Posts Tagged With: Mitt Romney

“Vote or Die,” Indeed

Here’s someone who gives the “Vote or Die” movement new meaning (h/t Attack the System):

[An Arizona] woman critically injured her husband by running over him with an SUV during an argument about the presidential election, police said.

Holly Solomon, 28, was upset about President Barack Obama’s re-election and began arguing with her husband when she found out that he didn’t vote, authorities said.

Daniel Solomon, 36, told investigators that his wife believed her family was going to face hardship as a result of Obama’s election to a second term.

During the argument, Daniel Solomon got out of the SUV and gave his wife a dirty look, according to a police report obtained by Phoenix television station KPHO. That’s when she started chasing him through a Gilbert parking lot.

Police said he took refuge behind a light pole as she circled him numerous times while continuing to yell at him.

She struck him as he tried to run toward the road, pinning him between the SUV’s underside and a curb, police said.

According to Politico, Mitt Romney won Arizona by approximately 20,000 votes. So whether or not this woman’s husband voted for Romney is completely meaningless. The only way he could have made any kind of difference is if he were able to convince 20,001 Arizonans to switch from voting for Romney to voting for Obama–a proposition that seems . . . unlikely.

If some other ideology could motivate one spouse to run over the other in a car, it would be called dangerous fanaticism. That is especially so when a failure to conform has no real-world consequences. But the “everyone must vote” line has never corresponded to the realities of the electoral college or to the fact that aggregate phenomena are only determined by the actors on the margins. It seems, then, to have more in common with older mass hysterias like witch-burning than it does with rational political deliberation.

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Post Election Analysis: Moderation as Vice

By some sort of cosmic irony, Mitt Romney’s defeat in the presidential election is now being held up as a sign that the ultra-conservatives exercise too much control in the Republican Party. Critics charge that if the Republican Party wants to become political relevant again, it must subdue its more radical elements and start putting forth more moderate candidates. Social issues need to be abandoned in order to attract more women voters, and the Republican line on immigration needs to be reconsidered in order to reach out to Hispanics.

According to this narrative, Republicans nominated Romney as a result of their “devil may care” attitude toward the broader electorate. And while this may or may not have been true in some of the other races around the country, anyone who followed the Republican Primary, however, knows this is patently false. To the contrary, Romney got the nod mostly because Republicans felt that he was their best chance to beat Obama. That assessment might have actually been correct, at least inasmuch as Romney never promised to spend his presidency talking about the dangers of contraception, somehow resisted the urge to talk about his policy toward U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, and because- no matter how much he loves America- that patriotism never lead him to cheat on his wife. Excuse me: cheat on his wives.

So it wasn’t as if Republicans were ignorantly throwing out the most radical candidate imaginable. On the contrary, Republicans nominated the candidate who they didn’t really believe in themselves: is it such a wonder that the rest of America didn’t either? Mitt Romney, the “etch-a-sketch” candidate, was supposed to be the perfect candidate largely based around the fact that he would say anything, be anyone he needed to be in order to become President.

In the end, it was Romney’s lack of conviction, his lack of authenticity that became his defining characteristic. By the end of the primary, rather than an “etch-a-sketch,” Romney became the “color-by-number” candidate: unhesitatingly trying to give conservatives, then Americans, everything they said they wanted. He became the best facsimile conservative around. He knew he couldn’t become “severely conservative” overnight, but he could be something so close that the untrained eye wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Romney said all the right things, appealed to all the right groups, and looked the part. To give an example that Romney himself is probably fairly familiar with: he aced the job interview. And as any job applicant will tell you: when you apply for a job, you tweak your resume to fit the position you are applying for, and then you tell them what you know they want to hear. Mitt Romney found out all too late that Americans are suspicious of “cookie-cutter” candidates; in that much, at least, the general electorate is wiser than the Republicans gave them credit for.

After all of the talk of the “lesser of two evils” and all of the nose-holding-while-voting, one lesson from this election should be patently clear: the problem is not that Republicans believe too strongly in their own principles. The problem is that Republicans continually vote for the “lesser of two evils” because they don’t actually believe their principles will work in practice.

When I filled out my absentee ballot, I wrote in Ron Paul for President and I caught hell for it from family members who told me I was “throwing away” my vote. What Romney’s failed candidacy shows, however, is that the real ones “throwing away” their votes are the ones who vote for the supposedly “electable” candidate who in the end stands for absolutely nothing.

