Exit and Disloyalty

by Henry on September 12, 2008

Part of Alex Tabarrok’s “argument”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2008/09/why-libertarian.html for why libertarians should vote for Barack Obama:

The libertarian voice has not been listened to in Republican politics for a long time. The Republicans take the libertarian wing of the party for granted and with phony rhetoric and empty phrases have bought our support on the cheap. Thus – since voice has failed – it is time for exit. Remember that if a political party can count on you then you cannot count on it.

I’ve always thought that this is a compelling class of argument for minority groups on either side of the [political aisle. And it’s one where simple game theory (mixed motive coordination games) reinforces the basic claim that Alex is putting forward. If you are a minority group whose support the majority can take for granted, then you have no bargaining weight vis-a-vis the majority. The latter has no reason to take your interests into account. It’s only if you can credibly threaten to defect that you are likely to get your interests catered to.

When groups threaten to defect in electoral politics, the typical rejoinder from the majority is that _this_ above all elections is a crucial election that we cannot afford to lose, that will threaten disaster for all that we care about &c&c&c. Sometimes this argument is even true. The problem is that the logic of bargaining may cut more heavily _against_ minorities subordinating their interests to majorities in crucial elections than in regular ones. If the minority group is relatively less likely to be hurt than the majority if the majority loses a critical election (perhaps because of efforts by people on the other side to woo the minority over through various inducements, perhaps because it simply is structurally less vulnerable), then the minority group has a stronger incentive to adopt a hard line on bargaining in these circumstances than in regular elections, precisely because it has a stronger bargaining position (it will suffer less in relative terms if it fails to coordinate with the majority than the majority itself will).

In other words, critical elections may be the best opportunity for minority groups to extract substantial concessions from the majority. Since (as a current US resident) I’m a fair bit to the left of the Democratic party, I’m sympathetic in principle to minorities making threats to extract these concessions and sometimes (when the majority tries to call their bluff) delivering on them. This doesn’t at all mean that I am always sympathetic in practice – to take the most obvious current example, I imagine that Ralph Nader’s successive presidential runs have less to do with extracting concessions from the Democrats, than with burnishing the glory of Ralph Nader. Nor is there much of an organized left in the Democratic party to deliver such threats at the moment. But I certainly don’t agree with blanket claims that threatening defection in key elections is somehow irresponsible – under some circumstances, it is the most responsible thing that the minority can do, given its specific constituency and vision of politics. The likely alternative is to be trapped in a coalition where no-one else has any self-interested reason to pay any attention to you or the political values that you are trying to promote, and, as a result, no-one does.

{ 76 comments }

1

Harry 09.12.08 at 2:44 pm

The problem for libertarians in the Republican party is a little smaller than that for the left in the Democratic party, but not much. There are probably more serious Libertarians than leftists (leftists defined as committed social-democrats whose loyalty to social democracy overrides any party considerations), and, unlike leftists, they have a party to defect to (the Dems). But the problem is how to make the threat credible enough, and the defection, if it happens, visible enough, for the parties to take notice. The left can’t do either, really; and I’m not sure libertarians can either — is saying that you’ll vote for Obama enough to make the threat credible? Is voting for him visible? We’re talking about quite small groups of potential voters, and very small groups of organised leaders. (Bloggers? do they count?).

Think about Dobson’s threat to stay out of the election. He and his ilk have far more organisational force than either of the groups we are talking about. Maybe the Palin choice was a concession (maybe not, its hard to tell). But it seems to me you need that level of organisation or something like it to extract much.

2

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 2:56 pm

It’s a tremendous gamble, though. For the libertarians less so, because on civil liberties issues they probably have more allies within the Democratic Party than the Republican Party (though many Democrats are more or less as authoritarian as Republicans). But Leftists / Greens have no allies in the Republcan Party.

In 2000 we lost the gamble. The much-worse candidate was elected, the Green Party was not strengthened, and the Democrats were not frightened enough to make any changes — quite the opposite, they reacted spitefully. the worst outcome.

I’m not sure that we could have known better, but I now think that we were too optimistic. My new slogan is “The American people disagree with me about most things, and beggars can’t be choosers”. To a limited degree, hopelessness can be comforting.

Go Obama!

3

Aaron Swartz 09.12.08 at 3:13 pm

I understand that it’s become conventional wisdom but is there any evidence that Ralph Nader is simply running for president to “burnish[] the glory of Ralph Nader”? It doesn’t make much sense to me — as far as I can tell all running for president has done is turned Nader from one of the more respected figures of the left into one of the more despised.

I certainly am unhappy with the way Nader has run these campaigns (no work on partybuilding) but I don’t see any reason not to take him at his word. What have I missed?

4

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 3:15 pm

I should add that the Republicans have jettisoned fiscal conservativism too, so there’s really no reason for any libertarian to support them at all. Corrupt, fiscally irresponsible, authoritarian militarism has no resonance with libertarian orinciples. The remaining Republican libertarians are just well-off stoners and sleazos who don’t like to pay taxes.

5

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 3:25 pm

I frequently get into arguments about Nader. What I think now is that he had an idealistic misunderstanding of how politics works which led him to refuse to work with political parties. This may trace back to his early, conservative years as a YAF guy: he abandoned the Republicans but couldn’t bring himself to be a Democrat. (That seems to explain Northeastern liberal Republicans like Chafee, to – hatred of Democrats). He couldn’t even bring himself to be a Green.

As for his motives, he was (ludicrously) shocked when people started ignoring him in 1981 when Reagan took office — he really didn’t get it, he though sweet reason would work with anyone. But he went over the edge, much ore reasonably, in 1993 when he found that Clinton was a business Democrat who wasn’t going to listen to him either.

6

Kaveh Hemmat 09.12.08 at 3:40 pm

@2, I’m not sure it really makes much sense to talk about a far left anymore. There are progressive issues, people who think they are important, and people who don’t really pay attention to them. But that last group probably doesn’t pay much attention to politics in general, or else they are focused on a narrow range of issues. Many positions that were previously far left, such as gay marriage, belief in global warming, and wanting a national healthcare system, are now thoroughly mainstream. I’m skeptical that many Americans have very strong views on exactly what tax rates should be or exactly what kind of regulation schemes we should have, &c.

Where I do see a minority whose views are different from a lot of the country is foreign policy, but there I think it’s almost entirely a matter of information. I doubt many people, for example, think staging a coup against Mosaddeq and putting the Shah in power was a great idea, or knowingly support massive subsidies to US agribusiness that do more to impoverish 3rd-world farmers than our foreign aid does to help them.

7

Rich Puchalsky 09.12.08 at 3:52 pm

John, I think that your analysis of Nader leaves out how he treated his workers. He certainly didn’t listen to them, and he treated them horribly. He’s maybe not into burnishing his personal glory, but he’s never been an political organizer, per se, and he’s always participated in the creation of a personal myth that’s all about him. Someone can be just as damaging if they are interested in burnishing their personal Puritan purity as they can be if what they are interested in is personal glory.

The libertarians can not defect to the Democrats, because there are fewer than ten of them — Jim Henley, Kevin Carson, Alex Tabarrok, etc. All the rest never believed in libertarianism. I wouldn’t call them derogatory terms like sleazos and stoners, but they are selfish people who don’t care about civil liberties unless you’re white and middle class, and who don’t care about militarism because hey only foreigners and people who voluntarily agreed to join the armed forces are getting killed.

