Rudderless Complaints

Dear Dr. Hurd: My concern with the Tea Party “uprising” is that they are making demands (reduced taxes/government spending), yet they have not properly articulated just how to go about it. Remember what Ayn Rand said about such rudderless demands; the French people demanded Liberty, and they got Napoleon; the Russian people demanded bread, and they got Lenin; the German people demanded jobs, and they got Hitler…..

Reply: Rudderless complaints and criticisms are no more helpful than rudderless demands. What is the alternative to the direction of the Tea Party? Of course specifics are needed, but the context for the Tea Party, and limited government more generally, is to eliminate or reduce an evil, not to create something proactive. What’s needed now is essentially the same thing that the early Americans needed and demanded back in 1776: A severely limited government whose sole purpose is to protect the right of individuals to be left alone.

The Tea Party is a movement, not a political party. It is a movement that seeks to take us in the right direction. For that, it deserves credit and support, if only for that. What I got out of reading Ayn Rand is that limited government is the proper approach to politics. But a limited government implies a particular ethical code: A code of individualism and rational self-interest, not self-sacrifice. Liberals and socialists rely on the code of self-sacrifice when they claim, “Others suffer, therefore you must be compelled to help them.” Conversely, individualism implies an opposite moral code: “You’re free to help other people, if you want to, and if you can. But you’re under no obligation to do so. Your only obligation is to take care of yourself.”

The ethical code of individualism implies an epistemological need to think and live a rational life. Individuals and societies can only survive and flourish if left free from force, whether the force be from government or from violent criminals. Those with compassion for the masses should support freedom, individualism and capitalism — the only system and ethical code which leaves the best and brightest free to create, think and produce. The Tea Party deserves credit for promoting more strenuously than anybody in a long time the proper form of government. But they have said little to nothing about ethics. The ethics is implied. When the liberals and the “moderate” Republicans fight back on the premise of self-sacrifice, that’s when it will get interesting. And that will be a crucial time for the Tea Party movement.