When Team Loyalty Skews Moral Logic

Two ships in a harbor, one in the distance. On board, men stripped to the waist and wearing feathers in their hair throw crates of tea overboard. A large crowd, mostly men, stands on the dock, waving hats and cheering. A few people wave their hats from windows in a nearby building.

It is interesting to ask Americans whether they think the Boston Tea Party was a morally acceptable act. This was a polarizing question for the contemporaries of the time — Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin had starkly opposing views. For those who may not recall the details, the Wikipedia entry makes good reading. It was an act of high-dollar, coordinated, mob-driven vandalism, conducted by citizens dressed up like minorities/indigenous peoples. But because they were Americans (i.e., the home team), and because of their politics, many of my countrymen give this bit of anarchy a pass, and indeed hail the Tea Partiers as heroes to be emulated.

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