“The New Debate in the Republican Party Needs to be Between Conservatives and Libertarians”

Sen. Jim DeMint talks about the looming fiscal crisis and the future of the GOP.

“A lot of the libertarian ideals that Ron Paul is talking about…should not be alien to any Republican,” Sen. Jim DeMint said during an interview at reason’s Washington, D.C., offices in late January. Encouraging words from a South Carolina Republican who has earned a reputation as one of his party’s strongest voices for fiscal conservatism during his six years in the House of Representatives and six years in the Senate.

Yet right after the 2010 midterm elections brought a wave of DeMint-backed Tea Party freshmen to Capitol Hill, the Palmetto State’s junior senator proclaimed that “you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative,” a comment that was widely viewed as a slap at libertarians. DeMint, a reliable defender of the PATRIOT Act and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an avowed opponent of what he calls the “destructive forces of secularism.” He is a staunch pro-lifer, has favored a constitutional ban on flag burning, and is on the record saying that gays shouldn’t be allowed to teach in public schools.

But DeMint’s new book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse (Center Street), is an urgent warning about fiscal, not social, issues. To write the foreword, DeMint picked Ron Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—a man who bridges the gap between his father’s more ideologically libertarian stance and the mainstream GOP. Now or Never calls for a new coalition in favor of radical budget cuts—including reductions in military spending—aimed at avoiding irreversible economic decline. 

After backing Mitt Romney in 2008, DeMint has declined to endorse a presidential candidate so far this political season. reason’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch interviewed him on the afternoon of the Florida primary. For a video version of the conversation, go to reason.tv.

reason: Your new book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse, has a foreword by Rand Paul, one of the new senators you helped get elected through your activism with the Tea Party and your push for limited government. The first sentence of your book is “This is insane.” What is insane? 

Jim DeMint: This could be our last chance to turn things around. And I know politicians: They cry wolf when there’s no wolf; we talk about crises all the time. But when the debt is bigger than your economy and the plan is to keep borrowing another trillion dollars more every year, there’s not that much money in the world to borrow; we’re going to have to print it. It means the value of our dollar is likely to go down. Interest rates will go up. We can’t pretend that this [problem will go away], like Greece did or like Europe is doing. It’s a very real problem. 

The other problem is political. Almost half of Americans are getting something from government, and the other half are paying for it. And we’re on a track where 60 percent are getting something from government and 40 percent are paying for it. You can’t sustain a democracy with that mix.

reason: Because the 60 percent is going to be voting a bigger and bigger share of the 40 percent’s money?

DeMint: It’s hard to win elections when you’re talking about limited government if the constituents want more from government. You see that phenomenon on display in Greece. When the country is going down in flames, there are still people in the street, demonstrating for more government benefits. We’ve got to understand we’re in trouble, that we don’t have much time. 

We are at a tipping point politically. Those folks who are normally not interested in politics—they’re working and paying taxes, raising families—we’ve got to engage them in the political process this year. We can turn things around. One of the main points of the book is that we forgot what makes America exceptional. We’re a bottom-up country, very individualistic. Every other country was top-down, where a king, or dictator, or general can shape things from the top. But we were different and we were successful, because we began at the individual level. 

reason: In the book you talk a lot about how this is the Republicans’ fault as well as the Democrats’ fault.

DeMint: Sure.

(Interview continues below video.)

reason: Since 1950 we’ve had many more years where the government ran a deficit than a surplus. The federal government has only grown in size and scope, as have state governments and local governments. What was the turning point? And what is the Republicans’ responsibility in the current mess?

DeMint: The difference in opinion in Washington—you can throw out the political labels of Republican and Democrat—it’s the difference between centralization of power versus decentralization of power. It’s the difference of individual decision making versus collectivism. All the policies now that are coming from the president and the Democratic Party, it’s always central control. Whether it’s health care, education, the Dodd-Frank bill. Republicans have been guilty of that. We’ve fallen for that with No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D. And every time we have a compromise, it’s more government, more spending, and more debt. At some point we have to say, “Not only do we need to stop spending more than we’re bringing in, we need to understand what made this country exceptional.” 

Businesses figured this out about 20 years ago when Japan was handing us our lunch with their total quality movement. [Statistician and management guru] W. Edward Deming and others understood pushing decision making to the bottom, to individuals coming up with ways to cut costs and improve quality. That’s what works, and that’s what made our country great. But we’ve forgotten that. 

We have to turn it around this year. I don’t think we can make it more than another year or two. The only thing propping us up now is the fact that the euro is doing so badly.

reason: So what do we cut right now?

DeMint: First we have to decide that we need to balance our budget. The reason our debates don’t go anywhere is that the president has said that balancing the budget is “extreme.” A debate with him about where to cut is useless, because he doesn’t really believe we need to. He would like to tax the rich some more, even though the wealthy in our country pay a greater proportion of the national taxes than in any other country in the world. I don’t know how much more he wants to take from them. The issue is: Do we agree that we need to stop spending more than we’re bringing in?

But we can cut spending. Education should be devolved to the states. We haven’t improved it; we’ve hurt it. The Commerce Department does very little to support commerce. A lot of the [Environmental Protection Agency] functions can be devolved to the states. Transportation: We take 18 cents out of every gallon of gasoline sold and bring it up here; states fight to get it back. We could bring 3 cents up here to deal with federal roads. Let states decide, and we would have better infrastructure, spend less money, and states could make those decisions.

reason: What about entitlements and defense spending? Because that’s where the real money is. What do we do with entitlements?

