Yesterday I was away from the radio show and driving in my car back from a meeting, which gave me an opportunity to listen to some other broadcasts that I don’t normally get to hear, obviously. I came across one on the dial where the host and his co-host or producer or sidekick or whoever were talking about what they perceived as a rift within the tea party movement.
Honestly, this discussion is nothing new to those who have been involved with the movement since its inception. We’ve been hearing stories about the fractured nature of the tea partiers, and how the movement is not sustainable because it is so decentralized. Whether it’s the division over whether to make endorsements of candidates or not, whether to form a third party or not, whether to allow candidates or officeholders to speak or not, the media is always seeking to carry forth the narrative that the movement is doomed for failure as a result.
These two guys on the radio yesterday – and I’m not going to mention the name of the show because I have no real desire to pick a professional fight with another program...I’d rather pick a fight with the dumb idea that they were espousing – were suggesting that the tea party was fracturing around the socially conservative members who want to make traditional morality part of the movement’s thrust.
On the surface my response to this would be that in my experience, different tea parties will decide how much they want to focus on whatever kind of issues that are out there. I don’t see a massive split coming as a result of this because the different tea parties reflect the differing focuses of their differing communities. But what got me exercised was when one of the two guys threw out a line that went something like this: “To me, I’m all in with the tea party when it comes to the fiscal issues. But this morality stuff is contradictory. How can you say you’re for smaller government when you want the government policing people’s bedrooms?”
First of all, let me say this unequivocally: when you are parroting talking points of the left, you aren’t “all in” with the tea party movement, period. The left has been using the government to cram their morality (or lack thereof) down everyone’s throats for a couple generations. Yet when conservatives suggest that their onslaught should be halted, all of a sudden we become the “bedroom police.” It’s silly and stupid. And if you can’t see through the liberal trickery on this point, you need to take a remedial course in propaganda.
But secondly, and more importantly, this is a point I brought up in my debate with Malcolm Out Loud last week. The inability of so many people – even commentators who should be expected to have done a little thinking before they opened their mouths and started talking – to understand the connection between virtue and liberty.
A couple weekends ago, I spoke at an all-day conference with a bunch of social conservatives in attendance. The Executive Director of the AFA of Indiana, Micah Clark, also spoke. And he threw out a line that I thought was brilliant. I wrote it down so that I could remember to use it often myself: “In America today we think of liberty itself as a virtue. It is not. Liberty is not a virtue, liberty is sustained by virtue.” Brilliant.
You can go back to any of the foremost thinkers of the Western-American thought stream, whether it be Founders like Washington, Adams or Rush, or go to English philosophers like Locke or even Burke. And what you see with all of them is this key understanding: liberty only exists when a common morality is accepted amongst the people.
And it makes sense. People must put chains on their passions in any civil society. The less chains you have on yourself from within, the more must be put on you from without. As public morality disappears, people begin using their liberty in destructive ways: they start cutting corners in the marketplace, trampling others on their way to whatever it is that they want. And when that happens, what do the masses do? They cry out for a law to protect them from such injustice and unfairness. But with every law the government writes, you lose a little freedom. See how this works?
When social conservatives are talking about the importance of sustaining a public virtue and morality, when we talk about the need for a public embrace of traditional values and a reassertion of a common moral ethic, it’s not about “policing people’s bedrooms” or destroying liberty. Much the opposite, it’s about promoting the only thing that will sustain liberty.
Whether liberal or libertarian, the public embrace of immorality and decadence, fueled by their confusion of licentiousness with liberty, they ignorantly advance the destruction of the very thing they claim to cherish: freedom.