A crisis for the Establishment – the One Party State comes under attack

We have speculated for a long time that the day was probably drawing near when the US political establishment would be seriously challenged. Our pet idea has always been that this challenge  could take the shape of the eventual formation  of a viable third political party, or alternatively an independent political movement. You might of course just as well say 'a second political party'.

 

The two establishment parties – the Democratic and Republican parties – are in many ways merely the two faces of one and the same party. This was not always the case, but it has been the case for most of the post WW2 era, when in an attempt to please everyone, both parties 'moved toward the middle', which is short for 'threw their political principles overboard in favor of statism and corporatism'. Recent history has thrown this fact into sharp relief, given that the past decade has been one of crisis –  chiefly economical, but also in terms of foreign and security policy.

The main difference between the two parties seems the be their respective emphasis of fiscal spending on welfare and/or warfare, as well as which special interests are likely to receive preferential privileged treatment.  Both parties favor the welfare/warfare state and would never question the status quo.

When president Bush made his flimsy case for war against Iraq – the functional equivalent of squishing a spider on the wall by bulldozing the entire house – the Democratic Party did not shrink from authorizing the war. The pro-war propaganda in the run-up to the invasion was so transparently full of falsehoods that even blind Freddie could probably see that 'we're going to war just because we can'.

This didn't keep anyone in Congress from voting in favor of it (the exceptions to this rule, such as the consistently anti-war Ron Paul, or the leftist maverick Dennis Kucinic were simply viewed  as 'nut cases' doing their usual nutty thing. That of course, as they say, was then). In a similar vein, no Democratic resistance was visible when Bush nonchalantly did away with large parts of the Bill of Rights in the name of the 'War on Terror'.

The Democrats certainly gave their placet  to every piece of requisite legislation so as not look 'weak on national security'. As of now there is incontrovertible proof that this broad agreement between the two parties about what we might call the expansion of Leviathan's police state attributes endures; since they are in power, the Democrats have left all these  measures firmly in place – in fact, they appear to be moving toward cementing some of them, as a visibly disconcerted Rachel Maddow (who is normally supportive of 'progressive politics') reports here.

When successive economic crises invited a spot of corporate socialism in the form of bailing out most of Wall Street, the Republicans in turn saw nothing wrong with that either. Their claim of a commitment to 'fiscal conservatism' has  been belied by every Republican administration that has been given the chance to demonstrate said commitment. All of them ended up racking up historical record deficits  – a practice they have engaged in without fail since the days of the Hoover administration.

The socialists – who are mistakenly referred to as 'liberals', a term that has forever been cheapened by this misappropriation – have lost no time in expanding the State even further, both in terms of welfare and warfare spending. The health care bill ('we have to pass it so you can find out what's in it'), a 2,500 page monstrosity that purports to be the first government program in all of history that will 'save money', the wave of 'stimulus spending' and the expansion of the war in Afghanistan vividly demonstrate the underlying principle guiding the One Party State – expand the government's power at every opportunity.

The blatant abuse of power in the case of the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies – where the rights of creditors were trampled by presidential decree in favor of the very unions that are ultimately responsible for bringing these companies to ruin –  shows that the rule of law isn't getting any more respect from the new broom than it got from the old one. Anything goes, as long as there's an 'emergency'.

Or as Rahm Emanuel put it, without even batting an eyelid: 'Never let a serious crisis go to waste'. The fact that he said this in front of a TV camera goes to show how brazen the establishment has become – brazen enough to occasionally let out the truth. In this context, here is what none other than Joseph Stalin had to say on the matter, after he had abolished Lenin's 'New Economic Policy' that had allowed a small degree of free enterprise activity, and instead used the 'grain crisis of 1928' that he himself brought about by lowering the prices the government would pay for grains (as usual, price controls led to shortages) introduced the  forcible collectivization of agriculture:

 

"Crisis alone permitted the authorities to demand—and obtain—total submission and all necessary sacrifices from its citizens. The system needed sacrifices and sacrificial victims for the good of the cause and the happiness of future generations. Crisis enabled the system in this way to build a bridge from the fictional world of utopian programs to the world of reality."

