Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Tea Parties: Bad History, Bad Civics

The Tea parties continue to make the nonnews rounds, a moving tribute to poor education in America. Let's review:

In 1765, in an effort to help pay mounting debts related in part to their defense of the American colonies against the French, the British passed the Stamp Act, decreeing that certain goods and services (and the list was long) would be subjected to a tax. This ultimately led to the American revolution over, among other issues, the concept of being taxed without representation. You see, the American colonists did not have any representation in Parliament. While the Stamp act was repealed, it was eventually replaced by the Tea Act, a similar provision aimed at tea. The American colonists responded first by refusing shipments of British tea, even at cut-rate prices, and then ultimately dumped a shipload of tea into Boston harbor, an event long known as The Boston Tea Party.

As should be obvious by now, the current tea parties have none of the important attributes of the original article. Those protesting the higher taxes (and barely higher) on a small minority of people (and of the protesters) were eligible for full participation in the political process (ie they had representation) that led to the changes they are protesting. There was no tyranny, but an election, and they lost. They are akin to those in more developing democracies (say Iraq) who are all for Democracy as long as they think they will win. But have them lose, and then its load up the guns and take victory by force. It should scare the daylights out of anyone who believes in constitutional democracy. Without acquiescent losers, Democracy collapses.

Now that's not to say the tea-baggers (their name) don't have the right to protest. They have every right, and they should exercise it peacefully as far as their interest and energy carry them. But let's dispense with the notion that they have a lofty principle akin to what those first teapartiers had. They have nothing of the sort. They are simply unwilling to accept the political agenda their opponents were elected to enact, nothing more, nothing less.

A frequent commenter at Townhall named Lon summed it up well:

If people who have had their taxes cut under the new administration want to get together and have tea parties to complain about how their taxes were raised with representation, and how that is just like what the founders were rebelling against (except for the representation part) they can, and people can laugh at them...

If you are upset that legislators did not kowtow to your minority position and at the same time just did what they thought was best for the country, then you just don't like democracy. I suppose that is ok, but it is silly to pretend that that has anything to do with colonial discontent.

In a democracy there will be people with minority views. And in a representative democracy with principled legislators there will be times when legislators vote against the majority position because they feel it is wrong. It is silly to see either of those things as tyranny. And it is even sillier to see the objections to it in the form of "tea parties" as anything but temper tantrums.


Anonymous said...

I would agree that we don't have taxation without representation, but I think a strong correlation can be made between original tea party issues and current issues. While original tea partiers had no representation we have very little honest representation. I live in Chicago so I realize I am jaded but if the general public is angry about being taxed so that corporate execs can live high off the hog, and politicians can skim off from them and then they can give handouts to those that don't want to contribute to society or take ownership of their actions more power to them. I know the left's view point is to peg these individuals as crazy, whiney, racists who are upset they lost the election, but this is not a left right thing it is a fend up with the garbage thing!!!! "Goverment is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem." R.R.

ScienceAvenger said...

RR, the problem is that the vast majority of the people involved in the TEA parties didn't seem the least bit concerned about these things when the people primarily responsible had R's by their names. But let some D's come along doing so and suddenly it's all about these principles and its not a left/right thing.

Bollocks. Your tagline gives you away. Of course its a left/right thing, these events aren't remotely bipartisan. They are almost exclusively attended by those on the right. To those in the middle and on the left, it's either a big joke or a crazy, whiny racist fest. One attendee at a TEA party in Atlanta reported that the crowd was 100% white. In Atlanta. Ponder it. There is WAY more going on here than disatisfaction with pliticians.

Troublesome Frog said...

Goverment is not the solution to the problem, it is the problem.This is why some of us resent Ronald Reagan for what he did to our discourse on governance. There was a time when capable, smart people could (and did!) go into government and build institutions. That was back when people believed we could make stuff happen by discussing our problems and figuring out what we wanted to do. They built the atomic bomb, put men on the moon, stabilized the banking system, and built a national infrastructure that whiners like us freeload off of today.

Rhetoric like this has poisoned the whole process. Why we elect people who think this way to be stewards of those institutions is beyond me. All they do is make a lot of noise about how everybody is incompetent (except the military--those guys are still flawless, even though they're just government employees) and break things. That's the problem.