Libertarians? What Libertarians?

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Matthew Yglesias has some sobering observations for libertarians in his contribution to the "libertarian Democrats?" debate that Nick Gillespie has been holding up our end of over at Cato Unbound.

Yglesias says:

I don't see any reason to believe it would be smart for a major political party to deliberately aim at the votes of some libertarian constituency. The reason is that, to a decent first approximation, about zero percent of the electorate is primarily motivated by a principled opposition to state coercion. We're not literally talking about zero people, I know some of them, and some write blogs, but it's genuinely a rounding error in the scheme of things.

And more specifically on Dems who think they can win over this possibly phantom constituency, he reminds them–they ain't libertarian, even where they might think they are:

a lot of the views liberals tend to think of us libertarian-ish liberal positions aren't actually especially libertarian at the end of the day. For example, liberals, like libertarians, don't think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Unlike libertarians, however, liberals generally think the coercive authority of the state should be deployed to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. We think that landlords shouldn't be allowed to refuse to rent houses to gay men, that bartenders shouldn't be allowed to refuse to serve them, that employers shouldn't be allowed to fire them, etc. Liberals believe in a certain notion of human liberation from entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition, but this isn't the same as hostility to state action, even in the sex-and-gender sphere.

NEXT: Third Parties as Unpersons

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  1. Indeed – liberals want to replace entrenched dogma, prejudice, and tradition with new ones that they like better.

  2. The Dems would be delighted to pick up libertarian votes, but my suspicion is that the last thing on earth they want is actual participation and input in the form of policy initiatives from their beloved libertarian cousins.
    I would love to see the slaves of AFSCME engaged in a debate about privatizing public services, in particular education. Hee hee.

  3. I know plenty of people who vote Dem that are somewhat receptive to what I’ve got to tell them about libertarian ideas. A couple of them even used to consider themselves libertarians. But all they see are the “failures” of the market, and just don’t think evil corporations can be trusted.

    Unfortunately, they don’t believe me when I tell them that almost every messed up thing a corporation does is with the full cooperation of the government.

    It’s also rather strange to hear how much they hate or mistrust the government, but then if I say we should privatise healthcare, for example, they look at me as if I’d just grown a third limb.

  4. I AM NOT A ROUNDING ERROR!!!!

    Harrumph!

  5. Yglesias is generally right about the overall power of the principled libertarian contituency. My take on this Libertarian Democrat flap is that Dems believe that many races in the next month and year are going to be close. And possibly close enough that if they can garner a new constituency, regardless of how ‘tiny’, then every little bit helps.

  6. I know plenty of people who vote Dem that are somewhat receptive to what I’ve got to tell them about libertarian ideas.

    I just always ask them “How’s a bigger, more powerful Federal Government workin’ out for ya?”

    Oh, I still say that now that we’ve got campaign finance reform in, the torture bill passed and behind us, it’s time to start working on meaningful gun control again.

  7. What this is about is trying to broaden the party to include libertarian ideals in order to poach the mountain west off the republicans.

    Shouldn’t be a problem, since the democratic party has no problem including divergent ideologies under the tent, while the considerably more monolithic republican party has decided to cast its lot with the moral interventionists of the religious right.

    Very, very few voters identify with any concrete ideology. Libertarians, Marxists, “theocons,” etc – all can be rounded down to zero. There are, however, sympathisies, and if we (by which I speak as a democrat) let it be known that libertarians are allowed to contribute to the party, then the not insubstantial bloc of voters with libertarian sympathies will likely end up prefering us. It is after all a two party system, and the other guys take the occassional directive from Dobson.

  8. The “will you please just leave me the hell alone” strain of libertarianism in this country is pretty huge actually. It is, of course, by definition one that would prefer just about anything other than taking an active role in governmental affairs, making them a very difficult base to “energize.” It also includes a large number of people who currently consider themselves part of the left wing. (They just have trouble transferring the ‘me’ from themselves to a ‘me’ who happens to run a corporation).

    The “all taxes are theft” population is decidely smaller (not that I necessarily disagree with them).

    I think all or nothing libertarianism is what gets the LP in trouble. If you can’t get people to support privatized health care, well move on to something they might support and get back to that later.

  9. I just always ask them “How’s a bigger, more powerful Federal Government workin’ out for ya?”

    That’s a misconception. Leftists (generally) don’t like the principle of larger government in and of itself. Rather, they believe government can be a valid means of solving certain problems. Larger government is not the end, it is a means.

  10. Yglesias misses the main point, which I think a commenter above noted: libertarians might be a small voting bloc, but most of us are up for grabs. Considering the closeness in overall vote totals, as well as individuals races, the libertarian bloc should be just enough to give one party or the other enough support to push them into power. However, considering that both parties have decided to ignore libertarians, it’s likely that libertarians will either vote against the incumbent, vote for gridlock, or just stay home. The first two might benefit the Dems, but they won’t do anything to help the Dems expand their base.

  11. Max Hats –

    Larger government is not the end, it is a means.

    Spoken like a true statist – the ends justify the means.

  12. jf wrote, “libertarians might be a small voting bloc, but most of us are up for grabs.”
    Yea, up for grabs between the libertarian candidate and the republican? Right?
    Even then, not really.
    If your up for grabs jf, your not a libertarian.
    A libertarian can never vote for a democrat.
    It is that simple.

  13. I’m quite content to be among the .005%.
    To borrow from Victor Hugo: If I thought I was writing for today only, I would break my pen and never write again.

  14. I’m quite content to be among the .005%.
    To borrow from Victor Hugo: If I thought I was writing for today only, I would break my pen and never write again.

  15. A libertarian can never vote for a democrat.

    If a libertarian can vote for a drug war supporting, massively spending Republican, why can’t a libertarian vote for a drug war supporting, massively spending Democrat?

  16. I hate when that happens.

  17. Les, there are always alternatives. Like not voting, leaving that choice blank.
    THINK, Les, THINK.

  18. A libertarian can never vote for a democrat.
    This one is. I live in a republican controlled state that has never shied away from pork. You may have heard of it, Alaska. In every race where there is not a Lib running I am voting against the incumbent, which means voting for the Dems. I have no problems voting my conscience, and my conscience says to kick the pork-greedy sitting pols out.

  19. Ideological libertarians may be a rounding error, but I’ve been hearing of polls that somewhere between 9% and 20% of the electorate fits into the category of economically conservative and socially liberal. That’s a broader category than ideological libertarians, and one that ideological libertarians might sneer at, but it’s one that might swing some elections.

  20. “But all they see are the “failures” of the market, and just don’t think evil corporations can be trusted.

    Unfortunately, they don’t believe me when I tell them that almost every messed up thing a corporation does is with the full cooperation of the government.”

