What’s the Big Idea?

The most significant development of 2010 was a life-affirming idea demonstrating the concept of spontaneous order and implying the cardinal virtue of independence of the individual.

One frustrated individual, Rick Santelli, ranted on-air at CNBC on February 19, 2009 about certain oppressive interventionist actions of government and called for a new Tea Party. Some credit this rant as the start of the movement.

Whether Mr. Santelli was the catalyst or not doesn’t matter. Despite broad media and political efforts to trivialize the phenomenon, Tea Partiers collected support across party lines, social classes and cultural subgroups. The influence of the Tea Party is credited with the rousting of Democratic incumbents during US mid-term elections in November.

The rise of the Tea Party “idea” can be seen as a backlash against elitist government excess regardless of political party. Americans got tired of the arrogance shown by their leaders in forcing new legislation and record debt in an attempt to “paper over” mal-investments caused by elitist policies. Can you forget the banality and condescension of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comment regarding the mammoth healthcare “reform” bill placed before Congress:

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can—uh—find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy”.

Tea Party success notwithstanding, too many people still see government as a solution to social problems. A recent news story about the continued problems in Haiti after earthquake relief efforts reveals that the focus of aid providers is now on establishing the government’s ability to “deliver services”. This is plain and simple nation-building rhetoric such as that practiced without success everywhere, most notably in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.

People still look for collectivist solutions and the greatest danger is that the Republican/Tea Party/Smaller Government axis may become compromised by a worse collective—the religious right. In The Greatest Show on Earth—a defence of evolution science made necessary by attacks from intelligent-design theorists—Richard Dawkins points out that approximately 40 percent of Americans believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible and the attendant notion that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. The degree of such belief in other populations varies somewhat, but what is shocking is the indictment of western educational institutions in allowing generations to carry over such unscientific nonsense into successive generations. The percentage of such believers has not changed significantly in Gallup surveys taken since 1982.

However, humans possess volition. They must make choices every day of their lives in order to survive and flourish. To the extent people exercise their volition they have the potential to learn by their mistakes and thrive into the future. To the extent that they suspend their choices and allow others—particularly power-seeking bureaucrats and politicians—to make their choices for them, human progress is limited to perpetual conflict, terror, and random death on a mass scale.

©Copyright 2011 Edward Podritske

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