DeMint: We don’t need to cut the benefits of those who are already on Social Security and Medicare. They paid for it their whole life. We’ve made them promises. But [for] younger workers, give them options. First of all, a lot of people who have alternative savings for retirement would probably take a buyout at retirement from Social Security. I would take half of what I’m supposed to get actuarially. And if you were offered a retirement where you could get a $125,000 lump sum now or over the next 20 to 25 years maybe get $250,000, most people would say, “I ain’t gonna be there,” and take the lump sum and run. We could save a lot of money. But we could also give younger workers a 401(k)–style Social Security plan. That would save us money at the federal level but give younger workers real equity so that they’re not dependent when they retire. 

I think health care has got to be individually owned. We’ve got to have our own insurance to go from job to job and into retirement. You know, [Wisconsin Republican Rep.] Paul Ryan’s mentioned the idea of hey, keep your private insurance and let Medicare pay part of it for you. Most of us would pay more than we would have to pay for Medicare, in order to keep real insurance, because by the time I get to retirement, it’s going to be hard to find a doctor who wants to see a Medicare patient.

reason: The defense budget is 20 percent of all government spending and has increased about 100 percent since 2000. How much of the defense budget can be cut without hurting American preparedness or the ability to protect American lives?

DeMint: I’m not sure what that number is. But I do know there’s waste in Pentagon spending. We’ve identified waste not only in the Pentagon but all across the board. I’ve got a whole chapter on waste that [Oklahoma Republican Sen.] Tom Coburn opens for me. We can find a lot of that. But we have to have a vision for what we want our military to do. And that’s why in the last couple of weeks, I’ve said I want whoever our nominee is in the Republican Party to listen to some of the things Rep. Ron Paul [R-Texas] is saying. 

reason: But you haven’t endorsed Ron Paul.

DeMint: No, I haven’t.

reason: None of the front-runners are really talking about cutting government spending.

DeMint: Well, yeah. You hear Romney talk about “cut, cap, and balance.” He’s picked up that plan. And really all of them, I think, believe that we have to balance the budget. Ron Paul has talked about a trillion-dollar cut.

reason: But just talking about balancing the budget is an easy thing to do.

DeMint: Well, there are a lot of obvious things. Not just the waste. We do need to rethink the money we spend on military and defense. I think Ron Paul does make a good distinction: There’s a difference between spending on military and spending for defense. 

The primary function of the federal government is to defend our country. We need to make sure that we have the technology, the intelligence, the equipment to defend America from a lot of new threats. And if that is not doable with bases all over the world, we need to rethink how spread out we actually are. We have to demand that our allies actually pay a greater proportion of their defense. We’re still in Germany; we were there after World War II. We’re in South Korea. We’re in a lot of places. We may need to be in some of those places for deployment and protection. But I think it’s fair to say let’s rethink that and make sure we’re spending money in the right places.

And frankly, some of our spending is politically driven because a particular defense system or ship is built in a certain congressional district or state. The money’s allocated not necessarily because our generals want it but because someone in Congress wants it. Those are the kinds of things we need to change. But the first priority of our federal government is to defend our people, and we need to make sure we do that well.

reason: You didn’t endorse a candidate for president this time. You endorsed Mitt Romney last time. Why the change? 

DeMint: The big reason I’m not involved with the presidential race is I want to elect conservative senators through the Senate’s Conservative Fund, and one of the things I’ve found is the people who sent us $30, $40, $50 to elect Rand Paul, they’re very divided on who they think the president should be. Every time I say something nice about any one of them, 80 percent of the people who are trying to help me are mad at me.

reason: You were instrumental in getting people like Sen. Mike Lee [R-Utah] and Sen. Rand Paul, who were big budget cutters, into the Senate. You’re one of the conduits for the Tea Party. Is the Tea Party still relevant? Does it still have the same power that it displayed in the 2010 elections?

DeMint: No one wants to go to a rally or a protest, given what the Occupy movement is doing. It’s kind of a bad stain on citizen activism. 

They’re still there, and no one can speak for them. They’re not any one group. I don’t like it when folks say I’m Senator Tea Party. I didn’t start the Tea Party, but they came along and they were espousing the same concerns I had. This is a very divergent group of Americans. I find libertarians, conservatives, independents, people who’ve never been involved with politics, some recovering liberals—they’re just concerned mostly about the spending and the debt and the growing, intrusive government. That’s uniting people. They don’t agree on the social issues, they don’t agree on the military and all of those things, but they know our country is in trouble, and that’s why they’re so potent. They are the united aspect of what the Republican Party needs to embrace right now.

They’re still there. They put down their signs, but all over the country they’re organizing. They’ve gotten a little more sophisticated, but they are thousands of different groups.…It was interesting all last year. Everything that went on in Congress, they blamed on the Tea Party. The Tea Party is not here [in Congress]. They’re out doing their own thing. There’s not one thing we did last year the Tea Party would’ve supported, because it was bad legislation, bad deals, and we spent more money.

reason: After the 2010 election you claimed that “you can’t be a fiscal conservative unless you’re also a social conservative.” Have you changed your thinking on that?

DeMint: I should have clarified that. That doesn’t mean that to be a fiscal conservative you have to agree on all the social issues, but our biggest fiscal issue is dysfunction in our culture and the deteriorating culture. The growth of dependency. Unwed births are correlated with poverty, juvenile delinquency, drug use, [dropping out of high school]. And the unwed birth rate has basically been promoted and paid for by federal policies. We’ve gone from below 10 percent, when welfare was started, to now over 40 percent, 70 percent for African Americans. 

reason: But what’s killing the budget is entitlements, right? Medicare Part D, not unwed mothers.

