Long, Dark Teatime of the State?

Earlier this week, tens of thousands of Americans came together — across the nation in cities large and small — for “Tea Party” protests against high taxes, profligate government spending and corporate welfare.

I say “tens of thousands” because that’s what the mainstream media says. If the St. Louis Tea Party was typical, the nationwide number was more likely “hundreds of thousands.”

The allegations of the statist left notwithstanding, I saw little indication that these events were “Republican” in nature or that they were “astro-turf” (“fake grassroots”) demonstrations. They were trans-partisan, eclectic, inclusive. They were, in a word, beautiful.

If the energy of the Tea Partiers can be rallied around a principled, populist, libertarian message, the potential for a massive shift in the political landscape is very real.

90% of the signs at the St. Louis Tea Party were anti-state — “End the Fed!” “Repudiate the Debt!” “Taxes are theft!” — and if we got 90% of what those signs asked for, we’d be 90% of the way to a stateless society.

But … Waiter! There’s a fly in my tea!

The other 10% of signs didn’t just miss the point, they skewed the message. The “secure the borders” signs. The signs advocating new tax schemes (“fair” taxes and “flat” taxes mostly). The signs accusing President Obama of cutting government expenditures on “national defense” (unfortunately, his budget proposal includes an increase in “defense” funding).

The Tea Party movement must make itself thoroughly anti-political and anti-state. Else it will be stillborn … or end up actually fueling the growth of the state.

I’m not saying that the Tea Party movement must adopt an explicitly anarchist ideology. That would be marvelous, but it’s neither likely nor absolutely necessary. What I am saying is that if the movement falls into the trap of standard political thinking, the jaws of that trap will close around it and make it ineffectual.

Let us consider the nature of government. The state functions, for all practical purposes, as a quasi-biological organism. Like any organism, its first priority, its essential goal, is its own preservation and growth. Like any organism, the state can only do the things it does if it continues to exist.

Just as squirrels store away acorns for winter and bears build up a fat layer to sustain them through hibernation, the state stores away its constituents’ demands for political power against the cold future day when it must justify the use of power as such. The exercise of political power is the state’s “food.” Absent the ability to exercise political power, the state withers … and, ultimately, dies.

Please don’t mistake this claim for the claim that any particular individual embodies the state’s “consciousness.” The state possesses neither consciousness nor conscience. It does, however, possess facsimiles thereof — facsimiles built into it by its creators. The state was created by statists. Its structure and mode of operation reflects the values of its creators.

Because the state treats demands for political power as “food,” such demands on the part of any new popular movement will inevitably become the focus of that new movement’s interactions with the state. The movement will be digested. Those parts of it which constitute “food” will be used — and those parts of it which do not will be excreted.

The core message of the Tea Partiers is an anti-state message. If the purity of that core message can be maintained, the Tea Party movement enters the body politic as a virus with the potential to damage — potentially even kill, although that’s a long shot — the state.

If, on the other hand, the Tea Party message is tainted with “state food” — rinky-dink reorientations of the tax scheme, demands that the integrity of imaginary lines drawn on the ground by politicians be coercively reinforced, pleas that the already morbidly obese “defense” establishment be fed another helping of tiramasu — then that taint will provide the state with the calories it needs to break the Tea Party fever.

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