Politics

The Politics of Aspiration

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The Orange County Register's Steven Greenhut has a really sharp col about possible revitalization of libertarian ideas in American politics. Snippets:

Those of us who believe in free markets, small government, peace, capitalism, civil liberties and the Constitution will lose, no matter who wins in November. The gloom already is setting in. But there's reason to be optimistic. Our ideas are the right ones. Freedom and capitalism work, while command-and-control policies do not. The question is how to get to the point where those in power begin to loosen rather than tighten their grip over the economy and our lives….

Republicans need to revive what I call the Politics of Aspiration. Instead of promoting an agenda that a) echoes what Democrats offer, only not so much; or b) is based on negativity and fear (of illegal immigration, terrorists, Godless liberals, etc.), they need to tap into the entrepreneurial feelings and desire to get ahead that lies deep within us all—rich, middle class and poor. Winning parties offer hopeful messages and sound ideas.

Greenhut then lays out key areas—ranging from corporate welfare and regulation to economic growth and defense to immigration and trade—where the emphasis should be on providing a basic framework for success and opportunity rather than particular outcomes. It's a good piece and well worth reading in full.

Check it out here.

NEXT: Truth and the Gitmo Detainees

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  1. Well put, nicely written and easy to digest!

    JT
    http://www.an0n.mirrorz.com

  2. Wow! A nice little piece of commentary from Mr. Greenhut … I wonder if anybody in the GOP is listening? Probably not. I fear that socialism and surveillance is here to stay – in both parties, and for quite some time.

  3. Republicans … need to tap into the entrepreneurial feelings and desire to get ahead that lies deep within us all-rich, middle class and poor. Winning parties offer hopeful messages and sound ideas.

    Add leave your neighbors fuckin’ alone and respect the constitution. Free markets while your phone is being tapped, the drug war is being waged, and habeas corpus is considered optional is a rather skimpy freedom platform.

    I’m looking at you, John McCain.

  4. Republicans … need to tap into the entrepreneurial feelings and desire to get ahead that lies deep within us all

    That should definitely be the core message, but unless it is inextricably linked to another message about the the Total State is incompatible with this aspiration, it will not get us where we want to go.

    I also think it is a serious mistake to assume that entrepeneurial feelings are universally shared. I would say that, on balance, most people are more risk averse than they are entrepeneurial, and the advocates of the Total State are very adept at appealing to this innate risk aversion. Both the paternalistic security state and the maternalistic nanny state are all about having the Total State take the risk out of your life.

  5. The GOP is not going to move toward freedom because there are no votes in it. Democracies break down when fifty one percent of the population realize they can enslave the other forty nine, and we have reached that point. You get the government you deserve and we deserve George W Freaking Bush. The game is over and joe wins.

  6. It’s not enough to just offer such a platform as a marketing move, they would have to actually believe it. This is where the GOP fails and it will take at least a generation to transform them.

  7. The part about how no matter what happens, we all get dry humped, I buy. The part about hope for the future, not so much. Twenty five years of libertarian disappointment has left me cynical.

  8. The problem is that the majority of Americans will trade their freedoms to the government for restrictions on others’ freedoms. Example: a “compromise” in which the government takes greater responsibility for drug rehabilitation, while cracking down harder on all users (responsible or irresponsible) of illegal drugs. Apply similar scenario to “junk” foods (say goodbye to chicken fried steak, chocolate chip cookies, 5 meat pizza, and the rest). In other words, I think the majority of Americans are willing to inhabit a dull grey lifeless existence as long as it seems secure.

  9. Instead of promoting an agenda that a) echoes what Democrats offer, only not so much; or b) is based on negativity and fear (of illegal immigration, terrorists, Godless liberals, etc.)

    It’s hard to believe this qualifies as a “radical” message.

    Whatever else one might say about Reagan, his message was optimistic; the pathetic, cowardly fucks who currently control the Republican Party should be tarred and feathered.

  10. The way things are going, I might actually move to Canada.
    Choice 1: Live in a socialist country where the government steals half your income, makes you eat shit, and then steals a little extra to fund its adventures halfway around the world. And you go to jail if they catch you with pot.
    Choice 2: Live in a socialist country where the government steals half your income, makes you eat shit, but at least doesn’t steal more to fund its global adventures, and you at least don’t go to jail when they find your pot.
    And to think I used to make fun of liberals who talked about how they were going to move to Canada.

  11. It’s especially nice when the government justifies its spending on international adventures by explaining how they’ll help the third worlders establish their own little clusterfuck democracies.