DeMint: No, it’s dependency on government. If we only took welfare spending back to 2008 levels, we could save over $2 trillion. The number of people on food stamps is extraordinary; you’ve got one in seven Americans on food stamps now. It’s hard to maintain a vibrant culture when so many people are taking from government and so few are paying into it.

reason: And you see that dependency as the motivating force here? You talk about a deteriorating culture, but I look at the last 20 years and I see an America that’s more tolerant, that’s more innovative.

DeMint: I’m not trying to make it a moral issue, but it is very much a fiscal issue. High school dropouts—the highest correlation with high school dropouts is coming from a broken family—will cost America about $250,000 over a lifetime. So it’s a fiscal issue. I’m not saying we need to make it a moral issue or not be tolerant, but federal policies should be encouraging productivity and folks staying in school.

reason: But federal policy should not have anything to do with education, right?

DeMint: Well, federal policy does have to do with it now. What I’m saying is that if federal policy with the welfare programs encouraged self-development, independence, if education was more locally driven, where people could adapt it to the needs of the folks there.…

reason: You say you believe in a social safety net that’s provided by the government.

DeMint: No. I would prefer it be done at the state and local level, and I think you could have a whole lot more volunteer organizations, mutual aid, drag the churches back into it—they want to do it, but they’ve been displaced. To try to do that from the federal level has failed, and it’s hurt our culture. I don’t think it’s helped people. Poverty’s worse than when we started. More people are in poverty.

reason: More people are technically in poverty as it’s defined by the government, but it’s clear that if you’re in a poor family now, you’re better off materially than you were, say, being in a middle-class family in 1970. You’ve got a car, you’ve got a house, you’ve got air conditioning, televisions, access to education, access to medicine. So it becomes difficult, doesn’t it, to just say, we’ve got more poverty now?

DeMint: We do define it differently, and a lot of our programs like school lunch—you’ve got in some cases over half the students getting free lunch now; people are starting to expect these things, but these are unsustainable. If we could afford them, it’s one thing. If people were moving out of poverty, then they could say it’s working. But the point I’m trying to make in Now or Never [is that] it’s not working. In fact, you could make a good case we’re hurting people in some cases by trapping them in a situation that’s hard to get out of. And we need to transition away from that. I’m not saying throw people out in the street. But we can do a better job helping people; we can save money at the federal level. 

The bottom line is this: We can’t afford to do what we’re doing now, and we need to look at how to change that, and we need to get more people moving from government dependency into work and productivity. That’s going to help us grow our way out of this problem.

reason: reason is a libertarian magazine. Generally speaking, our readers and the people who work here are interested in a small, limited government that doesn’t spend a lot, doesn’t borrow money so that our kids and grandkids are paying for what we enjoy now, things like that. But then there are the social issues. For instance, you’re very pro-life; you have supported an anti–flag burning amendment; you support school prayer. A lot of issues that, whether or not they actually affect people on a day-to-day level, are markers of a different sort of world. Why should libertarians vote Republican, especially given that the last time the Republican Party had the White House and the Congress, they didn’t restrain government or limit government whatsoever. What’s the pitch now?

DeMint: I think the new debate in the Republican Party needs to be between conservatives and libertarians. We have a common foundation of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government, and we can rationally debate some of the things we disagree on. I don’t think the government should impose my morals or anyone else’s on someone else, but at the same time I don’t want the government purging morals and religious values from our society. We can find a balance there. It really gets back to decentralization. The tolerance is going to come from decentralization and letting people make their own decisions, but we have to be able to put up with societal stigma of things we don’t like. 

reason: And that could be in terms of say, health care reform, allowing Catholic hospitals to opt out of certain must-carry provisions that would provide birth control, abortion, or whatever.

DeMint: Yeah. That’s not imposing a moral belief, but it’s allowing people to practice a moral belief. There’s a lot of common ground with libertarians, and I can sit down with Ron Paul or [Fox News commentator Andrew] Napolitano and find a lot of common ground. We may not come to the same conclusions, but on the social issues I generally agree that I don’t want the government to push my religion or morals.

reason: Are there Democrats who are also pulling in this direction? I’m thinking of people like Sen. Joe Manchin (W. Va.) who’s pretty good on spending. Do you find any hope across the aisle for people who are also interested in reducing the size and scope of government?

DeMint: In private, folks like Joe will talk in a way that they agree with us. The problem is, their political constituency all pushes for the centralization of power. For him to vote for something, for instance, that pushes education back to the states—the unions don’t like that because they can control things from the federal level. It becomes more difficult as it moves into some right-to-work states. It’s difficult to get elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate if you’re not pretty well sold out to the labor bosses and the environmentalists. Republicans, despite what they say, don’t have a constituency like that. I mean, the pro-life groups will support Democrats if they’re pro-life; the NRA will support the Democrats if they’re pro-gun. Wall Street gives three or four times more to Democrats, and so does Warren Buffett and other billionaires.

So our constituency is pretty much individuals who want to be left alone and be successful, or small businesses, but even corporate America is pretty much for the concentration of power that leads to crony capitalism. Sometimes they can increase their market share by a government action easier than a better product, so that’s why I think we’re at a tipping point: Organized politics is pretty much [oriented] toward bigger government.

reason: Self-identified Republican registration has gone down, even in what should be a highly favorable environment for the Republican Party. If you look at the exit polls of the first couple of primary states, self-identified Republican membership is also down, but Ron Paul is pulling in a lot of independents. Are you worried that the Ron Paul bloc is not going to be a Republican bloc?

