For those who have an opportunity to speak at the Tea Party efforts, we offer the following as a guideline for remarks that you may wish to use. We are not suggesting that you read this, but rather that you take it as a presentation of essential ideas that you may wish to express.
On April 15, thousands of Americans will gather for modern day tea parties, proudly named after the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Like our revolutionary ancestors, we are protesting against growing government power, a government that increasingly oppresses its citizens instead of protecting them.
But what are we fighting for? Have we earned the right to call our protests by the same name the Founding Fathers used? Believe me, they understood exactly what they were fighting for. When those Bostonians boarded the cargo ship, Dartmouth, and hurled chests of tea into the ocean, they were not just mad about high taxes. In fact, the Tea Act that inspired the protest had actually lowered the tea tax on the colonies.
No, the colonists were driven by a certain view of the proper purpose of government, which the Tea Act repudiated. That view, which would reach its full expression in the Declaration of Independence, was that the role of government is to protect individual rights--to protect the sovereign individual’s right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
But over the past two centuries, the ideal of individual rights has all but disappeared from public discourse. In its absence has emerged today's massive regulatory-welfare state, which taxes away nearly half our income, tells us what medicines we can take, what kind of light bulbs to buy, and is rapidly consolidating control over America’s banks, insurance companies, and industrial giants like General Motors.
What happened? Why did we abandon the American ideal? Above all, because the ideal lacked a moral defense.
To uphold the individual's political right to pursue his own happiness, we must recognize the individual's moral right to pursue his own happiness. But just try and say such a thing, and the voices will come from all sides--that’s selfish. "It's selfish to want to plan for your own retirement--what about those who aren't responsible enough to save? It's selfish to oppose bailouts for struggling homebuyers--why should they have to move? It's selfish to earn and keep a lot of money for yourself--what about those struggling to make ends meet?"
And it's all true: the pursuit of happiness is selfish. That’s why you need the individual freedom of a capitalist system--to pursue your own interests, to act on your own judgment, to make your own life the best it can be. That’s why you need to crusade for individual rights, not just against the latest Washington power grab. To mount such a crusade requires more than protest slogans and picket signs. You must resolve to morally defend the individual's right to live for his own sake, not as a servant of society. So long as you are willing to concede that self-interest and the profit motive are immoral, and that self-sacrifice for the "common good" is a moral ideal, you will continue to see freedom diminish and prosperity decline.
In my judgment the only philosopher to provide such a moral defense of capitalism is Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. So I'll close with her words:
"The world crisis of today is a moral crisis--and nothing less than a moral revolution can resolve it: a moral revolution to sanction and complete the political achievement of the American revolution. . . . [You] must fight for capitalism, not as a 'practical' issue, not as an economic issue, but, with the most righteous pride, as a moral issue. That is what capitalism deserves, and nothing less will save it."