Tea and Sympathy

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Justin D.’s been nagging me to blog about the Tea Parties, so here’s my two pence:

Whichever party is out of power always begins to emphasise its libertarian-sounding side in order to divert anti-government sentiment toward support of that party rather than toward genuine radical opposition to the entire establishment.

By the same token, the party that’s in power employs alarmist rhetoric about the other side’s supposed anti-government radicalism in order to drum up support for its own policies.

mad tea partyThus events like the Tea Parties serve the interests of both parties; people with libertarian leanings get diverted into supporting one half of the bipartisan duopoly, the antistate message getting diluted by mixture with (in this case) right-wing statist crap about war and immigration and the Kulturkampf. Those turned off by this creepy right-wing stew get diverted into supporting the other half of the bipartisan duopoly, with any libertarian sentiments likewise getting diluted into (in this case) left-wing statist crap about gun control and the need to impose regulation on some imaginary laissez-faire economy. And so the whole power structure ends up being reinforced.

I saw this game under Clinton, I saw (almost) everyone switch teams under Bush, and now they’re all switching back again. And so we get Republican pundits and politicians suddenly howling about Obama’s fascism when they’ve never supported anything but fascism in their entire lives; and on the other side we get Democrats ridiculing the very sorts of concerns about oppression and civil liberties violations that they pretended to take seriously under Dubya’s reign.

Is it worth libertarians’ and/or anarchists’ while to participate in such events? Sure; because while the voices at the podium tend to be statist apparatchiks, the crowds will tend to be a mixture of statist yahoos and genuinely libertarian-leaning folks, and outreach to the latter is always worth a try – in Kierkegaard’s words, “to split up the crowd, or to talk to it, not to form a crowd, but so that one or another individual might go home from the assembly and become a single individual.” But of course the organisers of such events are on the lookout for us and always do their best to try to narrow the boundaries of discussion.

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27 Responses to Tea and Sympathy

  1. Nick Manley April 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Yes! I really dislike this partisan crap. There are two sides to American politics: Democratic nonsense and Republican nonsense.

    Ain’t no way I am holding hands with Sean Hannity against Obama.

  2. Roderick April 18, 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    Btw, I would like to apologise for the Latin prefix and Greek suffix involved in “duopoly.” But “bipoly” is already taken to mean someone who is bisexual and polyamorous. (I note that “bisexual” and “polyamorous” themselves have Greek prefixes and Latin suffixes. Dammit, we need a law!)

    • sarah April 18, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

      Tom Stoppard’s “The Invention of Love”:
      (a couple of gay Victorian classics scholars)
      “Homosexual? What kind of a word is that? It’s half Greek and half Latin!”

      Great post, also. I’ve had to try to explain the simple stuff to friends: yes, I think the Obama administration is doing some bad things, but no, I am not a right-winger.

      • Roderick April 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm #

        I’ve found that a lot of people think the “homo” in “homosexual” comes from the Latin for “man” rather than the the Greek for “same”; hence, presumably, the phrase “homosexuals and lesbians.” (But then wouldn’t straight women be homosexuals too?)

  3. Anon73 April 18, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    Maybe those damn ancients should have just switched to Greek.

  4. TC Bell April 18, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    Out here in Denver I stood near the back of the overall statist crowd and handed out pamphlets of different market anarchist literature. Among the titles included was your “Remembering Corporate Liberalism”. This post reinforces the same ideas that you hit on in the the latter mentioned article. Thanks for adding your thoughts on the lame “tea parties”.

    • Roderick April 18, 2009 at 6:15 pm #

      Thanks!

  5. Justin D April 18, 2009 at 11:30 pm #

    Sidenote: “Kulturkampf” is nice, but “Kulturkrieg” is better. If the great firey eye of Murdoch is given enough time to mass its dark powers and cultivate and unite its legions of minions further, we might soon find ourselves faced with, yes, “Totaller Kulturkrieg!” Won’t that be lovely.

    • Roderick April 19, 2009 at 12:20 am #

      Why not “culturomachy”?

  6. Stephan Kinsella April 19, 2009 at 12:38 am #

    Wonderful post, Roderick.

    Except I would say that it’s not *necessarily* “worth our time” to get involved; this comment stems from my anti-thick view that there is no general obligation or duty, qua libertarian or otherwise, to get involved; to maintain this (not that you do; but I see this mindset among the activist-minded libertarians) is to take the activist perspective which has always seemed a bit altruistic to me: there is a perverse idea among a bunch of individualists and “capitalists” that libertarians have an obligation to engage in self-sacrifice: to devote time, effort, energy, money and other resources in a vain attempt to ever-so-slightly temporarily reduce the increase in the increase in the rate of growth of the state, primarily for the benefit of our undeserving socialist neighbors.

    I think one should be on the side of the good because it’s good; and because he wants to be on the right side, and to be allied with people who are, per one’s voluntarily chosen values, one’s “friends.”

    I think the real reason you now have conservatives only now coming out in force against Obama, and unable to see that the same problems are endemic to politics in general, is that they have long resisted the views of us “radicals” that the state will do ANYTHING if it gets desperate enough. The typical person lives in a dream about the realities of what our own government did in the Civil War, WWII, etc. They think Lincoln was unique, or worse, justified; they think the atomic bombings of Japan were justified; they close their eyes at the constitutional violations during these and other wars–the suspension of habeas corpus, martial law, Japanese internment camps. They relegate these things to an ancient, “different” world–a world where even slavery was (somehow) tolerated.

    They do not want to believe the problem is with the state in general.
    They buy the propaganda about Lincoln and all the rest, because if they have to break down those delusions, they’d have to think for themselves, and not rely on the official lines. They’d have to think and admit we are in danger from our state. This thought petrifies them, so they stay patriotic and committed to “the system,” and to working for change withing accepted channels.