 

In the wake of the most recent crisis, a political reaction has finally taken shape – and it has done so spontaneously. All over the US, people suddenly began to organize the so-called 'Tea Party' meetings, without there being a formal structure or organization behind the movement. It takes its name from the famous 'Boston Tea Party' event, which is widely understood to have been an outbreak of pre-revolutionary popular resentment against Britain's colonial rule (notwithstanding the fact that the popular interpretation of this historical event is utterly wrong). It is therefore not a 'party' in the party political sense, at least not yet. The left rightly fears it, and the right – possibly quite mistakenly – attempts to co-opt and appropriate it.

The problem for the establishment is that this movement is clearly set against the status quo. It deeply resents the Big Government 'tax and spend' policies of the Obama administration, but as this video showing a speech by one of its more prominent spokespersons, judge Andrew Napolitano, shows, it is equally resentful of the neo-conservative version of Big Government in the name of 'national security' (from about 1:58 in the video, Napolitano rages against provisions of the PATRIOT Act as if he were channeling the spirit of Glenn Greenwald). In this, the movement is quite close to the American libertarian tradition espoused by the founders – a tradition that both branches of the Party have long thrown overboard as 'impractical'.

Whether the movement will actually lead to the formation of a third party remains to be seen of course. Firstly, there is the ongoing attempt by conservative establishment figures to hijack the movement (so that these days the term 'Tea Party' is immediately associated with people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck), which if successful, will eventually neutralize it. Secondly, the political establishment in the 'land of the free' has made it nigh impossible for political competition to arise. As Justin Raimondo reported some time ago in an article about Russia's alleged lack of democratic credentials – a place the Western media  regularly decry as 'authoritarian':

 

“Amsterdam is an "expert," all right – at obfuscating the facts. He decries a change in the [Russian] election rules requiring parties represented in parliament to get 7 percent of the vote, up from 5 percent. Yet the Russian system is far more democratic than, say, the American system, where a party that gets 7 percent – or even 10 or 20 percent – is by no means guaranteed a single seat in Congress. That is, if they even manage to get on the ballot. Parties other than the state-sanctioned and state-subsidized Democrats and Republicans face almost impossible hurdles to achieve ballot status – and, even if they do, these "third" parties operate at a tremendous disadvantage not only legally, but in terms of being taken seriously by the "mainstream" media. Is this any better than in Russia? One could make a convincing case that it is far worse.”

 

The late Harry Browne's web site (Harry Browne was a presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party) which Raimondo links to has this to say about ballot access in the US:

 

“As you've been made painfully aware over the years, Republicans and Democrats also pass laws at the state level to make it difficult and expensive for third-party candidates to get on the ballot. (There are no federal laws governing ballot access. Each state sets its own rules — even for federal offices.) In some states, third-party candidates are required to obtain far more petition signatures and/or post much larger filing fees than are required for Democratic and Republican candidates. Thus, after having fewer funds to begin with, a third-party candidate must waste some of them posting a large filing fee, and then he must use even more of his resources to obtain a large number of signatures. There are states where Republicans and Democrats are listed on the ballot as "Republican" or "Democrat" but any third-party candidate is designated as "Independent." Thus someone who wants to vote Libertarian has no way of knowing which candidate is the Libertarian. And he won't want to risk guessing because he has no way of knowing if a given "Independent" belongs to a white supremacist, Communist, or Prohibitionist party. Imagine, instead, what it would be like if all states had ballot-access laws similar to what Libertarians were able to enact in Colorado in 1998. There now are no filing fees at all, and Libertarian candidates get on the ballot automatically (labeled as "Libertarian") if nominated at the party's state convention. In 2000 this allowed Libertarians to run candidates in 57 of the 65 State House races, 17 of the 35 State Senate races, and in all 6 Congressional districts. Libertarians obtained 7.5% of all the votes cast in Colorado for State House races. This kind of progress was possible because Colorado Libertarians no longer waste enormous resources getting petitions signed and posting exorbitant filing fees. Imagine the difference if that were the case everywhere.”

