Friday, November 28, 2008

Liberals versus the Nolan Chart

To those who followed the link here from Rational Review, I did not suggest there is an economic relationship between conservatives and libertarians. One of the links goes to an entry called "Conservatives versus the Nolan Chart" which argues that the relationship does not exist. References to that relationship in this article are meant to be used as "that one was false, what about this one?"

It's often assumed that libertarians share a civil outlook with the liberals and an economic outlook with conservatives. The economic differences between conservatives and libertarians have been documented several times here and here. That leaves the question of whether or not libertarians share a civil outlook with liberals, or if that is as accurate a representation as the economic relationship between libertarians and conservatives has proven to be.

The problem is both camps do appear to be talking about different things when the subject of civil liberty is mentioned. When California Proposition 98 was put on the ballot to oppose eminent domain, the ACLU of Southern California opposed it while the Libertarian Party of California supported it. Liberals do not seem to regard surety of property as a civil liberty, but only an economic one.

That’s the first difference. Libertarians believe you cannot have civil liberty without private property, but liberals believe the two to be entirely different and, in some cases, antithetical.

But if it were possible to separate out the economic from the civil are there differences remaining? Indeed there are, and both sides consider themselves to be on the correct side of each divide because both define the matter differently.

The biggest area of difference is freedom of association. Libertarians would not restrict distasteful choices people make. Liberals would. Both sides say that by doing so they are advancing civil liberty. For the greater good liberals are willing to eliminate freedom of association and call it racial justice, or gender justice, or some other group justice. Affirmative action programs and other similar programs will force individuals to act in ways that the liberal feels with expand civil liberty.

The libertarian feels that there is no civil liberty unless it is on the individual level, that there is no such thing as civil liberty for groups, that groups do not have rights. Libertarians feel that if the rights of the individual are diminished for the sake of any group right then the rights of all individuals are diminished.

Much like when the conservative is unable to differentiate between a libertarian and a libertine, accusing a libertarian who would never touch drugs of being a druggie since he supports drug legalization, a liberal is unable to differentiate between a libertarian and a bigot due to the libertarian's objection to the entire concept of group rights. In both cases the libertarian's position has been either misunderstood or is being distorted.

Both the conservative and the liberal in that example are ascribing to libertarians a sort of legal positivism, an ideology that is as far removed from libertarianism as it is possible to be. The legal positivist believes something good because the law says so. From a legal positivist point of view, the libertarian call to legalize drugs is the same as the libertine call to do drugs, and the libertarian call to end group rights is the same as the bigot's call to discriminate against those groups.

It’s a straw man.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Automotive Bailouts

The "Big Three" of the automobile industry are lining up to be next at the trough of government funds. For a pleasant change, Congress is insisting on knowing what the money will be spent on before wasting it on yet another bailout that will do more harm than good.

If they do not get a bailout, they will probably have to go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which will cause a restructuring of the companies and a renegotiation of the contracts. The companies will not actually disappear.

While it was the executives that went to Washington to ask for the bailout, the major supporter of the bailout is the unions.

The United Auto Workers is a very large an important union. If the "big three" go into bankruptcy, it will cause a renegotiation of the contracts they have with the unions. That will severely weaken the UAW, and through them, the unions as a whole. This comes just when the unions were eagerly anticipating the Orwellian "Employee Free Choice Act" which will greatly strengthen the unions. Just as they were expecting to increase their power is when their power was suddenly threatened.

This bailout may look like a bailout to big business, but it is more a bailout to big labor. The ability to drain the wealth of those who purchase their goods through restraint of trade being threatened, the unions are instead attempting to drain the wealth of everyone without regards towards purchases by having the government do it through taxation.

Given that the government is bankrupt and that the country is in a recession that is turning into a depression, the UAW might try to set more realistic goals regarding their ability to squeeze more money out of the consumer through anti-competitive practices. Once there are no longer any jobs, it doesn’t matter how much those jobs pay

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama the war hawk

Barack Obama has not yet been sworn in as President and already he is abandoning campaign promises.