    • Roderick April 19, 2009 at 2:44 am #

      Stockholm syndrome!

    • Sergio Méndez April 19, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

      Kinsella:

      You seem to be obsesed with the terrible idea that somebody, somewhere may be perfmoing an altruistic, self sacrying act, and that anybody who performs them act on “obligation”. That seems to me like nonsense…or I can´t chose to believe that I have the right to spend my time in such activities and believe they are a moral imperative in my life. Isn´t that what liberty is about?

      • Stephan Kinsella April 20, 2009 at 9:51 am #

        Sergio:

        I have no problem with people engaging in this–in fact, I do too, in my various intellectual and activist activities, to a degree. I don’t even mind if they think they hav a duty. The problem is when the ythink **I have a duty.

        • Roderick April 20, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

          Stephan,

          Do they have a duty not to think you have a duty?

        • Stephan Kinsella April 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

          No, I was writing hastily via iphone. Here is what I would say. First, I *disagree* with them if they assert that I have a duty, or even if they have a duty (but I don’t mind if they think this about themselves). Second, I believe that holding this erroneous, unjustified belief can lead to further errors. It can lead to confusion about what it means to be a libertarian, for example–all I need to do is respect others’ rights. I need not be an activist; whereas some activist types might think you are not a good libertarian if you have a poor strategy or no strategy at all.

          It can also lead to a heavy focus and emphasis on politics, electoral activism, that kind of things, which has its own pitfalls–it leads to unrealistic expectations, and dashed hopes; to feelings of failure; to the temptation to compromise or to pragmatism; to overemphasis on the short term and immediate over the long term and significant. It can also lead to blaming the victim: if we are not “winning” then it’s our fault, for not finding the right message etc.–instead of putting the blame on the shoulders of our socialistic neighbors for holding malicious and false ideas.

        • Roderick April 20, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

          I don’t think “libertarians have a duty to promote the cause” entails either “no one counts as a libertarian unless they promote the cause” or “libertarians have a duty to engage in ineffective or counterproductive forms of activism.”

        • Stephan Kinsella April 21, 2009 at 11:32 am #

          Roderick, but some of them do; in any event, I disagree that there is this duty anyway (he says while spending vast time trying to promote the cause…)

        • Roderick April 21, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

          I wasn’t claiming that there’s such a duty — just that the thesis that there’s such a duty doesn’t entail these other claims, so an aversion to the other claims isn’t a reason for rejecting the thesis itself.

          My own position would be that we have an imperfect duty (i.e. a duty where we get to choose the occasions of its performance) to contribute reasonably often to public goods, and contributing to the cause of liberty is one way, though not the only way, of discharging that duty.

        • Stephan Kinsella April 22, 2009 at 7:17 am #

          Roderick:

          “I wasn’t claiming that there’s such a duty — just that the thesis that there’s such a duty doesn’t entail these other claims, so an aversion to the other claims isn’t a reason for rejecting the thesis itself.”

          this makes sense.

          “My own position would be that we have an imperfect duty (i.e. a duty where we get to choose the occasions of its performance) to contribute reasonably often to public goods, and contributing to the cause of liberty is one way, though not the only way, of discharging that duty.”

          sure, I can go with this. General as it is, it doesn’t leave much room for the activist-minded–who have chosen to do that–to assume a specific, contextless obligation of fellow-libertarians to follow suit.

  7. SMDQR April 19, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    Great post. You covered the same sentiments I had.

    The thing I keep hearing about is how newspapers are going out of business, but where were they at these tea parties? Hardly any reporting or interviewing was done, so there isn’t an accurate profile of the average tea party goer. And the pundits on T.V only picked out the signs that ran true with their narrow political worldview. And besides a few boos there was hardly any rage or anger. It was more like a festival.

    • Chris April 28, 2009 at 2:35 am #

      I totally agree with SMDQR [I saw nearly zero in the way of rage or anger either; they WERE more like a festival].

      And I disagree with the poster who called them “lame”.
      The only lame thing is the follow up by the Republican organizations, to my email.

      I think your point could not have been a better one, about the value of having participated.

  8. Jim Ostrowski April 28, 2009 at 7:35 am #

    All headache-inducing philosophizing aside, I view the tea party movement as a great way to advance the cause of liberty. To that end, I developed a 12-point plan and presented it to the Buffalo tea party where close to 500 people attended.

    http://politicalclassdismissed.com/?p=6155

  9. Doc Ellis 124 April 28, 2009 at 8:22 am #

    Greetings,

    I have linked this article to my FaceBook page:http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/home.php?ref=home.

    Thank you

    mongol Doc Ellis 124

  10. Tim April 28, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    I prefer to use “bipartisan monopoly,” as described here: http://democracyisnotfreedom.com/bipartisanmonopoly01.asp

    Cheers,
    Tim :->

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Tea and Sympathy | Austro-Athenian Empire I saw this game under Clinton, I saw (almost) everyone switch teams under Bush, and now they’re all switching back again. And so we get Republican pundits and politicians suddenly howling about Obama’s fascism when they’ve never supported anything but fascism in their entire lives; and on the other side we get Democrats ridiculing the very sorts of concerns about oppression and civil liberties violations that they pretended to take seriously under Dubya’s reign. (tags: anarchism politics) […]

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    […] Roderick Long, on the recent anti-tax tea parties: Whichever party is out of power always begins to emphasise its libertarian-sounding side in order to divert anti-government sentiment toward support of that party rather than toward genuine radical opposition to the entire establishment. […]

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