Fat Man In A Hurry

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tester.jpg

The Weekly Standard's Matt Continetti has a must-read profile of Jon Tester, the no-bullshit (some say) "Libertarian Democrat" gunning to take Conrad Burns' Senate seat in Montana. Tester, remember, was the guy who said "I don't want to weaken the PATRIOT Act. I want to repeal it." When Burns turned that soundbite into an ad, Tester refused to back down.

If he is elected, he will become the most liberal senator from Montana in decades. He is a true dove. When I asked him when he would support the use of military force overseas, he said, "Last resort. You've exhausted all other options, then you use military force." He wouldn't say much more. Eventually he added that he supported the war in Afghanistan, "You bet." When I asked him about the Patriot Act, which he has said he would like to see repealed, he softened his language. "We ought not to cut the judicial branch out of it," he said. "If it can't meet constitutional muster, it's got to be scrapped." When I asked him who his political hero was, he chose a stock answer for Democrats, saying that Theodore Roosevelt was a "great man" on "a lot of different fronts." But then he paused, and added that he admired Mike Mansfield, the antiwar Democrat who represented Montana in the U.S. Senate from 1953 to 1977.

It is probably Tester's dovishness, in a post-9/11 world, that has prevented him from opening a double-digit lead over Burns in the polls. In the end, though, this race will be decided on how well the embattled incumbent has represented Montana's interests. Tester's positions on national security issues and his sometimes vaporous rhetoric probably won't matter. Some people even find this latter aspect of his political persona endearing.

There's some analysis of the "libertarian Democrat" phenomenon/trope, too. Continetti spoke to Reason about Jack Abramoff back in May.

NEXT: "Do As I Do, Not As I Say Do" — U.S. Torture Chickens Come Home To Roost

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  1. “Libertarian Democrat” is an oxymoron.

  2. As opposed to Libertarians who are far smarter than the average oxymoron.

  3. “When Burns turned that soundbite into an ad, Tester refused to back down.”

    Clearly a Republican plant. No real Democrat would act like that.

    ‘When I asked him when he would support the use of military force overseas, he said, “Last resort. You’ve exhausted all other options, then you use military force.”‘

    This is exactly what George Bush said throughout the debate surrounding the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The difference being, Tester isn’t lying to your face. Is that what “true dove” means? When he says he doesn’t want to start a war, he’s telling the truth?

    “For a state that says it wants to be “left alone”–its legislature has passed a resolution condemning the Patriot Act–Montana is eager for as many federal dollars as it can get. On his website, Burns brags that over the course of his career he has brought more than $2 billion in federal taxpayer money to the state.”

    And for his troubles, Burns is getting his tail handed to him in this election. I don’t think Continetti’s slam on Montanans-as-porkers holds up.

    “In the end, though, this race will be decided on how well the embattled incumbent has represented Montana’s interests. Tester’s positions on national security issues…probably won’t matter.”

    Keep telling yourself that people don’t hate your war, Weakly Standard. Maybe it will come true.

    Also, the Democrats scheduled a caucus in Nevady before the New Hampshire primary, not a primary; and “the baritone” isn’t an instrument.

  4. Sorry, I’d take the Democrats for libertarians before I would the Republicans. I don’t own a business, so many of the economic liberties are just not that central to me. On the other hand, I want to be able to read what I want, see whatever entertainment I want, and say what I want, which seem to get more respect from the Dems these days. In my state it was a Republican who just introduced the last state bill to ban smoking in clubs. Folks like Pat Robertson call the shots in the GOP nowadays, not Milton Friedman. And speaking of Tester-burns, Burns is no thin reed himself. He’s also a mighty corrupt fellow, which is why he’ll probably lose (and Confetti knows this).

  5. “the baritone” isn’t an instrument.

    Yes it is,joe. Check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baritone_horn. Don’t mess with an ex band geek.

    “Libertarian Democrat” is an oxymoron.

    No more so than “Libertarian Republican” these days.

    And is it me or does he look like Meat Loaf?

