Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: "Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution"

Last night, I finished reading "Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution".  I wanted to share my consolidated notes on the book for those considering reading.  I am particularly interested in taking them up on their offer to integrate new ideas into their plan for the next forty years.  This is a great opportunity for activism, fighting for a better future.

The good:

-They begin by choosing solidly  positive values to guide their specific goals / actions.  Fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets are good things!

- Their optimism and enthusiasm for America is delightful and gives one hope that the American sense of life is stronger than the counterculture they aptly describe.

- It's awesome that they very clearly state they are not taking any stance on social issues.  I think that helps them avoid pit falls (that their founders clear acceptance of god's-will would present).  It also helps them appeal to a broader group of Americans who really want the government to focus on economic / political freedoms NOW!

- They have a glorious call to action that puts the power and responsibility back where it belongs, with individual Americans.

My concerns:

- They not only frequently refer to god given rights, the authors all thank god as their primary deserver-of-credit in the book's acknowledgements.  Could the Tea Party Patriots be trusted to protect liberty in this area?  A pro-liberty candidate must vote on laws in a way that respects individual rights in fields other than just economics.  

- In their section on health-care compacts, they again miss the issue of individual rights and seem quite content with the states trampling citizens (just the federal government shouldn't be allowed to impose such systems).  p97 "Health-care compacts themselves don't impose a one-size-fits-all approach on any state.  They allow each individual state to choose what solution it believes is best for its citizens.  Will some states implement systems that aren't compatible with the Tea Party movement's core values of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and constitutionally limited government?  Of course.  Are we okay with that?  Absolutely.  Power to the people."  That sounds like democracy, the tyranny of the majority and a clear lack of focus on individual rights.  The states can say "buy that insurance" (or drink that hemlock), just the federal government can't.

- While making an excellent case for the need for education reform, there is an implied view that states should actually provide the education.  It's ambiguous though and many of the suggestions are intriguing.  I think they would benefit from this article in The Objective Standard:.


- The repeal amendment idea smacks of democracy, but also offers an intriguing limit on supreme court errors.  I'd want to study this idea much more thoroughly, but I see potential value. 

- In their chapter regarding popular culture, they quote Ayn Rand's "Romantic Manifesto".  On one hand, it fits and supports their point, but on the other hand it's a throw away reference which brings me to my key concern.  The argument for actually taking action is on a wobbly base.  It seems like what they are saying again and again is: 
-The founders did it this way.
-They were really smart.
-It worked.
-We should do it that way.
If they don't think it is morally right that people should have a right to their own property, but only economically effective, they are more of a danger to capitalism than those who present an opposing argument.  A weak argument is more detrimental because it can give the impression that the idea is wrong when it's just that the argument supporting it was in error (for example saying the free market has failed in America when what we're dealing with is a super-regulated, mixed economy).  I place this concern under the "ambivalent" category because I think the book's core values are good and I think they support individual rights in some aspects.  However, when I see states put over individuals as the primary holder of power for both education and health-care, I am concerned that the Tea Party Patriots' support of individual rights is vulnerable.


  1. I'm about two thirds of the way through this book myself. (We discussed the first part of it last week on the Objectivism Seminar and will continue working through it over the next one or two sessions.) So far my assessment is similar to yours.

    The biggest failing in the book is the one you identify: this is the manifesto of a movement that wants to reinvigorate the principles of classical Americanism but it doesn't present an abstract argument for why those principles are true. It is a bracing call to arms based on nothing deeper than an appeal to the American sense of life.

    1. Kyle: "... a bracing call to arms based on nothing deeper..."

      In that sense, they are following the First American Revolution too closely. The missing philosophy is still what's missing. So I don't see how the Tea Party can succeed without Objectivism.

      That "avoidance of social issues" is itself one of the main pitfalls -- because it conceals the philosophic conflict that needs to be faced.

    2. Steve: Thank you for pointing out the parallels! In this case, I think avoiding the social issues is the way these people from disparate backgrounds can advocate for similar economic outcomes. Of course, you elect a politician that isn't just going to act in economics, but I do value the pro-free-market and limited government policies they are promoting.

  2. Kyle: I listened to your chat and I liked how you pointed out their target audience as a key factor to consider. I think this book is at least a good step in a better direction :)

  3. I was a founding member of the Asheville Tea Party in 2009 and established our set of principles as "individual rights, limited government and free markets" that served us well over the long term. I have tried to get other groups to adopt this set but they tend to either alter it to exclude "individual rights" or change it to "individual liberty." This is a curious pattern but I think it is important to reiterate that championing the concept of rights explicitly is a winning strategy and should not be altered or missing from defined principles.

  4. Tim: Thank you for your note. It's good to hear about your efforts to support a Tea Party foundation in individual rights!

  5. Interesting. What reasons do they give for wanting to exclude or replace 'individual rights'?

  6. I've been a member of the (SF) Bay Area Patriots (BAP) since its first Tax Day rally (held in front of San Francisco City Hall ("In the belly of the beast").

    My observation, after participating in numerous BAP events and online discussion list, is that there are clearly several factions among the membership. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.) There is a significant representation of social conservatives, a portion of whom are not very flexible on social questions as they feel their position is the only "right" viewpoint. Some of these BAP members have been quite vocal in expressing their opinions in the online forum.

    However, there is a larger group of fiscal conservatives ranging from Objectivists (though I've felt a bit isolated at times when responding to the online forum -- perhaps Objectivists have attended events, but not joined the list) through many iterations of other fiscal conservatives who do not have clear cut philosophical views (a problem with a significant portion of the U.S. population). There is also a minority group of Ron Paul supporters who have generally held to their position.

    The problem (with the online group) is that social conservatives generally do their best to "shout down" those who do not agree with their view (including the concept that inalienable rights are "god given" rather then being based on the life affirming requirements of being a reasoning human.

    From the standpoint that the Tea Party is a larger (and thus more influential) group than Objectivists by themselves, it is reasonable for Objectivists to ally with the Tea Party (and with Libertarians, as well, on many points). But it is unlikely that Objectivists will achieve a fully desirable political outcome unless and until we can attract a much wider following.

  7. Pete: Thank you so much for sharing your observations. I try very hard to fine focus my political activism because it's not an activity I particularly enjoy. It is nice to hear about your efforts!