economic freedom

WSJ: A Tea Party Manifesto

The movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party. It is aiming for a hostile takeover.

By DICK ARMEY AND MATT KIBBE

On Feb. 9, 2009, Mary Rakovich, a recently laid-off automotive engineer, set out for a convention center in Fort Myers, Fla. with protest signs, a cooler of water and the courage of her convictions. She felt compelled to act, having grown increasingly alarmed at the explosion of earmarks, bailouts and government spending in the waning years of the Bush administration. President Barack Obama, joined by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, was in town promoting his plan to spend a trillion dollars in borrowed money to “stimulate” the economy.

Mary didn’t know it, but she was on the front lines of a grass-roots revolution that was brewing across the nation. More than 3,000 miles away, Keli Carender, a young Seattle school teacher and a member of a local comedy improv troupe, was feeling equally frustrated. She started to organize like-minded citizens. “Our nation’s fiscal path is just not sustainable,” she said. “You can’t continue to spend money you don’t have indefinitely.”

Today the ranks of this citizen rebellion can be counted in the millions. The rebellion’s name derives from the glorious rant of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who in February 2009 called for a new “tea party” from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By doing so he reminded all of us that America was founded on the revolutionary principle of citizen participation, citizen activism and the primacy of the individual over the government. That’s the tea party ethos.

The tea party movement has blossomed into a powerful social phenomenon because it is leaderless—not directed by any one mind, political party or parochial agenda.

The criteria for membership are straightforward: Stay true to principle even when it proves inconvenient, be assertive but respectful, add value and don’t taking credit for other people’s work. Our community is built on the Trader Principle: We associate by mutual consent, to further shared goals of restoring fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government. These were the principles that enabled the Sept. 12, 2009 taxpayer march on Washington to be one of the largest political protests in the history of our nation’s capital.

The many branches of the tea party movement have created a virtual marketplace for new ideas, effective innovations and creative tactics. Best practices come from the ground up, around kitchen tables, from Facebook friends, at weekly book clubs, or on Twitter feeds. This is beautiful chaos—or, as the Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek put it, “spontaneous order.”

Decentralization, not top-down hierarchy, is the best way to maximize the contributions of people and their personal knowledge. Let the leaders be the activists who have the best knowledge of local personalities and issues. In the real world, this is common sense. In Washington, D.C., this is considered radical.

The big-government crowd is drawn to the compulsory nature of centralized authority. They can’t imagine an undirected social order. Someone needs to be in charge—someone who knows better. Big government is audacious and conceited.

By definition, government is the means by which citizens are forced to do that which they would not do voluntarily. Like pay high taxes. Or redistribute tax dollars to bail out the broken, bloated pension systems of state government employees. Or purchase, by federal mandate, a government-defined health-insurance plan that is unaffordable, unnecessary or unwanted.

For the left, and for today’s Democratic Party, every solution to every perceived problem involves more government—top-down dictates from bureaucrats presumed to know better what you need. Tea partiers reject this nanny state philosophy of redistribution and control because it is bankrupting our country.

While the tea party is not a formal political party, local networks across the nation have moved beyond protests and turned to more practical matters of political accountability. Already, particularly in Republican primaries, fed-up Americans are turning out at the polls to vote out the big spenders. They are supporting candidates who have signed the Contract From America, a statement of policy principles generated online by hundreds of thousands of grass-roots activists.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON TIMES: “Stating the Obvious”

By Doug Mainwaring

The emergence and rapid growth of the Tea Party movement is due in large part to an increasing concern by taxpayers that our government has strayed too far from fiscal responsibility. As many have awakened from our shared national somnambulism, the electorate’s attention is galvanized by issues once considered banal or trivial, now viewed as grave threats to our country’s security, prosperity and even our national identity. A public that until a few years ago quietly trusted the job that its government has been doing in Washington is now focused like a laser beam on both the role of government and the careers of our leaders.

Tea Partiers’ deepest fears for the future of our nation are being realized in Greece. They see the beginnings of anarchy in a social democracy crippled by enormous budget deficits (13.6 percent of gross domestic product) and a heart-stopping national debt (115 percent of GDP). They see a country saddled with massive, unsustainable, unbearable entitlements. This has caused many to reflect on how our own annual budget deficit and national debt may be taking us down the same path as Greece and the other social democracies of Europe. Tea Partiers and their many sympathizers are well informed: They easily see the connection and are making sound, reasoned conclusions.

In addition to fiscal irresponsibility, there is a second major component of concern for Tea Partiers: government exceeding its constitutional limits. Too much power, money and authority are concentrated in our national government. This is detrimental to the functioning of the individual states and increasingly diminishes the freedom and liberty of the American people.

For a very long time, a majority of those who serve us in Washington have worked under the assumption that the national government is better equipped than any other entity to govern and solve all of America’s problems, and, therefore, bigger government is better. The result has been ever-increasing regulation, unfunded mandates, earmark projects and increasingly toxic entitlement programs, including the recently enacted health care reform law.

But what if this paradigm is ill-formed? What if Americans actually could be better served by being governed and regulated locally to a greater degree? Our national government has taken on a life of its own, to the disservice of those it was established to serve. Perhaps a smaller national government, with many functions returned to the states, would be better.

On April 15, the Contract from America was unveiled at tax rallies held across the country. I co-authored one of the provisions in the contract:

“Create a Blue Ribbon task force that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.”

Our Founding Fathers did not envision a massive, all-powerful, centralized national government, nor was it their intent to lay the groundwork for one in our Constitution. Rather, our current national government exists as it does despite our Constitution. As a result, the national government is too bloated, too greedy, too unaccountable and always hungry for more. Too often, the national government has proved it is inadequate for the task of competently managing its massive programs and exercising good and faithful stewardship over the funds provided to it from the American people.

Continue reading at the Washington Times

WASH POST: “The Tea Party’s Allegiance to No One”

By Kathleen Parker

No one doubts the sincerity or power of the Tea Party movement anymore. We get it: free-market principles, limited government and individual liberty.

Those are the three fundamentals of the Tea Party’s “Contract From America,” to which any serious Republican must subscribe, nay, sign in blood. Make it real red.

Nowhere is this new power-to-the-people imperative in starker relief than in Utah — one of the nation’s reddest states — where three-term conservative Sen. Bob Bennett seems likely to lose the Republican Party nomination this weekend.

This, despite the fact that Bennett’s voting record earns an 84 rating from the American Conservative Union, an A ranking from the National Rifle Association — and is nothing like a liberal’s.

But Bennett committed the ultimate sin in Tea Party circles. He voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a.k.a. “bank bailout,” during the George W. Bush administration. And, he advanced a market-driven health-reform bill as an alternative to the Democratic plan that, alas, also included an insurance mandate.

Continue reading at the Washington Post