DeMint: I’m real worried. As a matter of fact, I’ve done a number of interviews on this book [where I’ve] said if Republicans don’t embrace a lot of the libertarian ideals that Ron Paul is talking about, like monetary policy, individual liberty, constitutionally limited government—these things should not be alien to any Republican. It no longer makes sense for Republicans to have the debate between moderates and conservatives. Because the moderate wants to spend more money, just not quite as much as the Democrats. And when you’re this much in debt, I can’t tolerate that debate. 

We’ve got to figure out how to trim back and devolve the role of government. If we’re going to have a Republican Party that can be the majority party, it’s going to have to be very inclusive of libertarians and a lot of the things they’re talking about. We’ve got to rethink a lot of the things we’re doing. 

It doesn’t threaten me to sit down and talk to someone who’s got a different view on the drug war or the military. If I know they believe in limited government, decentralization of power, individual liberty; we’re on the same page. That’s one of the things I talk about in the book: If you have a shared goal, you can debate and compromise and still move in the right direction, but the problem we have right now in Washington is the Democrats have a different goal. They’re the party of dependency because dependent voters are dependable votes for them.

We need to embrace the rest of America, and that’s what was so good about the Tea Party. If you went to them, these were not Republicans—they didn’t like any political party. They were libertarians and conservatives and independents and people of all kinds of political stripes, a lot of people who didn’t have anything to do with politics, but they were united around this idea of limited government, less spending and debt, and that’s the opportunity for Republicans. If we miss that and we end up with a third party, then the Democrats will be the majority party, and I don’t know what will turn our country around.  

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    “A lot of the libertarian ideals that Ron Paul is talking about…should not be alien to any Republican,” Sen. Jim DeMint said during an interview at reason’s Washington, D.C., offices in late January.

    The ellipsis is omitting "other than on foreign policy".

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I like how he dances around the military subject. Instead of coming out and saying the military is just too damn big, it's about waste and being smarter with our money.

    Military = the third rail of Republican politics

  • Drake||

    The military has not grown significantly in terms of personnel - some minor stuff for operations. What has grown is payments to politically connected contractors.

    DeMint was right about Congress making political decisions for the DOD. Everything from where a ship is built to what kind of rifle our soldiers carry was made on politics not a cost / quality analysis.

    That practice has to be broken - or else the cuts will be based on crass politics and not needs.

  • k2000k||

    Very true, and this political process has often caused the military to choose certain weapons and defense systems over other more efficient ones because of it.

  • k2000k||

    And even then, procurement is not a huge portion of the military budget. Procurement amounts to 137 billion with R&D adding in another 77 billion. ARound $ 214 billion dollars. It's not a small amount, but its only around 30% of the military budget. Much of the budget is due to excessive foreign commitments in military engagements that have little to no long term strategic value to the US (i.e the wars and bases in places like Germany) and that also drives up other costs such as medical and soldier payments due to those engagements. When looking at the military budget as part of the reason we are going bankrupt it isn't the development of the JSF or the next generation carrier that is doing it. It is the bases overseas, the wars, and the supplementary costs associated to constantly being at war that is doing this too America.

  • Amakudari||

    Procurement is associated with those wars as well, of course.

    The defense spending question has really been the perfect litmus test to see how serious a Republican is about cutting spending. Any Republican who wants to exempt defense, much less treat it specially, is just full of shit, period.

  • T||

    Yup. It's absurdly expensive to run operations.

  • Drake||

    Yes. However, the correct sequence is to:
    1. Terminate the operations
    2. Then, access future needs and act accordingly.

    Chopping up actual active duty divisions and brigades during operations (as Obama proposes) is just nuts.

  • Suki||

    The Republicans need more like him.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    The Democrats need at least one like him

  • sarcasmic||

    Why you guys pimping his book?

    Shouldn't you be pimping your own?

  • sarcasmic||

    Pimp it, yo! Pimp it!

  • Spoonman.||

    Y'all have been bumping this up for 24 hours now and haven't fixed the mispelling of the man's name in the title.

  • creech||

    Why is Ron Paul trying to drain another $2.5 million out of his supporters this weekend? Keep your powder dry and your checkbook filled waiting for Gary Johnson to become the LP's presidential nominee in May.
    If Johnson had an additional $2.5mm, he can stick it to the GOP and grow the LP vote totals and membership so the libertarian bloc will be even more important to the 2016 GOP nomination-seekers.

  • PaulInPgh||

    Wow, that the Libertarian Party would even consider fielding a candidate at this critical juncture and not align with anyone and everyone who could stop Barack Obama's march toward Fascism is not only mind boggling but ultimately revealing as to just how myopic and ideologically rigid the leadership is.

  • MoreFreedom||

    Given Romney's history as governor, raising spending 32% and debt 52%, appointment of liberal judges, support of TARP the bailouts, and the Obama stimulus, and his support of war with Iran, then who can we support to stop the "march toward Fascism"? Or do hope Romney will change? That's it - Hope and Change!

    http://www.usgovernmentspendin.....g_2002MAbn
    http://www.usgovernmentspendin.....g_2007MAbn

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Before Conservative Republicans and Libertarians Republicans duke it out they need to close ranks against the Establishment Republicans who are part of the Big Government hive, and apparently have no principles to speak of.

  • o3||

    needs moar jesus

  • PaulInPgh||

    He says as Ron Paul stays in the race despite consistently drawing single digits in the primaries where all the candidates participated there by helping to ensure the nomination of the Republican establishment's man as the nominee and I believe the last ever nominee of the Republican Party.

    We had our chance but you choose instead to stick with and utterly unelectable candidate right up until the bitter end.

    Thank!

