A libertarian case for Hillary Clinton

I have abstained from commenting on the American presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (sorry Rick) for so long because I just wasn’t very interested in it. I’m still not that interested in it, but the topic has come up quite a bit lately here at NOL so I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

First, though, I thought I’d use up a couple of paragraphs to explain why I don’t really follow American presidential elections, even though most intelligent people, in most parts of the world, do. American presidents simply don’t have a lot of power in domestic American politics. Congress controls the purse strings, makes the laws, and, in the case of the House of Representatives at least, is closer to the People than is the President. The Supreme Court is in charge of deciding which laws are good and which are not, and in some cases even has the power to create laws where Congress or the People simply aren’t getting the job done (Proposition 8 in California comes to mind). To me, that makes the executive branch the most boring branch of government.

The one area in American politics where the head of the executive branch does have a lot of leeway, foreign policy, is one area where I’m not particularly worried about either candidate. I’m not worried because both, despite holding views of the world I strongly disagree with, are not advocating anything radical or unpredictable. I’d rather have a presidential candidate advocate the same old garbage of getting in Russia’s face and keeping troops in South Korea because that way I know they’re ignorant and, more importantly, I know they know they’re ignorant on such matters because they defer to the Washington Consensus.

Libertarians don’t like statists and we don’t like statist policies. Some of us don’t even think voting is worth the effort (or even a good idea). I think there is a case to be made, though, for Libertarians and libertarians to get out and vote this fall for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. My case rests on 3 hugely important facts (at least to libertarians and Libertarians).

Fact #1: Thanks to the recent wikileaks revelations, we know for sure that Hillary Clinton is in favor of free trade. This is THE most important reason to vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall. Imagine if the United States, led by Trump’s isolationism, were to begin breaking its trade agreements with the rest of the world. Yikes. Free trade has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last 30 years, but because the majority of beneficiaries to trade liberalization have happened to not be American citizens, demagoguery ensues. I understand that Clinton has expressed skepticism in US free trade agreements on the campaign trail, but when you’re in a party that is vying for potential voters who feel they have been hurt by free trade, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Regardless of what Clinton says to the masses, her record on free trade while holding political offices is impressive (a ‘No’ vote on CAFTA notwithstanding). Free trade, or trade liberalization, is one of the fundamental tenets of libertarianism. Individual liberty cannot be realized or even partly realized without markets that are free from the constraints of governments and the factions that manipulate them. Donald Trump, like Bernie Sanders, wants to reverse decades of trade liberalization and the benefits that such a policy has bestowed upon humanity.

(Digression: Libertarians and libertarians are so adamant about free trade not only because it loosens the grip of the state over peoples’ lives, but also because it makes everybody – not just fellow countrymen – better off. When libertarians and Libertarians hear protectionist sentiments from the political class, you will often see or hear us point out that the Great Depression of the 1930s was hastened not only because of central banking policies but also because of the isolationist tariffs that Congress threw up as a response to the economic downturn caused by the new central bank’s policies. Free trade is a BFD.)

Fact #2: Hillary Clinton is much more individualist than Donald Trump. Women’s rights is an individualist issue, and always has been, even though Clinton has made a mockery of the historical movement by playing the “gender card” and defending (and pledging to expand) subsidies in the name of women’s rights. Trump wants to “make America great again,” but Hillary just wants your vote, any way she can get it. If that ain’t individualist, I don’t know what is.

Hillary Clinton is not a racist, either. She marched against The State’s oppression of black Americans in the South and against The State’s discrimination against black Americans in the rest of the country throughout the 1960s. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think The Donald is a racist. Businessmen rarely are, for reasons that should be obvious to any fair-minded person, but his rhetoric on race is absolutely toxic, and he knows it. His deplorable actions bring to mind a certain F-word I won’t mention here.)

Trump may or not be a racist – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt – but I don’t know for sure. Clinton is definitely not a racist.

Fact #3: Hillary Clinton is a lawyer and she knows how our government is supposed to work (even if she doesn’t like it). One could make the case that Trump knows how our federal system of government works, too, given his braggadocio about buying off politicians, but his is a vulgar understanding of what is, after all, a magnificent example of compromise and diplomacy over our more primal urges. Lawyers make better politicians than businessmen. As Alexis de Tocqueville remarked way back in his 1831 ethnography of the United States:

“the authority [Americans] have entrusted to members of the legal profession, and the influence which these individuals exercise in the Government, is the most powerful existing security against the excesses of democracy […] When the American people is intoxicated by passion, or carried away by the impetuosity of its ideas, it is checked and stopped by the almost invisible influence of its legal counsellors, who secretly oppose their aristocratic propensities to its democratic instincts, their superstitious attachment to what is antique to its love of novelty, their narrow views to its immense designs, and their habitual procrastination to its ardent impatience.”

