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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Libertarianism
Posted: March 5, 2020 at 5:58 pm
Aweek before Israelis went to the polls for the third time in less than a year the previous two elections failed to produce a coalition of parties with enough seats to form a government incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus views on marijuana legalization evolved.
According to Jacob Sullum writing in Reason, a libertarian magazine, Netanyahu announced that his caretaker government was studying legalization of marijuana for recreational use, following a model similar to Canadas.
Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew that Amir Ohana, Israels Justice Minister, has begun work on the issue, and he will head a committee including professionals and Oren Leibovich, chairman of the Green Leaf Party, that will investigate importing the Canadian model for regulation of a legal market in Israel.
The tweet also called for expunging tens of thousands of criminal records of marijuana possession convictions.
The inclusion of the Green Leaf Partys Leibovich on the study committee is notable. The Green Leaf Party is a splinter party whose raison dtre was marijuana legalization, although it subsequently broadened its interests to include other libertarian and green issues.
The party has been around in one form or another since the 1990s, but has never won a seat in Israels 120-seat parliament, the Knesset. However, in each of two previous elections it attracted more than 45,000 votes.
Heading into the latest election, which was held last Monday, Netanyahus Likud Party was engaged in a torrid, nasty campaign against the Blue and White Party, a recently formed party headed by Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief of staff, which left the two parties scrambling for every vote.
Following Netanyahus tweet, Green Leaf Party leader Leibovich said he believed that this week we made a significant step on the path to a legal cannabis market in Israel.
I think this is something that should have been done a long time ago, and I appreciate the prime minister who paid attention, met with me, heard me and made the right decision, he added.
Leibovich also said that he made overtures to every party (there were more than two dozen competing in the election) but that Netanyahu was the only politician that showed any interest. The Green Leaf Party didnt run candidates in the latest election.
So how did evolution on marijuana legalization work out for Netanyahu? Evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest, and by that measure Netanyahus evolved view sure didnt hurt him. With more than 99% of voting precincts reporting, his Likud Party was on track to win 36 seats, up from the 32 Likud won in September 2019. Moreover the coalition of right-wing parties led by Likud was on track to win 59 seats, two seats short of the 61 needed to form a government, but a seven-seat improvement from what the bloc won in the September 2019 election.
As in the United States, recreational marijuana legalization isnt an issue uppermost in very many voters minds when they decide how to cast their ballots. The Green Leaf Partys 45,000-plus-vote hauls in earlier elections is probably a measure of the upper-number of pot rights first voters in Israel. But there is probably a larger pool of late deciding voters for whom marijuana legalization may have been a tie-breaking issue.
It will be interesting to see if the post-election analysis will be able to sieve out the impact of Netanyahus marijuana evolution on the final outcome. But its already pretty obvious it didnt hurt.
It will also be interesting to see if Trump chooses to take a page out of Netanyahus playbook when it comes to pot. Bernie Sanders has been making federal marijuana legalization on day one of a Sanders presidency a major talking point of his campaign.
The Controlled Substances Act explicitly gives the president the authority to remove a drug from regulation under the act by executive order. Sanders sees this as a way of mobilizing younger voters, who overwhelmingly favor legalization but who historically under-perform when it comes to voting. Trump could preempt him on the issue by doing it himself before the election. And since both Biden and Bloomberg want to keep marijuana illegal, promising to delist marijuana would be a way of appealing to disgruntled Sanders supporters if either managed to wrest the nomination from Bernie.
Read more here:
Evolution in action in the Middle East - Boulder Weekly
Posted: at 5:58 pm
Catawba County voters will have their last chance to weigh in on the 2020 primaries today.
Records posted to the Catawba County Board of Elections website indicate nearly 13,100 people nearly 13 percent of the countys more than 102,000 registered voters have already cast their ballot.
This includes nearly 8,600 votes in the Republican primaries and 4,500 in the Democratic primaries. There were also 21 votes in the Libertarian primary, two votes in the Constitution Party and one Green Party vote.
Heres a look at some of the key questions about todays primary:
When is voting?The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Voters in line at the time polls are closed will be allowed to vote.
Where can I vote?Unlike early voting, voters are required to vote at their assigned precincts.
To find their precincts, voters can visit catawbacountync.gov/ county-services/elections and click the voter lookup link under the voter registration tab to look up their polling place or call the elections board at 828-464-2424.
What offices are up for election?There are Republican and Democratic primaries for president, U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, state auditor and superintendent of public instruction.
The following races only have Republican primaries: 10th Congressional District, Catawba County Board of Commissioners, 42nd N.C. Senate District, register of deeds, insurance commissioner and labor commissioner.
The races for the Fifth Congressional District, agriculture commissioner and state treasurer only have Democratic primaries.
In addition to the two major parties, there are also presidential primaries for the Libertarian and Constitution parties.
Who can vote in which primary?
