Media will finally start doing its job after 8 years of hanging all over Obama’s nuts.
The GOP has control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress.
The ugly part is over. Trump won’t be as bad as the Left wants him to be (the Left might even like his protectionism), but he’ll still be plenty bad by libertarian standards. We’ve got a lot of work to do, if we’re to make his job as president as hard as possible.
Have a good day!
Predictably, Republican candidates are showcasing tax plans offering goodies for everybody. When some spoilsport has the nerve to point out the worsening deficit that would result, the most common retort is that the tax cut will spur economic growth enough to overcome the higher deficit. Some day. Somehow.
Of course lower tax rates will spur growth so that the loss in tax revenue will be less than proportional to the cut in tax rates. But it is foolish to think that we’re ensconced on the far side of the Laffer curve, for those who know that phrase, which simply means that tax rates are so high that cuts will produce higher revenue.
What about the claim that a flat tax is fairer than the graduated rates we have now? Perhaps, but how does one judge the fairness of any tax? The usual answer is that taxes should be based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay. But that is a nebulous concept at best. It means that somehow we figure out how much income is necessary and how much is up for grabs by politicians Do we need a cell phone, cable TV, air conditioning? Who’s to say?
At least a flat tax would treat everybody alike. Or would it? Under a flat tax, where everybody hands over the same percentage of their income, those who earn a lot pay more money than those who don’t. Why? Do the high earners consume more government services? Are high earners bad people who deserve punishment?
I concede that some tax schemes could be fairer than others. For example, much as I might like the idea of complete tax exemption for septuagenarian European-American males, I’ll grant that would be a bit unfair. But in the end no tax can be entirely fair because taxation is coercive activity: stealing if you like.
Don’t get me wrong: I like tax cuts, preferably across the board, but targeted cuts are fine with me too. But the focus on the tax code is misplaced. The root problem is the amounts of real goods and services that are consumed by politicians and bureaucrats. Whether they are financed by taxation or borrowing is a secondary issue.
Republicans should be drawing up lists of programs to reduce or eliminate. “Defense” spending should be at the top of the list. The list should be broad enough that everybody’s ox is gored. Who knows, this approach might actually gain some traction with the fed-up electorate.
Reading the capital letters between the stately lines of today’s Wall Street Journal, I conclude that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert paid 3.5 million dollars in hush money to a blackmailer with whom he had homosexual relations before he joined Congress. (They may also have been pedophilic relations.) As the WSJ relates, Hastert’s elevation to the Speakership was followed by a period when he was reproached for his limp handling of the case of Mark Foley, a Florida Republican (GOP) who admitted to sending sexually charged messages to a House page (un page, en Francais). The page was a handsome young man.
All this leads me to wonder whether the GOP – for which I normally vote – was not for a while simply a homosexual conspiracy. I might not mind but I would have liked to know. And I don’t like this closet business (I don’t mind simple discretion.)
All this wondering leads me to wonder whether gay activists will claim Hastert as one of their own. Of course, it’s disturbing that the politically active element of the gay movement did not claim Foley, as they have failed largely to claim thousands of pedophile priests. Yes, of course, gays are not necessarily pedophile but male pedophiles who specialize entirely in boys are homosexuals, it seems to me. I think a male homosexual is a man or boy who is sexually stimulated by other men or boys. Shoot me!
I cast my first vote in 1964, shortly after turning 21, the legal voting age in those days. I voted for Barry Goldwater who, although he described himself as a conservative, didn’t fit that category by today’s standards. He was for free markets but he was not particularly religious and he held a laissez-faire attitude toward alternate lifestyles. He was, unfortunately, a war hawk, so he wouldn’t fit very well into today’s libertarian category, either.
Four years later I voted for Richard Nixon, sad to say. I somehow thought he was for free markets, being a Republican. I was cured of that delusion by a wakeup call at 8:15 AM on Monday, August 16, 1971. That was the moment I saw the headline in the L.A. Times announcing Nixon’s dastardly Sunday evening perfidy: price controls, closing the gold window, and an import tariff surcharge. All of these statist actions very quickly played out disastrously. Their personal import was to cure me of any notion that Republicans were necessarily friends of liberty. I became a libertarian that Monday morning and never looked back.
Of course that decision meant never again voting for a winner. I voted for John Hospers in 1972, and he actually got one electoral vote from a renegade Republican elector, Roger MacBride, who was the LP candidate in 1976. Ed Clark’s 1980 campaign on the Libertarian ticket, generously funded by the Koch brothers, gave me brief hope for the new party, which we all know has come to naught. I’ve “wasted” my vote on Libertarian candidates ever since. Thanks to Proposition 14 in California, I can only vote for Libertarians in the primary elections; minor parties are shut out of the general election. In many races the general election is a contest between two Democrats. I resist any urge to vote for the lesser evil of the two so now I just leave most of my ballot blank and vote against all tax measures.
