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Category Archives: Libertarianism
Posted: July 10, 2017 at 7:43 pm
There are so many reasons to be a Libertarian in this day and age. In a nation where Republicans and Democrats each advocate for big government in their own ways, the Libertarian Party is the one true representation of pure liberty.
Libertarians promote freedom, capitalism, private property rights, and more. Likewise, Libertarians oppose unnecessary wars, statism, taxes, and the like.
People who subscribe to libertarianism believe each American is entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Espousing libertarianism will help the citizens of this nation cherish the values that America was originally founded on.
According to the Free Republic, one of the core creeds of our Founding Fathers stated that life and liberty are secure only as long as the rights of property are secure.
In essence, property rights are as follows: Americans reserve the rights to create and use goods, earn income from their productions, and distribute the goods to others if they so choose. This is a critical component of capitalism.
Detractors of capitalism assert that it is an unfair system which favors the wealthy and privileged. In reality, capitalism favors individuals who are able to produce marketable goods and services. Capitalism has engendered many Americans to escape the crippling bonds of poverty.
Libertarians are staunch defenders of a capitalist society because we realize the importance and necessity of Americans being able to engender their own wealth and success as opposed to receiving crippling government handouts.
Contrary to what many radical liberals preach, nobody is entitled to someone elses income. Becoming a libertarian opens ones eyes to all of the existing possibilities and opportunities available to those who are willing to work hard.
Just as libertarians embrace property rights, liberty, and capitalism, we also vehemently oppose destructive and anti-American forces such as wars, statism, and crippling taxes. These toxic influences are direct extensions of big government.
As stated on the foreign policy page of the Libertarian Partys official website, Libertarians aspire for America to steer clear of war. In doing so, countless fatalities and injuries will be prevented.
Quite frankly, a plethora of wars are preventable and many politicians enter them due to matters like ego.
If the United States is attacked, this nation reserves the right to defend ourselves, but if not, our leaders have no business antagonizing other countries. Imagine if everyone applied this train of thought in their daily lives. The promotion of peacefulness and individualism embodies libertarianism.
Statism and taxation are additional forces that libertarians oppose due to their devastating impacts on Americans. In essence, the state is a part of the government. From the time of its conception, the government was always meant to be controlled by the people of this nation, not vice versa. Also, taxation is merely an offshoot of statism.
Those in favor of taxation often claim that this practice is the only way in which our roads could be built or maintained. These people underestimate the power of self-interest, which Libertarian Prepper accurately pinpointed.
Business owners, shipping companies, and other free market forces will voluntary pitch in to ensure the upkeep of our roads. Additionally, roads maintained out of self-interest would most likely not be plagued with pot holes and other hazards.
Taxation is unnecessary and it steals hard earned proceeds from working Americans.
Whether or not one chooses to embrace libertarianism is entirely up to the individual. However, the decision to subscribe to a liberty minded ideology will provide a more productive worldview, encourage the pursuit of success, and prevent unnecessary conflicts.
Becoming a libertarian emboldens each and every person to embrace individualism and ultimately realize that pure liberty is what America was originally founded on.
Gabrielle Seunagal is an intelligent, witty, and iconic libertarian. She is very proud to be self-employed and happily works full time as a freelance writer. In her spare time, Gabrielle loves to read, travel, eat out, and go on adventures. You can follow her on Twitter @ClassySnobbb.
Posted: July 7, 2017 at 1:42 am
Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute recently wrote an article arguing that libertarians should abandon any arguments regarding natural rights. As Lindsey sees it, the concept of natural rights is an intellectual dead end and that adherence to natural rights arguments should be abandoned. His perspective can largely be boiled down into two categories: strategic pragmatism and the inadequacy of the natural rights doctrine in constructing a libertarian legal order.
Libertarians always have and always will debate strategy. This question is not very interesting to me as it can ultimately only be answered empirically. Lindsey argues that Instead of spinning utopias, libertarians should focus instead on the humbler but more constructive task of making the world we actually inhabit a better place. Im very open to this argument, and as soon as the Cato Institute can demonstrate that it has actually effected change in government policy in a libertarian direction, I am willing to consider capitulating to Lindseys arguments for a more pragmatic strategy. As of yet, however, his constructive approach to libertarianism has had no more reductive effects in government than the purist approach to libertarianism he loves to attack, so it is objectively impossible for him to proclaim his views to be any less utopian than the radicals who stubbornly cling to their principles.
More interesting to me is the claim that natural rights are insufficient in determining a full-blown, operational legal order. This statement is interesting because I was not aware that any natural-rights libertarian scholar ever claimed that it could. Lindsey argues that the problem lies not with the concept of natural rights, but in that concepts overextension because these principles fail to determine the specific guidelines upon which all disputes would be precisely adjudicated.
The first correction that must be made to Lindseys argument is that no serious libertarian thinker argues that natural rights are the beginning and end of libertarian legal theory. What these principles allow us to do is to establish, first, a property ethic and, from this, a theory of justice. Hans Hermann Hoppe offers what is arguably the most complete natural rights doctrine known as his Argumentation Ethics. Even natural rights libertarians who do not accept the ethics of argumentation generally agree on the principles it purports to prove: The Private Property Ethic (or, the Libertarian Property Ethic) and its logical derivative the Non-Aggression Principle, which we may call the libertarian theory of justice.
This forms an ethical basis for libertarianism without which we would have no means of determining what constitutes a libertarian position to begin with. In fairness, Lindsey is not claiming that natural rights are necessarily wrong; he is just saying that libertarians should abandon these ideas whether they are correct or not for pragmatic reasons, of course.
Brink Lindsey may desire a libertarian community that is held together only by a label representing a hodgepodge of contradictory political positions after all, this is the formula that has made the Republican and Democratic parties so successful! but we nave purists often desire something more consistent and principled to associate ourselves with, and there is no means of establishing principles aside from ethical philosophy. What the ethical philosophy of natural rights allows us to do is direct our own individual behavior according to libertarian principles and to prescribe political solutions that are ethically consistent with these principles. This does not mean that there is a precisely determined, canonical position on every conceivable issue for libertarians, but these disagreements stem from the fact that ethical philosophy can (and should) be debated. But it cannot be dismissed altogether.
However, Lindsey is correct in arguing that the establishment of this theory of justice is insufficient in determining legal structure and answering certain questions regarding positive law. He does concede that more sophisticated presentations of radical libertarianism do take note of some of these complexities but adds the caveat that they present these open questions as minor blank spaces in an otherwise determinate legal structure, to be filled in by custom or common-law jurisprudence. The problem with his objection is that this demands natural rights theory to be something more than it is intended to be. Thus, it isnt the natural rights libertarians who are overextending the theory of natural rights; it is Brink Lindsey who is doing so.
Natural rights libertarian theorists such as Murray Rothbard and Hans Hermann Hoppe also combine ethical principles with the economic methodology of Ludwig von Mises praxeology to determine what economic system is most compatible with the Private Property Ethic in maximizing prosperity (they determine, as anarcho-capitalists, that a purely free market is the most compatible with this end), and they derive from this economic framework the most compatible legal framework that, combined with the libertarian theory of justice, will most effectively handle disputes. The complete libertarian political framework provides both an ethical and a pragmatic answer to political questions, but Brink Lindsey appears to live in a world in which a libertarian must choose to deal exclusively with one category or the other. This one-sided approach to libertarianism is neither desirable nor possible (after all, even if one were to make an exclusively pragmatic argument, as Lindsey advises, then the assumption of any goodness of the results of the policies prescribed tacitly depend on some ethical value judgment to begin with).
Economic theory does not empower us to determine the specific manner in which a legal system will manifest in a given society. It simply tells us that on the assumption that human beings value peace above conflict institutions will emerge that will best facilitate the administration of justice according to the preferences of consumers. This is the economic basis for private courts.
Concomitant to private courts is the establishment of private law, which legal theorists will refer to as common law. As previously quoted, Lindsey assumes that no libertarian has ever offered any answer as to how common law will fill in the blank spaces of the otherwise determinate legal structure. This may be the case if one confines himself to the world of the Cato Institute, as Brink Lindsey appears to do in citing only Cato Institute adjunct scholars in reference to his arguments. But if he were to venture out into the wider libertarian world, Lindsey would find a plethora of scholarship on the issue of common law jurisprudence. Edward Stringham edited an entire collection of scholarly articles regarding anarchic legal theory. Bruce Benson has been conducting scholarship in this field since the 1980s, and his work The Enterprise of Law details the centuries-long Anglo-Saxon history of private dispute adjudication (this work is nearly three decades old, so it may be fair that Lindsey has not yet had time to read it). Even one of the Cato Institutes own senior fellows, John Hasnas, has written a great deal on the establishment of common law through the tort system!
