The recent craze among the Left for referring to the Tea Party as “hostage takers” grows ever more curious as the metaphor is examined. Who are the “hostages” supposed to be?
Some who used the phrase, especially political pundits, meant to imply that Republican congressional representatives were taken “hostage” by the demands of the Tea Party. In other words, a group of voters demanded politicians follow a certain course of action, or risk losing their votes. How awful!
To make this otherwise unexceptional description of ordinary democracy seem frightening, it was implied that the Tea Party took Republicans “hostage” by punching far above their weight, and wielding influence disproportionate to their numbers. Not only is that demonstrably false, but the media elites leveling the charge are a far better example of a small, insular, out-of-touch group exerting massive political influence. Why aren’t the editorial boards of liberal newspapers ever described as “terrorists” taking “hostages?”
The more virulent form of the “hostage” smear painted conservatives and Republicans in general as taking America itself hostage, by seeking to cut government spending. That’s a puzzling line of attack for liberals, as it paints their dependent constituents as helpless prisoners, shackled by their dependency on deficit-fueled Big Government social programs and wealth redistribution. Those who push for smaller government are therefore portrayed as threatening to strangle the dependency class with its own chains.
A system that turns millions of people into pawns it can use during budget-cutting games is intrinsically corrupt. The hostages were taken a long time ago.
How can the people who demand greater economic freedom be portrayed as oppressors? Because they’re supposedly trying to evade their obligations to the dependency class, and get out of “paying their fair share,” to use the nauseating phrase President Obama has latched onto. Greater freedom for tax payers would be seized from tax consumers, in an act of terrorism against the sacred machinery of redistribution.
This mindset flows from the fundamental leftist misunderstanding of freedom. They view the essence of freedom as action. It’s the intangible warrant to do whatever you want to do. The government’s increasing responsibility for providing material needs makes people more “free” to do as they please. This is one of the reasons liberals feel punitive taxation against wealthier people is justified. Even if huge chunks of their income are stripped away, they’ve still got plenty of funds to indulge their desires. They remain more “free” than lower-class people who can’t afford to pursue their dreams.
The vast network of regulations and mandates necessary to keep the redistributive State humming along does not trouble modern liberals, because they address material affairs, and materialism is seen as bondage. It’s no coincidence that so much popular fiction portrays material concerns and consumerism as soul-deadening quagmires. It’s easy to scoff at consumerism when you’re several generations removed from a world where most people had to toil at back-breaking labor just to put food on the table.
In reality, freedom is property. Every form of collectivism, from fascism to socialism, is an offense against property rights. The early philosophers of socialism railed bitterly against the private ownership of property. They hated the notion of a middle class with independence secured through ownership.
The perilous financial situation of the United States government illustrates how closely private property rights are connected to all other forms of liberty. The less absolute your rights of ownership over your land, labor, and fortune become, the more easily the other rights can be dismissed at the convenience of the State. The degree of private ownership in America is the only thing that has really been “compromised” over the past century, and no matter how much of it our citizens surrender, it never seems to be enough.
Now we are told that we have no choice but to allow the State to become larger, spending and borrowing more as it extends its control over our lives. Those who disagree are denounced as “terrorists.” Only the greatest political victory in American history, won over the course of years, could possibly seat a government that might significantly reduce its demands upon us… and no one would describe that level of victory as a sure thing. How “free” does that knowledge make you feel?
In a nation where the government fully respected private ownership, the notion of citizens becoming “hostages” to federal budget cuts would be laughable, rather than insulting. Freedom is not something to be granted, rationed, allocated, or redistributed. It is not won or lost in an election. Freedom is something you own.