The Tea Party and Individual Rights

by | Apr 7, 2012 | POLITICS

If the Tea Party wants to have a long-term impact on American politics, it must embrace and defend individual rights.

The Tea Party movement has the potential to dramatically reform American government. But that potential will not be realized if the movement fails to identify, and embrace, the proper principles.

Like any coalition, the Tea Party has a mixture of elements. At the rallies I have attended, I have seen signs for “state’s rights,” closing the borders, nullification, and auditing the Federal Reserve. I have seen signs opposing ObamaCare, denouncing federal deficits, and calling for term limits. These positions are fundamentally inconsistent, and yet, they all are welcomed under the Tea Party umbrella.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with a political movement having such a mixture, particularly in today’s culture. However, if that movement is not united by clearly stated principles, inconsistencies will eventually tear it apart.

Consider, for example, opposition to ObamaCare and the issue of “state’s rights.”

Opposing ObamaCare is a valid position. Nationalized health care enslaves doctors, will diminish the quality of care for patients, and will be a fiscal nightmare. It violates the rights of doctors and patients alike. But, according to the doctrine of “state’s rights,” a state can properly enact universal health care–if a majority of the citizens want it. As one example, Mitt Romney has defended his universal health care plan as an issue of “state’s rights.” In other words, the advocates of “state’s rights” do not oppose the violation of individual rights. They merely oppose it when it occurs on the federal level. This is nothing more than quibbling over the name of the slave-master.

The only principle that can eliminate this inconsistency is individual rights–the moral right of each individual to live his life as he chooses, so long as he respects the mutual rights of others. This means that neither the federal nor the state governments may initiate coercion to force individuals to act contrary to their own judgment.

If the Tea Party wants to have a long-term impact on American politics, it must embrace and defend individual rights.

Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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