 

As you can see from this, the establishment is quite adept at keeping political competition at bay. However, even if no third party emerges, the libertarian ideas espoused by many of the people supporting the Tea Party movement are  spreading anyway – to wit, the sudden adoption of libertarian rhetoric by the very same conservative establishment politicians and media figures that are now attempting to co-opt the movement (many former supporters of the neo-conservative cause have evidently realized it is in fact a lost cause – their sudden adoption of libertarianism is just as opportunistic, but it still means that the underlying ideas are likely to increasingly inform political discourse and decision-making).

 

Establishment Intellectuals spring to the Defense of Statism

As William Anderson writes in 'The Century of Statism':

 

“That statism took hold in the 20th Century should not be surprising. The journalist Walter Lippman wrote in 1936 that by 1870, the forces of classical liberty "were fighting rear guard action" against the ideas of collectivism. At the turn of the century, Das Kapital had captured the hearts and minds of many intellectuals, Edward Bellamy had published the popular Looking Backward, which predicted pure socialism by the end of the 1900s.”

 

Today, Anderson notes, as both the expansion of the State and opposition against its growth appear to be growing concurrently, the shoe is on the other foot. The collapse of the Soviet system of collectivism, the advent of the internet, which has complicated the dissemination of Statist propaganda and has brought with it a resurgence, inter alia, of the ideas of the Austrian School, is putting the collectivists on the defensive. Anderson concludes his article with:

 

“Like the classical liberals of 1870, socialists and interventionists are now fighting their own rear-guard action. Ideas –- and their results –- do matter, and when it comes to ideas, those who espouse freedom will always have the upper hand.”

 

Robert Prechter attempts to explain the rise of the Tea Party movement in the context of his 'socionomics theory'. This is a completely neutral, apolitical analysis of the phenomenon, which extends the ideas of the Elliott Wave principle about the patterned behavioral nature of financial markets to the wider socio-economic sphere.

The problem with this approach to our mind is that it ascribes all social phenomena to the 'social mood' without offering an explanation of what actually causes such shifts in the social mood. Rather, it assumes that social mood as the main driver of socio-economic phenomena requires no further explanation – it just 'is'. The herd shifts its mood for no discernible reason.

Still, there is most definitely a wealth of evidence that the social mood phenomenon as such exists, and that it expresses itself in financial markets, culture, politics, and so forth. Vadim Pokhlebkin gives a brief overview of the socionomics perspective of the 'Tea Party' here.

People often wonder why leftist ideas continue to be extremely popular with the intellectual elites populating academe, notwithstanding the failure of socialism in the former Soviet Union (many Western intellectuals once expected the Soviet system to prove superior to free market capitalism. As Anderson mentions in the article quoted above: 'Mainstream economists like Paul Samuelson and John Kenneth Galbraith were predicting the ultimate economic triumph of the Soviet Union and central economic planning.' Evidently they had not heard about the problem of economic calculation (pdf) in socialism.).  We would state that what remains popular with many modern-day academic intellectuals is not the crude Stalinism practiced by the USSR, but statism more generally, a.k.a. 'socialism if only done right' (which is to say, according to their prescriptions). Why though is this so? Why are the ideas of classical liberalism not more popular with this particular crowd?

The answer is provided by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in the essay 'Natural Elites, Intellectuals, and the State' (Pdf). Emphasis below is ours.

 

“There are almost no economists, philosophers, historians, or social theorists of rank employed privately by members of the natural elite. And those few of the old elite who remain and who might have purchased their services can no longer afford intellectuals financially. Instead, intellectuals are now typically public employees, even if they work for nominally private institutions or foundations. Almost completely protected from the vagaries of consumer demand ("tenured"), their number has dramatically increased and their compensation is on average far above their genuine market value. At the same time the quality of their intellectual output has constantly fallen. What you will discover is mostly irrelevance and incomprehensibility. Worse, insofar as today's intellectual output is at all relevant and comprehensible, it is viciously statist. There are exceptions, but if practically all intellectuals are employed in the multiple branches of the State, then it should hardly come as a surprise that most of their ever-more voluminous output will, either by commission or omission, be statist propaganda.”

