Dick Armey: Tea Pot “Historian”

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    Former Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) left Congress when he no longer could run things as majority leader in the House of Representatives. (That sexual harassment charge was before he went to Congress.) Then, he became a highly-paid lobbyist in Washington until he was asked to leave because his firm was lobbying for health care reform at the same time that Armey, through his right-wing group FreedomWorks, was helping organize last August’s “spontaneous” yelling matches against reform at those so-called “town hall meetings.”

    Armey is always off the wall, but he is beyond absurd when he re-writes American history to fit his preconceived, right-wing notions. Recently, Armey contended that the people who settled Jamestown in 1607 were socialists and that their ideology almost doomed them.

    “Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow,” he said in a speech on March 15 at the National Press Club.

    No, the settlement of Jamestown was pure capitalism in action.

    Here’s a little history lesson for former college professor Armey, who was an economics major and should know about the Virginia Company since it was the first American business venture owned by stock holders.

    James I, the king of England at the time, gave a private proprietorship to the Virginia Company, a joint stock venture. The original people funding the project sold shares to other investors, promising that a profit would be made from the raw materials that would be exported to England and from ownership of the land.

    I suppose that Dick Armey might have been referring to the fact that basic commodities, which had been purchased in England, were held in a common storeroom at the Jamestown fort. However, I’m just groping for some rationale for his wacky mental processes.

    The “Starving Time” of 1609-1610 wasn’t caused by “socialism.” It was the result of the first settlers not knowing how to farm, coupled with meager hunting available on Jamestown Island. Add a  growing conflict with the Powhatan Indians and rampant disease and you have the recipe for the high mortality of that harsh winter.

    In that same speech, Armey stated that the tea party people and conservatives like him “cherish America,” while Democrats and the news media don’t because they haven’t read the Federalist Papers, which according to Armey advocate for a small, weak federal government.

    Asked by a member of audience how the Federalist Papers could be considered a guide to tea party principles when the majority of them were written by Alexander Hamilton, widely regarded as an advocate of a powerful central government, Armey answered by making up more stuff.

    “Widely regarded by whom?” Armey asked. “Today’s modern, ill-informed political science professors? I just doubt that was the case, in fact, about Hamilton.”

    I suppose Armey, when he majored in economics, didn’t study anything about the first Secretary of the Treasury, either.

    As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton advocated for the election of a president and senators who would serve for life and for state governors to be appointed by the federal government. Such views prompted James Madison to say that Hamilton was a monarchist sympathizer. So, either Armey and the Tea party rabble rousers support a massive increase in the influence of the central government, or Dick Armey doesn’t know what he is talking about. I’ll bet on the latter.

    As someone once said, “You have a right to hold whatever opinion you wish, but you don’t have the right to invent facts.”

    • TomPaine

      no basic understanding of history, including American Economic History; One that immediately comes to mind is  Thomas Sowell!