«IT IS not hard, if you really try, to find good things to say about America’s tea-partiers. They are not French, for a start. France’s new revolutionaries, those who have been raising Cain over Nicolas Sarkozy’s modest proposal to raise the age of retirement by two years, appear to believe that public money is printed in heaven and will rain down for ever like manna to pay for pensions, welfare, medical care and impenetrable avant-garde movies. America’s tea-partiers are the opposite: they exhale fiscal probity through every pore. In their waking hours, and in bed at night, they are wracked by anxiety. How is a profligate America to cut borrowing, balance the budget and ensure that its billowing deficit will not place an unbearable burden on future generations?
The tea-partiers do not just have less selfish motives than the pampered French. They also have better manners. Let the French block roads and set things on fire: among tea-partiers it is a point of pride that their large but orderly rallies leave barely a crumpled candy wrapper behind them. Though some wear tricorn hats, and the movement takes its name from the Boston Tea Party, tea-partiers are peaceful folk. They take the view that one revolution was enough, and that the one America had in the 18th century established a constitution and form of democracy so near to perfect that they can get what they want without taking to the streets and just by working within the rules.
Not French, not fabricated and not as flaky as their detractors aver: these are the positives. Another one: in how many other countries would a powerful populist movement demand less of government, rather than endlessly and expensively more? Much of what is exceptional about America is its ideology of small government, free enterprise and self reliance. If that is what the tea-party movement is for, more power to its elbow.»
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