If we must have voting, I offer a couple of common-sense reforms:
- Raise the voting age to 30. People under that age are clueless.
- Require voters to pass a stiff qualification exam, something far more rigorous than the simple literacy tests of yore.
- Institute a stiff poll tax, at least enough to cover election costs. Why force non-voters to pay?
I’m tempted to throw in land ownership as another criterion, but the foregoing should suffice. Of course this reform would leave many people feeling disenfranchised, but so what? Most people are far too ignorant to judge issues and candidates rationally and should be kept away from voting booths at all costs. Anyway, the system would leave a path open for people to earn enfranchisement by working hard to satisfy the above criteria.
Would I apply for enfranchisement under my proposed system? No way; I have better things to do. Will I vote this year? I suppose so. I have no idea what will be on the ballot, but there will doubtless be some lame-brain propositions to vote against.
I can only list, in order of magnitude, three: 1) Republican hawks, 2) condescending Leftists, and 3) anti-Americans abroad.
In some ways none of this is surprising. All three of these factions hate each other, mostly because they are the least libertarian factions in the world (familiarity breeds contempt, it is often said).
Republican hawks are first on my list because they are the most dangerous. This is a deeply reactionary faction that does not care one iota about the national interest. It is a vulgar mob that has no need for nuance or depth. One of the state of Florida’s Senators, Marco Rubio, exemplifies this isolationist faction. This is demagoguery at its finest. It also goes a long way toward explaining why I will never, ever be a Republican, despite the honest efforts of courageous statesmen like Ron and Rand Paul.
Condescending Leftists are second because of their reactions to the beginnings of the end of a vicious, self-defeating embargo: Decrying the fact that Starbucks and McDonald’s will soon be forcing poor, naive Cubans into becoming customers with actual choices in an actual marketplace. According to the worldview of these Leftists: the lives of Cubans have been better than those of Westerners because of its simplicity (this simplicity was brought about, of course, by the heavy-handed tactics of the Castro dictatorship, but somehow this always fails to make the final cut of the condescending Leftist’s narrative). Capitalism will put an end to the simple lives of the Cuban people, and this is a bad thing for both the world and the Cubans themselves.
Embarrassing and disgusting.
The last faction on my list, anti-Americans abroad, have taken the Obama administration’s decision to reach out to Cuba as an excuse to lie to domestic factions everywhere. They have seized upon the fact that the US sometimes pursues bad policies, and have turned it into a soapbox preaching session for all of the gullible schoolboys and girls in the world who instinctively hate the world’s liberal hegemon. What is lost (or, more likely, ignored) in these preachers’ message is the fact that the US is changing its bad policy. The same cannot be said for the tired tropes wielded by aging anti-Americans in the name of some variant of socialist (whether national or international) revolution.
Some notes in the margins:
- Cuba will not become free or (or) democratic overnight.
- It will not become wealthy overnight, either. In fact, there is bound to be a whole lot of cronyism in the near future, as Castro’s butchers and henchmen gobble up much of the wealth that will inevitably flood Cuba’s markets. Remittances will likely increase as well, which means that the cronysim of Castro’s henchmen will be offset by the influx of cash from the US. This, in turn, means that the Castro dictatorship is likely to be around for a lot longer than anticipated.
Peggy Noonan’s piece in the Wall Street Journal is well-worth reading. Observe:
A closing note: I always thought, life often being unfair, that Fidel Castro would die the death of a happy monster, old, in bed, a cigar jutting out from the pillows, a brandy on the bedside table. My dream the past few years was that this tranquil end would be disturbed by this scene: American tourists jumping up and down outside his window, snapping pictures on their smartphones. American tourists flooding the island, befriending his people, doing business with them, showing in their attitude and through a million conversations which system is, actually, preferable. Castro sees them through the window. He grits his teeth so hard the cigar snaps off. Money and sentiment defeat his life’s work. He leaves the world knowing that in history’s great game, he lost.
Open the doors, let America flood the zone and snap those pictures. “Fidel! Look this way!” Snap. Flash. Gone.
Re: “Obama’s empty West Point speech,” May 30 Charles Krauthammer.
So Charles Krauthammer thinks we should be providing military assistance to Libya, Syria and the Ukraine. Who’s going to pay for it? Or are we just going to whip out the plastic like usual? Krauthammer says our allies are complaining, fearing their own security. What are they doing about it? Not much. Of course they are complaining; they are used to having the U.S. protect them without paying for it. I thought the Republicans were big on personal responsibility. Get your nanny-state big government out of other people’s business.
