Politics

So Long, GOP!

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The libertarian columnist Steven Greenhut of the Orange County Register (about the only major West Coast newspaper to attack FDR for interning American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II [as Reason's Brian Doherty points out in Radicals for Capitalism]) is saying sayonara to the Republican Party based on the GOP's demonstrated disinterest in pushing something like free minds and free markets.

Under Republican leadership, the federal government has expanded—without even including war-related spending—far more quickly than it expanded under Bill Clinton. And when it comes to security matters, Republicans have been zealous in giving the feds additional powers to trample our privacy and liberties. Republicans have been unwavering in their support for embarking on nation-building experiments of the sort that traditional conservatives would abhor. The presidential candidates most committed to a muscular central government—Rudy Giuliani and John McCain—are leading the pack.

Which isn't to say he's lining up with the Dems, either:

the Republicans will focus more on terrorism and security issues, and the Democrats will focus more on health care and domestic regulation, but in this Brave New Paradigm, no major party will echo the words of that outdated crank, Thomas Jefferson, who argued that "the sum of good government" is one "which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned."

Perhaps that world already is here. Which is why I'm divorcing myself from the Republican Party, and keeping my distance from any group that doesn't place the defense of liberty as the prime goal of the political system.

More here.

NEXT: Hurwitz Convicted

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  1. Um, great. But this is actually the most revealing part of that column…

    “I became a Republican during Ronald Reagan’s first term, having been inspired by his appeals to liberty, to his recognition of the freedom-stifling aspects of big government, to his unabashed embrace of the traditions of America’s founders.

    Reagan never actually rolled back government, but I can forgive a failure to achieve lofty aims. I cannot forgive abandonment of those aims.”

    In other words, he became a Republican because Reagan whispered sweet nothings in his ear. What cheap dates some libertarians are.

  2. Yeah, but what was the OC Register writing about in 1931? 1927? 1856?

    I don’t get the relevance of the reference.

  3. How do you have liberty if there are lunatics bent on killing large numbers of civilians loose in society? Now, you can deny that. You can say that there is no threat from terrorism and therefore no reason worry. But, the author in this case doesn’t do that in any substantive way. He just assumes that Republicans have made the whole thing up as an excuse to take people’s liberties. That may be true, but I think you need to discuss the threat of terrorism and how you deal with that in the context of a free society. That is the whole question. He doesn’t really address that. The fact is the Jefferson’s time the ability of the loan anarchist to do damage was pretty limited. There have always been terrorists but they could up until recently just set off the occasional bomb or do the occasional political assassination. They could not kill 1000s in a single day. How do you deal with that threat within the confines of a radically limited government of the sort Greenhut would want? Moreover, how do defend the country from external threats when the nature of war seems to have changed from large conventional armies to small asymmetrical threats. In Jefferson’s day the threat was being invaded by a European power. Today the threat is a hostile power using terrorism to shut down our government and economy. Until he answers those questions, he is just blowing off steam. His last sentence is telling, “Which is why I’m divorcing myself from the Republican Party, and keeping my distance from any group that doesn’t place the defense of liberty as the prime goal of the political system.” Doesn’t defense of liberty also include defense from outside threats? That is the first function of government is to defend its people from violence from other countries. In Greenhut’s world federal bureaucrats are the only threats to liberty and people like Muhammad Atta really aren’t. I wish he were right.

  4. Reagan grew government by (I believe) 68% and added at least one new cabinet level agency (after saying he would eliminate a few). Add to that his love of the drug war and selling some arms to Iran? I just don’t get it. So he had a nice simple campaign hook. So what? Sure he cut taxes (and raised many)? without the cuts in spending, that is just tax deferral. Rhetoric counts for much more than actions in the GOP. Even for those willing to divorce themselves from the party (like the columnist).

  5. Fortunately we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a worthwhile war on terror so that we will be safe from these terrorist types. The columnist obviously doesn’t recognize the true benefit that we realize every day from being in Iraq, fighting them over there so we don’t have to do it here! This war is protecting our liberty, and I’ll gladly surrender all of my rights (and everyone else’s) in order to feel safer so I can live freely!

