Friday, April 16, 2010

Luddite Politics

I’ve been watching the development of the Tea Party with a mixture of emotions for several months now, and I’ve been trying to figure out why it has no appeal to me, despite the fact that the apparent premise seems so much like I would. I finally figured it out.

This morning I was watching coverage of the Boston Tea Party (2010, not 1773) and one of the attendees made a remark about purging the Republican Party of ‘RINO’s, that is ‘Republicans In Name Only’. That’s when it occurred to me, that despite their ardent claims to the contrary, the Tea Partiers are ‘Independents In Name Only’. Any theoretical readers of this blog who identify with the Tea Party are probably pretty ticked off about now, but wait, let me explain, and I’ll show you what I think a real independent is.

The essence of the Tea Party world view, as it appears from the outside, is that the United States should rightfully dominate the world. They see this as a benign domination of course, one that ensures all people are free (especially Americans), that global trade and economics flourish on a level playing field, and that every entity, be it corporation or individual prospers or perishes by its own merit. That all sounds pretty good in principle, but it falls apart on closer inspection.

The first faulty premise is that the world view is based on the economics of money rather than the economics of wealth. By definition, as explained in previous posts, this means dependence – money is only an abstraction of wealth and the production of money, be it fiat or specie, is regulated and controlled by the powers-that-be and restricted from the individual to the benefit of said powers.

This leads to the second faulty premise, which is that the status quo is inherently fair, to the extent that governments, including, and maybe especially, our own are not involved. I reject this premise on several grounds. First, the status quo is undeniably skewed to the benefit of Americans, and can hardly be considered fair for the individuals on the other side of the trade. This is the flip side of any political philosophy built on the foundation of US superiority, no matter how benign its intent. What the Tea Party wants to preserve is a political and economic imbalance where in the American people are not required to change their lifestyle, can continue to consume the majority of the world’s resources, implicitly at the expense of everyone else.

The third faulty premise is based on ignoring the role of debt in the perceived prosperity of the American people. The dirty secret of capitalism is that it inherently relies on debt. The development of wealth in complex societies requires currency. Currency accumulates in the hands of those exercising political power and those who have successfully developed wealth in the past. To expand and create new wealth, currency must usually be borrowed, in one form or another, by those with access to some means of production but no currency, from those who have currency, for a fee of course, ensuring that those who control the accumulation of currency maintain that control. America has succeeded in the past several decades by controlling the accumulation of currency by controlling the creation of the currency that serves as the medium of global trade (the US Dollar) and financed itself and its expansion by borrowing against those dollars. Because the expansion has been focused on the flow of currency rather than the production of real worth, the result is a tremendous deficit, both foreign and domestic.

The Tea Party seems to believe that the deficit can be solved by eliminating welfare spending, lowering taxes, and easing regulations. It’s interesting though that for all their talk of limiting government to the confines of strictly-interpreted constitutionalism, they are dead set against touching the single greatest line item in the budget, and if fact would rather expand it, in spite of the fact that the US spends more on it that most other countries in the world combined – that is, of course, Defense. They would go a long way toward building credibility in my book if they began advocating a reduction in size and expense of the Defense department to levels sufficient to carry out the mission implied by its name, rather than the expeditionary force that it actually is. After all, if the US is truly the messenger of good will and fairness that it claims to be, why should the rest of the world be so dead set on destroying us?

To be truly independent, as individuals and as a nation, we must learn to produce our own needs and finance our wants with the surplus. A truly wealthy and independent people produce more wealth than they consume – anything else is only the illusion of wealth, and they must be capable of distinguishing their own needs from their wants. A nation of independent and autonomous individuals does not rely on its credit-worthiness to maintain its lifestyle, and no nation of such individuals can consider itself to be wealthy until all of its citizens are capable of sustaining themselves in an adequate and sustainable way by the fruits of their own labor with a little surplus left over for ‘economic stimulus’.

In my opinion, the vision endorsed by the Tea Party fails to meet the criteria of ‘independent’, nor does it represent a long-term, sustainable solution. The only surplus it produces is cheap symbolism, and a siren song luring its victims toward the image of a non-existent past, ignoring the economics of real wealth.

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