A Most Peculiar Libertarian

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Over at Nobody's Business, Rogier van Bakel tells the tale of South Carolina state Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Civil War War Against the States buff who has thrown oodles of taxpayer money to preserve the Hunley, a Confederate sub sunk in 1864. The cost of such opulence? As Robin Leach used to say, If you have to ask, you can't afford it: $97 million and rising faster than the Hunley ever did.

But here's the kicker. A local paper describes the spendthrift legislator thusly: "the 58-year-old McConnell [is] a libertarian who often criticizes government spending."

More here.

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  1. “a . . . War Against the States buff”

    If “War Against the States” is intentional, I salute your sense of humor.

    If it’s not intentional, you may want to change it to “War Between the States.”

  2. This fellow managed to divert almost $100 million from areas of government where it might have done much more damage, such as all of them. He’s an okay libertarian in my book.

  3. I’m with Jarod. Moreover, historic preservation strikes me as an area were government involvement may be the only reasonable course — There may not be enough profit potential for a private enterprise solution, and there may be too much time-sensitivity for private charitable fundraising to be an option. In an ideal world, anyone critical of the priorities or overall funding of a National Historic Preservation Trust could cast their votes accordingly. In our world, this is such a trivial corner of the overall government funding trough as to allow a lot of boondoggling elbow room.

  4. historic preservation strikes me as an area were government involvement may be the only reasonable course

    Isn’t that the same excuse used to justify the NEA?

  5. $97 million to preserve the Hunley? Ninety…Seven…Million? It’s a frickin’ iron tube, fergodsake. How on earth did they find a way to spend that much money on it? Gad, that takes talent, even for a government grantee.

  6. War Against the States

    I thought in that neck of the woods it was “The War Of Northern Aggression.”

    This fellow managed to divert almost $100 million from areas of government where it might have done much more damage

    And also managed to divert said money from where it might have done some good: my pocket. I expect he’s glommed onto the Libertarian label because being a Republican these days doesn’t much differentiate him from being a Democrat.

  7. Count me with Jarod on this one, but then I’m a history buff anyway. Even Adam Smith thought that government had a role to play in things like museums and such. The Hunley is a truly significant artifact, both because of its use and because of the technical expertise in constructing it. This is exactly the sort of thing that scholars of the future would like to have around.

    The only alternative to the government would be some eccentric zillionaire or corporate largesse available to preserve it and I see serious problems with that route. The fact that the Hunley belonged to the Confederacy is a public relations disaster in the making. I think that’s really stupid, but there are plenty of ambitious political twits out there ready to make their names by blurring preservation of a Confederate artifact into actual support for Confederate policies. (Just to ward off any suspicion, I have zero sympathy for the Stars and Bars crowd or the rest of the magnolia brigade, but I do recognize that there is lots of attention to be grabbed here.)

  8. My fav quote of the day from a self-described libertarian is this:

    Not only will it work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn’t possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don’t speak English and are not integrated into American society.

    And of course, Tony Snow is a libertarian.

    But really, to nail down where american libertarians really stand these days, I think you really need to read Mark Moller over at the CATO blog (aptly titled “Cato @ liberty”, in this new bizarro tradition that the commenters Umbriel and Jarod seem to be part of) wherein he follows the fine tradition of English Tories in the colonies who encouraged compliance with the king (cause he ain’t that bad) back a couple of hundred years ago, and channels Camus, or perhaps more accurately Monty Python, to advise SCOTUS to “run away” from the problem of conflicts the fourth amendment and the Presidents desire for soviet level observation of the citizens of our tired nation.

    Very, very interesting the kinds of things that are falling under the heading for libertarian. Apparently, if you are a nut case conservative, appeaser, all you need to do to make it better is say “but…but…but I’m a Libertarian”, and that makes it all better.

  9. This fellow managed to divert almost $100 million from areas of government where it might have done much more damage, such as all of them. He’s an okay libertarian in my book.

    Moreover, historic preservation strikes me as an area were government involvement may be the only reasonable course

    Now I’ve heard everything.

  10. Libertarianism has nothing, I repeat, nothing to do with military hardware. The philosophy applies only to social spending. Military stuf is cool and pays 4 itself!/sarc

  11. And also managed to divert said money from where it might have done some good: my pocket.

    Beauty.

    This is one of those areas where the fact that the government provides a service leads us to assume that only the government can provide the service. Private organizations can be, and often are, created to raise money for and spend it on historic preservation. I bet that even more such private money would be forthcoming if people weren’t so used to expecting the “powerful stranger” to take care of such things.

  12. The government shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s hobbies, especially the hobbies of the educated elite, like opera fans, museum-goers, performance art afficianados, and military history buffs. Just because something is “good,” like health care, doesn’t mean the tax payers should pay for it, and this goes double for something that a minority thinks is “cool.”

  13. I thought National Geographic had picked up the tab for raising the Hunley.

  14. As a libertarian who used to live and work in politics in South Carolina-I know some of the people responsible for th $97 million boondogggle-all I can say is that you would be shocked at what sort of different ideas people can hold under their hat at the same time.

    People who would consider armed violence over an increase in the cigarette tax-already standing at a tyrannical 7 cents a pack-and others who won’t abide by fines for violating safety belt laws…can support the war on drugs without blinking.

  15. I like historical preservation as much as the next geek, but I also recognize it ain’t exactly fair to make others pay for it. As far as DIVERTING MONEY from worse places for the government to spend it, uh, yeah. Let’s keep “diverting” money to our pet projects until no one has any left, why don’t we?

