Saturday, June 19, 2010

One-Minute Tea Party

"All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come." – Victor Hugo

“In an intellectual battle, you do not need to convert everyone. History is made by minorities—or, more precisely, history is made by intellectual movements, which are created by minorities. Who belongs to these minorities? Anyone who is able and willing actively to concern himself with intellectual issues. Here, it is not quantity, but quality that counts (the quality—and consistency—of the ideas one is advocating).” – Ayn Rand, “What Can One Do?”

What happens when a new idea displaces an old? Everything that proceeded from the old is also displaced and new perspectives guide human action and opinions. Sometimes even a new terminology replaces an old. This happened twice in our country, first, when individual rights were recognized by our Constitution at our founding, and secondly, when progressivism, under the false name of liberalism, replaced the philosophy of Liberty.

The result of individual rights was reason, capitalism, capital accumulation, new energy, new products, fresh perspectives, hope, pride, self-confidence and happiness; all of which replaced the drudgery of living at the behest of the King.

The result of progressivism was fascism, unreason, egalitarianism, nihilism, re-distribution of income, economic depressions, psychological problems, immorality and a return of the King under the name of “society”.

Today, we are witnessing a restoration of individual rights. The Tea Parties have rejected the ideas of the progressives and are restoring the language of freedom and truth.

The Tea Party Movement is a protest against government over-reach in the areas of taxes, spending and the Constitution. This protest is typified by people expressing pro-freedom opinions during speeches, questions to politicians, emails to local representatives and signs at local and national protests, town halls and educational meetings.

I’d like to suggest the One-Minute Tea Party which consists of a short speech communicating a key argument of the Tea Party protests. You might consider it a wider elaboration of a Tea Party sign that can be communicated to individuals in any context, to media asking questions, to pollsters, to one's friends and family. In this blog, I will provide what I think are the essential principles of the One-Minute Tea Party so you can confidently express your own protest.

First, you must organize your personal protest around a single key message. You start by developing a good understanding of your basic principles and the application of those principles in practice. The more you know the principles and facts that support your message, and why you hold the positions you hold, the easier it will be for you to think on your feet.

Outline of the One-Minute Tea Party speech

1. Define your basic premise
Most Tea Party issues can be reduced to a question of your individual rights; and conversely most issues advanced by the left involve some form of violation of your individual rights. Study the concept, read about how the Founders dealt with it and study other thinkers who elaborated on the principles of the Founders.

Also, remember that Tea Party protests are about government over-reach and spending, high taxes and violations of free markets. The best, most fundamental, way to convince people that government should stop its over-reach, is to base your argument on individual rights. If you don't, you are probably not discussing a Tea Party issue.

Individual rights are inherent in your nature as a human being. No one has a right to violate your right to property, your right to keep your income, and your right to choose what is in your self-interest; in short, your right to the pursuit of happiness. In the real world, we see the foundation of individuals rights in the fact that man can only survive effectively when he exerts his mind to learn about reality, discover, make and use the tools of survival and reap the rewards of his work. In other words, individual rights are necessary so man can freely express his moral nature, practice the virtues that make life possible; virtues such as integrity, rationality, honesty, justice, productivity and pride. Without individual rights, these virtues cannot be practiced consistently.

When a government dictates morality through the imposition of sacrifice, by means of regulations, licenses, laws, codes, boondoggles and re-distribution schemes, it is engaged in a war against morality. By dictating all practices, it eliminates the concept of "responsibility" as a moral concept replacing it with a license to irresponsibility. The progressives' war against individual rights is a war against the possibility of moral action, which means action that would benefit both parties to a transaction. Government knows only how to re-distribute the profits of the producer and wipe out the benefits to the consumer.

Historically, when people stopped defending their individual rights, they started losing them. With their re-discovery in our time, men are beginning to see the wisdom of the Founders in establishing a government whose mandate was only to protect these rights. We are trying to bring that defense of man's rights back into the mainstream. This is the meaning of the slogan: "Don't Tread On Me".

2. Stay on your basic premise
When you argue for the political principles upon which a proper society should be based, these principles have the power of being universal, applying to all circumstances within a specific context of human action. This makes them “true” principles and gives you a stronger argument. For instance, the statement, "You have no right to take my property" is the expression of your individual rights as well as your intent to let others know that you will not allow their violation.

This means that your defense of individual rights is an expression of your right to self-defense. In order to argue against individual rights, anyone opposing you must imply a specific violation of your person, which means a violation of your right to choose the actions that are in your self-interest; it means that you do not have rights; and as authority for this view they wrongly use poor ideas such as "democracy", "the will of the people" and anti-capitalism.

Any effort by the government to tax, regulate, coerce, control, “nudge” or educate you is a violation of your individual rights. No one has the moral authority to violate such rights, because any man who would presume to hold that authority is an individual. He is only empowered by his nature to act for his own behalf. He is not empowered by any principle in nature to violate the rights of others. And, more importantly, no individual or group of individuals has the moral authority to delegate the use of force to violate any other person's rights. In a proper society, force is used only to protect people.