    We liberals tend to assume, rightly or wrongly, that such cooperation from the government is usually bought and paid for by the corporations. This is why liberals usually talk about making government accountable to “the people”. I wouldn’t say that’s a very realistic notion, but it’s certainly more attractive than the “I’m going to get what’s mine and the hell with everybody else” vibe that some conservatives exhude.

  21. This is why liberals usually talk about making government accountable to “the people”

    How much longer are you gonna talk about it before you realize that it is an unreachable goal?

  22. “This is why liberals usually talk about making government accountable to “the people”

    How much longer are you gonna talk about it before you realize that it is an unreachable goal?”

    Did you read the part where I said I thought it wasn’t a very realistic notion?

  23. Les, there are always alternatives. Like not voting, leaving that choice blank.

    Oh, sure, I know that. It just sounded like you thought that a libertarian could vote for a Republican, but not a Democrat. And, considering what the Republican party has become, that would be just silly.

  24. Rather, they believe government can be a valid means of solving certain problems.

    I’m sssorry but this is a Democrat talking point. Unfortunately it’s late (I’m tired and I’ve got miles to go b’fo I sleep and all that) but I’ve read several Democrat op-eds that have in not so many words indicated that while this George Bush thing is a menace and we gotta fight the good fight, thank god we don’t have that Gingrich bunch in Congress actually trying to make government smaller.

    No, a Democrat doesn’t dream of government getting bigger for the sake of bigger government, Democrats want activist government. They want involved government. They want a special office of such-and-such to solve every problem to which you don’t directly allude.

    The very concept of Enumerated Powers is enough to clear a room full of Democrats faster’n Karl Rove getting naked and doing the safety dance.

    One of the reasons that Democrats have been so flummoxed by George Bush, is they spent the first four years reading from the “oh my god, he might try to cut government” playbook. Meanwhile GWB was playing an entirely different game. He repeatedly caught them off-guard.

    In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Anne Applebaum writes:

    Try, if you can, to screen out the memories. Forget the cover stories, the “Angriest Man in America” profiles, the revolutionary rhetoric, the million-dollar book contracts. Whether you loved him or hated him, forget how he infuriated you.

    Note she says “whether you loved him or hated him, forget how he infuriated you.” If you loved him, why was he infuriating you? Because to Washington Post at-large, Newt Gingrich was the devil. Personally, I had never seen such hatred toward a politician in my lifetime (before GWB) from Democrats. All the man did was try to reign in the growth of government. That was such an anathema to Democrats that anyone who dared speaketh “smaller government” was to be drawn and quartered.

  25. “The fact is, libertarians aren’t generally joiners. Yet to influence people, you have to go to their meetings, bring a snack, raise funds for them, and listen to their ideas before they’ll listen to yours. Politics is about people, after all, and people don’t often think in policy paper terms. If you want to change minds you have to engage others in a positive way.

    “The evangelical right captured the Republican Party by joining it and working hard for it, eclipsing the paleocons that had enjoyed elder statesmen status. If libertarians really want influence, they’re going to have to work for it”

    Damn right. If you want influence, you need to open yourself to the serious possibility of being influenced, sincerely. You have to volunteer, show your good faith. You don’t have to hide your disagreements, you just have to not let it be known that your opinions are the only ones you’re interested in. You do it in the political parties and in other organizations that are themselves influential in politics and/or policy. Don’t waste your time on organizations of people who already agree with you; you have no leverage there.

  26. Personally, I had never seen such hatred toward a politician in my lifetime (before GWB) from Democrats. All the man did was try to reign in the growth of government.

    I think lots of non-Democrat/non-lefties (like myself) hated Gingrich because he was a typical hypocrite politician (defending marriage against homosexuals, but not thrice married adulterers, like himself) who threatened to kill people who smuggled pot into the country. You can’t work to intensify the war on drugs, increase the always huge defense budget, maintain the status quo on a variety of industrial and agricultural subsidies, and then pretend to want to shrink the government. I mean you can, but only Republicans will take you seriously.

  27. You can’t work to intensify the war on drugs, increase the always huge defense budget, maintain the status quo on a variety of industrial and agricultural subsidies, and then pretend to want to shrink the government. I mean you can, but only Republicans will take you seriously.

    Les, you are SOOOO right on that.

  28. As far as major constiuent groups go,

    Democrat = Social Libertarian + Communist

    Republican = Economic Libertarian + Fascist

    Hypothesis: When the two major parties split into their three respective constituent groups (as all abominable couplings must), the Libertarian group will be larger than the Fascist and Communist parties combined.

    Is this true?

  29. This is why liberals usually talk about making government accountable to “the people”. I wouldn’t say that’s a very realistic notion, but it’s certainly more attractive than the “I’m going to get what’s mine and the hell with everybody else” vibe that some conservatives exhude.

    And this is why everything has always been a mess, and always will be.

    People don’t think in principles. Sometimes I’m not even sure they think. They just absorb some confluence of “leanings”, from parents, school, whatever.

    And in a democracy, politicians get paid to pander to the largest common denominator of confluences. To hell with everything else (and especially principles), there’s no profit in it.

    “Democracy” makes people feel better. But I’m not convinced it’s necessarily better for them.

  30. When the two major parties split into their three respective constituent groups (as all abominable couplings must), the Libertarian group will be larger than the Fascist and Communist parties combined.

    Is this true?

    It’s not just a question of which group is larger. Politics has never worked that way. The bigger question is, which groups are most influential? Libertarians have never led that pack.

    To be a true libertarian in spirit, is to be a political nihilist both in principle and in deed. I’ve always thought we have the same short coming that Deists had 200 years ago.

    You may have noticed, there aren’t very many Deists around these days. Because deists held a great disdain for orginized religion. Being unorginized (hence lacking the platforms needed to be socially influential) on principle, their movement died.

    The libertarian minority survives only because it’s a very old meme in our culture.

  31. Is this true?

    Hell no.

    You left out half the fascists, and made up all those libertarians.

  32. The size of government under Clinton was smaller as a percentage of the economy than it was during Reagan and Bush the first. W. Bush with a republican congress has made for the largest ever increases in the size of government.

    So the trick is to get a split government (probably as much a reason that government was smaller under Clinton as any of his stated programs to reduce the size of government).

    An ideological libertarian would vote for democrats while you still have Bush. And then strategically vote to swing congress or the executive in opposite directions from there on out. Or you could be an idiot and recommend not voting as a way to show them (nyah nyah, I won’t vote at all, that’ll really take the power out of government).

    The libertarians who claim that there is a difference between the Democrats and Republicans on anything that even resembles a libertarian ideal are to naive too be taken seriously. If your goal is reduced government, you need to vote in ways that might bring this about. To base that vote on the talking points of either party does nothing for your agenda.

