How is it possible that millions and millions of people located in disparate places—each individual in possession of a unique perspective, particular goals and needs, and a personal knowledge of their community and circumstances—can come together in voluntary cooperation to create something far greater than any one individual could have achieved?
This was the question asked by Nobel economist Friedrich Hayek in his seminal critique of wannabe central planners. The question itself acknowledges that there are many things in an infinite sea of facts, data points, and bits of knowledge that you and I can’t possibly know. This humility—knowing that there is much you don’t know, is the basis of a political philosophy based on individual freedom. It’s the bottom-up approach.
The opposite, progressive mindset requires that someone be “in charge.” This top-down approach implicitly assumes that certain people know certainly, and can act to improve things based on the best data and a superior will to do better than free individuals could do for themselves. These special people just need the authoritative power of government behind them to succeed.
This pretense of knowing better has plagued all aspiring planners, from Karl Marx to John Maynard Keynes to our current chief executive. Barack Obama, when he out-guesses market processes, speaks with a great certainty.
“It’s… the right thing to do for our economy,” he claimed while standing in front of Solyndra on May 26, 2010. “Less than a year ago, we were standing on what was an empty lot. But through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations.” As everyone now knows, this particular “right thing to do” was exactly wrong, and this particular solar panel manufacturer filed for bankruptcy just a few months after Obama spoke at the government-financed facility.
The American enterprise grew exceptional based on individual freedom, decentralized knowledge, and accountable, constitutionally limited government. But our senior management in Washington has abandoned the founders’ plan and systematically replaced the dispersed genius of America with top down dictates and expensive schemes designed to protect the privileged positions of politicians and insiders.
Top down, or bottom up? This is the clash that has given birth to the shareholder uprising known as the Tea Party, a grassroots takeover powered by freedom and an online world that has become more democratized, more personal, more about you.
People now get their information from a multitude of competing sources from their RSS feed. We connect on social media creating communities made up of millions of like-minded friends. We don’t need three networks or two political parties to tell us what to think or do anymore. Freedom is “trending,” as they say on Twitter.
Except government. From Athens, Greece to Washington, D.C., insolvency and old welfare state habits are being propped up with other people’s money and money that is being created, out of thin air, by central banks.
Culpable for expansive and fanciful new product lines, out of control expenditures, declining revenue and a balance sheet dominated by red ink, someone in government should be fired. Management should be shaken up. But if you want to increase accountability, reduce costs, and rein in the power of Washington, the political elites will attempt to block you at every turn. You will be scorned, smeared, kicked out of the halls of power. You may even get audited.
Conversely, if you want to grow the confiscatory power of government, ala Occupy Wall Street, the political establishment will applaud you, defend your First Amendment rights as sacrosanct, and bend over backward to accommodate even your worst behavior. It’s all a means to an end.
Things have only become “hostile” because the current management regime likes things just the way they are. The mere presence of citizens with better ideas and the will to implement them is viewed as a hostile act.
Entrenched management has circled the wagons, and will do whatever it takes to hold their privileged positions. But the genie is out of the bottle.
As much as incumbent managers and CEOs might try, there is no returning to the old politics of closed systems. Just ask former Democratic House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, who was defeated by Republican upstart Mick Mulvaney in November 2010. Better yet, ask former Republican Senator-for-Life Dick Lugar, recently deposed by Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock.
The liberalization of political markets through easy to access information and social media—and the narrowing of the gap between concentrated benefits and dispersed costs via the Internet—has disintermediated politics, cutting out middle men. If you believe in freedom and government accountability, then this is a fundamentally good thing for the human condition and poses a permanent threat to tyrannical government.
After all, our nation has always been about the autonomy of the shareholders with an unalienable property right in their shares of the company.
The Tea Party ethos is nothing new. It simply reflects the bottom-up philosophy of our founding.
Bernard Bailyn, author of "The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution," describes “this defiance, this refusal to truckle, this distrust of all authority, political or social…” that is American-born. Only then could our institutions “express human aspirations, not crush them.”
A hostile takeover can break up the privileged collusion of Washington insiders – the political class, the crony capitalists, the government employees-for-life, the moochers and the looters. We can return power from self-appointed “experts” back to the people. But no one is going to do it for you. So what are you going to do to take our county back?
Matt Kibbe is the president of FreedomWorks and the author of "Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America," released this month by HarperCollins.