Common law systems throughout history do not address rights violations in a uniform way, and it would be absurd to suggest that any theoretical system of private courts would do so either. However, what can be said is that in the absence of a coercive government, courts will manifest, there will exist an avenue for bringing perceived rights violations in front of an arbiter, and there will be a mechanism through which restitution can be enforced. Lindsey is perplexed by the fact that natural rights doctrines fail to determine the nuances of questions such as the specific boundaries of property rights (in a previous article attacking the Non-Aggression Principle, he asks How far below the surface should property rights in land extend? How high into the sky?), the extent to which a person may lawfully go in defending his or her property, or the precise magnitude of restitution paid to a victim in specific circumstances. These questions, of course, cannot be answered through natural rights theory (except for maybe the property rights one), but it is not a failure of the concept of natural rights that it cannot answer questions that lie beyond its scope! Such questions can only be answered by the individual arbiters in a given system (anarchic or not), and in the case of private law, a natural rights libertarian is in the position to contract with arbitration firms that best conform to libertarian ethics.
This last point was addressed in a simple but profound article by Ben Powell. In You Are an Anarchist. The Question Is How Often? Dr. Powell points out that, even for people who are classically liberal for natural rights reasons, No system will perfect human morality. And, because it is costly to monitor and prevent deviant behavior, some such behavior will exist under any governance system. So even a well-functioning anarchy would still have rights violations. The question remains one of comparative institutions. It would be nave to assume that even the purist libertarian political system (say, anarchy) would usher in a state of perfect and universal adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle; nirvana is not for this world. Muggers will still mug, and killers will still kill. The question is not how do we avoid these rights violations completely? The question is merely what society would best deal with them? What society would minimize rights violations? The natural rights philosophy does not give us the answers to how all the precise nuances of a legal structure will manifest, but it does give us a means of judging whatever legal systems emerge in the absence of government.
But to even ask these questions, one must first establish and defend the concept of rights at all. The libertarians who adhere to natural rights doctrines are simply arguing that in order to make the world we inhabit a better place, we have to have some means of establishing what that actually is, and that necessitates an ethical philosophy. These libertarians are not arguing for natural rights because they are libertarian; rather, they are libertarian because they recognize natural rights. Ignoring these ethics does not make libertarianism more practical, it just eliminates libertarianism altogether. All that is left in Brink Lindseys pragmatic world is the arbitrary political position that government should be smaller to some vague extent, and this would be good for reasons we have no means of offering.
Only in the world of Brink Lindsey is this approach to libertarianism more determinate than the philosophy of natural rights.
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Natural-Law Libertarianism And The Pursuit Of Justice - The Liberty Conservative
Posted: at 1:42 am
A section of the cover of Hobbes Leviathan with engraving by Abraham Bosse, 1651. Image via Wikipedia.
At first glance the fact that Donald Trump and Theresa Mays neo-Conservative agenda mixes a libertarian ideology with a strong authoritarian streak seems contradictory. In the United States we see Trump using an autocratic executive order to mandate that two rules for business must be repealed for each new one enacted in Congress. In Britain a similar mantra of a bonfire of red tape is accompanied by the attempt to use the Royal Prerogative to force through Brexit decisions. But autocracy was built into Libertarianism when it first appeared centuries ago!
It is not just in religious texts that people die and get buried only to be resurrected and live a far more celebrated second life; or at least their works do. It happened to the composer J.S. Bach, whose music disappeared for over a century before it was resurrected by Felix Mendelssohn in the mid Nineteenth Century. It also happened to a man who died just before Bach was born, the seventeenth century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes.
Ironically for one of the founders of liberal and libertarian thinking, (along with John Locke) a primary aim of Hobbes was a defence of sovereign power and autocratic government. Hobbes works include Leviathan, published in 1651 in which he developed his Social Contract Theory.
His efforts were largely aimed at opposing the radical politics which emerged during the English Civil War of the previous decade (partly as a result of the radical Leveller group) and the theories of the High Republicans during the English Commonwealth of the early 1650s (1).
Strangely, although Hobbes ideas were applicable to a Royalist settlement as well as the Council of State of their bitter opponent Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell, both sides found his views unpalatable. So, just like the work of the composer Bach, Hobbes theories fell into obscurity for over a century to be revived during the debate over American Independence in the 1770s.
So what lay behind Hobbes insistence on an absolute monarch? It comes from Hobbes concept of society which viewed people atomistically, in perpetual motion trying to gain economic advantage and influence over each other. From this a natural structure to society emerges with individuals all seeking their own best interests.
But if society is of this nature, what stops it falling apart in some kind of anarchic fight for ultimate power? Why, none other than a universally accepted absolute sovereign charged with passing and enforcing laws to ensure the continued health of the competitive system.
To keep the sovereign above the throng he or she would have the power to appoint their successor (what better than the eldest son!). Importantly, the Sovereign was not necessarily an individual in the Hobbes system, but could also be an elite ruling group or even, surprisingly, a democratically chosen chamber. What concerned Hobbes was not so much the source of the power but the absolute manner in which it was wielded.
Hobbes claimed that the legitimacy for his theory came from the freedoms which man possessed in the state of nature. But as C. B. MacPherson showed in his book Possessive Individualism, this was a fallacy.
What Hobbes did was to take the contemporary mid-seventeenth century English economic structure of small traders and freelancers and hypothesize how they would behave if laws were removed. Crucially, his version of liberty rested on the fact that a person is free to the extent that he/she is not constrained by laws; the Sovereign is there merely for the stability of society and the health of a free market.
For Hobbes, so-called freedom by non-interference was key and as freedom is maximised when the number and extent of laws are minimised, it is actually irrelevant whether the laws are passed by an elected chamber or an absolute monarch. The idea of liberty through non-interference, also expounded by John Locke, was later developed by Jeremy Bentham and became the prevalent view which still dominates today.
But it turns out that this idea of liberty is not nearly strong enough and not only must there be non-interference, but there must be no possibility of interference (so-called non-domination). Furthermore, the state itself must also be free, prevented from being subverted by individual or sectarian interests. In this view a sovereign must be restrained from creating arbitrary laws to their own advantage or blocking new laws to extend liberty in some facet of society.
Thus to a modern day British Republican (and more widely to any real Democrat as a believer of rule by the people) the mere existence of the Royal Prerogative along with Royal Assent (though not used since 1707) and Queens Consent which can be used to prevent debate in the House of Commons is unacceptable. As Philip Pettit in his book Republicanism writes:
Liberty as non-domination republican liberty had not only been lost to political thinkers and activists; it had even become invisible to the historians of political thought.
As activists we need to recover this idea of republican liberty. Remember that the theory calls for the wielding of absolute power (or as close as we can get in the form of Prerogative or Executive Order). Although Hobbes can be seen as the progenitor of the concept, modern Libertarians are actually critical of Trump and May, viewing the size of the Government they propose as being far too large. Nevertheless the autocratic Libertarian elements of both leaders must be opposed for a compassionate and fair society with effective individual rights to survive. The recent debacle suffered by Theresa may in this General Election greatly increases the chances of a successful outcome in the near future. But the ideology is as old as the hills and we can be certain that sooner or later it will flourish again.
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Trump, May, and Autocratic Libertarianism - Bright Green
Posted: at 1:42 am
Within the past week, Ive had a drastic and sudden change of heart regarding my political ideology. For years, I considered myself a Thoreauvian Minarchist, a term I made up to reflect the influence Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau had on my libertarianism. My ideology, until my recent conversion, can be summed up as a melding of the Founding Fathers rationale for the formulation of government, as can be found in The Federalist Papers, with the self-reliance and spirituality of Transcendentalism.
As Emerson and Thoreau would say, I am still following my own genius, but it has led me into a new ideological realm: modern progressivism.
First, a little background. In my extended family, my grandparents and most of my aunts and uncles are conservatives, whereas my cousins are mostly liberals. My mother is not very political, but she could be described as right-of-center, and my father is a Reagan Republican. My extended family is quite large, and we would often discuss politics at reunions. I pride myself in understanding and appreciating both left and right sides of an issue, though I typically agreed with the more conservative side; I was more or less a conservative for a long time, but became disillusioned when the size of government never shrunk when the GOP held the reins of government and studied, and then embraced, libertarianism.
However, I am jumping ship yet again. The recent political strife over repealing and replacing Obamacare has enlightened me to a fact heretofore unknown to me. In 2010, I was very much against the imposition of Obamacare, but in recent weeks Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has warned that if Obamacare is repealed, people will die.
I took a few philosophy classes in college, one of which centered on logic. By applying a critical lens to what Warren has claimed, I realized that if Obamacare is not repealed, people will not die. I may be an outlier, but I do not want to die. I eat healthy, exercise regularly, and am risk-adverse to the point of not engaging in any sport or activity that requires a helmet, I dont attend Scottish soccer matches, and I drive well below the speed limit, often with my four-ways flashing.
There is nothing wrong with changing a position upon the availability of new information. I was very critical of Obamacare upon its passage and implementation, but upon learning that Obamacare is a source of immortality, I am now one of its staunchest supporters.