  6. Libertarians have little traction in either political party because libertarian ideas simply don’t win elections. Modern Americans have a seemingly endless appetite for telling others what to do. A favorite example is the rise of homeowner’s associations. Deep down, most people are willing to sacrifice the personal freedom of painting the shutters any damn color in return for the assurance that the neighbors will never their shutters any damn color but colonial yellow #42 (available only by special order from ABC Paints).

  7. Libertarians have little traction in either political party because libertarian ideas simply don’t win elections.

    I though it was the LP regularly fielded candidates who were obviously crazy. The current exception of course being Loretta Nall from Alabama running on the Hooters platform.

    Still, libertarial ideas have had a lot of traction, especially amongst folks looking for an alternative to being a Republican without becoming a Democrat (or vice versa). Hence the attraction to being a “Libertarian Democrat.”

  8. as another ex-band geek, I second madpad on the baritone. And don’t get all technical and say it is a “baritone horn”. No one calls it that.

  9. The baritone is indeed an instrument–as my fellow band geeks have pointed out. I mean people don’t use “piano-forte” anymore either.

    The main question is why anyone would take the time to try and nit pick on such an important topic.

    I love having joe around, but man, dude, I think you need to get out more. Your need to prove people wrong is becoming a problem. And coming from me that’s saying something. It’s like Keith Richards telling you your drinking is getting outta hand. We may need to stage an intervention ;^)

  10. “the baritone” isn’t an instrument.

    Ay ay ay, jose…

  11. I thought he dropped the word “saxophone” or “horn” after baritone.

  12. I’m a little forgiving of those who brag about how much you bring to your state in pork, err “programs” (just a little). Consider it state vs state “gitback” – for all that f!@king money we’ve spent for a hole in Boston, for example. Rather see my congressman gobble it up before Byrd or Stevens gets to it.

    That said, if there was ever a (mythical) Congressman who ran on “I’ll stop bringing pork first” – they’ve got my vote.

    (interesting on all the band geeks here – myself included – wonder what that says)

  13. Sorry, I’d take the Democrats for libertarians before I would the Republicans. I don’t own a business, so many of the economic liberties are just not that central to me.

    Without economic liberty, you are nothing more than a serf. A serf who can view porn without harassment, I guess.

  14. C’mon, Mad, it’s not so much that Libertarian candidates are crazy. Americans love crazy-as-a-shit-house rat politicians. They just don’t seem to like arrogant, abrasive candidates who live in strange Randian otherworlds.

    If libertarian ideas have traction, why the success of all the “defense of marriage” ballot initiatives? Why the failure to end the failed War on Drugs? Why the erosion of personal liberties of the War on Terror? Why the spate of local smoking bans? Are we becoming any more free to gamble, drink or whore?

    I think most people like the idea of freedom for themselves, but they are deeply uncomfortable with the asshole down the street having the same freedom, particularly since we all know if given half a chance the bastard would paint his shutters puce.

  15. Good points all, Jose. But while they have in no way reached a tipping poiint, you can’t deny the fact that you’re even hearing the word “libertarian” bandied about with greater frequency these days indicates some ascendancy.

    Your right with the “shutters” example of course. But Libertarian ideals can exist on a continuum urging folks toward less government over more. They can also – and may very well – see greater acceptance over time.

  16. Without economic liberty, you are nothing more than a serf. A serf who can view porn without harassment, I guess.

    I’ve had this discussion with friends about prioritizing economic versus social liberties. It’s a shame to have to choose, and maybe we never should choose. To horribly simplify, if they take away my right to speak, but leave me my money, can I buy free speech? or if they take away my money, but leave me the right to complain about it, can I moan enough to convince them to give it back?
    I am not to proud to say that I think I would rather be left with the right to complain. The idea of trying to buy my 1st Amendment rights sounds repugnant. It is not a choice I want to make.

  17. The problem with the “Democrats = social liberals, Republicans = economic liberals” dynamic is that both parties have been far too willing to abandon it.

    The drug war has Democrat fingerprints all over it as do the campaigns to save the kiddies from the evils of video games. Meanwhile, the current set of Republicans just love tariffs and subisidies while spending like drunken sailors on education and health care.

