Will the TEA Party Amount to More Than Complaining?
Last weekend there was a big anti-tax protest in Washington, with other,
parties held here and there across the country.
I’ve been keeping one eye on this
phenomenon, but so far I haven’t seen much worth reporting here. These
protesters seem largely content to complain about taxes, and largely
unwilling to entertain resisting them except in hypothetical
tricorner hat fantasies.
I get the feeling that a lot of them are looking for a leader to tell them
what to do. But the sorts of leaders they’re looking to for their rhetoric
and ideas, the Glen Becks and Michelle Malkins and Rush Limbaughs and such,
are by and large cowards for whom having a bunch of people complaining about
the things they tell them to complain about is good enough. No way are they
going to go out on a limb and begin resisting, though they may try to goad
others into it if they don’t have to commit themselves.
But there are some possibly-encouraging signs. A group calling itself the
“Three Percenters” were passing out a leaflet at
the protest urging the participants to buckle down and stop whining at
Uncle Sam — kind of a right-wing counterpart to Cindy Sheehan’s advice to the peace movement I shared earlier in the
week. Some excerpts from the leaflet:
The original Boston Tea Party was a calculated act of law-breaking designed
to send the British Empire a message it could not fail to comprehend. Making
long-winded speeches, thumping impassioned chests and denouncing a government
made up of people who have already written you off as unimportant, impotent,
and no threat to their plans is a waste of time, energy, and oxygen.
Both political parties have conspired through malice or incompetence to
bring us to this state, yet still people look in vain to the system of party
politics for salvation. The Founders were not so stupid as to place all
their hopes on a corrupt system. When the accepted channels of politics and
remonstrance failed, they burned the King’s tax stamps, dumped his tea,
broke the windows of his tax collectors with rocks and bricks, smuggled
forbidden goods, defied “his royal majesty” in hundreds of other ways, and
dared him to do anything about it. Liberty is not free, nor is it without
All these tactics are still available to us today. Any inventive mind could
think of many more effective means of getting across the idea that we
insist upon our liberty in this modern era. It is not necessary to
collect a crowd to do them, either. Defiance in action can be expressed
individually in many ingenious ways.
Then there’s this article
on “What’s the Point of Demonstrating?” from The Independent Institute’s
Beacon Blog. The article itself isn’t all that
look at the comments! Lots of people nibbling at the edges of tax
resistance, trying out the arguments in its favor, showing every symptom of
So this may be a situation where all it takes is the right seed, some
catalyst, and with surprising speed some new form of conservative tax
resistance will begin to develop in parallel to the long-standing and largely
left-oriented war tax resistance movement.
The final version of the International People’s Declaration of Peace is ready.
The war tax resistance plank from an earlier draft of the declaration seems to
me to have been made very vague:
The root of all war is profit and we will not allow the war profiteers to
own our labor or steal the fruits of that labor to be used solely for their
greed of power and money.
We will boycott products and/or services from companies that profit from war
and/or companies that support nations that make war on others.
Indeed, I doubt most people will see this as a call to war tax resistance at
all. An earlier draft of the declaration included the sentence: “We will not
allow the fruits of our labor to be used by our governments to finance wars.”
This was much less ambiguous. I’m sad to see the change.
The problem with vague and ambiguous vows like these is that they are so
difficult to precisely interpret that people end up interpreting them to
require no action or change on their part.
Have you vowed to boycott products and/or services from companies that support
nations that make war on others? That would include every taxpaying company
in the United States, you know. You are not seriously going to consider
boycotting all of them, so you will look at whichever ones you already
boycott or just happen not to frequent and check the box next to that solemn
vow and be satisfied that you’re doing your part. And so your vow ends up
meaning nothing at all.
Have you vowed not to allow the war profiteers to own your labor or steal
the fruits of that labor to be used solely for their greed of power and money?
Better stop paying taxes, then. Oh, but they don’t use our taxes
solely for their greed of power and money; they must have other
reasons too. So I don’t really have to do anything different here, either.
Check the box; the status quo wins again.
In the second
section of the second book of The Nicomachean
Ethics, Aristotle first reiterates that his project is not to
formulate a precise definition of virtue so much as to come up with a
practical guide to practicing a virtuous life.
In general, he feels, virtues are characterized by their “just enoughness” — as a mean between two opposing extremes of too-much and too-little. For
example, between the extremes of rashness and cowardice is the virtue of
Like some philosophical
Aristotle samples various human virtues and finds them to be somewhere on a
continuum between too much and too little. I can’t help but feel that there’s
not much meat here. It seems to depend a little too much on linguistic
conventions of how we describe various things. Do we really learn anything
about virtue from this that we don’t already know just by being competent
users of our language?
We can describe courage on a continuum of sensitivity to fear, where at one
extreme you’re too susceptible to fear, and at the other end you’re too
insensible to it. But with other virtues, like health and beauty and wisdom,
the endpoint of the continuum — the extreme — is by definition the
perfection of the virtue. Can you be too healthy? too
beautiful? too wise?
I think Aristotle is overgeneralizing from his initial instinct to look for
rather than for extreme ideals, which is probably
to the instincts of the
idealists he’s opposing, which were probably to try to maximize certain
characteristics that partook in
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics