Thu, 09 Apr 2009 02:16:32 +0000 – By Peter RoffSenior Fellow, Institute for Liberty/Former Senior Political Writer, United Press International
In just about a week, following the footsteps of other social movements that have changed America, thousands of ordinary citizens will be coming out on Tax Day -- April 15 -- to voice their complaints that the government is, once again, too big and taxes, spends and borrows too much.
These modern day "Tea Partiers," while not dressed in American-Indian garb like some of their patriot forefathers had been, nonetheless have as their inspiration one of this continent's earliest but still best known acts of public disobedience: The Boston Tea Party of 1773.
The people who will take to the streets next week to protest the actions of the federal government have just as much right to complain as the people did in 1773.The tax, which was originally imposed to help keep revenues flowing to the British East India Company, which suffered economic hardship because of smuggled Dutch tea, eventually became a metaphor for the idea that people should not be taxed without their consent, which could be gained only through their own elected representatives in the national government. Today we refer to that as "taxation without representation" and, as Saturday morning's "Schoolhouse Rock" taught those of us of a certain vintage, "it's not fair."
But more than that, the tax on tea -- and other goods -- was for the benefit of the British crown and for British commercial interests, much in the same way that the federal bailout of certain financial firms, who got themselves into the mess they are in because of government interventions in the marketplace, have come to symbolize the way Washington favors Wall Street over Main Street.
Back in 1773 a group of colonists called the "Sons of Liberty," led by the firebrand Samuel Adams, marched out of a Boston tavern to dump chests of imported tea -- which could not be unloaded due to the public outcry over the tea tax -- over the sides of three British ships into Boston Harbor.
Adams and the Sons of Liberty risked arrest, and possible hanging, had they been caught. Today, their act would probably also be considered a crime against "Mother Earth" -- and would no doubt also prompt an investigation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as well as the FBI and the Boston Police. But the people who will take to the streets next week to protest the actions of the federal government have just as much right to complain as the people did in 1773.
The taxes that were imposed back then were felt, by King George III, his prime minister and many in the British Parliament to have been fair and just. After all, it was the British army that protected the colonies from invaders -- memories of the recently concluded French and Indian War still being fresh in the minds of many -- and it was only right that the colonists paid their fair share of the cost. And, in fact, the Conciliatory Resolution of 1775 ended taxation for any colony that choose to carry the burden of imperial defense and the upkeep of British officers on its own. But that was too little too late and the American Revolution began shortly thereafter.
No one in the modern Tea Party movement is arguing that the taxes, the spending and the borrowing that has thus far been the hallmark of Obama and the Congressional Democrats' plan for America amounts to taxation without representation. But they will argue that the larger principle, that the federal government's current largess is unfair is very much a matter for discussion. Why? Because Washington has obligated all of us, and our children, to pay the costs of cleaning up a mess largely created by government in the first place -- just as King George III looked to the colonies to help fund his global competition with the French monarchy. And, again just like King George III, Obama and the Democrats want to make us believe they are doing it for our own good and in our own best interests.
And, just like our forefathers in the Sons of Liberty, the metaphorical tea is headed straight to the bottom of the Harbor.
Peter Roff, a former senior writer at United Press International, is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom, an organization that advocates for educational freedom and reform.