Dean's List


A piece by Noah Shachtman on The American Prospect site looks at libertarians who've grown disenchanted enough with the GOP that they're casting an eye toward the Democrats in 2004. I'm quoted briefly, as are a bunch of D.C.-area libertarian folks like Gene Healy and Radley Balko.


NEXT: Man of the People

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  1. Julian,

    You’d VOTE?

  2. Andy you are pushing the “Democrats are pro-personal liberty and against corp. welfare” meme. provide evidence it is true! The RLC site clearly shows that the GOP is more libertarian on the Nolan scale.

    Is Ron Paul part of this so-called “War on civil liberties”? Show me the Democratic equivalent? Funny how you slip in the anti-religion bash and anti-abortion, as though those are both inherently libertarian.

    Maybe we should just admit that there are Left and Right libertarians who probably should have different names for themselves, as they rarely agree anyway.

  3. The gridlock argument seems simplified but it isn’t. If both parties are disgusting, it’s best to have them debate with each other over stupid stuff than let the (ever so slightly) less evil one (your guess is as good as mine) to pass whatever legislation it wants with the alacrity of a well-oiled machine.

    Right now conservatives appear to be in unision, and seem just as cohesive in their values as the Democrats are diffused. It was just the opposite with Clinton in office. A good leader like Clark could reassemble liberals, and collapse the neo-con stronghold. Ideally, in the interium , conservatives would piece their ideals back together in a truly (fiscal) conservative way, but they could just as well emerge post-Clark with an ultra-neo-con agenda, especially if “terrorism” continues. See we can’t win. That’s why we’re switch-hitters.

  4. The piece was written before my Libertarians for Dean group blog came about, so here it is…

    The point is not to necessarily support Dean and all of his policies, so just know that before you pass judgement.

    Here are 3 of my arguments that can serve as an intro:
    Libertarians for Dean, are you insane?
    Are Republican-voting libertarians sell-outs?
    Divided We Stand

    Enjoy it or hate it, more people believe in the idea than you would suspect.

  5. >>more people believe in the idea than you would suspect.

    estimated 6-10. which is still crazy.

  6. Speaking as a former state chairman of the RLC, I can say that the RLC has always skewed its ratings to make the GOP look more libertarian than it is.

  7. Democrats – Party of Peace, Party Of Liberty

    See “Dems for the Draft” below…

  8. PLC,

    I’m not saying exactly that the Republicans and Democrats are nearly equally evil for some theoretical “average” Libertarian; I’m saying that the race is close for me. For me, gun rights aren’t all that important relative to other issues. For me, the religious right is more offensive than the tree-hugger left… to be clear, this doesn’t mean I have any sympathy for the tree-hugger left. For me, the left’s command-and-control pounding of business isn’t nearly as evil as the right’s get-in-bed-and-let-businesses write the regulations. For me, pro-lifers are destructive, especially when they step on scientists working with stem cells (there’s another of the top 5 evils in my view). To me, corporate welfare is far worse than personal welfare (if you want to argue that democrats usually favor corporate welfare too, I’d have to point out that most republicans support personal welfare, if to a lesser degree than democrats). The church/state issue is a courts issue, and right-wing judges tend to be on the wrong side… and right-wing judges are appointed by right-wing elected officials.

    Someone mentioned Ron Paul. I think he’s much more Libertarian than Republican, and as far as I know about him, he’s the best politician in office. Score *one* for the republicans.

  9. Don, Confused Libertarian, et al – after about a year of reading this blog, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are some “libertarians” who are so personally offended by conservatives, for whatever reasons, that they are incable of the pragmatic step of working to improve the Republican party (the only reasonable hope for enhanced liberty) and have opted to remain essentially ineffectual while remaining true to their “ideals”.

  10. A Republican President and Congress have given us steel tariffs and bigger farm subsidies. This is the free trade party?

    Having said that, I’m still puzzled by the attraction some libertarians have to Howard Dean. Yes, he was against Gulf War II, but now that it’s over, he’s just as much in favor of rebuilding Iraq as Bush is.

  11. Confused Libertarian,

    Sure there are left leaning libertarians and right leaning libertarians. As long as you don’t have to tow the libertarian line on every single issue to consider yourself libertarian and/or there are different ways to interpret and/or apply the libertarian line on some issues, there are going to be disagreements between libertarians. But so what? I’m no historian, but I can’t help but suspect there’s rarely been a significant faction in history that didn’t harbor disagreements within itself. Unfortunately (to a degree), we have a situation with libertariansism in which the necessity to ally with larger parties to have any electoral effect in this country tends to foster electoral splits. But first, that doesn’t mean that our disagreements are nearly as significant as our agreements. And secondly, as I alluded to with my parenthetical qualifier, maybe that’s not all bad. Virginia Postrel has repeatedly made the point that putting libertarian (I suppose she prefers “dynamist”) pressure on both parties is preferable to committing one way or the other. And I think that makes sense!

  12. Some libertarians think it wise to work within the Republican party. Some stick with the LP. I’m relatively inactive, haven’t paid dues in years, but I gave money to the last campaign for governor. Other lib’s see all electoral activity as futile, and work on an academic or think tank level, hoping the ideas will be picked up by the culture at large. If some of us feel more “at home” with the Democrats, let them form a “Thomas Jefferson Caucus” and good luck to them. I agree that the official parties are Evil Party Mark I and Evil Party Mark II, but making either or both of them less evil is a good thing.

    Let a 1,000 flowers bloom, to coin a phrase.


  13. Actually, I think fyodor is exactly right in his point about the value of putting pressure on both parties. There could be a quasi-libertarian faction within the Democratic Party, one that upholds the Clinton tradition (believe it or not) on free trade, is at least somewhat sensible about entitlements and federal spending, and marries these with less government in the cultural sphere. Dean couldn’t be the standard-bearer for this faction, though, as he had repudiated whatever sense he used to have on trade and on health care. Not sure any Democrat currently on the national stage could do it. Nor could this faction be based around the anti-war mesage, as most of the Dems amenable to this message would likely have been pro-war.

    Former Sen. Bob Kerrey might have represented this kind of figure.

  14. “If you believe the meme that personal welfare actually helps poor people, then you are a left-libertarian.”

    I don’t know who said that welfare helps poor people, but my guess is you’re making unwarrented assumptions about me because I said corporate welfare is worse than personal welfare. Both are bad, but corporate welfare does more harm. The media seem to be much more focused on personal welfare, probably because it’s easier to understand on a personal level and because Republicans effectively make it seem like a pro-business stance, which appeases some free-market types.

    I don’t know anybody who claims to be a Libertarian and supports personal welfare, so making a name for such a group seems nonsensical.

