Tea Party Metaphysics

June 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

J.M. Bernstein, a professor of philosophy at the New School, has written a thought-provoking op-ed piece in the New York Times. His thesis, simply stated, is that recent events have demonstrated to many Americans the extent to which they depend upon the government to maintain their lifestyles, thus tearing down their illusions of self-sufficiency. The Tea Party movement, in Bernstein’s opinion, is the outrage of a population seeing its own vulnerability exposed. Bernstein writes:

The implicit bargain that many Americans struck with the state institutions supporting modern life is that they would be politically acceptable only to the degree to which they remained invisible, and that for all intents and purposes each citizen could continue to believe that she was sovereign over her life; she would, of course, pay taxes, use the roads and schools, receive Medicare and Social Security, but only so long as these could be perceived not as radical dependencies, but simply as the conditions for leading an autonomous and self-sufficient life. Recent events have left that bargain in tatters.

I have not decided yet whether I agree with his analysis, but it does neatly tie up some of the contradictory demands made by Tea Partiers (the best examples I can think of are those cited in the article, such as the demand to keep the government’s hands out of health care but also to maintain Medicare benifits).

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