Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tea Party Movement, Cato and Publius

I’ve had discussions with several left-leaning historians who are appalled with the Tea Party Movement. A pet peeve is the very name “Tea-Party.”  The original Tea Party, they say, was opposed to “Taxation without Representation” and today’s Tea Party people, as we all know, are ignorant crazies led by demagogues. Today’s taxes were voted in by elected representatives: therefore how could these people (the modern Tea Party) possibly be compared to the 18th Century version?

My first response is why were there pen names in the 18th Century movement? After all how close to the Classical originals were the 18th Century Cato and Publius?

They weren’t. Nor was the point to be exactly the same. It was to identify with an agreed upon heroic past and emulate these heroic figures. Today’s Tea Party may not be arguing against Taxation without Representation but they are combating a political establishment that has deviated greatly from the original intent of the Constitution (as they see it). They also see today’s United States to have fallen into one of the great traps warned of by de Tocqueville and others. For instance:

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.
Alexis de Tocqueville”

The Tea Party is an apt name as it brings discussion back to the US Constitution and what it means. Do we look at rights the way it was thought of during the 18th Enlightenment or the way it was perverted in the early 19th C by the anti-enlightenment Romantics or later by the Socialists?

If you’re unfamiliar with this look up Positive versus Negative Rights.


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