Friday, February 26, 2010

Reshaping the GOP

Texas Tea Party activists have been actively engaged in recruiting and training candidates to run for precinct chairs. While they have reached out to members of both major political parties, the focus has been on the Republican Party. The goal of these recruitment efforts is to reshape the GOP, much as social conservatives did in the early 1990s.

According to the Chronicle, the state Tea Party wants to shift the Republican's emphasis from social issues to "fiscal restraint by the federal government and individual freedom." On the surface, this sounds good. But what does it really mean?

The web site for the Houston Tea Party Society (HTPS) has a discussion on proposed resolutions for the state GOP. Some of the suggestions are good--such as abolishing the Departments of Education and Energy. Others--such as term limits--are superficial, and a few--such as closing the borders--are simply bad. But what is particularly noteworthy is what is not suggested--a call for the recognition and protection of individual rights. (That is, until I left a comment.)

As I have written previously, it is the principle of individual rights that underlies every good idea emanating from the Tea Party movement. No matter the issue--federal spending, taxation, the Federal Reserve, health care, immigration, etc.--it is the principle of individual rights that provides us with the proper solution. Without such a principle, and a proper understanding of it, the Tea Party movement finds itself advocating contradictory positions.

In the introduction to this discussion on resolutions, HTPS leader Felicia Cravens writes:
[P]lease remember to keep the resolution topics within our core principles of fiscal responsibility, personal and governmental accountability, limited government, free markets, and sovereignty.
Again, these are certainly sound principles worthy of our support, but what do they mean? What unites them? Let us briefly dissect just one of these principles--sovereignty.

Sovereignty means independence from the control of another, the freedom to act according to one's own judgment (so long as one respects the mutual rights of others). Sovereignty is the recognition of the fact that each individual must take action to sustain and enjoy his life, and morally, others may not interfere with this right.

This has profound implications for every political issue. For example, closing the borders interferes with an individual's right to immigrate--to move to the country he chooses. Taxation--in any form--forces individuals to dispose of their property contrary to their own choices. Similarly, the use of tax incentives to encourage certain activities (as was suggested on HTPS) compels tax payers to subsidize the activities of others. Each of these proposals interferes with an individual's right to act according to his own judgment. Each is an attack on individual sovereignty.

The HTPS is advocating sovereignty in theory and proposing its violation in practice.

If the HTPS (or anyone for that matter) wishes to resolve this contradiction, then it must understand and embrace the principle of individual rights. Until it does so, its efforts to reshape the GOP will have no long-term impact.


Houston Tea Party said...

Just sayin, those proposals were from members; HTPS thoroughly disclaimer-ed them and offered them up for comment. I know you want to be really fair.

Brian Phillips said...

The introduction to the comments reads:

"Jan Heinricks, one of our long-time members, speakers, and rant-winners, put together these proposals for the GOP platform a couple of months ago. I asked him to be a guest blogger to start this conversation on resolutions, so now is the time to put in your two cents and start helping to draft resolutions. Use the comments section to add your thoughts, and please remember to keep the resolution topics within our core principles of fiscal responsibility, personal and governmental accountability, limited government, free markets, and sovereignty."

I don't see a disclaimer in there, nor do I see one in the subsequent comments.

Don't take me wrong--I think that the HTPS has done some great things. But without the unifying principle of individual rights, it can and likely will endorse a very mixed bag of proposals.