 

Hoppe goes on the explain the drift in popular thinking by way of example of  the Chicago School (which  we have previously undiplomatically referred to as 'Keynesians in drag'), which by its advocacy of a central bank, and numerous features of the welfare state, once used to be considered as  'left-fringe' in the 1930's and 1940's, and is nowadays held up as as a paragon of free market ideology. To this evolution Hoppe says:

 

“Today, half a century later, the Chicago-Friedman school, without having essentially changed any of its positions, is regarded as right-wing and free market. Indeed, the school defines the borderline of respectable opinion on the political right, which only extremists cross. Such is the magnitude of the change in public opinion which public employees have brought about.”

 

In this context, we have not been surprised how such intellectual defenders of statism have begun to denounce the Tea Party movement with some vehemence. First a professor of humanities at Columbia university, Mark Lilla, published 'The Teay Party Jacobins' in the New York Review of Books. The suggestive title – which already tells the reader from the get-go that the movement is considered by Lilla to be somehow 'destructive', is of course quite misleading, as anyone who knows anything about the original Jacobins would be aware of.

The Tea Party hardly consists of people who want to establish egalitarianism in all facets of life by means of force. Lilla's article has already been reviewed by Jeff Riggenbach in the 'The New Libertarian Generation?' and we do not have much to add. However, here is a few pertinent quotes from Riggenbach's critique  that struck us as instructive:

 

“The "politics of the libertarian mob," according to Lilla, is "[a] new strain of populism" that is "anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither." He points out that "[h]istorically, populist movements [have] use[d] the rhetoric of class solidarity to seize political power so that 'the people' can exercise it for their common benefit." But the "populist rhetoric" of the "libertarian mob" is "something altogether different.… It fires up emotions by appealing to individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice." More important, according to Lilla, this new populist rhetoric of the libertarian mob is "all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power. It gives voice to those who feel they are being bullied, but this voice has only one, Garbo-like thing to say: I want to be left alone." This rhetoric, Lilla tells us, "appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that.”

 

Now, according to Lilla, the failure of wanting to 'seize political power' and instead aiming to 'neutralize it' is somehow a bad thing. Riggenbach concedes that Lilla's artcle is quite correct in describing the 'libertarian spirit' , its history and its spread in the US.

However, as interesting as Lilla's article may be, the deep flaw in it is , as Riggenbach puts it in his  concluding paragraph:

 

[...], I'm sure you'll have guessed by now that the final major flaw in Mark Lilla's otherwise excellent and provocative article on "The Tea Party Jacobins" from the May 27th issue of The New York Review of Books is its smug assumption that people like Mark Lilla really do know more than you do about how to best run your life and that they therefore have the right to force you to take their advice and run your life their way, whether you like it or not. The fact is that, exactly as Mark Lilla fears, when people distrust authority in a generalized way and start thinking for themselves, often without much relevant information to guide them, they'll make many decisions that they'll later regret. But whose decisions are they to make? Is it your right to make your own decisions about how you're going to live your life? Or does that right belong to Mark Lilla and his fellow "progressives," because they smugly know that they'll do ever so much better with it than you will? That's the issue.”

 

That is indeed the issue.

The New York Times meanwhile has given editorial space to J.M. Bernstein, a professor of philosophy at the Eugene Lang College in New York, who writes about the 'very angry Tea Party'. Now this man strikes us as the quintessential 'public employee intellectual' as described by Hoppe, in the sense that we doubt that private sector demand for topics like 'Existentialism and Feminism' (one of his courses) would command a very high market value.