  12. The GOP is not going to move toward freedom because there are no votes in it. Democracies break down when fifty one percent of the population realize they can enslave the other forty nine, and we have reached that point. You get the government you deserve and we deserve George W Freaking Bush. The game is over and joe wins.

    Its actually the fault of Reagan.

    As the power of the Dems began a natural fade – along came Reagan to stitch together the enemies of the Big State – the result being that the entrepreneurs, the Christo-Fascists, and the neo-militarists all claimed his thorny crown (and still do).

    Until the GOP is disassembled there will be nothing but political chaos in the US.

  13. First, just because you are right doesn’t mean you are going to win. We know now that Roosevelt made the depression worse, but that didn’t stop him from winning landslide after landslide. Labor socialism was certainly not the right path for Britain after the war, but that didn’t stop them from having an iron grip on the government for 30 years. I am not that optimistic. Further, there are some people in the world who don’t want to give other people opportunity. They like things just as they are. The last thing the La Raza assholes would ever want is for immigrants to assimilate. Why on earth would labor unions want people to succeed on their own? Why would big companies that are in a position to best navigate government regulation and use those regulations to kill competitors ever want lower regulation and entrepreneurs (read competitors) to succeed? They wouldn’t. Do you think the race hustlers of the world want things to you know actually improve for black people?

    The growth of government didn’t just come out of nowhere. It wasn’t created by aliens against the real will of the people. It is the will of the people. People love government. They love government to stick to the other guy. They love government to releive them of their social duties. They love government to make them feel superior about themselves and feel like they are doing something to solve the world’s problems. The only thing that will ever stop big government is fiscal insolvency.

  14. Our ideas are the right ones.

    Martyr!

  15. The real problem is that we are just not a serious country anymore. We live in a world where the same people who worry that some guy at GUITMO might be innocent but think that it is perfectly okay to take some 19 year old caught having sex with a 15 year old and put him on the same list with people who kidnap and rape 8 year olds and make it so it is impossible for him to live anywhere. We live in a country where we think it is okay to sue Saudi Arabia for not pumping enough oil but won’t drill our own oil lets someone in La Joya has to see a oil rig out of their window. We live in a country where parents routinely whore their 12 year olds out to the entertainment industry and sell thongs to preteen girls but then act shocked when kids have sex. Hanna Montana naked on the cover of Vanity fair is free expression. But the 15 year old down the street takes a naked picture of herself and sends it to her boyfriend, they are child pornographers and need to be locked up. We live in a country where you can get yourself declared ADHD or depressed and live your life doped up on prescription tranquilizers and psychiatric drugs, but when we catch someone with six joints, they are a drug user in possession with intent to distribute and a felon. We live in a country where people who live in 20,000 square foot air conditioned houses and fly only private jets fly said private jets to conferences to lecture the rest of us on how we have to cut our sinful consumptive lifestyle to end global warming. Basically we are fucked.

  16. For every tight, timely, well written and well argued piece advocating for greater freedom from tyranny, we must have at least one insane hyperbolic rant like John’s.

    The libertarian Force must be balanced.

  17. Live in denial all you want Hugh. You are fortunate to live in this country where a well argued piece advocating freedom just makes you a kook. In some of the world, it gets you a bullet in the head or a one way trip to prison.

    What did we get a 1.5 trillion dollar government or whatever it is by accident? No one really wants all that waste and regulation. Oh I know, it is those evil special interests, whoever they are, that got us here. Bullshit. We got here because most people like government and like regulation. We got here because about 40 years ago a certain percentage of the population checked out of reality and stopped making hard choices and embraced the idea that we should never have to chose the lesser of two evils, we can solve every problem and create paradise on earth if only we try hard enough. Hyperbolic rant my ass.

  18. I kneel to John’s superior level of (justified) cynicism.

  19. While I wouldn’t put it in precisely the same words John has, I challenge any of you to dispute what he posted. He’s absolutely right: we are fucked because 51% of the population wants it that way. God damn America and God damn democracy.

  20. John is right, I know many intelligent, well educaed people whose gut reaction to less government is that 1)It’s an evil thing for “the Poor” and 2)They are afraid of The Poor and want government’s protection.

    It’s inbred in a lot of the population like religion used to be.

  21. “we are fucked because 51% of the population wants it that way”

    That’s not entirely true…….that’s the true wisdom of the Electoral College…..