8

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 3:56 pm

I tend to think that foreign and military policy trump everything. I think that’s that’s one of the weaknesses of economic determinism. Control of the means of destruction is just as real as control of the means of production. Duhring was right. The Mongols conquered the world with a tiny, impoverished population which had mastered the technology of destruction.

9

notsneaky 09.12.08 at 4:03 pm

“if you can credibly threaten to defect”

Satan: Where was I gonna go? Detroit?

It’d be nice if the Dems to some extent facilitated the credibility of these threats on the part of Libertarians by emphasizing the things we have in common rather than the things we differ on. Make Detroit a slightly better place.

Actually, I think here Obama (like Clinton before him) is doing alright.

10

Kaveh Hemmat 09.12.08 at 4:05 pm

Well now, I don’t know if I would call the Mongols impoverished, as there is some evidence that pastoral nomads enjoyed better nutrition and health and generally greater wealth than most peasant farmers did, but point taken. :)

11

Rich Puchalsky 09.12.08 at 4:09 pm

“It’d be nice if the Dems to some extent facilitated the credibility of these threats on the part of Libertarians by emphasizing the things we have in common rather than the things we differ on.”

Obama has suggested turning away from harsh drug war penalties. He’s gone about as far as a politician seeking election in the U.S. can go. But reading the libertarians, all you see is denunciations that he hasn’t gone far enough. Really, the subtext is that what he’s talking about would only help black people, so who cares.

12

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 4:12 pm

No real property, only movable property, little or no permanent infrastructure, very few luxury goods, no urban centers.

But sedentary civilization is based on the maximal exploitation of large numbers of individual peasants whose small wealth is not movable, and so cannot escape the tax collector the way nomads can.

13

bianca steele 09.12.08 at 4:34 pm

Tabarrok’s argument is an intriguing one, and may be true. How would the hypothesis “libertarians increasingly have no voice in the Republican Party” be tested? In my opinion it is probably true that many “independents” are largely libertarians of one kind or another, and it seems they are usually former Republicans. But are there no “national security libertarians” who’d find Tabarrok’s point beside the point? What would be the consequences of forcing them to choose one or the other? Another empirical question that can’t really be answered in a blog “survey.” The argument is reasonable, however.

A better question, to my mind, is competence. Republicans believe they are the “responsible” party and thus the party of “competence.” Libertarians who believe that are probably pretty happy in the Republican Party or at least voting for Republican candidates every four years. I doubt the party leadership minds promoting the beliefs of a “base” that they personally disagree with or even dislike, as long as they keep sending money and don’t make trouble.

It’s a curious inversion of Plato’s teaching about the stages of political evolution. I wonder if these Republicans will ever be able to grasp the extent to which they misunderstand the theory they’ve accepted.

And if libertarians feel confident the government won’t do anything anyway, they have little reason not to vote for a party that says it wants to do things they’d truly hate. Why should they also want their “voice” to be acknowledged by a mere political party?

14

Markup 09.12.08 at 5:18 pm

“But sedentary civilization is based on the maximal exploitation of large numbers of individual peasants whose small wealth is not movable, and so cannot escape the tax collector the way nomads can.”

Which goes a long way towards gaining understanding in offshore banking centers and Richard Perle’s dwelling [aka Freedom House] in France. Libertarians are about as homogenized as the Koch brothers.

15

Kaveh Hemmat 09.12.08 at 6:03 pm

I don’t think most agrarian-age peasants had a lot of luxury goods either. The sorts of luxury goods that would be available to peasants–finer cloth, pottery, metal dishes, jewelry, tea and spices–were mostly not less available to nomads–see for example the important and ongoing tea-and-silk-for-horses-sheep-and-wool trade between China and Central Asia. Nomads had a lot of capital in the form of their herd animals. Peasants may have owned some capital too, if they owned their own land, but many didn’t. The common image of nomads in Islamicate literature is that they’re very poor and simple folk, but I don’t know how different that is from peasant farmers. I think the more meaningful distinction there is with city-dwellers.

Living full-time in an urban center of course rules out being a nomad, but the wealthier nomad leaders in Iran, e.g., did own large estates.

16

Ben Alpers 09.12.08 at 7:31 pm

The much-worse candidate was elected, the Green Party was not strengthened, and the Democrats were not frightened enough to make any changes—quite the opposite, they reacted spitefully. the worst outcome.

The one part of this with which I disagree is the Green Party’s not being strengthened. The part grew tremendously in 2000. The Nader run made the party visible (despite Nader’s refusal not only to join the party but even to work with it during his campaign). New state parties were founded, there was a huge jump in Green voter registrations, and dozens of states achieved ballot access for Green candidates in future election cycles.

The party singularly failed to capitalize on this growth, however, in large measure due to infighting between those of us who were more committed to the Green Party than to Ralph Nader and Naderites who were more committed to Nader–or to Nader as the fulfillment of a sectarian leftist fantasy–than to the Green Party and Green values.

Given how 2000 shook out, I’m not sure what we all could have done to keep growing at a reasonable rate. But one way or another, we blew it.

17

mpowell 09.12.08 at 7:37 pm

As Emerson astutely notes, the problem for libertarians is much simpler than for leftists. A credible argument exists that libertarians should be voting for the Democrats on principle alone. After all, it’s not like the conservatives are doing a bang up job with the economy, lowering the tax burden for the American public, or protecting civil liberties. Of course, it’s still good to Alex making this argument. For many people, politics is as much about feelings as anything else. Many self-styled libertarians have identified so long with the Republicans that when they feed them a big pile of horse manure they just eat it up, wipe their lips and smile. If they were to start voting for Democrats they would probably need to resolve some cognitive dissonance and start convincing themselves that maybe the Dems aren’t so bad after all. That process would probably help them realize that a reckless foreign policy, gross disregard for civil liberties and atrocious mismanagement of the government’s finances can’t be compensated for by a 2% break in taxes on the upmost bracket.

18

Jim 09.12.08 at 8:19 pm

Kaveh,

“I don’t think most agrarian-age peasants had a lot of luxury goods either. ”

John was talking about wealth in a society as a measure of war-fighting capability, however he may have phrased it. Peasants are a form of livestock in an agrarian society; they are more a form of wealth than they are possessors of wealth.

John, are you making any claim that peasants in these societies were wealthier than nomads? They might as well have been as poor as the sheep or horses.

19

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 8:31 pm

Agrarian societies were wealthy, though not most individuals within agrarian societies were not. That’s all I really meant. Agriculture makes cities possible.

But even the luxury of a genuinely nomadic khan was pretty slight compared to the luxury of a feudal lord or prosperous merchant. Everything had to be transportable on oxcarts, for one thing.

There are somewhat intermediate societies which are nomadic but rule agrarian societies, or serve them as soldiers.

On the other hand, pastoral peoples don’t have to work terribly hard, and a lot of the things they do (killing wolves, riding around on horses) are fun. Hoeing is not really fun unless maybe if you’re Amish, or a terribly decadent intellectual.

20

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 8:47 pm

That is to say (8:31.3), some nomads get the wealth benefits of pastoralism via their connection to urban societies.

21

Rich Puchalsky 09.12.08 at 8:57 pm

“If they were to start voting for Democrats they would probably need to resolve some cognitive dissonance and start convincing themselves that maybe the Dems aren’t so bad after all. ”

Libertarians go nuts when I write this, but look, they’re racists. It’s not really that surprising. They’ve been voting GOP, of course they’re racists; non-racists couldn’t have been. It’s just that people think that libertarians are motivated by this odd, first-causes ideology and rules that are colorblind. Well, any libertarian can use those rules to come to any conclusion they want, and those conclusions strangely enough keep coming to things like Lincoln was wrong to take property in the form of slaves away from people and that the government was wrong to forbid people from refusing to serve black people.