Your progressive opponent, depending upon his or her rhetorical skills, will want to get you off your basic premise in order to turn the discussion to incidental issues. By staying on your premise, you will avoid having the argument devolve into a discussion of meaningless griefs and complaints. If anyone should be complaining about being wronged, it should be you.

3. Identify the facts that validate your basic argument
In any given issue, there are facts of reality that support your argument. We've already mentioned some of them above. By looking at reality, you should be able to understand your experience and ask yourself what would happen in your life if you were not allowed to express your rights; and you can ask the same question of your opponent.

For instance, when you are discussing a recommendation to bailout a particular company, the supporting facts should help you expose the fallacy of government intervention. This "bailed out" company, at one time, chose to take the actions that eventually resulted in losses; it is responsible for its actions. The progressive argument assumes, wrongly, that the company's losses were not its fault; that greed harmed them or that capitalism failed. This mistaken assumption leads, wrongly, to the government's forcing people against their wills to support the failed company. Worse, it compounds that failure by forcing other people to fail also.

This appeal to the facts should also provide you with a clue to the real flaw in progressive ideas and that is the false view that man is his brother's keeper, that men should be forced against their wills to sacrifice for others. This is the idea of altruism and the argument against it leads you to the basic reason why individual rights should be inviolable. Altruism is an effort to destroy the successful. Altruism is the destruction of freely chosen, mutually beneficial economic transactions because it introduces a false zero-sum analysis into those transactions in order to justify the violation of individual rights. Altruism is the enemy of individual rights because it seeks the destruction of the individual.

4. Identify the fallacies of your opponent’s argument
Watch for other distortions of reality that your opponent might use. To provide some help, I am quoting from a previous post of mine entitled “Why the Progressives are Wrong”:

“You would have thought that sooner or later an honest person would have entered the political fray to declare that progressivism is a fraud. You might have even thought that somewhere along the line even a progressive with enough standing in his movement would have recognized that progressivism accomplishes the opposite of its stated goals. But no one has. In the country where free speech still exists, no one has been able to articulate the truth that progressivism is false. Instead progressives continue to cling to a litany of false premises without challenge. How have they advanced their views? They explicitly hold to the following false tenets:

a. Capitalism is theft. This lie has been refuted by many economists. It is based on the labor theory of value which is the idea that the value of a product is dependent only upon the amount of labor expended in creating it. We now know that there are a variety of other factors that determine the value of any given product, not the least of which is the value placed upon it by the purchaser and the amount of money he is willing to pay for a product...regardless of the amount of labor expended on it. We also know that being a capitalist is not exploitation, not a zero-sum proposition; that it takes tremendous skill and ability to conceive, create and manage a highly productive business…it also takes the genius of those leaders who are able to forge new industries and create massive wealth-producing organizations that benefit, not just the owners, but their customers and the laborers.

b. Capitalism is evil. In order to displace capitalism the progressives use propaganda based on the labor theory of value to assert that capitalists maliciously steal the labor of workers. This view is stolen straight from religion; it was the religions of the world that held this world to be evil and any person who favored it over the “higher” spiritual world was considered to be evil. This included rich people such as merchants, jewelers, merchant ship owners and anyone who lived to make a profit from his efforts. Yes, progressives got their main ideas from 2000 years ago.

c. Capitalism is flawed and creates bubbles and distortions. A careful analysis of history shows that it is not capitalism that is responsible for economic depressions but government intervention. In fact, capitalism is nothing more than freely chosen transactions engaged in by free people based on their self-interest. These kinds of transactions cannot cause economic downturns because they are mutually beneficial. The only factors that can cause bubbles and other economic distortions are massive interferences in the economy by government.

d. Incrementalism is the progressive tactic of introducing minor changes in the economy when there is not enough political support for major changes. The purpose of incrementalism is to establish the precedent that government has the right to interfere in peoples’ lives and to lay the groundwork for the later expansion of those interferences.

Incrementalism violates sound economic principles because it coercively interferes with people's economic decisions. Each incremental advance has a negative economic consequence based upon the size of the advance; and an incremental violation of property rights is still a violation of property rights.

In addition, consider the positions of conservatives who compromise with incrementalist progressive activities. These so-called fighters for freedom have no problem with coercion as long as it can be done through a bi-partisan compromise that allows them to re-distribute some of the spoils to their own friends.