When I first started seeing all these ads and interviews about people dying, I thought, Im pretty sure everyone dies eventually. Sadly, Im not as eloquent as one of my favorite writers.
Ernest Hemingway has a few good quotes about death. From A Farewell to Arms, his novel about a double-amputee: The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. But you will receive good treatment if cared for by doctors subsidized by the state.
From his essay titled, Notes on the Next War: They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for ones country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason. But if you do not die on the battlefield, rest assured Veterans Affairs will neglect you and you will perish in a waiting room from an infection caused by a routine hip replacement.
Another from a letter he wrote to his family when he was 19: And how much better to die in all the happy period of undisillusioned youth, to go out in a blaze of light, than to have your body worn out and old and illusions shattered. And it is most preferable for death to come while protesting on a college campus some conservative bastards right to free speech.
The one I relate to the most is from my favorite short story Hem wrote, Indian Camp:
Democrats/liberals/progressives/hippy douchebags, whatever you want to call them, fancy themselves as fighting for the vulnerable. To them, everyone who isnt part of the 1% are the unwashed masses littering 19th century Parisian streets. They act as though they are champions of the poor and destitute, protecting them from the indifferent landed gentry riding in their horse drawn coaches trampling beggars underfoot. And yes, I will confirm for those of you suspecting, that I just watched Les Misrables, which stars Wolverine, Jor-El, and Catwoman.
Democrats fancy themselves pro-science (jurys still out on that one), but they are definitely not pro-math, and I daresay they are not pro-reality. They piss and moan that if Trumpcare passes and envelopes Obamacare, proposed Medicaid cuts (which are just reductions in projected annual increases) would lead to poor and middle class Americans dying in the streets.
Forgive me for changing metaphors midstream, but if you desired to keep a vulnerable people afloat, as well as add to their numbers, and were capable of logic, you might try to renovate the ship so it could accommodate more passengers, or design and build a new and improved ship. You wouldnt put more passengers aboard an already sinking ship, would you?
National Review writers state, Medicaid is really the low-hanging fruit of the entitlement wars. If Congress cant reform Medicaid, how can it ever be expected to make changes to Social Security and Medicare, which have wider and more powerful constituencies? & Arkansas is taking significant steps toward reversing Obamacares devastating impact. Other expansion states should take note. Mises.org ran an article stating, Believe it or not, the data suggest that if anything, ObamaCare actually caused more Americans to die and at the Federalist, [R]esearch has shown that being on Medicaid produces no better health outcomes than being uninsured.
I never would have allowed him to treat me if he wasnt also suffering from cancer, dear old dad said. How could I trust him to know how to properly provide treatment? From years and years of medical school and practice? Are you nuts?!
And thats the way it is, as far as you know.
Image: Fox News
This post was written by Dillon Eliassen.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
Dillon Eliassen is the Managing Editor of Being Libertarian. Dillon works in the sales department of a privately owned small company. He holds a BA in Journalism & Creative Writing from Lyndon State College, and needs only to complete his thesis for his Masters of English from Montclair State University (something which his accomplished and beautiful wife, Alice, is continually pestering him about). He is the author of The Apathetic, available at Amazon.com. He is a self-described Thoreauvian Minarchist.
Read the original here:
Shortcuts & Delusions: We're All Gonna Die! - Being Libertarian (satire)
Exclusive: Libertarian Activist Austin Petersen Is Running for US Senate…as a Republican! [Reason Podcast] – Reason (blog)
Posted: July 5, 2017 at 8:42 am
Gage Skidmore, FlickrIn an exclusive interview with Reason, Austin Petersen, the second-place [*] finisher (to Gary Johnson and John McAfee) in the Libertarian Party's presidential primary, explains why he is running for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Missourias a Republican.
The controversial 37-year-old former Fox Business producer tells Nick Gillespie:
I've pounded the pavement, metaphorically speaking. I called thousands and thousands of people, and you can bet that majority of them are registered Libertarians and I asked them all the same honest question "Which party do you think that I should run under?" And they all, 98% or more, said "Run as a Republican because we need some people to get in there and to support people like Rand Paul, and Mike Lee, and others in the short term while they go out and build up the Libertarian party."...
You know, Libertarians I think, especially my supporters, they want to win. They don't want to sit back and be footnotes to history, they want to be a part of history and they kind of see me right now as a little bit of a repository for their hopes and dreams, at least in the short term so I hope to make them proud and I hope to represent our ideas well, and to give the establishment hell, and hopefully get in there and start doing what we Libertarians say we really want to do, which is to cut the size and scope of government. That's what I want, that's what my people want.
While he may have switched parties, Petersen's platform is exactly the same one he put forth while making his run at the LP nomination: He is staunchly anti-war and is calling for an audit of the Pentagon; favors school choice, drug legalization, and gay marriage; wants to simplify and reduce taxes while cutting overall spending; pushes criminal justice reform, an end to regulations large and small. He remains opposed to abortion, which is a minority position among libertarians, but calls for strong religious liberty and a total repeal of Obamacare/Trumpcare. (Go here to read Petersen's farewell letter to the Libertarian Party.)
Missouri is an open primary state, meaning that voters don't need to be members of a party to vote in its primary (August 2 in Missouri), and Petersen hopes to turn out LP members and independents for the GOP contest. The incumbent, Democrat Claire McCaskill, is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable sitting senators in the country and no high-profile Republicans have publicly entered the race. In fact, Republican Rep. Ann Wagner, widely touted as a likely challenger, has ended speculation that she would run. So Petersen's lack of experience in elected office may be less of a handicap than it would be otherwise.
[*]: The original story mistakenly reported Petersen was the third-place finisher in the LP vote.
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This is a rush transcriptcheck all quotes against the audio for accuracy.
Nick Gillespie: Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie is this is the Reason podcast. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today I'm talking with Austin Petersen, who ran for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination in 2016 and has a big announcement to make right now.
Austin, thanks for talking to us, let's get right to it. What news are you breaking on this day, the Fourth of July?
Austin Petersen: Well, on Independence Day I am announcing that I am seeking the Republican Party of Missouri's nomination for the United States Senate seat, so I can beat Claire McCaskill.
Gillespie: Okay, so we've got a lot to chew on there and we'll go through it step by step, but first is you're running for Senate against Claire McCaskill, and you are leaving the Libertarian Party in order to run as a Republican. First, let's talk about the case against the sitting Senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill. She is generally regarding as one of the most beatable Democrats in the mid-term elections. What is your case against her?
Petersen: Well, there's the easy case, of course, she was the very first person to endorse Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill. Hillary Clinton is obviously not very popular here in the State of Missouri, I think she lost to Donald Trump by somewhere around 19 points. So I think she's, you know, obviously she's very beatable. It'd be good to have a more Libertarian Republican in her place to vote on the issues that we are about.
She's not good on the issues that her base is good on, things like criminal justice reform, she's been a bit more of the drug warrior on things and so I think that someone who can come in and not only win all of the Republican votes, but some Democrat votes as well has got a really good shot to beat her.
She's very moderate in many ways and so I think given that I would be a different kind of Republican, I think that that would really make the case for me to take her out.
Gillespie: So what are your key issues, because ... Just answer that. What are your key issues in running for Senate?
Petersen: Good question. So I'm focusing on some big issues. Obviously, I want to talk about jobs, I want to talk about spending, I want to talk about debt, I want to talk about taxes, I want to talk about health care. You know, I make the joke, and we've all heard it before, but Republicans often run like Libertarians and then once they get elected they govern like Democrats. So we haven't seen a repeal of Obamacare even though President Trump has signaled that he's so exasperated, that we should just get a clean repeal, which I'm kind of excited about. I hope that happens.
I'm a victim of that legislation, my health insurance plan was canceled. I like hearing from people like Rand Paul who was a vision doctor who talks about how the free market has brought down the cost of health care, that's a big issue. I think government really gets in the way of job growth, I don't think government creates jobs. I think we need to talk about how to reduce regulations.
Gillespie: Yeah, talk ... If I can interrupt because this is, it's clear's like every poll everywhere at every level shows that, with virtually no exceptions, that jobs and the economy are the most important thing that voters care about. But from a Libertarian point of view, as you were saying, the government doesn't create jobs, the private sectors does, so what are the policies that you would actually outline that will say to people, "Hey, you know what, we're gonna do this and we're gonna get more jobs as a result," as opposed to, you know, Trump did this ... Trump and Republicans do this all the time, as well as Democrats, where they say, "Hey, look, that air conditioning plant left and they went to Mexico or they're making it in China now, I'm gonna pass laws to make sure they can't leave and they have to keep paying new jobs."
You don't subscribe to that kind of thinking, so what, from a Libertarian point of view, what are the policies that would push that would actually help the economy to create jobs?