Joe Gregory, Castle Pines
This is a letter to the editors of the Denver Post (I’m hanging out with my grandparents in Denver right now) and I thought I’d pass it along. Is libertarianism truly entering the mainstream or or is this guy just a hardcore, longtime libertarian? He might just be a Democrat with above-average intelligence and knows when to point out logical discrepancies in the Republican message.
I’ll never know, but I can only hope he’s new and that writes more letters to the editors that point out the irrational nature of US foreign policy.
I am responding to a Republican radio and TV ad about illegal immigration. It’s presented as the Republican counter-proposal or response to Pres. Obama demand for “comprehensive immigration legislation.” It displays involuntarily some of the main fallacies Republicans commonly entertain in connection with illegal immigration and other topics. It demonstrates disturbing collective ignorance in my camp. (I am a registered Republican.) Here are four major fallacies in that short ad:
1 The ad continues to be based on the false notion that there exists an alternative to illegal immigration in the form of some orderly visa queue. In this perspective, illegal immigrants are rude, unprincipled line jumpers. Everyone hates such people.
In fact, there is no such queue. The average unmarried Mexican has no way (zero) way to come live in the US legally. (An unmarried Mexican can try to marry a US national or legal immigrant to gain a quick visa. Some do. This is hardly a more principled way to immigrate into this country than overstaying a tourist visa, for instance.)
2 The Republican proposal demands “no amnesty.” The Republican proposal contains an amnesty: amnesty for those who entered the country illegally. It rewards those who took the matter into their own hands against other foreigners who would like to move to the US but do not wish to violate laws to do so. Again, illegal immigration is the only way to enter the US and stay for almost everyone in the world.
There is no way to regularize the status of current illegals living in this country without an amnesty of some kind. I predict that neither the federal government nor the individual states will ever engage in the massive police action that would be required to hunt down illegal aliens in their homes, places of work, churches, and schools (including kindergartens). Everyone else also knows this to be true. Republican leaders have yet to acknowledge this simple fact of life.
3 The Republican proposal would require illegal aliens to “learn English” as a condition of their legalization. This is ill-informed as well as downright stupid.
First, illegal aliens are very busy learning English. They are all aware of the fact that knowing the main local language is a condition of real economic success in this country. To say otherwise is to make a tremendously xenophobic statement by implicitly calling immigrants stupid. That’s in addition to ignoring the facts on the ground.
Second: What are we going to do with Juan if he flunks his English midterm? Throw him over the border? How about Mr Lee, who has been here (illegally) for fifteen year and who owns a restaurant employing six people? Do we ship him back to Canton if he gets two C- in a row on his English grammar test?
Plus, what is the federal government going to do when some ill-intentioned academic reveals that a significant percentage of American-born US citizens also flunked the midterm, the same midterm?
Is this “obligation” to learn English, specifically, even constitutional? The last time I checked, the US had no official language. Why not Navajo?
This all smacks of the insane dreams of comfortably monolingual individuals who believe they would master Spanish if they could only clear a dozen Saturday mornings. Do these people take advice from anyone? Do they read anything?
4 “Securing the border” has become a mindless Republican incantation. It’s increasingly irrelevant for the purpose of immigration control, at least closing the southern border is. Several relevant points. At them same time as we were having our endless economic crisis killing thousands of jobs, the Mexican economy was doing better than before. And, Mexican population growth has almost ceased. The huge hordes of hungry Mexicans massed at the border to jump in and take over everything American have evaporated. Mexicans have almost stopped coming. Those who do use a student visa or a tourist visa and just don’t go home until they are good and ready.
Securing the border may serve a purpose in the context of a drug war. If that’s the issue, Republicans should have the coraje (same as “cojones” but more polite) to tell the truth.
And now, what the Republican leadership is not doing or not doing enough: Shout to the rooftops that legalizing illegals and awarding them citizenship are only artificially linked (by artful Democrats seeking free votes for generation). European countries have established successfully for many years the fact that citizens of another country can live in forever without acquiring political rights at all. (A recent well publicized Swiss vote on immigration does not deal with this matter.) Fellow immigrant Nikiforov and I explored this idea in depth in connection with the US and Mexico in our article “If Mexicans and Americans Could Cross the Border Freely” featured in the libertarian journal Independent Review.