In the primaries, when campaigning against Hillary Clinton, she ran as a staunch hawk on foreign policy issues. Obama ran a campaign opposing both Clinton and Bush by running as a peace candidate, pledging to withdraw from Iraq and to favor diplomacy over military action. By successfully tying Clinton to Bush and running against both and for peace, he was able to defeat her in the primaries.

Then, in the general election, his anti-war rhetoric was dramatically softened. He still ran on a pledge to withdraw from Iraq and to engage in diplomacy with other countries perceived as potential threats, but favored escalation in Afghanistan. That was sufficient given that his opponent publicly stated he was willing to remain in Iraq for one hundred years and joked in song about bombing Iran.

After having won the general election, Obama’s first major cabinet appointment was pro-war Rahm Emanual for Chief of Staff. Now it appears he is planning to offer the major diplomatic spot, the Secretary of State, to Hillary Clinton. The Secretary of State is the highest diplomatic office, and Obama is offering the spot to someone whose position on diplomacy is the opposite of Obama’s campaign rhetoric.

This follows quickly on the heels of his promise to not hire lobbyists, another change that he quickly abandoned. Already the special pleading has begun to explain why this shows he is showing superior judgement.

Combine his newfound hawkishness with his calls for national service, and the potential for a draft becomes quite ominous.

When Obama promised change, many people assumed he meant to change the country, but it seems that instead he proposed to change himself once elected. Which Barack Obama was actually elected, the one whose record he appears to continue or the one his supporters thought he was?

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Path Ahead

Now that the election is over, and Obama has beaten McCain, the question for libertarians is "now what?"

There are several things that a lover of liberty must do now that the socialist and reluctant warmonger beat the warmonger and reluctant socialist.

First, it is important to keep pressure on the Democrats to remember that one of the reasons Obama won their support was because he was allegedly the peace candidate. Granted that compared to McCain in the general election or Clinton in the Democratic primary he does appear to be a peace candidate, but compared to actual peace candidates like Paul or Kucinich he’s very much a hawk.

Pressure must be kept on the Democrats to actually work to disengage militarily. During the next year they are going to discover that they do like war after all, because the President leading the war effort is of their party instead of the other party. The appointment of Rahm Emmanuel to Chief of Staff is disturbing because it shows the process is already underway.

Second, all libertarians should prepare for when Obama (and a compliant congress) tries to introduce Universal Health Care or some other version of Socialist Medicine. It may even be necessary to work with the underdog Republicans on this. A necessary step for the Democrats to take if they want to implement this will be to change the cloture rules so that the Republicans cannot filibuster the proposal. Loudly and publicly proclaim any tinkering with the cloture rules to be a power grab and vociferously denounce it.

Third, be prepared to oppose calls for national service. Obama already wants us to perform national service simply in order to graduate from high school. His Chief of Staff has different plan for forcing everyone to do community service, and it is even less voluntary than the allegedly voluntary plan of Obama.

Fourth, many Obama supporters believed he was going to act in direct contrast to his record on issues other than the war, on issues like the USAPATRIOT Act and FISA Amendment, the Wall Street Crisis, and NAFTA, as well as a few others where (perhaps by accident) Obama was actually right and his supporters still believed he held the opposite view. Every time Obama acts in a manner consistent with Obama's record but inconsistent with how his supporters thought he would act is another moment to say "see I told you so." It will not likely work as on each of those positions his supporters will discover that the position Obama actually supports was what they supported all along, just like Oceana was always at war with EastAsia.

Fifth, the Republicans are busy trying to figure out where they went wrong. Be sure to tell them that they had a candidate who could have beaten Obama, and they wouldn’t even count his votes at the convention. Be sure to remind the local Republican organizations about that. Send them the message "don't blame me, I voted Paul." Even if it isn't true, because not all libertarians did so, it should be said because all Republicans need to hear that.

Sixth, work should not stop on trying to open up the electoral process, a task that is never finished.

Seventh, there will be an effort by Democrats to blame the depression on a hypothetical laissez faire attitue of Bush that must be countered at every turn. Do not allow anyone to describe the financial meltdown as the result of deregulation as Hoover leaves office and Roosevelt enters office.

Finally, never forget to ask the Reform Caucus where are the additional votes Barr was supposed to deliver.