    However, getting libertarian ideas into the mix as talking points can lead to eventual change in attitudes. The founding fathers didn’t really mean all men when they said “all men”, but that wording led people to take them seriously and now we have women and non-landed men voting and participating in government. If the libertarian ideology is to influence the size of government, it needs to be in the platform of both parties as a talking point. It is a talking point in the republican party (never followed meaningfully) and can become a talking point for Democrats with a little engagement. Get it into the talking points of both parties, and it becomes a point of agreement and you increase your chances of legislation aimed at actual reduction as the two parties try and out do each other to control that issue.

    But me, I am just a political pragmatist.
    I think some jobs are done better by governments and some are done better by business and policy should be aimed at optimal performance no matter whether it fits into a coherent system based on first principles.

  33. It’s simple. The Dems are just like that battery store.
    More free stuff for me? Yep, we got that!
    Lower taxes for me? Yep, we got that!
    Strong Defence? Yep, we got that!
    No war? Yep, we got that!
    High Morals? Yep, we got that!
    Individual Freedom? Yep, we got that!
    Libertarian policies? Yep, we got that!
    Is there anything you don’t have? Nope, we got it all!

  34. I largely agree with what MainstreamMan said. My attitude toward voting is this:

    1) If the election isn’t close, might as well vote for somebody that I actually agree with, to send a message (however small).

    2) If the election isn’t close, either vote against the incumbent or vote against single-party rule.

    3) And when in doubt, vote “no” on every ballot measure.

  35. Why should I take any advice from old lefties who got bit when they where young and politically active changed thier polititcal story and now preach pragmatism all while hiding behind avatar blog names?

    I am of course speaking of thoreau and MSMan.

    Last I checked the greatest oportunity for third party’s has been during times of political change and voter frustration…sound familiar.

    Why are we talking about gridlocked government when we should be talking about canibalizing the two parties?

    Note: I actaully like thoreau and MSman but it would be nice if someone lit a fire under thier ass.

  36. The libertarian minority survives only because it’s a very old meme in our culture.

    Bullshit…the meme of liberty and rebellion to authority is a universial meme that the left has stolen and distorted.

    Think Che.

    I wonder when reason hit and run will win the defeatest blog of the year award…my bet is 2006.

  37. How do you steal a meme?

  38. Think Che.

    I never said we invented the rebellion and liberty thread. The thread’s just made of a little stouter stuff in this country.

    I wonder when reason hit and run will win the defeatest blog of the year award…my bet is 2006.

    Are you really naive enough to think the whole problem comes down to “just attitude”? Maybe Reason can win “Naivest Blog of the Year” award while they’re at it.

    Tell me again why libertarian ideas don’t, as a general rule, seem to play well on the political stage in this country.

    Tell me again whose ideology dominates the educational system, top to bottom. What do you expect the end product to be?

    I’d much prefer to be more positive, “keep the faith” and all that. But the only logic that seems to make any sense in the real world is, vote for gridlock.

    And even that doesn’t work all the time.

  39. Les — good question.

    I think, the libertarian movement won’t get off the ground again unless it produces a core group of high caliber leadership. Ideology by itself is too diffuse to accomplish consistent, concrete results.

    I know I’m not made of the right stuff to be that kind of leader. It takes unique personality types.

    Maybe Ron Baily can tell us how to grow them.

  40. The reason libertarian ideas have never been adopted is because too many of them sound great only to the 17-year old Ayn Randist who has never had to deal with reality. Didn’t one of the libertarian candidates advocate for abolishing license plates?

    You start talking wildly about getting rid of the FDA and people remember they like safety in their drugs and food, thank you very much. You fulminate about the EPA, people like being able to drink water from their tap and know that little Johnny won’t have to deal with carcinogens from some company dumping. Oh sure, you can bring a lawsuit. That’s a little too late after your kid has developed cancer, isn’t it?

    And could you please stop it with the “taxation is theft” meme? It just makes you sound stupid. Sheesh, anyone with half a brain realizes history has the proof that either you’re paying taxes to a government or you’re paying protection money to warlords or the Mafia. Anyone got any examples of a country that didn’t fall into one or other of those classes?

    Oh, and I think we can retire that “an armed society is a polite society” as well. Care to look at Baghdad recently?

    Has there EVER been historical evidence of a country that managed to be run along libertarian lines and was stable for more than one generation?

    I don’t see a penny’s difference between you and a bunch of Marxists–both equivalently unrealistic.

  41. I don’t see a penny’s difference between you and a bunch of Marxists–both equivalently unrealistic.

    Others can answer better than I, but libertarians are different from Marxists in that there are more varieties of libertarians.

    Not all libertarians (probably a minority, actually) think that “tax is theft.”

    Not all libertarians (probably very few) want to abolish food and environmental regulations. They just want to make sure the regulations are sensible and scientifically based.

    Actually, I wonder how many pure libertarians there are. Most are very flexible and wander through different ideologies when they believe the circumstance warrants it.

    Your Baghdad example is a poor one. Think of the state with the fewest gun laws and use that as an example, not a city in the middle of a fundamentalist civil war (which, I believe, has lots of gun laws on the books).

    What most people with libertarian beliefs want is a government that strives to serve the public instead of itself.

    Then again, maybe that is unrealistic.

  42. “What most people with libertarian beliefs want is a government that strives to serve the public instead of itself.”

    Let’s alter that to: *What most people… want is a government that strives to serve the public instead of itself.*

    Which is precisely how we got into the mess we have currently. Hope springs eternal; no matter how many times it is shown that government will not, and in my estimation cannot, “serve the public instead of itself” the There Oughtta be a Law segment of society continues to flourish. Everybody who has pointed out that Libertarian Party dogma has zero chance of catching on in this country is right. If the small “L” libertarians could manage to present their ideas as practical, results-oriented solutions, some progress might be made.

    The drug issue is an excellent example. If, instead of claiming our sacred right of autonomous self-destruction (however much I might personally believe in it), we concentrated on the grotesque waste of human and financial capital which has resulted from the war on drugs, some people might be convinced.

    It’s no coincidence that economic literacy tends to be an integral element of libertarianism. (I expect to get ripped to shreds for that.) If *we* could transform the political discourse from an “all things to all people” free-love-fest to a rational costs versus benefits analysis of the distribution of finite resources, it might be possible to make visible progress.

    That’s all for now.

  43. P Brooks,

    Those are good points. Maybe what I should have written was, “Most people with libertarian beliefs are genereally more aware that government serves itself more than it serves the public.

    And I actually have heard many libs making the case against the drug war with the same financial points you mentioned.

  44. I think my Baghdad example was prefectly reasonable. Laws on the books that aren’t implemented== no law. Why shouldn’t I consider Baghdad to be exactly what “hard” Libertarians are looking for? No effective government, no effective taxes, no effective regulations, no effective gun laws. It should be paradise for them.

    And if there’s enough people running around claiming to be Libertarians who also run around screaming “all taxation is theft!” (found earlier on this very same thread, above), you can hardly avoid the imputation that Libertarianism==No Taxation.