Petersen: Yeah, well, I'd like to talk about things like occupational licensing. Obviously, I've been a big fan of a lot of the work that the Institute for Justice has done. There are a lot of areas where regulations are really hurting the little guy who's trying to get into the marketplace to do things like braid hair. I mean, how silly is it that you have to have a license to do something as simple as braid hair? And of course you had the issue with the D.C. food trucks. You know, those are local issues, but in a national campaign you can highlight those because they definitely come ... They hurt people on the local level.
But to me I think that occupational licensing is one of the big issues of the day, we need to talk about that, and it is about an overall philosophy, Nick, I mean, you know it, you've been in this for a long time because, you know, I think simple anecdotes to get the American people to kind of understand the way the government works is gonna be the best way to go. I mean, I was frequently criticized for talking in bumper stickers, but I think sometimes there was really the way that Trump with alacrity was able to describe some of the problems that we had and to address them in simple phrases or statements that, you know, maybe he could be accused of jingoism, but certainly if you say something like, if you say, "I want to live in a world where gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns," I mean, that statement, while hilarious, is also true and it allows you to talk ... sort of disarm people's hesitancy to discuss these topics.
Probably the cleanest, clearest, simplest way that I can describe the job-killing exercise here with the US government is the Grover Norquist story. You know, when you have a pool of water and you take a bucket and you dip it in one end and then you walk it around to the other end and you dump it back in have you created more volume in the pool? No you've not, but that's what government does when it taxes us first and then it says "Well we're going to create jobs over on the other end." Because in order to tax it must first destroy? Or, in order for it to create a job it has to destroy first right?
So, that's really how I'm going to picture this for the American people.
Gillespie: What are the other key issues particularly that will speak to voters in Missouri? Which, in a lot of ways, is a bellwether State. It's a microcosm of many issues and problems, and actually positive developments in America. So what are the other issues?
Petersen: Well tax is a big one. Cigarette taxes are meant to discourage people from smoking, what are income taxes supposed to stop people from doing? In an ideal world I'd like to get rid of the income tax. In the short term, as we transition that way, I was a big fan of the flat tax. 15% across the board. Get rid of all the special treatment; the handouts, the subsidies for the rich and powerful, and that's really what I'd like to do. Make it so that it's a simple flat tax.
Spending is a big issue. We have 100 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities that we have to pay. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, these are big issues obviously that Reason covers frequently.
But on the different kind of Republican pack I'd like to talk about criminal justice reform.
Gillespie: Wait, before we get off spending and we'll go to criminal justice reform in a second.
Gillespie: But let me ask you this because that of course is sweet music to my ears, and I think to all Libertarians, but is Missouri a State where they're going to be like "Oh that's great. Let's get rid of Social Security." Or "Let's get rid of Medicare." Or "Lets start unwinding this and giving people the freedom from the taxes that pay for this stuff, or the deficit spending, so they can start funding their own retirement and their own healthcare." What are the vested interests in Missouri that you'll have to convince?
Petersen: Probably not. I think that when it comes to Social Security a perfect example is if you want to introduce a moderate reform, obviously the government stole our money from us in the first place so they ought to pay it back. I mean, I think that's a reasonable position to take, but when it comes to how we might reform it I like the idea that if you're 18 years old you ought to be able to get an option to opt out. Let the young people opt out.
So that's definitely going to be a centerpiece in my campaign when it comes to reforming things like Social Security, I mean Medicare and Medicaid, they're bankrupting us so if there is not going to be some form of reform then you're going to have to vote for Claire McCaskill in some States because I'm promising to reform these programs and these entitlements.
Obviously I don't agree with these programs, but we're going to have to find some way to balance our checkbook here. Quite frankly I would much rather spend it on Welfare than I would on the overwhelming National Security State, which I think abrogates our civil liberties.
Gillespie: Is that a tough sell in Missouri?
Gillespie: To say defense spending, because we'll get to law enforcement in a second, but is Missouri a pro-military State? I mean obviously the government's been doing this for a long time and they've put Army bases and military operations everywhere.
Petersen: Absolutely. We've got an NSA center in St. Louis actually. It absolutely is an issue and quite frankly many of those people do vote Democrat for that reason. I mean, St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, these urban areas, they tend to be hubs of military activity and there's a lot of people who they work for. You know, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, and those are people who I'll have to interact with in the State.
Gillespie: What's your pitch to them to say "Hey, I'm all for economic growth and I'm all for limited government and that means you're going to be probably out of a job."?
Petersen: No actually, because you know why? Because here's the thing. We've got a step that we have to take before we really can look at substantial cuts here and this is something that's kind of flown under the radar for a little while, but why not an audit of the Pentagon? Every soldier that I have spoken, every marine, every airmen, every single person to the coast guard that I have spoken with has said there is plenty of waste, fraud, and abuse at the department of defense so if we could get an audit passed, at a minimum, we could start putting cuts where it actually matters and start cutting down on some of these private contractors where we're way overpaying. You know, there's so many no bid contracts.
So, I think that that is a sellable message here in Missouri because it doesn't strike at the heart of actual National Security and nobody disagrees that there is waste, and fraud, and abuse that is going on. So, at the minimum I can say "Well listen, why don't we pass an audit at the Pentagon then we can take a look at where the unnecessary spending is happening before I start attacking things like creating the next F15 fighter, or the F35, or upgrading that" which I think is a boondoggle, but at a minimum if we had an audit then I think we could start looking at reasonable cuts.
Gillespie: Talk about civil liberties and law enforcement and whatnot, obviously Missouri, Ferguson was there and that really touched off this latest very serious round of looking at criminal justice reform, as well as the ways in which, I mean it's mostly municipalities, gouge relatively poor people through an interlocking series of fines and petty tickets to raise revenue. Where are you there?
Well, it's funny, I went to a Jackson County Republican Party meeting. This is the county that Kansas City is in, my home county, and a very urban area and there was one black Republican, a gentleman who was there, and he said "How are we going to reach out to voters here in this district?" So I started talking about things like criminal justice reform. I started talking about things like civil liberties and he was like "That's it! That's the first time we've heard a Republican talk about this. This is the key to me getting these votes here in the inner city." He wants to get Republican votes in places like Kansas City and St. Louis where his friends, and his family, and his neighbors, and his church say "We can't vote for a Republican because they don't agree with us on any of the issues."
But, if we want to penetrate into some of these blue counties here in Missouri then we're going to have to start talking about these issues. Things like mandatory minimums. Obviously that's an issue where we have gotten away from original intent. You know, we're taking the power away from the judiciary and we're giving it to the legislative branch. In essence we're saying we don't trust judges right? So I think from a Conservative point of view the Conservatives are going to like that because you're saying, essentially, that you're talking about original intent, you're talking about checks and balances.
So, I think that that could sellable message because you can not win this Senate seat here in Missouri without some support from the urban areas. So a traditional Republican it might be more challenging, but for a Libertarian Republican, like myself Nick, there might be an opportunity here.
Gillespie: What about school choice? Does that play well throughout Missouri because I've noticed, and I'm talking to you from I live part time in Oxford, Ohio. Ohio and Missouri, you know, there's differences but they're kind of Mid-Western States and one of the things that I've always found kind of interesting is that a lot of Republicans, at least in Ohio, are big government Republicans. They don't want to see the schools have to compete for students. They're happy with them the way they are.
Petersen: It's popular here. Missouri Senators actually approved an education proposal in April that would allow tax credit education savings accounts for some students. They would allow them to transfer away from low performing districts and schools. We've had a major failed experiment with Magnet Schools here in the city of Kansas City. It was a huge experiment. I remember when I was a kid, actually, my parents were talking about sending me to these Magnet Schools and they had all these special busing programs where they would come all the way out to the suburbs and bus all these kids and it just failed spectacularly, because again, it was a centrally planned experiment.
So, in Missouri actually they are looking at these kinds of programs so I think that it is palatable here. Missouri is kind of a funny State because it's a red State, but the Democrats here are pro-gun and they're much more blue dogs. They're more Conservatives. They're Conservative from a social standpoint, in many ways right?
Conservatism here is a major factor in both parties and the Democrats that I speak to tend to be very moderate so there's a very rare opportunity here in the state of Missouri because when you look at school choice and things like that they actually got a lot of Democrat votes too because it was like a 20 to 12 vote so there were several Democrats who were brought on board under that.
Gillespie: How do things match up in other kind of traditional culture war issues? Things like abortion, and gay marriage. I know you were among the Libertarian Party Presidential candidates, if not the only, you were certainly the most outspoken pro-life candidate. How does that play in Missouri, and then what about things like gay marriage and drug legalization?
Petersen: Okay, so I have to tackle each one of these individually.
Petersen: So when it comes to abortion, no question does it increase my support tenfold. Missouri, again, is a very traditional Conservative State and out of the 4,000 or so phone calls that I've made in the last eight weeks I've spoken to many voters in Missouri, including some progressive Democrats. I mean, I actually met a full blown Socialist at a Black Lives Matter rally here a few weeks ago. He said he would have voted for me because he was Catholic. He's like "I'm a Socialist because I'm Catholic, but I like you because you're pro-life."
