TEA Party Americans

On April 15, I attended a TEA Party (Taxed Enough Already), one of the 300 such TEA Parties nationwide, in El Segundo (South Bay), California.

There were many American flags, and many protesters carried signs that showed a far better understanding of American principles than is held by most of America’s politicians. Some of my favorites were this and these:

Instead of carrying a sign, I carried a large exercise ball with a message on each side. One side read, “Atlas Will Shrug,” with the front cover of my paperback copy of Atlas Shrugged taped alongside the message. The other side (thanks to the suggestion of my friend Scott McConnell) read, “I Am NOT My Brother’s Keeper.”

Organizers estimate that about 1,200–1,500 people were at the TEA Party I attended. Being there reminded me concretely that I live in America with many Americans—real Americans, who love America not because they were born here, but because America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Some speakers were, in my judgment, better than others. Unfortunately, one speaker invoked God heavily in his defense of individual rights and railed against “greed”; another attacked “special interests” (a Leftist smear-term for individual rights) and argued mostly for a shift in taxes away from the poor and middle class (and, by implication, to the already-overtaxed wealthy). For the most part, however, the speakers were not asking for tax relief for their own group. Indeed, though the event’s name was “Taxed Enough Already,” the speakers and attendees were more principled than that. They understood that more fundamental than high taxes is the government’s outlandish spending and regulation of the economy. Even better, they understood that this spending and regulation has been going on for a very long time, well before the Obama administration. And best of all, they understood that this spending and regulation is a violation of individual rights.

Are most of these protesters principled enough to call for the entire dismantling of the welfare state, including sacred cows such as Medicare, Social Security, and public schools? Probably not. But I would bet that the vast majority of these individuals have been net providers, not net consumers, of government funds throughout their lives; and they would not have it otherwise. Perhaps they are too willing to take on unjust burdens, but they are too principled to become burdens themselves. They will not be bought off by promises of lower taxes to themselves at the expense of “the other guy.”

These protesters are in stark contrast to those who attend Obama rallies. Obama supporters are always looking for another offer from the government: another way to get a house, another way to get out of paying for the house, another way to get health care, an education, a job, and another way for those not at Obama rallies to pay for all of it.

Such is the mentality of the “Obamatons,” who have abandoned their own capacity for independent thought and productiveness in favor of blind faith and “hope” in a leader—and a provider. Implicitly, those on the Left who fancy themselves more intellectual than the “masses”—the “masses” being those who are not professors, authors, journalists, etc.—seem to think that the Obamaton mentality is the only mentality that the “masses” are capable of. Witness the indignant reaction by CNN “reporter” Susan Roesgen when a man at a TEA Party rejects—on principle—a share of the welfare-state loot that she tells him has been offered by Obama.

Many have identified the cartoonish left-wing bias of the journalistic profession in its coverage of the TEA Parties. (See here for more examples—if you don’t mind seeing vulgar sexual insults made by CNN and MSNBC news anchors—and an excellent rebuttal by Greg Gutfeld.) But deeper than their bias is that the Leftist journalists seem to have no arguments. Their only recourse seems to be insult.

Once they realize that their insulting bribes and insulting attempts at ridicule won’t work, the more clever welfare-statists will play what they believe is their trump card, which has worked its poison against America since the Progressive Era more than a century ago: the ethics of altruism. They will claim that the TEA Party people are selfish, unwilling to sacrifice to those “less fortunate.”

When the altruism card is played, the TEA Party protesters will have to be even more principled than they have been to date. They will need to call on the ethical code implicit in the Declaration of Independence (most clearly in the phrase “pursuit of happiness”) and made explicit by Ayn Rand: the ethics of rational self-interest. They will need to answer that yes, they are selfish, and productive, and proud of it.

To the TEA Party Americans, I offer this tribute: You don’t owe anyone a give-away. Anyone who values the wealth that you have created should be honored just by the opportunity to trade with you, by mutual agreement to mutual benefit. Anyone should be profoundly thankful just for the example of your success. And if you choose to be charitable to a particular individual at a particular time, that is your choice, not someone else’s.

In the coming months, when you are attacked as cold and unfeeling and selfish, consider these words:

I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.

I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.

It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.

— Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, 1943.