    Oh, and socialized medicine is also in my top 5 government evils:)

  15. From the article:
    “While the Clinton administration showed some fiscal restraint, federal spending has ballooned on Bush’s watch.”

    The Clinton administration didn’t favor fiscal “restraint! It was forced on them by a Republican congress and Alan Greenspan’s admonitions. The Republican congress has failed to apply the same pressure to the big spending agenda of the Bushies.

    “”The conservatives have proven that they never favored limited government. They only opposed big government that promoted liberal ideas,” says Radley Balko,”

    More like: Bush is taking the lable “conservative”, though he isn’t one.

    “writes Gene Berkman on a pro-Dean Web site. “I don’t agree with Dean on everything, especially his opposition to tax cuts, but stopping the warmongers is more important.””

    “STOPPING the warmongers”?
    As Raimondo observed:
    “Dean, the alleged “anti-war” candidate, agrees with Condi Rice’s concept of a “generational” project to bring “democracy” to Iraq, and joins Bill Kristol in questioning the depth and endurance of the President’s commitment.”

    Dean is no non-interventionist on foreign policy.
    Probably better then Bush has been, but thats a very low bar. And, if Gene dosen’t like Dean’s opposition to tax cuts, surely the rest of Dean’s big government, freedom robbing advocacies ought to repel him.

    The Republicans in congress are much better then the Democrats, check out the Republican Liberty Caucus site: and the NTU site:

    BUT, Republican conservatives take note! This kind of desertion is what will happen en-masse unless you reasert the push for smaller government and keep mindful of Reagen’s observation that “libertarianism is at the heart of conservatism”

  16. As usual, the self described hard nosed realists here are the ones living in fantasy land. They apparently believe that if libertarians fall in line and continue to vote republican, the patently anti-libertarian drift of the GOP in recent years will magically be reversed. Well, why should it? Why should republicans give a damn about us if we’re an automatic check in their column? Right now, and assuming the continuation of a republican Congress, it’s patently obvious to me that a democratic president would do far less harm to freedom than a Republican. It appears that some folks are so hypnotized by the increasingly feeble lip service Republicans pay to libertarian ideas that they think they’re sticking it to the eeevil left by continuing to live in the Cold War. Look out the window, folks.

  17. While I don’t have a preference between the Democrats and Republicans, I do think you can make a strong case that:

    (a) divided government is better, from a libertarian perspective, than a government in which the same party controls both the legislature and the executive branch; and

    (b) the combination of a Democratic president with a Republican House is preferable to the combination of a Republican president with a Democratic House. (I certainly prefered living under Clinton plus a Republican Congress to living under Bush Sr. plus a Democratic Congress.)

    Given that, and given how bad Bush has been, I’m inclined to hope the Democrats take the presidency next year while the Republicans hold onto the legislature. Of course, some Dems are better than others. For all of Dean’s problems, I’d find it a lot easier to cheer for him than for Lieberman or Clark.

    (It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: The fact that I could cheer for Dean does not mean I would vote for him. I’m more like to vote for the LP nominee, write in a cartoon character, or not cast a ballot at all.)

  18. I am not disappointed that Julian would vote for Dean. However I am disappointed that Julian would vote at all. I remember the days when you’d make fun of voters, Julian, and excoriate those who made you feel bad for not doing it.

    Where did that skinny, long-haired boy who used to sleep next to me go?

    Did DC do this to you?

  19. Why do you have to believe in non-interventionism on foreign policy to be a libertarian? We live in a globalized world. Can we really afford to just ignore everyone else in it? Will it really help make us safer?

  20. Amen, Julian.

    Libertarians’ relationship with Bush for some seems like breaking up w/ a girl that could be sooo cool, but she treats you like shit. You could stay with her and get trampled on, or you could take a stand and move on.

    So, some of us have considered moving on…at least for now to prove our point. Is Dean the next hottie that we are going to marry because we love everything about him. I doubt it, he’s more like the hot, drunk chick in a bar begging for it. Right now we are desparate, and we’ll take him home and use him for now.

    Sick and demented digression, but I think you catch my drift.

  21. I would also prefer a Dem in the White House with a Rep legislature. In an imperfect world, it seems like the least odious alternative for me.

    I have libertarian sensibilities, but I plan to vote for Dean in the primary (yes, that means I have to register as a Dem). I’ll vote my conscience in the general election since Maryland will go for the Dem, no matter who it is.

  22. Vote for me, Jesse!!!

    Note: I’m not campaigning for anyone else’s vote, ONLY for Jesse’s!!

  23. Greg-
    I may indeed vote this time around, though purely for the expressive value of it. I suppose I’d have to register, and it does seem a shame to tarnish a perfect record, but for the first time I think I’d get some actual personal satisfaction out of it.

  24. Most libertarians I know were never with Bush in the first place. The GOP has been tax and spend for soem time minus Ron Paul and a few others.

    Alina is a bit of an dip — she gets away with stuff she shouldn’t from other libertarians based on her obvious good looks — a computer geek male libertarian wouldn’t have been able to get away with what Alina gets away with —

    BTW why is a staffer at non-partisan IHS talking about politics at all — and considering IHS’s funding base *cough*Koch Industries*cough*– why is she saying she’d vote for Dean?

    BTW I’d vote for Dean today if he was in a tight race with Bush — no problem.

    Hard core libertarian

  25. I just don’t get how anyone who calls themselves a libertarian could vote for someone who supports socialized medicine and/or Kyoto – can anyone explain this to me?

  26. Certainly, if you take a short-term view of Bush vs. almost any Dem on an issue-by-issue basis, it is likely that Bush could still be the lesser of two evils (depending on what’s important to you, of course). However, I think one could argue that such shortsighted reasoning is precisely why libertarians have been steadily marginalized within the GOP. As has already been pointed out, there is no reason for the GOP to cater to libertarian interests if they can count on libertarian votes regardless.

    On the other hand, if libertarians vote en masse against the GOP, and cost them the election, at least one of the major parties (I honestly don’t care which one) is bound to stand up and notice.

    I’d be willing to endure a few years with a Democrat in the White House if it makes the Republicans move back towards libertarianism in ’08, ’12, etc…

  27. Julian,

    So why not vote for the World Worker Party candidate? Surely a communist president and Republican congress would not accomplish (harm) much.

    Certainly Bush has not been the pro-libertarian president he advertised himself as, but fleeing the party that produced a *candidate* who was libertarian for a nanny state Democrat out of pure spite does not seem like a good response. Why would that send a better message than lodging a protest vote with the LP?

  28. Brian: It is deeper than that. The LP could act in the spolier role you describe.

    So why Dean? Why the Dems?

  29. Also, to describe libertarianism as marginalized inside the Republican party is not very accurate. If that were the case, why would Bush have had to run leaning more libertarian (on important issues) than any candidate since Goldwater? Vouchers, privatizing SS, free trade, etc.

