Archive for the Tea Party Category

Hayek and the Tea Party

On April 2, I participated in a panel organized by Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks for the Association of Private Enterprise Education. (FreedomWorks paid my way to the event.) I filmed the talks, and now I release them with Kibbe’s permission.

First, Matt Kibbe discussed the decentralized nature of the Tea Party movement:

Second, Trey Fleisher, an economist at Metro State, offered a somewhat pessimistic take on the Tea Party, noting that individuals often lack the incentive to take up political causes:

Third, Wayne Brough, an economist with FreedomWorks, argued that new technologies make it increasingly easier for individuals to participate in politics:

Finally, I reviewed Hayek’s 1949 essay, “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” talking about how ideas spread through a culture generally and how they spread to and throughout the modern Tea Party:

Ideas of the Tea Party Survey

Self-identified Tea Partiers are welcome to reply to this survey. Readers are also encouraged to alert their Tea Party friends about it.

Ideas of the Tea Party Survey

The goal of this survey is to better understand where Tea Partiers get their ideas. If you are a self-identified Tea Partier, you are welcome to respond to this survey by February 10, 2012. By responding to this survey, you grant Ari Armstrong the right to publish your responses, in full or in part, without restrictions. However, you may request that your replies remain anonymous for publication purposes. Please email replies to ari (atsign) freecolorado (dot) com.

1. What is your name? Do you grant permission to publish your name with your survey responses, or do you prefer to remain anonymous for publication purposes?

2. What city and state do you live in?

3. What is your primary occupation?

4. If you have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, please list your major(s) and degree(s).

5. Did you become politically active through the Tea Party movement? How long have you been active in politics?

6. Besides the Tea Party label, how do you usually describe yourself in terms of your political commitments? If any of the following apply, please list them: conservative, Republican, independent, Christian conservative, fiscal conservative, free-market activist, libertarian, classical liberal, Objectivist.

7. Through what channels do you share your ideas with others? If you use any of the following means, please briefly explain how: social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), electronic email list, radio show, podcast, blog, regular newspaper column, occasional letters to newspapers, organize or participate in politically-oriented meetings or discussion groups.

8. What (if any) ideological or political organizations do you contribute to financially or volunteer to support?

9. Were you exposed to free-market ideas in college? If so, please briefly explain how.

10. What are your main, regular sources of politically-related ideas and information? Please list the most significant radio shows, TV shows, publications, blogs, organizations, or writers that you turn to on a regular basis.

11. Have you read any books since the rise of the modern Tea Party movement that have strongly influenced your political ideas? If so, which ones?

12. For each of the following figures, please briefly explain whether you have heard of the figure, whether he or she has influenced you, and, if so, how:
a) Milton Friedman
b) Friedrich Hayek
c) Ayn Rand
d) Henry Hazlitt
e) Ludwig von Mises
f) Thomas Sowell

13. Besides the figures already listed, have any scholars, intellectuals, or religious leaders strongly influenced your political ideas? If so, please name them and briefly explain how they influenced you.

Thank you for your replies! Please feel free to forward this survey to others in the Tea Party movement.

Ari Armstrong

Tea Party Crowd Cheers Voluntary Health Charity

According to a YouTube video by Talking Points Memo about the GOP debate of September 12, the “Tea Party Crowd Cheers Letting Uninsured Die.”

Here’s how Curtis Hubbard, the editorial page editor of the Denver Post, describes the scene: “Cheering for people without insurance to die? Unbelievable.” [Note: Please see the update below.]

Mike Littwin, a member of the Denver Post‘s editorial board, writes:

I don’t want to say the crowd was rough, but when Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul whether a doctor should refuse to treat a 30-year-old man in a coma who had failed to buy his own health insurance, some in the crowd shouted, “Yes, yes.”

I’m serious. I’m a little shocked, but I’m deadly serious.

If “half the truth is a great lie,” then Talking Points Memo, Hubbard, and Littwin are great liars. [December 1 Update: See my post, Belated Apology to Littwin regarding this line.]

So let’s back up and look at the entire sequence.

Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul (whose candidacy I do NOT support):

Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that? … He doesn’t have [health insurance], and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

Paul answers, “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody…”

At this point, as the video makes clear, the audience interrupts with applause.

Blitzer cuts in, “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?”

At that point, at least three idiots in the audience scream, “Yea!” Is this the “Tea Party Crowd?” No. Littwin at least gets that point right. The few chanting “Yea” are not representative of the crowd or of the Tea Party movement. (They are not even known to be self-identified Tea Partiers, though I suspect they are.)

Obviously every large crowd has its idiots. This is true of Tea Party crowds, leftist crowds, union crowds, etc. Notice that those leftists who wish to demonize the entire Tea Party movement based on the idiocy of a tiny minority at the fringe of that movement do not similarly wish to condemn the entire left when a few leftists call for (or enact) violence, racism, or other variants of destructive stupidity (even though such things are much more prevalent on the left). So how about some intellectual honesty here?

Notably, the Talking Points Memo video dishonestly cuts off at this point. But the transcript proceeds:

PAUL: No. I practiced medicine before we had Medicaid, in the early 1960s, when I got out of medical school. I practiced at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, and the churches took care of them. We never turned anybody away from the hospitals.


PAUL: And we’ve given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that’s the reason the cost is so high.

The cost is so high because they dump it on the government, it becomes a bureaucracy. It becomes special interests. It kowtows to the insurance companies and the drug companies, and then on top of that, you have the inflation. The inflation devalues the dollar, we have lack of competition.

