In the wake of a North Carolina study proclaiming that the Tea Party movement contains both libertarian and authoritarian elements, Ben and I debate whether or not freedom-loving Tea Partiers have a bit o' dictator in them. My take:
It's obvious that the Tea Party mixes authoritarian and libertarian instincts. Candidates running on its platform surged to success in 2010 on a platform of lowering taxes and reducing government regulations. But when they entered Congress and state legislatures around the country, what they did instead was start to take away other people's rights.
A woman's right to an abortion? The House of Representatives tried to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, while legislatures in states like Kansas rewrote licensing rules to make it nearly impossible for abortion clinics to operate.
A worker's right to collectively bargain? Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin famously spearheaded the effort to take that right away from the state's public employees, and Republican legislators all over the nation have backed legislation that would make it more difficult for unions at private-sector companies to collect dues and advocate for their membership.
A couple's right to marriage? If there's a Tea Party effort to extend those freedoms to gay couples, I've missed it. Certainly, Tea Party favorite -- and Republican presidential candidate -- Michele Bachmann opposes those efforts.
You don't need an academic study to prove what the headlines clearly indicate. (And many liberals and libertarians believe in a parenting style that requires obedience from their children; it's difficult to defend the study's methodology.) For all the talk of liberty and the Constitution, Tea Party politicians have narrowed the rights of everybody who isn't their crony.
Tea partiers love to fly the Gadsden Flag when it comes to taxes on rich people and corporations; they love small government less able to prod corporations into keeping our water and air clean. They're fine, however, when government puts a boot heel on the necks of other people -- little people.
Maybe there's a principle involved there, but it has little to do with a commitment to liberty.