So there isn’t any bloc to shift. All that there is is the collapse of libertarian ideology for anyone who ever took it seriously. A few libertarians like Henley are left saying “Hey, guys, the GOP is doing worse things than the Democrats ever did. Hey, guys — guys? Where did you go?”

22

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 9:04 pm

The Libertarian Party is intensely factionalized. The Libertarians I know are intensely racist, nativist second-amendment fanatics, almost militia types. Other branches are sci-fi transhumanists, free marketers of the Hayekian type, near-anarchists, drug legalizers, and so on.

They’ve also had a financial scandal without ever controlling much money — Browne’s use of party money to promote a supporter in a libertarian primary.

23

mpowell 09.12.08 at 9:09 pm

Well, I’m not going to bother much in debating what the demographics of self-identified libertarians are in the United States. When I was in high school, I was one, and it certainly wasn’t because I was racist. But those political views didn’t last very long past the age of 18, and my Republican leanings didn’t survive much of Bush’s tenure, either.

My guess is that most current, Republican leaning, self-identified libertarians are overly obsessed with the theoretically reduction in taxes Republican provide. First, their sense of political justice is mostly broken (why else would they be a libertarian). And secondly, the only issues the really care about are their own financial concerns. And thirdly, their short-term outlook, in combination with the biases their ideology has given them, cause them to view the Republican strategy of cut taxes now, limit market regulation, favorably. What they don’t realize is that what the Republicans actually deliver is huge deficits, government handouts to their friends and regulatory regimes that benefit their biggest donors. You’re arguing that the only thing that makes sense is for them to be racist. My view is that they don’t care about other people (which is different from being racist) and their position doesn’t make sense. Is it all that surprising that the party offering $1000 tax reductions gets a lot of economic voters despite being bad for everyone in the long run?

24

mpowell 09.12.08 at 9:11 pm

22: Well, I think the marginal revolution libertarians mostly fall into your second group. I don’t even count the instapundit frauds.

25

virgil xenophon 09.12.08 at 9:14 pm

Nomads. It seems Emmerson, Markup, et al, have coined a new term for today’s extra-territorial well to do professional class–the Taipei to Simi-valley techie-types. Or the London-Jersey-Zurich-Caymans financial crowd.

Emmerson’s point about the Mongols is certainly timely with the resurgence of Putin’s Russia and it’s plethora of nukes. How does that old saying go?: “Scratch a Russian and you’ll find a Tarter.”

26

c.l. ball 09.12.08 at 9:44 pm

Tabarrok is correct that libertarians should defect from the GOP, but they should be with the Libertarian Party/Barr campaign, not the Dems. The point of defections is not to make a 3rd side win but to make the target lose. They might as well be ideologically consistent (and gain the potential party-building benefits). The Dems only have a game-theoretic reason to appease libertarians post-election if the concessions will not alienate a greater number of other Dem supporters in future elections and the GOP will not be able to make greater concessions to earn back libertarian support in later elections.

Nader and the Greens were not ego-centric spoilers in 1996 and 2000. They posed a serious challenge to the two-party duopoly in 2000. If Nader had got over 5% of the vote, he would have guaranteed the Greens minor party matching funds in 2004, and unlike the Reform Party in 1996 and 2000, they were less likely to have squandered them on in-fighting.

27

Kaveh Hemmat 09.12.08 at 9:52 pm

John, point taken, though I would argue that nomadism is if anything more closely tied to urbanism than settled agriculture is–nomads rely more heavily on trade for basic material and nutritional needs. Also, most of Central Asia and Iran was (in some places, is) a mixed nomadic and agricultural society, but the nomads are a large part or even majority of the population, and major producers of agricultural surplus for the cities, so I would not characterize them as ruling over or fighting for agrarian societies–they were (much of) those societies.

I also would not consider them auxiliary to the structures of the state, they were integrated into the state via kinship and contractual ties–very libertarian, actually.

28

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 10:06 pm

I really meant nomadism before 1300, when it was an independent politico-military force. The Yuan and later Chinese dynasties, Russia as it expanded, and the Ottomans did what they could to neutralize the nomads, partly by co-opting them.

Khodorvansky’s “Where Two World Met” describes the XVIIIc history of the Kalmyks trapped between Russia and China.

29

John Emerson 09.12.08 at 10:10 pm

Khodarkovsky

30

Kaveh Hemmat 09.12.08 at 10:35 pm

Thanks for recommending that. I’m reading Slaves of the Shah now (or will be after the next round of deadlines…), also Kathryn Babayan’s writes a lot about the nomad-settled synthesis in the Safavid state.

31

Michael B Sullivan 09.12.08 at 10:41 pm

Mpowell gets it exactly right in 17. As a libertarian who came to something like political consciousness in the early to mid 90’s, it was intensely hard for me to get over the tribal sense that Democrats are the enemies, even as my disgust with the Republican party grew. Even now, after having donated to the Obama campaign, talked uncommitted voters into voting Democratic, etc., every once in a while some liberal talking point will still trigger a knee-jerk sneer at “hippies.”

I think that all this stuff is intensely habitual and primitive. Look how long the conservative south stayed Democratic. Team loyalty is a deep-seated thing, and even relatively uncommitted people can find it lingers for years and years — much less the people who really bought into a party identity whole-heartedly.

32

nick s 09.12.08 at 10:43 pm

There’s a bootstrapping issue here. The NDP in Canada is potentially in a position to extract concessions from the federal Liberals after the general election. The minor parties in the US are in a position to play spoiler in a handful of states.

This can perhaps be explained by the disjunctive relationship between the presidential election and lower-tier politics, as compared to parliamentary systems. Getting one Green MP elected to the Canadian House of Commons will considered be a victory, but it’s also an extension of a political process that puts Greens into city and provincial governments. Let’s also take a hypothetical, in which n% of the vote, properly targetted, can deliver a parliamentary seat in British Columbia, while n% of the vote in the Florida presidential election can decide the outcome. The consequences are greater in the US example, but the benefit for the party is, I’d argue, greater in the Canadian case.

My guess is that most current, Republican leaning, self-identified libertarians are overly obsessed with the theoretically reduction in taxes Republican provide.

Not guns and smoking dope?

33

robertdfeinman 09.12.08 at 11:23 pm

Any libertarian who thinks their ideology has been supported by the GOP at any time in the past 40 years has been deluding himself.

The few financial backers of the libertarian movement (like Charles Koch) have paid for the libertarian propaganda to be put forth by funding Cato, GMU and the rest of the lot, while quietly working behind the scenes to benefit themselves personally by altering things like the estate tax and various direct and indirect subsidies to business.

They regard the libertarians as useful idiots.

This same duality of talk vs action can also be seen in the “values” area. The GOP has talked about abortion, sex education, support for religious education and the rest of the lot, but has done almost nothing concrete in terms of policy. The most they have done is throw some cash at these groups via Bush’s “faith-based” office and a couple of other agency projects.

It really doesn’t matter which party the libertarians side with, since they have no political influence one way or the other. Alex Tabarrok better watch his step however, if he gets too feisty his corporate master might cut his funding to the institutions that pay his salary.

34

Matt Austern 09.13.08 at 3:54 am

There’s another issue in a minority bargaining for political power within a party that hasn’t been mentioned yet: how practical is it for the party to say yes? This depends on whether the minority is making clear and focused demands, whether the demands are something the party can agree to without losing support from other interest groups, and whether there’s a practical mechanism for the party to satisfy the demands.

