Tea, Anyone?

When I was a kid, we studied the original Boston Tea Party.  I remember envisioning the protesters dumping tons of ground leaves into the harbor and wondering what a mess that must have been.  We thought, rightly, that the act was heroic, a courageous assertion of the colonists’ right to representation on tax matters.

Today, astonishingly, Tea Party attendees and organizers are largely ridiculed in the popular press.  Now I will be the first to grant that there are silly elements to all political movements, this one included.  For the first time in my life, though, there is a movement focused on the elimination of tyranny.  You’d think that a good thing.  Our government is too big, too intrusive, and far too self-assured.

Let’s contrast this movement with some others over the past decades.  Unions favor coercion over honest competition and are not always bashful about “persuading” others to their point of view.  War protesters in the 60’s enjoyed burning and bombing, apparently, as they did plenty of it.  Anti-globalization groups were prone to violence, along with radical environmentalists.  Tea Partiers?  They dress up in colonial clothing and hold signs protesting tax rates.

OK.  Not all union members are thugs and not all war protesters plant bombs.  My point is that it is hard to find any grievous fault with the Tea Party movement.  You know what they want?  They want government to get out of the way.  That’s right.  Their slogan ought to be “Leave Us Alone.”

Not that anyone from the movement asked me, but I want to give them my list of strategies for the next few years.  Stick to these and we might just break the stranglehold Republicans and Democrats have on America.

1) Stick to the message of freedom.  Conservatives are no better than liberals when it comes to wanting more government–they just want it for different reasons.  Each and every citizen should be free to pursue his/her happiness in whatever manner deemed fit short of materially harming others.  Hurting their feelings does not count.

2) Keep to non-violent means.  Daydreams of dumping Congress itself into the harbor are fine as long as they remain fantasy.

3) Elevate the argument to a reasonable level of sophistication.  While there is no need to make discourse the equivalent of a college course in political theory, one should be able to explain why freedom matters and why all citizens, including the poor, are better off with less government.

4) Emphasize the real costs of continuing our present course.  Publicize things like the national debt clock and charts showing the collapse of unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare.  Warn people of the imminent danger of hyperinflation and government default.

5) Help defeat politicians who fail to stick by the Constitution.  Nothing focuses a Congressperson’s mind like the prospect of being voted out.

I do not endorse political parties, but I would sure love to see this movement get one.  It is time to provide a genuine alternative to the Demicans we have now.


Terry likes coffee better than tea.  He would dump tea into the harbor in a Boston minute, but might weaken when it comes to coffee.  Please forgive him.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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2 Responses to Tea, Anyone?

  1. Rich Astudillo says:

    I want to see a splinter movement like this grab ground without getting reabsorbed into the Republican party, but unfortunately I don’t see events transpiring any other way.

    I think that it speaks volumes to the difficulty of taking this position off the ground when its convention’s keynote speaker advised the members to “pick a party”.


    • Terry Noel says:

      Good point, Rich. I think the main strategy must be to get the discussion of limited government out in the open. Articulate, sane people sounding the alarm consistently will (hopefully) get the public to understand just how close we are to the brink. I am not optimistic about working through either major party either.


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