But that's just us, we might be mistaken (and of course you get our opinion for free). Therefore, he probably has a personal interest in defending statism, whether he admits it or not. Whatever his motivation though, defend it he certainly does. First he admits to some confusion about the movement:

 

“It would be comforting if a clear political diagnosis of the Tea Party movement were available — if we knew precisely what political events had inspired the fierce anger that pervades its meetings and rallies, what policy proposals its backers advocate, and, most obviously, what political ideals and values are orienting its members. Of course, some things can be said, and have been said by commentators, under each of these headings. The bailout of Wall Street, the provision of government assistance to homeowners who cannot afford to pay their mortgages, the pursuit of health care reform and, as a cumulative sign of untoward government expansion, the mounting budget deficit are all routinely cited as precipitating events. I leave aside the election of a — “foreign-born” — African-American to the presidency.”

 

The last remark was a cheap shot – which evidently he didn't 'leave aside', else he would not have mentioned it. We would suggest though that among the things motivating public anger, which has inter alia found expression in the 'Tea Party' movement, may be things like this:

 


 

Long term unemployment shoots to a post war high immensely out of proportion with anything seen before. Could people be angry about this?

 


 

We do have an explanation that may be less than comforting to Bernstein, but which makes eminent sense to us: the US have never been a place where socialism and big government intrusion have met with a great deal of popular support. The whole 'progressive era' has always suffered a degree of political backlash due to the US libertarian tradition – the tradition of the founders as it were – which is not detectable to the same degree in other countries.

It is this tradition, and its implicit support of free market capitalism, that has allowed the US to become one of  the most prosperous countries on the planet. We don't believe for one second that Obama's race is a major factor in the increasing rejection of his politics (it may be for some people, but we would point to the fact that Obama is hardly the first politician of color to attain a high political office in the US). The fact that he's a socialist, which both his voting record as a senator and his speeches and policies clearly reveal, may be a more pertinent fact to consider.

 


 

The Rasmussen presidential approval index: down and out – this is beginning to suspiciously look like the similarly well-deserved trend in the ratings of his predecessor.

 


 

Bernstein plods on:
 

 

“When it comes to the Tea Party’s concrete policy proposals, things get fuzzier and more contradictory: keep the government out of health care, but leave Medicare alone; balance the budget, but don’t raise taxes; let individuals take care of themselves, but leave Social Security alone; and, of course, the paradoxical demand not to support Wall Street, to let the hard-working producers of wealth get on with it without regulation and government stimulus, but also to make sure the banks can lend to small businesses and responsible homeowners in a stable but growing economy.”

 

There are indeed polls  that reveal some contradictory opinions are held within the 'Tea Party' support base. Since it is not a political party and lacks a 'platform', it will always be difficult to paint all supporters with the same brush. According to said polls, most supporters actually describe themselves as 'very conservative' rather than 'libertarian', but there is certainly a strong libertarian streak detectable in the movement, whether this is voiced in polls or not.

However, here's a memo to Bernstein: the demand 'not to bail out Wall Street and let hard-working producers of wealth get on with it without regulation and government stimulus' is not 'paradoxical' at all. It reveals good economic sense. The massive wealth transfer the bail-outs represented as well as government 'stimulus' are indeed harmful to 'hard-working producers of wealth', as we have explained numerous times.

Someone sheltered from the rigors of the marketplace might think otherwise, but that doesn't make it true.Bernstein then also extensively quotes Lilla (whose article we find overall far more interesting, even if we completely disagree with its tendentiousness).

Guess what? The very thing Riggenbach identifies as the deficiencies of Lilla's article are quoted by Bernstein in a tone of approval.  He also picks out the – to him apparently equally perplexing fact (as perplexing as it apparently is to Lilla, that is) – that the movement seems not interested in seizing political power, but in diminishing it. Something must be wrong with people who voice political demands but have themselves no interest in lording it over others , seems to be the implication. Bernstein then goes on to prove that he has thoroughly misunderstood the movement.

Let us first note here where we believe the increasing distrust in government really comes from. We already mentioned the American libertarian tradition – a deeply rooted conviction that the individual is more important than the collective – but there is another aspect that strikes us as important. The inexorable growth of government and the State in the 20th century has gone hand in hand with massive propaganda and countless political promises.