  • shrike||

    DeMint, a reliable defender of the PATRIOT Act and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is an avowed opponent of what he calls the “destructive forces of secularism.” He is a staunch pro-lifer, has favored a constitutional ban on flag burning, and is on the record saying that gays shouldn’t be allowed to teach in public schools.

    An enemy of liberty. Look for the SoCons here (John, Suki, Suthenboy, too many others) to swoon over this asshole.

  • ||

    Look, Mary showed up. How boring.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    True...but broken clocks, twice a day and all that....

  • ||

    He's not Mary, dude. He totally told us he wasn't. Why would he lie?

  • ||

    You're right. An obsessive stalker moron would never find some way to continually haunt this board. She'd never do that.

  • ||

    Exactly. Not after she PWND us as bad as she did.

  • ||

    Yup. By completely fucking her with registration, we lost. Or something. I find her retard logic difficult to follow...because it's retarded.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Hey. Remember the day she was outed?

    The celebrations were historic.

  • anon||

    I really think the only reason we have registration is because of her being outed.

    Yay us.

  • Juice||

    By the way, Hyperion sucked.

  • T o n y||

    Via Chris Matthews, a question: Why are rich people incentivized to be more productive by government giving them more, but poor people are incentivized by government taking stuff away?

  • Drake||

    I'll bite.

    What does the government give rich people? What is being taken from the poor?

  • T o n y||

    If the Republicans had their way, they'd give hundreds of thousands in more tax cuts to the rich, while taking away medical, education, and other benefits to the poor.

    So are the productivity claims (which aren't backed up by a single shred of empirical data, btw) just a bullshit smokescreen? It can't be the case that giving stimulates productivity in one case while taking stimulates it in another.

  • Drake||

    So in plain English, they want to let people keep more of the money they earn.

    Or, a true totalitarian like yourself would see it - all wealth belongs to the state and only the state can give it out.

  • T o n y||

    Which is a separate argument from the utility/productivity argument for tax and benefit cuts which is deployed in their defense constantly.

    I mean it's ludicrous to claim that making it more likely that a poor person will be ruined by a medical emergency, or making it so her children have less access to education, will result in her being more productive. Right?

    Equally lacking in sense is the claim that giving the already wealthy more money will incentivize them to invest more, regardless of economic conditions.

    Are you prepared to jettison these arguments on the grounds that they makes no sense?

    I doubt it, since at that point we're just debating what government should do, and if you care about fiscal responsibility, levels of taxation are then set as a purely practical matter.

    I shudder to think that at the heart of Republican/libertarian economics is vulgar Randian morality: the rich are superior because they're rich, the poor inferior because they're poor, and the state should reward and punish accordingly.

  • Drake||

    I'm prepared to jettison all of your arguments as senseless.

  • ||

    He's a sockpuppet. You're wasting your time if you try to talk to him like he's a person.

  • sarcasmic||

    Shorty Tony:

    Not taking is giving.
    Not giving is taking.

  • KDN||

    Shorty Tony:

    Not taking is giving.
    Not giving is taking.

    Seriously, I don't know why it bothers. Do you think its operator gets paid by the logical fallacy? I am constantly entertained by the smarmy displays of economic ignorance, though.

  • sarcasmic||

    Do you think its operator gets paid by the logical fallacy?

    Sometimes I think the operator is a homosexual nymphomaniac who does not know the difference between phallus and fallacy.

  • T o n y||

    With the help of Mr. Matthews I've pointed out a strikingly inconsistent line of thought in libertarian economics. The only response is name-calling.

    You people are idiots.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why are rich people incentivized to be more productive by government giving them more, but poor people are incentivized by government taking stuff away?

    Reducing taxes = taking less, not "giving them more".

    Reducing entitlements = giving less, not "taking stuff away".

    You're not pointing out anything other than your queer fetish for fallacies.

  • T o n y||

    You're confusing semantics with thought.

  • sarcasmic||

    You can "think" that taking less equals giving more, but that doesn't make it so.

    It just makes you a fool who fellates fallacies.

  • T o n y||

    But that semantic point, which is evidently the entire breadth of your understanding of your own political worldview, is explicitly not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the argument that giving money to rich people (or taking less from them) stimulates productivity, while taking from poor people (or giving less to them) does the same. Choosing different words to describe the actions doesn't make the contradiction go away.

    I get it that you think taxation equals theft (except to pay for programs you like), but that moral argument is not at issue here.

  • Juice||

    Is the goal to "stimulate productivity"? Shall we have a more "efficient" society? The trains will certainly run on time.

  • Wat Tyler||

    It's not the government's responsibility to "stimulate productivity." Besides the unconstitutionality of that concept, it's a clear interference in the economy, as someone somewhere in the bureaucracy would have to make a subjective judgement of what constitutes "productivity" and what economic endeavours are worthy of stimulation.
    You want to stimulate the economy on a macro scale? Get out of our way, get off our backs, and leaves us the hell alone!

  • KDN||

    Reducing taxes = taking less, not "giving them more".

    Reducing entitlements = giving less, not "taking stuff away".

    Philosphically, this is correct. However, changing these numbers does alter the each group's anticipated bottom line now and in the future, so the members of these groups do feel that they are having something given to or taken away from them.

    That's besides the point of Tony's obtuse question, though, of which there are a thousand different reasons as to whether and at what income levels positive intentivization is more effective than its negative counterpart. Explaining any of these is a waste of time, though; a better use of my day would be spent drawing a frowny face on a wall and rehashing why the end of Mass Effect 3 has pissed me off for the past month.

  • anon||

    With the help of Mr. Matthews I've pointed out a...

    Cool, you took a premise given to you by someone else, applied some logical fallacies, and then proceeded to scream "PROVE ME WRONG!"