But the real question to ask progressives is "what is the point of incrementally instituting statist programs that the people would not choose if they were offered in whole? Does it make sense, is there an honest reason why progressives need to, as a matter of policy, "fool" the people about the programs they offer?"

e. The idea that you can improve conditions for “victims” of capitalism establishes a constituency of dependents upon government that will vote for government coercion. The idea that this is the will of the people violates the basis of a Constitutional Republic and establishes the contradiction that enables progressives to wedge their way into social control over time.

f. Progressives are perennial liars simply because they must hide from people the nature of what they are doing. Questions like: What justifies taking the money of one person and giving it to another? Is using government to “solve” social problems the constitutional thing to do? What happens to the people whose dollars are taken away? How does that affect their standard of living and is it right for them to suffer so that others may enjoy the luxury of not caring for themselves? Are there better non-coercive ways for people to solve their so-called "social" problems? What gives the government the right to confiscate the hard earned money of citizens? What about all the waste and corruption? How are lost funds going to be recovered and why is no one making an effort to recover them? In order to avoid such questions, progressives ignore them and talk about the non-existent benefits of their economic manipulations.

g. Progressives lie that the USA is an Imperialist nation. This lie confuses the need of America to defend itself against dictators and other thugs around the world. The truth is that most examples of American “imperialism” are nothing more than a free country defending itself and its economic interests against thugs and robbers. Although some of our Presidents had imperialist policies, by and large, the history of our nation has been decidedly anti-imperialist. We have fought more empires than we have been accused of creating.

h. Progressives portray themselves as “good” stewards of government while their opposition is considered to be evil and deserving of hatred and ridicule. They offer no reason for this view except that they represent the philosophy of sacrifice which is considered by them to be the most practical way to get things done – and the most moral. In keeping with the view of one of their leaders, they do what they can with what they have and wrap it in moral garments. They take it upon themselves to represent supposed victims in order to acquire the allegiance of those groups and defeat their political opposition. It is a shell game.

i. However, the benefits they provide to those victims corrupt them and turn them, not only into political captives who must support the progressives in the voting booth but into slaves as well. Sound economic principles are ignored by progressives and this opens the door for corruption and theft, oligarchy and fascism, slush funds and re-distribution, all of which accomplish the opposite of progressive promises. The good cannot be advanced by forcing people to sacrifice.

For decades progressives have been promising to fix problems supposedly created by capitalism. Yet, with all the talk about economics, with all the verbiage about this theory and that, the liberals have not explained the basic economic principles that drive their policies and recommended programs. This is because they have written the history books and whitewashed their own complicity in the destruction of the last century. To hide the fact that they caused most of the problems of this century, they blame capitalism.

What is missing in the arguments of the progressives for the actions they take? What is their basic principle that they never discuss? The progressives’ basic principle is the idea that the government has the duty and the right to coerce people. For progressives – all of them – there is no debate about the idea that progressivism is coercive; that it violates the principles of the Constitution. This principle is never debated because the progressives don’t want us to know that coercion is not just their method of operating, it is the goal of their movement.”

5. Summarize your argument
A good, brief statement of your primary argument to finish your speech will indicate that your argument is finished.

For instance, “No person should be forced against his will to support the mistakes of others. Therefore, individual rights should never be violated by the force or coercive measures of government.”

Suggestions to strengthen your arguments:

1. Define your terms
Political and philosophical discussions often suffer from the failure of both parties to define their terms. The result is wasted time discussing two different ideas. There is only one reality and only one truth. People committed to reason can come to agreement if they start on the same foundation.

2. Defend your individual rights on selfish grounds – not on altruistic grounds. A big mistake is to try to argue for individual rights on what is called “utilitarian grounds” which means on the basis of results rather than rights. Utilitarianism is a collectivist idea that accepts altruism as a valid form of economic transaction. Always argue for rights on their proper foundation; and that is that they are inherent in man’s nature; not that they produce the best results.

3. Defend freedom (capitalism) on the basis of the government’s responsibility, under the Constitution, to protect individuals and that it is no longer doing that. Learn as much as you can about the arguments the Founders made to defend liberty and always remember that they saw liberty as the antidote to tyranny which is the result of the progressive philosophy.

4. Expose how the principle of sacrifice (altruism) animates the ideas of your opponent and how the idea attacks individual rights and reason. As we showed above, sacrifice requires that the best, smartest and most forward looking individuals give up the result of their good choices in order to pay for the mistakes of others. This idea and its implementation is the surest way to destroy moral action.

5. Remember that capitalism is not a system, it is not a thing, it is not a government or a nation. It is millions of individual transactions engaged in by free men. Capitalism is nothing more than free people trading voluntarily and all the great things that this makes possible. The "system" that creates capitalism is a constitutionally limited government that defends individual rights. Capitalism is good because free choice is the only actvitity that makes a moral life possible. Capitalism is the product of reason that also liberates man's mind, and therefore, when you become anti-capitalist you are also anti-reason and anti-life and anti-progress and anti-human.

6. Avoid discussion with people who want to shout you down or who might appear to be violent. The Tea Parties are about respecting individual rights which includes the right to civil discourse without violence. It is better to do a “sit-down” Tea Party than it is to shout and argue with people who are only out to make a spectacle. There is nothing wrong with passionately held views; but name calling, character assassination and chanting in order to drown out other voices are not part of civil behavior.

7. Remember that individual rights apply across the spectrum of human action. Do not let the left use the principle of individual rights to defend special protected groups while also advocating the violation of individual rights against business people, alternative media, opposition corporations and groups such as Tea Party protesters.

If you take some time to develop good arguments for freedom based on proper premises and realistic judgments, you will become a modern-day Founding Father. You are engaging, on a grass roots level, in the intellectual issues that drive the future.

Remember: quality not quantity.

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