Because it doesn’t matter how moderate and pragmatic the Republican nominee is- the Left will ultimately paint him as a radical. The solution to the Republican Party’s electoral woes is not to continue moving toward the center until (to paraphrase Mittens) we allow absolutely no daylight between ourselves and the Democrats, but rather to articulate a clear alternative to their policies. Let’s face it: we’ll never out-pander the Left.

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Post Election Analysis: Ok Guys. Pep Talk

What was it the Mayans said about 2012? Anyway, about last week: it could have gone better.

Let’s be honest here. The political future is bleak. A good portion of the populace would prefer the sham security of the state to liberty, with all the wondrous uncertainty that it entails. We can try to convince people, but it’s not that they don’t understand freedom; it’s that they don’t want it. It’s not that they don’t see the value of local control; it’s that they don’t want to take the responsibility themselves. As Ross Douthat explains: “Lesson of this election is always bail out, never touch entitlements.”

We took a beating, but that doesn’t end the world. From Deadwood (language alert):

I have no illusions about what Romney or the Republicans would have done if things had gone differently last week. If the Republicans had won we would have faced the same frustration that followed 2004, and 2000, and 1988, and 1984…etc. Things would have continued more or less in the same statist direction. Nevertheless, I do see the election as a clear ratification of statism in a way that a Romney victory was not. Even though Romney offered little in the way of an alternative, it was at least an opportunity for the electorate to say, “Well, to hell with this!” even though they would have to say the same thing in four years. That didn’t happen. If anything, the parties will both shift to the left (an illegitimate political term from the French Revolution, but you know what I mean). Certain encouraging trends that Kelse notes aside, it still means a repudiation of traditionalist and libertarian ideas. I’m happy we have those eight good YAL-endorsed candidates, but we have little else.

However, it is possible that the Republican Party will not shift to the left and become more statist, but more libertarian. It’s a dubious statement given the likely political fallout, but nonetheless it is probable that libertarians will have a larger microphone within the opposition party in the coming years. Neoconservative Bill Kristol affirmed the increasing presence of the Pauls and their type in the future of the Republican Party on Fox News. Apparently a hard pill for him to swallow.

I’m ambivalent as to whether this is a good thing. On the one hand, I like the Pauls for reasons Ben outlined before and I look forward to the increasing presence of Rand Paul on the national stage; on the other, many who claim to support them are fools. So when we say that followers of the Pauls will have an increasing role in the Republican Party, I don’t know that it will be a good thing for reasons that will become clear below.

Everyone, including the talking heads in the video posted above, have asserted that conservatives have lost on social issues. Maybe they’re right. In 1980, two thirds of people defined the family as father, mother, and children. Today, one third or less define it that way. All social conservative values essentially trend around the central place of the family. A decline in the traditional (as in the basic mom, pop, kids) understanding of the family tracks a decline in social conservative values. Many libertarians deny that the changing attitudes are a problem. Like the nineteenth century utilitarians they hate the intermediary institutions that circumscribe the individual, the family most of all. It alone is able to shape individuals from the cradle through all of their formative years. They see the collapse of the family as only one more step in the march of individual freedom. Unfortunately, in my experience, the Pauls pull a lot of support from this brand of libertarian.

The problem that should concern libertarians—and does concern traditionalists—is that the family is the unit that trains people to be self-sufficient and provides them with a financial (and emotional) safety net to keep them free from the need for government aid. Persons without that background will turn to the state to provide that security. If a kid wanted to go to college, the family would rally around and provide the means to get him there or at least co-sign on the loan. If he wanted to start a business, he would turn to his family for the starter loan. At least then, if the kid couldn’t make the payments he would have to work it off for mom and dad or dad’s brother Sam. But what if kids don’t have two parents? What if the only possible back up plan is to stick it to Uncle Sam (the proverbial Uncle Sam, not their actual Uncle Sam) when they don’t get a job or can’t make the payments?

No amount of ratiocination regarding the free market (and I like the free market) will convince them that their lives will be worse without guaranteed healthcare and guaranteed retirement funds and all the rest. The local community composed of family and friends used to provide for individuals financially when times were tough. Now we just turn to Ole’ Uncle Sam. The election is an indication that more and more people see things that way, either because they can’t imagine an alternative or because they aren’t willing to take the risk.