    You haven't posited a valid argument, so it's impossible to respond to you with anything other than derision.

  • califernian||

    Your point is just not as deep as you think it is. It rests on multilayers of confusion.

  • T o n y||

    I'd dearly love for you to point out how I'm confused. Or are you just going to hurl insults? That's generally the level of "depth" required here, it seems.

  • T||

    Incentives matter. If you can't figure out the differing incentives between the two situations, well, sucks to be a sockpuppet, I guess.

  • T o n y||

    Rich people are incentivized by rewarding them, poor people are incentivized by punishing them. Rich people are good, moral adults, and poor people are bad, misbehaving children. I think I get it.

  • sarcasmic||

    Rich people are incentivized by rewarding them allowing them to keep more of what they earn, poor people are incentivized by punishing them not giving them free shit and thus no reason to go find a job.

    ftfy

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm talking about the argument that giving money to rich people (or taking less from them) stimulates productivity, while taking from poor people (or giving less to them) does the same.

    No one is making that argument except you and some guy on MSNBC who drools a lot.

    It's a straw man.

  • fabius||

    The semantics are what make the answer so obvious. The more productive the wealthy person is, the more the government takes from him. The more productive the poor person is, the less the government gives him. Hence, the wealthy person is incentivized by taking less from him, and the poor person is incentivized by giving him less.

    I'm curious as to whether you understood this already and didn't care or you're just not very smart.

  • T o n y||

    Taxes are taken to pay for the things we buy collectively. Perhaps they affect productivity among the wealthy, but presumably (or ideally) productivity is increased overall. Have you ever known a rich person become less rich in order to avoid paying higher taxes?

    The real problem is the argument that poor people are incentivized to be more economically productive by making it harder for them to afford basic needs. Doesn't it seem obvious that access to education and healthcare frees them to do more productive work? The question then becomes whether the productivity loss at the top as a result of taxes outweighs the gain of economic mobility at the bottom via programs those taxes pay for. I would argue that the effects at the top are miniscule-to-nonexistent, especially at any rate change we're talking about in the real world.

  • sarcasmic||

    The real problem is the argument that poor people are incentivized to be more economically productive by making it harder for them to afford basic needs.

    If all their basic needs are provided for them, what incentive is there to be economically productive?

    Especially when being economically productive (getting a job) means their basic needs (food stamps, section 8 housing, SSDI) will no longer be provided for them?

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Actually, no. One only needs translate from Tonyese to Standard Written English to see the answer to your (and Matthews') question is clear on its face: "Why do conservatives and libertarians believe allowing rich people to experience more of the consequences of their decisions will incentivize them while allowing poor people to experience more of the consequences of their decisions will incentivize them?"

  • T o n y||

    Stupid daddy-knows-best moral flimflammery. Wealth does not equal virtue, nor poverty vice. Luck plays some role in both. If you must organize a society around a strict Calvinist ethic, then you must at least figure out how much of a role that is before you cast most of society to darwinian competition.

  • ||

    I like this word "flimflammery". Do you have any other pearls of wisdom to bestow upon us oh wise sockpuppet?

    And to answer your question for like the thousandth time (on this thread alone): The more productive someone (of any income level) is, the more the government takes of their income. The less productive someone is, the more the government gives to them.

    The incentives are fucking clear as day: If I try to earn 60k this year Uncle Sugar is going to ask for roughly 12k of that (if not more). If I stay at 25k Uncle Sugar is only going to ask for about 2.5k. Plus he's going to give me assistance on a whole mess of stuff and special tax breaks, so come April 15th I actually get more than my 2.5k back. Gee, I wonder which scenario is the easier one?

  • k2000k||

    Yeah its not like federal invovlement in medicine, education, and the poor hasn't had an inverse relationship to the amount of involvement the goverment has...oh wait.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Government supervised "education" for the poor has done them SOOOO much good, now.

    As for "So are the productivity claims (which aren't backed up by a single shred of empirical data, btw) ", how's the weather on the planet on which you live? When taxes get cut the economy perks up. I don't know of an exception. Do you?

  • T o n y||

    I know that you're making a Keynesian argument. More money in people's pockets = more economic growth. I'm just curious why, leaving the morality of taxation out of it, which is a separate issue, you guys are fine with a Keynesian argument but only when it applies to rich people.

  • ||

    Mary, you really like dancing, don't you.

  • ||

    Sure, I'll bite. The issue isn't simply the amount of money in people's pockets: we also have to take into account the structure of production (Hayek all up in this bitch!). More money in people's pockets isn't a good thing in and of itself, re: economic growth; however, allowing people to keep more of their own money lets them act according to their value scale.

    Whoa, hold on there, Alack! Value scales? The fuck does that have to do with anything?

    Thanks for asking, hypothetical inquirer! See, an economy doesn't happen for no reason: it's built up by people making mutually advantageous exchanges to make their own lives better (or to prevent them from getting worse through inaction). Since people value things differently (ie, the ends and means provide different levels of satisfaction to different people) if we allow them to act directly according to their own value scales, the economy- via the profit motive- is bent toward providing the items and services best suited to increase satisfaction. Awesome!

  • ||

    This takes us back to one of the big problems of taxation: it removes a portion of earned income from someone who provided a service- the entity providing the compensation to the individual places and pays a higher value on the services rendered than the individual actually receives. Even worse, people who provide the most valuable or popular services are actually taxed at a higher rate: the more that other people are willing to give up to attain their services, the lower the proportion of that amount they are able to recoup. Now, this would be bad enough by itself since it means that exchange must necessarily be decreased in an environment with taxation, lowering the efficiency of the economy (eg, you and I might be willing to exchange a service for $100, but if you only see $80 of that after taxes you are less likely to provide the service). But in addition to that, the government then uses this money in the economy!

