Mitch Daniels: A Politician Who Likes Good Books


Indiana's Gov. Mitch Daniels flashes his libertarian literary cred at the "Five Books" website, telling Jonathan Rauch about his hankering for Hayek, fetish for Friedman, and passion for Postrel. Some excerpts:

Hayek…convincingly demonstrated what was already intuitive: namely, the utter futility, the illusion of government planning as a mechanism for uplifting those less fortunate….

….simplicity, clarity of the rules, a caution about over-prescriptiveness in how to achieve a certain outcome or prevent a certain externality from happening – I think I probably first saw a lot of that in Hayek. 

For instance, I remember my first day on this job [as governor of Indiana]….I went over to see our biggest regulatory agency – we had hundreds of people in the room or on the phone. It was an environmental management agency and I told them then, and I've told them since, that we did not intend to weaken or moderate a single rule that I knew of, in terms of environmental standards. But I said that what we were determined to do was to make regulation consistent, predictable and quick. We worked very hard on that. We measured to see if we were getting there. So I guess that, if you say, correctly, that this job involves overseeing necessary regulatory activity, that mentality came in some part from books like Hayek's….

I think that [Milton and Rose Friedman's] Free to Choose…expressed best to me the moral – I hate to say superiority – but the moral underpinnings of free economics, if one starts from the premise that the highest value is the autonomy and dignity and freedom of the individual. I thought it was Friedman who best summarised why that value is best protected and promoted by property rights, by free economic voluntary exchange….

Daniels also talks of what he learned from Mancur Olson and (former Reason editor) Virginia Postrel about American politics and governance:

My entire theme for years has been about making major change in our state. It was some of the books on this list that helped me to see that the real reactionary movements in a country like ours are what we call the left. These really are the forces of status quo: they may travel under different banners or masquerade as something else but these are the folks who are more often than not trying to freeze in place arrangements that worked well for the 'ins'. So Olson shows you how that happens, Postrel shows you how this happens, Hayek shows you how this happens….

I've cited [Postrel] many times in explaining to people who have looked at our approach to governance here in our little two per cent of America. They struggle to put a label on us because we look a little different and we don't throw around the terms that are usually used in politics. I sometimes use her nomenclature – dynamism versus stasism. And you're right, despite what I just said, there are plenty of people who we would describe as conservatives these days who are very uncomfortable with the risks and the uncertainties that come with an embrace of competition and change and simple rules. I think in general the Olson-like structures that we have to guard against in our country today tend to be those that favour the large interventionist state we built. I'm including here, by the way, the incumbent businesses who love the way in which it suppresses competition and puts up barriers to entry.

Nick Gillespie blogged on praise across the GOP spectrum for the value of a Mitch Daniels–who says he is not running for president in 2012.

NEXT: Ecstasy Causes a Flashback at the L.A. Times

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  1. If “Go Dog, Go” is not on his list, there’s no hope. That is the best book ever.

    1. If it’s the best book, you would show a little respect and call it Go, Dog. Go! like the actual title.

      1. Sorry…:)

        It is the best book EVER.

        1. It is quite good. 😉

          1. How does it compare to Hop on Pop?

            1. Hop on Pop is more of an introductory work. Go, Dog. Go! develops the ideas more thoroughly, and I think Eastman’s illustrations do a better job of complementing the ideas presented.

            2. It’s so tragic they way they hopped on pop.

          2. It’s my 20-mo son’s favorite book, next to Harry and The Lady Next Door.

            1. Yertl the Turtle

    2. I hope you never read Atlas Shrugged.

    3. A politician who can read?…call Ripleys’

  2. Indiana’s Gov. Mitch Daniels

    I guess they don’t know he’s a Ay-rab.

    That’s a truly great example of TEAM BLUE! thread-destruction over there. No one is talking about libertarian shit at all. Read and learn, Weigel H&R trolls.

    1. That’s just a preview. If Daniels gets anywhere near the nomination, it will be 24/7 coverage….”Would those racists Republicans actually nominate an Arab?”

    2. Ah, did you not see how white GOPers smeared Nikki Haley? Daniels is Lebanese, by the way, and his bigger problem is his time served as budget director under W.

      1. Grandson of Syrian immigrants.

      2. I thought he was Syrian. Either way, he’s a white Presbyterian from Indiana so I don’t think he really has to worry too much about his ancestry. I dare the Democrats to bring it up. Let them show just how entrenched they are in identity politics.

        1. White presby from IN? Then he’s OK…

  3. I thought it was Friedman who best summarised why that value is best protected and promoted by property rights, by free economic voluntary exchange….

    For some reason, however, neither Milton nor Rose showed the same trust in the market when it comes to money and banking.

  4. Gary Johnson is going to win in 2012 – this Hoosier fellow can have a go after that 😉

    1. I think he actually has a chance. Hell, if McCain had been a real maverick instead of a bullshit one, he’d have easily won, too. We’re getting a little tired of business as usual. And the latest iteration of “And now for something completely different” is a total farce, so I’m pretty sure a new GOP face could have an easy time of it. Obama is less than a joke now, and he’ll be even worse off in 2012. I don’t see a status quo GOPer winning the nomination, though, which means that Johnson has an excellent shot.

