Liberty Defense League Timothy Baldwin Romans 13

You Are Here: Articles Sunday, March 15, 2015

by Tim Baldwin

Part 2 addresses A Conservative Vision of Government sections, Introduction and The Anti-Government Party.


The section introduces the common notion that government’s size and role have been “at center stage of our national politics”—an obvious observation—and then states its thesis: conservatives must do more than assert what government should not do; it should articulate what government should do.

The article highlights what the TEA Party highlights: the harmful policies of the Obama administration—like, “$6 trillion in debt,” “economic challenges,” “extend[ing] the power of the federal government to an unprecedented degree,” and “federal power grabs.” It states that Republicans, which include TEA Partiers, have tried to “restrain and re-limit government,” “provided effective counterweight to presidential overreach,” “restrain[ed] spending since 2011,” and “prevent[ed] further leftward legislative leaps.”

It then sets up the remaining discussion by asking, “what is the proper and appropriate extent and purpose of that government?” It is an age-old question, on which hardly anyone or any group agrees completely. The article claims conservatives must do better answering the question.

Conservatives...have not done enough to answer this question…[S]uch a negative approach to the question…is not only electorally insufficient—it is unbecoming of conservatism and of the deep commitment that conservatives claim to the nation’s founding ideals.

This philosophical groundwork seems hardly a reason to boil conservative blood, but let’s move on.

The Anti-Government Party

This section likely turns the heat up for some TEA Partiers because it shows the errors of purists and opponents to virtually all things government. It shows that this philosophy is not what founded the United States or Republican Party, which the TEA Party uses.

The article describes that the “anti-government” fever is an “impulse,” or as the Founders put it, a passion. This impulse has caused, the article states, a “rhetoric zeal and indiscipline in which every reference to government is negative, disparaging, and denigrating.” Correctly stated, rhetoric zeal incites passion and indiscipline is demonstrated by TEA Partiers’ claim that “political parties are the problem” while they hold tightly onto all things “Tea PARTY.”

Emotional rhetoric and lack of discipline lead people to step outside reality and “justif[y] an apocalyptic narrative of American life.” They claim, “in the struggle to conserve our liberty, it is now or never!” The article is not without historical reference. After all, James Madison described the same kind of now-or-never purists in his day:

This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking. (FP 41.)

This description of some (though not all, of course) TEA Partiers is accurate. Though many TEA Partiers are sincere and well-meaning, there is a noticeable “anti-government” mentality among many. They demand their version of politics and the Constitution, and NOW! These are what I and others call political “purists” (see here and here).

To now-or-never purists, moderation and dispassionate reason are hardly their approach. They tend to conclude every issue or action on the extreme of the spectrum. They see anyone who does not join their version of the TEA Party as an enemy. On this score, the article rightly asserts that these people wrongly condemn other conservatives as having “joined the other side,” mainly because they do not agree with the other conservative’s approach to the same principles.

Still, the article empathizes with the frustration prevalent in the TEA Party but claims reality paints a different picture. It states that these now-or-never purists have “an incomplete understanding of the situation” or a “distortion of it”; meaning, they refuse to see the political “obstacle[s] to achieving a properly conservative governing vision that will command the respect and win the support of a majority of the American people.”

Truly, implementing conservative principles in extreme political is not simple and direct as some TEA Partiers demand. Experience shows that any lasting political shift takes much time to root itself into a large, complex society. John Stuart Mill keenly observed this in his book, On Socialism and Utilitarianism, stating,

[Englishmen] have seen so many changes made, from which, while only in prospect, vast expectations were entertained, both of evil and of good, while the results of either kind that actually followed seemed far short of what had been predicted…The predictions were often erroneous as to the suddenness of the effects, and sometimes even as to the kind of effect.

Mill continued,

Sudden effects in history are generally superficial. Causes which go deep down into the roots of future events produce the most serious parts of their effect only slowly, and have, therefore, time to become a part of the familiar order of things before general attention is called to the changes they are producing; since, when the changes do become evident, they are often not seen, by cursory observers, to be in any peculiar manner connected with the cause. John Stuart Mill, On Socialism and Utilitarianism, (Chicago, Morrill, Higgins, 1892), 9-10.

The article essentially adopts Mill’s description of permanent social change. Forcing change too quickly and sharply by factions never works and does not create the long-lasting effect supposed. Stability in a republic, as the Founders said, requires moderation and reason, not extremity and passion.


In summary, there are “anti-government” types in the TEA Party and they are taking politics outside the realm of reality and forcing America to accept their views on their demand in their time. It may be a passionate, daring approach, but it is not reasonable. TEA Partiers should not get angry about this reality; they should accept it. This would allow conservatives to unify their efforts to move the ship of state more quickly in a better direction, rather than continue to let the ship’s direction be commandeered by the principal enemy.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015 2:18 AM
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