Essentially this propaganda said: the state must intervene in the economy,  plan it on a fundamental level and become an ever bigger part of it, as this will 'defeat the business cycle' (the exact opposite is true). The promises concerned the fact that the 'state could guarantee' certain entitlements by robbing Peter to pay Paul, and administering various welfare  schemes (the vast unfunded liabilities these promises have produced prove that they can not ever be kept).

Only the mathematically challenged would fail to acknowledge this fact). Further, that it could guarantee the  'security of its citizens' (proved false in 2001). It is the failure of the State – and the growing recognition of that failure – that has brought forth the distrust of government and the reflections on the libertarian tradition.

Back to Bernstein:

 

“My hypothesis is that what all the events precipitating the Tea Party movement share is that they demonstrated, emphatically and unconditionally, the depths of the absolute dependence of us all on government action, and in so doing they undermined the deeply held fiction of individual autonomy and self-sufficiency that are intrinsic parts of Americans’ collective self-understanding.”

 

If that's his hypothesis, then one feels compelled to say: 'speak for yourself, Mr. Bernstein'. He surely does not speak for the 'mostly affluent and well educated' (source: NYT, of all places) members of the Tea Party movement. The government certainly likes to style every crisis as 'proof for the need to intervene', but that does not mean that this need actually exists. In fact, as revealed by the oddly similar view of crises and the 'opportunity' they represent for the State voiced by Stalin and Emanuel, we would say that from the point of view of government, a crisis is certainly always welcome as an opportunity to grow. From this it does not logically follow that the same is good for society at large.

Bernstein then goes on and on describing the crisis as a 'dependency revealed' (this is to say, it allegedly revealed our 'dependency' on government!) without furnishing even a single shred of proof for this assertion anywhere. I urge you to read it – if you can find out where exactly he shows, that without a doubt, recent events have proved everyone's dependency on government, we offer to eat our felt hat.

No, he just assumes that somehow, everybody should be aware that this was proved. In fact, we tend to take a completely opposite stance, in that we say it is government intervention in the free market that creates economic crises. Contrary to Bernstein we actually have taken some effort in trying to furnish  proof for this assertion (i.e., we're not just asserting and assuming everybody should automatically know what we mean).

Bernstein intones:

 

“Tea Party anger is, at bottom, metaphysical, not political: what has been undone by the economic crisis is the belief that each individual is metaphysically self-sufficient, that  one’s very standing and being as a rational agent owes nothing to other individuals or institutions. The opposing metaphysical claim, the one I take to be true, is that the very idea of the autonomous subject is an institution, an artifact created by the practices of modern life: the intimate family, the market economy, the liberal state.  Each of these social arrangements articulate and express the value and the authority of the individual; they give to the individual a standing she would not have without them.”

 

There you have it –  he's showing us his 'feminist credentials' by calling everybody a 'she' (with all due respect to female readers, we think this is downright cringe-worthy), then goes on to lead up to what becomes his ultimate assertion: without the State, we are nothing. The 'autonomous subject is an artifact'.  He's ( or is it she? By that point you have a right to be confused) couching it in terms of 'man as a social animal', as though society and State can be held logically to be the same thing. They are not, Mrs. Bernstein.

Bernstein later goes on:

 

“The issue here is a central one in modern philosophy: is individual autonomy an irreducible metaphysical given or a social creation? Descartes famously argued that self or subject, the “I think,” was metaphysically basic, while Hegel argued that we only become self-determining agents through being recognized as such by others who we recognize in turn.”

 

You can probably already guess after this paragraph that he's going to be favorably inclined toward the Hegelian view. Now, we don't deny that there is a society, that there are voluntary relations between members of this society and that these relations give our lives meaning. That is however not what is truly at issue. Hegel strikes us as the same insufferable plague that quite a few  German philosophers are (some were amusing to some extent, but certainly not Hegel). To Hegel, the State was almost akin to God. He can be rightly said to be the seed from which Marxism grew (why are we not surprised Bernstein likes him?).