There’s no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing. And we should actually legalize alternative health care, allow people to practice what they want.


This combination of free-market policy reforms in conjunction with voluntary charity is more typical of Tea Party beliefs, and it is what I advocate. (I would also favor the hospital sending this man “who makes a good living” the bill once he recovers.) For Talking Points Memo, Hubbard, and Littwin to mention the moronic tiny few chanting “Yea” to the “let him die” line, then to ignore Paul’s substantive answer and the general audience approval of that, is, as I suggested, less than fully honest.

But, hey, they’re talking about the Tea Party, so any smear goes, right?

September 14 Update: After I posted this material, Hubbard added on Twitter, “You infer my comment was directed at entire audience instead of at those who cheered. But you have your defending to do…” Apparently, then, he is claiming that his original comment was not“directed at the entire audience,” but only “at those who cheered.” Fine. Fair enough.

But, as should be obvious, I am not “defending” those who cheered the “let him die” line; I thought calling them “idiots” and “morons” adequately conveyed my attitude. As for Paul’s actual remarks on this issue, and the actual crowd’s response to them (as opposed to the earlier response by the few idiots), those do not need defending, which was the point of the post.

I did hesitate to include Hubbard’s remark with the other two. Talking Points Memo clearly smears Tea Partiers; Littwin ties the few idiots to the Tea Party, leaving to implication that they are representative. Hubbard, on the other hand, merely says that it is “unbelievable” that there was “cheering for people without insurance to die.” He was right to make the criticism.

The problem, and it is a minor one, is that Hubbard neglected the broader context, which is that the overwhelming majority of the audience supported Paul in taking the opposite stand of the few idiots. I read Hubbard’s subsequent Tweets, and he uttered not a word about that key fact, though he did manage to post numerous updates about a football game. I think if the first part of the story merits attention, then so does the second part, particularly as the second part reveals attitudes much more representative of the crowd.

Voices of the Tea Party

So what do Tea Party supporters actually think? Listen to these April 15 interviews from Denver.

NYT Smears Tea Partiers

I was initially baffled by a New York Times article on the Tea Parties, until I realized that the left, with its worship of command-and-control, literally cannot conceive of true grass-roots activism.

Do nuts and conspiracy theorists ever show up at leftist rallies? Obviously. All the time. But, because such rallies are officially organized by some recognized leftist group, the nuts can be ignored, and the leftist media need only report the official views of the organizing group.

But there is nobody organizing the Tea Parties. There are many amorphous, loosely organized groups, and in some cases some of these groups have developed more or less formal leadership. But there is no official spokesperson for a Tea Party. Somebody announces their intention to rally, and other people join in for their own reasons. In some cases some major group, such as the Independence Institute, has sponsored a rally in Colorado, but even then the individual participants came for their own reasons.

Obviously the Tea Parties have been spurred by annoyance with the way things are going in the District of Charlatans. But beyond that, there is no official doctrine of the Tea Parties. The only thing that can be said of the Tea Partiers is that they are upset about current trends, and beyond that they have their own ideas. Tea Parties are a collection of individuals, and that is something the leftist media simply cannot understand.

The approach of David Barstow of the New York Times, then, is to point out that some Tea Partiers are nutty, and smear all other Tea Partiers by implication and guilt by association.

I have attended a number of rallies loosely fitting into the Tea Party movement. I have spoken at a couple of them. I have interviewed many participants. Sure, I’ve seen some nuts. I’ve seen the anti-abortion zealots, the anti-immigrant bigots, a few with tasteless Nazi signs, and the conspiracy theorists. But they are certainly not representative of Tea Partiers.

Instead, based on my interviews with numerous participants at these rallies, I have found basically thoughtful voters who generally favor Constitutionally limited government and freer markets. Quite a number of people I’ve interviewed have expressed an integrated and sensible ideology of liberty, while others have given me confused doctrines offering a mish-mash of freedom and political controls.

Here are links to some of my coverage of these events:
Pork Roast Rally in Photos
Meet the ‘Mob:’ Longmont Protests Obamacare
Denver 9/12 Rally: Freedom Forever
Pro-Liberty Health Rally Draws Hundreds
Denver Tea Party Ralliers In Their Own Words
Coloradans Speak Out Against Obama Care
July 4 Tea Party Arvada Colorado

Barstow claims that “Tea Party members joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement. … These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the Tea Party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement, a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.”

At least Barstow does not claim to be describing all participants of the Tea Parties. He merely taints the rest by associative guilt.

It is true that there are some people who would claim all the labels that Barstow vomits onto the page. It is also true that many Tea Partiers would reject all those labels. Many libertarians who want to abolish the Federal Reserve also advocate open immigration.

As for me, I reject libertarianism (though I used to be a Libertarian), I am part of no “milita group” save the one defined by Colorado’s Constitution, I think Glenn Beck is often a clown but that he sometimes gets something right, I think the Birchers are flat-out nuts, I have no idea who the “Oath Keepers” are, I favor open immigration, and, yes, I think the Federal Reserve should be abolished in favor of a free market in currency.

And I refuse to let some idiot newspaper reporter guilt me out of civic participation because a few nuts or (gasp!) people who disagree with me happen to attend the same rally. I will speak for myself. “I will not be labeled, cataloged, filed, or coded.”

I will advocate liberty and individual rights by whatever just means I can, regardless of what the New York Times thinks of it.