Here is a real immigration issue the Republican leadership is not attending to: Tens of thousands of younger French people want to move to this country. The issue is so serious that there is a brand new French cabinet post dedicated to stemming the flow. Many of the would-be French migrants possess to a high degree the kind of training Silicon Valley companies say they can’t find. Many of the same well-educated French citizens who wouldn’t dream of opening a lollipop stand under French conditions discover that they possess a big entrepreneurial gene a couple of years after landing here. Let me also point out that the quality of food improves automatically after a surge of knowledgeable and demanding French customers. (Yes, some stereotypes are well founded.)
At this point, there is no legal way to bring in these high quality immigrants. Our immigration system is forcing into illegal immigration the most determined and least law-abiding segment among exactly the kind of immigrants we want.
- Ken White has the best post of the year (so far) on free speech
- Angelo Codevilla on the US’s god-awful intelligence apparatus
- Reclaiming fairness as a precept of commerce. Bart Wilson argues that we’ve been a-travelin’ down the wrong path.
- Contra Dr Delacroix‘s thoughtful argument, Jon Harrison thinks the GOP is terminally stupid
- Imagining a remapped Middle East: Robin Wright muses about how 5 countries could become 14 (and a map for context)
- A ‘comments’ thread on a libertarian blog in which a lone libertarian takes on some of the neo-reactionary elements that Andrew has been blogging about.
The fake government “shutdown” is already over. I hardly had time to enjoy it. I was just beginning to make a list of federal services that are “non-essential” according to the federal government itself. I was kind of hoping that the EPA, for example, would bite the dust. I does not seem fair.
The debt ceiling problem is also dealt with for the time being. It’s another expression of the same underlying problem that led to the “shutdown.” (See below.)
OK, after the crisis that just ended temporarily, it feels to conservatives like Great Britain in August 1944. The Luftwaffe rules the skies. Our few remaining pilots keep getting shot down. Our central city is bombed nightly. Everyone else who is civilized has already folded. Nightly, they are opening the Champagne in Berlin. We stand alone. It does not mean that we are wrong to stand.
Still, it also feels like the morning after. Time to look into it.
The so-called crisis is suspended for about four months. Nothing is solved. The Republicans collectively took a public opinion drubbing, it’s true. Speaking for myself, I will repeat what I said earlier: I am not attached to the Republican Party. I care only about limited government conservatism. Until now, the Republican Party was a not-so-bad vehicle for that view of the world. If it does not have the backbone to carry it further, so be it. Yes, I think that even if there is no other likely large vehicle in sight. I want to avoid pointless imaginings about my meaning by saying it clearly: What I fear most is not just another electoral defeat but a meaningless and useless electoral defeat such as the Republican Party suffered in the last presidentials. What hurts the most is the large number of nominal Republicans who just stayed home. Gov. Romney’s program was not the hill you want to die for. Gov. Romney was not the kind of commander who could induce you to die for that hill.
Here is the central conservative issue in a capsule. The phony government shutdown and the reappearing debt ceiling issue are parts of the same dark cloud:
A federal government that is deeply and routinely corrupt as well as shockingly incompetent keeps borrowing mindlessly to sustain the ordinary business of government.
It’s despotic; its’ a waste of resources; most of all, it’s immoral.
The mindless, nearly automatic borrowing is the worst part.
Myself, I think that I, my children and the federal government should only borrow under two circumstances:
- When the loan is to be applied directly to the acquisition of a tool that will contribute to greater earnings in the proximate future. I use the word “tool” liberally. Better freeways, for example, could easily qualify.
- When there is a strong presumption that we will earn more tomorrow . That’s with or without the condition in 1 above. This is separate. In the case of a country, for example demographic growth may by itself create such a presumption.
The present federal government’s borrowing fulfills neither condition. It’s borrowing to meet everyday expense. It’s as if I borrowed to buy bread for my lunch sandwich. There is also no reason so far to believe that the United States economy will grow a great deal tomorrow. (This could change the day after tomorrow if we had, for example, sudden access to new cheap energy. The Obama administration is doing its best to prevent precisely this from happening – Makes you think along dark lines, doesn ‘t it?)
Routine even legal, systemic federal government corruption: The widow of (wealthy) Senator Lautenberg received $174,000 from Congress because her husband took the trouble to die while in office. (WSJ 10/18/13, p. A12)
Federal Government incompetence: See the health insurance exchanges, in preparation for four years! Enough said! Note: I am not sure whether I am more afraid that its implementation will succeed or that it will continue to fail in exemplary fashion.
Mindless federal borrowing: It has become an integral part of the culture that the government must borrow to live. I said “integral part of the culture.” Below, an illustration I could not invent if I wanted to.
Larry Fink is the CEO of BlackRock, by some defensible measure, the largest investment firm in the world. Mr Fink said 10/16/13 or 10/17/13 (WSJ):
I have been in this business for 37 years. For 34 years I did not know there was such a thing as a debt ceiling.
