Partying our way out of the recession

Published On:
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
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The populist revolt is on.

On April 15, rebels will protest taxation without representation by destroying massive quantities of the East India Company’s imported tea. Only then will Parliament understand how its coercive tax on one of our favorite beverages has no solid basis.

All right, so the recent tea parties, where people have symbolically discarded bags of tea in water sources, aren’t exactly carbon copies of the original Boston Tea Party. But these tea parties — which began in February and will culminate with a large number of tea parties on tax day — do reflect something like the populist rage that inspired our Founding Fathers.

A number of conservatives have taken issue with the recent increases in federal spending, believing such actions will lead to further economic stagnation and massive debt that can only be countered by heavy taxation. They feel their voices haven’t been heard in Congress and wish to express their opposition to the actions that will invariably affect them.

A quick search of Facebook reveals that this tea party phenomenon is a large and growing trend. The site identifies 292 results to a search of “tea party protest;” one group claims more than 12,000 members. Conservative commentators like Glenn Beck have likewise hopped on the bandwagon, endorsing the tea parties.

With this growing support, there may be something to these tea party protests.

While we will not discover whether the government’s actions will straighten out our economy for many years, we do know a few things about what caused the economy to flop in the first place.

We all know that the economy came down from its highs because people stopped spending money. The housing market was unsustainable, built on frivolous and wasteful private spending; its bubble burst, and our wallets closed tight. Maybe government spending can get enough cash flowing to loosen those wallets, but until we start spending money again, the economy will stay in its funk.

That’s exactly why these tea-party protests are a godsend. As reported in an article on foxnews.com, online sellers are reporting sales of tea-party-related merchandise in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The article further claims that as people have purchased politically charged paraphernalia, they have provided as sort of “mini-stimulus” to the economy — not to mention all that money used to buy tea.

This got me thinking. If quickly spawned political protests can yield massive private spending, maybe we can the economy back on track through our politically charged social interactions. Maybe getting so upset with our neighbor’s political views and rhetoric will cause every American to buy shirts, buttons and stickers on cafepress.com, causing the economy to pick back up.

No? Politically motivated, flash-mob-related spending wouldn’t fix the economy?

Well, where else will we get our next period of economic growth? You mean there aren’t easy answers, and we need all the help we can get to build a sustainable economic model for future growth, or else the economy will continue to sink?

What are you, a socialist?

Brett would make a horrible economist. Reach him at blivingo@asu.edu.