An Interview with Peter Schwartz: Why Is The Tea Party ‘Extremist,’ But Democratic Support For Big Government ‘Moderate’?
1) Peter, first tell us about yourself and your education and experience.
My degree is in Journalism, from Syracuse University, and I’ve spent most of my career writing on political and philosophical issues. I’m the founding editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist (1979-1991), a periodical devoted to the defense of individual rights. I’m the author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America (ARI Press); editor/contributing author of Ayn Rand’s Return of the Primitive (Meridian); and contributing author of Ayn Rand’s The Voice of Reason (New American Library).
2) Now tell us about your relationship with the Ayn Rand organization.
I’m a retired Chairman of the Board of the Ayn Rand Institute–the pre-eminent organization for the dissemination of Ayn Rand’s ideas. I held that position from 1994 to 2005, and am now a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute.
3) Let’s do some global questions first- “Who , if anyone “ runs the organization that we call the TEA party?
The significance of the Tea Party lies in the ideas it represents, not in the particular people who run the organization(s). The Tea Party movement began as a protest against our growing welfare, or “entitlement,” state. Unfortunately, it has been far from consistent in its defense of the individual against government power, particularly on “social issues.”
There, some Tea Partiers want to bring religion into politics and to give the state greater power, such as by denying a woman the right to an abortion. But if the pro-individual rights element can prevail, the movement holds a great deal of promise.
4) I understand that TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already. While I personally feel that we are not as heavily taxed as other countries in Europe, I am concerned about wasteful spending in Washington. Does the TEA party have a legitimate beef or complaint?
Certainly. To the extent that its focus is on reining in the growth of government, the Tea Party is right. Government spending—which means: the range of government control over our lives—keeps expanding. “Wasteful spending” is a minor issue. Government’s function is to protect individual rights, through the police, the courts and the military; its function is not to redistribute wealth from some to others. Any action taken beyond the proper limits, from Fannie Mae to ObamaCare, is worse than “wasteful”—it is destructive. It destroys the individual’s right to his own property and his own life.
5) I don’t understand how anyone can refer to any movement as “extremist “ when we have had these Wall Street sit ins, and some violent confrontations in the past. Your thoughts?
As I noted in my Forbes op-ed, “extremism” is a nefarious pseudo-concept. It has no legitimate meaning, since it equates an ardent defender of freedom with an ardent defender of slavery. It is a “package-deal” designed to smear the pro-capitalist viewpoint by associating it with such abominations as Islamic terrorism. The term is not applied to the left—not even to the violent activities of the left—because its aim is to undermine capitalism. The motive of the package-dealers is to remove the idea of capitalism from political debate by replacing it in people’s minds with the fuzzy, disreputable notion of “extremism.” Whenever we encounter that term, we should repudiate it as a smear.
6) Peter, I hate to overgeneralize, but will do so, just for discussion here…..There seems to be “ democratic support for big government and some consider this moderate”. Does Obama speak for the Democratic Party or is it Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi? And in your mind, does this generalization hold true?
First of all, there is no virtue in a contextless “moderation.” One would not praise someone’s moderate commitment to, say, honesty or to freedom. Particularly when it comes to moral principles, we should admire an “extreme” commitment to them.
Second, it’s true that for many years Democrats have generally favored the expansion of government’s reach. Today’s Democratic Party, especially its leadership, is in lockstep with Obama in dragging the country leftward. But I’m no fan of the Republicans. Historically, the Democrats have fought for bigger government, while the Republicans have fought for somewhat less-bigger government. There is a good, pro-capitalist influence coming from the Tea Party movement, but even the most “radical” Republicans are calling only for slower growth in the size of government. Virtually no one is advocating a budget that would actually reduce federal spending or federal regulations from one year to the next.
7) Peter, you and I know about the word debt. We understand debt. You and I are intelligent enough to know about interest rates. Do you think the TEA Party, or the Democrats or even the Republicans understand the concepts of debt and interest?
Many understand it when it pertains to their own finances, but it loses its tie to reality when the debt is undertaken by government. Politicians don’t fully believe that the law of causality applies to government actions. They think that the government can always borrow more, or tax more, or spend more. However, it’s not debt that should concern us most—it’s total spending. High debt is just a consequence of high spending. When politicians want to hide the full cost of government actions, they resort to coverttaxation. That is, they incur deficits and rely on borrowing or on currency inflation to pay for what they are spending. But regardless of the method—and open taxation is the least harmful economically—the way to measure the extent of the damage government is inflicting upon us is by total spending. And that’s what must be slashed.
8) What work of Ayn Rand’s are you most aligned with in this regard?
I don’t know exactly what you mean by “aligned with,” but the work that most fundamentally presents her philosophy—and that most comprehensively deals with the social/political consequences of statist government—is Atlas Shrugged. Plus, it’s a stupendous novel. Those interested in her non-fiction books should read The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
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