Our point exactly! One of the highest placed business executives in the land takes government borrowing so much for granted that he does not know it’s subject to Congress-imposed limitations. He even sounds incensed when he learns the truth.
That’s what makes us conservatives, “extremists.”
Why do I care? I care because, unless there is another wave of fast economic growth lasting for several years, we are guaranteeing that our children and grand children will live in poverty. It’s wrong; it’s immoral.
And then, there is the growing phoniness of the public discourse including discourse by the mainstream privately owned press.
During the two days following the cessation of the pretend-government “shutdown,” the main media are eager to pretend that the multitudes feel great relief. They talk as if the average folks out there had experienced tremendous suffering because federal non-essentials were furloughed. I, for one, feel no relief at all. I don’t know anyone who does. (Agree, it’s an unsystematic sample but it’s a sample.) This is all the media’s deliberate exaggeration or a misplaced identification with federal public servants. It’s becoming more and more obvious that such public servants are overpaid and that they enjoy too many unearned privileges. (State public servants also, in some states, such as mine, California.) I don’t identify. It pisses me off. The more I know, the more pissed off I am.
They, the mainstream media, echo dumbly the noises coming from the administration about the alleged “costs” of the “shutdown” to the national economy. No one takes the trouble to do a net calculus, even to raise the issue of a net calculus. Isn’t it true that for each day certain federal bureaucracies are unable to do their job, some of the main producers in the nation are better able to produce? Again, the EPA comes to mind. And the IRS, of course. And a number of federal agencies whose names I don’t even know.
Besides, it’s an empty formula, a truism that (theoretical) wealth that fails to be produced usually is not regained, as the administration says gravely.
N. S. ! That’s what happens with Columbus Day and with Presidents’ Day, for example. (When only public servants and bank employees don’t work. When nearly the whole private sector keeps on producing wealth.) Why not cancel both holidays if non-production is a cause for worry? Why not make federal public servants come to work on both days if the president is worried? He only need issue an executive order. Bet you, he won’t even mention the possibility. And why do I have to state the obvious? Why aren’t the media doing their job? Have they been hypnotized? And, I almost forgot: if the president loses sleep over the missed production of federal employees, he could imitate the French in reverse and institute the federal forty-four hours work week. Would anyone notice?
Something else does not add up in the media’s discourse. For days, during the so-called “shutdown,” both administration officials and supposedly independent pundits threatened us with a world economic abyss because of number of non-essential federal employees were prevented from going to work. (I am not making this up; I am not exaggerating that we were told this ad nauseum; go back to those recent days, you will be amazed.) Yet, the day he current agreement is announced, the day we jumped form the edge of the supposed abyss, the markets reacted limply. The Dow Jones Industrial gained a lackluster 175 points that day. Now, that’s nice; it’s a gain for sure. However it’s no more of a gain than happens, for example, when the international price of the oil barrel comes down by ten dollars. The next day, the Dow Jones was flat. Trouble over; no big deal after all. Forget what we said yesterday. Forget the alarm. We were just kidding!
The Republican cave-in saves us from falling into the Grand Canyon and the market gives us a small hot dogs party by way of celebration! Does it make sense?
President Obama’s deftness never ceases to amaze me. No mistake seems to stick to him. On the day of the agreement, he declared that the new debt ceiling is not really debt. No one in the mainstream press questioned this absurd statement. Let me repeat, by the way, that I don’t think he is lying. He really does not know better. Academia is overflowing with his type of intelligent ignorance.
Perhaps, I am not grasping what’s going on, culturally. Perhaps, the reservoir of white American guilt concerning the long atrocity that was slavery, concerning racial segregation and discrimination also, is far from exhausted. Perhaps, the president can write checks on this for a long time to come. Or maybe, as Rush Limbaugh suggested, he struck a giant chord with the millions by giving them a chance to see themselves as victims. If you are a victim, almost any grotesque behavior is permissible. Soon only my wife, our grown children and I will be the only non-victims left in America. It will be a lonely existence. And, I wonder how long we will be able to support the victims because two of us are long retired (thus mirroring American demographics to come).
At one point one of Mr Obama’s servants referred gravely to the global reputational damage the shutdown has caused to the United States. (I don’t remember exactly who or when but I heard it with my own ears.) The “red line” in Syria about using chemical weapons does not in any way affect the credibility of the US, I suppose. The hundreds of civilians who died from chemical weapons died and all is forgiven. In the words of Pres. Obama’s former Secretary of State, “What difference does it make now?”