Lawyers, Tocqueville observed, make up a sort of informal aristocracy in America because their training in the field of law requires them to have a deep respect for precedent and “a taste and a reverence for what is old.” Businessmen are not used to the clumsy, inefficient coalition-building necessary for good governance. That’s why businessman George W Bush was such a failure and attorney Bill Clinton was such a success. Any good libertarian needs to acknowledge the benefits that come from specialization and the division of labor. Any really good libertarian, the kind that has actually read a little bit of FA Hayek’s work, knows that change in the political and institutional arena needs to be done slowly, and preferably through the legal system (no matter how imperfect it may be).

I know all about the bad stuff that Hillary has supported and voted for in the past (especially on foreign policy, and even more especially on foreign policy in Africa). I get it. I really do. But Donald Trump represents a very nasty strain of thought that has swept into power of the country’s Right-leaning political party. His nationalism is antithetical to libertarianism in a way that Clinton’s typical corruption and condescension is not: libertarianism has a long history in this country of dealing with Clinton-esque figures. The American polity was forged by consensus and thus has recourse, perhaps more so than any other presidential system, to constrain exactly this type of persona. This persona is egotistical and out for personal glory and prestige, but libertarians, progressives, conservatives, and others here in the United States have institutions and networks that were created specifically for presidencies run by people like Clinton.

We’re small in number, too small to have a significant impact if we all voted for Clinton, but we have an outsized impact in the realm of ideas and policy. Get behind Clinton in any way that you can, because more of the same ain’t all that bad.

16 thoughts on “A libertarian case for Hillary Clinton

  1. Well, Brandon, I take all your points on board, and normally, I’d agree. The problem as I see it is that the executive has gotten out of hand. Hillary will be the worse for it, most of it is based in identity politics, which is a scourge of its own. But with Hillary, I doubt we will really find out what’s going on.

    So reluctantly, because of the hatred Washington and the press has for him, I’d have to go with Trump. That said, we must simply do better than either of them.

    • All your points are good, NEO.

      You are right to point out that the executive branch has too much power in domestic politics, but this is something that will revert back to “normal” soon, regardless of who is running the executive branch. Lawsuits and legislation are working their way through the system to rectify the terrible situation we find ourselves in thanks to the wars on terror and drugs.

      The media’s hatred for Trump is also a great point, and one that Jacques has been focusing on (as I’m sure you know), but it’s not as bad as you think. To give you an example of why I think this, a number of my friends here in Austin – automatic Bernie supporters – have watched the debates between Clinton and The Donald and realized the unfair nature of the debates. The can see quite clearly that The Donald is being teamed up on by Clinton and the Leftist press. Even though they don’t like The Donald, and won’t vote for him, they can see through the bullshit that is the mainstream media. This will have far-reaching and ultimately good effects on our civil society and our unique form of democracy in the long run. For now, though, we’re still stuck with what we see on television.

    • I don’t have good enough contacts to have heard that, but it doesn’t surprise me. Bernie got steamrolled as well, in a fair election I think he would have won the nomination, but then Trump wouldn’t have. I expect we’ll survive either, but we shouldn’t have too. Not sure what to do about the media, but something needs to change.

      Sad that Johnson wasn’t a better Libertarian (and candidate). It should have been a great year for that Party.

  2. “So reluctantly, because of the hatred Washington and the press has for him, I’d have to go with Trump.”

    Vote for the most widely reviled. Haven’t seen that one before. I’ve seen choosing the lesser of two evils but choosing the greater of two evils is novel.

  3. — Any really good libertarian, the kind that has actually read a little bit of FA Hayek’s work, knows that change in the political and institutional arena needs to be done slowly, and preferably through the legal system (no matter how imperfect it may be). —

    This is exactly what those anti-establishment “libertarians” and “conservatives” need to understand. Since when libertarianism and free market conservatives became in favour of disrupting the establishment as an end in itself without a clear plan for the future?

    My reasons of why Clinton, when compared to Trump is better:

    1. Your first point. She is for free trade, open markets, and more freedom of movement. She also has called to resist protectionism (very cleverly predicting the sentiment coming from the extreme left and the extreme right). Don’t forget that she is a former Goldwater Girl (and has admitted of being attracted to conservative ideal when young). She was also The First Lady during the Presidency of Bill the Triangulator.

    2. She will be good for the Republican party in the sense that it will be easier to oppose anti-market, anti-freedom policy if it comes from the opponent (Democratic) Party. If those anti-market, anti-freedom policies are proposed by a Republican a lot of the R members of Congress will not oppose them. Let’s not forget that a great part of the R voter base doesn’t care about free trade, free markets, Constitutionalism or Limited Government. They just want the government to work for them. (As polls show, these very people – that are the most ardent supporters of Trump – are low-skilled workers without college degree.)

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