I'm like "Okay, well that's an interesting little situation there." But, Missouri voters having a tag line where I say "I'm pro-life, pro-liberty, pro-Constitution." I think it instantly galvanizes their support in many ways. We don't get too often into the nitty gritty details, I was at a Republican meeting in rural districts a few weeks ago and abortion was a big issue and they were talking about what the Missouri legislature is attempting to do with trying to make it so that you can refuse to sell land to Planned Parenthood where before it was an issue where if you are making a public sale of land then you couldn't discriminate so they're trying to change that on the State level.
So, it is a big issue here in Missouri and one that resonates, and quite frankly I believe that human life ought to be protected, that is a human life, and I can make that argument from secular viewpoint, which I actually think a lot of Conservatives really appreciate because they've been harangued by the secular left as if abortion was a question of religion, when to me I think it's just a simple straightforward of whether or not it is human child and whether or not all human children deserve the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You know, we could talk about that for an hour, but moving on to the next issue ... You had like three questions there Nick and I want to address them. What was the second one on the social side?
Gillespie: Drug war?
Petersen: Gay marriage!
Gillespie: Or gay marriage
Petersen: I think you said gay marriage.
Gillespie: And drug legalization.
Petersen: You know what I said the other night was, I was at a Republican meeting and I said "I like to describe myself as fiscally conservative, and socially it's none of the governments damn business." And that got a huge applause because I think innately the Republicans here in Missouri don't want the government involved in their personal lives.
Now, sometimes there's a bit of cognitive dissonance where they may say "Well we totally disapprove of gay marriage." But, when I propose the Libertarian solution to marriage, when I say "I think that the government ought to be out of the marriage business entirely." I mean, overwhelming support.
Petersen: Yeah, go ahead.
Gillespie: But the government is not going to be out of the marriage business. So, in the context of until it is, should gay individuals, gay and lesbians, be able to get married?
Petersen: Yeah. Absolutely.
Petersen: I'm not going to back away from who I am or what I believe.
Gillespie: No, but do Republicans dig that or are they kind of like "Oh yeah, that's why I hate Libertarians."?
Petersen: No, the only time that I have seen some push back ... I think the gay marriage thing is just over. I think that they have accepted the Supreme Courts decision. I mean I think that the drug issue is going to be harder. That is when they're like "Oh yeah, there goes 'What is Aleppo?' You guys just want to legalize weed. That's all you care about. You're going to lose because of this issue." Blah, blah, blah, blah.
Well the truth is Nick, because what's right isn't always what's popular and what's popular isn't always what's right. You're not going to get reform in this country if you vote for the same old, same old. You know, a good friend of mine just died three weeks ago because you took some drugs and, yes, she was personally responsible but she took something that was laced with some counterfeit material and now she's dead because the prohibition makes these drugs more dangerous.
I mean, prohibition has done nothing but create ... Its been a war on our own people. Its been a costly, blood war, and its done nothing but divide this country up. If you want to talk about hatred, if you want to talk about why this country is divided, it's because people see this war on drugs as a war on our own people. Its hollowed out our urban communities and now they're hyping the next thread, which is the opiod epidemic. You know, my State is going after opiod manufacturers and I'm sitting here saying "Okay, well then you're going to have to go after the gun manufacturers next because they're the ones precipitating the gun crisis."
I think there are some ways, some palatable ways, to make these connections, but at the end of the day Nick I'm running as myself and what I believe and that won't change.
Gillespie: So, you are running as a Republican. Talk about why the shift into the Republican Party after a strong showing in your first shot at getting the LP Presidential nomination. Why a Republican?
Petersen: Well, there wasn't violent resistance to my candidacy, but there was a strenuous resistance to my candidacy and some for what could be perceived absolutely as legitimate reasons. You know, your first time around, fairly pretentious, I completely understand that. I did believe that Gary was not the strongest candidate so I thought he deserved a little bit of competition, which I think is healthy.
But, in terms of why I'm doing this, why I made this decision, quite frankly, I sat down for two months Nick and I've pounded the pavement, metaphorically speaking. I called thousands and thousands of people, and you can bet that majority of them are registered Libertarians and I asked them all the same honest question "Which party do you think that I should run under?" And they all, 98% or more, said "Run as a Republican because we need some people to get in there and to support people like Rand Paul, and Mike Lee, and others in the short term while they go out and build up the Libertarian party."
I'd like to see a healthy, thriving Libertarian Party. I've spoke to the Libertarian Party of Missouri, I spoke to an official here, I guess he's a former official, he stepped down just recently, and I asked him what my options were. We seriously considered running in the Libertarian Party here. We very seriously considered it. Well, what our options would be, and the Missouri Libertarian Party explicitly stated they had no resources, not get out the vote resources, no capability to offer us to have any sort of a structural campaign in order for us to bring anything resembling a Libertarian victory here in the State of Missouri. I think the best case scenario would have been 11%, which would have been a monster blowout in Libertarian terms but still a major loss.
You know, Libertarians I think, especially my supporters, they want to win. They don't want to sit back and be footnotes to history, they want to be a part of history and they kind of see me right now as a little bit of a repository for their hopes and dreams, at least in the short term so I hope to make them proud and I hope to represent our ideas well, and to give the establishment hell, and hopefully get in there and start doing what we Libertarians say we really want to do, which is to cut the size and scope of government. That's what I want, that's what my people want.
Gillespie: So, reducing the size and scope of government is a pretty good shorthand of what Libertarian governance is about, and you talked about being "fiscally conservative and socially it's none of your damn business." Those are pretty good definitions of Libertarianism. How will work to move the GOP in Missouri and possibly further, you know, both through your campaign and then if you win. How do you move that more in Libertarian direction?
Petersen: Well, without playing my hand too much here Nick, what I can tell you is that Rand Paul Republicans played an important role here in the State of Missouri actually. If you kind of go back and look at the nitty gritty there were some Rand Paul sweeps in many of the primaries out here in Missouri. As a matter of fact I've met many elected county officials here in the State of Missouri who specifically got their positions because they were pushing for Rand Paul in 2008 and 2012.
And Ted Cruz, actually a traditional conservative did pretty well. He almost beat Donald Trump in the primary here, so there is a strong streak of true traditional, I guess I wouldn't necessarily Burkean Conservatism, but I mean it's definitely a traditional conservatism of the Rand Paul, Ted Cruz bent.
So, it's actually not a tough sell. I've been getting emails from dozens and dozens of Rand Pauler's who are in their party officials, there actually have been Libertarian Republicans who have been elected on the State level. I spoke to a person who is in the State legislature who has told me that he was going to endorse me if I had won the Libertarian Parties nomination, so there are actually quite a bit more of us than I even expected because as soon as it was rumored I started getting pounded from all these State Counties, from all these officials, and we may even get an endorsement from a high level official here in the State of Missouri.
Gillespie: Who would that be?
Petersen: I'm afraid I can't say because ... I know, I would love to break news for you.
Gillespie: I don't know, I feel like you're stringing like me along. Well who are your likely opponents for the GOP bid? I mean I know Representative Ann Wagner is talked about a lot. She's a Congresswoman from Missouri, and then people are floating names like the former NASCAR driver Chris Edwards. Who are your opponents and how are you going to handle them before you get to the big show?
Petersen: Well, I'm a little shocked to report Nick that it looks as if Ann Wagner has dropped out. This is, I mean by the time the listeners are hearing this it will be everywhere, but Ann Wagner appears to not want to lose her seat in St Louis, and I've also heard that perhaps Josh Holly might not run as well. It seems Carl Edwards, I've heard that he might be going back to NASCAR.
Gillespie: Oh, Carl Edwards, yeah. Okay, so you are scaring everybody out of the race?
Petersen: That's what we believe, yeah.
Gillespie: They're getting out of the pool? Okay.
Posted: July 4, 2017 at 7:45 am
Viking, AmazonAs its title suggests, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, by Duke historian Nancy MacLean, is filled with all sorts of melodramatic flourishes and revelations of supposed conspiracies. Chains, deep history, radicals, stealthis this nonfiction or an Oliver Stone film? Even the cover depicts a smoke-filled room filled with ample-chinned, shadowy figures! This book, virtually every page announces, isn't simply about the Nobel laureate economist James Buchanan and his "public choice" theory, which holds in part that public-sector actors are bound by the same self-interest and desire to grow their "market share" as private-sector actors are.
No, MacLean is after much-bigger, more-sinister game, documenting what she believes is
the utterly chilling story of the ideological origins of the single most powerful and least understood threat to democracy today: the attempt by the billionaire-backed radical right to undo democratic governance...[and] a stealth bid to reverse-engineer all of America, at both the state and the national levels, back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of midcentury Virginia, minus the segregation.