An interest group that did this right: the Israeli extremist religious parties. The first thing they did right was that their demands were in areas that they cared about more than anyone else did. Maybe secular voters are annoyed that buses in Jerusalem don’t run on Saturdays, but to most secular voters it isn’t enough to get them to vote for a different party and to the religious parties it is. The second thing they did right was that they were willing to take yes for an answer. They didn’t get everything they wanted, but they got a lot of it. And third, they exploited the features of the Israeli political system that let them make these bargains.

Nader, by contrast, did everything wrong. He didn’t make focused demands. It wasn’t clear what specific steps the Democratic Party could have taken that would have mollified him or his supporters. To the extent that one could figure out what he was asking for, it’s pretty clear that it would have lost the support of other interest groups, some of them more powerful than his. And given the specific quirks of the American political system, it would have taken some thought to decide what a bargain between a party and the Naderites would look like. (Most of the ideas I can think of would have involved a group of Naderite delegates at the Democratic convention.)

Maybe the libertarians can be smarter than the Naderites. If they can find some issue that’s a core principle to them, but not a core principle to the Democratic Party as a whole or to important Democratic constituencies, then they’ll have at least some chance of getting some of what they want.

35

geo 09.13.08 at 4:49 am

Nader, by contrast, did everything wrong. He didn’t make focused demands. It wasn’t clear what specific steps the Democratic Party could have taken that would have mollified him or his supporters.

This is absurd. If either 1) Gore had condescended to debate Nader or 2) the Democratic Party had agreed to make some legislative gesture in the direction of electoral reform, Nader might very well have withdrawn. It was the contemptible Democratic effort to ignore and marginalize Nader and to undermine the very idea of a third party that kept him in the race.

I find it disheartening that even on CT there is so little inclination to put the blame for 2000 where it belongs. For more, see: http://www.bostonreview.net/BR28.2/scialabba.html

36

Slocum 09.13.08 at 9:53 am

Obama has suggested turning away from harsh drug war penalties. He’s gone about as far as a politician seeking election in the U.S. can go. But reading the libertarians, all you see is denunciations that he hasn’t gone far enough.

But the ‘as far as a politician seeking election’ argument is what Republicans would claim as well. Obama has just called for the elimination of the differences in penalties between crack and powder cocaine. Well that’s fine — but ‘s mostly already happened anyway, and it’s pretty weak beer. And the Biden pick (a big-time drug warrior for decades) certainly does not inspire any confidence that Obama will put any emphasis on scaling back the drug war. And maybe I’ve missed it, but I’ve seen nothing from Obama on the kinds of paramilitary law-enforcement abuses that Rodney Balko has been going after.

What worries libertarians about Obama? The plan for “voluntary” universal service for all K-12 and university students, for one:

http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/NationalServicePlanFactSheet.pdf

Using government leverage to create a vast new pool of labor for community organizations and putting the government in the role of deciding what organizations “count” as service-worthy? Ugh.

Without this, it might have been an area where Obama had a clear advantage over McCain, because one of the things that worries libertarians most about McCain is his ‘fetishization of service’.

On economic liberty issues, Obama does not look good — with his demogoging of free trade and his proposal to end secret-ballot union elections in particular. The one issue on which he is attracting some fraction of libertarians is Iraq. Those libertarians regard the military as big government programs at their worst. But others feel the need to weight this against the liberty for those outside the U.S., and for these libertarians Obama is not so attractive (he has seemed pretty consistently indifferent to the fates of Iraqis after a U.S. exit).

37

Rich Puchalsky 09.13.08 at 11:51 am

“Obama has just called for the elimination of the differences in penalties between crack and powder cocaine. Well that’s fine—but ’s mostly already happened anyway, and it’s pretty weak beer.”

In other words, who cares: it only helps black people.

“But others feel the need to weight this against the liberty for those outside the U.S.”

Yes, the liberty of the people whose country we invaded, more than a million of whom we killed, must be preserved by us remaining in control of their country.

Like I said, libertarians can figure out how to justify anything. And their choices of what to justify are almost always contemptible.

38

Slocum 09.13.08 at 12:39 pm

In other words, who cares: it only helps black people.

No, in other words — it’s just that at this point, it’s a very low risk position. There’s now very little disagreement that the sentencing disparities should be reduced or eliminated. It’s a process well worth pursuing, but Obama doesn’t really add all that much. And a ‘fairer’ war on drugs may, unfortunately, enjoy even broader support. The disparities should be eliminated, obviously, but I don’t see that as the first of many steps in scaling back the drug war. On the contrary, Biden’s bill, for example, would eliminate the disparities but includes a provision to increase the penalties for traffickers and provide more funds to the FBI and Homeland Security for prosecuting the drug war. Which is completely consistent with Biden’s history. And let’s not forget that Biden was the man in Washington arguably most responsible for the sentencing disparities in the first place. And this is not just ancient history from the 1980s — the infamous RAVE Act of 2003 was his baby as well:

“Now, club owners and partyers alike are being subjected to a loosely worded and heavy-handed law that authorities will be able to indiscriminately use to shut down music events at any time they please, assuming they find evidence of drug use. Thanks to Biden’s surreptitious efforts, a few glow sticks and a customer or two on Ecstasy could be all it takes to throw a party promoter in jail for 20 years.”
http://dir.salon.com/story/mwt/feature/2003/04/16/rave/

Sorry — you can’t pick Joe f*#king Biden as a running mate and have any credibility as someone opposing the drug war.

Yes, the liberty of the people whose country we invaded, more than a million of whom we killed, must be preserved by us remaining in control of their country.

One can oppose the invasion and still not take the attitude that if withdrawal results in genocide — well, them’s the breaks:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/20/AR2007072000831.html

Like I said, libertarians can figure out how to justify anything.

And as I said, there has been much disagreement among libertarians on Iraq:

http://www.volokh.com/posts/1153624105.shtml

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Uncle Kvetch 09.13.08 at 2:03 pm

And as I said, there has been much disagreement among libertarians on Iraq

Then we’re back to square one. If striving (and spending) for complete global military hegemony, and arrogating to oneself the unilateral right to “liberate” countries that pose no threat, is one of those things about which “opinions differ,” then libertarianism is fundamentally incoherent. There’s simply no there there.

When I read Henley or Arthur Silber I can at least see some kind of unifying principles at work, some of which I agree with strongly, others not. But they’re the exceptions that prove the rule, IMHO.

If there are substantial numbers of self-described “libertarians” who are even *considering* voting GOP this year, then the word “libertarianism” can’t be anything more than a meaningless rhetorical tic.

40

John Emerson 09.13.08 at 4:00 pm

In 2004 it already should have been impossible for libertarians (large or small L) to vote Republican. I even tried to get a bunch of them to commit to at least voting Libertarian. (Henley was soliciting them to vote for Kerry, but I was the backup). My argument was, “If the libertarians can’t get votes this year, the Libertarian Party should just cease to exist. There never will be a better time to vote libertarian”.

My guess is that a lot of them still voted Republican, as though Bush were in some way a lesser evil. The Party didn’t fold, but they got only a third of a percent of the vote and they might as well have.

Slocum seems to be retreating ditch by ditch, but even when I try to put myself into a Libertarian frame of mind, I still can’t see any parity between the Republicans and the Democrats, and I can’t really see the point of voting for a party as feeble as the Libertarians either.