The party a voter is registered with determines which primary they can vote in.
The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties allow unaffiliated to choose to vote in their primaries. Otherwise, the person must be a registered member of the party to vote in their primary.
The Constitution and Green parties do not allow unaffiliated voters to vote in their primaries. The deadline to register or change party affiliation has passed.
Will I have to show an ID to vote?No. The states voter ID law is on hold as a result of litigation. Circumstances may change later in the year but for the primaries voters will not be required to show ID.
Qualifying for 2020 election has started in Georgia. Here’s who has made the cut – Forsyth County News Online
Posted: at 5:58 pm
At the federal level, both Senate seats have candidates withlocal ties as Libertarian Shane Hazel, a Forsyth County resident who previouslyran for Georgias 7th Congressional District as a Republican, willrun for the seat against Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Doug Collins, whorepresents Forsyth County and 19 other counties in northwest Georgia in-part orin-full, will run against Sen. Kelly Loeffler for the seat previously held byJohnny Isakson.
The races for both of Forsyth Countys Congressional seats Districts 7 and 9 are also expected to see a large amount of candidates asDistrict 7 Rep. Rob Woodall is not seeking re-election and Collins is running forSenate.
Qualifying will remain open until Friday at noon for both nonpartisanand political party candidates will qualify for the general primary, which willbe held on Tuesday, May 19 after three weeks of advance voting.
The general primary will consist of non-partisan races andselecting party candidates for the Nov. 3 general election. It should be notedthat the Senate race for the seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler will be decidedin November.
Heres who has qualified for the races so far:
oSen. David Perdue (incumbent)- Republican
oJames Knox- Democratic
oTeresa Tomlinson- Democratic
oShane Hazel- Libertarian
o Brian Slowinski- Libertarian
oSen. Kelly Loeffler (incumbent)- Republican
oDoug Collins- Republican
oTamara Johnson-Shealey- Democratic
oRichard Dien Winfield- Democratic
oAllen Buckley- Independent
oMark Gonsalves- Republican
oLynne Homrich- Republican
oRenee Unterman- Republican
oCarolyn Bourdeaux- Democratic
o Rich McCormick- Republican
oMichael Boggus- Republican
oAndrew Clyde- Republican
oMatt Gurtler- Republican
oMaria Strickland- Republican
oKevin Tanner- Republican
oEthan Underwood- Republican
o Devin Pandy- Democratic
oBrooke Griffiths- Democratic
oClint Smith- Republican
oWill Wade- Republican
oSteve Leibel- Republican
oZach Tumlin- Republican
oSharon Ravert- Democrat
oRep. Wes Cantrell (incumbent)- Republican
oCharles Ravencraft- Democratic
oRep. Sheri Gillian (incumbent)- Republican
oNatalie Bucsko- Democratic
oTodd Jones (incumbent)- Republican
oChrista Olenczak- Democratic
oLauren McDonald III- Republican
oJason Boskey- Democratic
oTom Cleveland (incumbent)- Republican
oBarry S. Herrin- Republican
oDarla Sexton Light- Republican
oLindsey Adams- Republican
oAlfred John- Republican
oCindy Jones Mills (incumbent)- Republican
oLaura Semanson (incumbent)- Republican
oRon H. Freeman (incumbent)- Republican
oPaul W. Holbrook- Republican
oTed Paxton - Republican
oGreg G. Allen
oMatthew C. Ledbetter
oWalker H. Bramblett
oT. Russell McClelland III
Posted: at 5:58 pm
By Devan Cole, CNN
Nearly a month after ending his long shot Democratic presidential campaign, Andrew Yang launched on Thursday a nonprofit group focused on making the central ideas of his campaign a reality.
The group, called Humanity Forward, will "endorse and provide resources to political candidates who embrace Universal Basic Income, human-centered capitalism and other aligned policies at every level," according to its website.
Yang, a businessman who ended his campaign in February, rose from obscurity to become a highly-visible candidate, rallying a coalition of liberal Democrats, libertarians and some disaffected Republicans to form a devoted group of followers known as the Yang Gang. A prominent platform in his campaign was his so-called Freedom Dividend, a plan to give every American adult $1,000 a month universal basic income that he argued would alleviate a host of social ills and eradicate poverty.
The new group also plans to increase voter turnout in the 2020 election, with a particular focus on young Americans, Asian-Americans, independents and "individuals who have not been engaged in the political process," according to a release.
Additionally, Yang, who is now a CNN political commentator, will launch a podcast in which he will "discuss new ideas to solve the greatest challenges of our time with" notable guests and "regular Americans" alike.
"Our campaign grew so much because we had a clearer diagnosis of the problems that face our country and a real vision for how to solve them," Yang said in a statement. "We're in the midst of the greatest technological and economic transformation in the history of the world, and we need real solutions to make the economy work for us, the people."