    If you’re standing in a crowd of 10000 shouting “freedom” while they shout for more chains, it just looks like 10001 people shouting for chains.

  30. “On the other hand, if libertarians vote en masse against the GOP, and cost them the election, at least one of the major parties (I honestly don’t care which one) is bound to stand up and notice.”

    The problem with this theory is that there just are not enough libertarians to significantly hurt the GOP. How many states in the last election were even close?

    Also, in the state of Washington, the LP ran a relatively strong Senate campaign and cost the Republicans Slade Gordon’s seat. The direct result is that Washington now has two incompetent leftist buffoons in the Senate. The indirect result is that the Washington state Republican Party has written off the libertarians and has opted to move “to the mainsteam”.

    It seems that what you are arguing is that the best way to get a political party to act in your favor is to vote for their opponent – this just doesn’t seem to hold water logically or empirically. The Republicans essentially own the Christian Right vote – but they still try to please this faction of thier base.

  31. This is old news. I have covered it on my blog from time to time going back months.

    Also, National Review magazine ran an article back in 1999 or 2000 (not sure) about the state of conservatism. It noted that libertarians are not enough of the electorate for Republican to care. Libertarians can spoil elections in Senate races but not actually win them outright. At the presidentical level they don’t matter. Republican abandonment of libertarianism is pragmatic. Right or wrong, that’s their view.

    Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard has actively tried to push out libertarians from the conservative movement, noting that libertarianism is the part of the Reagan coalition that has not sustained itself. Kristol’s rejection is philosophical.

    The other problem is that libertarianism takes power away from politicians. How can they buy votes with subsidies or bigger bureaucracies if the object is to eliminate them?

    Even cutting taxes has a practical side. It stimulates economic growth – which helps Republican’s re-election chances.

  32. I can see voting for someone who supports socialized medicine and Kyoto if there’s no chance either of these would get through. But it’s a dangerous game because a president who supports such things will likely be able to make inroads towards those ends.

    Anyway, I know my vote counts for very little anyway (all the Libertarians in the world probably couldn’t get California to vote for a non-democrat president). So rather than selling my soul to the lesser of two evils, I’d rather throw my miniscule voice behind someone who’s not evil at all. I’ve always wondered what it would look like if people gave up voting for a “winner” and instead voted for their favorite candidate.

    “Don’t blame me. I voted for Kodos!”

  33. Why the Dems? Two words:

    Jos? Padilla

  34. I just don’t get how anyone who calls themselves a libertarian could vote for someone who supports socialized medicine and/or Kyoto – can anyone explain this to me?

    I think you?re making the mistaken assumption that those individuals who call themselves ?libertarians? and are considering Dean somehow have a reasonable libertarian rationale for doing so. As opposed to merely throwing the political equivalent of a tantrum because Bush and the GOP are not pure enough.

  35. JDM wrote: “Certainly Bush has not been the pro-libertarian president he advertised himself as, but . . .”

    Well, prior to 9/11 I for one though he was off to an OK start (I can’t imagine a GREAT START, OK is about as good as it is going to get anytime soon). You know, rejecting the new arsnic/drinking water restrictions Clinton passed on his way out the door, oil drilling in Alaska, etc.

  36. How about this strategy? Punish (at the polls) the bad Republicans (such as Bush) and reward the good ones.
    Same for the Democrats; punish and reward (the few good Democrats extant, that is) But, it is not a viable strategy for liberty to reward bad Democrats such as Dean.

    To tell the good guys from the bad (at the congressional level) go to the NTU site:

  37. “[Dean-supporting libertarians are] throwing the political equivalent of a tantrum because Bush and the GOP are not pure enough.”

    I’m no fan of Dean, but one hardly needs to be a child or a zealot to be tempted to look for an alternative to Bush. How much has he done to earn support from libertarians since being elected? The first thing he did was try to strengthen federal control over education. Then there was his support for federal subsidies to private charities, for more farm subsidies, for tariffs, and for the PATRIOT act. How much more of this are Bush-supporting libertarians going to take?

  38. Call me crazy, but I think the best strategy is for lower-case libertarians to vote for the Libertarian party candidate. Neither major party cares who its voters *are*, as long as they do, in fact, vote for their candidates. Both sides will simply look at their voters as supporting the totality of their platform. Not-voting as a form of protest is irrelevant, since politicians don’t actually care about voter turnout, no matter how much the media cries about it. (And don’t kid yourself that if only the turnout is lowered far enough it will discredit the government. The Denver school board had an election a few years ago with a turnout of only 8% and I haven’t noticed any letters to the editor claiming that the school board lacks legitimacy.)

    The most successful reshaping of American politics in the last 20 years came in 1992, when Ross Perot put the deficit on the public’s radar and torpedo’ed Bush the Elder’s candidacy. Libertarian concerns will start getting taken seriously when one party notices that Libertarian candidates are consistently collecting more votes than the margin of defeat between the major party candidates.

  39. Voting for a Democratic president/Republican Congress means

    1. You give the bulk of political fund-raising leverage to the Dems. Problematic because I think it is quite probable that cumulative Republican possession of the WH for the least 30 years–far more than the blip of Clinton loathing in the mid-90s– has been instrumental in creating a well-funded base and political machine from which Republicans were able to regain and hold control of Congress, and continue to dominate national politics in a fashion that is perhaps out of proportion to their actual national popularity.

    2. You give the power over the institution of regulatory initatives, and interpretation of current regulations to the Dems. It is naive to think that Congress has much control over the way law is shaped, beyond very broad contours, anymore: it doesn’t. Regulatory agencies, administrative law judges, and and administrative rule-making and/or interpretations launch many of the most controversial initiatives. Rememember stem-cells? That was all about the NIH. Congress feebly tried to ban stem-cell funding–and was ignored.

    3. You cede control over the nominations to the judiciary to the Dems. See 2, above: as Congress is increasingly divided, passage of legislation does not decrease, it just becomes more ambiguous. That is why judges–especially appellate judges–have become more controverisal. Because judges increasingly have no choice but to fill in gaps in legislation. In a closely divided political world, that means who gets to pick judges is all the more vital.

    4. The only way the government is going to get downsized is through Presidential leadership. The Gingrich congress demonstrated that amply. Putting Dems in the exec branch to make the Repubs “act more like Repubs” is therefore the strategy best guaranteed to ensure that no radical adjustments in the size of the federal government actually ever happen. It is, in short, far more timid and reactionary that the strategy of the “realists.”

    In short, Julian’s “vote Democrat/make Libertarians matter notion” is so much college b*llsh*t session strategizing. But I think when you look pass the slogans (“that’ll make them listen to us!”) this vote Democratic idea is, to put it kindly, too clever by half.

  40. “The only way the government is going to get downsized is through Presidential leadership.”