      1. I don’t see a status quo GOPer winning the nomination, though

        That is who generally wins the nomination. When McCain ran as a “maverick”, he lost. When he embraced the status quo, he won the nomination — then lost.

        Maybe this time will be different.

        1. he’ll lose , then win???

  5. Johnson has an excellent shot

    I’m not so sure about that. Not a church-goer, supports abortion rights…I think he has a very hard time in places like Iowa and South Carolina.

    1. And not anti-immigration enough.

    2. I think those issues will pale with his relatively anti-government positions and his desire not to wreck the economy.

      1. You are more optimistic than me on this. While I agree that the electorate is trending more libertarian now, I do think that there are still some checkboxes that need to be checked for a candidate to win a GOP primary.

        1. It depends. When the GOP owns the middle–like it will the next election and probably the 2012 election–it can get away with a somewhat more moderate candidate.

          We’ll see. I’m not getting my hopes up, just noticing that it’s actually possible.

  6. So is this the best libertarian-ish candidate for 2012 at the current time?

    I’m asking because whenever I review the political landscape I get depressed. This is despite the fact that with Obama you have a wounded political animal who doesn’t seem to realize that he’s completely lost touch with America. And unless the economy undergoes a massive rebound in the next two years (unlikely, considering his economic policies) and the oil in the gulf miraculously evaporates tomorrow he should have a very rough re-election campaign.

    But the bigger problem is that there does not appear to be a worthy challenger for non-liberals to get excited about.

    Besides the book list, does Daniels seriously have a shot?

    1. Daniels is a favorite of many GOP opinion makers and intellectuals. The establishment likes him well enough because they like winning, and he won re-election with a huge majority in a big Democratic wave year. He still is refusing to outright run for it though.

      He has pretty broad appeal among those groups, though. Consider that he has that book list mentioned, and yet still merited a Weekly Standard cover story.

      He’s the best libertarian-ish candidate who also could both win the nomination and the general.

      1. I heard a Daniels/Christie ticket mentioned.

        1. They may win but if they don’t end some wars (drugs, terror) and repeal some regs (Davis-Bacon) then what’s the point.

          1. If they aim to cut spending, those are some places that they could start, for sure.

    2. If current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama isn’t the Dem nominee in 2012. If he gets beaten in the primaries, it’s likely that black voters stay home for the general election in retaliation, which would probably doom the Dems in the general. If he voluntarily refrains from running, citing time with family or some other bull, the Dems might have a shot.

      As for who the GOP should nominate, keep in mind that at this point in the 2008 cycle it was obviously going to be Rudy vs. Hillary. So a lot can change. I wouldn’t mind Romney too much. Or Palin for that matter, but she’d be a liability against all but the weakest Dem in the general. Huckabee scares the shit out of me.

      1. Huckabee scares me too, but you’re still wrong with your flip dismissal on the Clemmons case.

        1. I wasn’t speaking specifically on the Clemmons case. I was thinking of the Wayne Dumond one, where Huckabee’s dishonest pandering shines through.

          1. Ah, well, at the same time the Wayne DuMond case also demonstrates the reverse. Libertarians and liberals who otherwise would call for more mercy after questionable evidence and a harsh punishment (including castration) wanted extra punishment because of those same political and social factors that caused Huckabee and others to advocate commuting DuMond’s sentence to time served.

            You also can’t ignore that the Arkansas parole board had previously recommended reducing DuMond’s sentence (because he had been castrated), though Governor Clinton ignored that.

            While I have no doubt that DuMond’s supposed conversion gained him support among Huckabee and others, and I don’t respect that, I also have little respect for the secular types who became less likely to advocate for DuMond’s parole due to his apparent conversion.

      2. I could probably handle Romney or Palin, because both of them seem to understand that social conservatism is not going to bring in enough independents to get over the hump.

        I also hate Huckabee, but I don’t think he has a shot.

  7. I guess the best angle to play on this board would be his college days pot bust.

  8. There just isnt anything better than a good book! Reading Harry Potter myself right now.


    1. Did you get new batteries or something?

  9. Sorry for the threadjack:

    Headline of the day

    1. This is actually worth clicking on, for those who are wondering.

      1. You’re so fucking right dude!

    2. Headline of the Year, I would think. It’ll be hard to top that one.

      1. Hard?

        Badump bump.

    3. *groan*

      Yep, it’s worth it. And not in a SugarFree, scare you straight sort of way.

      1. My aim is to scare you crooked.

        1. Crooked as an apple tree branch, I am.

          1. Years ago, on Lovelines, a guy called in with this problem and told Drew that he could get an erection but only the bottom half got hard. When drew asked him when it happen, the guy said “about six months” and asked what a doctor could about it, Drew just sort of shrugged. And told him “probably nothing.”

    4. Don’t you be sorry for that. Not at all.

  10. He blew his libertarian credentials when he said “Postrel”.

  11. Good on him for having a go. There are a lot of politicians who wouldn’t know what a book looks like.

  12. Thanks for saving the state 15million a year or roughly half of what you made in one year from Eli Lilly! Your like the character from the history of the world. I love my people, pull!

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