My reading is that market worship, liberal-hating, anti-tax sentiment, anti-union sentiment, and racism are the gut principles of actual libertarians. Anti-authoritarianism, opposition to arbitrary state power, opposition to aggressive militarism, and commitment to civil liberties rank below these.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.13.08 at 4:41 pm

“No, in other words—it’s just that at this point, it’s a very low risk position. There’s now very little disagreement that the sentencing disparities should be reduced or eliminated. It’s a process well worth pursuing”

The Republicans have not been pursuing it. You can afford to wave it off with an airy, “oh yes, everyone agrees that eventually…” because you don’t care whether it ever actually happens or not.

“One can oppose the invasion and still not take the attitude that if withdrawal results in genocide—well, them’s the breaks”

Oooh, a principled libertarian position! Strange, I didn’t know that libertarianism was utilitarianism, basically. Although I think that it only is when other people are doing the dying, and other people are the ones who don’t get to make their own decisions about politics in their country and that we have to keep control of them for their own good.

Let’s try this one on other libertarian faves. “One can oppose laws against smoking and still not take the attitude that if removing them causes millions of deaths, those are the breaks”. “One can oppose laws against gun ownership and still not take the attitude that if removing them causes tens of thousands to die, those are the breaks.” “One can oppose high tax rates, and still not take the attitude that if lowering them causes millions of the poor to be miserable, those are the breaks.” Wow, that’s some libertarianism.

But it always was. I’m glad that slocum turned up. People never believe me about the contingent nature of libertarianism depending on who is getting hurt until they see it.

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Chris White 09.13.08 at 5:18 pm

Perhaps Nader has been screaming at us as citizens to stop accepting the two party system as a sacrosanct given. Maybe we should listen to him.

Ballot reform is more important, I believe, than election reform. It is currently a dramatic hurdle for alternate party candidates to get on the ballot. Those that do are seen as spoilers siphoning votes from the major party candidate with the most similar positions. A hard social conservative alternate party candidate will draw more Republican base voters; a progressive peace and sustainability activist independent will draw from Democratic base voters. This sets up the conundrum of exit and disloyalty.

Part of the solution may be automatic runoff balloting. Voters rank candidates in order of preference, as far as they wish to go. Given an election with a field of five candidates I might rank the three I liked with no ranking for the other two. You might only give one candidate top ranking. If no candidate gets a clear majority of the ballots based only on voters’ top choices then the ballots that top ranked the candidate with lowest total top ranking are checked for subsequent second choices which are added to the counts of the remaining field. This step is repeated until either a candidate emerges as the victor with a clear majority or, if there is still no majority vote getter, either a new election needs to be held or the top plurality candidate takes office.

This type of balloting change would do some important things. Voters gain more grassroots power and a better way of expressing themselves. Alternate parties would be able to cooperatively work with the major party with which they share the most common goals rather than having both the major and alternate party diverting as much energy into dueling over the “shared” voters.

I believe this would increase voter participation, encourage the formation of alternate parties, and that those together would strengthen our system of representative government.

The way to sell it to the major parties is to point out what might have occurred if the automatic runoff balloting system had been used in the elections where Perot and Nader were candidates.

[Ben, don’t throw in the towel yet. It can take a while for a party to grow. There are Greens elected every election cycle on the state and local level.]

43

abb1 09.13.08 at 5:58 pm

Principled libertarian is a rare bird, it’s very much an intellectual, truly elitist trait. A typical ‘libertarian’ is just a guy who thinks the taxes are too high (which is quite true, considering that most of of it is spent on “defense”) and there are too many damned lawyers. He probably approves bombing filthy foreigners back into the stone age, racial profiling, “marriage defense”, and a whole bunch of other ideas inconsistent with libertarianism. Just like a typical Christian doesn’t exactly follow the “love your enemies” doctrine. Welcome to real life.

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Slocum 09.13.08 at 6:10 pm

The Republicans have not been pursuing it.

False. Here, for example, is the bill sponsored by Orin Hatch and co-sponsored by Kennedy, Specter, and Feinstein:

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-1685

Hatch and Spector are Republicans, while Kennedy and Feinstein are Democrats.

45

Michael B Sullivan 09.13.08 at 6:40 pm

abb1: Well, yes, principled libertarians probably are a pretty rare bird, in as much as principled anythings are a pretty rare bird. I mean, do you really think that the average Democratic or Republican voter could articulate well-thought-out, coherent philosophical axioms supporting their voting habits? Heck, do you think that the average conservative or liberal pundit could?

Most people support the politics they support out of basically, 50% tribalism/what their parents taught them to support/what their community teaches them to support, 30% self-interest, 10% who looks good on teevee/made a nice soundbite/won the last news cycle, and maybe 10% some kind of considered position on what’s the right thing to do. Numbers pulled ex recto, of course, but that’s true for libertarians, democrats, republicans, greens, socialists, fascists, whoever.

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strasmangelo jones 09.13.08 at 7:14 pm

(That seems to explain Northeastern liberal Republicans like Chafee, to – hatred of Democrats)

This is a fairly uninformed and anachronistic reading. The Northeast has had a long history of socially liberal, economically moderate-to-conservative Republicans in the Chafee mold, who often could’ve passed for economically conservative Dems. This tradition was never rooted in the hate-the-other-team mentality that’s become the motivating force of post-Gingrich national politics, but mostly in family connections: Chafee inherited his political affiliation from his father, much as Romney and most of the country club GOPers did from theirs.

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notsneaky 09.13.08 at 8:44 pm

Actually folks like Rich above are probably one of the major reasons lots of Liberterians-sympathetic-to-Democrats wanna vote for Republicans. Hell, he makes me wanna vote for McCain just out of spite (screw Detroit). I’m not gonna, since I pretty much agree with John Emerson in 38. Except for the last paragraph of course – I guess we just know different people.

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Kaveh Hemmat 09.13.08 at 10:03 pm

John, thanks for the suggestion of Khodarkovsky, that sounds like an interesting read and right up my alley. A while back I read Kathryn Babayan on the nomadic-sedentary synthesis in Iran in Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs, but I think her dissertation actually deal with this issue more directly.

49

Uncle Kvetch 09.13.08 at 10:35 pm

My reading is that market worship, liberal-hating, anti-tax sentiment, anti-union sentiment, and racism are the gut principles of actual libertarians.

I think the second item in your inventory is crucial here…like a lot of conservatives these days, a lot of libertarians never really articulate much of a position beyond hating the left. Is there any unifying principle to Glenn Reynolds’ opinions on various issues besides “liberals suck”? Right here in this thread we’ve seen a prime example, one that I applaud for its honesty:

Actually folks like Rich above are probably one of the major reasons lots of Liberterians-sympathetic-to-Democrats wanna vote for Republicans.

Precisely. “Spite” really does seem to be a big deal for these folks.

Slocum has articulated a number of reasons for libertarians to be wary of Obama, and on a number of them–Biden’s abysmal record on the “War on Drugs” especially–it’s a very fair point. But not a peep about Gitmo, or extraordinary rendition, or wiretapping, or cronyism, or corporate welfare, or the insanely bloated military, or the bureaucratic boondoggle that is “Homeland Security,” or the “Bush Doctrine.” It really makes you appreciate the honesty and frankness of the ones who are willing to lay their cards on the table: “Just cut my goddamn taxes.”

50

Slocum 09.13.08 at 11:01 pm

“But not a peep about Gitmo, or extraordinary rendition”

Fine, but McCain does not have a record of being pro-torture either.

“…or wiretapping”

I’m sure you noticed that Obama voted for the FISA bill.

“…or cronyism”

Obama’s background in the Chicago machine does not inspire confidence (Tony Rezko anyone).