  • ||

    The problem isn’t that government is inherently evil or malicious- the problem is the scarcity of knowledge. It takes time to know things, and the amount of things the government needs to know to drive up economic efficiency approaches infinity. There are so many variables, which are constantly changing in number and intensity, that it’s impossible to keep track of them all. And even if you could keep track of them, it takes time to collect and act on what you measure. Take into account the lack of ability to compare value scales and levels of satisfaction, and any government that wants to help increase economic productivity to a level above that achieved by a market has a serious issue. The only actor capable of this would need perfect centralized knowledge and the ability to act on that knowledge without impediment: they would need to be omniscient and omnipotent.

    Now, I’m not saying that people will spend their money wisely, or that they’ll even always take the best approach to using that money to achieve the satisfaction they aim for. But people who are able to exchange services and goods that they desire with minimal interference will be able to provide for one another’s desires more effectively than any governmental entity that falls short of godhood.

    Alack out!

  • T o n y||

    Is there a need for perfect knowledge on the governemnt's part for it to provide the basic services that make such exchanges possible in the first place, such as law and order and property rights? Or is it not the case that such tax-funded services add to the efficiency of an economy? Does a centrally funded infrastructure add to or detract from efficiency? What about access to education?

    Where is long-term investment in this picture of an efficient market? Government can and does act as an investor, occasionally resulting in not only more efficiency but more innovation, as anyone playing around on the taxpayer-funded government invention, the Internet, must admit. Or anyone in a business that depends on government-funded basic scientific research. Or, to repeat, anyone who likes having a criminal justice system in place to protect their ability to engage in commerce in the first place.

  • anon||

    In Tonyland, if the government doesn't do it, it doesn't get done. Despite a plethora of examples to the contrary.

  • califernian||

    It's like you've never read any articles on comments on this site.

    Other than the republican water carriers, no one here supports giving away money to the rich. You are being disingenuous .

  • KDN||

    Other than the republican water carriers, no one here supports giving away money to the rich.

    In Tony's world, the money any person gets to use is the money the government has allowed them to keep. All your resources are belong to Congress unless a Democratic majority deems otherwise. All praise be to the state, yay.

    You are being disingenuous.

    No, he's just a sockpuppet of blind and frothy zealotry.

  • ||

    blind and frothy zealotry

    He's a Santorum supporter?

  • KDN||

    In a manner of speaking. NTTAWT; after, all who (besides my fiancee) doesn't love anal every now and then?

  • sarcasmic||

    I had a gf break up with me because I didn't want poop on my dick.

    She left me for a homo who didn't care if the ass he fucked was male or female.

    Last time I date a Women's Studies major.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    No, I'm not making a Keynesian argument. I'm making an argument from experience. Every time in my lifetime that taxes have been significantly cut, the economy has take flight soon after. Furthermore, during my lifetime, every country that has allowed the growth of a nanny-state and the associated rise in taxes, has suffered from prolonged economic doldrums.

  • Juice||

    Keynesian argument. More money in people's pockets = more economic growth.

    That's not a Keynesian argument. Keyenes went farther than that. It's not total money possessed, it's money spent, and how fast the money is spent. He went into the whole Paradox of Thrift bullshit. He didn't want people saving their money. He wanted people spending it.

    Hayek wanted both spending and savings (in a bank) so that savings could be invested in capital. Actually, he just wanted you to do what you wanted with your money.

  • ||

    Why do you hate poor people? The majority of tax cuts have gone to the lower and middle class for as long as they've existed. That's how presidents buy votes.

  • o3||

    cause teh poar know how to do moar w less?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Because the amount that productive people make from useful activity/decisions increases from tax cuts. In broad terms, this has the same incentive effect as a bonus or raise.

    Means-tested welfare, in contrast, is mathematically equivalent to a negative pay rate (across a certain pay range). That is, if working an extra hour causes a person to lose $10 of government benefits, it's the same as if the government charged them $10 to work for an hour. Increasing the amount of means-tested welfare people receive tends to subject more hours of labor to the effective negative pay rate.

    Shorter version:
    Tax cuts means more money to do things. Welfare cuts mean less money to not do things. Both tend to result in more things being done.

  • shrike||

    Santorum from the South = DeMint.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Ah, Jimmy DeMint, the man who thinks homos and unmarried fornicatin' folks should be allowed to be public school teachers, but yet he believes public schools should organize school prayer sessions.

    The man is noxious and libertarians associate with him or give audience to his views at their own peril.

  • Spoonman.||

    Agreed, why would any of us care what that asshole has to say?

  • robc||

    Because people can be assholes on topic A while being right on topic B.

    See Jefferson, Thomas and slavery (as topic A).

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    This is true, but be aware that DeMint is playing us for suckers. He is not is trying to ally with us, in good faith, with his fiscal responsibility rhetoric; rather, he is cynically using us to add some fuel to his political machine, knowing that we don't have the numbers or political capital to take on the YEAH WAR!/SoCon camp after they kick us to the curb once the votes are tallied.

    Though, I have to give him credit; pimpin' ain't easy.

  • califernian||

    You're absolutely correct. He is not a friend of liberty. He is a man of the system, through and through.

  • ||

    This is tough. He's useless on social liberty, in fact worse than useless.

    But he did refuse earmarks to deepen the Port of Charleston, a decision that def did not go down well in South Carolina. So he doesn't seem like a typical GOP hypocrite when it comes to fiscal restraint. In fact it's sad because we (Chas) may seriously lose a lot of business to neighboring Savannah as they had no compunction about using fed money. It's one of those things where having one DeMint actually hurts the state, you kinda need everyone else to be as consistent as he is...

