The Tea Partiers and other anti-state radicals are not entirely wrong to warn about the potential of the state to repress freedom or to slow down or subvert economic growth. Clearly, for example, there are times when the best thing the state can do to help an economy is to get out of the way. However, by overlooking the role of the state in ensuring these freedoms and facilitating economic development these radicals doom themselves to a sophomoric understanding of political and economic realities and to half-baked ideas about political and economic solutions. Moreover by claiming the mantle of the founding fathers in their anti-government crusade they badly and foolishly misread history and some of the most basic lessons from the early years of our country.
Democracy works best when people in society disagree on a range of issues. If one issue, an obvious example of this would be ethnicity, dominates in a country, than election outcomes will be the same each time and the government will either be paralyzed or permanent winners and permanent losers will emerge. When this happens, democracy falters because, in the former case, the state is immobilized, and in the latter case, the permanent losers see no democratic way out of their condition. Iraq, Bosnia and Lebanon are all examples of countries where ethnic identity has held sway as the major issue which determines how people vote.