  22. Great column — thanks for the link!

  23. The way things are going, I might actually move to Canada.

    economist,

    Living in Canada does require resigning oneself to the reality that Naomi Klein is in your midst, and many of your new compatriots don’t realize how batshit insane she is.

    There is poutine, though. So that’s something.

  24. We will eschew divisive social issues

    Good luck with that…

  25. jwh,

    The electoral college only elects the president. Presidents barely matter. Its congress that matters.

  26. We live in a world where the same people who worry that some guy at GUITMO might be innocent but think that it is perfectly okay to take some 19 year old caught having sex with a 15 year old and put him on the same list with people who kidnap and rape 8 year olds and make it so it is impossible for him to live anywhere

    As opposed to the people who don’t give a fuck if the people in GITMO are guilty of anything — Those people are against sex offenders registries and the like?

    Furthermore, the fact that a non-trivial amount of people are concerned with the fact that there might be innocent people in GITMO seems to indicate that at least in some aspects we ARE serious.

    Way to conflate your personal biases with reality.

    The real problem is that we are just not a serious country anymore.

    Sadly this is true, and evident by your silly example.

    The real problem with this country is that too many the people are uninformed (by their own choice) about what their government is doing in their name, a belief that the notions of freedom and liberty are overrated and a selfishness where people only seem to care about freedom — and even then only slightly — when it’s their freedoms that get trampled upon.

  27. I find it amazing that people rant and rave about The Evil Big Government while they drive on government-funded roads, get cheap and abundant electricity from government subsidized utility companies, eat food that won’t make them sick thanks to government regulation, don’t have to send their children to work in the coal mines for 50 cents an hour because of government funded education, and get to bitch and whine on the internet–something that began as a government project.

    Do you all really think it was all puppies and rainbows in the 19th Century when capitalists got away with doing whatever the fuck they pleased, up to and including murdering their workers with Pinkertonthugs if they dared asked for a union or a living wage? Give me a break.

  28. When Republicans say “smallgovernment” what they really are saying is “socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else”.

  29. Ben,

    Mussolini made the trains run on time.*

    * Not actually true.

  30. Mussolini would like post-Reagan America very much.

  31. Ben, you seem a little hyper.

  32. “As opposed to the people who don’t give a fuck if the people in GITMO are guilty of anything — Those people are against sex offenders registries and the like?”

    No you dumb ass. The same people who are so concerned about this or that person’s guilt or innocence when doing so supports their brand of political laundry are perfectly willing to support draconian measures against people with no concern for innocence or justice when doing so appeals to them emotionally and doesn’t affect their brand of political laundry. It was probably too subtle of a point for you to grasp Tom. Since you are one of those people who checked out of reality at some point in the last 40 years, I didn’t really expect you to understand anyway. There was nothing silly about the example. You just were not sharp enough to get it.

  33. I like it. It makes a nice contrast with Obama’s “patriotism is having the government force you to do community service.”

  34. I just know Lucy is going to let Charlie Brown kick that football one of these days. She can’t be that cruel forever….

  35. When Republicans say “smallgovernment” what they really are saying is “socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else”.

    The rich pay 90% of taxes, so unless they are getting 91% of the benefit, no.

    while they drive on government-funded roads,

    And look how great they are. No traffic jams, and when pass by a construction project there’s never just one guy leaning on a shovel.

    get cheap and abundant electricity from government subsidized utility companies,

    Actually, the utilities subsidize the gov’t, not the other way around.

    eat food that won’t make them sick thanks to government regulation,

    Yes, the gov’t’s only legitimate function is to protect us from harm.

    don’t have to send their children to work in the coal mines for 50 cents an hour because of government funded education,

    Bzzzt. We’re rich enough not to have child labor because of the free market, and government is doing a terrible job educating us.

    and get to bitch and whine on the internet–something that began as a government project.

    A defense project. See my point about harm above.

  36. Clearly Ben has not watched my videos on free market roads, free market education, and overly restrictive hot dog vendor laws.

    http://reason.tv/

    Or he was being ironic. Yeah, that’s probably it.

  37. “The rich pay 90% of taxes”

    Bullshit. Ask Warren Buffet about that–his secretary pays more in taxes than he does thanks to nearly non-existant capital gains taxes, corporate tax loopholes, and payroll tax exemptions for those who make six figures and up (10% of the population, btw).

    Wages from actual work are now taxed more than passive income from things like stocks, which is morally bankrupt.

