Monday, March 23, 2009

Everyone's A Critic

A friend of mind forwarded me this post by Alex Knapp, in which he expresses "no small amount of amusement" over the Tea Party and Going Galt movements. The reasons are simple:

The “Tea Parties”, of course, started springing up in response to Obama’s stimulus package, a package whose largest fiscal component is a tax cut that will largely benefit the people in the income brackets who make up the Tea Party movement. That I find funny.

The folks in the blogosphere largely cheerleading the Tea Parties are the same folks in the blogosphere who cheerleaded the war in Iraq. So apparently, government intervention to the tune of $650 Billion is okay to spend when it comes to an unnecessary war that in no way advances American interests, but not okay when it comes to building bridges, cutting taxes, helping state governments meet budget shortfalls, or making sure that Americans don’t get covered in lava. Gotcha.

(Disclosure: At the time, I did support the Iraq invasion, which in hindsight was stupid. I am also skeptical about the stimulus package as passed. But I wasn’t opposed to a stimulus package per se.)

Some of the biggest proponents of the “Going Galt” bandwagon in the blogosphere and at Pajamas Media are Glenn Reynolds and his wife, both of whom have jobs (Professor of Law at a public university; forensic psychiatrist) that are dependent on public, taxpayer-funded institutions.

Finally and most ironic of all, none of the folks who attend “tea parties” or who will “go Galt” (one of these days, when they scrounge up the cash) have apparently noticed that we haven’t had anything approaching a free-market system for decades now, but apparently only now that the political party they don’t like is in power have they bothered to notice.

Let's take these one step at a time. First, the "fact" that the Tea Party protestors are arguably protesting against their own economic self-interest. Alex finds that funny. I, on the other hand, think it hearkens back to the original Tea Party. Alex may or may not recall from American History that the Tea Act passed by Parliament was actually going to mean cheaper tea for the colonists... just as long as they accepted the right of Parliament to tax them without the colonists having representation. The working class men and women who not only dumped the tea into the harbor, but organized non-importation movements around the colonies were most certainly working against their own economic self-interest. Doing that doesn't always mean you're a moron. Sometimes it means you simply have principles.

Secondly, the people opposed to the bailouts are largely the same people who supported the Iraq war. So what? The guy who wrote the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. Do we discount everything Jefferson had to say when it comes to freedom and liberty? Besides, everyone's entitled to their opinion, and even if you think they were wrong about Iraq, does that mean they're automatically wrong now?

The notion that men and women who work in a field that is publicly funded can't support in principle private employers "going Galt" is simply absurd. Also, perhaps Alex has forgotten about Pajamas Media? Last time I checked both Glenn and Helen are a part of that private company.

Lastly, Alex finds it amusing that only now are people waking up to the fact that we haven't had a free market system in quite some time. Yes, heaven forbid people are actually allowed to reach that realization. Perhaps Alex will forgive me for asking, but is there a point in which it's simply too late for people to realize this?

People are slow to change. Even Thomas Paine, writing The Crisis realized this. He wrote:

Whether the independence of the continent was declared too soon, or delayed too long, I will not now enter into as an argument; my own simple opinion is, that had it been eight months earlier, it would have been much better. We did not make a proper use of last winter, neither could we, while we were in a dependent state. However, the fault, if it were one, was all our own ; we have none to blame but ourselves. But no great deal is lost yet.

Paine would have preferred independence declared in December of 1775 instead of July of 1776. Even while acknowledging that fact, he still put on a brave face and tried to rally the people to the cause of liberty. Alex Knapp, on the other hand, just wants to get his snark on.

Let’s call the “tea party” and “going Galt” nonsense what it is: unprincipled partisan hackery. If these were truly principled protests, they’d have been around all through the Bush and Republican-controlled Congress years, too.

All well and good, except for the fact that Knapp misses the blindingly obvious point: there was no economic crisis that was met with this kind of response during the Bush and Republican-controlled Congress years. What we're seeing here is a response to a crisis, not the status quo.

It's awfully easy to criticize the Tea Party movement (I've done it myself). But if you're going to criticize people for seeing the light later than you, or for expressing their opposition in a partisan fashion, while you believe that in principle they are right, then you'd be better off offering constructive criticism instead of the all-too-easy sarcasm and snide remarks that pass for real debate these days. Then again, Knapp is the same author who apparently thinks most of civilization has been barking up the wrong tree, philosophically speaking. It may be that he's one of the many bloggers these days who seem incapable of writing in praise of another's ideas, and instead expends all his energy tearing things down (unless, of course, he's talking about Joss Whedon, who seems to be the William Shakespeare of the 21st Century libertarians).

It's easy to tear down, or to provide synchophantic praise. What's rare these days is the courage to offer up a new idea, because you know it's going to simply get ripped apart rather than seriously examined. It's a shame that someone like Knapp prefers intellectual laziness over serious thought and inquiry.


  1. Well, that wouldn't be a bad critique of that post, but here's the thing: the "Tea Party" movement isn't offering any kind of economic vision. They're just protesting "big government spending" with no end game.

    As for not having the "courage to offer up a new idea", I would only point out a couple of examples where I've done just that:

    I've advocated a professional jury system to replace the current one.


    Not to mention a stimulus proposal to develop an American competitive advantage in green technology.


    Also, I don't just love Joss Whedon: I've also written that Burn Notice is the best show on TV.


  2. Points taken, Alex, and thanks for the comments. You are not one of the many bloggers afraid to offer new ideas, and I applaud you for that.

    I confess to not really enjoying Burn Notice, but that may be because every time I see Bruce Campbell, I'm wishing he still had a chainsaw where his hand should be.