    Ok, so if Libertarianism isn’t Get-Rid-Of-The-FDA (which I have seen called for in the Reason commentary) and it isn’t Get-Rid-Of-The-EPA (also seen called for in Reason commentary), and it isn’t Get-Rid-Of-Taxation, what in the heck DOES Libertarianism mean?

    Your set of policies don’t seem to mean much if whenever one brings up a supposed platform plank and point out the deadly ramifications of it, everyone starts backing off and saying “well, we really don’t go THAT far….” The so-called “flexibility” mentioned above sounds like a recipe for nothing-at-all. What the heck do you guys STAND for?

    The one fine thing I used to believe about Libertarianism was its defense of civil rights against the government. Based on the articles I’ve seen on Reason, it sounds more like you are all now miffed more about anti-drug laws and Kelo than the ghastly mess we have with habeus corpus and an out-of-control President. Feh.

  45. Sorry, it wasn’t this thread that had some poster chanting “Taxation is theft!” but another, earlier one.

    I wouldn’t be so grumpy about all of this except that Libertarianism does have some fantastic points and it drives me nuts to see the nuts and the loons dominate.

    I think there is a great opportunity for a “socially-liberal, economically conservative” party that really pushed civil rights, checks and balances, and prudent, long-term management. It would have to realize that there are places where government Can Do Better and there are places where the private sector Can Do Better and not try to tilt everything into one or other box. Foreign policy: don’t get involved in foreign wars if you can help it. Soft power is much less expensive than Hard power. We can’t rule the entire world and let’s not try.

  46. Tell me again why libertarian ideas don’t, as a general rule, seem to play well on the political stage in this country.

    On the contrary libertarian ideas dominate the political stage in this country and they play very well on it.

    Or do think we are mind numbingly rich becouse of the nanny state?

    Are you really naive enough to think the whole problem comes down to “just attitude”?

    Rather then jumping off a cliff by command of Kos, i think it would not hurt.

    By the way, fuck the faith…

    The reps and dems have thier own nut jobs and they still seem to be able to win elections.

  47. I think my Baghdad example was prefectly reasonable. Laws on the books that aren’t implemented== no law. Why shouldn’t I consider Baghdad to be exactly what “hard” Libertarians are looking for? No effective government, no effective taxes, no effective regulations, no effective gun laws. It should be paradise for them.

    Libertarians don’t want effective government? Where on earth did you read that? Libertarians want laws on the books that aren’t implemented? Huh? And seriously, using Baghdad as an example of a libertarian society is just poor reasoning. Pick a state that has the fewest gun laws and then use that as an example of why we need more gun laws. I might not even disagree with you! I’m just saying Baghdad is not a serious example for obvious reasons (civil war, for one).

    So, one poster says, “Taxation = Theft!” and that means that libertarians believe it? That’s just silly.

    Getting rid of the FDA and the EPA doesn’t equal no regulations. There are arguments to be made as to whether or not those agencies are doing their job well (not) or if they’re useful (I think they are), but being a Libertarian doesn’t mean you think there shouldn’t be laws protecting consumers or the environment. It just doesn’t.

    And if you could post some Reason articles (or even one or two) that approves of the way Bush has handled the war or habeus corpus or anything, that would help make your point.

  48. Les, I qualified my Baghdad statement with “hard” Libertarianism. Perhaps I should have better labeled them “anarcho-libertarianisms” since there does seem to be a bunch of people running around calling themselves that.

    I’ve seen a lot of fulmination about “taxation equals theft by the government” by so-called libertarians. Am too lazy at present to google a bunch of quotes and articles to prove this is a very strong meme in Libertarian writings–can you say it is NOT?!

    And it’s not that I’ve read articles on Reason supporting Bush’s executive power grab–it’s just that if I had to go by what gets posted by the number of articles posted on Reason and Hit and Run I would get the impression that drug legalization and Kelo is more important to its readers than Bush’s power grab and habeus corpus. I’ve read more solid, outright, honest indignation over at Obsidian Wings.

  49. Well, grumpy, I completely agree with you that Reason and Hit N Run have lately been more about drug legalization than the recent habeus corpus decision and the overall incompetency of the U.S. in Iraq. I do wish they’d balance that out.

    The most recent articles I can find are here and here, both of which argue against the administration’s positions.

    I think you have a point about taxation. I went to the Libertarian Party website and found the slogan “…smaller government…fewer taxes…more freedom…” which sounds great to me. But they’re pretty clear in the platform that they oppose all taxation.

    That sounds loony to me, but I’m the first person to admit ignorance in a variety of areas. If anyone here can explain to me how that might be accomplished, I’d appreciate it.

    For example, in the Libertarian utopia, if my house is on fire, do I call the private emergency response service that Consumer Reports gave high marks to? Same with a home invasion and medical emergency? Are there really enough charities to make sure that poor folks receive quality services? (I may have libertarian beliefs, but I’m enough of a stinking hippie pinko to believe that poor people shouldn’t have basic services denied to them because of their income).

    Anyway, grumpy, thanks for making me think more about this. There are, in fact, very reasonable, compassionate, and informed folks on these boards who have libertarian beliefs and I’ve learned a lot from them. Hopefully, they can help me with the above questions, as well.

  50. Thanks for the comments, Les. You’ve just reminded me of the “private” fire service that Crassus had in Rome which was basically how he got very, very rich….I heard he would often insist he be able to buy the property (while still on flames) for whatever he wanted, then put the fire out.

    And yes, it’s those sorts of planks in the Libertarian platform that are why the Libertarian party will never be considered anything more than a whack-doodle party.

    Now, if the Libertarians were already sizable and had a goodly amount of experience to point back to, probably there wouldn’t be too much blinking of eyelids at wild and crazy ideas–the Texas Republican platform is a pretty good lurch in the direction of Christian theocrats and they seem to keep getting elected.

    Libertarianism seems to me to be better as a seasoning rather than a useful political theory at this point. Best used as brakes on gov’t, but you wouldn’t want to try to implement it in total.

    And I will keep harping on this: where is the historical evidence that a Libertarian-based socio-economic entity can actually hold together? The dreams of the anarcho-libertarians, especially, seem to be a weird idea that the world of Mad Max is something you’d want to live in. Hence my comments about Baghdad.

  51. “The dreams of the anarcho-libertarians, especially, seem to be a weird idea that the world of Mad Max is something you’d want to live in.”

    grumpy realist and les,
    The future will never fail to bite you in the ass.

  52. “3) And when in doubt, vote `no’ on every ballot measure.”

    Meaning that seriously considered public policy proposals (In the USA? Worldwide?), or at least those considered seriously enough to be put to voters, are now and for the foreseeable future more often bad than good? What evidence have you of that?

