The fundamental flaw in Tea Party ideology is the false assumption that it is possible for individual members of a society to be free of control by its most powerful and influential leaders.
Voters only have one choice
Fortunately, our system of democracy, or republic if you prefer, allows the majority of society’s members to determine who the governing elite will be. As much as people may not like “government,” the only real choice voters have isn’t who represents big government vs. small government—it’s who represents good vs. bad government. In whose interests will they be governing and what will be the results?
Today’s classic example is Iraq. If its democratically elected government is unwilling or unable to govern effectively, then competing militia groups seize control and govern according to their own powers and desires. A nation in chaos is still a governed society—it’s just governed by the wrong people, for the wrong purposes and with disastrous consequences.
Our own federal government’s role in protecting the environment is another example of how a society is always controlled by its most powerful members. If our elected political leaders choose not to set minimum standards for the disposal of toxic wastes—that’s an act of government that can hurt all society. In effect, they choose to turn control of the environment over to the private leaders of the corporate world—and the business elite will then make environmental decisions that will serve their own special interests.
The historical record
The early history of child labor legislation also demonstrates the inevitability of government, and the fact that elites always determine society’s standards. When the federal government had no role in setting a minimum age for children working in factories, it empowered corporate executives to pit states against each other in attracting industry. States with the lowest minimum age automatically had a competitive edge over states with more humane standards.
One of the major keys to America’s economic success was the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The federal government established a national minimum wage of 29 cents per hour, time-and-a-half pay for over 40 hours a week, and prohibited children under 16 from working full-time, non-farm jobs. By setting these standards, it took some of the power away from corporate executives to blackmail states into setting lower standards, which then would lower the national norm.
Had the federal government not taken such action, it, in effect, would have given power to corporate executives to control (govern) those aspects of our society.
When critics cite terrible decisions of “big government,” they don’t prove the federal government is bad. They only prove that bad federal government is bad. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that NAFTA was a horrible mistake, and unregulated globalization has been a disaster for our country.