The billionaires in question, of course, are Koch brothers Charles and David, who have reached a level of villainy in public discourse last rivaled by Sacco and Vanzetti. (David Koch is a trustee of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website; Reason also receives funding from the Charles Koch Foundation.) Along the way, MacLean advances many sub-arguments, such as the notion that the odious, hypocritical, and archly anti-capitalistic 19th-century slavery apologist John C. Calhoun is the spirit animal of contemporary libertarianism. In fact, Buchanan and the rest of us all are nothing less than "Calhoun's modern understudies."
Such unconvincing claims ("the Marx of the Master Class," as Calhoun was dubbed by Richard Hofstadter, was openly hostile to the industrialism, wage labor, and urbanization that James Buchanan took for granted) are hard to keep track of, partly because of all the rhetorical smoke bombs MacLean is constantly lobbing. In a characteristic example, MacLean early on suggests that libertarianism isn't "merely a social movement" but "the story of something quite different, something never before seen in American history":
Could it beand I use these words quite hesitantly and carefullya fifth-column assault on American democratic governance?
Calling attention to the term's origins to describe Franco's covert, anti-modern allies in the Spanish Civil War, MacLean writes
the term "fifth column" has been applied to stealth supporters of an enemy who assist by engaging in propaganda and even sabotage to prepare the way for its conquest. It is a fraught term among scholars, not least because the specter of a secretive, infiltrative fifth column has been used in instrumental ways by the powerful such as in the Red Scare of the Cold War era to conjure fear and lead citizens and government to close ranks against dissent, with grave costs for civil liberties. That, obviously, is not my intent in using the term....
And yet it's the only term up for MacLean's job, since "the concept of a fifth column does seem to be the best one available for capturing what is distinctive in a few key dimensions about this quest to ensure the supremacy of capital." Sure, "fifth column" is a dirty, lowdown, suspect term among historians because using it trades in hysteria at the service of the ruling class rather than rational analysis intended to help the downtrodden. But come on, people, we're in a twilight struggle here, with a movement whose goals have included, among other things, ending censorship; opening the borders to goods and people from around the world; abolishing the draft and reducing militarism; legalizing abortion, drugs, and alternative lifestyles; reforming criminal justice and sentencing; focusing on how existing government operations, especially K-12 schools, have hurt poor and minority Americans; and doing away with occupational licensing and other barriers to entry for business owners, among other things. So much for hesitation on MacLean's part. Fifth column it is! As for carefulness, it's worth noting in passing that MacLean identifies former Attorney General Ed Meese and foreign-policy hawk Bill Kristol as libertarians, which must be as much of a shock to them as it is to, well, actual libertarians.
Clearly this sort of book, published by a major house (Viking) and written by an eminent historian (MacLean is a chaired professor at Duke and author of highly regarded books), is ideological catnip to people who dislike libertarianism and its growing influence in politics and culture. At the increasingly hard-left New Republic, Alex Shephard introduces an interview with MacLean by writing that Democracy in Chains "exposes the frightening intellectual roots of the radical right, as well as its ultimate ambition: to erode American democracy." At NPR, novelist Genevieve Valentine writes
As MacLean lays out in their own words, these men developed a strategy of misinformation and lying about outcomes until they had enough power that the public couldn't retaliate against policies libertarians knew were destructive. (Look no further than Flint, MacLean says, where the Koch-funded Mackinac Center was behind policies that led to the water crisis.)
Let's leave aside the fact that Flint's water supply contamination was due to decades of local mismanagement and a stimulus project gone wrong, hardly the sort of thing that mustache-twirling libertarians espouse. And let's ignore the shibboleth Koch-funded for the time being (go here for a realistic appraisal of the Kochs' influence on the modern libertarian movement). Democracy in Chains is chicken soup for the souls of liberals, progressives, and members of the "resistance" who want to believe that libertarians don't just want to destroy or reform ineffective and inefficient public-sector agencies and institutions, but actually want to kill people or destroy them irreparably. Because really, how else can you make a buck in a free market, right?
If liberals and leftists are uncritically celebrating MacLean's attack, scholars and writers with specific and general knowledge of Buchanan's work and libertarianism are taking a more jaundiced view. Reason will be publishing a review-essay in the coming weeks but in the interim, here's a survey of some of the sharpest rejoinders to date.
Historian Phillip W. Magness, trained at Buchanan's former perch of George Mason University, takes particular issue with MacLean's linking of Buchanan to characters such as Calhoun and the poet Donald Davidson, the leader of the self-styled Fugitives and Agrarians in the 20th-century South. Like Calhoun, the Agrarians treated capitalism and modernity with contempt, as a sort of mirror image of an equally soulless and totalitarian communism. MacLean asserts that Davidson, who railed against an increasingly centralized "Leviathan" state, was central to Buchanan's worldview. But Magness notes that Buchanan never studied with him nor ever quoted him in his collected works. As with her non-hesitant, careless use of "fifth column," MacLean's real purpose in linking Buchanan with Davidson is to smear the former. Writes Magness:
MacLean has a very specific reason for making this claim, and she returns to it at multiple points in her book. The Agrarians, in addition to spawning a southern literary revival (the novelist Robert Penn Warren was one of their members), were also segregationists. By connecting them to Buchanan, she bolsters one of the primary charges of her book: an attempt to link Buchanan's economic theories to a claimed resentment over Brown v. Board and the subsequent defeat of racial segregation in 1960s Virginia.
In another post, Magness notes when MacLean tries to link Buchanan to Calhoun, she instead starts citing work by Murray Rothbard, who actually was harshly critical of Buchanan. This sort of slippery maneuver permeates Democracy in Chains, as Case Western's Jonathan Adler documents at the Volokh Conspiracy blog in The Washington Post. At Medium, Russ Roberts writes about MacLean's treatment of George Mason economist Tyler Cowen, who also directs the Koch-funded Mercatus Center. MacLean suggests that Cowen welcomes the weakening of governmental checks and balances because doing so supports her thesis that libertarians want to take over the government by "stealth." As Roberts points out, MacLean is guilty of intellectual malpractice:
MacLean left out the word "While" that begins Cowen's sentence. Then she left off the key qualifier that completes the sentencethe point that the downside risk of weakening checks and balances is substantial. There is nothing here suggesting Cowen is in favor of weakening democracy or the Constitution. By quoting only a piece of Cowen's sentence, MacLean reverses his meaning.
Unfortunately, MacLean does not just quote Cowen out of context. She ignores anything in Cowen's essay that conflicts with her portrayal of Cowen as a sinister enemy of American institutions and democracy.
MacLean's Duke colleague, the political scientist Michael Munger, has authored the most exhaustive and harshly critical review of Democracy in Chains to date. Writing for the Independent Institute, Munger damningly characterizes the book as
a work of speculative historical fiction. There is considerable research underpinning the speculation, and since MacLean is careful about footnoting only things that actually did happen she cannot be charged with fabricating facts. But most of the book, and all of its substantive conclusions, are idiosyncratic interpretations of the facts that she selects from a much larger record, as is common in the speculative-history genre. There is nothing wrong about speculation, of course, but there is nothing persuasive about it either, in terms of drawing reliable conclusions about history.
The entire essay comes as close to required reading as any libertarian would decree. Munger is not simply scoring points or picking apart the argument made by someone from a different tribe or camp; he's actually laying bare how ideologically motivated texts paper over gaps in evidence and logic by focusing on small details to the exclusion of actually giving an accurate view of the larger picture. In the grip of a thesis she wants to be true, MacLean simply sifts through huge amounts of data and evidence, keeping only small chips of bones and fossils that she can use to construct a skeleton with which to scare people who already agree with her.
The contribution of Democracy in Chains...is to do two things...: Identify James Buchanan as the focal point of the revolution, and identify the content of Public Choice research and teaching as anti-Constitutional and anti-democratic.... Buchanan did not believe in unlimited majority rule. But then, as Buchanan often rightly said, nobody believes in unlimited majority rule. Democracy is and must be a balancing of, on the one hand, the rights of minorities, and, on the other, the ability of the majority to have its way within the domain established as "political" by the constitution. That's another thing that is remarkable about Democracy in Chains: MacLean does not assign Buchanan a straw man position. She (correctly) gives Buchanan's position as being the mainstream view, the one that everyone actually agrees with. And then she tries to defend the straw man position, the one that no one actually believes. Remarkable. The position she assigns Buchanan is this: He thought that democracy should be limited, to protect minorities. Um...okay. Yes, that's right. We all believe that.
Which isn't to say that Munger finds no value in the book:
Democracy in Chains is well-written, and the research it contains is both interesting and in many cases illuminating. But as an actual history, as a reliable account of the centrality of the work of James Buchanan in a gigantic conspiracy designed to end democracy in America, it turns far away from its mark. It is the story of an alternative past that never actually happened.