The day after the agreement the president gave another speech in which he advised those who don’t like something to just win elections in order to be able to change the something. I don’t think it was mistake. It was Freudian slip. President Obama does not believe that tea party Senators and Representatives who oppose him so tenaciously were just as elected as he was. It sounds familiar to me because I know history rather well and French history very well. The weakling tyrant, Louis-Napoleon, the Emperor Napoleon the Third (there was no Second) was initially elected. His supporters really thought that if you were elected by a sizable majority, you were morally allowed to do anything. They thought that was democracy. (There is a very nice readable piece by my old buddy Karl Marx on this topic for your reading pleasure where and when it rains: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Abstract of Chapter I.)
Thus do we drift fast toward a one-party state. I warned about this a long time ago, before Mr Obama was even elected. (See also on this blog: “Fascism Explained“)
The unspeakable Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said after the agreement was reached: “This is a time for reconciliation.” I don’t think so. I hope not.
There is a poll suggesting that the Republican Party is taking a public opinion thrashing for provoking a government so-called “shutdown.” I don’t think there is much of a shutdown. And I don’t think a single poll means anything. If there were four convergent polls showing the Republicans being blamed, I would still support Republican e “extremists”, including Ted Cruz.
We will not get Obamacare defunded. That was hardly ever in the cards. It was just a good time to draw the American’s people attention to the abnormality that it the federal government. It’s a good time because its own actions right now illustrate both its pettiness and its gross incompetence. Keep veterans out of veterans’ monuments and fail just about 100% on the implementation of a vast ambitious program legislated on a completely partisan basis.
In addition, thanks to the crisis, many young people will be astonished to discover that, like them with their credit cards, the Federal Government cannot pay its bills to Peter without borrowing from Paul. Nothing new here; its’ just that many citizens don’t know this simple fact.
I don’t buy the argument that, of course, there was going to be technical glitches with Obamacare. Implementation of Obamacare is a big big project, of course, but it does not involve any novel technical challenge. And they had four years. And they could have asked Facebook, for example, to take charge. The federal government rarely does a small trivial thing well. There was no reason to believe it could do a big important thing well.
The main things Pres. Obama said four years ago about reforming health care turn out to be wrong, false. I don’t think he was lying then. I believe he and his advisers never had any idea of what they were talking about. They still don’t.
I am glad there were members of the Republican Party in Congress who manned up enough to point to the obvious.
If the Republican Party suffers as a result of the present crisis, I think it will have been worth it. Personally, I am not much invested in a Party that’s a little of everything and of anything. It’s conservatism that matters, the conservative perspective on the world. It’s the perspective that says that the best government is that which governs least. It used not to be a radical thought.
Yesterday, we buried my friend Filip. I had only known him for a few years but his departure leaves a hole in my mind and in my heart. At first, he was just a needed financial adviser. Then, we became friends around conservative politics and braised sweetbreads. We had both in common because we were both immigrants. We both detested authoritarianism and we both liked earthy foods. I was reared in France. My earthy food talents are good. Filip was reared in Communist Romania. His authoritarianism detector was superb. We were complementary.
Bedlam in Goliath.
Commentary by: L.A. Repucci
Shots were fired in the Capitol today after a lone female fled a checkpoint in her car. A child was in the woman’s vehicle, now presumably orphaned by law enforcement fatally shooting her dead outside of the black sedan, used to ram a newly-erected ‘Barrycade’ in Washington, DC.
House Majority Leader John Boehner praised the courage of the Fed’s security for gunning down the unarmed woman with an infant on the threshold of the halls of congress. Shoot-to-kill seems to be increasingly the only tactical response for law enforcement, from the unarmed Tsarnaev brothers now to a weaponless, unstable mother, clearly outside of the vehicle she was driving.
Could ‘shoot-to-kill’ be a federal-level directive aimed at preventing the voice of dissent from surfacing in the media?
Police have yet to confirm rumors that the suspect is Miriam Carey a 34-year-old Stamford (CT) Dental Hygienist with ‘mental health’ issues. It would seem the political landscape is saturated with partisan rhetoric to the point that the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost in the Capitol faster than ever before.
The partisan theater that is the current government shutdown has apparently struck a chord with a public increasingly suspicious of government, rather than one party or the other. The abuse of power and authoritarian statism may have finally hit a pitch pushing the electorate from the customary partisan vitriol to a new, holistic hatred and mistrust of not just a particular government, but of governance in general.
This blog isn’t intended to assign blame to the ham-fisted-yet-impotent GOP or to the openly manipulative Democrat party — there are the usual pundits and party hacks more than willing to play the left-right game on this (and every other issue), and point the finger across the aisle. In fact, it’s probable that the usual partisan coverage of one national crisis after another likely whipped the woman into the frenzy that resulted in her behavior and subsequent public death-by-firing squad. Looking at the current national political climate of deepening partisan divides, it would seem this sort of thing is indeed inevitable.