    Surely you are not implying that this is a reason to re-elect Bush?

  41. “Presidential leadership…. Surely this is not a reason” to favor Bush.

    No, it is a reason for favoring a default rule that Republicans should be in the WH; and a reason against the alternative “contrarian libertarian” rule–i.e. “let’s put Democrats in the WH to make Republicans more Republican”. The point is that the benefits of having a Republican in the WH are bigger than one administration: republican retention of the WH brings clear rolling institutional benefits (outlined above), which carries over to the next administration. The longer the Repubs hold the WH, the more likely that future administrations will be Republican.

    Plus, we cannot discount that a single republican administration might surprise us in a second term–far more likely Bush will do so than a Dean administration, if you are going to play the admittedly very low odds.

    Accordingly, I think the default rule should only be breached when it is evident that a Republican president is seriously undermining the party we all agree is historically likely to favor libertarian positions as a competitive force–no evidence that this is the case with Bush, as yet.

  42. Eric Hanneken wrote:

    I’m no fan of Dean, but one hardly needs to be a child or a zealot to be tempted to look for an alternative to Bush.

    Suggesting that because President Bush is not ?libertarian enough? and therefore one should vote for Howard Dean is to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    How much has he done to earn support from libertarians since being elected?

    Let?s see – he cut taxes, cut off federal funding for abortion and groups which promote abortion, rejected Kyoto and a number of other destructive environmentalist nonsense, has begun to restore some semblance of sanity to the EPA and federal environmental regulations, consistently supported allowing workers to invest a portion of their FICA dollars, has pushed for MSA?s as a means to reforming Medicare, has pushed for tort reform, supported vouchers (although I oppose them) for education, has toppled two dictatorships which supported terrorism (which is something the federal government ought to be doing), successfully marginalized the United Nations, has nominated at least several strict constructionists to the federal courts (although they?re being held up by Senate Democrats), and refused to bail out Enron and California for their poor policies (despite Democratic pleadings).

    The first thing he did was try to strengthen federal control over education. Then there was his support for federal subsidies to private charities, for more farm subsidies, for tariffs, and for the PATRIOT act. How much more of this are Bush-supporting libertarians going to take?

    With the exception of the PATRIOT Act (which I support for the most part), I agree those are bad things but they?re pretty miniscule compared to the good things he has done and supported and while I?m sure that you don?t want to hear this ? do you have any doubt that the Democratic candidates would (a) pretty much support most of the things about Bush you don?t like (e.g. steel tariffs and farm subsidies were both heavily supported by Democrats), (b) undo the things Bush has done that you do like, and (c) enact policies you don?t like which are worse then the ones about Bush you don?t like.

  43. Fred,
    Outside of rhetoric, how has Bush proven to be less statist than his predecessors? His brave stand against prescription drugs? How about the way he told those steel workers to suck on a lemon when they asked for protectionist tariffs? His intervention in Liberia, the next big threat?

    On the other hand, you have the example of Clinton. Sure, he had his warts and had his hand forced by the Republican Congress, but free trade increased and the size of government went down. There is something to be said about a president going against his party’s accepted talking points to gain support. Recent history, in fact, shows that to be the case. It seems counter-intuitive, but Bush’s big moves are something you’d expect from a Dem and the opposite goes for Clinton. Call it “college b*llsh*t session strategizing,” but the alternative ain’t pretty either.

  44. By all means folks. Go right ahead. I can’t wait for higher taxes, a weaker military, universal federal medical insurance, and assurances that we will secure the country by getting rid of the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus now employed by the present Attorney General, J. Custis Bogeyman. And as long as you are going to go for the anything goes candidate, you can’t do much better than lawless Al Sharpton… If you hate the federal government and all it’s silly laws, he’ll fix it right up… we can get rid of those damn things in a heartbeat.

    On the other hand, maybe if folks feel so strongly about the Republicans’ screwups that they are willing to chuck the country down the crapper, it might behoove them to get involved in their local Republican Party machine, and start working their way up. It might save a lot of heartbreak. But that would take work, and it’s much easier to bitch…

  45. I sometimes wonder if I am living in the same country as some of the posters on this blog.
    It is not correct to refer to President Bush as an “imperfect” President from a libertarian point of view.
    President Bush is clearly an enemy of liberty. The crackdown of civil liberties after 9/11 has affected far more Americans than terrorists. The war on drugs is supported by both parties, but much more by the dominant Republican element.
    The pre-emptive attack on Iraq has violated the traditional American policy that you don’t fight until attacked.
    The cost of the Iraq War and rebuilding is more than the cost of Governor Dean’s proposed medical care plan.
    I am active in the Libertarian Party, and I have worked with the Republican Liberty Caucus and in numerous Libertarian and Republican campaigns. But a primary challenge to a sitting President was not effective against Bush, or against Gerald Ford even. Neither the Libertarian Party nor any other alternative party can provide an effective challenge to Bush League statism.
    Voting for Dean while building the Libertarian Party at the local level is the only effective strategy I can see for saving America from the aggressive foreign policy and domestic repression which has formed the policy of the Bush administration.
    Facts are stubborn things.

  46. This is not about making the perfect the enemy of the “good”. Strategic considerations entirely aside, I would prefer president Dean to president Bush on pure policy grounds. Also, I find it not a little ironic that others are citing the “impotence” of the Gingrich congress to prove the need for presidential leadership to downsize government when Bush has grown domestic spending faster than Bush did. This knee-jerk adherence to the GOP is, to put it mildly, not clever enough by half.

  47. In addition, at least Howard Dean’s blog has comments, unlike the Bush-Cheney blog.

    Ok, back to the partisan sniping.

  48. Given that any individual’s vote is a throw away, wouldn’t you be happier with an LP president than either Bush or Dean? So why not vote for one? I don’t think Bush is an “enemy of freedom,” but even if he was, you cannot say any Democrat is not also. And even if you could, you cannot say that he was less an enemy of freedom than a Libertarian.

    In other words, if Bush were as bad for freedom as you say, voting for Dean still makes no sense at all.

  49. I have zero enthusiasm about voting this presential election. Its going to be the same bullshit you see every damn year. The same soundbites, the same promises, the same issues, the same circus, just different clowns.
    I used to vote LP, and there have been republicans who’ve I’ve voted for. But they’ve all shafted us. Lets face it, this government is no longer for the people, by the people, or of the people. We’re all fucked, and might as well get used to it.

    I think I’ll vote for Micky Mouse.

  50. Thorley,

    I agree we shouldn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, but taken in sum, Bush is not good. Yes, Bush has done some good as President, especially with regard to Kyoto and Afghanistan (although I wish he’d shown enough respect for the Constitution to get a declaration of war from Congress). The tax cuts are nice but small, especially compared to the spending increases that Bush asked for (and got). I’m surprised you brought up Medicare, since Bush campaigned to add a prescription drug entitlement to it.