  53. “When in doubt”

    This means that if you are not sure it is a good idea, don’t support it. That sounds reasonable. That would be a moderate position.

    As for the fire under my ass that JC wants to light. I actually do lots to support 3rd parties. When in NM I registered Green to help get a third party major party status. I am normally registered independent (often the largest party in a state), but think the need for breaking the power of the two parties is very important. Membership roles do more to send a message than voting for the losing candidate. The membership roles are how parties leverage access.

  54. Les, I qualified my Baghdad statement with “hard” Libertarianism.

    You’re confusing Libertarianism with anarchism. No libertarian, no matter how loopy, believes the government shouldn’t concern itself with murder or theft. In fact, generally the “loopier” the libertarian, the stronger they believe enforcement of property and personal crimes should be. Part of the “loopy libertarian” credo (by which I refer to the most extreme elements) believe all interactions should be reduced to implicit and explicit contracts between two entities, and keeping such a society afloat demands property and life become absolutely sancrosanct. More than they already are, I mean.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize you have no idea what libertarianism even is. How did you come to be reading a libertarian website, then?

  55. Grumpy asks “…where is the historical evidence that a Libertarian-based socio-economic entity can actually hold together?” Wasn’t that the little experiment called the United States of America? Although flawed, the original founding folk envisioned a country built on fundamental principles of individual liberty and a restricted central government.

    Of course, that original idea has been under assault for over 200 years and has been so distorted and reconceptualized as to be almost unrecognizable. But the heart of the idea is still alive in our rhetoric if not in our execution.

    I don’t think many libertarians are looking for anarchy, they just realize that the scope and power of the government is now way beyond the original intent. Libertarians are the folks who realize that the true magic of the American system wasn’t “democracy”, but rather democratic oversight of a system of LIMITED (not non-existent) government.

  56. As I posted in the previous thread, the Libertarian Reform Caucus has made some progress in bringing the LP into the political mainstream. Check them out, and sign up if you agree with their goals.

  57. Grumpy,

    what in the heck DOES Libertarianism mean?

    You make some really good points. I agree it isn’t generally clear to “outsiders” what libertarianism means.

    there are places where government Can Do Better and there are places where the private sector Can Do Better and not try to tilt everything into one or other box.

    I agree with that too but — I see the Hope Springs Eternal crowd lurking.

    There needs to be some clearer delineations (and supporting rationale) as to which goes into which box. Otherwise the Hope Springs Eternal crowd will use that license to take us right back to where we are now.

    Problem is,the answers will almost certainly shift over time.

    🙂 See, the problem is that you can’t run a decent government on auto pilot. People will still have to think for themselves, which seems to be where the problem is.

  58. jc,

    On the contrary libertarian ideas dominate the political stage in this country and they play very well on it.

    Or do think we are mind numbingly rich becouse of the nanny state?

    So if that’s true, why do we need libertarians? Let alone a party. What’s wrong with the Dems and Reps we’ve already got?

    The reps and dems have thier own nut jobs and they still seem to be able to win elections.

    Nut jobs yes. But on average they don’t all come across as looneys. Which is how the Lib Party looks way too much of the time.

    I’m not getting your drift.

  59. Most people with libertarian beliefs are genereally more aware that government serves itself more than it serves the public.

    This is the single biggest turd floating in the libertarian punch bowl.

    Think about it. The purpose of living a “libertarian life” is to pursue your own purpose.

    For most people, “your own purpose” includes getting raises and promotions. You know, the career track thing. Do you want to work the front counter at the post office all your life? Most (or at least many) people wouldn’t.

    So libertarians are a bunch of people who want to pursue their own rational self interest — except that if you work for the government you aren’t allowed. Because then the government would be serving itself instead of “the people”.

    Never mind the fact that what’s good for “the people” is a swamp in its own right. What libertarians want to be free to do, stands in utter contradiction to what they expect government (which is made up of people) to do.

    Somewhere in the ranks of society, libertarianism expects that there should be a selfless schmoo bunch, an anointed priesthood, who will serve “the public” rather than advance their own careers.

    It’s never happened, and it never will. Because the problem isn’t just the elected politicians, its the beauracracy that goes with having a government.

  60. You’re this close to getting it, Genghis.

    You have laid out exactly why government can never be trusted, and therefor needs to be kept as small and restrained as possible.

    We don’t ever expect anyone to be a selfless schmoo bunch, an anointed priesthood, who will serve “the public” rather than advance their own careers. We know damn good and well that politicos and bureaucrats are all about themselves, even at the public expense, and that’s why we want them tied down as much as possible.

  61. Here’s what I don’t get: How can posters here, of all places, agree that government is always bad, always causes the harm, yet I’ll have a slice of it, thank you?
    Granted, what we haven’t seen is more frightening than what we have, but we have seen what governments do, and it is frightening. I fail to subscribe to the hysteria/ bogeyman that no government could be more frightening.

  62. Evil corporations vs. evil government seems to be the meme here. Those who focus on the former will gravitate to the Democratic party as opposed to those who focus on the latter, who move to the Libertarian party. I chose to be Libertarian because of one concept – sphere of influence.

    If a company has it out for me, they can only affect me in terms of the services they provide. If the government has it out for me, I’m pretty much screwed. So, in choosing between limited gov’t and limited corporations, the choice is very clear.

  63. “We liberals tend to assume, rightly or wrongly, that such cooperation from the government is usually bought and paid for by the corporations.”

    And such assumptions are wrong, or at least not understanding the full picture. Corporations have influence with politicians (generally), when teh corporation is doing well, it’s employees are satisfied. When it’s not doing well, its employees are worried. Worried people tend to vote incumbant pols out.

    While there may be some financial quid pro quo going on, corporations are influential because their well-being influences the happiness of large blocs of voters. Politicians would be less influenced if they have less power. Such is unacceptable to liberals, so they have to believe that corruption is the primary vehicle as to why things they don’t like happen.

  64. “This means that if you are not sure it is a good idea, don’t support it. That sounds reasonable. That would be a moderate position.”

    No, that doesn’t make sense in the context of the original quote, which recommended voting against any ballot question on which one has doubt. Offhand, I would think that any policy change would have an equal chance of being an improvement or a disimprovement, so it would seem that a recommendation to abstain from voting, or to flip a coin, would seem to be in order in cases of doubt. That is, unless you think that current policy is enough better than average (or better than expected) that regression to the mean would be expected, in which case change tends to be bad. You must have some reason to think changes are more likely to be bad than good, so please explain.

  65. As I posted in the previous thread, the Libertarian Reform Caucus has made some progress in bringing the LP into the political mainstream. Check them out, and sign up if you agree with their goals.

    what is this? a plea for big tent libertarianism rather then jumping the fence to lefty land?!?! Thanks for the gem Darrik we need more like you.