According to the release, Yang, in an effort to showcase how his proposed Freedom Dividend would work, has also "committed to personally give $1,000 a month for an entire year to one donor to the new organization."
Senior services support,county commissioners races on primary ballot; Here is a list of what you – Galion Inquirer
Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:46 am
BUCYRUS in the March primary election in Ohio, Crawford County voters are being asked to support funding for senior citizens. They will vote on a renewal of 1 mill and an increase of 0.75 mill to constitute a tax to provide funds for the maintenance and operation of services for senior citizens through Crawford County Council on Aging, Inc., including but not limited to: home delivered meals; homemaker and chore services; and transportation service. This tax will be at a rate not exceeding 1.75 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.175 for each $100 of valuation, for 5 years, commencing in 2020, first due in calendar year 2021.
Other issues on the ballot in Crawford County include
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP A renewal of a tax for the benefit of Liberty Township for the purpose of providing and maintaining fire equipment at a rate not exceeding 1 mill for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.10 for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for 3 years, commencing in 2020, first due in calendar year 2021.
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP A renewal of a tax for the benefit of Liberty Township for the purpose of providing ambulance and emergency medical services at a rate not exceeding 0.6 mill for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to $0.06 for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for 3 years, commencing in 2020, first due in calendar year 2021.
For Delegate-at-Large and Alternates-at-Large to the National Convention (vote for one): Michael Bennet; Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Michael R. Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard. Amy Klobuchar, Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren.
For Representative to Congress (4th District): Shannon M. Freshour, Marysville, Mike Larsen, Plain City; Jeffrey Sites, Lima.
For Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court (Full Term Commencing 1-1-21): John P. ODonnell
For Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court (Full Term Commencing 1-2-21): Jennifer Brunner
For State Senator (26th District): Craig Swartz
For State Representative (87th District), Nicholas Barnes, Upper Sandusky
Judge of Probate/Juvenile Court (Full Term Commencing 2-9-21) Debra A. Garverick, Galion
For Sheriff: Scott M. Kent, Bucyrus,
Voters will also be asked to vote for members of the Crawford County Democrat Central Committee candidates.
For Delegate-At-Large and Alternate-at-Large to the National Convention: Donald J. Trump
For District Delegate and District Alternate to the National Convention (4th District): Donald Trump
For Representative to Congress (4th District): Jim Jordan, Urbana
For Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court (Full Term Commencing 1-1-21)L Sharon L. Kennedy
For Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court (Full Term Commencing 1-2-21): Judi French
For Judge of the Court of Appeals (3rd District): Mark C. Miller, Findlay,
Voters also will be asked to vote for a man and a woman to become Members of State Central Committee:
For State Senator (26th district): Melissa Ackison, Bill Reineke
For State Representative (87th District): Riordan T. McClain
Judge of Common Pleas Court General Division (Full Term Commencing 2-9-21) Sean Leuthold, Bucyrus.
Judge of Probate/Juvenile Court (Full Term Commencing 2-9-21) Patrick T. Murphy, Tiro
For County Commissioner ((Full Term Commencing 1-2-21)) Terry J. Gribble, Galion; Michael E. Schiefer, Bucyrus; Larry Schmidt, Bucyrus; Amber Wertman, Galion
County Commissioner (Full Term Commencing 1-3-21): Jeffrey Price, Bucyrus; Doug Weisenauer, Bloomville
For Prosecuting Attorney: Matthew Crall, Bucyrus
For Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas: Janelle Moore, Galion
For County Recorder: Julie A. Wells, Crestline
For County Treasurer: Cindy Edwards, Bucyrus
For County Engineer: Mark E. Baker, Galion
For Coroner: Christopher Michael Johnson, Bucyrus
For Representative to Congress (4th District): Steve Perkins, Pataskala
Voters also will be asked to vote for bember of State Central Committee
Go here to see the original:
Senior services support,county commissioners races on primary ballot; Here is a list of what you - Galion Inquirer
Republican Party chairs chose Jacobs as 27th District Congressional candidate – The Daily News Online
Posted: at 12:46 am
Republican Party Chairs in the 27th Congressional District today chose state Sen. Chris Jacobs, R-Buffalo, as its candidate in an upcoming special election to fill the Congressional seat previously held Chris Collins until he resigned before pleading guilty to inside trading charges.
Said Jacobs in a statement: Governor Cuomo is doing all he can to hand this seat to the Democrats, but Im prepared for the fight. ... Well win this race by focusing on strengthening the future of Western New York by creating an environment for job growth, defending our borders and preserving our shared values and ideals.
Party chairs met today at Byrncliffe Resort in Varysburg, Wyoming County.
Jacobs will face Democrat Nate McMurray and Libertarian Party candidate Duane Whitmer in an election expected to be on April 28, though the date has not officially been announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Jacobs was among multiple candidates who had previously sought to replace Collins in the 2018 general election after Collins indictment and the former congressman candidacy was uncertain. Collins ultimately remained in the race and narrowly defeated McMurray in the 2018 general election.