“…or corporate welfare”

IMHO, perhaps the most worst instance of corporate welfare in recent years is the corn ethanol program. Obama has been a strong supporter (Illinois is a corn state and site of corn ethanol plants).

Along the same lines, Obama voted for the subsidy laden farm bill (while McCain opposed). I don’t see much reason to have confidence in Obama’s likelihood of opposing government subsidies.

“…the bureaucratic boondoggle that is “Homeland Security”

Did I miss something — what reason is there to think that Obama would slim down the bloated Homeland Security department?

“…or the Bush Doctrine”

The thing is — Bush isn’t one of the choices this election. It’s not Obama vs Bush (however much Obama would like it to be).

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notsneaky 09.13.08 at 11:10 pm

“Glenn Reynolds’ opinions on various issues besides “liberals suck”? Right here in this thread we’ve seen a prime example, one that I applaud for its honesty:”

Per commentator above, I don’t consider Glenn Reynolds a liberterian.
As for my ‘spite’ – please note that it is in response to some really assholish comments from Rich, who unfortunately typifies much of the left. I mean, you know, why not emphasize the things we got in common rather than spew rabid spittle about these evil (and admittedly inconsequential) libertarians.

Oh, and a good part of why I plan on supporting Obama this time around is all the whinnying I’ve seen from left wing crazies about how he (Obama) “isn’t a real progressive” or “isn’t progressive enough”. Every time I see that, my moderate libertarian heart warms up more and more to the guy.

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Uncle Kvetch 09.13.08 at 11:31 pm

Fine, but McCain does not have a record of being pro-torture either.

No, he has a record of rhetorical opposition combined with total inaction. He caved on the issue, completely and utterly.

I’m sure you noticed that Obama voted for the FISA bill.

Point taken. But here, as in so many things, it’s a case Democrats not successfully opposing abuses of power committed by Republicans. Obama’s vote for the FISA bill was shameful. That doesn’t change the fact that it was a Republican administration that did the wiretapping. It’s the distinction between sins of commission and sins of omission.

Again, you’re offering plenty of reasons for libertarians to dislike Obama, but nothing to support McCain other than protestations of “Well, Obama’s just as bad.” That’s a reason to vote for the other guy?

I’ll concede the point on ethanol, rather than quibble with your calling it the “worst instance of corporate welfare in recent years,” which I think is highly debatable.

The thing is—Bush isn’t one of the choices this election. It’s not Obama vs Bush (however much Obama would like it to be).

Oh, come on, Slocum…now you’re being deliberately obtuse. It’s Obama vs a candidate whose foreign policy outlook and proposals are indistinguishable from those of George Bush. And you know this damn well. McCain has been an ardent hawk and interventionist throughout his entire political career.

I’d love to hear you make the libertarian case for “We are all Georgians now”…no, actually, scratch that, I really wouldn’t.

53

John Emerson 09.14.08 at 12:24 am

Chris White: I wish that were possible, but to get there you’d need to make major structural changes, and one or both parties would have to sign on, and what are the chances of that? The two-party system is set in stone.

Nader’s unwillingness to work in any actual political structure made me lose respect for him. He was that way from the beginning, forty years ago; he wanted to make major changes in the system as a non-partisan, non-political outsider.

Stras, I’ve tried to figure out the NE moderate Republicans. They have a long tradition going back to Lincoln, sure, but they’ve received nothing but abuse from the other Republicans for about 15 years now. Why did only Jeffers leave the party?

Of the factors I mentioned, anti-union fiscal conservativism is the most important for them, I think. With Bush they get one of the two.

54

Jacob T. Levy 09.14.08 at 12:35 am

Sigh. I’m a libertarian (and sometime Libertarian) who voted Dem in 2004 and publicly argued for the importance of doing so, will do so again this year, and entirely agree with Tabarrok’s post. But a comment thread like this sure makes it hard to resist the thought that Democrats and left-liberals are my tribal enemies, or at least view me as theirs. I understand why some of my fellow libertarians get suckered by the Republican willingness at least pretend to listen to us and engage with us civilly.

(Nonetheless, I’ll be giving a talk next month on liberal-libertarian reconciliation and the election.)

55

Rich Puchalsky 09.14.08 at 12:36 am

I’m glad that notsneaky turned up, too. I’m voting the way I am because I have a positive agenda. People like notsneaky can only vote out of spite because some mean, mean person wrote something they didn’t like in a comment box. Which means that they lose, forever.

I’ve made my point here. There is no libertarian “bloc” capable of switching its vote from one party to another. There’s just a bunch of denialists and spite-heads, people who have no understanding of what libertarianism really means, who don’t want to admit that they’re as racist and nativist as the next Republican. It’s important to keep pointing that out, because some corporate types spend a lot of money on places like Cato in order to pretend that the whole thing has some sort of intellectual credibility.

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geo 09.14.08 at 12:52 am

I wish that were possible, but to get there you’d need to make major structural changes, and one or both parties would have to sign on, and what are the chances of that? The two-party system is set in stone.

For Pete’s sake, John, do you really believe this? The Democratic Party is marginally less corrupt, benighted, and undemocratic than the Republican Party, and one should certainly wish the Democrats well and the Republicans ill. But the notion that the party of Robert Rubin, Madeline Albright, and the union-buster Mark Penn will ever take a decent initiative except under extreme pressure from people outside the party leadership is … not worthy of you.

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Slocum 09.14.08 at 12:53 am

No, he has a record of rhetorical opposition combined with total inaction. He caved on the issue, completely and utterly.

If so, that differs from Obama on FISA — how?

Obama’s vote for the FISA bill was shameful. That doesn’t change the fact that it was a Republican administration that did the wiretapping. It’s the distinction between sins of commission and sins of omission.

Yes. But the groundwork was all laid during the Clinton adminstration, with nothing close to 9/11 to provide the motivation. I voted for Clinton twice, but he was no great champion of civil liberties (remember the Clinton adminstration’s fight to establish a federal encryption key escrow system providing a a government back-door? Aren’t you now glad they didn’t manage to push that through?).

Again, you’re offering plenty of reasons for libertarians to dislike Obama, but nothing to support McCain other than protestations of “Well, Obama’s just as bad.” That’s a reason to vote for the other guy?

But Obama’s attractiveness to libertarians is the topic at hand. I can also offer a number of reasons for libertarians to dislike McCain, starting with McCain-Feingold–the idea that having to have special permission from the government to place an ad mentioning a candidate near an election is so far from the libertarian ideal, that — all things being equal — it would rule out a vote for a candidate who sponsored such a measure immediately and irrevocably. But things are rarely equal. Next, there is McCain’s ‘service fetish’ — the idea that life is particularly ennobled by serving the nation but not by the pursuit of happiness in whatever private form strikes a citizen’s fancy. And, yes, there is his interventionism. But in each of these areas, Obama does not seem to be an improvement. I’ve certainly never seen Obama suggest McCain-Feingold violates free-speech rights. Obama also seems at least as infected with the service fetish as McCain. And Obama has proposed withdrawing troops from Iraq in order to re-deploy to Afghanistan (although, that said, I am not from the isolationist wing of the imaginary small-l libertarian party). McCain is nothing to write home about on the drug war either, but again, not worse than Obama (especially in light of Biden).