This is another way of saying that persons are more than homo economicus. Libertarians often make the same mistake as Marxists in thinking that people are only their economic interests: appeal to those and you win. The fact is, you don’t. Which is both reason for encouragement and discouragement. On the one hand, we have the trends on filial decline noted above: that’s the bad news. On the other hand, it means that we can still articulate a case for traditionalism and libertarianism and actually have a chance of prevailing.

This is all to say that the pre-political matters for politics. The political outcome of any election will only reflect the possibilities inherent in the pre-political elements already in place. The question then is: how can we influence those?

So let’s turn now to an oldie but goodie, Albert J. Nock’s 1936 essay in The Atlantic, “Isaiah’s Job.” Nock was notorious for his belief that speaking to the multitude was useless. He believed he was speaking to a Remnant who would endure through the contemporary civilizational crisis and rebuilt civilization once it became possible again. He uses the prophet Isaiah as the symbol for the man God calls to minister to the Remnant.  Isaiah, however, is confused as to his role. It doesn’t seem like any significant portion of the people will listen to him.

“Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”

It’s a great article. The problem is that it works from the premise of despair. Whatever traditionalists and libertarians want to say about the Republican Party and its presidential candidate, the election was still a repudiation of our values and ideas. People by and large embrace what Obama offers. This isn’t reason to despair. Renewal is possible among many people, not just a purported Remnant that will rebuild when all has fallen. Historically, it’s happened under worse circumstances.

What are we to do? Remember the scene from Deadwood above:

The world ends when you’re dead. Until then you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man and give some back.

Edmund Burke reportedly said something similar, “Never despair, but if you do, work in despair.” Kelse could be right; renewal could be on the horizon. Either way, whether for the Remnant or for the masses, we’ll keep blogging and attempting to articulate those permanent values that become clearer to us as we study and discuss the traditions of order and liberty we inherited.

Categories: 2012, Cultural renewal, Libertarianism, Traditionalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Compromise!: More Election Thoughts

In 2008, I was happy to see the Republicans lose. I hoped that a crushing defeat would force them to reevaluate the direction that the Party had taken during the Bush years, and to finally turn against war, the surveillance state, and economic interventionism.

Needless to say, that reevaluation never occurred. If anything, the Romney campaign represented a doubling-down on Bush’s foreign policy–a doubling-down that reached its most absurd when, in his RNC acceptance speech, Romney darkly denounced President Obama for simply “talking to,” rather than attacking, Iran.

Likewise, on the economic front, Tea Partiers are a definite improvement over the rank-and-file from the Bush years. But even still, they tend to only envision a rolling back of the regulatory state to the level it was at in, say, 1982, rather than engaging in a fundamental rethinking of the entire post-New Deal philosophy. They may dislike Obamacare, but they don’t like to question its predecessor, Medicare, too deeply. And their rush to embrace Mitt Romney, who enacted the same healthcare plan in Massachusetts that the Tea Party denounces on the national level, should give any consistent conservative or libertarian pause.

My old hope, then, that the Republicans would reevaluate themselves turned out to be totally misplaced. But if the Republicans refused to reevaluate themselves after 2008 (or 1992, 1996, or 2006), then what reason is there to think that they’ll do so after 2012?

Indeed, even if they did reevaluate and suddenly returned to being the laissez-faire, non-interventionist party of Robert Taft that I’ve been waiting to see, I am not at all convinced that that would bring them any more electoral success than they actually got. However difficult it may be for some of this blog’s intended audience to accept, the masses of people who opposed Mitt Romney did not do so because they thought he was just a watered down version of Barack Obama (as many of us did). Instead, it seems that they voted against him because they actually bought into the Democrats’ caricatures of Republicans slashing government programs, or waging a “war on women,” or something–however little these caricatures actual correspond to the reality of Romney’s political career.

Yes, it is tempting to believe that everything would go swimmingly as long as the Republicans adopted my own beliefs. But I don’t see any evidence to believe that, at this point in time, my own beliefs are nationally popular (despite smaller-scale, encouraging signs).

Many commentators take this electoral rejection of libertarian principles as evidence that the Republican Party needs to give up its appeals to the “anti-government” crowd and go back to being the “moderate” party of Eisenhower and Nixon. Apparently, according to such people, the two-party system already gives voters too many choices–what we really need are two parties that offer only oh-so-slightly different variations of the same liberal platform.