    As for: Isn’t that the same excuse used to justify the NEA? Hell, that’s the same excuse to justify EVERYTHING the government does!! I dunno, is there really anything you’d WANT the government to do, even if a private enterprise were willing to do it…um…adequately? I say that with some tongue in cheek because of course private enterprise is potentially willing to do anything and everything. Only not always to the degree that someone somewhere prefers it to. When those someones somewheres add up to 51% or more, BINGO! New government program…

  16. Also, van Bakiel quoted The State newspaper. No, no, no, a thousand times NO! Seriously, I’ve never seen a worse piece of shit newspaper than that one nor have I ever seen one with a more statist bias.

    One day in Feburary 2005, there were over 4,000 students, parents, and taxpayers on the state house lawn, rallying for school choice. There were also about 12 counter-protestors who believed that state-provided tax-credits were a back door to take over the private school.

    The State‘s headline? “Dueling rallies at State Capital”

  17. Random Editor and Grummun:

    Actually, in the local Charleston dialect it’s “The Waw B’tween the Stee-uts.”

    And with regard to Karen’s comments, McConnel and his cronies are WAY into the whole romantic “Glorious Lost Cause” Confederista thing. He makes his living running a Confederate memerobilia store in North Charleston called CSA Galleries.

  18. “you would be shocked at what sort of different ideas people can hold under their hat at the same time.”

    We would?
    One of the smartest guys here has taken to wearing a tinfoil-lined fedora.

  19. MP et al. — NEA-backers might claim the lack of profit potential as justification, but not time-sensitivity. What I was getting at are situations where a particular historic site or artifact is deteriorating too rapidly, or has been discovered in the path of some development project, such that waiting around a few years for private charitable fundraising isn’t an option. Might it make sense for private citizens to set up some sort of Historic Preservation Emergency Fund? Possibly, but meanwhile lots of irreplacable history might be lost.

    I acknowledge a personal history-buff bias, and I agree that private contribution and sponsorship are generally preferable. I just see potential special circumstances here that might justify government funding. Whether the Hunley really falls into that category is another matter.

    And Ruthless… Who’s wearing foil around here? Lately, I mean…

  20. Umbriel,

    And no one outside the purviews of government is able to see or act on the time sensitivity? Sorry, but it still boils down to the same thing, making others pay for your own preferred pet pork. (Not sure if this fits into the technical definition of pork, but I couldn’t resist!) The only justification for which is that not spending the money is a worse evil than forcibly taking it from people. Really think so?

  21. Umbriel,
    Most of us, we hope, but I was thinking of thoreau. (He’s saying it about himself.)

  22. $97 million to preserve the Hunley? Ninety…Seven…Million? It’s a frickin’ iron tube, fergodsake. How on earth did they find a way to spend that much money on it? Gad, that takes talent, even for a government grantee.

    You have to remember that this is an object from the civil war. I has to be anointed with oils five times a day, and maidens must tend the undying flames that keep light upon it 24 hours a day, but the historic preservation guys have to protect it from all the oil and from light damage from the lights. That kind of thing costs money, don’t you know? Besides, how else but spending $100 million can you show that you are so utterly devoted to the cause?

    The libertarian in me cringes, but I have to admit that there’s a certain geek impulse that thinks the whole thing is kinda cool, too.

  23. What I was getting at are situations where a particular historic site or artifact is deteriorating too rapidly, or has been discovered in the path of some development project, such that waiting around a few years for private charitable fundraising isn’t an option.

    Mr. Umbriel, Sir — To halt the destructive development project, a private citizen or organization could seek an injunction from a court, and the government would not be spared the need for an injunction either. (Unless the same government’s doing both the project and the preservation.)

    As for too-rapid deterioration, the government’s not likely to move any faster than private groups.

  24. I remain uncertain about the private alternatives. I’m not talking about services as such here — just the idea that government cash could be ready to intervene in a time sensitive situation without having to go through the fundraising process. I suppose, though, that in the end I wouldn’t sell out the cause for the sake of a few lost historic treasures. 😉

    And lunchstealer — New York has apparently managed to squander $1 billion alternatively planning and bickering over a 9/11 memorial without having anything to show for it. At least with the Hunley we get an iron tube.

  25. “Libertarian” in those circles might only mean he’s okay with the 13th Amendment.

  26. The NSA is spying on Americans.
    The President, who seems to have lost his tenuous grip on reality, is deploying troops at the border.
    We’re all due to receive ubiquitous electronic governmental identification cards.

    Maybe I’m just all angered out, but on the long list of things to honestly be pissed about, I have a hard time responding to this with anything but blas? indifference.

  27. I was thinking of thoreau. (He’s saying it about himself.)

    T. learns!

  28. Hmm I guess I need to read parts 1 and 2 then.

    The State had a front page story about this whole boondoggle, and I read it as unfavorable to the “$48 Million” Museum that McConnell wants.

  29. I remain uncertain about the private alternatives.

    As well you should be. And as a matter of fact it’s true that you can’t always get what you want.

    A bitch, that.

  30. What a crock. In the War for Southern Independence, the Hunley – while cool – is of little importance to understanding why the War was fought, the overall strategy, and the defeat of the Confederacy, and the elimination of its peculiar institution. Actually having the Hunley to study – at a cost of $97 million – won’t contribute anything of value to Civil War studies, except for a few geeks. On the other
    hand,and I’m sure Bob Poole would agree, that
    money could restore 100 steam locomotives to
    travel around the country and thrill children of all ages!

  31. Maybe you mean the War AMONG the States. 🙂

    As for him being a “libertarian,” remember that the press often has no idea that the word has a meaning, even repeatedly calling Democrat Lyndon LaRouche a libertarian despite our explanations that he is not.

  32. historic preservation strikes me as an area were government involvement may be the only reasonable course

    I disagree. Here’s a nice old house

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