Economics

Reason Writers Around Town: Matt Welch & Nick Gillespie's Online Discussion of Their Wash Post Op-Ed on Obama's Flagging Agenda

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Gillespie (left), Welch (right)

On Sunday, July 19, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch wrote a Washington Post op-ed about the flagging fortunes of President Barack Obama, whose popularity has been faltering along with the prospects for many of his key legislative agenda items. Go here to read the op-ed.

On Monday, July 20, Welch and Gillespie did a live online chat with Post readers. Snippets below and here's a link to the whole thing.

Washington, D.C.: What alternatives are the GOP or Blue Dogs offering to the multiple health care plans currently under consideration in the House and Senate? What ideas do the Blue Dogs have to control costs? Are they willing to give up their pork barrel projects to help move the process along?

Nick Gillespie: I think one alternative that will gain ground is the idea of severing the tie between employer and health care in the form of killing the tax break for employer based programs. We live in a world in which individuals are expected to shop for and pay for houses, cars, retirement, you name it. We should be in charge of finding and paying for out health care. Both single-payer utopians and business interests want to can employer-based health care, so it will happen. And it will help usher in an age of actual competition for patients and cut costs while raising service. Just like it has in every other industry.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I thought your comparison of Obama to Bush on using a Crisis to jam through legislation was spot on. With Bush, everything was a security crisis and we passed bad laws. Between the media love affair with the President, the huge Democratic Congressional majority and the Republican inability to mount a real opposition, what can the average person do to make sure we aren't stuck with bad policies? I'm feeling helpless.

Matt Welch: I'm not normally in the business of advising people how to act, but since you asked, I have always heard from everyone involved in government work that one of the most surprisingly effective things a citizen can do is HARASS YOUR CONGRESSCREATURE. The House of Representatives is a sensitive organ, and when a bunch of people start shouting at a Rep about such and such policy, they tend to take note, and even change votes.

_______________________

Chicago: "Being a small government, pro-choice, pro-open borders, pro-drug legalization, etc. libertarian is for me a pre-political question."

Yeah, that's all good, but that's a pipe dream. How do you respond to the accusation that libertarians are living in a fantasy world?

Matt Welch: Guilty as charged! Which is to say, I don't wake up every morning agonizing over the gap between my wishlist and the goings-on in professional governance. I prefer the fantasy of my own tastes and instincts—and the collective fantasia of all of us doing/thinking/acting in whatever private/non-violent way we choose—over the "reality" of what is at the end of the day a cartelized racket that aims to professionalize small differences and bum me out with my own money.

(Puts down bong)

At any time, in any government, there is some belief that is so far removed from policy so as to seem impossible. And yet it becomes law within a decade. I think we're on the verge of that with legalizing pot. When that blessed day comes, we'll have the fantasy-livers, in part, to thank.

_______________________

Rolla, Mo.: Do you see escalating fiscal irresponsibility of the U.S. Government?

If so, has any portion of the government distinguished itself as less irresponsible (Democrats, Republicans, Congress, Executive, FED, Treasury, etc.)?

Do you see any way hyperinflation can be avoided?

Nick Gillespie: Like the Von Trapp family children, each branch and agency of/in government disappoints and enrages in its own special way. Under Bush we saw the GOP sell its soul (and they believe in souls!) for votes and power; the Dems came back into the majority with a frenzy of farm spending that was just awful. The boys at the Fed are always too smug for their own good, etc.

Where I do see some hope is in the electorate, which is quickly gaining an education in what happens when you cede too much control or give too much power to government. There's a reason why independents are growing in numbers and the Dems and Reps are shrinking.

______________________

For the full discussion, go here.

NEXT: Getting Sued by Musicians: A McCain-Palin Tradition

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  1. WHOO HOO!

    See that Q from Rolla MO? That’s my question! Yeah I’m a hard hitting interviewer!

    BTW, nice sidestep Nick.

  2. If you flip flop Nick and Matt’s pictures, you have a love story.

  3. Links are broken – both go to discussion.

  4. And I was finally going to read the thing!

  5. pointless aside: that photo of Matt looks like he could be a backing musician for Dave Brubeck, circa 1954.

  6. You two sure know how to milk a single WaPo op-ed.

  7. All those years of failing to Fight the Power have finally paid off.

    Regarding “HARASS[ING] YOUR CONGRESSCREATURE”, perhaps it would have been better if Welch had mentioned a more advanced, more civil, and much more effective plan than simply shouting at Reps.

  8. Please stop by our house over at Reason.com, and add your two cents in the comments section of our blog (reason.com/blog).

    New people, remember these words: shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.

  9. LoneWacko shuddered with rage. How dare they! How dare! He had been telling those stupid libertards for years to ask the right question and upload the answer to youtube. Now those useless libertards had completely sidestepped him. LoneWacko began to furiously masturbate, allowing his hatred to build to a climax which he spilled all over his keyboard. Exhausted, LoneWacko sat back in his LayZBoy recliner. Finally, LoneWacko pulled himself back to his Mac and began his one man battle all over again.

  10. I see Lonewacko as being more of an Amiga guy.

  11. I’m not normally in the business of advising people how to act, but since you asked, I have always heard from everyone involved in government work that one of the most surprisingly effective things a citizen can do is HARASS YOUR CONGRESSCREATURE. The House of Representatives is a sensitive organ, and when a bunch of people start shouting at a Rep about such and such policy, they tend to take note, and even change votes.

    I think you have to actually vote to make that threat credible. ie, don’t follow the behavior patterns of the majority of the Reason staff, who make a living pissing and moaning about how unlibertarian the government is and then refuse to perform the one action that might have an actual direct impact on government.

