The Tea Partyers’ fiery hatred of redistribution and resentment of societal “leeches” is certainly real, but it’s apparent at this late date that most self-identified Tea Party supporters are libertarians in sound bite form only, and certainly no supporters of “liberty” as broadly defined by Reason magazine and the Cato Institute. The Tea Parties believe “liberty” means “not being governed by Democrats” – a sentiment most libertarians would probably agree with – but they don’t seem to get the whole “live and let live” part of the deal.
Andrew Sullivan documented two examples of Tea Party illiberalism earlier this week. First of all, polling reveals that support for gay marriage is lower among Tea Partyers than among almost any group besides “conservative Republicans.” Fifty-two percent of Tea Partyers don’t support gay marriage or civil unions. That is not really the position of actual libertarian-leaning Republicans, let alone freewheeling libertarians.
If ending the disastrous, expensive, immoral and racist drug war gets booed at a Tea Party rally in liberty-loving New Mexico, there is absolutely nothing remotely libertarian about the movement besides a visceral hatred of taxes and the conviction that undeserving Others are benefiting from them.
If the goal of both the Tea Parties and most D.C. libertarian institutions is simply to get Republicans elected, then no harm, no foul. If that’s the case, the libertarians are almost embracing a traditional Republican tactic: ride into Washington with the support of the angry reactionaries, then govern on behalf of the money.
This is the most common form of Libertarianism, what I call Bullshit-Libertarianism. A belief in government big enough to help me but too small to help you and an opposition to socialism that is defined as when government helps someone else.