    There’s not that many candidates you need to check up on for every election, and the internet makes it easy. Don’t vote Republican or Democrat, vote for the guy who best approximates your views. Sometimes it’s only the loosest of approximations, but them’s the breaks. You can always move to Ron Paul or Jeff Flake’s district if it really bothers you that much.

  18. On the other hand, I want to be able to read what I want, see whatever entertainment I want, and say what I want, which seem to get more respect from the Dems these days.

    Just exactly what have the Repubs barred you from seeing or saying?

    If anything, its the Republican appointees to various regulatory bodies(the FEC, the FCC) who are more likely to defend freedom the of speech.

    Lets also not forget that most recently it was Hillary Clinton inveighing against Those Awful Video Games ™, much in the spirit of her former comrade in firstness Tipper Gore, and lets also not forget that the biggest proponent of campaign speech control is a Dem (Feingold) and its biggest opponent is a Repub (McConnell).

    God knows the Repubs have their civil liberties problems these days, but I still trust them more than I do Dems on both the First and Second Amendments.

    In my state it was a Republican who just introduced the last state bill to ban smoking in clubs.

    Well, in both the cities that I have lived in during the past several years (Madison, WI and Dallas, TX), it was Democrats who actually imposed such bans.

  19. There is nothing remotely libertarian about objecting to the rules of homeowners’ associations, and more than there is anything libertarian about opposing sexual harrassment in the workplace. Capitalist libertarians are the first ones on the barricades, protecting the rights of obnoxious bosses and of enforcers of contracts, to shit all over the people that The Market (TM) has placed under their authority.

    Libertarians believe strongly in freedom from the government. That is not remotely the same thing as freedom period.

    It’s just a differenty system for determining who gets to shit on you – one that works earnestly to remove any democratic accountability from the process.

  20. One thing to consider about economic vs. social/political freedom is that without the social/political freedoms the people agitating for economic reform can be muzzled pretty easily.

    I’m not trying to advocate that anybody reverse priorities, just recognize that freedoms are not easily disentangled, and that they can complement each other, or the erosion of one can lead to the erosion of another.

  21. Well, in both the cities that I have lived in during the past several years (Madison, WI and Dallas, TX), it was Democrats who actually imposed such bans.

    Same herein Salt Lake City. You’d think the Mormon Church would be the one pushing a smoking ban, but it’s actually the brainchild of hard-Left anti-Mormon Mayor (and former smoker) Rocky Anderson.

    I think the “former smoker” part is significant. Alot of former smokers are on a Sacred Quest to ensure that no one enjoys smoking, so that they don’t have to be reminded that they once enjoyed it, too.

  22. Capitalist libertarians are the first ones on the barricades, protecting the rights of obnoxious bosses and of enforcers of contracts, to shit all over the people that The Market (TM) has placed under their authority

    Well, thank god the volitionless lumpen have people like you to make sure they can continue to spend hours at work on the phone talking about their kid’s basketball games while touching up their nails, continue to sign contracts which they wish to be able to break without penalty, and continue to expect the rewards possible to risk-takers without actually taking any risks.

  23. I keep thinking that joe’s obstinate blindness to the difference between the state and a private business will someday lose the power to astonish me.

  24. Stepping outside of the Joe World View ™ for a moment, the rise of uber restrictive homeowner’s association is a legitimate topic of conversation for libertarians. I agree that deed restrictions and covenants are a private contract. Of interest to me (as one who leans towards libertarian thinking) is the underlying mentality that creates such contracts.

    The same people who cruise the neighborhood looking for improperly-painted shutters are those most inclined to use the power of government to infringe on all sorts of personal freedoms. Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of wanting to use the state to help us “for our own good.” Some people with the Joe World View ™ are willing to coerce citizens to engage (or avoid) in some behaviors. Conservatives are equally willing to coerce the same citizens to engage in (or avoid) other behaviors.

    The public value of tolerance has been greatly diminished in modern America. The value of conformity (wear a pink ribbon, recycle, etc.) is ascendent. Somewhere deep in America’s puritanical roots is this notion that coercion is acceptable, even praiseworthy, when done for a higher purpose.