From a libertarian perspective, it is evident that whether the woman is a dyed-in-the-wool leftist or a red-blooded conservative, the simple truth is that it is the false dichotomy of the two party system within the larger construct of a Goliath Government* that is fueling the schism among the current American political zeitgeist. Libertarian ideals have found more support within the GOP than the Democrat party, but with the political landscape quickly evolving with left-leaning progressives increasingly autocratic and hawkish, and the right continuing to be the party of ‘smaller’ behemothic, socially-oppressive government, libertarian-influenced politicians may need to re-evaluate their alignment with the GOP and assert their own space on the political spectrum.
By distancing themselves from the GOP, this current crisis could be the moment at which the principles of limited government and personal liberty fix in the minds of the electorate as the sole territory of the libertarian philosophy. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul…the nation awaits your voices. Use this opportunity to point out the stark failure of the current junta to fix problems with the force of statism. Point out the fact that a ‘government shutdown’ seems to consist of closing parks and monuments that require little if any state management to simply exist as they do, and furloughing non-essential personnel easily replaceable with simple automation and elimination of redundancy. Draw attention to the fact that of the 700,000-or-so suspended government functionaries are eligible and filing for unemployment benefits, drawing income from the same stolen tax revenues which are used to ‘pay’ them usually — and paying them not to work may be preferable than paying them to do their jobs, if the goal is shrinking the size of the state. Be sure to reference the 1.2-or-so million bureaucrats that continue to serve the public by stealing their wealth and threatening their lives and safety with the full force of a statist totalitarian regime and a monopoly on violent oppression.
Government employees carrying firearms aren’t furloughed, nor are the three-letter agencies that spy on the public unconstitutionally and ‘appropriate’ our money as taxes. The IRS isn’t really furloughed, despite reports to the contrary — they are needed (including their 16,000 gun-toting new recruits — yes, IRS agents carry firearms) to run Obamacare as ‘navigators’, who are paid on commission per signup to the new compulsory, unconstitutional insurance law.
In conclusion, if the Authoritarian government continues to fan the partisan flames with more political theater, they can expect a multitude of Miriam Careys to continue to go postal and throw themselves against the bulwark of the evil machine that has wrested liberty away from a free people. You called down the thunder, politicians — now you will reap what you’ve sown for decades. US foreign policy has been breeding terrorists for decades, and now it’s domestic policy will begin to do the same. Maybe it’s time to rethink the ‘shoot-to-kill’ mentality…
Let’s apply path dependency to the plight of the national Republican Party and see where it takes us:
Writing in Fortune in the run-up to the 1962 congressional elections, Max Ways asked, “Is Republicanism a Losing Cause?” Arguing at the height of JFK’s popularity that there was nothing wrong with the party’s two main convictions, namely that individual liberty is best served by a strong, yet limited, federal government, and that “market capitalism is a beneficent force in the world,” Ways insisted that Republicans would never “reinvigorate their party so long as they let the Democrats set the terms of battle.”
After a drubbing in the 1964 election, the party was able to set the terms of battle as America’s cities burned and the war in Vietnam headlined the evening news. In Ronald Reagan, the party’s reinvigoration was complete. His ability to communicate the party’s convictions and win elections suggested that Republican dominance of the White House might be sustained. It wasn’t. But even in the aftermath of defeat, in 1992, the party could take solace in Bill Clinton’s declaration that the era of Big Government was over. Perhaps the party had truly won the battle of ideas.
But now the Republican Party has come full circle, and is again in crisis, having suffered defeat in the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. As was the case in 1962, there is no end to prescriptions for saving the GOP. To the accumulating heap of advice, I add this to the pile: Consider path dependency before formulating policy, conducting politics, and making appeals to voters.
California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger famously promised to “blow up” the boxes of a bloated government in Sacramento—and then not much happened. At the national level, Republicans have been promising to repeal, dissolve, and defund laws, agencies, and programs since the 1930s, with little overall success, notwithstanding the odd victory here and there. The yearning to begin anew may be alluring, but there ain’t no going back.
In rhetoric, Republican Party leaders still call for ratcheting back Leviathan, at least on the economic front. Yet, just as Governor Schwarzenegger did, they falter when it comes to actually blowing up the boxes of government. Republicans make poor revolutionaries. At the same time, they seem to have eschewed democratic politics as a means to their ends. Perhaps, in their view, playing politics would constitute an exercise in making “socialism” more efficient, in which they allegedly hold no interest. But by failing to reconcile ideas and ideals with path dependent history, the party is becoming ever more out of touch.