But the argument for moderation misses the hugely important fact that the choice between, for instance, increasing or decreasing taxes on the rich is not simply a question of whether the majority gets to implement its will. Indeed, what is at stake is not really a question of will at all; it is a question of economic law, which can no more be defied than can the laws of gravity.

If the majority believed that the way to achieve social prosperity was to jump out of tall buildings and flap your arms until you fly away, then people who understand physics are duty-bound to demonstrate that the majority program is doomed to failure, regardless of whether people want to listen or not. The same is true regarding economic issues, whether taxation, debt, inflation, or Obamacare. People who understand economics and fear for the fate of their neighbors should not give ground and adopt their enemies’ program. Rather, if they really care about their neighbors’ well-being, then they should continue to expose the fallacies of the majority even more vigorously than before. It was in this spirit that the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises identified as his life slogan, from Virgil’s Aeneid: “Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.” (“Do not give in to evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it!”)

As far as economics is concerned, whether the Tea Party decides to moderate its rhetoric or whether Barack Obama can claim a mandate for higher taxes is entirely beside the point. Actions have consequences that democratic majorities cannot abolish. Higher taxes will stifle savings and investment, and therefore economic progress, regardless of whether voters want them. As Mises proclaimed, a failure to understand the economic consequences of certain political actions “will not annul economics,” but will instead simply lead to general destruction and impoverishment. (Human Action: The Scholar’s Edition, p. 881.) (For more detailed arguments on why taxing the rich is economically destructive, see, e.g., herehere, and here.)

Of course, there is little hope that the Republican Party will become an effective vehicle for these ideas. If after eight years of Bush and four of Obama the best they could give us was Mitt Romney, then I take that as ample evidence that they are incapable of changing. That’s not to say that we should neglect the opportunity to elect a Rand Paul or Justin Amash if the chance arises, or even to search for and recruit other like-minded candidates who are yet unknown. But I do believe that placing our hopes for the future on reforming the Republican Party is an enormous waste of time.

Rather, the long-term interests of libertarians and conservatives can only be served by looking “beyond the GOP.” Ultimately, politics is only the manifestation of underlying cultural and ideological forces–what people on this blog call the pre-political. If you can change people’s hearts and minds, then they will cease supporting awful people like Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, and politicians will have to adapt in turn.

Thankfully, culture is the area where libertarian ideas are meeting with their greatest success. Ron Paul became popular among the youth not by channeling Richard Nixon, as the cheerleaders for moderation would recommend, but by presenting a refreshing and radical alternative to the status quo. This is the same phenomenon that catapulted The Road to Serfdom to #1 on the Amazon bestseller list, eighteen years after its author’s death, and that made the fledgling Ludwig von Mises Institute–a tiny think-tank in the Alabama hinterlands, with no source of federal funds–a vibrant and hugely popular educational source for libertarian students and scholars all over the world.

In a sense, it is disheartening to know that there is no viable political party that represents our ideas. But the times that we live in are doing much of our recruitment for us. The manifest failures of statism are becoming clearer and clearer. As people begin to realize that persistent problems of economic stagnation, higher prices, and falling living standards are not going away, they will start looking for non-mainstream political alternatives. We see this now in Europe, although, there, popular dissatisfaction has been translating into support for fascistic parties like the Golden Dawn in Greece and for real, flesh-and-bones socialists in France.

Nevertheless, “more statism” need not be the only alternative to Obama or Romney’s middling interventionism. Our job must be to promote a plausible and humane option that people can turn to as a credible means of improving their lot. Such educational promotion doesn’t have the luster of an election campaign, but, with the political world as it is, it is the only permanent cure for statism.

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Murder She Tweeted (Twote?)

Now that the presidential campaign is over, we can finally start to look back on the race with some degree of objectivity. This is the moment that we political scientists live for: our chance to be clinically detached while attempting to engage a public that is still half-interested in politics.

This story is a few weeks old, but it gives a perfect snapshot of the 2012 election. We’ve already posted articles here and here, about out how childish and uninformed American political discourse has become. However, when we start to talk about assassination threats on Twitter, everything else starts to look pretty good in comparison.

Yes, assassination threats on Twitter. I wish I was joking.