    The ethos of the rural west was, “Leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.” I expect this was because there were not many people in the west and many of the people came west to be left the Hell alone. There are echoes of this in places like Montana today, but only echoes. Americans want the west to be neat, clean and orderly… no rusting hulks, sagging barns or wandering farm animals.

    Pity.

  25. Bee, RC,

    If you want to argue that being pushed around by a private party is different than being pushed around by the government, have at it. I’m quite aware of the philosophical underpinnings of libertarianism, thank you very much.

    Just don’t pretend that doing so makes you a great opponent of people being pushed around.

    General opposition to people pushing other people around may be “a legitimate topic for libertarians,” but so, apparently, H.P. Lovecraft.

    Neither one bears much relation to libertarian philosophy.

  26. Jose-

    The most interesting thing to me about the Homeowner’s Association, after making all necessary disclaimers about private contracts and pointing out that they exist in a regulated market, and whatever else I have to say, is that people want to live in an arrangement where they and their neighbors are tightly regulated.

    This is what many people (not all, but many) choose in a (relatively) free market, including people with enough income that they have a variety of living options.

    What hope does a free-for-all proposal have in the political arena when it’s seen as undesirable even by many people in the (relatively) free market?

  27. joe-

    I dunno, H.P. Lovecraft is quite popular with some libertarians.

  28. Well, thank god the volitionless lumpen have people like you to make sure they can continue…to sign contracts which they wish to be able to break without penalty…

    Dude…there are plenty of high-powered, productive business people that fit that description too. Maybe we could address the volumes of lawsuits against insurance companies for starters.

    Just because they’re big and someone at some time took a risk to start the business doesn’t instantly make them right, credible, honest or worthy of any kind of respect.

  29. Economic vs political freedom. If I had to choose between them, I’d take the cash. A person with money can buy his way out of trouble faster than a poor person can talk his way out. But I think thoreau is right that the two freedoms are entangled and cannot be easily seperated.

  30. Of course you are all forgetting about the 2nd Amendment. Maybe you can shoot your way out of trouble.

  31. Ah, yes, Thoreau, I am puzzled why the first and abiding instinct of a free society is to limit freedom.

  32. Hey, Bee, I’d love to hear what the folks you call “the volitionless lumpen” have to say about you as a boss.

  33. thoreau,

    “I dunno, H.P. Lovecraft is quite popular with some libertarians.”

    Yes, so is not being pushed around by people you’ve signed a contract with, that gives them the right to push you around – ie, the homeowners/condo association. Neither one has very much to do with the belief that you should be able to enter into contracts, and be bound by law to respect their conditions.

    Buckshot, “Economic vs political freedom. If I had to choose between them, I’d take the cash. A person with money can buy his way out of trouble faster than a poor person can talk his way out.” The problem with this reasoning is that “economic freedom,” libertarian style, does not equal having the money to buy your way out of trouble.

    Back to you, Bee. If you can manage to hold your hankie over your nose long enough, please ask the next five “lumpen” you encounter whether their boss pushes them around.

  34. “…it’s a Conservative Republican senator who’s already got his paw pretty deep in the cookie jar…”

    Which is precisely my point; the “progressives” in the People’s Republic of Gallatin County have made an unholy pact with their demon, Burns, and now are beginning to suspect that they need his seniority and proven cookie-snatching prowess more than they need the fleeting gratification of his defeat by a (D) politician.

    If I were the sort of person who actually voted, I would most certainly vote for Tester- his comment about the Patriot Act was more than enough to win me over.

  35. Right there with ya’ P Brooks. We’re cool.

  36. Well, Joe, I don’t find it surprising that I have to explain the difference between real law and “paper law” to you.

    Most people can’t live in the average community without occasionally violating some local ordinance… let’s say in a fit of excitment you put your recyclables on the curbside more than 24 hours in advance of pickup. In most places, the folks enforcing the law generally understand that there’s a helluva lot that can be filed under “de minimus non curat lex.” Homeowner Association boards, however, inevitably attract the sort of manic busybodies that do not understand the fine distinction between upholding the covenants and gratuitous ball busting.

