in this case, individual rights and the economy). Fortunately, others—including Dick Morris and Peter Schiff—understand the evil of this compromise. Morris made an impassioned plea for Americans to urge Republicans to hold their ground. If you want “to restore the United States of America to a free-enterprise, capitalist system,” says Morris, “be in touch with your Republican congressman, and send him a message: no retreat, no surrender, no compromise.” Morris’s short video is worth watching. In the wake of the Republicans’ eventual capitulation, Peter Schiff explains that “politics has prevailed over principle.” Both sides are now claiming victory, that this new compromise demonstrates the resolve of our leaders to make the necessary cuts so that America can live within its means and finally tackle our out-of-control deficit spending. The reality is, this compromise proves the exact opposite: that there is no will on Capitol Hill to do anything about the deficit, that nobody is willing to make any of the cuts necessary to reign in the excesses in Washington. Schiff’s video is worth watching as well. 2. Paul Ryan’s Long-term Budget “Cuts” In the midst of all this short-term budget compromising, Rep. Paul Ryan offered his long-term budget plan. Excerpt: Our budget, which we call The Path to Prosperity, is very different. For starters, it cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president’s budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt. Our proposal brings federal spending to below 20% of gross domestic product (GDP), consistent with the postwar average, and reduces deficits by $4.4 trillion… Here are its major components: • Reducing spending: This budget proposes to bring spending on domestic. . . Continue »


Tea Party: "Cut It or Shut It."

April 2, 2011

With a showdown over the budget looming, The Tea Party has one clear message to the GOP: “Cut it or shut it.” As the Washington Times reports: [H]undreds of tea partyers gathered across the street from the Capitol for a “Continuing Revolution” rally, sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, where they waved signs that read “Grow a spine” and “Remember your promises, we do,” while calling on the Republicans to follow through on their campaign pledge to cut $100 billion in spending before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. “Cut it or shut it,” many in the crowd chanted, airing a lingering frustration that has been compounded by news reports suggesting that Republicans are hashing out the details of a deal with Democrats that would slice $33 billion in this year’s spending, a cut that falls far short of the party’s pledge. The Tea Party’s demand of “cut it or shut it” is a principled stand that the GOP should heed and adopt. The U.S. government’s immoral spending is pushing the country toward a fiscal disaster, which can be averted only by major cuts. Tea partyers are coming to understand that the government has no right to spend the hard-earned money of Americans on bailouts, welfare, and the like. Hopefully, they will soon grasp this truth in terms of the relevant principle: The only proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights by banning force and fraud from social relationships. Republican politicians are not so quick to learn. They have not yet begun to grasp the moral impropriety of spending, and they may not for some time. But perhaps with increasing pressure from tea partyers they will at least begin to see that major cuts in spending are their ticket to remain in office. Tea partyers, don’t let up! Related: Should Tea Partiers Abandon or Embrace Ayn Rand? To Help Save America, Tea Partiers Must Fully Embrace Individual Rights Image: Creative Commons by NYyankees51


Vladimir Shlapentokh’s Flagrant Dishonesty Regarding Ayn Rand

October 28, 2010

I recently posted about Vladimir Shlapentokh’s opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor, in which he misrepresents Ayn Rand’s ideas and calls for Tea Partiers to distance themselves from her. In that post, I focused solely on his absurd claims about Rand’s politics; here, for those who may be interested in but unfamiliar with Ayn Rand’s views, I’d like to dispatch some of Shlapentokh’s other fallacious claims. Shlapentokh accuses some of “merely formulating opinions of [Rand] from hearsay” rather than having “genuinely read Rand’s novels and essays,” thus implying that he has read her works. In fact, judging from the inaccuracies in his piece, either Shlapentokh has not read Rand’s works and is dishonestly implying that he has, or he has read her works and is dishonestly misrepresenting her ideas. Shlapentokh claims, “The issue of taxes—at the crux of [the Tea Party] movement—was addressed by Rand only in regard to big companies, and never as a concern for ordinary people.” In fact, Rand said very little about taxation (and, to my knowledge, nothing about taxing “big companies”). Rather, she focused on the fundamental principle that governs such derivative matters, that of property rights: Man has to work and produce in order to support his life. He has to support his life by his own effort and by the guidance of his own mind. If he cannot dispose of the product of his effort, he cannot dispose of his effort; if he cannot dispose of his effort, he cannot dispose of his life. Without property rights, no other rights can be practiced (source). Rand defended the rights of individuals to retain property (including their earnings) from all forms of government seizure as a matter of principle—applicable to “big companies” and “ordinary people” alike. Shlapentokh also claims, “Rand was fully indifferent to the workers in her novels, whom she described as primitive beings—‘savages’ in the words of Atlas’s steel mogul Hank Rearden, arguably one of Rand’s most beloved personages.” Setting aside his intimation that “moguls” such as Rearden are “nonworkers,” Shlapentokh provides no quote from either Rand or Rearden to this effect—which is unsurprising given that none exists. Rand certainly celebrated the achievements of industrialists, championed their rights, and demonstrated that we all benefit from the activities of such producers: When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you. When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think. . . (source) But it does not follow from Rand’s defense of the most productive among us that she categorized the less productive as “savages.” Rather, she characterized productive. . . Continue »