  6. John,

    Yes, the government must protect it’s citizens from outside threats. The problem is that war in Iraq, for example, was a poor choice made by Republicans. Iraq was no real threat at all to the citizens of the USA. Much of the Patriot act falls into the same category – a poor choice not making us safer. The same goes for torture, the right to detain anyone as an enemy combatant without any due process etc? these are poor choices that do not make us safer as a whole (certainly there are always specific instances where it can be argued that all of the above might have made us safer – but only specific examples, not across the board). Liberty makes people safer *as a whole*- not a police state.

  7. “In Greenhut’s world federal bureaucrats are the only threats to liberty and people like Muhammad Atta really aren’t.”

    If we didn’t have the meddling foreign policy that we have, we wouldn’t have the problem with terrorism that we now have.

  8. “Liberty makes people safer *as a whole*- not a police state.”

    No it doesn’t all fo the time. Atta and his cohorts had lots of liberty. They were able to overstay their Visas, get flight classes, take stuff onto planes and so fourth. There is some, albeit not perfect, correlation between a more closed society and the difficulty to penetrate it and commit acts of terror. I think Atta and company would have had a hell of a lot harder time pulling off 9-11 in say China or North Korea than the US. That doesn’t mean that we should become North Korea. Sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease. But, don’t pretend that there are not costs and risks to an open society. There are. The issue is how open and how much risk do you want to take.

  9. “If we didn’t have the meddling foreign policy that we have, we wouldn’t have the problem with terrorism that we now have.”

    Yeah, they would just leave us alone if we would just be nicer to them. Give me a fucking break. I guess that is why countries like Spain and Indonesia have been victims as well. Hell Spain as much as surrendered to them after the Madrid attacks, yet still today they are catching terrorists coming in from Morocco trying to bomb them.

  10. When was the last time terrorists attacked Switzerland? Terrorists attacked Spain because Spain because of their involvement in Iraq. Do you really feel that terrorist are targeting America because they are jealous of us? That is so absurd! Osama ben Laden spelled out his reasons for 9/11. He said it was because of the sanctions in Iraq, our support for Israel, and the stationing of troops in the Muslim holy land in Saudi Arabia.

  11. You don’t get to throw out “imperfect relationship” when discussing whether police states are better at counter-terror, and then use two examples to refute R.J.’s point about foreign policy making us a target.

  12. “But, don’t pretend that there are not costs and risks to an open society. There are. The issue is how open and how much risk do you want to take.”

    No question. And I think that when looked at as a whole, we are all much better off when society is weighted heavily on the side of liberty.

    “Yeah, they would just leave us alone if we would just be nicer to them.”

    This is ridiculous. No one is talking about being “nicer” to “them”. Egypt is the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood – arguably the godfather of all modern islamist organizations. Egypt’s government oppression lead directly to the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s government is the second largest recipient of US aid. They use that money to oppress their own people and to stay in political power. See any connection? The Islamists do.

    Saudi Arabia is another *clear and direct* example. Our troops on their soil (’90) lead to great hostility in the Muslim world. Their government – which we support – does not reflect the views of their citizens on this point. So we went to war to restore one dictatorship (Kuwait) and protect another (Saudi). In return we pissed of millions of Muslims. How would Saudi Troops in DC sit with you? What if they had been invited by the US government?

  13. nn posits that the reason there are terrorist groups out there is because we provide support to governments that the terrorists oppose.

    I’m curious, then – how active are these groups in attacking the actual governments they oppose. How much anti-government terrorist activity is there in Egypt and Saudi?

    If the answer is, lots, then I think there may be something to the thesis that “the terrorists hate us because we support the House of Saud and the Egyption government.” Otherwise, not so much.

    And how would this theory account for all the anti-Americanism and terrorism that is actually funded by the House of Saud? Are there really terrorists out there who hate us because we support their sponsors?

  14. “I’m curious, then – how active are these groups in attacking the actual governments they oppose. How much anti-government terrorist activity is there in Egypt and Saudi?”