    When I add it all together, Bush ends up negative. Is he less negative than the Democrats? If I had supported the war in Iraq, and if I were in favor of Bush’s grand schemes for transforming the Middle East, I might say so, but I didn’t and I’m not. I think Bush’s hyper-interventionist foreign policy is going to cost Americans too much blood and treasure. So it’s possible that the right Democrat would be an improvement, although still bad.

  51. Dean is actually against the Kyoto treaty. He feels that the full burden shouldn’t be placed upon the large countries. He feels that developing nations need to sign on also so that it would be more fair.

  52. Julian Sanchez wrote:

    This is not about making the perfect the enemy of the “good”. Strategic considerations entirely aside, I would prefer president Dean to president Bush on pure policy grounds.

    Really and what are those policy grounds?

    Also, I find it not a little ironic that others are citing the “impotence” of the Gingrich congress to prove the need for presidential leadership to downsize government when Bush has grown domestic spending faster than Bush did.

    ?Bush has grown domestic spending faster than Bush did??

    This knee-jerk adherence to the GOP is, to put it mildly, not clever enough by half.

    It never ceases to amaze me how some people will complain about the GOP and then promptly go out and support a candidate or party which by any reasonable standard is even less libertarian-leaning.

  53. Thorley:

    While it is undeniably true that “there is no rational reason why any serious libertarian would support a Democrat as an alternative to President Bush”, this does not account for the fact that most of the Reason staff these days seem to be neither rational, nor serious, nor even very libertarian.

    If your only source of information was this weblog, you might be under the impression that the most pressing current issues for libertarians are 1.) the conspiracy to pretend that drugs are not always wonderful for everyone and that anyone who doesn’t do drugs is a repressed prude, 2.) commercial radio station regulations, 3.) the evils of copyright and intellectual property protections, and 4.) all the tens of thousands of innocents imprisoned wrongly as a result of the Patriot Act.

    Issues such as taxes, regulatory burdens, redistribution programs, and public schooling are, apparently, inconsequential.

  54. Gimme a break, I’m tired: I meant “Bush has grown domestic spending faster than Clinton did.”

  55. PLC,
    You forgot to include the California recall election.

  56. It’s a fool’s errand to think we can change a party via national elections.

    The way to change the GOP is to essentially take over the local politics.

    If libertarians would pick up some real issues instead of the farcical guns & dope routine, we could begin changing things on city councils, mayors, zoning boards et al. And then up the ladder through the state legislature and so on.

    While working on real issues at the local issues, we still vote GOP at the national for the simple reason that they are still the lesser of two evils.

    And for a clue to what real issues are, the dope issue is a non-sequitur as long as the nanny state remains as large as it is. The billions spent on the drug war would be spent on govt funded rehab clinics whether we needed them or not.

  57. With some caveats, I generally agree with Thorley’s disection of some of the odder assertions here. But I think he was too polite.

    Gene Berkman said:

    The crackdown of civil liberties after 9/11 has affected far more Americans than terrorists.

    This comment isn’t just lacking supportive evidence. It is a grotesque statement. The terrorists on 9/11 affected not just 3,000 lives, but tens of thousands more lives of relatives and friends, and frankly millions more lives of Americans and others who were horrified, terrified, and revolted by what they saw. To compare these events to the handful of cases of (regrettable) violations of civil liberties since 9/11 is inane and disgusting.

    This is the kind of foolish, juvenile, and embarrassing rhetoric coming out of some corners of the libertarian movement that is relegating us to the political fringe.

    Oh, and one more thing:

    The cost of the Iraq War and rebuilding is more than the cost of Governor Dean’s proposed medical care plan.

    Only if Dean intends his plan to be in place for only a year or two. Are you seriously comparing a nonrecurring expenditure to a smaller one that is recurring? Please consult a math text.

  58. As a Dean supporter, let me recommend you libertarians stay away… Libertarian-inspired free-market ideology has done more real damage to the people of this country in recent decades than any other force I can think of. Freedom is wonderful when applied to individuals, I have no quarrel with that, and I believe the Democratic party stands firmly behind the ideals of freedom and the individual role in democracy that Dr. Dean has so eloquently espoused – and which the current Republican government has radically undermined the last couple of years.

    But freedom from environmental regulation, freedom from taxation, freedom for large corporations to move jobs overseas to where labor is cheap and no environmental standards apply – those are ideas that our democracy, as has been true for most of our democratic allies, can and should reject. We are a nation of 300 million individuals; this nation exists because “we the people” united to make it happen, and its actions represent collective decisions by “the people” as to what should best be done by us all, collectively. There is no question that should include social programs, public education, scientific research, and many more things beyond what libertarian ideology prescribes.

    So keep your libertarian stuff to yourselves – but if you really want to vote for Dean, I guess I won’t complain 🙂

  59. The word “Troll” flashes through my mind for some reason. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

  60. you chimp fans just don’t fucking get it.

    all libertarians are anti-war, and dean is anti-war, so dean is libertarian.

    see how easy that is?

  61. This is an interesting piece, though not necessarily in the way that the author intended it. Both major parties are political coalitions, not membership clubs. They prosper when they attract sufficiently enthusiastic support from disparate and sometimes mutually antagonistic groups — moralist conservatives and the religious Right, Hamiltonians, hawks, libertarians, and the Reagan generation in the case of Republicans and secular, doves and the religious Left, unionists, government employees, old-style New Dealers, and most racial-minority voters in the case of the Democrats.

    You lose if you fail to sustain your coalition. You have to give each group enough of a reason to stay in without simultaneously enraging the others. The problem alluded to in this piece is that the Bush administration has played too much to the hawks, the Weekly Standard-style big-government conservatives, and the neo-protectionists at the expense of their free-market agenda. I agree, and I think one reason they haven’t adequately understood this is that they continue to be far more worried about pumping up the moralist/religious Right element of the party, which was unenthusiastic in 2000 and is a plurality of their base. The Bush folks are missing the significance of turning off those conservative/libertarian activists and donors who play a disproportionately large role in framing issues, communicating the message, and financing the campaigns.

    If the free-marketeers and libertarians bolted the GOP coalition in large numbers or just didn’t vote (or give money, which is more important in this case), the Republican prospects would certainly dim.

    Here’s my problem with the piece: it explicitly compares the role of African-Americans in the Democratic Party to libertarians in the GOP. This gets the relative proportions very wrong, I think, but more importantly it illustrates the problem with the specific 2004 scenario the author suggests. It’s not likely. Republicans have mostly failed to attract black voters, for a variety of complex reasons, and I suspect that Democrats would fail to attract significant libertarian votes. Julian may prefer Howard Dean over GWB in 2004 (perhaps he could clarify the basis of his preference in a subsequent post) but I seriously doubt very many others of our ilk would.

