Currently viewing the tag: "Libertarianism"
An unintentional libertarian anthem/meditation from Sully at the Dish:
By then, the subtleties, the mixes of CBD and THC, the nuances of sativa and indica strains will all be turned by the genius of the free market into something quite marvelous. We will finally have made of this weed what was long made of the simple grape. And we will all be happier.

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Ryan Cooper ponders the right’s decaying intellectual infrastructure. All jokes aside, it seems like what’s been going on at CATO is pretty emblematic, in which a relatively independent organization that does a fair amount of research and analysis is being taken over by the Kochs for the sole purpose of turning it into an electioneering outfit.
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I haven’t been following the Kochfight over who gets to control the libertarian Cato Institute lately but there is a great post over at the Volokh Conspiracy quoting a Cato senior fellow that is worth a read.
Libertarian flame and GOP Hopeful Gary Johnson finally realizes that he’d be better off running as an actual Libertarian.
I suppose you’ve heard of the “We Are The 53%” right-wing counter-movement. If not, you can get a taste of it here and here. Be warned, though, it’s really dumb. As most Erick Erickson-conceived projects inevitably are. What interests me is the notion in both these examples that Wall Street isn’t to be blamed for the economy, that individuals are solely responsible for their success. Taken to their logical conclusions, this idea has to be understood as extreme hubris and delusion. It is a pretty common delusion among the compulsive achiever types in our society, and I suppose it’s useful for them. But it’s an odd and antiquated notion to still carry around in 2011, and a lot of conservatives and paleolibertarian types seem unwilling to part with it. Here’s how I think of it: back during our country’s subsistence farming era, it really was the case that what other people did didn’t really have much of an impact on everyone else. And a small government structure is entirely appropriate to that sort of setup. Government basically exists to do things that people can’t do for themselves, and having a Ron Paul-esque system for a nation where most of the country grows their own food and consumes might be entirely appropriate. Maybe you have authorities for land disputes and whatnot, but not much more. As a participant within that sort of system, you don’t have to deal with anyone in that sort of structure unless you want to, and you can control exactly how much influence others have on you. Ron Paul’s vision would, I think, be the credibly liberal position in that kind of setup. But we don’t live in that sort of system anymore. The emergence of the free market that people like Erickson cherish put an end to all that for good. Nowadays, even the most basic interactions humans have these days involve many people, visibly or invisibly. Buying something in a store with a credit is a pretty complex action when you think about it–there are a lot of systems being accessed in that transaction that require maintenance, upkeep, and improvement, and if they don’t get it, you notice. Which means that your ability to feed yourself relies on dozens, actually hundreds, of other people doing their jobs well. And if your ATM system breaks when you want to withdraw some cash, clearly your life has been affected by someone else. This is just not the case in a subsistence model, but it is how it is in America now. In our current age I think most interactions are more like this than not, where our lives are affected by lots and lots of other people who we don’t know but we completely depend on. Autonomy is quite a bit less than it used to be, maybe even less than it was only a few decades ago. This bothers people, understandably. The Kinks made a great song about it. But it’s unclear to me what you do about it without sacrificing an awful lot of the things people like that make life convenient. Conservatives I think believe that if we just got rid of all this damn government we’d be able to recover a lot of that autonomy, but they often sidestep the fact that we’d have to give up all this damn technology too, and go back to a 19th century subsistence farming scheme to make Ron Paul’s vision practical. And people just won’t do that, regardless of what the ending of Battlestar Galactica might suggest. What bugs me about some forms of conservatism and paleolibertarianism is that I think that many forms are really not new or fresh ideas, so much as the reintroduction of outmoded 19th century ideas into the public bloodstream. They don’t make sense anymore given our current society, which like all societies has its tradeoffs (though we have much fewer deaths by dysentary than they did back then). But some (though not all) of the small government types take a blinkered view of the problem, and the solution invariably winds up not working so well. I mean, if there aren’t enough jobs, it doesn’t matter how much of a go-getter you are, you’re just not going to work. People naturally want a sense of autonomy, which I understand, though it’s not exactly like the 19th century was some grand era of personal freedom and initiative for too many people, and random things like where you were born, what color your skin was and whether you got sick in an era with no sanitation need to be taken into account as well as being outside of individual control, and yet having a dramatic impact on the contours of one’s life. The notion that we’re masters of our own destiny is really a demonstrable exaggeration, though it has its uses. Which is why most systems of religious belief teach that our fate is out of our hands–it’s actually a good bit of worldly wisdom. I would think that a self-professed Christian like Erick Erickson would get that.

I noticed that a few libertarians are upset that Gary Johnson did not get invited to today’s first Republican presidential debate. Here’s Will Wilkinson:

Is there an objective way to determine who among those not, or not yet, running must be included in the relevant polls? Mr Giuliani, has not announced his candidacy, nor has he been seen hitting the hustings in Iowa and New Hampshire in clear anticipation of a run for the nomination. The whimsical choice to exclude from consideration the polls that would qualify Mr Johnson for participation in the debate hardly seems objective, or fair. In any case, the 2% threshold seems wrongheaded once you consider that Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton all polled at 1% around this time in nomination campaigns they went on to win. Or so says Mr Johnson’s campaign in a video protesting his exclusion from tonight’s debate.