And there are some areas where McCain does seem an improvment. On trade, definitely. And on corporate welfare/government subsidies. For example, McCain voted against (but Obama voted for) the massive farm bill about which the NY Times said:

“Congress has approved a $307 billion farm bill that rewards rich farmers who do not need the help while doing virtually nothing to help the world’s hungry, who need all the help they can get.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/16/opinion/16fri3.html

If the big-L Libertarian Party wasn’t nuts, it might be a year for a protest vote, but …

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Rich Puchalsky 09.14.08 at 1:04 am

Poor, poor sighing Jacob Levy. He supported the Iraq War and, as a pundit, therefore has a share of those million deaths. How many — just one, perhaps, for his share? And now he’s oh so sad that I’m not engaging with his discredited, harmful ideas as civilly as he’d like.

Scrub the blood off your hands, Jacob. When you’ve gotten that spot out, I’ll be real civil. Until then, I hope that you don’t mind if I spend the limited fund of respect I have left for anyone in our corrupt political system on people who were actually right about that before 2004.

And, by the way, libertarians have done nothing for liberals, and have nothing to bring to the table. Why should we pretend to respect your 19th century economics? Because somewhere in the country, we may get a thousand votes? In the supposed liberal-libertarian reconciliation, you desperately need us, in order to keep a shred of your self-respect. But why do we need you?

Kos, by the way, is doing actual liberal-libertarian outreach to the only libertarians that matter, the vaguely libertarian-flavored people in the Western states. He’s written more about Montana, and done more for libertarian-leaning Democratic pols there, than anyone. Do libertarians care? No, because that’s not ideological libertarianism — the kind that the paymasters at Cato et al are interested in.

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notsneaky 09.14.08 at 2:57 am

Rich, apparently you didn’t notice it but my point was that I was gonna support Obama in SPITE of folks like yourself, rather than support McCain to SPITE folks like yourself. Wrong kind of SPITE.

My kind of spite forgives. The other kind of spite holds grudges. Get it? If you have any other troubles related to the nuances of the English language I know some Chinese students who speak it quite well and who have prior experience with people who happened to be born speaking a particular language but whose mental faculties actually prevent them from understanding it. Nu?

60

J Thomas 09.14.08 at 3:24 am

Chris White: I wish that were possible, but to get there you’d need to make major structural changes, and one or both parties would have to sign on, and what are the chances of that? The two-party system is set in stone.

Democrats would benefit by using IRV for their primaries.

When you can vote for every candidate you find acceptable, there’s a lot less incentive for candidates to look mean.

You don’t want to be mean to fellow candidates who overlap your positions — you aren’t competing for those votes, you’re sharing those votes. Get more votes for some other reason and you’ll inherit the other guy’s provided you don’t get his voters upset at you.

The two leading candidates should think twice about playing mean. If the other guy looks bad but you look bad too, some third-place guy who’s everybody’s second choice is likely to win the nomination.

The losers don’t lose so much. If you lose but your name got marked on 90% of the ballots (or better yet 100%) you aren’t truly a loser. The voters liked you. OK, they liked somebody else more, but still you have a good start for the next campaign.

The winners win more. Somebody who voted for you second is more likely to support you than somebody who only voted for your opponent who lost.

Extreme candidates get a hearing. Say that a libertarian or a green runs as a democrat, and gets the first vote 5% of the time and gets some place in 25% of ballots. He’s done a lot better than he would running as a third-party candidate and hoping for 3% of the vote. He’s got a clear idea how many voters he needs to convince to win, and he’s got a clear idea how much sympathy his positions already have among Democratic voters. Unless the winner is too much opposed to his ideals, he should support that winner in this election and go on trying to convince his fellow Democrats on the issues. With IRV primaries he can somewhat bypass party bosses. The voters support him as much as they choose to. Everybody can see it. Each election that his support grows among Democrats he’s doing better than he would running as a third party candidate.

It should be a whole lot less effort to establish that the Democratic Party has the right to run IRV primaries than it would to change the whole election system. And only Democrats would get the advantages, the GOP wouldn’t share in that at all unless they played copycat.

It may be true that both parties will oppose opening up elections to IRV. Will the Democratic Party oppose opening up Democratic primaries to IRV?

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Rich Puchalsky 09.14.08 at 3:32 am

notsneaky, what you wrote is right up there. You wrote: “Hell, he makes me wanna vote for McCain just out of spite (screw Detroit).” Yeah, that’s the sprite that forgives, all right, the spite that means “in spite of”. You then said that you were going to vote for McCain anyways, but hey, your motivations are right there. Who knows why you aren’t doing what you said you wanted to do. You didn’t think any of that was as important as feeling spite because of the mean, mean true things I said.

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notsneaky 09.14.08 at 4:20 am

It’s always quite annoying to have to explain to native speakers how their language works. But here we go. “Wanna” does not equal “I will”. It means roughly “the thought occurred to me, but then I realized that I was talking to a very stupid person and I stuck with my original plan despite him”. As in support Obama. But it’s understandable that that part was very subtle and some people somehow missed it. I mean, there was like confusing words in it and stuff. Like “wanna”.

Unfortunately it is a bit more difficult to explain your confusion about my planned voting choices. You say:
“You then said that you were going to vote for McCain anyways”

while actually what I said was:
“I plan on supporting Obama”
and
“I was gonna support Obama in SPITE of folks like yourself”

That kind of misunderstanding cannot be ascribed to pure stupidity alone. There’s gotta be some straight up malice involved.

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Righteous Bubba 09.14.08 at 4:28 am

“Wanna” does not equal “I will”.

This distinction has saved me from many beatings.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.14.08 at 4:41 am

I typed the wrong name — McCain instead of Obama — due to insufficient proofreading, as you would have seen from context if you’d read “Who knows why you aren’t doing what you said you wanted to do.” Which also takes care of the want to/will difference.

Any more? I mean, you’re doing a great impression of someone motivated by spite, at the moment. Lots about how people somehow didn’t read what you clearly wrote. Lots about how you want to vote out of spite, but you won’t really, but boy you really don’t like people like me. Any more illustrations of what people like you are motivated by that you’d like to add?

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Chris White 09.14.08 at 1:36 pm

John Emerson 53 – Why is the current balloting system “set in stone”? Is there an amendment to the constitution limiting us to two parties that I missed? If the system cannot change and we are always going to be limited to the two parties this whole thread is based on moot points. If an alternate party must always vote for a major party candidate to have their vote “count” in what way does that vote actually reflect the voter’s true choice?

As for getting support for changing to IRV balloting from major party legislators I think it is more possible than you do. Again, if we had automatic runoff balloting in 2000 I suspect we would have seen Gore win based on the second ranking count of Nader ballots. Wouldn’t this argument help build support for the idea among Democrats? The same logic applies to Republicans who look at the elections in which Perot or Buchanan ran.

Even more importantly, I think a significant portion of un-enrolled independent voters would see this change as very desirable, as should voters who belong to any and all alternate parties. It is the one plank that could and should become part of the Libertarian platform … and the Green platform and the Socialist platform and Constitution Party platform.

J Thomas makes good points in 60 for a possible way to begin to get the change to IRV rolling.

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Uncle Kvetch 09.14.08 at 1:51 pm

No, he has a record of rhetorical opposition combined with total inaction. He caved on the issue, completely and utterly.

If so, that differs from Obama on FISA —how?

It’s different because it’s a different issue, Slocum. I conceded the point on wiretapping. I won’t do so on torture, because McCain has been utterly silent on the issue on the campaign trail, and the Democrats haven’t. Obama promised to end torture at the Democratic convention, unequivocally. McCain preferred not to bring it up.

Obama has pledged to close Gitmo and restore habeas corpus. McCain has said nothing.