    What would be risky for the GOP would be a primary fight (unlikely) or free-market givers closing up the pocketbooks to the president (I have seen some evidence of this, at least in the Southern states).

  62. “Bush has grown domestic spending faster than Clinton did.”

    This canard is getting old. The problem with this notion is attributing everything that happened during the Clinton adminstration to Clinton. Has Bush grown domestic spending faster than Clinton would’ve if he could’ve? I don’t think so. Clinton was restrained by a relatively radical GOP congress, that in succeeding years had its radicalness slowly beaten out of it (starting with the “government shutdown” confrontation with Clinton in ’95).

    Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative” in ’00, which I always interprated as being fiscally moderate (or even liberal), as fiscal conservatism(i.e. restraining spending) meant mean-spirited Gingrichism and was considered poison to the general electorate. The GOP congress has gone along with Bush out of party loyalty and an increasing general lack of principle in the GOP caucus on spending.

    Today, when a Democrat espouses “fiscal conservatism” they mean to raise taxes, especially on the (ill-defined) rich, not restrain spending. I have no doubt that Dean, or any other Dem president will try to continue the accelerating upward spending spiral. Might he be reined in by the GOP congress? Maybe, but that assumes two things: 1. That GOP control of Congress has survived the election of a Democrat president, and 2. That enough principled fiscal conservative GOP members remain to control the caucus. I find both propositions unlikely.

    While you may not support Bush, voting for Dean or any other Dem makes no sense.

  63. Thorley writes that welfare caused a “culture of poverty.” If such a thing exists, wouldn’t a more likely culprit be, um, POVERTY? I think the worst that can be said is that welfare didn’t alleviate the problem.

    And not all spending on helping the needy is the same, in domestic or foreign aid. I don’t think anyone who did’t pay for their own college is worse off for having gone.

  64. Bush is no friend of freedom: Higher steal tarrifs, bail outs for airlines that have ended with the government in an ownership position as part of the deal, a federal spending explosion, a hyper-interventionist approach to foreign
    affairs,including a pre-emptive attack, the Patriot act. But, Dean is even more statist then Bush on most domestic issues, just check out the Dean web site. On foreign policy, Dean has recanted much of his less interventionist approach and now favors staying in Iraq for the long haul (Kucinich is the only Democrat to show the good sense of calling for the troops to be brought home now.) and even questions Bush’s commitment to “re-making the region”! So, why should any small L libertarian waste their time with Dean? Actually, why should we waste our time with either Dean OR Bush?

    But, there are people in the main stream that we can and should encourage:
    “Senior House Republicans proposed slicing $1.7 billion out of President Bush’s $20.3 billion Iraqi reconstruction request yesterday…” News story from: via

  65. Hey guys – I haven’t played troll before – you mean you’re supposed to use fake names? I’ll have to do better next time…

    But thanks to David Tomlin for the link to Hayek – he thought maybe he could bring back the name “Whig”? But Hayek’s definition of liberal is reasonably close to what I would describe myself. For liberty, and progress, and not afraid of change. Unfortunately “libertarian” ideology as it stands in this country – the “anti tax”, “anti regulation” side of it at least – has provided a convenient justification for conservative abuse of political power in the US almost at the level of the manipulation of communist ideology by those who came to power in Russia and China.

    The mistake of the communists was to assume people are uniformly self-less and willing to subsume personal benefit to the good of all. The mistake of the Hayek-inspired right, whether “libertarian” or “conservative”, is to assume the complete opposite. Both ideologies fail because in reality people are complex and culturally-dependent mixtures of selfishness and self-lessness. Politics is inevitably messy, and tidy little ideological absolutes can never withstand the realities that come with the inevitable partial implementation.

    Kevin Carson’s statement was:

  66. The term “culture of poverty” is a technical term in social science. I think it was coined by a sociologist. It does not mean “a culture caused by poverty”, or “a culture of poor people”. It means a set of cultural values that keeps some people in poverty, even as people in similar circumstances are able to take advantage of economic opportunities to rise out of poverty.

    It’s a fancy modern term for what our ancestors called being “shiftless” – unwilling to tread the respectable path of keeping a steady job, showing up for work, being polite to bosses and customers, not having kids without having a steady job and a spouse, etc. Of course such a stratum existed before the modern welfare state, but those institutions have promoted its expansion materially and morally.

  67. Arthur Smith wrote:
    “But freedom from environmental regulation, freedom from taxation, freedom for large corporations to move jobs overseas…those are ideas that our democracy… can and should reject”

    What could cause a mind so weak?

  68. The term “culture of poverty” was ONCE a technical term in social science, as was “underclass.” The meaning of both has changed since coming into popular parlance, espcially the latter, which originally referred to the urban working class, which was becoming impoverished by the dislocation of the shift to post-industrialism.

    Again, “the culture of poverty,” defined as the belief that hard work isn’t going to get you out of poverty, so you might as well get used to living on handouts, can be blamed on the genuine difficulty of escaping poverty, more than the presence of handouts. Why always this smug assumption that the people who know the situation the best, those in it, are just imagining things?

  69. I’m trying to kick booze, I think I’ll try heroin for a while…

  70. I like the idea of changing the nickname of the Republican Pary to “The Other Evil Party”.

    I have long thought Republican free-marketers, libertarian or not, need to wake up to the fact that their train is heading in the wrong direction. Those who can’t support the LP, because of drugs or prostitution or foreign policy or whatever, could start a party of their own. For those whose quarrel with the LP is abortion or drugs, the Constitution Party is a possibility.

    That said, I’m still not seeing the attraction of Dean. He supports “humanitarian intervention” and “nation-building”. His dissent on Iraq just looks like a tactical disagreement within the imperial camp.

    What was his criticism of Bush’s policy on Iraq? Was he fundamentally opposed to the adventure, or was he one of those who just wanted an OK from the Security Council?

  71. What was his criticism of Bush’s policy on Iraq? Was he fundamentally opposed to the adventure, or was he one of those who just wanted an OK from the Security Council?

    I’ve always thought that he was opposed, period. That was the difference for him and Bob Graham versus most Democrats.

  72. I believe Dean’s stance against the Iraq war was based on a perception, that millions of people in this country and around the world shared (remember the 15 million people who demonstrated in the largest set of worldwide protests EVER?), that the Bush administration’s “proof” of necessity to go to war – specifically all the talk of WMD’s – was a sham. In that he has very much been proved right.

  73. I know, I’m jumping in late, but here goes:

    Confused Libertarian said:
    See this is what I mean. If you believe the meme that personal welfare actually helps poor people, then you are a left-libertarian. If you believe that it is a cancer that hurts the poor, then you are a right-libertarian.