Collins was sentenced Jan. 17 to 26 months in federal prison.
The winner of the special election will hold the office for only a short time. The seats full two-year term will be up again during Novembers general election. If multiple Republican candidates were to seek the office in the general election, that would result in a party primary in June in which registered Republicans would choose the candidate.
The fork ratings are based primarily on food quality and preparation, with service and atmosphere factored into the final decision. Reviews are based on one unsolicited, unannounced visit to the restaurant.
See the original post here:
Republican Party chairs chose Jacobs as 27th District Congressional candidate - The Daily News Online
Tyler Cowen on "State Capacity Libertarianism" II: Is it the Right Path for Libertarians to Follow? – Reason
Posted: January 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm
In my last post on economist Tyler Cowen's case for "state capacity libertarianism" (SCL), I took issue with Tyler's claim that SCL is the wave of the future among "smart" libertarians. In this one, I focus on the more important issue of whether SCL is actually a good idea. Regardless of whether SCL is popular among libertarians now, should they adopt it? Here's why my answer is a qualified "no."
Before going into greater detail, it's worth asking exactly what Tyler means by "state capacity." He does not provide a very clear definition. But it seems to me that his SCL theory differs from more conventional libertarianism in so far as it focuses on increasing and improving the capabilities of government, including in at least some substantial areas that most other libertarians would argue should simply be left to the private sector. To the extent that SCL simply means improving government's ability to perform those functions that even traditional libertarians (with the notable exception of anarchists) believe government should carry out, there is little difference between Tyler's theory and other types of libertarianism.
Unfortunately, Tyler fails to specify how we measure the type of "capacity" he considers important, and also how we draw the line between issues where the right approach is improving state capacity and those where we should still aim to keep the state out (which might actually require reducing capacity, or at least keeping it more limited).
This lack of clarity is part of a more general problem with state capacity theory that goes well beyond Tyler's piece. As critics like Bryan Caplan and Vincent Geloso and Alex Salter, point out, state capacity theorists have not done a good job of differentiating cases where state capacity is the cause of good outcomes from those where it is a result of them (e.g.a state in a wealthier society has more capacity than one in a poor society, even if the state did little to create that wealth). In addition, greater capacity means an increased ability to do evil as well as good, which is a highly relevant consideration when we are talking about institutions that can regulate, imprison, and kill people.
Until state capacity theorists do a better job of sorting out these baseline issues, we should be wary of making state capacity a central element of libertarianismor, indeed, any other liberal political theory. These problems may not be insuperable. But they do require better answers than state capacity advocates have given us so far.
While Tyler does not give us a general definition of SCL, he does present a number of specific propositions he associates with it. Some are criticisms of conventional libertarianism, while others present more of an affirmative agenda. Here, I consider several that seem distinctive to SCL. Thus, I pass over some that are likely to be endorsed by libertarians of any stripe (e.g."Markets and capitalism are very powerful, give them their due").
[I]t doesn't seem that old-style libertarianism can solve or even very well address a number of major problems, most significantly climate change.
I don't claim libertarianism can solve all the world's ills, or even come close to doing so. But, looking at some of the greatest evils and injustices out there, I see many that libertarianism is very well-equipped to handle. Consider such issues as immigration restrictions that inflict massive injustices on both immigrants and natives (and make the whole world far poorer than it could be), zoning rules that bar millions of Americans from housing and job opportunities, looming fiscal crises that afflict many Western democracies (including the US), the War on Drugs that blights the lives of many thousands every year, a government too large and complicated for effective democratic accountability, and the undermining of the rule of law by the expansion of criminal law and regulation to the point where almost everyone can be charged with something.
In each of these areas, there are enormous gains to be had simply by having government engage in less of the activity that is causing the problem to begin with. Moreover, none requires the achievement of any kind of libertarian Utopia. Incremental reforms in a more libertarian direction can still achieve a lot. Even if we can't get to open borders, we can radically transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for the better simply by increasing the amount of legal immigration into the US by, say, 10%. Even if we cannot abolish the entire War on Drugs, we can greatly reduce the amount of suffering it causes through legalizing just some of those drugs that are currently banned. Even if we cannot follow the example of Houston and have no zoning at all, we can liberalize zoning at the margin and thereby provide new housing and job opportunities for many thousands of people. And so on.
And none of these incremental reforms require much, if any, state capacity that doesn't already exist. A government that can zone, restrict immigration, and wage a War on Drugs at current levels, is fully capable of doing, say, 10 or 20 percent less of each of these things. Admittedly, there are some situations where a kind of state capacity can be useful in mitigating transition problems through "keyhole solutions." But these, too, rarely require capabilities Western democracies currently lack.