I would have thought that if there were a bright line issue for a libertarian, torture and habeas corpus would be it. But I think we’ve established that “free trade” and lower marginal tax rates for the wealthy are pretty much the alpha and omega of your libertarianism, and waterboarding, extraordinary rendition, and “stress positions” are trivial details. It’s not like they’re going to start rounding up upper-middle-class white professionals and shipping them to Gitmo anytime soon, so no biggie.

The bitter irony here is that on a hell of a lot of issues, Obama has been a profound disappointment to my lefty, antiwar self. And you’re correct that Bill Clinton’s record on civil liberties was mediocre at best. I wouldn’t describe myself as a “fan” of either man. But to suggest that their shortcomings on these issues are reasons to vote Republican in 2008…it just boggles the mind. I can’t begin to get my head around it.

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John Emerson 09.14.08 at 3:52 pm

Why is the current balloting system “set in stone”?

Because change at the national level will require a large number of changes by the 50 states one at a time, and because in most cases one or both of the two official parties will refuse to accept that. As it is now, “first-past-the-post” destroys national third parties. They can be wreckers and nothing else.

As a centrist Perot was as successful as a third party candidate could be, but his movement didn’t last and was only partially successful in attaining a rather limited goal. Most who call for a third party are on the left or the right and for that reason can’t be as successful as Perot was; a left party can’t draw from the Republicans and will always rightly be seen as a splinter weakening the Democrats.

I do not oppose wrecker third parties as such, but the Nader attempt in 2000, which I supported, was a disaster.

I also do not oppose state and local third parties, but I don’t expect them to have a major impact nationally. Most tend to be personality cults.

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Slocum 09.14.08 at 3:57 pm

I would have thought that if there were a bright line issue for a libertarian, torture and habeas corpus would be it.

Yes. But my sense of these issues is that they were excesses born of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (or at least amplified — extraordinary rendition began under Clinton) and that their use will be scaled back down as the 9/11 continues to recedes and the wars in the Middle East wind down. If I believed that Gitmo was the first step on a slippery slope into fascism (a la Naomi Wolf) then other issues would, indeed, be immaterial. But that’s not what I expect.

What I do believe, instead, is that the civil liberties abuses of the drug war are much more pernicious and much more likely to persist–middle of the night, paramilitary-style SWAT raids on the homes of private citizens have no place in a free society (and note that this is also something that upper middle-class whites are highly unlikely to experience — though sometimes ‘mistakes are made’). But the responsibility for this problem lies with state and local governments more than the federal government and, because Democrats and Republics are equally responsible, it seems to have a hard time gaining traction. I would, in fact, be willing to be a single-issue voter on an end to the war on drugs — but not, at this point, on Gitmo.

But to suggest that their shortcomings on these issues are reasons to vote Republican in 2008…it just boggles the mind. I can’t begin to get my head around it.

But, then, you’re not a libertarian. And it’s not a parliamentary system — we’re not electing a party that will then appoint a prime minister. I’m not suggesting anybody vote a straight Republican ticket, and I certainly won’t (and never have). In fact, as a libertarian, I hope for divided government–Republicans and Democrats tend to slow down and scale back each other’s grand schemes.

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J Thomas 09.14.08 at 5:49 pm

In fact, as a libertarian, I hope for divided government—Republicans and Democrats tend to slow down and scale back each other’s grand schemes.

I want to give Democrats 2 years to do whatever they want, hoping they’ll scale back the latest GOP grand schemes.

If they do too much corruption in the 1st two years, making up for lost time, then I’ll look at bringing back enough republicans to stop them or better yet bring in some libertarians. I’ve reached the point I don’t trust the GOP for anything, including reining in democrats.

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John Emerson 09.14.08 at 6:02 pm

Yes. But my sense of these issues is that they were excesses born of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (or at least amplified—extraordinary rendition began under Clinton) and that their use will be scaled back down as the 9/11 continues to recedes and the wars in the Middle East wind down.

Slocum never disappoints.

The Bush administration has consistently ignored legal restrictions on executive authority in every area whatsoever, torture being only the most egregious of his offenses. there is no reason to hope for a “scaling back down” at any time for any reason.

Shorter Slocum: I’m a libertarian except when things get serious.

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Henry 09.14.08 at 6:18 pm

I’m not moderating this or other threads actively because I have a newborn – but Rich – you’re on warning that you’re being an asshole. Cool it down.

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Roy Belmont 09.14.08 at 6:34 pm

slocum:
the first step on a slippery slope into fascism

Or maybe the third step?
27th?
The premises are locking up the whole subject there.
First conceit, that all forms of tyranny are now in the Codex, so anything that happens will have clear parallel precedent and come to us pre-named.
Second conceit, that “fascism” will need to take predictable steps that will be easily identifiable in order to assume control, and you’ll see it coming long before it’s too late.
Third not so much a conceit as a failure of imagination and attention, that the “drug wars” have anything to do with drugs except as economic commodities.
Look at what a perfect rationale the laws provide for the arrest and neutralization of social threats. Not to mention the damage done to the most likely demographics to confront and resist the dominant power.
Look at how easily the drug laws can be repurposed to intimidate and demand the cooperation of the adventurous young.
Busted for weed?
Five years in the big house, unless you want to help us out with some info and surveillance tech placement.
But the big happy thing, the idea that “their use will be scaled back down as the 9/11 continues to recedes and the wars in the Middle East wind down”, whoa there hey.
You’ll want to be eliminating a large piece of the contemporary public to see that happen.
Like say all those millions of Christian Zionists.
Because they’re never going to back off the Holy Land, until they own it or they’re gone from the world.
Fascism’s one thing, psychotic theocrats with guns and legal representation is quite another.

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MSS 09.14.08 at 6:42 pm

Really, the key is alluded to in the last paragraph of the post: organization. Groups that are organized can (and do) make threats and sometimes withhold their campaign labor or contributions, etc.

The problem with “libertarians” is that they are not organized, as such (aside from a party that hardly deserves to be called a party). And while those who espouse libertarian principles may not be organized around those principles, the set of people who claim to subscribe to those views overlaps pretty heavily with the set of people who gain from upper-bracket tax cuts and various government “corporate-welfare” subsidies. In other words, the set of interests we are talking about is anything but ignored by the Republican Party. It just is not meaningfully–by which I mean organizationally–libertarian.

And indeed, there is no organized left in the US, either.

Regarding Nader, he certainly is not a party builder, which is why he and the Greens (who are in any case only marginally better organized as a party than the Libertarians) split after 2000.)

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J Thomas 09.16.08 at 5:39 am

‘Why is the current balloting system “set in stone”?’

Because change at the national level will require a large number of changes by the 50 states one at a time, and because in most cases one or both of the two official parties will refuse to accept that.

I wonder if it will help that both McCain and Obama are proponents of IRV.

It shouldn’t hurt. I hope.

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geo 09.16.08 at 5:48 pm

As it is now, “first-past-the-post” destroys national third parties. They can be wreckers and nothing else.

Correct. It’s also true that “first past the post” is utterly irrational, and that the two existing parties are committed to it precisely because it prevents third parties from challenging their political duopoly. So, the proper response to this situation is: “Third parties, get lost!”?

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notsneaky 09.16.08 at 6:06 pm

With regard to IRV, that system has some problems (of course Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem tell us that pretty much any voting system’s gonna have some problems). In particular it’s “non-monotone” as it’s called in the literature on voting which basically means that in certain cases getting more votes can actually hurt you. The examples I’ve seen are all a bit contrived so maybe it’s like capital-paradoxes and reswitching in economics though.

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