    I say:

    My take on welfare is different. I consider myself a left-libertarian and I think welfare is a well-intentioned thing that ultimately hurts the poor by encouraging dependency. I think of a right-libertarian as somebody who’s upset that welfare hurts the rest of us on April 15. I respect that point of view, and I’m also upset by what happens on April 15. But we all have different priorities and motivations. Two libertarians might point to two things and both say “These are both bad” but the first will say “And of the two bad things, X really gets my goat” while the other will say “And of the two bad things, Y really gets my goat.”

  74. As far as the notion of a libertarian element among Democrats:

    I’ve contemplated running for state office some day as a Democrat. My platform:

    Taxes: Replace the current Byzantine tax code with a flat tax. Right now the tax code is riddled with loopholes that special interests with money and influence put in there, while the average taxpayer is unable to avail himself of these goodies. Also reduce the total amount of taxes collected by 10%.

    Health Care: HMO’s and big health care corporations are thriving while smaller practices and traditional insurance are being wiped out. Clearly the regulatory climate has made it so that only the “big boys” can play. Cut red tape so that we can have real choice and competition in the health care field, and so that health care is more affordable.

    Various other industries: I’d trot out some “poster child” small businessmen who have trouble with regulators while their larger competitors thrive. I’d pledge to rein in the regulatory attack dogs who do the bidding of big business by undermining smaller competitors.

    Environment: Too many “slow growth” regulations are really just a way of keeping land expensive, raising the cost of housing and commercial activity.

    Drugs: OK, here I’d be a full-blown libertarian.

    Guns: I wouldn’t make a big deal about this issue in the campaign since I’m not all that interested in guns, but I’d of course vote pro-Second Amendment on any bill pertaining to guns.

    Crime: Make restitution to the victim part of every criminal’s sentence.

    There are of course other issues, but that’s a sampling. My economic stances are basically positive steps in a more libertarian direction, albeit not laissez faire. The arguments are couched in phrases that liberals might sympathize with, but the content is by no means liberal.

    And I bet that a good campaigner with this platform (i.e. probably somebody other than me with this platform) could win office as a Democrat in many places.

  75. Personally, I think there is a sort of natural connection between libertarians and American conservatives in that libertarians tend to have an innate conservative-style nationalism as a result of America’s official commitment to liberty, while conservatives have a libertarian streak because of the same sense of national purpose. (Self-promotingly, I look at the issue of libertarians and the American Right here):

    So I think libertarians will tend to the GOP as long as the GOP retains a conservative base, even a neocon one. The other party, the party whose main sentiment is government as Santa Claus won’t hold a long-term appeal. But then again I’m an unrepentant one-time RLCer.

  76. Gimme a break, I’m tired: I meant “Bush has grown domestic spending faster than Clinton did.”

    Okay, fair enough but I noticed that you have still avoided the question ? what are the policy grounds upon which you prefer Howard Dean to President Bush?

  77. “The mistake of the communists was to assume people are uniformly self-less and willing to subsume personal benefit to the good of all.”

    Actually, I think the theory was more along the lines that communism would benifit the individual, and the individual would contribute to the system in order to prolong it. A problem with this is that individuals will realize that if they don’t contribute, the system won’t break. On the other hand, they alone will not keep the system from breaking. So, not contributing while living off the system is the rational response. But, the Soviet system never really made the jump to the stage where this would be put to the test. They never quite got past the government-forces-the-workers-to-work stage.

    The real failure of Soviet communism was the failure of a non-market system to alocate resources.

    “The mistake of the Hayek-inspired right, whether “libertarian” or “conservative”, is to assume the complete opposite. Both ideologies fail because in reality people are complex and culturally-dependent mixtures of selfishness and self-lessness.”

    Again, this is wrong. No such assumption is made. Furthermore, you are assuming a symmetry here that doesn’t exist. Selfishness is not a requirement of libertarianism or conservatism. Complete self-lessness probably wouldn’t be adaptive for an individual–but that’s true in any system.

  78. Mr. Carson – I agree that threats to switch parties could work a la the Greens/Dems. However, why vote for the Dems when a viable spoiler party already exists: the Libertarian Party.

    As per your welfare comment — I have seen firsthand how welfare has affected the underclass. It has created a CULTURE OF POVERTY and destroyed the basic family unit. This has DIRECTLY impoverished the poor.

    Corp. welfare distorts prices and increases our cost of living, but this is more indirect and uniform. It makes us all poorer. But to call it “state capitalism” is just recycling Lenninist horseshit, as (luckily) it is still enough of a market to overcome a lot of these difficulties.

    Direct “welfare” programs have instead created a permanant UNDERCLASS of the poor, especially in the minority community. I maintain that is a difference between right/left libertarians — if you believe that welfare actually “helps” the poor you are Left.

  79. So keep your libertarian stuff to yourselves – but if you really want to vote for Dean, I guess I won’t complain 🙂

    Gee thanks, “Arthur,” that means so much coming from a “real” Dean supporter. But didn’t you really mean to include a link to

  80. “luckily it (Corp. welfare) is still enough of a market to overcome a lot of these difficulties.”

    Subsidies and other state favors aren’t mere “difficuties”. They are unfair.

  81. Ok states Rights? Dem or Republican?
    OK War on drugs? Who started it?
    OK foreign Policy that is at the very least did not adhere to the constitution.
    I understand the starve the beast approach.
    May people understand that you cut government size by raising GDP if you have know jobs that demand product because interest rates are cutting away demand then you do not grow GPD. Of course it all depends on how pure you view your beleifs and the devil you choose. I for one want clean air and don’t think that week laws would help. Business as always been bottom line. To force them to be better citzens you have to have a carrot and stick. I just think free trade where there is a balence between Heath and profit is the best way to go neither party is Good… But to vote for the same and expect different is silly. Howard Dean? Besides health care he seems know more or less bad than bushes protectionism and misguided foriegn policy. If you are a Hawk then you should vote for bush. If you are a person that thinks they have been dishonest like all politians then maybe punishment is the answer. I sometimes wonder what happened to compromise and pragmatism and debate of facts.. who knows what answer is.

  82. Arthur Smith,

    You’re confusing “free market” ideology with free market ideology. The former (particularly Republican praise for “free markets” and “free trade,” when they mean global corporate mercantilism through the WTO and IMF) is just an elaborate apologia for corporate power. The latter (doing away with the regulatory cartelization and state subsidies without which the corporate economy could not exist) is big business’ worst nightmare.

  83. The terrorists on 9/11 affected not just 3,000 lives, but tens of thousands more lives of relatives and friends, and frankly millions more lives of Americans and others who were horrified, terrified, and revolted by what they saw. To compare these events to the handful of cases of (regrettable) violations of civil liberties since 9/11 is inane and disgusting.