    On the whole, I think contracts are pretty nifty. I’m also enough of a realist to know that contracts can be the racing-striped vehicle for all sorts of nonsense. And if you want a tie-in to libertarian political philosophy, I give you this. One of my main criticisms of libertarian thinking is the simplistic “paper” application of theory that disregards real world experience.

  37. Libertarians believe strongly in freedom from the government. That is not remotely the same thing as freedom period.

    I agree. In fact, this impure libertarian thinks we could have government that goes beyond the minarchist or anarchist ideals that are often put forth, even doing things like providing a safety net, regulating pollution, making sure that nobody gets screwed by a contract they didn’t fully understand, etc. and still be a far cry from the huge, intrusive government we have now.

    A legitimate government would take the edge off the abusive things that could happen to people in a purely anarchic society. The trick, the art of the thing, is to distribute power so that we don’t have any institution with too large a concentration of power over us: government, corporations, churches, family, etc.

  38. If I were the sort of person who actually voted, I would most certainly vote for Tester- his comment about the Patriot Act was more than enough to win me over.

    His comment was just that…words. If you will notice from the quote in the post, he’s already backing away from them.

    I find it amusing how libertarians nowadays will swoon for antiwar Democrats like Tester, seemingly oblivious to the fact that if Senator Tester ever gets the chance to vote on the PATRIOT Act, he’ll probably vote yes, after making a few face-saving harrumphs for local consumption.

    It kinda reminds me of how pimply high school nerds get all twitterpated when the cheerleader bats her eyes and asks for help with her calculus. The idea that they’re being played like a Gameboy never enters their head.

  39. No, no, I *don’t* think people are volitionless lumpen. I am *disagreeing* with a mindset that treats people as unable to handle bad bosses, adjustable rate mortgages, and the other challenges blown their way by the cold winds of capitalism.

    ie, what I think is 180 degrees from the way you’ve read it.

    Except for the chick behind me who spends hours each day on the phone with her friends talking about her kids, pondering bankruptcy so she doesn’t have to pay off her car loan, or fussing excitedly about the guy on the other side of the floor who has been flirting with her (her tops leave little to the imagination). She can twist in the wind for all I care.

    Dude…there are plenty of high-powered, productive business people that fit that description too. Maybe we could address the volumes of lawsuits against insurance companies for starters

    Now, why would you think I’d let them off the hook? To the barricades, persons who enter into contracts in good faith!

  40. joe:

    I figured someone would nail me for that one. I didn’t use reasoning, I was just trying to be clever. One point for you.

  41. Jose-

    Has anybody ever done an article for Reason on homeowner’s associations and the fascinating social implications? Leaving aside the fact that they are private organization bound by contracts, yadda yadda yadda, a large number of people choose to live under very strict rules when they could just as easily choose a less regulated neighborhood.

    We can debate about whether the law should or should not do anything about the insane enforcement of the most nitpicky clauses of a contract, and wade through all the standard libertarian debates. I’m more fascinated by the fact that people with enough money to live elsewhere instead choose to live in such a restricted community.

  42. “It kinda reminds me of how pimply high school nerds get all twitterpated when the cheerleader bats her eyes and asks for help with her calculus.”
    If its calculus, the cheerleader must be Asian, otherwise it would be help her with single digit multiplication and triple digit addition.

    “twitterpated” is that like masterbation with your pants on?

  43. “His comment was just that…words. If you will notice from the quote in the post, he’s already backing away from them.”

    I am unregistered nonvoter because I hold politicians in utter contempt. I deem them to be merely a subspecies of career criminal: congenital liars and sociopaths. Occasionally I succumb to the forlorn hope that I might be pleasantly surprised. If he wins, we’ll at least be rid of an incumbent.

  44. Jose & thoreau,

    Shh, you’re going to wake up the anarcho-capitalists.

  45. Jose,

    You didn’t so much “explain” something to me, as repeat the point I was making; to wit, in the real world, the people you enter into contracts with tend to push you around even more than the government, regarless of the theoretical possibility of leaving the contractual relationship.

