(Note: Following are the edited remarks of Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center, at an April 15, 2009, TEA Party on the steps of the Midland County Courthouse.)
Some elite commentators, including Paul Krugman in The New York Times, have been making fun of you, and the TEA Parties happening around the country. They've compared what we're doing to peasant revolts. (I see some of you brought your pitchforks and torches. Be careful with those, don't hurt anybody.)
Just a few days ago they were ignoring the TEA Party phenomenon altogether. When they have to stop ignoring you and start making fun of you, you know you're making progress!
Are we taxed enough? In 1900, government at all levels took about 5 percent of what people produced. Today, it's close to 40 percent, an eight-fold increase. What will it be after we pay for the current binge of federal and state spending?
Don't we need government to bail out companies that employ people, some may ask? How many of the top 50 companies from 1900 still exist? Nobody bailed out those companies that failed, but the country grew stronger anyway.
Politicians are inflating a government bubble with taxpayers' money. That's right, a government bubble. This crisis was triggered by the bursting of a real estate and credit bubble. They would have us believe the cure for THOSE bubbles is a government bubble of taxes and debt that is so big, even they admit many taxpayers won't live long enough to pay their share. This is what happens when people lose control of their government.
But you already know there are serious problems with our government. The point is to fix those problems.
It starts by recognizing that good government is limited government. Larry Reed, my long-time colleague at the Mackinac Center, has said any government big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take everything you've got.
Government can get what it wants only by taking it from the governed. As government grows, the lives of the people shrink.
Defenders of big government say taxes have to be high to help people in need. But does anybody really believe that? Do you know anyone at all who, if he wanted to help the poor, would send a check to Washington, D.C.?
Every politician will tell you he or she has an idea for how to get us out of this economic mess. Here's the one question we should be asking each one: when your idea is in place, will government be bigger, or smaller, than it is now?
At my organization, the Mackinac Center, we're for limited government even when free markets aren't fashionable. We try to match the ideals this country was founded on to careful analysis of what the Legislature is doing and could be doing.
One thing we try to do is make it easy for citizens to monitor their elected officials, and see if their deeds match their words. The best way I know to do that is through our free newspaper, Capitol Confidential. We make no distinction at all between Republicans and Democrats. And neither should anyone when it comes to defending our freedom and limited government. You can subscribe to Capitol Confidential free by going to our Web site.
The current problems are no reason to be discouraged, because anytime liberty HAS won, it has won AGAINST the odds. Sam Adams of course was a great instigator of the Boston Tea Party. He said, "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
Thomas Jefferson said, "The natural order of things is for government to gain ground and liberty to yield."
And our own experience tells us that even when liberty gains, it's OFTEN two steps forward and one step back.
Individual liberty, and the economic freedom that goes hand-in-hand with it, has never had a golden age, even in this nation best known for freedom and free markets.
There has never been a time when free people did not have to defend their freedom. If freedom could be easily gained, or easily held, America would not have become the one last, best hope for liberty in the world for so long.
Our founders gave us a heritage of freedom. We must not give our posterity a heritage of debt and virtually limitless government. If we hold our elected officials accountable to their oaths and to the ideals of our founding, we won't consign our grandchildren to a country where no one any more knows the myth, of the echo, of the memory, of a people who once loved, cherished and fought for freedom.
Joseph G. Lehman is president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.