  66. So if that’s true, why do we need libertarians? Let alone a party. What’s wrong with the Dems and Reps we’ve already got?

    lets look at the current political situations…

    republicans abandoned small government

    republicans are down in the polls and have a good chance of loosing the house.

    now this might be a jump, even though it isn’t and for unknown reasons has been ignored here not only in the comments but in the staff writters as well; republicans are down in the polls and look to be loosing the house becouse they abandonded small government.

  67. Republicans are down in the polls BECAUSE THEY ABANDONED SMALL GOVERNMENT?

    As much as I want to believe that… I don’t.

    For every “true conservative” who believes that, there are ten, if not one hundred, people who think, “Those guys are spnding all that loot on Iraq, when they should be spending it on ME.”

  68. *sigh*. The reason government ends up growing and more and more regulation takes place is because of problems which blow up into big scandals. Then there’s a big stink and regulations get passed. Areas where businesses have managed to self-regulate “well enough” don’t (usually) have government coming down on them like a ton of bricks.

    Read the history of medicine in the US and you’ll understand why the FDA came about. Read the history of why the EPA came about. Now we have Sarbanes-Oxley because of things like Enron. Federal Bank Reserve and all that? Read the history of banking in this country and how many small banks blew up, taking the savings of all of their investors. Yeah, there are the law courts, but those only get dragged into play AFTER the damage has been done. Fat lot of help that’s been.

    People don’t like having to do due diligence on every single thing they run into. And if you talk about getting rid of regulations, you are going to have to point out what you are going to put in its place. Lawsuits? Right. As if the average person has the time and money for this.

    What this all is a long-winded way of saying even if we went back to the level of gov’t in 1776, we’d still be having to deal with all these issues. We don’t have the economy of 1776. We don’t have the population of 1776. And we don’t have the industrial base of 1776. They didn’t have to deal with these issues. We do.

    And anyone who thinks that large corporations don’t have the same maddening tendencies of creeping paperwork has never worked for one.

  69. grumpy realist:

    Your challenge to libertarians to defend their beliefs about government and taxes had led to an excellent thread, atta boy.

    I’m one of these “taxation is theft” libertarians you’re so peeved with so I feel obligated to put in my 2 cents worth.

    I don’t want to live in Bagdad or the Mad Max world, a minimalist government is preferable to chaos. Most libertarians, and you, would probably agree that government is a necessary evil. ALL government isn’t organized crime, but too much government becomes that. Taxation is the same thing, too much taxation is theft, and too much taxation is what we have today. We have to have some way to finance a minimalist government, and the best way is with minimalist taxation. Our government is at present an out-of-control monster, as are our taxes.

    My belief that taxation is theft mostly concerns the income tax. Why the hell should the government take 30% or more of my gambling winnings when they don’t share in my losses? THIS is where taxation becomes theft. They just take, take, take and then they throw it away and give it away. After a point, the taxman becomes a thief. My position on this is consistant with your statements about “hard” libertarianism. Your point about the impossibility of living with NO taxes is a valid one.

    Our system of taxing people’s income has something to do with the legitimate need to finance the government, but much more to do with keeping track of every aspect of every persons life. By the time you finish filling out your tax form, you’ve told the government almost everything there is to know about yourself. You couldn’t invent a more intrusive and inefficient way to raise revenue if you tried. If we had a 90% smaller government with a national sales tax we all wouldn’t have to constantly keep track of where our money came from and I might stop my ranting & raving about taxation being theft.

  70. “I don’t want to live in Bagdad or the Mad Max world, a minimalist government is preferable to chaos.”

    Buckshit,
    I will not believe in Heaven or Hell until I’ve witnessed it.
    You have faith in chaos you’ve never witnessed?

  71. grumpy,
    I don’t know what the tendencies toward creeping paperwork in corporations have to do with anything. Corporations have a great incentive to limit their waste and inefficiency…it’s called the market. When corporations don’t stay efficient and serve their customers, they shrink and die…that is unless the government is providing subsidies, regulations and protections to help keep them afloat.

    Government, on the other hand, has a perverse incentive to grow in complexity and expense. The more you can grab and keep of the public pie, the more you justify your existence. If government fails, what is the solution?…that’s right, more government (see War on Drugs).

    Today is not 1776, but that doesn’t mean that classic liberal principles are no longer applicable. In fact, as our society becomes more complex, there is even more need for the protection of the individual versus the asserted perogatives of society which evolve into the kind of power grab at every level that we see today.

    Does that mean that there is no role for government? Certainly not. But where is the justification for corporate and agricultural welfare which is a wealth transfer from the relatively poor to the relatively rich? Where is the justification for the paternalistic way we provide aid to the poor? If we think that it is right and necessary to give the poor a safety net, why not just provide some kind of minimum income and let the poor make their own choices.

    Regulation is fine and sometimes necessary for public safety, etc., but there is a big leap from what is necessary to the thousands of pages of regulations that are produced by our regulatory agencies working full time to justify their existence and demand budget increases.

  72. I went over to the Libertarian Reform website and read the material. Good god. Read some of the essays. One is even admitting that a goodly part of the audience is computer geeks devoted to Ayn Rand. May I point out, guys, that this is a very, very small percentage of the total population?

    If this is the “reform” party, I’d hate to see what the original was like. At least this crowd is admitting they might have to moderate the original platform in order to win votes.

    Oh, and on regulatory stuff and smaller government. Suggested experiment: get a whole lot of people together, representative of the populace, who claim they want smaller government. Ask each one privately which part of the government they want deleted.

    I get the funny feeling you’ll find answers all over the map. Everyone wants to get rid of someone else’s favorite program, but never their own. Sorta like how everyone *else’s* Congresscritter is a greedy politician, never one’s own…

    “”Smaller government” is a nice, vague-sounding term, sort of like “cutting out fraud and waste”–another noble-sounding phrase that can mean anything or nothing.

    OK–question time: what parts of the government do the commentators here want to see abolished? And why?

  73. Oh, and buckshot, you already seem to be different from a lot of “taxation is theft” libertarians in as much you seem willing to replace the income tax with a sales tax.

    One problem with this: didn’t someone do some back-of-the-envelope calculations and find out to totally replace it meant a sales tax of 50% or higher?

    It also can be dreadfully regressive unless carefully implemented. Historically, societies which try to dump all their taxation on the back of the poor have not lived peacefully…

  74. Buckshot, the beauty of the sales tax is indeed that there are NO FORMS, NO DEADLINES and NO AUDITS! And other than knowing your address and your family size, they don’t need to know anything else about our most personal subjects, especially our financial successes and failures. Libertarians should jump on the Fair Tax, and maybe one day they will become relevant.

  75. “Taxation = theft” makes for a nice slogan, but the reality is somewhat more complex. The more closely related the taxation and resulting services are, the less “theft-ish” the tax. For example, a gasoline tax devoted to road maintenance doesn’t seem very like theft; fire departments supported by property taxes doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, either.