    I believe they are active in attacking the actual governments they oppose. They assassinated Sadat, for instance. And there are regularly plots uncovered in Saudi Arabia. There is no question that the Saudi government tries to work with at least some of these groups in an effort to control them. There is also no question that a police state makes it easier to prevent such attacks – at least in the short run. I believe that these groups attack the US more than their own governments because they want to force their governments (see Pakistan) to side with the US and drive up recruitment and anger. This is a strategy to turn more citizens against their governments. Not a bad strategy if your goal is to take over a country like SA or Pakistan.

    “And how would this theory account for all the anti-Americanism and terrorism that is actually funded by the House of Saud? Are there really terrorists out there who hate us because we support their sponsors?”

    There is no doubt that the House of Saud attempts to buy off the Islamists. They give them protection money.

    “nn posits that the reason there are terrorist groups out there is because we provide support to governments that the terrorists oppose.”

    I think this is one key reason, not the only reason. I do not think that *anything* will eliminate islamist extremists. It is about making smart choices to reduce the risks. I see support for oppressive governments as a key cause. Along with the wars we have waged in the region over the last decades.

  15. “Are there really terrorists out there who hate us because we support their sponsors?”

    A classic example is Iran. There was an anti-American revolution because of our support for the Shah. We’re lucky that there are still people in Iran that like us. But that will all change if we attack Iran.

  16. Sounds like Greenhut’s big disappointment is that the Repub are no longer talking the talk, even though he admits they never walked the walk. This is probably one of the most disappointing things I’ve read from him.

    Yeah, but what was the OC Register writing about in 1931? 1927? 1856?

    I don’t get the relevance of the reference.

    I thought that reference was a bit labored, too.

  17. “nn posits that the reason there are terrorist groups out there is because we provide support to governments that the terrorists oppose.”

    No, he doesn’t.

    He posits that the reason the United States is targetted by existing terrorist groups is becasue we provide aid to the governments they oppose.

  18. “And how would this theory account for all the anti-Americanism and terrorism that is actually funded by the House of Saud?”

    1. The House of Saud is a House divided, with some out-of-power branches funding terrorist against the government.

    2. The government itself is alleged to pay “protection money” to terrorist groups.

  19. … the ability of the loan (sic) anarchist to do damage was pretty limited …

    I don’t know about “Jefferson’s times” and lone anarchists – you’re thinking of Czolgosz I suspect – but I do know a bit about the early 20th Century and the bombers of that time were quite effective.

    Los Angeles Times Bombing, 1 October 1910, 40 casualties (20 dead)
    Preparedness Day Bombing, 22 July 1916, 50 casualties (10 dead)
    Wall Street Bombing, 16 September 1920, 438 casualties (38 dead)
    Bath School Disaster, 18 May 1927,103 casualties (45 dead)

    Not exactly limited damage and not exactly a sterling record of preventing attacks; neither those motivated by economic, ideological and political disputes (the first three) nor those by the insane (the last).

    At a time when the police power had more, shall we say, latitude. The results of the investigations were …

    Los Angeles Times Bombing – two convictions (life and 15 years)
    Preparedness Day Bombing – two convictions based on perjured testimony (both men later pardoned)
    Wall Street Bombing – no charges filed
    Bath School Disaster – perpetrator blew himself up (car bomb)

    In the second and third examples, not even the powers of the Espionage and Sedition Acts were enough to prevent the attacks or to punish the perpetrators.

  20. Apostate Jew,

    The government and its police powers during the times of the bombing you list were a lot greater than anything Greenhut would ever agree to. The government in 1910 was anything but Jeffersonian. The issue is how does a limited government defend itself in this day and age? Everyone likes to point to the Patriot Act as an example of how government doesn’t protect people or work. I will would point, however, to two things that did work post 9-11; rounding up and deporting large numbers of foreign nationals for immigration violations, and invading Afghanistan and killing and capturing Al Quada leaders world wide. Those two things did work and since we haven’t had another attack seemed to work well. How would any government as limited as what Greenhut wants ever be able to do that? That took a huge military, a large FBI and CIA and diplomatic corps to do. Without the ability to do such things, how does a small government protect its people?