It turns out that after the foreign policy debate a few weeks ago, an astounding number of Obama supporters took to Twitter to vent against Mitt Romney. And to issue death threats. To take one of many, many examples, look at the words of I_B_New_York: “i jus used close to $200 worth of food stamps today…Romney dont take that away..70% of America will assassinate u.” More examples are listed at the bottom of the article.

The threats kept coming through at least Monday, according to examiner.com. Once again, to take a particularly colorful example: Jamarea Gage writes: “I’ll personally f*****g kill Romney if he try’s some dumb nazi s**t f**k that.” Or this tweet by Lifted Boy: “I crash that f**king airplane that that f**got n**ga Romney, stab Mrs. Romney in her G** D**N esophagus. & won’t stop until the cops come in.”

In a way, I’m not that surprised. In fact, I’ve come to fully expect this kind of rhetorical violence, given our current political climate. What is interesting to note, however, is that there seems to be a double standard in the media’s coverage of Twitter death threats. Very few media outlets have touched the Romney threats, while two relatively isolated cases of assassination threats against Obama have received a staggering amount of media attention.

The first came back in September,  when there was a national furor over 16-year-old Alyssa Douglas tweeting the following:

Her Twitter and Facebook accounts were promptly deleted and she became a national symbol for racism and bigotry. A Daily Kos article (written, incidentally, under the hilarious nom de plume therehastobeaway) opined, “when a 16 year-old white girl takes to Twitter to openly call for the assassination of our President, you have got to wonder where we, as a society, have gone wrong;” [emphasis in the original]. The author went on to encourage viewers to contact the FBI, the Secret Service, and Ms. Douglas’ high school Principal. Ms. Douglas herself was quickly inundated with hate mail. Worst of all, she doubtless found life for her entire family turned completely upside down due to a single thoughtless, childish action.

The second example also took place back in September when Secret Service officers arrested Donte Jamar Sims in Charlotte, NC. Sims had tweeted, among other things, “Ima hit president Obama with that Lee Harvey Oswald swag” and “Well IMA Assassinate president Obama this evening.” I suppose on one level we can draw a distinction between the immediacy and specificity of Mr. Sims’ threats against the relative improbability of JCBaltodano’s “If Romney wins the elections I will start a national riot to kill his a**!” but that’s really missing the bigger point at hand.

All of this paints a very disturbing picture. Many leading Democrats placed the blame for Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting on Republican rhetoric. They were right, in at least one sense- not in suggesting that Jared Lee Loughner drew his inspiration from Sarah Palin, but in recognizing that there were larger cultural reasons for this violence. And while death threats against the President have been the subject of much media attention- much of it warranted, some of it perhaps not (as in the case of Alyssa Douglas)- there has been just as much, if not more hatred coming from Obama supporters in recent weeks.

The political climate is in shambles, and all of this goes to illustrate a point I made in my very first post on this blog: that a rotten culture leads to rotten politics. You can’t expect to fix the vitriol and violence in the political sphere without first addressing the deep-seated cultural problems that underlie this kind of rhetoric. If we continue down this path, it seems likely that violent rhetoric will soon lead to more and more acts of political violence.

Beneath the surface of every assassination threat lies a deep and unyielding spiritual need. And no amount of hand-wringing or public shaming by therehastobeaway is going to fix that need.

————————

Here are a couple examples from the MSN article mentioned at the beginning of the article:

Categories: 2012, Cultural renewal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Rest of Obama’s First Term May Commence

Well, Obama begins his second term. But really, it’s more like his first. Stanley Kurtz explains:

Ordinarily, a president enacts various policies in his first term, the public test-drives the changes, and the president’s reelection campaign is a referendum on those new policies. The difference in Obama’s case is that in order to secure reelection, he has backloaded nearly all of his most transformative and controversial changes into a second term. Obama’s next term will actually put into effect health-care reform, Dodd-Frank, and a host of other highly controversial policies that are already surging through the pipeline yet still barely known to the public.

I want everyone reading this to remember, I told you so. So don’t you dare blame me, I voted for Kodos!

Categories: 2012 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Sean Hannity Was Right

Massachusetts has 76.5% of its votes in.  Politico lists 1,433,968 for Obama and 922,822 for Romney–a 511,146 vote victory for Obama.