    It’s when the linkage between the economic costs and benefits of a tax become strained, thus distorting behaviors and creating institutionalized demand for non-economically justifiable “entitlements”, that taxation becomes truly abhorrent.

  76. Grumpy,
    I think I remember seeing a Cato report in the last couple of years that specifically answered your last question based on their interpretation of what they regarded as constitutionally valid government activities. They identified about 2/3 of all federal spending (if memory serves) as being outside of the constitutional authority of the federal government. I don’t think many libertarian-leaning people think it is realistic to eliminate 2/3 of the federal government, but it probably is an indication that there is a serious discussion to be had over how much of that 2/3 is appropriate and how much of it is wasteful and overreaching.

    For my part, I would immediately question the Department of Education…what is the need for the feds in the area of education which is traditionally a local/state concern. NCLB is a burden on the system that pays no dividends. Did you know that by 2014 all children (100%) are expected to be above average? Lake Woebegone here we come!

    I’ve mentioned all corporate and agricultural subsidies, tax breaks, protective regulations above, and most of the various agencies are up for discussion…perhaps not for total elimination, but for a dramatic reduction in scope. Our level of military spending is only necessary because of bad foreign policy…fix the policy and reduce the spending.

    As for my personal Congresscritter, I just received a mass email from him letting me know about a couple of million bucks he just secured for some boondogle our local university is engaged in. My response to him was “Thanks for the pork. Glad to see you sticking to your small government principles.” I can’t wait to see him defeated in November, and that is painful considering the Dem running against him will be even worse.

  77. Ruthless:

    Your comment was insulting and pointless. Mind your manners.

  78. Buckshot,
    I apologize for the insult, but my comment wasn’t pointless.

  79. grumpy realist:

    “Didn’t someone do back-of-the-envelope calculations and find out to totally replace it meant a sales tax of 50% or higher?”

    No doubt it would be that high, but if people saw a 50% tax bill on every sales receipt, that might be enough of a wake-up call to inspire a true tax revolt. I’m curious, do you think we’re overtaxed?

    What part of government do I want to see abolished? I want the government to establish what my rights are (Bill of Rights) and to protect those rights. I want them to protect me from my fellow man, which means police & courts to protect me from my neighbors and a military to protect me from foreign powers who would do me harm. Abolish the rest.

  80. Ruthless:

    Apology accepted, thanks. You do have a point, but I disagree that I have to witness hell with my own eyes to understand what it is. I have an imagination.

    I believe if you have a revolution and achieve a state of complete, pure anarchy, after a couple of days of partying someone will step forward and declare himself the head anarchist and start the cycle of government all over again. Their is no escaping government, so I desire a minimalist one. Even in Mad Max, the criminal gang was organized with a leader. Grumpy realist made the point that there have always been taxes, either to the government or the Mob. He’s starting to look smarter the more I think about it.

  81. This isn’t the Cato report I referenced above and is a little out of date…but some great ideas for the kinds of budget cuts that reasonable people should be discussing…

    http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa515.pdf

    Buckshot, careful with the government establishing rights line…remember we retain all rights not specifically enumerated and granted to the federal government!

  82. Everyone wants to get rid of someone else’s favorite program, but never their own.

    And this is a disadvantage to libertarians how???

    It sounds like we have a plurality on just about every issue.

    I would like to reiterate my defeatest claim.

  83. Buckshot,
    You have allowed Mel Gibson to shape your vision of Hell/anarchy. What other visions of yours has he shaped?

  84. RCD,

    We don’t ever expect anyone to be a selfless schmoo bunch

    But I think we do expect it. Our whole concept of government depends on it. It’s you who almost, but don’t quite, get it. See my next comment to grumpy.

  85. Grumpy,

    And anyone who thinks that large corporations don’t have the same maddening tendencies of creeping paperwork has never worked for one.

    Amen to that, and much else that you’ve said, however —

    Corporations can go under when it gets bad enough. Governments just raise taxes.

    Which I guess is another way of saying what ToddB said.

    which part of the government they want deleted.

    I suggest another experiment: Define a “core need” segment of government. Police, law courts, defense, at minimum. Make people pay taxes on that. Then, give them the equivalent of line item veto power over what else they pay for.

    I’m not sure if this is a really good idea or not….

    In any case your question is good.

    I wouldn’t abolish the FDA or EPA either one. But I’d sure want them both redefined. The FDA is not to be a gate keeper to stave off competition. And for christ’s sake put the EPA on a rational, scientific footing rather than the stupidity it now spews.

    The EPA would love to ban beryllium, just for example. Yet they refuse to acknowledge the fact that a) there are no other materials that can do what it does, b) today we know the risks that beryllium poses to people, and we pretty well know how to handle them safely, and c) we know very little about the risks of all the materials that people are trying [with very limited success] to replace beryllium with.

    In fact, in the name of public welfare, it would be far safer if the EPA banned beryllium replacements (though I don’t think that’s rational either). How do we let people experiment and learn, on the one hand, without letting them dump Lake Erie full of cyanide? [and the problems are rarely that nice and clear]

    I shan’t even go into the stupidity of the EPA’s leaded solder ban, least I rant for the next ten days. It’s enough to make anyone rational scream bloody murder — because one of these days that’s exactly what it’s going to amount to.

    This is just one corner of the government universe, but it brings up the problem of having an annointed priesthood to do the public’s bidding.

    We want a restrained government. So then, how are we going to attract individuals with the talent and training (and all the ambitions that go with those things) to make good decisions at the EPA?

    That is the central paradox, and I’ve yet to see anyone offer a viable solution. Without an answer, government just grows exponentially like a bacteria culture. You can adjust the coefficient of the exponent, but you know what happens in the limit as time goes to infinity.

  86. ToddB–when you’re talking about getting rid of the Dept. of Education and sending it downstream to the states, aren’t you just shifting it from one part of gov’t to another? I don’t see how that really means “getting RID of it”…

    (Me, my own wish is to devolve as much as possible down to the states, including most of the tax stuff. If most taxes were raised by state taxes, people might feel there was at least a more local effect with what they had to pay out….)

    Buckshot, your vision is nice but, as we all know, “the devil is in the details.” How do you think we got into the present day situation? Trying to handle all those tricksy, tricksy details…

    Oh, and all those who want to get rid of NSF, DOE, the research part of DOE….

    Great, unless you want to look at international competitiveness. If all the other countries are giving legs-up on their technology development through national programs, then we handicap ourselves unless we have some equivalent technology hothouse.

