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An History Professor Speaks About The Tea Parties of 2009

On April 15 I had the pleasure of addressing a tea party at Charlotte, North Carolina. Attendance was probably 3,000 people, and they were well equipped with signs, placards and tee shirts bearing messages of outrage against the present state of government. Every individual came not by some orchestrated plan, but by a desire to support liberty.

The event was non-partisan. There were lots of anti-Obama signs, but not a one pro-Bush that I saw. Nor did I hear any religious right propaganda; the only mention of abortion was the assertion that a doctor who does not want to do an abortion should not be forced to do it. The overriding message was outrage against the growth of government power.

My own talk focused on the moral aspects of the crisis. I contrasted the elevated view of man and his rights that is enshrined in the American founding documents, versus the cancerous view of man and the phony rights that dominate today. I noted that those who think that such events must be financed by billionaires have no conception of autonomous individuals with independent minds, and thus cannot understand people who come together out of love for liberty.



My mention of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” brought cheers. Afterward, at least two dozen people told me that Atlas was their favorite book. The crowd was hungry for ideas; I passed out hundreds of pieces of literature, and talked to dozens of people about the nature of this crisis.

These tea parties are expressions of an emotion, outrage, that is directed against a rising tide of taxation and increasing government coercion. But emotions are not guides to life, and will not tell a person either how to oppose a motivated socialist movement, or how to formulate a rational alternative. Unless some intellectual focus is brought to these events, they are likely to fade into irrelevance.

Thanks go to Andy Clarkson for the video, to Matthew Ridenhour for organizing the event, and to Lin Zinser and Ayn  Rand Center for Individual Rights.

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