Yesterday, thousands of people gathered at various locations around the country to participate in Tea Parties protesting government spending and taxation.
The ancient proverb the enemy of my enemy is my friend rang especially true as I attended a Tea Party on campus at Auburn University. Despite the apparent wisdom in the proverb, I couldn’t help but feel a bit dirty when it was all over.
The cognitive dissonance arose from the fact that the event was hosted by the College Republicans. The Auburn University Libertarians later joined them to co-host the event.
It is fantastic that large numbers of people are finally waking up to the problems created by taxation and spending. It is equally refreshing to see that people are starting to take a stand, at least symbolically, in opposition to big government.
The problem was that for the majority of the time when Republicans were speaking, I couldn’t help but think “where were you for the last eight years?” My overall feeling of uncleanliness derived largely from the hypocrisy emanating from the Republicans. What right do Republicans have to criticize anyone about spending or the size of government? What right do Republicans have to lecture the current administration about bailouts? What right do Republicans have to complain about the size of the national debt?
My fear is that by joining the Republicans, we lost the moral high ground to a form of guilt by association. If I was disturbed by the level of hypocrisy displayed by the Republicans even though I genuinely believe in many of the principles to which they were paying lip service, how must people feel who disagree? It seems to me that anyone who supports the big spending big government would have had an even more visceral reaction than did I. Not necessarily because of the message but particularly due to the messenger. I cannot help but wonder how many people that may have otherwise been persuadable, dismissed the cause out of hand because of the Republican’s pharisaicalness.
Though my experience was limited to a relatively small college town, I suspect that many libertarian minded individuals had similar experiences across the country. I hope that I am overanalyzing the whole situation and that, despite my qualms, the tea parties were able to have a genuinely positive effect. In the end I suppose it is like drinking Kopi Luwak; it is good as long as you don’t think about where it came from.
Debt Held by the Public
Total Public Debt Outstanding