Tyler is right to highlight climate change as a problem for libertarians, one that too many of us have preferred to deny or ignore. However, libertarian environmental law experts, such as the VC's own Jonathan Adler, have in fact developed solid proposals to address the issue, such as a revenue neutral carbon tax, prizes for relevant technological innovations, and expanding the use of nuclear power. These ideas are not fool-proof. But they have fewer risks than the command-and-control approaches favored by many more conventional environmentalists, which threaten to massively expand government control over the economy and create grave risks for freedom and prosperity. I don't know if libertarian approaches to climate change can "fix" the problem at an acceptable cost. But the same is even more true of the solutions offered by adherents of other ideologies. For example, it isn't clear that anyone has proposed an effective way to incentivize large developing nations like China and India to greatly reduce their projected carbon emissions. The issue indeed a difficult challenge for libertariansbut also for everyone else.
There is also the word "classical liberal," but what is "classical" supposed to mean that is not question-begging? The classical liberalism of its time focused on 19th century problems appropriate for the 19th century of course but from WWII onwards it has been a very different ballgame.
I don't especially like the term "classical liberal" and it may indeed be question-begging. But Tyler is wrong to think that 19th century liberalism was only "appropriate for the 19th century." To the contrary, there is much that modern libertarians can learn from our forbears. Among other things, nineteenth-century liberals fought against protectionism, ethnic nationalism, slavery and other forms of forced labor, and government intervention that rewards favored interest groups and suppresses competition. All of these remain among our most serious challenges today. That includes even forced labor, which is still widely practiced by authoritarian regimes, and which some even in the US seek to revive through mandatory "national service." The French government recently imposed mandatory national service on all citizens when they turn 16.
Nineteenth century liberals also created successful mass movements in opposition to slavery and protectionism. It seems to me that modern libertarians (who have been far less effective in reaching the general public) could learn a great deal from these movements and apply some of the lessons to the present day (I give one example here).
Earlier in history, a strong state was necessary to back the formation of capitalism and also to protect individual rights (do read Koyama and Johnson on state capacity). Strong states remain necessary to maintain and extend capitalism and markets.
A strong state is distinct from a very large or tyrannical state. A good strong state should see the maintenance and extension of capitalism as one of its primary duties, in many cases its #1 duty.
Rapid increases in state capacity can be very dangerous (earlier Japan, Germany), but high levels of state capacity are not inherently tyrannical.
Much here depends on exactly what is meant by a "strong state." If it means a state effective within some range of functions, then few libertarians (anarchists, again,excepted) would deny its value. If it means a generally "strong" state with the ability to control most aspects of society, that's a very different proposition. Moreover, most of these points are subject to the problems with the concept of "state capacity" already discussed above, particularly the point that state capacity is often the result of positive social developments rather than their cause. I would add that even if "[a] good strong state" should see "the maintenance and extension of capitalism as one of its primary duties," it doesn't follow that it actually will. To the contrary, the more power the state has, the greater the temptation for politicians to misuse it, especially in a context where they are appealing to poorly informed voters. Moreover, the more areas a strong state can control, the harder it is for voters to keep track of all of its activities and monitor and punish potential abuses of power.
Many of the failures of today's America are failures of excess regulation, but many others are failures of state capacity. Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion, or improve the quality of their discretionary spending.. I favor much more immigration, nonetheless I think our government needs clear standards for who cannot get in, who will be forced to leave, and a workable court system to back all that up and today we do not have that either.
Those problems require state capacity albeit to boost markets in a way that classical libertarianism is poorly suited to deal with. Furthermore, libertarianism is parasitic upon State Capacity Libertarianism to some degree. For instance, even if you favor education privatization, in the shorter run we still need to make the current system much better. That would even make privatization easier, if that is your goal.
Most of this strikes me as wrong. The problems with education, traffic congestion, and discretionary spending are not a lack of "capacity" but a combination of inherent flaws of government and poor incentives. If the libertarian diagnosis of the problems with public education is correct, the way to improvement is not trying to "make the current system much better," but increasing competition and choice through privatization. Indeed, the failures of the status quo are one of the main driving forces behind the school choice movement. If we really could make the system much better without privatization and choice, there would be far less reason to do the latter.
Similarly, the best way to make the immigration system much better is to simply reduce restrictions and let more people in. Even if "standards" are no clearer than they are now, and even if the quality of immigration courts doesn't improve, that would still give large numbers of people (both immigrants and natives) greater freedom and opportunity than they have now. Moreover, making legal immigration easier is actually the simplest way to alleviate pressure on courts and other state institutions at the border. Privatization is also a good strategy for alleviating traffic congestion through peak toll pricing, since the main obstacle to this simple reform is public ignorance.
There is a kernel of truth to Tyler's claim that "libertarianism is parasitic upon State Capacity Libertarianism to some degree."