If only I had listened to Sean Hannity and Karl Rove, and not wasted my vote on a third party!  Then Obama would have only won Massachusetts by 511,145 votes.  That would’ve shown him!

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A Last Minute Appeal to Obama and Romney Supporters

Did you know that there is actually a great lineup of TV programming all Tuesday morning and afternoon?  From gritty crime dramas like CSI: Miami to the laugh-out-loud hilarity of The New Adventures of Old Christine, Tuesday’s lineup is not to be missed!

It would be a real shame if there were something else pulling you out of the house.  At the very least, remember that no innocent Pakistani civilians will die as a result of which shows you watch.

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The Revenge of the Unseen

Many on the statist left are using Hurricane Sandy to prove why big government is necessary and to stick it to the crazy libertarian Mitt Romney.

This is an example of what the French classical-liberal Frederic Bastiat called the inability to perceive both “the seen and the unseen.”  That is, we can all see the actual destruction caused by the hurricane.  But what we can’t see is how a society that didn’t depend on centralized government for disaster relief–not to mention disaster mitigation or prevention–would function in the first place.

At the American Conservative, Rod Dreher, for instance, has a perceptive post about how government disaster relief degrades civil society–it fosters helplessness among neighbors, who rather than helping each other, just wait for the government to arrive.

“Seeing the unseen” doesn’t have the raw emotional power of pointing to burnt-out homes.  But if we want to think maturely about government power, we should ask ourselves how people would act if they weren’t constantly that the government is the proper responder to hurricanes.  What kinds of levees would private companies have built to prevent destruction from the sea?  What drainage technology would private companies use that municipalities have never contemplated?  What kind of insurance contracts would people enter into and what level of responsibility would they feel toward their own neighbors if they weren’t taught that only the government could save them?  What would a privatized FEMA actually look like?  Would it take the form of private companies throwing their clients into the sea, as the picture above suggests?  Or would a more rational business model look something like AAA, where clients pay monthly fees so that, if trouble actually arises, they have an entitlement to relief work?

Above all: is the destruction so bad in spite of government relief work, or is government preemption of the relief market a contributing factor to the extent of the destruction?

I don’t claim to know all of these answers for certain–no one can really predict how new markets will develop.  But those are the kinds questions we should be asking, rather than just looking at destroyed cities and then repeating bromides over “good government.”

 

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I Voted for Gary Johnson

My default position is not to vote.  As other, more illustrious people than myself have repeatedly argued, not voting is itself a political statement.  Voting, on the other hand, is the act that every supporter of intrusive government points to to prove that you aren’t really oppressed–after all, you have the opportunity to change your rulers every four years!  The more people who refuse to buy into this charade, and who refuse to believe that choosing who will be the one to tax, wiretap, and body-scan you actually makes you free, the better off we will be.

That said, I did vote this year, as I have most years, mainly on the belief that when you have a good-hearted person running for president, and when that person’s policies, though imperfect, would radically improve the country, then it is the neighborly thing to do to support him.  In 2008, that meant that I voted for Chuck Baldwin (of the Constitution Party).  This year, I voted (early) for Gary Johnson.

When it comes to his philosophical understanding of libertarianism, Johnson is certainly no Ron Paul.  As the linked interview shows, he opposes the gold standard and is generally unfamiliar with some of the the twentieth century’s greatest libertarian thinkers.  He also indicates support for the kind of “humanitarian” wars popular among Democrats of the Clinton-Obama stripe.  Moreover, because I am someone who came to his current positions largely through reading Hans-Hermann Hoppe, I am skeptical of Johnson’s support for open immigration.

Still, on serious issues like ending the war on drugs, the TSA, and the drone wars, as well as on his general stand against taxes and regulation, a President Gary Johnson would be a great improvement for this country and for all the overseas victims of the Bush-Obama foreign policy of perpetual war.  Of course, I wish there were a more consistent libertarian running for president.  But I think that the genial Johnson’s positives clearly outweigh his negatives.

Indeed, I had the relatively easy decision of only having to decide between voting for Johnson or not voting at all.  Every other option is totally unpalatable.

Though Chuck O’Shea makes a reasonable lesser-of-two-evils argument in favor of Mitt Romney, his argument rests on the false premise that his vote actually makes a difference–that is, that voting for Mitt Romney is a strategic means of advancing conservative ends.