    Captin Holly,

    “I find it amusing how libertarians nowadays will swoon for antiwar Democrats like Tester, seemingly oblivious to the fact that if Senator Tester ever gets the chance to vote on the PATRIOT Act, he’ll probably vote yes, after making a few face-saving harrumphs for local consumption.”

    I find it amusing that the people who were so loudly proclaiming that Democrats were virtually a different species from Republicans for the past five years have suddenly started to insist that there is no difference in their approaches to war and security.

    Bee, tell you what: I’ll stop attributing “mindsets” to you, when you stop doing it to me. Can we enter into that contract?

    thoreau, from what I’ve seen, most of the people who buy into communities with homeowners’ associations are in regions – like Florida – in which the overwhelming majority of the available housing stock consists of homes subject to the rules of homeowners associations. It not so much a choice between an association with tight rules vs. an un-regulated home, but of a homeowners’ association with tight rules vs. no home at all.

    In other words, the “choice” to not buy into a homeowners association is theoretical, like so much of the “choice” that libertarians postulate exists in people’s economic lives.

  46. joe,

    You need to get out more. Check out the new(er) construction in the suburbs outside any major city. You will find Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) all over the country. Not all subdivisions are built with very “tight rules,” and some are not built as PUDs at all, or you can choose to buy an older home that does not belong to a PUD. It is a choice in some parts of the country.

  47. joe-

    Why is it that some regions have so many homeowners associations? Is it a matter of regulations (perhaps indirect)? I’m sure that some here would like to insist on that and then leave it at that. And maybe they’re right. That would satisfy all ideological objections.

    But Florida is also considered a desirable place to live by many, so maybe with greater demand consumers are willing to accept more restrictions? That would drag us into the usual arguments over whether market outcomes should be accepted rather than adjusted by regulations. We’ve gone over those fights enough.

    Another thing to consider is that, regardless of how it came about, you have an organization where people have paid in with their own money, they all have a stake in the situation, they rely on private organizations and arbiters and contracts and all that rather than government regs…and this is how they behave. However it came to be, this is what it is, it fits many of the assumptions of the ideal libertarian model, and yet human nature shows a remarkably ugly side in it.

    Forget about whether the law should do anything about the situation, the fact is that when people are placed in a scenario which fits so many of the elements of an ideal libertarian model, a highly regulated society comes about.

    I find that both disturbing and fascinating on a number of levels, and it provides a lot of food for thought.

  48. Now, why would you think I’d let them off the hook? To the barricades, persons who enter into contracts in good faith!

    My point, Bee, was that the obnoxious practices you pointed out aren’t just committed by “volitionless lumpen” (great phrase, btw…mind if I borrow it?) but also by the very risk-takers you spoke so wistfully of.

    Sincerely sorry, however, that your work puts you daily in close proximity with an idiot. But then there are plenty of idiots out there. And I’m closer than I’d like to be to a few myself.

  49. Bee, tell you what: I’ll stop attributing “mindsets” to you, when you stop doing it to me. Can we enter into that contract?

    Smmmmmooooch! I don’t think I can do that though. Cuz I think I’m right. Also, you are perfectly free to assign mindsets to me. I would not want to deny myself your corrective influence when my posts are variously interpretable.

  50. Sincerely sorry, however, that your work puts you daily in close proximity with an idiot. But then there are plenty of idiots out there. And I’m closer than I’d like to be to a few myself.

    Holy Cow. She just confided to me that she is leaving, to take a job where she can slip away during the day to spend time with her kids. (!) I have suffered her half-hearted attention to work for two years in absolute silence. Today, *today*, I bitch about her obliquely on HnR, and she announces her departure. Spooky.

  51. thoreau,

    Mutually agreed upon order is “remarkably ugly”? Maybe you are referring to the anal-retentiveness of some folks? Once a group gets together and creates rules, mustn’t they enforce them fairly? The larger the group is, doesn’t that mean that the rules cannot be bent for one for this will mean they can be bent for everyone, thereby negating the rules? Since these are voluntary associations, I see no ugliness.

    I, personally, would go nuts living in a PUD. Aside from not being the sort who likes suburban sprawl (I’m not anti-sprawl. I mean to say that I would find it soul-killing. Let the sheep live where & how they want. Baa!), I don’t want Mrs Kravitz telling me what kind of garden to grow in my front yard.

