As the federal government shutdown drama wrapped up, I asked if the Tea Party just wants to watch the world burn. Motivating that question was an observed division among activists on the Right between those seeking to work within the system to elect majorities and those seeking to “fight” at any electoral cost.
The latter faction claims exclusive title to principle. Over and over again, leading up to and during the shutdown, we were told that a vote for a continuing resolution which did not defund Obamacare was “a vote to fund Obamacare.” In other words, we were told that you cannot claim to oppose a policy on principle if you take an action which acquiesces to it.
As logical as it may sound on first pass, that premise deserves to be challenged. If universally applied, it establishes a standard which precisely no one can meet. No elected official, including Tea Party darling Senator Ted Cruz, can claim to have never taken an action which supports an institution or policy violating their principles. No resident of this country can either.
As a libertarian purist, if you’ve received and spent Federal Reserve notes, if you’ve paid a tax, if you’ve driven on public roads, if you attended or sent your children to a public school, if you’ve dialed 9-1-1, if you’ve claimed unemployment, if you’ve watched television or seen a movie or turned on a radio, if you’ve flown, if you’ve bought a product produced and distributed under our American system of coercive regulations — if you’ve lived in this country, then you have supported institutions and policies which violate your sacred principles.
A common attack upon the integrity of Ayn Rand cites that she took Social Security and Medicare benefits. She was a hypocrite, critics charge, because she railed against such programs throughout her career. Missed in such criticism is acknowledgement of the fundamental difference between acting as an individual under the system in which you live and condoning the specific rights-violating policies and institutions which make up that system. Being philosophically opposed to the way things are does not create some obligation to act against your own interest in a futile attempt to keep your hands clean of the system.