Gaining an appreciation for path dependency may help the party connect with voters: a prerequisite to articulating effectively a vision of a political economy based on individual liberty, limited government, and market capitalism. After all, if no one is listening, it doesn’t really matter what you might be saying.
Another problem: It’s rather difficult to figure out what the Republican Party stands for these days. Since the 1980s, its calls for racheting back Big Government have been long on promising a return to some ideal state and short on mapping a pragmatic path toward reining in the actually existing state. Interestingly, the rhetoric heats up when the party is out of power, casting doubt on the sincerity of those spouting it. When they have occupied the Oval Office, Republicans have had no less a penchant increasing the size and scope of government than the Democrats they accuse of being enthusiasts for socialism. The Bush administration used the crisis of 9/11 to increase government surveillance of private citizens and expand Washington’s interventions overseas. The crisis of the Great Recession served as occasion to bail out Wall Street. Indeed, in economic terms, Republicanism has come full circle, not from the free soil, free labor, and free men days of Lincoln, but from the Gilded Age. Where the rubber hits the road, that is, in terms of implementation, there is little evidence that the Republican Party holds individual liberty, limited government, and market capitalism as core convictions. But let’s stipulate, for the sake of this post, that Republicanism at its core remains grounded in the two main convictions identified by Mr. Ways.
So how might a consideration of path dependency help to right the listing Republican ship?
In a previous post, I applauded Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson for their effective deployment of path dependency in Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. They showed that “critical junctures” that disrupt the existing political and economic balance in society launch nations down their respective dependent paths. And once embarked on a dependent path, the weight of history makes it extremely difficult for a nation to change course.
In America, as Robert Higgs has shown, two world wars, with a great depression sandwiched in between, constituted the critical junctures—or critical episodes, as he calls them—that resulted in an immense expansion in the scale and scope of the U.S. government. With the passage of time, the American people have accepted most aspects of Leviathan—especially when it comes to social insurance—as the norm. In Higg’s view, there is no going back because the federal government’s responses to successive crises engendered a sea shift in ideology among the people. Writing in 1987, Higgs doubted that the Reagan Revolution would live up to its billing. And he was spot on.
For an intraparty conversation on the appropriate scale and scope of government to be productive and persuasive, it ought to begin with coming to terms with the state as it “really is” and reflecting on how it came to be (including the many contributions of all postwar Republican administrations to expanding said state).
Take Social Security. Opposed on the Right, it was passed in a form that didn’t please the Left. But over the years, Social Security expanded in scope and size under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. It’s now been around for more than 75 years. Talk of entitlement reform as Baby Boomers age, at least in terms of assessing, funding, and perhaps adjusting future liabilities? Absolutely. But apocalyptic talk of Social Security’s impending bankruptcy as prelude to overhauling this mainstay of middle-class entitlements surely has lost more votes than it has gained. And to what end? Leaving aside the question of individual liberty, replacing mandated contributions to a government plan with mandated contributions to private ones introduces risk for which future retirees seemingly have no appetite. Path dependency does not mean that all doors to reform are shut for all time. But Republicans have little hope of blowing up this box.
So, what to do? First, acquire a deep appreciation for the path dependencies embedded in America’s laws, regulations, policies, and political institutions. Use the exercise to identify potentially winning issues that align with core convictions, as stipulated. Then embrace the democratic process as a platform from which to win hearts and minds and accomplish realistic goals.
Again, the soup is too rich. I am going to let most of what you say stand except two things:
1 Is it the case that you endorse and confirm the statement Ron Paul made voluntarily, on his own that he armed forces spend $20 billion a year on air conditioning in Iraq and in Afghanistan? I ask because it’s a measure of Ron Paul’s seriousness and of his followers, with respect to simple facts.
In this connection: It’s clear that Herman Cain knows little about anything outside the country. I don’t doubt Congressman Paul knows much more. About Gingrich’s alleged misstatements, I don’t know what you mean. Please, stop treating as obvious what others may not have seen, heard of, or noticed or may not exist at all.
2 Your sophisticated musings about what constitutes the right to wage war may well be worth considering. You make good arguments that they are worth it. However, they take us a long way from your original statement on the illegality, the unconstitutional character of these wars. At the time, you sound as if you were parroting the left-wing yahoos on the topic.
On moral responsibility, I chose Rwanda of an extreme case where it would have been easy to intervene productively at little cost or risk. That’s what this country did we respect to the beginning genocide of Kosovars against a much more powerful and sophisticated oppressor.
Your words speak for themselves on the Rwanda genocide.