Tea Party Taboo: Tackling Social Issues
The Tea Party doesn't do social policy. But what if it did? What might it look like?
October 25, 2011 - 2:52 am
Why do many gays want to redefine marriage? Their list of concerns can be categorized as contractual and social. They want to assign rights to their partners to make medical decisions or to inherit wealth. But they also want the same tax breaks and government benefits allotted to married heterosexual couples. The contractual concerns are easily addressed by merely enforcing contracts and protecting property rights, things Tea Partiers tend to support. The social concerns are another matter.
Demands for tax breaks and benefits are progressive chickens come home to roost. When government endorses behavior through fiscal policy, it invites calls to endorse more. If there was no social engineering via the tax code, if there were no entitlement programs, then there would be no pot of gold at the end of the marital rainbow.
That said, if there is a behavior the government ought to endorse, enduring marriage is probably it. Stable procreative relationships are of obvious benefit to children and neighbors alike. However, there is a provocative argument that government’s endorsement of marriage concedes the Left’s fundamental tenet that the state ought not just protect our rights, but guide our lives.
Immigration could likewise be addressed by reevaluating the fundamental role of government. Perhaps we should build a fence. Perhaps we should go after employers. But these are reactive measures which attempt to dam the flow while ignoring its source. Why do people come here? The obvious answer is jobs. Yet there is more to it than that. People who come here illegally are able to obtain invaluable government benefits including health care and education. In addition, their illegal status precludes legal employment. Illegals don’t do the jobs Americans won’t. They do the jobs Americans can’t due to intrusive government regulations which make would-be jobs illegal.
Perhaps the best example is the minimum wage. Minimum wage laws presuppose that someone is willing to work for less and keep them from doing so. The unintended consequence is a black market for labor which illegal immigrants are suited toward. After all, if it’s criminal to hire them, why stop there?
Lifting wage restrictions, phasing out entitlements, and securing the right of free association would go a long way toward eliminating illegal immigration. More than that, it would improve the quality of the immigrants we would see. People would come here knowing that they had to work, that they had to compete for jobs on an even playing field with Americans, and that no level of success was guaranteed. Talk about incentive to assimilate.
Many other issues can be argued along similar terms. Of course, not all Tea Partiers would agree. There is certainly a strong streak of right-wing progressivism within the movement which echoes the temperance movement of a century ago. The Tea Party sits religious moralists alongside libertine Paulestinians and sees ecumenical revivalists joining hands with atheistic intellectuals. While all agree that government is too big and has intruded too deeply into our lives, different factions have distinct visions of government’s ultimate role in our lives.