Of course Johnson will not win. But neither will Herman Cain. The basic story is that CNN excluded Johnson on a technicality, and they deserve to take some flak for that. If you’re going to come up with objective criteria for being in a debate and then throw up a bunch of new conditions later to justify your own decisions, then why bother with the pretense of objectivity? But the reason why not Johnson is obvious to me. Johnson is a mild-mannered, normal-seeming dude. Such people generally don’t lead to the hothouse nutty atmosphere that leads people to tune into cable news. It’s assuredly in CNN’s interest to get as many Michele Bachmanns and Herman Cains onto the stage as possible, because it’s just more interesting television. Yes, this is a cynical interpretation of CNN’s action, but it’s cable news, and I generally don’t give them the benefit of the doubt.

For some reason I feel like being a dick about this, but I just can’t. Johnson has some worthy ideas (and some awful ones), but he actually has a fairly accomplished record of achievement in an executive capacity. He has more principles than the other Republicans running for president. But if CNN wanted a reason to shut him out that didn’t involve splitting hairs on who was included in what poll, here’s a pretty simple one: Johnson identifies as pro-choice. He can never win a GOP primary for that very reason. If he somehow won the nomination, it’s very likely that he’d trigger a party split on an immediate basis, and you’d almost certainly see a third-party pro-life candidacy gain steam. Take the pro-life movement out of the party, and you lose basically the entire enduring Republican activist base and a good chunk of the party’s electorate as well. Notice how quickly those tea party rallies turned into ghost events this year? Without the pro-lifers pounding the pavement, the GOP has a lot of money and nobody on the ground. If Johnson won the GOP nomination, he’d probably finish third in the general election and the Republicans know it. Of course, the increasingly popular line for blue-state Republicans these days is to identify as pro-life while saying that you don’t want to impose your own beliefs etc., and just be functionally pro-choice, which is a stance that has worked well for Chris Christie and Vermont gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie, among others. Dubie lost anyway, but Christie won and is regarded as a very serious contender for the GOP nomination. More proof, I suppose, that affect is the most important element in finding success in Republican politics. But Johnson isn’t doing that so far as I can tell. Much like movie ratings and many concepts of “genre”, pro-life/pro-choice is basically just a marketing distinction at this point that blurs more than it reveals, and Johnson’s attributes don’t fit the support he wants.

It’s actually sort of a shame that Johnson is not likely to get any attention at all. I’d much rather him be the underdog than the execrable Tim Pawlenty, for example. But the real culprit behind that status seems to me to be Ron Paul, who in lieu of designating a successor and endorsing Johnson (or even his own son) has mounted yet another pointless presidential bid even after being rejected in 2008 because, much like Ralph Nader on the left, Paul might have some values but the biggest one of those is self-promotion, and he’s perfectly willing to see his ideas marginalized to gain more attention. The other problem here is ironically that Johnson actually has too much integrity–he says the things that most Republicans say, like talking about personal responsibility and freedom, but he actually has a record and issue positions that apply these principles even-handedly, such as with the drug war and the military (and abortion, for that matter). I personally think there are other values that matter as well as those two, and freedom is much more complicated than just scaling back government across the board, but it can’t really be denied that Johnson is more or less the embodiment of what Republicans say they believe, and he’s completely unacceptable because of it.

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This is an amazing poll result:

Privacy Poll Result

Wait, whaaaaaaat?

That’s right, libertarians are the squishiest on these matters, while hard-pressed Dems (i.e. the economically downscale segment of the public that votes Democrat but tends to be more socially conservative) are the most solid. That’s the opposite of what you’d expect if you listen to the media (and libertarian outlets like Reason in particular), but it sort of makes sense if you think about it. Libertarians tend to be more educated and affluent and have more to lose from possible attacks and related economic side effects, like markets slipping. Downscale voters would actually be less affected by the side effects of any such attacks, like the Dow crashing, etc. That would be my gut instinct to explain these numbers. At least, that’s the charitable explanation here.

Now, obviously, it’s dangerous to generalize. Our own Gherald is quite solid on these issues, as are a number of other libertarians that I read frequently to periodically, like Will Wilkinson and Conor Friersdorf. But this data makes it clear that libertarianism is, as always, primarily focused on economic issues, ignoring valuable contributions that could be made with a greater focus in other areas. But it’s easy to read too much into this data: as with the public disliking “big government” while simultaneously approving of basically function of government, good and bad, I tend to think that people believe in privacy while simultaneously supporting (or not angrily opposing) most of the terrorism-fighting tactics that mitigate freedom. And aside from that, there’s the matter of fear of terror attacks and partisanship at play here that would tend to tip the balance the other way, that people might not be consciously aware of. Still, it’s worth noting that the hard-pressed Dems are by far the least willing to even say they’d make the trade, which strikes me as significant–one suspects that Dems are reluctant to engage on these issues not because of working class voters defecting to Republicans, so much as out of a fear of losing those socially liberal/economically conservative, libertarian-type of voters who do vote on social issues.

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