In fact, the only way that Chuck’s vote will actually make a difference is if the election in his state hinges on a single vote, which itself will only matter if his state has enough electoral votes to affect the electoral-college outcome.  I don’t know of any election where this has actually happened.  Even in the infamous Florida recount of 2000, George Bush still won by 537 votes, which means that no single voter switching from Bush to, say, Pat Buchanan would have changed the election in any way.  And even if the upcoming election were decided by Chuck’s one vote, however unlikely that may be, then surely there would be a recount–which never leads to the same tally as the original count.  The same argument applies to the so-called “Obama cons:” voting “strategically” for the lesser of two evils is a pointless exercise based on the false notion that your own vote matters.  When you realize that it doesn’t, then it makes no sense to vote for someone unless you can give your positive support to their policies.  “Strategic” voting is no strategy at all.

At the same time, I believe that we should hold the minor parties to the same “don’t vote for evil” standard as the major parties.  We should not get caught up in thinking that they are somehow noble just because, unlike Romney or Obama, they actually live according to principle.  Thus, Ron Paul’s position in 2008 that his supporters should “pick any” of the third-party candidates makes very little sense.  Sure, I am willing to accept that Jill Stein is more consistent than Barack Obama and would be a great improvement over him in terms of civil liberties and foreign policy.  But her economic policies would be much, much worse.  Sticking to your principles is only admirable if your underlying principles are themselves admirable.

(As an aside, I also don’t buy “The Lancastrian’s” position that, because Stein wants to run a federal regulatory state with local implementation, that somehow makes her a Jeffersonian localist.  Rarely does the federal government act by a classic command-and-control economy, at least in this country.  Very often its policies are carried out with a great deal of state help, as is the case with Medicaid, or through subsidies or tax incentives to favored industries.  Does the Lancastrian believe that Medicaid also represents “the definition of subsidiarity?”  If so, then conservatism has fallen pretty far since the 1960s.)

On the same note, Virgil Goode supports protectionism and wants to continue the drug war (just at the state level, where most drug-related prisoners are incarcerated anyway).  And despite his non-interventionist turn in recent years, when Goode was a congressman and his positions actually mattered, he voted as a lockstep Republican for war in Iraq, the PATRIOT Act, and the Military Commissions Act.  I’m skeptical of a 66-year-old man who just so happens to suddenly see the light once his political career is over.  If anything, Goode is eerily similar to the 2008 “Libertarian” presidential candidate Bob Barr, who then went on and endorsed Newt Gingrich for president in 2012.

Therefore, given the failings of all the other candidates, I see no choice for those of us who support peace and freedom.  If we decide to vote at all, it can only be for Gary Johnson, who, though imperfect, has certainly done enough to earn our votes.  Intelligent people can come up with all kinds of clever arguments to show why conservatives should really vote for any given candidate.  But at the most practical level, Gary Johnson is the only candidate whose policies would do more good than harm.

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Conservative Obama, Radical Romney

Gary Gutting, a Notre Dame philosophy professor, has a nice article at the New York Times that rehashes a familiar debate from on this blog.  He argues that Obama represents the post-New Deal mainstream, whereas Romney represents a fundamental change for smaller government.  I’m not convinced of the factual basis of that claim, but his conclusion bears repeating:

Thinking in terms of the above framework reverses the standard polarity of the two parties. Those who are conservative in the traditional sense of resisting abrupt major changes in established institutions should vote for Obama. Those who support a fundamental change should vote for Romney.  Oddly enough, Obama’s hopes for a second term may turn on the support of conservative voters.

 
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The Anti-Obamney Majority

Green Party candidate Jill Stein stated at last night’s third party debate that the half of all registered voters–double the amount who will vote for either Obama or Romney–will not participate in this election at all (see video at 1:20:00).  She says that “those are voters who are saying ‘no’ to politics as usual and saying ‘no’ to the Democratic and Republican Parties.”

I don’t think that anyone can know what 90 million other individuals are thinking.  Still–and whatever one might say about some of Jill Stein’s other ideas–I have to admire the sentiment in that quote.  Nonvoters get caricatured as lazy and uninformed.  But it is much nobler to just go to work, spend time with your friends, or even watch reruns of Tosh.0 than it is to give your vote to a candidate who supports drone strikes, indefinite detention, the TSA, or war with Iran.  Not voting is an implicit rejection of the status quo, or at least an indication that you can’t be bothered to care about the major parties.  Either way, the fact that the majority of all Americans won’t be casting a ballot for either Obama or Romney should give some hope to those of us who reject mainstream politics.