    My view is his social agenda has basically no chance in hell of implementation, even here in the so-called "backwards" South. So I can stomach voting for him.

  • anon||

    The man is noxious and libertarians associate with him or give audience to his views at their own peril.

    Way to use the classic proggy character assassination technique there.

    Even though DeMint is in favor of some shit I don't support, he's probably one of the best 10 in all of congress concerning economic liberty.

  • Ramjet||

    He says "I don’t think the government should impose my morals or anyone else’s on someone else." Liar, liar, pants on fire.

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    It's probably just wishful thinking on my part, but I get the sense that some Republicans are starting to chart a new direction that will be more libertarian. They see political opportunity there.

    The truth is that society overall is trending in favor of a more socially liberal population. This doesn't bode well for socons and the Repubs, and some know it.

    With the exception of abortion, in which overall polling numbers are in stasis against the pro-lifers, current polling on same sex marriage and MJ legalization are not going the way socons would like. With younger generations being more socially liberal than the previous one, coupled with the passing of the older, authoritarian generations, it seems likely that political support for these socon issues will continue to shrink.

    Time well tell, I guess. (Profound, I know. You're welcome.)

  • Robert||

    Society always trends toward the "socially liberal", when you look at what "socially liberal" means: the mores of the coming generation. So that's a vacuous statement. What's important is what the mores of the coming generation are; they may be more or less libertarian, or go off in directions orthogonal to that axis.

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    Thanks for telling me that we don't know where future generations may go. I guess you didn't see where I posted that "time will tell". That applies to both what Repub pols might do and where the polls on these issues go in the future. Duh.

    I get what your saying but I fail to see how it invalidates anything I posted. I think on some socon issues, future polling from future generations (I guess, technically speaking, a new generation comes on line politically every year) will continue to trend against them as they have recently.

    There certainly doesn't seem to be any coalitions on the poltical horizon that would give those issues any impetus.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    The great irony that socons like DeMint miss is that a libertarian society would relatively quickly begin to look quite conservative socially without government coercion. The decisions people make in a society where you can do anything you want on your own dime are quite different from the decisions people make in a society where anything goes and you get a subsidy for the negative consequences.

  • Robert||

    That's where Blay Tarnoff saw "conservatism" as coming from: They looked at characteristics that were associated with good life, and decided they should encourage them as much as possible, using both carrot & stick, seeing those characteristics as causes rather than results.

  • Drake||

    Yep - This article in American Spectator today had me thinking those exact thoughts. People acting responsibly - whether from morality or consequences - is kind of a common goal of Libertarians and Socons. We just disagree with how to get there.

    I think DeMint is much brighter than Santorum and realizes this.

    http://spectator.org/archives/.....disintegra

  • ||

    Actually, DeMint was addressing this in the article in mentioning the balance between allowing individuals the freedom to make their own choices with accepting the natural consequences of choosing poorly. That is the failure of the Progressives in allowing all actions but no consequences.

  • ||

    So, he's a fiscal conservative who is worried about balanced budgets, but he doesn't want to raise taxes or cut Medicare, Social Security, or the military. He's concerned about the centralization of power but wants to make sure the states don't treat gays like real human beings.

    Class A Fraud.

  • ||

    “you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative,”

    That one comment, more than any other single factor, is what drove me out of the Republican Party. Those two circumstances have nothing to do with each other and what I've found endlessly frustrating for a long time is that the Republicans won't acknowledge that.

    Part of fiscal conservatism means protecting the economic freedom of individuals; part of social conservatism means denying the behavioural freedom of individuals. The truth of the matter is that social conservatism and fiscal conservatism are mutually incompatible when it comes to individual liberty.

    All that said, however, DeMint's comments have given me more hope than I've felt in years about the future of limited government in the US.

  • ||

    I came here to post what you just said, but you said it better than I would have HenryMiller. Thank you.

    So all I will add is; “you can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative,”
    Yes, Jim, you can.

  • Wholly Holy Cow||

    You people (True Libertarians) are fucking pathetic. You do realize that Ron Paul! is also a social conservative, don't you?

    Anyway, a mainstream R is offering an olive branch. But please, by all means, break it in two. I mean, DeMint's not perfect damn it and having a Ron Paul! bumper sticker is way cooler.

    I love how you fault DeMint for just paying lip service to Libertarianism. Ha!

    Unlike Ron Paul. Who just takes your money every four years in a pathetic presidential run. And if Paul ever was elected, he wouldn't do a thing to end the WOD or the wars in the M.E. and you'd fellate him just the same. The president's job is Commander in Chief, not Hippie in Chief. And Paul knows this and plays you fuckers like the witless simps you are.

    So like I said: pathetic.

    P.S.--better spend some hard earned cash to support Gary Johnson. You have been feeling kind of down lately and donating money to a lost cause makes one feel oh-so-special. No? Hey, maybe some fat chick will even give you a smile.

  • the_cold_truth||

    I'm calling BS on this. The new debate needs to be between conservatives and libertarians? Uh huh. I'm hearing this nonsense more and more coming from conservatives, whether on talk radio or on the internet. Interestingly enough, they only started talking about this recently, once election season started to heat up. Once the election is over and IF Romney wins, they will toss us to the side and pretend that they never knew us. Conservatives want nothing to do with libertarians, all they want is our votes.

  • tipuasher||

    Extremely interesting blog post. Just notion I would leave a expansion show my interest.
    http://MAKE-DOCUMENTARIES-PAY.COM

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