Deep divisions notwithstanding, there are a number of principles that unite the movement. The most important of them is a devotion to subsidiarity, which holds that power should rest as close to ordinary people as possible. In practice, this leads Tea Party conservatives to favor voluntary cooperation among free individuals over local government, local government over state government, and state government over the federal government. Teatopia would in some respects look much like our own America, only the contrasts would be heightened. California and New York, with their dense populations and liberal electorates, would have even bigger state governments that provide universal pre-K, a public option for health insurance, and generous funding for mass transit. They might even have their own immigration policies, which would be more welcoming toward immigrants than the policies the country as a whole would accept.
More conservative states, meanwhile, would compete to go furthest and fastest in abandoning industrial-era government. Traditional urban school districts would become charter districts, in which district officials would provide limited oversight while autonomous networks of charter schools would make the decisions about how schools are run day-to-day. Parents would be given K–12 spending accounts, which could be spent on the services provided by local public schools and on a range of other educational services, from online tutoring to apprenticeships designed to provide young people with marketable skills.
Rather than use sequestration to trim waste, the Obama administration has viewed the deadline—and the Republican desire to curtail spending—as an assault on big government. If it’s a choice between defending big government and hurting the individual, President Obama appears much more inclined to punish the individual, hoping that a backlash against government-instigated inconvenience will lead Republicans to cave.
Take Eddie Leroy Anderson, a retired logger from Idaho whose only crime was loaning his son “some tools to dig for arrowheads near a favorite campground of theirs,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Anderson and his son found no arrowheads, but because they were unknowingly on federal land at the time they were judged to be in violation of an obscure Carter-era law called the Archaeological Resources Protection Act.
The government showed no mercy. Wendy Olson, the Obama appointee prosecuting the case, saw to it that father and son were fined $1,500 apiece and each sentenced to a year’s probation. “Folks do need to pay attention to where they are,” she said.
Statutory law in America has expanded to the point that government’s primary activity is no longer to protect, preserve and defend our lives, liberty and property, but rather to stalk and entrap normal American citizens doing everyday things.
After identifying three federal offenses in the U.S. Constitution — treason, piracy and counterfeiting — the federal government left most matters of law enforcement to the states. By the time President Obama took office in 2009, however, there were more than 4,500 federal criminal statutes on the books.
“Too many people in Washington seem to think that the more laws Congress enacts, the better the job performance of the policymakers,” Lynch notes. “That’s twisted.”
“I like seeing people with their children, because they have their special bond, and that’s really sweet, but it’s not something I look at for myself,” says Tiffany Jordan, a lively 30-year-old freelance wardrobe stylist who lives in Queens in a rent-stabilized apartment and dates a man who “practically lives there.”
Jordan and her friends are part of a rising tide. Postfamilial America is in ascendancy as the fertility rate among women has plummeted, since the 2008 economic crisis and the Great Recession that followed, to its lowest level since reliable numbers were first kept in 1920. That downturn has put the U.S. fertility rate increasingly in line with those in other developed economies—suggesting that even if the economy rebounds, the birthrate may not. For many individual women considering their own lives and careers, children have become a choice, rather than an inevitable milestone—and one that comes with more costs than benefits.
“I don’t know if that’s selfish,” says Jordan, the daughter of an Ecuadoran and an Ohioan who grew up in the South Bronx, explaining her reasons for a decision increasingly common among women across the developed world, where more than half of the world’s population is now reproducing at below the replacement rate. “I feel like my life is not stable enough, and I don’t think I necessarily want it to be … Kids, they change your entire life. That’s the name of the game. And that’s not something I’m interested in doing.”