The social theorist Eric Hoffer once wrote, in a quote that seems to have been punched up in the repeating, something to the effect that every political movement starts out as a cause, turns into a business, and eventually devolves into a racket. It seems that the tea party movement is headed that way with remarkable alacrity. David Weigel of the Washington Independent tells us:
This morning, I asked whether Sarah Palin's decision to speak at the Tea Party National Convention -- while eschewing the much higher-profile Conservative Political Action Conference -- had anything to with money. Conservative blogger Dan Riehl is reporting, based on "forwarded communications," that Palin is making at least $75,000 and at most $100,000 for her speech. Tickets for the speech alone are going for $349 -- tickets for the whole convention are $549.
I can't say I'm particularly surprised. There are plainly a lot of people, Palin among them, who see the tea baggers not just as a political movement but as a highly motivated customer base. It's not necessarily a contradiction. As fervent advocates of the free market, the faithful ought to be perfectly happy to see their leaders squeezing every last dollar they can from them. If the convention is sparsely attended, well then the market has issued its verdict, and the price was too high. If it sells out, then that just means they should have charged more.