If government is completely incapable of doing anything right, then it cannot fulfill even the basic functions that most libertarians want it to do. But, at this point in history, it doesn't seem like the US and other Western democracies lack the capacity to do such things as provide a modicum of security and public goods. Rather, the problem is that our governments are engaging in way too many other functions, many of which are both harmful in themselves and divert resources away from the things that government should do. For example, the War on Drugs and immigration enforcement massively divert law enforcement personnel away from combating violent and property crime.
I don't deny that there are cases where harmful government policies can be made less so without libertarian reforms (even if abolition or reduction of government intervention in these fields would be better still). But I'm not convinced that focusing on such reforms is a productive activity for libertarians. There is no shortage of non-libertarian policy experts working on incremental improvements to state institutions. The comparative advantage of libertarians (at least in most cases) is identifying ways to make improvements by reducing government intervention. Where the best available solution lies elsewhere, we can usually rely on non-libertarians to find it on their own.
Things might be different in a world where libertarians are much more numerous and influential than we are today. In that world, it would make sense for a substantial proportion of libertarian resources to be devoted to finding improvements in policy that do not involve shrinking government power. Indeed, in that world, a much higher percentage of government activities would be ones that can be justified even on libertarian grounds, so it would be harder to find improvements by cutting back the role of the state. But we are very far from that point today.
State Capacity Libertarianism is not non-interventionist in foreign policy, as it believes in strong alliances with other relatively free nations, when feasible. That said, the usual libertarian "problems of intervention because government makes a lot of mistakes" bar still should be applied to specific military actions. But the alliances can be hugely beneficial, as illustrated by much of 20th century foreign policy and today much of Asia which still relies on Pax Americana.
I actually agree with most of what Tyler says in this passage. For reasons I spelled out here, I am not as dovish as most other libertarians are. And we do need strong alliances with other relatively liberal nations to counter the dangerous illiberal forces in the world.
That said, the US and other liberal democracies would have more resources available for these purposes if they weren't doing so many other things. If, as Tyler puts it, conventional libertarianism is parasitic on "state capacity," then state capacity to do good is also parasitic on libertarianism, in the sense that it needs tight limits on government power to prevent the state from wasting public resources on wasteful and harmful projects. Tyler's strictures about the need for a relatively high bar for military intervention is also well-taken.
In sum, I remain largely unpersuaded by Tyler's normative case for SCL. But I do want to commend him for kicking off a valuable discussion, which has already attracted multiple thoughtful responses to his original post (I linked to several here). Very few blog posts stimulate high-quality public discussion as as much as Tyler did with this one. While he may not have persuaded me of the merits of "state capacity," he has effectively demonstrated the blogosphere's capacity to produce valuable discourse, even in an era when blogs sometimes seem obsolete, due to the rise of crude and superficial social media.
UPDATE: As before, I am happy to commit to posting any response Tyler cares to make to either this post or my previous one on this subject.
Posted: at 2:01 pm
The targeted assassination of guilty people is ethically superior to war. The assassination-by-drone policy of the Trump regime is ethically bad for the same reason, and therefore morally wrong, and libertarians are right to condemn it.
Over at the Washington Examiner a great online site that promotes conservative, libertarian, and fusionist views inside the Beltway Philip Klein has an article on what at first glance looks like an inconsistency in libertarian thought.(1)
On the one hand, Klein writes, prominent libertarians of the past (including presidential candidates Ron Paul and Harry Browne) long advocated assassination as a better alternative to war.
On the other hand, Libertarians were among the most vocal critics of President Trumps decision to order the killing of Iranian terrorist leader Qassem Soleimani by drone assassination this month. Klein is clearly referring to, not constitutional objections about the lack of congressional authorization, but the normative or ethics-based substantive criticism of whether its a good idea to take out a prominent foreign leader the way the Trump administration did.
Klein is correct about both hands. But there is no inconsistency. A libertarian can consider assassination a better option than war not just better strategically, but also better ethically while condemning Soleimanis killing, and indeed the Trump regimes whole policy of assassination by drone, as being ethically unacceptable.
Not only are the two positions compatible, but they are consistent. Both follow from a fundamental libertarian principle: killing innocent people is ethically wrong.
By Kleins account, Browne relied on exactly that principle to make his case for assassination:
Browne, who was the Libertarian presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000, explicitly argued that the United States should offer a bounty on the heads of our enemies. In Why Government Doesnt Work, the manifesto for his 1996 campaign, he made the case against the first Iraq War for its toll on innocent victims. Assume Saddam Hussein really was a threat, he posited. Is that a reason to kill innocent people and expose thousands of Americans to danger? Isnt there a better way for a President to deal with a potential enemy?. He wrote: Would the President be condoning cold-blooded killing? Yes but of just one guilty person, rather than of the thousands of innocents who die in bombing raids.
Soleimanis funding and arming of terrorist groups like Hamas made him an enabler of terrorism. Since terrorists and their enablers kill innocent people, they themselves are not innocent people; therefore, killing them does not violate the prohibition on killing innocents. If a libertarian bystander at the airport where Soleimani died, or a sniper stationed a mile away, had shot the terrorist enabler, there would have been no violation of libertarian principles.