  38. Oh, I know all about “free market” roads. You’re talking about the Lexus Lanes, right?

  39. Ask Warren Buffet about that–

    Ask Warren what the corporations he owns pay in taxes. Ask him what he pays in property taxes.

    payroll tax exemptions

    Payroll tax works that way because FDR wanted to be able to claim it wasn’t just a massive welfare program; in theory, you get out what you pay.

  40. Anyways, for the personal income taxes of those not named Buffett:

    New data released by the IRS today offers interesting insights into the distributional spread of the federal income tax burden, new analysis by the Tax Foundation shows. The new data shows that the top-earning 25% of taxpayers (AGI over $62,068) earned 67.5% of the nation’s income, but they paid more than four out of every five dollars collected by the federal income tax (86%). The top 1% of taxpayers (AGI over $364,657) earned approximately 21.2% of the nation’s income (as defined by AGI), yet paid 39.4% of all federal income taxes. That means the top 1% of tax returns paid about the same amount of federal individual income taxes as the bottom 95% of tax returns.

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2007/10/top-1-pay-more-.html

  41. Do you all really think it was all puppies and rainbows in the 19th Century when capitalists got away with doing whatever the fuck they pleased, up to and including murdering their workers with Pinkertonthugs if they dared asked for a union or a living wage? Give me a break.

    You left out the fact that the government was complicit in all of that. The govt. refused to protect workers and consumers from force and fraud. Kinda hard to decry these things as free market failures when said market wasn’t actually free.

  42. …and when [you] pass by a construction project there’s never just one guy leaning on a shovel.

    Actually, no, you shouldn’t see any.

    Roads are mostly built by private contractors. They don’t allow goldbricking. Hurts the bottom line.

  43. Although it looks like John may need to tweak his meds a little, I have to say I’m with him so far.

  44. Roads are mostly built by private contractors. They don’t allow goldbricking. Hurts the bottom line.

    In a lot of big cities, repairs are either done by municipal employees or by government-connected/unionized companies on a cost-plus basis.

    So, there’s lots of goldbricking going on in at least some places.

  45. Doesn’t the article seem a little lazy and self-pitying? I mean, yes, the Republicans are in trouble and the Democrats are going to run the country for a while, so the true allies of freedom must head out to the wilderness and bide their time.

    …cause, you know, they haven’t been doing that lately.

    How about stowing the self-pity and finding opportunities to work with the Dems on issues of mutual interest? I know the Republicans have said there aren’t any, but, you know, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

  46. DannyK,

    I’m with you. The Republicans should get right to the job of doubling federal funding of education and more than doubling its federal oversight. Perhaps some sort of massive new drug benefit for Medicare that marks the largest increase of entitlements in history would be a good bipartisan deal. And farmers. Can’t forget the farmers. Gotta work with the Democrats on that.

    If only the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress had increased discretionary spending as much as any congress since LBJ, everything would be just splendid.

    After all, it’s Republicans not working with Democrats that’s at the root of so many of today’s freedoms. Bush and Pelosi need to get cracking before the opportunity is lost!

  47. No you dumb ass. The same people who are so concerned about this or that person’s guilt or innocence when doing so supports their brand of political laundry are perfectly willing to support draconian measures against people with no concern for innocence or justice when doing so appeals to them emotionally and doesn’t affect their brand of political laundry.

    John, you stupid cunt.
    Your example wasn’t really indicative of this point at all. The people who by and large want everyone put on sex offenders list aren’t the same people that are are offended by the fact that innocent people are in fact locked up in GITMO. In fact, I would wager to say that the universe of people most offended by sexual indescretions intersects much more with the people that don’t give a fuck if innocent people are locked up in GITMO.

    It was probably too subtle of a point for you to grasp Tom. Since you are one of those people who checked out of reality at some point in the last 40 years, I didn’t really expect you to understand anyway. There was nothing silly about the example.

    Subtle is a very generour word. Incoherent is probably more appropriate.

    Even when you try to make a valid point your identity politics fucks it up, because you can’t resist using caricatures of “THE LEFT” as examples to prove your convoluted point, jackass.

    The issues you are complaining about aren’t political (at least not in a left/right way). The problem is that people in general have a natural tendency to do what they want while restricting others from doing what those others want to do.

  48. Ask Warren Buffet about that–his secretary pays more in taxes than he does thanks to nearly non-existant capital gains taxes, corporate tax loopholes, and payroll tax exemptions for those who make six figures and up (10% of the population, btw).

    Hee, hee. that’s funny.

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