Bernstein remains of course silent on this crucial aspect – to him Hegel is all about 'love' (it gets downright sappy toward the end). Unfortunately, the 'love' dispensed by the State is based on force, a little problem Bernstein leaves unmentioned. Hegel is not merely about our 'relations to one another' in terms of family and society – the relations of free individuals. Hegel seeks to prove the historical necessity of the State. In his view we only become 'free' by dint of subjecting ourselves to it. Fulfilling one's 'duty to the State' is the most important ideal in Hegel's world.

In the libertarian tradition the apparatus of the State is not seen as a necessity, not even as a 'necessary evil'. There is a difference, as Nock pointed out (in 'Our Enemy, the State'), between State and government.

Libertarians do not believe in violence and coercion, and Bernstein seems to implicitly assume that 'liberty must be frightening' (he mentions several times how much – boo! – the Tea Party movement scares him) for some reason. He seems to believe that the  term  'libertarian' implies some kind of abandonment of interpersonal relations, as though 'individual freedom' were the same as 'ruthless trampling of the rights of others', which is simply not the case.

On the contrary, the  libertarian world view stresses the voluntary nature of interpersonal relations, a respect for the rights of others that crucially includes   not wanting to coerce others – and coercion is precisely what the State stands for. Without such state coercion, as Hoppe remarks, many of the modern-day statism defending public intellectuals would have to find out what their work is really worth (we'd go along with Hoppe's view that there would be far fewer of them, and their work generally of higher quality).

Bernstein keeps denouncing the demand for liberty as a demand for something 'imaginary'.

 

“All the rhetoric of self-sufficiency, all the grand talk of wanting to be left alone is just the hollow insistence of the bereft lover that she can and will survive without her beloved. However, in political life, unlike love, there are no second marriages; we have only the one partner, and although we can rework our relationship, nothing can remove the actuality of dependence. That is permanent.”

 

Huh? Nothing is 'permanent' about our relations with the State. If that were true, we'd all still be medieval serfs. In fact, these relations could be reworked very radically. What 'actuality of dependence'? Again, speak for yourself, Mr. Bernstein!

His screed then degenerates into even more abject nonsense:

 

“In politics, the idea of divorce is the idea of revolution. The Tea Party rhetoric of taking back the country is no accident: since they repudiate the conditions of dependency that have made their and our lives possible, they can only imagine freedom as a new beginning, starting from scratch. About this imaginary (sic), Mark Lilla was right: it corresponds to no political vision, no political reality. The great and inspiring metaphysical fantasy of independence and freedom is simply a fantasy of destruction.”

 

'Metaphysical fantasy about independence and freedom?' A 'fantasy of destruction?' This is hardly deserving of comment.

Bernstein then says:

 

“In truth, there is nothing that the Tea Party movement wants; terrifyingly, it wants nothing.”

 

Again, he confuses a demand for a reduction of government influence with 'wanting nothing'. The same mistake that Lilla made before him already is held up as 'proof for nihilism'. In Lilla's and Bernstein's eyes, if you don't have a 'political program' that presumably is some sort of statist rulebook in which is explained who should be coerced and why, you have no 'political reality'. Wanting to be free and getting on with your life without government interference is simply unthinkable for the good professor.

The poor man is terrified.

 

“Lilla calls the Tea Party “Jacobins”; I would urge that they are nihilists. To date, the Tea Party has committed only the minor, almost atmospheric violences of propagating falsehoods, calumny and the disruption of the occasions for political speech — the last already to great and distorting effect.”

 

Well, Lilla is wrong and so is Bernstein. It has neither to do with the 'Jacobins' (this is simply ludicrous), nor with nihilism. Since when does the demand for respecting liberty and property rights, the demand for a decrease in dependency and a corresponding increase in personal responsibility equate to 'nihilism'?

Bernstein concludes by once again assuring us how truly 'frightening' it all is, and  – wagging the proverbial admonishing finger of the philosopher who stands above all this 'freedom' nonsense –  tells us:

 

“But if their nihilistic rage is deprived of interrupting political meetings as an outlet, where might it now go? With such rage driving the Tea Party, might we anticipate this atmospheric violence becoming actual violence, becoming what Hegel called, referring to the original Jacobins’ fantasy of total freedom, “a fury of destruction”? There is indeed something not just disturbing, but  frightening, in the anger of the Tea Party.”

