Fatal Flaws of Tea Party and Libertarian Philosophy


When the US was hemorrhaging jobs after the Crash of 2008 and foreclosed families were living in tents, I predicted that protest movements would arise. They always do when a critical mass of citizens can no longer see how they can survive, never mind thrive.

The Tea Party sounded good for a few minutes, but very quickly it was co-opted by Koch Brothers-types, who are on the lookout for protest movements to either divert or destroy. The Tea Party Express provided transportation early on to grow the movement. It was funded by Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a Republican political organization. Lower taxes for rich folks, demonizing the poor and immigrants are classic right wing tactics, while ironically, the original Tea Party was a protest against corporate monopoly by the East India Tea Company. I’m sure good people joined the Tea Party and never noticed their minds were overthrown and energies diverted.

The Libertarian party, starring Ron Paul, sounded good for a few hours. He was for maximum personal freedom (aren’t we all?) and against our endless, costly wars. He had some valid criticisms of the Fed, too. Americans wanted someone to say these things and he was the only one saying it. I joined the local Libertarian party and still get emails telling me of meeting times. I do not attend.

American Libertarianism has fatal flaws. If you have studied any philosophy, you will be struck by their oddness of starting out with property as the foundation of human freedom (first of all you own yourself.) Most philosophies aim higher, citing God-given rights or simply the inherent right of any living human being to certain rights. Starting with property and ending with property is a unique feature of American Libertarianism, which tells me that the subtext is “Don’t touch my STUFF!” There are other flavors of Libertarianism, such as Libertarian Socialism, Minarchism and Anarchism.

American Libertarianism sees taxes as theft, while Proudhon said “Property is theft.” The fact is, taxes are the dues we pay for membership in Club Civilization. Since humans chose to live in villages and stored agricultural surpluses they have required warriors to protect those surpluses from foreign raiders. The bigger the village, the bigger the administrative class. It is not the size of that class that automatically limits freedom. After all, the lord of a feudal manner could be just one man and his serfs had no freedom.

Libertarians fail to see that taking their philosophy to its logical conclusion will result in “company towns”: free housing and meals in exchange for wage slavery. Feudalism has already been tried and found wanting. But perhaps Libertarians see them selves as that feudal lord?

I believe that there are good people in the Tea Party and in the Libertarian party. I believe that they are deceived. The messy, long-term, difficult work of making a government work fairly is avoided by most because we want a quick fix, Three Easy Steps, and instant gratification. I get that. I’d like that, too. It is a mirage.

What can we do? We can work on an issue that is dear to our hearts, organize, work, and donate. Do you think this is ineffective? It is not ineffective; it is just messy, long-term and difficult. We no longer have five year-olds working ten hour days, or slavery, or denial of the vote to women because someone in the past was willing to do that work.

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