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There Are No “Binders Full of Women” at Bain Capital

At the last presidential debate, Mitt Romney inspired a derisive internet meme when he awkwardly bragged about how, as Governor of Massachusetts, he requested and received “binders full of” women job applicants to fill executive-branch positions.  But what one Atlantic magazine columnist considers the real “heart of the issue,” is that, notwithstanding Romney’s performance as governor, “there were no women partners at Bain Capital during [his] tenure.”  The columnist claims that while Romney did “a good job” promoting women for political benefit as governor, he did “a terrible job” promoting them in his private business.

But is the difference between Romney’s actions as Governor and his actions as a Bain executive really as hypocritical as the Atlantic writer believes?

I don’t think so.  A half century ago, the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises addressed this very issue in his book Bureaucracy.  He pointed out that the divergent natures of “market society” and of “bureaucracy” force each to adopt entirely different methods of organization, and that neither can successfully adopt that of the other.

The objective of business management is to make a profit.  As success or failure to attain this end can be ascertained by accounting not only for the whole business concern but also for any of its parts, it is feasible to decentralize both management and accountability without jeopardizing the unity of operations and the attainment of their goal. . . . There is no need to limit the discretion of subordinates by any rules or regulations other than that underlying all business activities, namely, to render their operations profitable.

The objectives of public administration cannot be measured in money terms and cannot be checked by accountancy methods.  Take a nationwide police system like the FBI.  There is no yardstick available that could establish whether the expenses incurred by one of its regional or local branches were not excessive.  The expenditures of a police station are not reimbursed by its successful management and do not vary in proportion to the success attained. . . . In public administration there is no market price for achievements.  This makes it indispensable to operate public offices according to principles entirely different from those applied under the profit motive (Liberty Fund edition, pp. 37-39).

Because private businesses are able to make profit-and-loss calculations, they are able to determine whether each component of the firm is profitable.  “The profit motive through the instrumentality of which the entrepreneurs are driven to serve the consumers to the best of their ability is at the same time the first principle of any commercial and industrial aggregate’s internal organization” (p. 29).

By contrast, because government operations are not subject to any profit-and-loss test, their personnel cannot be evaluated by the same measure of how well they benefit the organization.  Arbitrary standards must carry the slack for economic efficiency.  As Mises writes, in the U.S. (at least at the time of his writing),

regulations require that [bureaucratic job] applicants be a certain age, graduate from certain schools, and pass certain examinations.  For promotion to the higher ranks and higher salary a certain number of years in the lower ranks and the passing of further examinations are required.  It is obvious that such requirements refer to things more or less superficial.  There is no need to point out that school attendance, examinations, and years spent in the lower positions do not necessarily qualify a man for a higher job.  This machinery of selection sometimes bars the most competent men from a job and does not always prevent the appointment of an utter incompetent.  But the worst effect produced is that the main concern of the clerks is to comply with these and other formalities (p. 45).

Mises, of course, wrote well before the age of political correctness and seemingly did not envision that hiring binders full of women to executive branch positions would some day take its place alongside other arbitrary criteria like school attendance or years spent in lower positions.

But he would not necessarily be surprised.  He understood that government is always shaped by popular ideas and that, therefore, the standards necessarily imposed by government bureaucracies–as a necessary tool to make up for government’s inherent economic inefficiencies–would rely on future popular shibboleths like political correctness.  As long as governments are governments, they will be forced to employ these kinds of standards, or else disintegrate into calculational chaos.  Nor would Mises be surprised that a businessman like Mitt Romney seems to intuitively grasp the concept that the standards for hiring people into a business are much different.  These latter rely on increasing profits and thereby serving the consumer, regardless of what the fashionable ideologies, as promulgated in the Atlantic, might dictate.

Nevertheless, Mises, who believed that, in order for civilization to even survive at all, economics must be “the main and proper study of every citizen” (Human Action: The Scholar’s Edition, p. 875) would certainly be dismayed to learn that columnists, decades after his own death, still believe that businessmen should base their hiring decisions on arbitrary criteria like proportionate representation of women, all without the smallest reference to whether doing so will enable that business to produce a better product.

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