  52. And is it me or does he look like Meat Loaf?

    Comment by: madpad at October 24, 2006 11:03 AM

    ——————————————————–

    He looks like Dennis Quaid if he spent a little (okay, a lot) more time at the buffet.

  53. highnumber,

    I know all of that. You didn’t address my point.

    thoreau,

    The type of homeowners associations we’re talking about are largely a phenomenon of places undergoing rapid growth, where the existing municipal services are unlikely to be able to accommodate the booming population, so people establish quasi-governmental homeowners associations to handle what the government handles in more-built-out areas.

    Now, our government has some pretty hefty restrictions on what it can and cannot do. Private contracts, on the other hand, can be as restrictive as the parties want.

  54. joe,

    In other words, the “choice” to not buy into a homeowners association is theoretical, like so much of the “choice” that libertarians postulate exists in people’s economic lives.

    I told you that it is not “theoretical.” PUDs exist all over the place, and people can choose to move into more PUDs with more relaxed rules or stricter rules. I did address your point.
    So there!

  55. The type of homeowners associations we’re talking about are largely a phenomenon of places undergoing rapid growth, where the existing municipal services are unlikely to be able to accommodate the booming population, so people establish quasi-governmental homeowners associations to handle what the government handles in more-built-out areas.

    That is not at all the case. Like I wrote above, most subdivsions today are built as PUDs, which means, essentially, that there is a homeowners’ association (HOA). These HOAs all have covenants. Often the homeowners are not allowed to park boats or RVs in the driveway for more than a day, have to take holiday decorations down within a certain time period, and their mailbox can’t be brick or something like that. Other, usually much more expensive, PUDs will have more restrictive covenants. These don’t have anything to do with local gov’t services. In more rural areas, this can be seen, but that has nothing to do with making sure that the exterior of the home is painted in an acceptable manner. The people who bought in a PUD must have seen some qualities they liked. The HOA is responsible for maintaining those qualities. Again, it’s not my scene, but if people want that for themselves, FSM bless ’em.
    Do you feel that their rules are oppressive? Don’t buy there.

    Private contracts, on the other hand, can be as restrictive as the parties want.

    That is a good point.

  56. highnumber,

    OK, in places where there are restrictive homeowners assns, unrestrictive homeowners assns, and homes that are not a part of any assn, there is a choice.

    But my point is that in the markets seeing the largest growth in PUDs – like south Florida, for example – consumers are pretty much locked into a highly-restrictive homeowners association if they want to own a home, and it is inaccurate to describe them as “choosing” to live in one.

  57. I think you can be both a libertarian and a Democrat. However, you can’t be a libertarian and have Teddy Roosevelt as your hero.

  58. Mutually agreed upon order is “remarkably ugly”?

    Poor choice of words, but it is interesting that neighborhoods governed by private contracts are often more heavily regulated (albeit in a contractual manner) than neighborhoods governed by City Hall.

    I’m not here to deny the right of the home owners to voluntarily enter into contracts yadda yadda yadda, I’m just observing that a significant number of people with the means to choose among living options chose heavily regulated neighborhoods, and the neighbors have proven to be more over-bearing (at least in some respects) than cops.

    Now, you could say that in some areas there’s no other choice, since every neighborhood has a Homeowners Association. True, but if there are multiple companies establishing these neighborhoods then you’d think competition would provide more flexibility.

    Bottom line: I’m fascinated by the demonstrated fact that a significant fraction of people with the means to live where they want have chosen to enter into arrangements that bear all the trappings of libertarianism (private roads, contractual arrangements, all that good stuff) yet are tightly regulated, frequently with the enforcement assistance of obnoxious assholes.

    I think there’s a lesson in there, and not necessarily a cheerful one. Some people fear that libertarianism will bring about chaos, while libertarians actually hope that we’ll get at least a small taste of chaos. Alas, a libertarian society might turn out to still be tightly regulated with obnoxious assholes leading the charge.