    I thought Gene was comparing the crackdown’s effect on Americans to its effect on terrorists, not the crackdown’s effect on Americans to terrorists’ effect on Americans.

    Also, there’s a good argument that in the executive branch, though not Congress, the Democrats have shown much more fiscal and regulatory restraint than Republicans have. Not just in the last two administrations but in the last three decades. Jeffrey Frankel makes the case here.

    This is true whether or not you support the war in Iraq.

  84. I haven’t encountered a libertarian who made a point of claiming welfare was good for the poor. I have encountered several who think foreign aid is good for the people of the “aided” countries. “How dare you criticize American foreign policy, when we’re giving out all this foreign aid!”

    I long ago decided that disagreements among libertarians don’t lend themselves to right/left categorization.

    A typical Objectivist is a minarchist who supports legal abortion, open borders, and an activist foreign policy. The paleolibs are anarchists, who support restricting abortion and immigration, and oppose foreign activism. Which is left and which is right?

  85. Thanks John.

    I think I’m probably fairly representative — Karlton Fyfe, an old school acquaintance was on Flight 11 when it plunged into the North Tower of the WTC on that fateful September morning. His wife (pregnant with their first child at that time) I knew since the age of 10 years old, and now she is a widow and her child is fatherless.

    Multiply this tragedy over and over and you can see that millions of us lost friends, neighbors and loved ones on that day.

    It IS horribly offensive to see so many other Americans who have already forgotten what started this war. The war is against terrorism and the state sponsors of terrorism and Saddam certainly qualified. I for one am glad he is gone and there is now an opportunity for Iraqis to live in freedom instead of dying in plastic shredders..

    Now, at a time when we will soon have to deal with the threat of a nuclear lunatic in North Korea, it is maddening to see the press (including Reason) attempting to put Iraq into the “Vietnam” mold and hogtie the American Presidency from ever acting against such evil regimes in the future. If we fail to act it seems certain that the liberals in DC will be vaporized before too long — and then those who survived would see some REAL threats to our civil liberties, not to mention the economy. 9/11 was the wake-up call, but you’ve already hit the snooze button and rolled back under the covers.

  86. The same thing is sometimes true on the state level. I learned that from John Hood’s last article in Reason.

  87. I mock the Shachtman piece on my blog.

  88. I suggest people read, or re-read, Hayek’s “Why I Am Not a Conservative”.

  89. Confused Libertarian,

    Your argument sounds similar to the Gore supporters’ critique of the Green Party. The problem is, the “working within” a single party strategy makes you a captive constituency. Gore and the DLC establishment know damned well that there’s a bunch of people who want to get big government out of bed with big business, but won’t ever leave the Democratic Party because they believe losing a single election is the end of the world. But the credible threat to switch major parties from one election to the next, and thrown an election (the way Nader supposedly did) is the ONLY way you can make the party establishment treat you with respect. Otherwise, they’ll just say, “Aw, screw ’em–where else’re they gonna go?”

    On the left-right libertarian thing, I believe welfare is bad, in principle (and for me, that’s the worst kind of bad). But right now, it is a relatively minor part of state intervention compared to the central structural props of state capitalism–and it is one of the things that makes the corporatist system barely tolerable for the underclass created by corporatism. So I’d save it for last for elimination, after a hell of a lot of corporate welfare and regulatory intervention that keeps the state capitalist system together.

  90. This is a belated response to Julian, and therefore a non sequitur, but I do not think the lesson to be learned form comparing global spending between Clinton and Bush is, as Julian maintains, that divided government works.

    First, I would be curious to see what proportion of these figures involves increases in military spending and/or national security spending. Not sure its fair to use this global figure without a breakdown, as it raises the apples/oranges issue. (Yeah, yeah, I know any increase anywhere is bad by you guys’ standards, but still).

    Second, I would also be interested to see what proportion of the increase is basically on auto-pilot as a result of entitlement increases. There is a diference between nonfeasance and misfeasance.

    Finally, as a historical matter, while Gingrich Congress may have temporarily managed to control Clinton, post ’94 it didn’t work in the long-run: Clinton coopted the balanced budge issue to the point that nobody remembers it was republicans who proposed the whole thing first. Clinton scored huge political points, and made a comeback in the polls after ClintonCare disaster, by adopting the balanced budget as his own idea (even though he had been projection $200 million deficits as far as the eye could see right up until Repub. proposal) and by nit-picking all the tough decisions made by the 101st Congress in order to paint Republicans as the party that “balances the budget” on the backs of widows and orphans. The result was a total collapse in Congress’s popularity, Gingrich’s downfall (I couldn’t stand the guy by the way, but anyway), and subsequent total quiescence by the Republican side of Congress. Clinton proved that Congressional leadership doesn’t work as a political matter, and underscored decisively that Congress is just not institutionally capable of leading the way forward in a simultaneously bold and politically successful manner in American politics (yes, I know Contract for America was not v. bold, but that only proves the point…)

  91. “Ok states Rights? Dem or Republican?
    OK War on drugs? Who started it?
    OK foreign Policy that is at the very least did not adhere to the constitution.”

    1) States Rights? I don’t like the term “states rights”, because no state has rights, it only exercises power. However, on the issue of federalism, the Repubs have been better than the Dems at least since the New Deal. Most importantly, the Rebub appointed SC justices are much more inclined to have read all ten amendments in the BoRs, and rule as if the Tenth really was part of the Constitution.

    2) War on Drugs? This is one thing that the Dems have at least some history of being better on than the Repubs. I’m not sure who started it (drugs were illegal before Reagan), but the Repubs sure did rachet it up during the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations. But the Dems are not much better. In fact, at a local level Repubs have been getting better on this issue. The Uber-conservative McClintock was in favor of medical marajuana, for example.

    3) Forign policy? Clinton’s was pretty piss-poor. The Dems are quite willing to use force, particularly if it doesn’t have any possible benifit to the US. Sure, under Bush we have been much more involved in forign adventures, but this IS post 9/11 — things have changed.

  92. The history of drug prohibition in the U.S. is detailed in _Drug Crazy_, by Mike Gray. I recommend it. It’s a good read.

    Arguably the “drug war” began under FDR, ironically as a result of the repeal of prohibition. The people who had been enforcing both prohibition and the narcotics laws didn’t want to be downsized. They lobbied to expand narcotics enforcement, and to add marijuana to the list of controlled substances.

  93. FDR also started federal gun control, with the National Firearms Act of 1934.

    About the only good thing he did was repeal Prohibition. But it appears that he didn’t downsize fed law enforcement after the repeal, it seems . . .

  94. um, I think he had couple minor foreign policy achievements.

  95. Yes, the Pearl Harbor ploy was a classic of political ingenuity.

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