    You can argue all day that people are terrorizing us because of this or that reason but you can’t change the past. There is nothing that would appease Bin Ladin and his ilk. No change in foreign policy is going to get them to somehow give up on the idea of destroying the West and the U.S. in particular. Even if you blame the Mullahs being in power on the U.S. support of the Shah, so what? Admitting that isn’t going to make the Mullahs stop hating us. At best this kind of thinking just advocates throwing ourselves at the mercy of our enemies and profusely apologizing for our sins. That kind of action usually breads more aggression from enemies rather than less.

  21. “There is nothing that would appease Bin Ladin and his ilk.”

    It is not too late to change our foreign policy. I think you’d be surprised how fast terrorism would end against American citizens if we ended our belligerant, meddling foreign policy. The fact that there have been no major acts of terrorism in the US since 9/11 doesn’t mean there won’t be any in the future. I believe they are taking their time to plan and eventually deliver a major blow against us. The more we engage in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and the more we continue to support Israel, the more we are stirring up the terrorist hornets nest. I know alot of people can’t accept this because of an overblown lust for war. What a boring day that will be for our hawks if they are no longer able to engage in wars.

  22. So Jake,

    After 9-11 when 2800 Americans died, the Taliban in Afghanistan was found to be supporting and harboring the people who funded planed and executed the attack. You sollution would have been to do nothing about it and let Al Quada and and the Taliban off scott free and have a free attack and 2800 dead Americans because doing so would just create more terrorists? If you think that you are just a fucking troll.

  23. “After 9-11 when 2800 Americans died, the Taliban in Afghanistan was found to be supporting and harboring the people who funded planed and executed the attack. You sollution would have been to do nothing about it and let Al Quada and and the Taliban off scott free and have a free attack and 2800 dead Americans because doing so would just create more terrorists? If you think that you are just a fucking troll.”

    I guess I’m not a fucking troll because I don’t believe that. By all means we should go after those responsible, but that doesn’t include invading Iraq. We have no evidence that Saddam Hussain had anything to do with it.

  24. Would the last one out of the GOP tent please extinguish the prayer candles.

  25. He posits that the reason the United States is targetted by existing terrorist groups is becasue we provide aid to the governments they oppose.

    True, and what I meant to type but got all garble-fingered. Doesn’t change my questions.

  26. “I guess I’m not a fucking troll because I don’t believe that. By all means we should go after those responsible, but that doesn’t include invading Iraq. We have no evidence that Saddam Hussain had anything to do with it.”

    Then answer my question, how do we do that without a military, FBI CIA and the like? How does a truly limited government do anything about Afghanistan. Take Iraq out of it for a moment.

  27. So basically, Greenhut discovered that Republican message about small government was just rhetoric. Join the club.

    But the comments above bring up an interesting point. Where does one go if one isn’t ready for the radical neoanarchism of the official LP platform? Why are the only choices between business-as-usual and marginalizing extremism?

  28. Well, for starters, one could go the route of staying out of everyone else’s business and securing our borders and looking for threats from within our own country from people who already made it in. Oh, but that wouldn’t cost as much money, so that’s out…

  29. I’m curious as to where John would draw the lines delimiting government power. Libertarians quote Bourne’s maxim, War is the health of the state, for a reason.

    If the advent of the suppression of the Al Qaeda/Taliban nexus in Afghanistan had been accompanied by a committment to restrained non-defense spending and a reluctance to advance new domestic programs and regulations, a case could be made that Bush-style “conservatism” was making use of one of government’s legitimate reasons for existence: the common defense. A “war budget” that sacrificed butter for guns and compensated for the tax cuts needed to kick-start the economy after the shock it took due to 9/11 by cutting back on pork would have made sense. But what did we get? Spending exploded on all fronts. The Bushies launched a massive new Medicare entitlement program, and the Feds got their mitts further into such state and local bailiwicks as publik skooling. How is the metastasization of non-defense spending justified in conservative or libertarian terms?

    Kevin

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