Raucous Town Hall Meeting Symptom of Larger Unraveling?
By Staff News & Analysis - August 11, 2009

ABC's Steven Portnoy reports: There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school's auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats' health care reform plans is "manufactured." "I went to school in this school," a man named Bob told me. "I don't see anyone in this room that isn't from Mardela Springs right now." "We've been quiet too long," said a woman named Joan. They came to yell at their congressman, freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil, and they were surprised to hear that the "Congress in Your Corner" event to which they had been invited — by a robocall from Kratovil himself — was not to be a public airing of grievances, but instead an opportunity for private, one-on-one sessions with the freshman Democrat. – ABC

Dominant Social Theme: Town halls need analyses.

Free-Market Analysis: ABC has decided that town halls may be free of lobbyist influence. OK, that's good to know. We've wondered where the attendees for these town halls come from, too. But we've come to believe much of the initial impulse is free-market or libertarian, or just "plain joe." Sure, some may be rent-a-mob, but the scale, attendance and sincerity of the attendees as seen on youtube videos would seem to militate against a lobbying effort, or even several, which would have to be both vast and impassioned. The kind of sincerity shown in these meetings is hard to fake. The larger impulse seems genuine. In fact, it's likely been building for a long time.

This is an important issue. If the tea parties and town halls are merely an excrescence of the two party system, then the free-market dialogue either has not taken root yet or is being thwarted once again. If however they are a result of FA Hayek's "spontaneous order" (with initial help from libertarian congressman Ron Paul), then our analysis may include the liberating effect of technology – as we will explain, below. It becomes an important step toward more freedom and freer markets.

Let's elaborate just a little. A big problem for America (and eventually Europe) is the collision of the Internet with the political system. In America and Britain, the two parties – conservative and liberal – are statist. Participants in each wish to involve the state in various aspects of the body politic. Liberals are perhaps more obvious about it, but conservatives who believe in a full-on military-industrial complex including lots of overseas involvement, an active war on drugs at home, plus ever-expanding homeland security policing are no less involved with growing government than the opposition.

The trouble with Anglo-American politics generally, then, is that despite a government activist two-party system, many if not most Americans want limited government, fewer overseas military operations and more private sector opportunities. America is not Europe; the American culture is entrepreneurial and the American instinct is small-d democratic. How has the Internet interacted with these trends?

Bill Clinton was perhaps the first American Internet candidate, and the Internet, via Matt Drudge, was instrumental in puncturing the quasi-mythic aura that surrounded his presidency. George Bush was the first Republican president to experience the full force of the Internet. Bush left office with accusations swirling around him that he had so mishandled the presidency that the Republican party itself was jeopardized, certainly enfeebled. The controversies over the wars, 9/11 and its aftermath, and of the security apparatus that he constructed linger to this day – much of it still plays out on the Internet. Unlike in the past, controversies that are not resolved tend to reverberate online.

In our opinion, the cultural DNA of Americans is entrepreneurial and even private-sector oriented. Americans, having seen that Republicans were as statist and profligate, if not moreso, than Democrats, voted for Barack Obama based on his positioning as a reasonable, post-Internet candidate. Here was a young man who understood that Americans wanted certain kinds of change, and who seemed in his comments and approach to government that he was not a leviathan. But now that he has proven to be a formidably activist president, the backlash has begun. It will likely continue.

Where can Americans go? In the past, we posed the question as to what would happen to America once the electorate had experienced a full cycle of presidential politics, both Republican and Democratic, playing out over the Internet. We believed that once this had occurred, the entire right-left/conservative-liberal paradigm would begin to fragment. The American electorate would begin to see that neither part was anti-government and the great social compact forged during the past century – one based more on media myths than reality – would begin to collapse.

Have we reached this point? It is crucial – for those who want to understand fully the West's current political conversation – to try to determine whether the tea parties and town halls are spontaneous human action or an organized lobbying effort. If this movement is truly a citizens' affair and not a lobbyists pursuit, then it would seem we are at the beginning of a momentous change in Western sociopolitical affairs.


We have pointed out that 400-plus years ago, the Gutenberg press allowed bibles to be printed and read. For the first time readers could see that the Roman Catholic church was not being honest in its representations about what was in the bible. (You could not buy your way into heaven after all.) The result, after nearly a century of agitation, was the Reformation, the splintering of the church, the loss of royal credibility (and royal seats in some instances), the populating of the new world, two revolutions and a classical liberal manifesto that took root in America and continues to haunt the elites to this day.

Let us grant that the American tea parties are truly a mass movement of a spontaneous order. Let it be so and the next step has been taken in the Internet/Gutenberg evolution. The Internet has been around 20 years now and the dominant social themes that the monetary elite have floated to generate additional wealth and control are evaporating as did the Church's elaborations of the bible's content, post-Gutenberg. It will take longer, perhaps a lot longer, but the Hegelian model of Anglo-American politics is unraveling – when analyzed from this point of view.

In fact, seen from a technological timeline, the current American political debates become part of the unfolding reaction to information technology. This is why we were confident months ago when we offered up the observation that central banking was beginning to founder as a dominant social theme. We had no idea then that public approval ratings for the American Federal Reserve would come in under 30 percent (as they apparently did recently), but we try to observe the larger trends – as we have constructed them for this modest paper – and, yes, as you should, too, dear reader.

Is Barack Obama the elite's man in Washington? His haste may well be not so much to outrun his own popularity as to outrun the effects of the Internet. As this analysis was being written, word came that the president was urging unions and other Democratic constituents to attend town meetings to counteract the current crop of protestors. The violence level will likely escalate as a result.

But the larger trends remain unchanged. The health-care battle at this point seems as much of an indication as an issue. The American health care system is already socialized in large part and the health care model itself is partially controlled by pharmaceutical lobbying influences. So the import of the health-care fight has more to do with the spontaneous organization of the protests than with the underlying facts-as-they-are.

What's the real import? We think the monetary elite is fighting for its collective life. The Internet is gradually undermining each and every dominant social theme. Without the ability to promote its point of view seamlessly through the mainstream media, the monetary elite has few ways or reinforcing control or promoting a credible, globalist worldview. Even the central banking paradigm into which it has sunk so much time and effort, is threatened.

After Thoughts

We don't think the monetary elite can win against the liberating power of the Internet, at least not for the foreseeable future – the ramifications of which they apparently never expected, at least not to this degree. We think in our lifetimes we will see the monetary elite take a step backward as they did after the Gutenberg press. We think in our lifetimes we will see the remaking or outright crumbling of the European union, the quasi-renewal of the American republic, a less militaristic world and an economic system that may include a market based money standard. Of course all this sounds far-fetched. But not so far fetched as yesterday.

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