Despite its central failings, I too found the book interesting, if mostly as a way of understanding the ways in which libertarian thought is considered by those hostile to it. Ultimately, Democracy in Chains reveals less about a not-so-shadowy group of people who, as a t-shirt puts it, are "diligently plotting to take over the World and leave you alone" and more about progressives and liberals who choose to live in a dream world.
Other takes worth a read include ones by Jonah Goldberg, David Bernstein, David Henderson, Steve Horwitz, and Jason Brennan.
Posted: July 1, 2017 at 8:46 am
In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid theres that great bit about the super-posse that chases the outlaws. Theyre led by a legendary law man, Joe Lefors, and an Indian Scout (Lord Baltimore), who can follow horse tracks over rock and water.
I mention this because if I were Nancy MacLean, Id much rather have Lefors and Lord Baltimore coming after me than to have Don Boudreaux, Steve Horwitz, Jonathan Adler, Russ Roberts, and the rest of the libertarian super-posse on my ass.
You may have missed the story. The short version is that historian Nancy MacLean has written a book, apparently with some government funding, in which she argues that Nobel Prizewinning economist James Buchanan was part of a Kochtopussian Kabal of Konfederates who were direct intellectual descendants of the Southern Agrarians and the champion of slavery, John C. Calhoun.
I first heard about the book almost two weeks ago, and my immediate response was to roll my eyes (figuratively speaking). I figured the book would vanish from the radar because it all sounded so silly. David Bernstein had a similar reaction:
When I first came across this book and interviews with its author, I was immediately skeptical. For one thing, Ive been traveling in libertarian intellectual circles for about three decades, and my strong impression is that Buchanan, while a giant in economics, is something of a marginal figure in the broader libertarian and free-market movements.
Now, I am at best a fellow traveler in those circles, but Ive been writing about and, on occasion, arguing with, libertarians for a couple decades. And while Buchanans name came up every now and then, I had never once heard even the suggestion that he was a kind of intellectual lodestar for political libertarianism never mind that he was part of some reactionary Confederate tradition. He was that brilliant public-choice-theory guy. (As Bernstein notes, Buchanan gets a few respectful cameos in Brian Dohertys exhaustive history of libertarianism and thats about it).
MacLean has gotten herself into hot water because its already clear she cut a lot of corners, quoting people out of context, asserting intellectual lineages that do not exist, and other misdeeds. Russ Roberts, who is a kind of libertarian Gandhi strictly adhering to a policy of rhetorical non-violence started things off with his defense of Tyler Cowen, who MacLean essentially defamed. Worse, Don Boudreaux, the brilliant and tenacious libertarian scholar and cheeky letter writer, is now coming after her and her enablers like a spider monkey.
As my friend Steve Horwitz writes:
Finding examples of misleading, incorrect, and outright butcheredquotes and citations in Nancy MacLeans new book about James Buchanan, Democracy in Chains, has become the academic version of Pokemon Go this week.
Im all for fact checking her footnotes and outrageously misleading quotations. Every time I see a new one, I link to it on Twitter with the prediction, There will be more. And there will be. There will be for the simple reason that MacLean takes Buchanans life and libertarianism, generally out of context in order to argue that libertarianism is against democracy and that sinister libertarians have been scheming to tear it all down. In other words, you have to take quotes and facts out of context if you start with a premise that takes Buchanan out of context.
To be sure, theres an anti-democratic element in some corners of libertarianism, but as far as I can tell, that is true of every single political philosophy save pure majoritarianism. And, unlike pure majoritarians, libertarians are far more concerned with freedom and equality because they understand unrestrained majorities tend to treat minorities very poorly, particularly the minority of the individual.
Indeed, this is all downstream of the century-old effort to turn Herbert Spencer into some kind of monster because he opposed governmental social engineering. The idea seems to be that because the statists are good, anyone who opposes them must be evil.
The contemporary liberal obsession with claiming that their ideological opponents must be somehow in league with, or modern-day reincarnations of, Klansmen and slavers is just another manifestation of this old, self-indulgent smear. Its a bit like MacLean set out to reach that destination. When she realized she couldnt get there by conventional navigation, she put a magnet marked Calhoun! or Slavery! next to her compass, and that did the trick.
Conservatives are bit more accustomed to this sort of thing. Ramesh and I beat back a similar attempt to claim that modern conservatism is a Calhoun cult a few years ago.
But I think the assumption behind both efforts is very much the same: Anyone who disagrees with us must not simply be wrong, they must be evil. And taking shortcuts to expose evil is no vice.
View original post here:
Nancy MacLean's Ideologically Motivated Shortcuts - National Review
Posted: June 30, 2017 at 4:44 pm
Fabio Ostermanns office in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre boasts a bookshelf with rows dedicated to Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises. On top sits a copy of the American Declaration of Independence, a ukulele and a cartoon blow-up doll of Brazils former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, dressed in the black-and-white stripes of a prison uniform, sporting an inmates number.
Over the former presidents mouth, it reads Menos Marx, mais Mises less Marx, more Mises, the latter referring to libertarian pioneer Ludwig von Mises.
Ostermann, 32, is a key player in Brazils growing libertarian movement, which has risen against a backdrop of the countrys collapsing left. Hes led youth groups on college campuses, co-organized some of the countrys largest-ever protests which may have helped impeach the countrys leftist president, Dilma Rousseff. Now, hes the president of the Social Liberty Party in his home state, which he is reforming to defend classical libertarian ideals.
He ran and lost for mayor of his hometown of Porto Alegre, but now has his eye on a lower house seat in 2018 and on launching a larger campaign in next years presidential and congressional elections to occupy the political vacuum created by the lefts disintegration with a rebranded, youthful, American-influenced libertarianism. Ostermanns brand of libertarianism calls for widespread privatizations, deregulation of the economy and open trade markets. Hes pro marijuana legalization and favors gay marriage. Sound familiar? For Americans, it should: Ostermann was trained by the United States most influential libertarian organizations the Cato Institute, the Atlas Network and the Charles Koch Foundation. The latter, a grant-distributing organization, was founded by Charles Koch, one of the famous Koch brothers, who own the second-largest privately held company in the U.S. and are best known for using their vast fortune to support right-wing political causes.
It Americanizes our political debate.
Camila Rocha, Ph.D. student studying the emergence of libertarian think tanks in Brazil
Ostermann, once a left-leaning law student (like many young people at the time, as he puts it), found his way into the D.C. think tank scene, as he says, after finishing university in Brazil. He took a course on libertarian theory with Cato and earned a Koch summer fellowship to work at the Atlas Network. Newly evangelized, Ostermann returned to Brazil in 2009, where he co-founded Estudantes pela Liberdade the Brazilian chapter of Students for Liberty, another U.S.-based libertarian group.
The organization had matured in time for 2013s mass protests over increasing bus fares, dissatisfaction with government services and Rousseffs reelection. We saw an opportunity, he says. From that came the Free Brazil Movement. They started rallying hard to impeach Rousseff. On March 15, 2015, Free Brazil and other organizations mobilized 3 million people to protest in 229 cities across the country the largest protest since the fall of the military dictatorship in 1985. The rest is history. Free Brazil remains controversial, in part for protesting Rousseff so heavily without levying the same criticisms against right-wing President Michel Temer. Ostermann has since left. The group has splintered, and he reflects that the group became too partisan, with some of its leaders cozying up to traditional political parties.
This makes Ostermann part of an increasing number of Brazilians who are coming of age in the image of American libertarian think tankers. Atlas, for instance, holds an increasing presence in Brazil, where it offers several online and in-person seminars in Portuguese. Skeptics see the ideological cultural exchange as nothing new. I think its just continuing a tradition; Americans have always manipulated us, says Juremir Machado da Silva, a columnist and radio show host, citing the U.S. alignment with Brazils military dictatorship.
Camila Rocha, a Ph.D. student at the University of So Paulo whos studying the emergence of U.S.-style libertarian think tanks in Brazil and Latin America, says Atlas teaches young Brazilians how to found think tanks, manage libertarian organizations, develop an internet presence and, crucially, become what she calls a polemista (a polemic figure) via op-eds and media appearances. Between Atlas and Cato, theyve trained many of the leaders of Brazils new right wing. It Americanizes our political debate; it brings those proposals to the Brazilian context, Rocha says. Libertarianism itself is something that never even existed in Brazil, this ultra-individualist vision. She cites the calls for privatization sans regulation. And they call for privatizations of sectors in Brazil that have always had the consensus they should be public and free, like education and health care.
But American-imported or not, Ostermann speaks about policy in his national context. If elected, Ostermanns first policy order of business would be the mass privatization of Brazils $70 billion-plus social safety net. He supports voucher systems for private schools and health care. I dont think the government has the competence or capacity to manage these services in a country as chaotic as Brazil, he says, though hes happy to let the government spend on sanitation, security and basic infrastructure. (That doesnt include soccer stadiums, he adds, in sardonic reference to some $25 billion spent on the World Cup and the Olympics in 2014 and 2016 though that number is frequently contested in Brazil.)