    Of course, then there’s Brian Doherty who not only himself refuses to vote, but considers any libertarian who votes to be a moral monster. That’s a great prescription for electoral irrelevance you guys have there.

  12. Tulpa, Amigas were often used for music, which could mean that Lonewacko had some talent. So I doubt that.

    I’m guessing a 486 Acer Wintel clone.

  13. I am so pissed at the argument that one has to vote. “Otherwise you have no say in the government and therefore have no right to bitch!” is the charge.

    I’m a Cubs fan. It’s the only group that I blindly follow. I don’t feel particularly American and I’m certainly not a Dem or Rep.

    If I go to a Braves/Mets game, as a Cubs fan, why the fuck should it matter who I want to win the game? Neither of them mean anything to me.

    Now I might vote in a “lesser of two evils” situation in which my vote could make some “difference.” Like maybe a Kerry/Bush situation, if I could have voted then I would vote for Kerry simply to break up Bush’s presidency.

    If candidates don’t represent my ideals and interests I have no one to vote for and might as well stay home on Tuesday.

  14. “If candidates don’t represent my ideals and interests I have no one to vote for and might as well stay home on Tuesday.”

    Or you can vote Libertarian as I do which I guess is about the same equivalent as staying at home.

  15. If I go to a Braves/Mets game, as a Cubs fan, why the fuck should it matter who I want to win the game? Neither of them mean anything to me.

    I’m guessing you don’t complain about what the Mets or Braves do with their victory afterwards. Not to mention that the outcome of a baseball game is far less important than the outcome of an election.

    Face it, guys. Our political system responds only to votes. If you’re not voting, and not influencing other people’s votes (which is hard to do when you’re discouraging others to vote at all!), then you’re irrelevant. If you don’t like this maybe you should find a country based on complain-ocracy instead of democracy.

  16. Here’s a compromise on the health policy issue. Enact the repeal of tax subsidies for employer-provided health insurance that Nick says is now emerging as a consensus (that would remove the original governmental mistake in our current system). Then allow five years to pass, to see what effects that repeal has on the medical insurance scene. It will certainly entail a huge decline in spending on medical services, which is what Obama says he wants. It will also eliminate the subsidization of those with insurance by those without insurance. It will sever the tie between employment and medical insurance, which all agree is a pernicious one. It may have many other benefits as well.

    To enact both that repeal AND a huge new government intervention at precisely the same moment makes no sense at any level: fiscal, political, or medical.

    Since market solutions (like health savings accounts) are always adopted piecemeal and on a pilot basis, let’s move this reform forward on the same experimental and thoughtful basis.

    This would certainly be a better approach than the mega-legislation passed in the middle of the night (as this one promises to be) that few lawmakers have read and even fewer voters understand.

  17. Full disclosure: I wasn’t old enough to vote in 2004 but would have voted for Kerry to help oust Bush.

    In 2008 I walked into the voting booth for the first time at age 21. I would have voted for Obama (although I knew he was bullshit too) to help prevent a McCain victory if I didn’t know going in that Obama was going to win by a large margin according to polls.

    I didn’t know who I was going to vote for when I went in. I sat there for a second and wrote in Ron Paul, as he most closely represented my views.

    I do understand the impulse not to vote. It’s easy to imagine throwing your hands up in exasperation and proclaiming that “I’m not gonna take this shit any more!” and refuse to play a rigged game of Politopoly.

  18. Also, there have been many Braves/Mets games that I’ve cared much more about than certain elections.

  19. I would argue that large campaign contributions matter more than individual votes do, unless there are enough votes to offset said contributions effects. But that would suggest something entirely unAmerican, so I shan’t.

  20. Campaign contributions fall into the category of influencing votes. If those dollars aren’t used to convince people to vote for you, or aren’t effective in doing so, you’re still going to lose.

    There have been plenty of elections where the better-funded candidate lost.

  21. I kind of wish I could live in your universe, Tulpa where votes determined policies.

    There is very little interest in either Dem or Republicans parties, they are courted and funded by the same interests, they respond in similar ways. I’m not saying your vote makes no difference whatsoever, I’m only saying it makes virtually no difference whatsoever.

  22. Unless you are fabulously wealthy, your campaign contributions are almost as meaningless as your vote. Corporations, labor unions and other organizations should not be allowed to make campaign contributions.

  23. Corporations, labor unions and other organizations should not be allowed to make campaign contributions

    I take it you don’t believe monetary contributions are a form of political speech and protected by the first amendment?

  24. I meant to say “There is very little difference between either Dem . . .”

  25. Campaign contributions are are just reflections of the degree of organization and size of a particular interest’s voting block.

    Individual voters matter less because they are disorganized. That’s why people form PACs and lobbies and political parties and activist groups. At which point, they become “interests”.

    It would be nice if democracy worked out in practice as a simple matter of individuals voting individually, but in reality, it is inevitable that you will get a hierarchy of political “interests” representing different factions, and manifesting their power through monetary contributions to political campaigns.

  26. Tulpa, I’m with you, but telling this crowd that is like shouting into the wind: no matter what, there are forces “more powerful” that makes them getting off their lazy asses a fruitless exercise. Coincidentally enough, they have no desire to get up anyway.

  27. Why would anyone write an Op-Ed for a disgraced newspaper like the Wa$hington Po$t? Gillespie and Matt Welch must really be desperate to prostitute themselves like this.

  28. I take it you don’t believe monetary contributions are a form of political speech and protected by the first amendment?

    First of all, no a campaign contribution is not the same thing as speech. Saying you wish someone would just die is completely different than paying someone to make it happen. Secondly, corporations and unions are not individuals. Corporations and unions don’t vote, individuals do.

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