    This is why I’m fundamentally an incrementalist libertarian rather than an ideological one. I’m firmly convinced that on most or all of today’s political issues the best incremental solution would involve less government rather than more. But I’m not convinced of what shape the IDEAL society would take. I have strong opinions on what a BETTER society would be, but no opinion about what the BEST society would be.

  59. I like Conrad Burns. He seems like he goes home and drinks half a bottle of whiskey every night and could care less what happens in the world. Incompetent and indifferent, that’s the kind of politicians libertarians should want.

  60. Don’t trust him. He kind of looks like Bill Bennett.

  61. Well, Joe, there was a huge surge in housing growth post WWII, but the trend of homeowner’s associations did not occur until much later. As noted, HOAs generally exist within planned unit developments… and PUDs are a regulatory scheme developed by planners to allow greater housing density in exchange for common open space. Planners have now discovered the benefits of “neo-traditional” neighborhoods, i.e., the type of neighborhood that developed absent PUD regulations. So it goes.

    Many PUDs and HOAs exist within established municipalities where the municipal laws concerning land use and property are far more lax than HOA covenants. Most municipal governments do not give a rat’s ass about what color you paint the shutters… unless you live under the tyranny of a historic preservation district (ironically areas which developed organically without controls like historic preservation boards). Like Thoreau, I think the HOA trend suggests that while people may talk a decent libertarian game, most folks are more than willing to impose all sorts of asinine restrictions on the neighbors (and themselves)… via government regulations or private contract. Perhaps this is nostalgia, but I think Americans used to be more willing to look at puce shutters on a neighbor’s house and say, “Yeah, they are damned ugly but it is his house and he has a right to paint it any damn color he wants.” Perhaps in part due to the environmental movement, I think more folks now feel they have rights that extend well beyond the property line.

    It is hard to imagine libertarian thought exerting any influence on either major American political party in a land of HOAs.

  62. Exactly, Jose. People can say what they want about the private nature of the HOA and all that, and these sorts of communities may not be uniformly popular, but the fact remains that there is obviously a large market niche for a tightly regulated neighborhood.

    There’s a lesson in that. Maybe not a pleasant one.

  63. thoureau & Jose,

    I think that these arrangements bear out anarcho-capitalists’ theories. Obnoxious assholes do exist, and the absence of gov’t does not preclude their existence. At least in these situations they don’t have a gun pointed at your head.
    I understand that neither of you consider yourself to be a “pure” libertarian. Neither do I. I don’t mind controls emanating from very local sources when one has the option to disengage with very little hassle. I have, in the past, referred to my ideal form of gov’t as a loose confederation of city-states. After some thought, I believe anarcho-capitalism is pretty close.
    But I still love the Constitution and give big ups to our founding fathers, so I am not ready to give up on the U.S. of A.

  64. Jose,

    “Well, Joe, there was a huge surge in housing growth post WWII, but the trend of homeowner’s associations did not occur until much later.”

    Yes, but with a couple of significant differences. First, there was a much more expansive government back then – much of that housing growth was government-subsidized, in fact – so the existing governments were more willing to accept the additional responsibility of growth. Second, the post WWII growth was more concentrated around large, older cities, often in established small towns that grew into suburbs. It was still thought that most people would continue to commute to the city center. Today, more of the growth is in “cityless suburbs” like Florida and Arizona. Once again, the absense of a robust govenrment eager for the growth is the key factor.

    “Planners have now discovered the benefits of “neo-traditional” neighborhoods, i.e., the type of neighborhood that developed absent PUD regulations.” Actually, the two aren’t really related. Many neo-trad developments ARE PUDs, in the sense of having restrictive homeowners associations, like Celebration, Florida.

  65. I think the point, High, is that while you and a handful of others may want a free society, when push comes to shove, most Americans do not. Americans romanticize the West, modern and past. While it may be fun to watch “Deadwood,” few people are willing to tolerate gunplay on Main Street or lawn mowing before 9 a.m. on Saturdays.

    Frankly, Americans don’t even seem to feel particularly worried or guilty about limiting freedoms. They certainly are not overly concerned about the abuses at Gitmo or the secret police tactics conducted under the guise of the War on Terror. From what I observe, libertarians are mostly shouting at the rain.

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