    Business in the US does less and less basic research. Most of the giant corporations trimmed back their research efforts in the 80s and 90s. VCs aren’t going to put money into a speculative research project that won’t return anything commercial for at least 10 years. So what are you going to do? Especially since you are looking at a world field where countries like Singapore, China, and Japan think nothing of kicking tons of government money towards any technological research they deem might pan out. Example: Japan and fusion reactors. They were the ones who have the longest vision out, are planning to build quite a few in Japan over the next 20 years. They probably WILL get to be the first nuclear fusion-powered country. Singapore is at present gung-ho on biotech and nanotech. In the face of this, do you really want to shut down all gov’t research stuff and just trust the private market will provide the difference?

  87. Here’s another Mel Gibson vision:
    The top researchers at Genentech announce a new drug:
    “Whatever ails you, this new drug will make it worse. That’s why we’re recommending you only take tiny doses of it.”

    I’m assuming most of you here are ready to shell out big bucks (taxes) for this new miracle drug.

  88. Business in the US does less and less basic research.

    True. But that has a whole lot to do with the legal and financial environment created by government.

    There is also the problem of industries not wanting to share the outcome of their research. OTOH, precisely how do federal R&D dollars help the US, when all the results of that go into the internationally open literature?

    This one is far from an easy call to make.

  89. And I’d like to add, arguing for the other side, that a lot of the regulation mish-mosh has come about because we don’t insist adult humans to be intelligent enough to not stick their fingers in light sockets. (Or try to fly a Cessna from the back seat, sheesh.)

    Maybe we should start grading things and services: A, B, and C:

    “A”==present day stuff. Protect protect protect. You can bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer even if you use it stupidly. No due diligence necessary.

    “B”==more risks involved. We assume you are an intelligent person. Some knowledge of chemistry and electricity assumed. You use this stupidly, that’s your problem.

    “C”==WARNING, HIGH RISKS ATTACHED. Experimental aircraft, experimental drugs, hedge funds leveraged to the max, due diligence necessary. Lawsuit? What lawsuit?

  90. Oh, and there is a way that a gov’t goes down. It’s called a revolution.

    I’m just wondering if, aside from sunset clauses in all regulations, there’s a way of limiting the growth of gov’t. History doesn’t have any good pointers.

  91. grumpy realist: the Libertarian Reform Caucus is trying to broaden the LP, to make it a serious political party capable of winning elections and influencing public policy.

    They aren’t saying that the LRC is full of computer geeks devoted to Ayn Rand, but that the LP historically has been. That is what they are trying to change. And, it seems to me that they’re making some good progress so far.

  92. Derrick,
    Your comment was not the equivalent of barking up the wrong tree. It was the equivalent of barking up a tree on the Planet Blypton. (My favorite planet, BTW.)
    You and Ghengis and grumpy and Buckshot can form a chasing and barking movement, fine.
    I guess it’s an acquired taste, listening to coon hounds of an evening, running through hill and dale and galaxies.

  93. Ruthless:

    If you wan’t to disagree with my opinions, fine. Your comment about barking and chasing makes no sense, I have no idea what you’re talking about. You seem more interested in being offensive than in communicating. You say Mel Gibson has shaped my vision of hell. Why, because I made a passing reference to Mad Max, The Road Warrior? WTF? I’ve been to war, boy, I don’t need the movies to see how bad things can get. How about you, have you experienced the ugly side of humanity, or are you another armchair expert? You want a vision of hellish anarchy, watch the movie City of God, there’s some anarchy/hell you might find to your liking.

  94. Ruthless,

    You and Ghengis and grumpy and Buckshot can form a chasing and barking movement, fine.

    Actually, it would be easier for us barbarians to just take over if your anarchy movement succeeded. I know you probably don’t believe that, but I know better. 🙂

    It was much easier conquering the Eurasian steppes than it was conquering China proper.

  95. Ruthless, the intelligensia may be forever squeemish but trust me — you can always find men who are willing to fight. Especially if you promise them a share of the loot. The biggest problem us empire builders have faced over the ages, is when we run out of people to conquer who have good loot.

  96. grumpy realist:

    Yep, the devil is in the details. I was thinking that when I was posting my last comment to you, but it would take a book to explain all the things I would like to do to shrink the government so I stayed general, not specific. Your A, B, C suggestion is kind of cool.

  97. Buckshot et al.:

    Is she really going out with him?
    Well, there she is, Let’s ask her.
    Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing? Mm-hmm
    Gee, it must be great riding with him
    Is he picking you up after school today? Uh-uh
    By the way, where’d you meet him?
    I met him at the candy store
    He turned around and smiled at me
    You get the picture? (yes, we see)
    That’s when I fell for
    The leader of the pack.

  98. “I’m just wondering if, aside from sunset clauses in all regulations, there’s a way of limiting the growth of gov’t.”

    Here’s a totally silly and unachievable idea (with a plethora of devilish, as yet unspecified, details)-

    A budget which is not merely a Christmas list-
    An operating budget for the government expressed as a fixed dollar amount, possibly a percentage of GDP. If the government had real spending constraints which consequently demanded prioritization and elimination of programs, our elected representatives might then be restricted in their demands for ever-expanding government meddling. Currently, we borrow (or, in my view, print) money willy nilly to support every “two chickens in every pot” scheme which seizes the fancy of the politicos. Maybe it would help us to focus on the distinction between investment and expense.

  99. We know how many buckshot Buckshot ate, but, P Brooks, you et tu too many?
    BEware of second-hand lead poisoning.

  100. But are the Replicans really on the ropes because they abandoned small government, or because Iraq has proven such a fiasco?

    huh?

    Doesn’t abandoning small government and the iraq fiasco amount to the same thing?

    I mean if you have a circle filled with things that are red and then put a red fire truck in it doesn’t change the fact that it is still a circle filled with things that are red.

  101. Doesn’t abandoning small government and the iraq fiasco amount to the same thing?

    In the average person’s mind, I don’t believe that’s the case at all.

  102. That’s a little too late after your kid has developed cancer, isn’t it?

    The irony being that you can still get cancer anyway and the FDA will restrict your treatment options such that experimental treatment options won’t be open to you and you’ll probably die sooner as a result.

    Sure the FDA is useful. But only up to a point. Beyond that point they are counter-productive. People denying that such a point has already been reached (for most long-running institutions, not just the FDA) have little experience and/or very small minds.

  103. Nice thread guys.
    Keep up the good work.

    I hope grumpy sticks around.

    Robert Goodman
    “You must have some reason to think changes are more likely to be bad than good, so please explain.”

    Well, that would be because I think most things work pretty well, and if they don’t, I wouldn’t be “in doubt” about the benefit and would support it if it addressed a real problem with a solution that seemed likely to be successful in improving the situation.

    Like I said, a pretty moderate position to take.

  104. Russ2000

    When people differ from you in their evaluation of any particular situation, you take it as a sign that they have small minds? I think you might have it backwards.

    Considering that others disagree with you because they are not as smart as you… that might be a sign of a small mind, but it might just be a sign of a closed mind.

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