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Rousseau at the Tea Party

David Brooks sees a parallel between the New Left and the Tea Party movement and cites Rousseau in support of this dubious claim. 

[T]he core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. "Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains," is how Rousseau put it.
That is truer of the New Left than of the Tea Party folks.  Both movements have their flakes and nuts, but the New Left's openness to or even embrace of Marx shows how radical they were--and they remain in power, in think-tanks and universities.  Tea Partiers show far more Locke than Rousseau (and not just Lock and Load, either).  That is, they are closer to what actually reflects human nature.  There is no utopianism here, rather anti-utopianism.

The Tea Partiers have a sharper edge (and perhaps duller minds) than Brooks would care for, and he somehow denies they hold to a conservatism that believes in original sin and the institutions of civilization.  He contends that "They don't seek to form a counter-establishment because they don't believe in establishments or in authority structures.... They believe in mass action and the politics of barricades, not in structure and organization."

Brooks misses their point.  The Tea Party folks have rather discovered they live in the leviathan of centralized administration Tocqueville predicted.  They object to being treated as a herd with a shepherd ordering them about.  And unlike even the astute Tocqueville and our intellectual elites they take the principles of the Declaration of Independence seriously.

Categories > Conservatism

Discussions - 4 Comments

I'm glad Brooks wrote this piece. It permits us, at long last, to stop wondering what Brooks is. He is plainly unhinged.

If I were teaching a writing course, I would hold this piece up as an example of what can happen when you latch onto your conclusion first, and only then assemble premises to support it.

I wonder how a once-sensible conservative came to this sad state. As Mrs. Poyser said in Adam Bede, "It's ill guessing what the
bats are flying after."

The Left, new and old, understands itself ALWAYS as radical, as in attacking the root, starting over, year zero, etc. The Tea Party membership, by contrast sees itself as reformers, as in a return to form. In this case, a return to the form described and prescribed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What these two groups currently share, and what I suspect Brooks is misinterpreting, is zeal, if not outright anger. But even all anger is not the same. There is the anger of an adolescent temper tantrum, and there is the anger of righteous indignation. But I bet Brooks gets these wrong too.

Predatory Lending is a major contributor to the economic turmoil we are currently experiencing.

Here is an example of what I am talking about:
Scott Veerkamp / Predatory Lending (Franklin Township School Board Member.)

Please review this information from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley regarding deceptive lending practices:
"Steering payments were made to brokers who enticed unsuspecting homeowners into deceptive and expensive mortgages. These secret bonus payments, often called Yield Spread Premiums, turned home mortgages into a SCAM."

The Center for Responsible Lending says YSP "steals equity from struggling families."
1. Scott collected nearly $10,000 on two separate mortgages using YSP and junk fees. 2. This is an average of $5,000 per loan. 3. The median value of the properties was $135,000. 4. Clearly, this type of lending represents a major ripoff for consumers.

http://merkley.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=A09C6A80-537A-4EB1-83C5-31925F046B6F

Ken, good post. This was one of Brooks's more pseudo-intellectual columns.

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