In contrast, a war with Iran would invariably involve the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). By WMD I mean weapons that are designed to kill indiscriminately: Bombs dropped on cities by airplanes (the predominant means by which the U.S. government wages war today) qualify as WMD under this definition. It is possible to use WMD without killing innocents in some cases such as bombing a military convoy in a desert but the odds of bombing a city without killing even one innocent (one child, for example) are astronomically low. This makes a targeted assassination clearly superior to the bombing campaigns that would inevitably occur in a war. If one can accomplish a goal X by two methods, A (which means killing innocents) and B (which avoids killing innocents), then B is the ethical alternative: B is exactly what a libertarian should do.
Similarly, when Paul called for issuing letters of marque and reprisal (a term he used to mean authorizing acts by both U.S. Special Operations troops and private contractors) against terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, he
proposed a bill that would have allowed Congress to authorize the President to specifically target Bin Laden and his associates using non-government armed forces.
The words specifically target are all-important: Paul advocated targeted killing of specific individuals, on the grounds that they were terrorists who were guilty of shedding innocent blood. Paul did not advocate the killing of innocents, but the fatal use of force against certain non-innocents and no one else.
It is virtually impossible to stretch this libertarian idea of assassination to include killing by drones. Drones carry bombs, and bombs carried by drones are no less WMD than bombs dropped from airplanes. Their use is always ethically questionable, and they should be used only in cases where innocent blood is not spilled along with the guilty.
Were any innocent lives killed in the bombing attack that killed Soleimani? I dont know; I doubt that anyone knows. I do know, by listening to the Trump administrations statements on the killing, that they do not care: whether they killed innocent people was simply not a consideration for them. That alone is enough to make Soleimanis assassination objectionable to a libertarian. While the drone attack was ethically better than bombing an Iranian city, since it killed less innocent lives, and even possibly no innocent lives at all, being ethically better does not make it ethically good. It remains an ethically bad, or wrong, action, and the U.S. policy of drone assassination that led to it remains ethically bad, or wrong, policy.
Unfortunately, Klein touches on the use of drones and bombs only tangentially and not by name, and only to shrug it off with a But:
There are specific circumstances surrounding the Soleimani killing that may make it particularly objectionable to libertarians. But the idea of targeting bad actors as an alternative to large-scale bombing raids is not incompatible with noninterventionist foreign policy sentiments.
From the standpoint of libertarian principles (as opposed to noninterventionist sentiments), the targeted assassination of guilty people of those who have themselves shed innocent blood is ethically superior to war. At the same time, the assassination-by-drone policy of the Trump regime, and the Obama and Bush regimes, is ethically bad for the same reason, and therefore morally wrong and libertarians are right to condemn it.
(1) Philip Klein, Prominent libertarians once advocated assassination as an alternative to war, Washington Examiner, January 8, 2020. Web, Jan. 24, 2020. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/prominent-libertarians-once-advocated-assassination-as-an-alternative-to-war
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Libertarianism and assassination - Nolan Chart LLC
Posted: at 2:01 pm
Peter Thiel. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
In mid-January, at the conclusion of a special meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society, the venerable free-market organization, after appearances by Condoleezza Rice and Niall Ferguson, Peter Thiel was slated to give closing remarks on Big Tech and the Question of Scale. The keynote was the latest in a series of public remarks and interviews in which the PayPal founder and Facebook investor showed his prominence in conservative politics.
Thiel has long been a political donor; in 2016, he gave $4million across various campaigns, including $1 million to a super-PAC supporting Trump, on whose behalf Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention. Hes known to have funded right-wing hoaxer James OKeefe and has been an enthusiastic sponsor of organizations for activists and intellectuals, like The Stanford Review, a conservative publication he founded in the 1980s. Earlier this month, he announced an investment in a Midwest-focused venture-capital fund led by Hillbilly Elegy author and social conservative J.D. Vance.
But unlike other major right-wing donors, Thiel seems intent on being known for his intellect as much as his wallet. Over the past year, he has played the role of outraged patriot, endorsing Trumps trade war and bizarrely accusing Google of seemingly treasonous behavior in its China dealings. He intermittently lectures at Stanford. Vanity Fair has written about his hot-ticket L.A. dinner parties, where guests (including, at least once, the president) hold deep discussions about the issues of the day. Last year, George Mason University professor and economist Tyler Cowen called Thiel the most influential conservative intellectual with other conservative and libertarian intellectuals.
