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Libertarianism and the Tea Party

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An interesting discussion has erupted on FFFs Facebook page in response to two items I posted regarding the Tea Party movement:

Irony: Daily Kos and Alternet liberals are attacking me & Tea Party types are attacking Bovard, calling him a liberal: http://ow.ly/1D6Yc

A Tea Partier seems to be a disgruntled Republican who’s upset that the welfare-warfare state hasn’t turned out to be free.

One of the commentators suggested that we shouldnt be criticizing the Tea Party movement because the movement is in its infancy and because many of its members are libertarian-oriented. The idea is that we libertarians should not alienate them by exposing their errors.

I say: Balderdash to that! If people are going in the wrong direction, then it is incumbent on us libertarians to point it out, honestly, directly, and forthrightly.

Suppose a woman goes to a doctor complaining of lumps in her breasts. The doctor tells her that she has breast cancer. He tells her that the only chance of saving her life is through a mastectomy.

The woman is shocked and flabbergasted. She tells the doctor that hes wrong that all she needs to do is have the lumps removed.

What should the doctor do at that point? Should he try to appease and mollify her by saying, Well, maybe youve got a point. Why dont we try removing the lumps and then take it from there. We can slowly transition to the removal of the breasts, if need be?

Of course not. He should not be concerned about appeasing or mollifying her at all. He should stand by his guns and continue telling her the truth that the only chance she has to save her life is through a complete removal of both breasts. If she cant handle it, thats her problem. If she chooses to reject the doctors advice, thats also her problem.

Its no different with us libertarians. Unlike liberals, conservatives, and Tea Party types, we do have the answer to Americas economic and financial woes, and it is incumbent on us to continue providing that answer, even if that answer shocks, offends, or flabbergasts people.

What is the major complaint of the Tea Party movement? It is that the federal government is spending money as if there were no tomorrow. Federal spending, taxes, debt, and inflation are soaring out of control. The feds are charging on a credit card that is drawn on the account of the American people, and there is no upper limit on how much they can charge.

Fair enough. One can ask where the Tea Party has been for the past several decades, and particularly during the Bush years, when federal spending was soaring out of control, but thats water under the bridge. We should welcome them to the fiscal-policy and monetary-policy party, one that libertarians have been attending for decades.

But where does the Tea Party go from there? Well, from what Ive seen, while they object to all the spending, they dont call for repealing or abolishing the things that all that spending is going for: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education grants, SBA loans, bailouts, stimulus plans, foreign aid, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo, U.S. troops all over the world, and so forth.

In other words, they love the lightning (the programs) but hate the thunder (the vast amounts of money needed to fund the programs).

Now, someone might say, You libertarians dont have the answer either.

Oh, but we do, its just not one that people want to hear, just like that woman with breast cancer. Heres the answer:

(1) Immediately repeal or abolish (dont reform) Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education grants, SBA loans, bailouts, stimulus plans, foreign aid, and all other welfare-state programs, departments, and agencies.

(2) Immediately repeal or abolish (dont reform) all regulatory-state programs, departments, and agencies, beginning with the drug war and the DEA.

(3) Immediately dismantle the U.S. governments overseas military empire and immediately bring all the troops home from everywhere, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and discharge them into the private sector. Immediately dismantle the military-industrial complex.

That is the answer to resolving Americas economic and financial woes. This is what is needed to save the country from national bankruptcy and moral debauchery.

Oh, my gosh! We couldnt do that. Why, people would starve to death or die in the streets without the welfare state. It wouldnt be fair to cut off peoples dole so suddenly. Without the warfare state, the terrorists would invade America and take over the IRS and the public schools. Without the drug war, everyone would go on drugs. We need all these laws, programs, departments, and agencies. They just need some tweaking and reform. At the very least we should phase them out over a long period of time.

Now, how should we libertarians respond to that sort of reaction?

We should do precisely what that doctor should do. We should stand by our guns and continue speaking the truth. We should not try to mollify or appease people by giving them what they want to hear.

What if they reject our solution? Then, thats their problem, just as it the problem of that lady who refuses her doctors advice to get a mastectomy. We have no control over whether people adopt our solution or not. We only have control over what we speak as truth.

Can we prevail in achieving a truly free society that is, one in which there is a total separation of economy and the state, health care and the state, and education and the state. Of course we can. Sure, its a daunting task but no one ever said that achieving a free society was easy. If people before us could establish a society of intellectual liberty, religious liberty, and civil liberties, then it is certainly within the realm of possibility for us to build on that by achieving economic liberty, educational liberty, health-care liberty, and a limited-government, constitutional republic.

But the only way were going to do that is by standing our ground and continually and consistently making the moral, philosophical, and economic case for the free society. And sometimes that entails letting people know, honestly, forthrightly, and directly, where they are going wrong.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.