The Tea Party convention was held this past weekend in Nashville. Once again, the venerable angry mob showed they were unified almost exclusively by their anger and their anger alone. I do understand the anger and frustration. I get the spleen venting. There are a lot of things wrong with our government and the path we are on. But being pissed off is not a plan.
There remains nonetheless, a single theme on which the Tea Party faithful seem to agree. Government is bad and there should be less of it. But this is the wrong solution to the problem. If you can’t stand boiled cabbage, then less of it is a reasonable solution. But if you don’t feel safe in your town, less police isn’t likely the solution. Nor is more police. Throwing more money at a dysfunctional police department won’t make it better. Ultimately, your safety is predicated on fixing it.
It strikes me that in many ways the populist movement for less government, less regulation, and less taxes bears a striking resemblance to the stereotypical teen’s attitude toward their parents. The disgruntled teen will often complain loudly that their parents never do a thing for them and are out to ruin their lives. This, despite living rent free, driving their parent’s car, being fed three squares, wearing designer jeans, attending school, and many other things they simply now take for granted. That stuff doesn’t count. But as any parent knows, despite their teen’s bemoaning how they’d be better off without parents, they rest comfortable knowing in reality they’d be starving, naked, and cold without them.
In a similar vein, the Tea Party is determined to get government the hell out of their way. They felt so passionate about it they all got aboard airplanes certified safe by the NTSB and guided through the airspace by the FAA. They got in taxis where they traveled roads paved by the government. The police assured they could safely gather. Many dined on dollars they received from Social Security and ate food made safe by the FDA. Some of them even read the notes written on their hands by virtue of their public school educations.
Government is far from perfect, especially in its current state. The Senate in particular has become a poster-child for dysfunctional organizations. Something needs to be done. Yet we have to realize there is a non-trivial danger here of throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are a lot of things government does that we are not prepared to live without. And certainly many of these things we are not prepared to pay for out of pocket.
We need reform. We need better government. But the fact that’s it’s not working now doesn’t mean it needs to be eliminated. Government has a role. It has a necessary role. Be angry. But be productive about it, not just destructive.