 

Well, if these damn nihilistic 'freedom lovers' are raging, what shall we do? It's scary! After all, they're now 'deprived of interrupting political meetings'! (if you've read Bernstein's article from the beginning,  he mentions there how certain politicians  don't dare to visit 'town hall meetings' these days out of fear that some of the citizenry are not their  usual sheep-like self anymore but actually dare to voice disapproval, deviating from the accepted script, so to speak).

The Jacobins were indeed deluded, but – hello? – they're from the political left! If they called it 'total freedom' then this is surely not what they actually meant. The Jacobins were in favor of egalitarianism, including in the economic sphere – which as we know, requires coercion.

 

Conclusion

Contrary to Bernstein, we think there is nothing intrinsically bad or to be feared about the 'Tea Party' movement. To the extent that it forces politicians to adopt libertarian positions, we actually think it is a very good thing indeed. We would suggest that the idea of smaller government runs counter to what most public employee intellectuals have propagated all their lives, and therefore their rejection of such an idea is not unexpected. We would go as far as to say that this political movement – whether it one day coheres into a political party or not – is a great ray of hope for those of us who fear that ever more government intrusion in the economy is endangering the future of free market capitalism.

The world has traditionally looked toward the US as holding up the ideals of the capitalist system. The new administration is in many ways attempting to 'Europeanize' America (ironically, sans the austerity that has suddenly become popular in Europe), in the sense of adopting more features of  European welfare statism, without giving up on the warfare statism that is normally known more as a hobby horse of the right. This is ultimately a disastrous course because it simply can not be financed. It is just as the 'Tea Party' supporters contend: producers of wealth must be 'left alone' to do their thing – that is, if we want any more wealth to be produced.

 


 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – the German 'Über-father' of statism

(Image credit: Wikimedia commons)

 


 

Karl Marx – Hegel's intellectual disciple, ultimately responsible for human misery and tragedy on an incomprehensible scale.

(Image credit: Wikimedia commons)

 


 

 

Charts by : Rasmussen, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


 

 

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4 Responses to “The Tea Party Phenomenon”

  • GwenCANNON:

    People deserve wealthy life time and credit loans or short term loan will make it much better. Because freedom depends on money state.

  • links for 2010-06-21 « Michael B. Duff:

    [...] The Tea Party Phenomenon "There is the ongoing attempt by conservative establishment figures to hijack the movement (so that these days the term 'Tea Party' is immediately associated with people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck), which if successful, will eventually neutralize it." (tags: politics republican teaparty) [...]

  • Bearster:

    I think that, in order for the Tea Party to amount to anything, it has to organize itself around some principles. Everyone (even leftists) can agree that “there is” waste in government (they just disagree as to which parts are waste). Many Tea Partiers’ biggest complaint about Obama is that he wants to take away their Social Security. But the last I checked, it was SS (and Medicaire) that represented the vast bulk of the unpayable $100T in net present value liabilities. There appears (to me, admittedly as a distant observer) a problem that each wants to protect his own pet program/subsidy and cut everyone else’s.

    Then we come to the issue of religion. What percentage of Tea Partiers think this country was founded as a Christian Nation–and want to impose Christianity by force today? It’s not 100%, granted, but it’s far from zero.

    Similarly with the repeal of regulations, how many would say that, in principle, we must have a regulatory state to force would-be criminals into providing us good value? A welfare state, at least for those who “truly” need it? Etc.

    What about environmentalism–sacrificing man to the bugs and weeds, and their latest religion, global warmenism?

    I wish it were otherwise, but I just do not think there is a sizable constituency who truly wants laissez-faire capitalism…

  • I for one hope the Tea Party can gain momentum. It’s high time we had a two party system again.

    Here in Montana talk is of ceding from the union altogether and taking Alberta with us as we are cut from the same independent, self-reliant cloth.

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