When talking marijuana legalization, he situates his pro stance in response to Brazils bloody drug landscape, where drug crime causes near-constant violence in urban centers. In 2015, Brazil had more than 56,000 homicides, landing it the worlds highest murder rate in terms of absolute numbers, which in large part is due to drug-related crimes. In turn, Brazil also has the worlds fourth-largest prison population. To leave drug traffickers and cartels to have a monopoly over marijuana is a crime against society and an ineffective way to spend taxpayer money, he says.
Ostermann defends this latter stance despite the fact that it may have lost him his race last year. Its his obsession with ideological purity that might keep him and his party from finding success. I think Brazil isnt prepared for this Brazilian politics is very polarized right now. Its black and white, right or left, says da Silva. To voters, I think he comes across as too in the middle; he wants to be both at the same time this discourse in Brazil doesnt stick.
Posted: at 4:44 pm
ReasonGary Johnson's back! (To the political advocacy game, anyway.) So, are libertarians greeting the two-time former Libertarian Party nominee for president with open arms? Not unanimously, no.
Over at Rare, the always-interesting Jack Hunter, who is close to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), has a scathing piece headlined "Please, Gary Johnson, stay the hell away from politics." Excerpt:
[W]hen Reason reported on Thursday that Johnson was returning to politics, I did not rejoiceI recoiled.
Johnson had his chance, the biggest chance the Libertarian Party will likely ever have in our lifetimes, and his campaign did more to diminish liberty than promote it. Johnson's simple 2016 task was two-fold: First, present libertarianism coherently, and hopefully, attractively. Second, don't look like an idiot.
He failed on both.
Hunter mostly leans on the "Aleppo moment" and related flubs, and while those errors were almost all self-inflicted, highlighting the candidate's self-acknowledged limitations as a public speaker (a real hindrance when public speaking is about your only campaign weapon), I am convinced that even the most smooth-tongued of L.P. candidates (Larry Sharpe, anyone?) would have been excoriated as a gaffe-making weirdo or dunce in September 2016. Why? Because the presidential race was tightening (boy was it ever), debate season was imminent, Johnson's poll numbers at that point had failed to experience the usual third-party summertime fade, newspapers were starting the make their general election endorsements (including for the Libertarian), and the journalistic Left was throwing everything it could think of at a guy they feared was wooing too many impressionable young'uns.
Tom Steyer would have spilled tens of millions in swing states that autumn against any Libertarian candidate polling at 9 percent, and that money would have been converted into attack pieces on any John, Austin, or Darryl. (Speaking of which, do we really think that the L.P. alternatives would have polled or media-accessed anywhere near TeamGov?) Donald Trump had several more egregious foreign policy brainfarts than "Aleppo," and Hillary Clinton's actual (and unapologetic) policy record helped produce the very chaos that Johnson was being criticized for not understanding, but the media didn't care about any of that: September 2016 was Libertarian-killing season, and unfortunately Johnson offered the world a loaded gun.
That's not to say that Hunter's wrong about Johnson squandering the election overall; I still don't know how best to assess that question. (Check out the Brian Doherty/Matt Welch post-election co-production "Did the Libertarian Party Blow it in 2016?" for our most educated guesses.) As that piece states in the opening, and as the intervening months have only underlined, "Objectively speaking, 2016 was the Libertarian Party's best year ever. It was also a savage disappointment." Libertarians will be arguing about this stuff for years.
Austin PetersenSpeaking of intra-Libertarian arguments, Charles Peralo over at Being Libertarian has a long defense of the Johnson campaign against criticism that has been leveled against it from the John McAfee/Judd Weiss ticket. In the Orlando Sentinel, State L.P. Chair Marcos Miralles gives an interesting interview, mostly about local party-building stuff, that ends on a spectacularly optimistic note: "But what I can guarantee you is that whoever the Libertarian delegates pick in 2020, that candidate will have a better result than Gary Johnson had in 2016 and will have a real chance at unseating the current president." Meanwhile, 2016 L.P. presidential runner-up Austin Petersen has formed an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate from Missouri, and is promising a "special announcement" on July 4.
And in one of my favorite recent pieces of local journalism, The Free Press of Fernie, British Columbia, caught up with Gary Johnson in the middle of his epic Tour Divide bike race, spent several paragraphs detailing how he "may well be the fittest U.S. presidential candidate of all time," before plunging the knife in paragraph nine:
The man can clearly take care of himself. He is a self-made millionaire and ultra-fit, so of course he would run for a party that endorses the survival of the fittest. If you're wealthy and fit, Libertarianism works but if you are not, it doesn't.
Then follows a Guernica-style hellscape of local horrors that would be unleashed should Libertarians ever come close to smelling power ("Their plan to cut regulations in transportation, accommodation and other sectors to cause the sharing economyto destroy traditional businesses. Hotels and taxi companies would go bust, thousands would be left unemployed," etc.). It's a reminder, one that Jack Hunter's old boss Rand Paul knows all too well, that for wide swaths of the public, libertarians will suffer from the Weird Man's Burden, probed relentlessly for every policy taboo, and held to a standard of conduct that standard Democrats and Republicans rarely have to answer for.
Below re-live my shaky-cam video of Johnson flipping out at a reporter asking about Aleppo, moments before the first presidential debate last September:
Posted: June 29, 2017 at 11:45 pm
Ever since William F. Buckleys death, commentators spanning the political spectrum have searched for someone to succeed the conservative intellectual leader and National Review founder.
Most recently, Washington Post columnist George Will decried the scowling primitives who populate the conservative intelligentsia and pined for a Buckley figure someone who can, with vigor and high spirits, fashion conservative thought into coherent ideology.
Will is right that conservatism needs a intellectual leader in Buckleys mold, but not for the reasons political writers often advance. I especially want to separate my motivation from the mass of left-of-center writers who are suckers for Buckley.
Many liberals bemoan the loss of educated, well-spoken conservatives and the rise of unsophisticated rage-mongers. They claim that if the GOP only had more intellectual heft, it would be compassionate and measured. Many center-left folks admire Buckley for cosmetic reasons: Because he defended conservative ideology with eloquence and literary charm, he deserves our esteem.
This is silly. Conservatism doesnt need a Buckley figure because Buckley used big words. And heaps of evidence undermine the claim that intelligence inspires virtue just look at Mitch McConnell! When it comes to the lives of Americans, it doesnt matter whether the leader of the conservative intellectual movement has the vocabulary of President Trump or William Shakespeare.
No, conservatism needs an intellectual leader because, without one, it will be dominated by white identity politics. Within the conservative movement, there has always been a tension between free-market devotion and the defense of white identity. For many decades, the Republican party was the party of small government and libertarian economics. But beneath the surface was a torrent of racial resentment and fear; its no accident that the GOP won back the South after Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.
Buckley created a free-market orthodoxy to which conservative politicians adhered for years. In the inaugural issue of National Review, Buckley wrote, The competitive price system is indispensable to liberty and material progress. From Barry Goldwater to Paul Ryan, Republican leaders were forced to praise the wisdom of markets and criticize progressive government projects.
This devotion to markets restrained the worst impulses of white identity politics. To be sure, racism and libertarian economics sometimes work in tandem, such as in Reaganite attacks on Welfare Queens.
But the most destructive forms of white supremacy rely on state intervention in the economy. In his classic piece for The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations, Ta-Nehisi Coates details how governments created housing policies that denied equal economic opportunity for black people.
Pure libertarianism despises state-sanctioned racial inequality; consequently, its role in conservative orthodoxy kept white nationalism in check. Trumps 2016 campaign revealed a conservatism without libertarianism.
In 2016, Trump campaigned without the burden of free-market ideology. He promised massive government projects to benefit his followers. He promised to seize power from urban cosmopolitan elites, and return it to the forgotten men and women of our country.
It doesnt take much imagination to see this rhetoric as welcoming a redistribution campaign: take wealth from urban minorities and give it back to white folks. Trump campaigned as Robin Hood for white people.
A big caveat: Im not claiming Buckley was innocent on race issues. He once defended segregation by arguing that the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. However, Buckley did insist on free-market orthodoxy and defend conservatism against racial loonies like Pat Buchanan. For decades, commitment to libertarian economics restrained the worst racial instincts of American conservatives.
In conservatism, the absence of free-market values attracts unabashed white nationalism. Im no libertarian, but white identity politics is the most pernicious force in American life. We should cheer anything that diminishes its clout. Whoever steps into Buckleys role Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, libertarian economist Tyler Cowen and The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech are candidates faces a mountainous challenge. Libertarianism is on the retreat, and Trumps 21st century white nationalism has the power to devour our politics.
Read more from the original source:
A libertarian leader can save the GOP from white nationalism - The Diamondback