This emerging Republican macher is a far cry from the ultralibertarian seditionist who used to encourage entrepreneurs to exit the United States and start their own countries at sea. But Thiel is no stranger to inconsistency. For decades, he cultivated a reputation as a radical Silicon Valley anti-statist; in 2009, he wrote that Facebook, in which he was an early investor, might create the space for new modes of dissent and new ways to form communities not bounded by historical nation-states. Yet, six years earlier, he had co-founded the most aggressively statist company in the 21st century: Palantir, the global surveillance company used, for example, to monitor Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal. Can you really claim to uphold individual freedom if youre profiting from a mass-surveillance government contractor? Are you really a libertarian if youre a prominent supporter of Trump?
It would be easy enough to chalk up the seeming contradiction of Thiels thought to opportunism or pettiness (he famously funded a lawsuit, in secret, to bankrupt Gawker, my former employer) or perhaps even a mind less ambidextrous than incoherent. But its worth trying to understand his political journey. Thiels increasing prominence as both an intellectual in and benefactor of the conservative movement and his status as a legend in Silicon Valley makes him at least as important as more public tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, he still holds sway over Zuckerberg: Recent reports suggest Thiel was the most influential voice in Facebooks decision to allow politicians to lie in ads on its platform. What Thiel believes now is likely to influence the next generation of conservative and libertarian thinkers if not what the president believes the next day.
How to square Thiels post-national techno-libertarianism with his bloodthirsty authoritarian nationalism? Strangely, he wants both. Todays Thielism is a libertarianism with an abstract commitment to personal freedom but no particular affection for democracy or even for politics as a process by which people might make collective decisions about the distribution of power and resources. Thiel has wed himself to state power not in an effort to participate in the political process but as an end run around it.
If we wanted to construct a genealogy of late Thielism, one place to start might be a relatively little-read essay Thiel wrote in 2015 for the conservative religious journal First Things. Thiel is a Christian, though clearly a heterodox believer, and in Against Edenism, he makes the case that science and technology are natural allies to what he sees as the inborn optimism of Christianity. Christians are natural utopians, Thiel believes, and because there will be no returning to the prelapsarian paradise of Eden, they should support technological progress, although it may mean joining with atheist optimists, personified in the essay by Goethes Faust. At least Faust was motivated to try to do something about everything that was wrong with the world, even if he did, you know, sell his immortal soul to the Devil.
Thiel suggests that growth is essentially a religious obligation building the kingdom of heaven today, here on Earth and that stagnation is, well, demonic the chaotic sea where the demon Leviathan lives. This binary appears frequently in Thiels writing, where progress is always aligned with technology and the individual, and chaos with politics and the masses. If Thiel has an apocalyptic fear of stasis, you can begin to see why his politics have changed over the past few years, as it has become less clear whether the booming technology industry has actually added much to the economy or to human happiness, let alone demonstrated progress.
Where some of his fellow libertarians have moved toward the center, attempting to build a liberaltarianism with a relatively strong welfare state and mass democratic appeal, others have found themselves articulating a version of what Tyler Cowen, in a recent blog post, called state capacity libertarianism, a concept he says was influenced by Thiels thinking. In its essence, its the admission that strong states remain necessary to maintain and extend capitalism and markets. Where Thiel would differ with state-capacity libertarians like Cowen is that he isnt merely a believer in strong states in the abstract as agents of economic progress. He is purported to be a specifically American national conservative, at least per his conference-keynote schedule. Thiel has suggested in the past that such a conservative nationalism is the only thing that can provide the cohesion necessary to re-create a strong state. Identity politics, he suggested in an address at the Manhattan Institute, the free-market think tank, is a distraction that stops us from acting at the scale that we need to be focusing on for this country. MAGA politics is the only way to grow.
This is the context in which it makes sense for a gay, cosmopolitan libertarian like Thiel to throw his support behind a red-meat conservative like Senate candidate Kris Kobach of Kansas. The technological progress Thiel associates with his own personal freedom and power is threatened by market failure and political chaos. A strong centralized state can restore order, breed progress, and open up new technologies, markets, and financial instruments from which Thiel might profit. And as long as it allows Thiel to make money and host dinner parties, who cares if its borders are cruelly and ruthlessly enforced? Who cares if its leader is an autocrat? Who cares, for that matter, if its democratic? In fact, it might be better if it werent: If the lefts commitment to identity politics is divisive enough to prevent technological advancement, its threat outstrips the kind of bellicose religious authoritarianism that Kobach represents. A Thielist government would be aggressive toward China, a country Thiel is obsessed with while also seeming, in its centralized authority and close ties between government and industry, very much like it.
There is, of course, another context in which it makes sense for Thiel to join forces with social conservatives and nationalists: his bank account. Thiels ideological shifts have matched his financial self-interest at every turn. His newfound patriotism is probably best understood as an alliance of convenience. The U.S. government is the vessel best suited for reaching his immortal techno-libertarian future (and a lower tax rate), and he is happy to ride it as long as it and he are traveling in the same direction. And if it doesnt work out, well, he did effectively buy New Zealand citizenship.
*This article appears in the January 20, 2020, issue ofNew York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
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Posted: at 2:01 pm
In just over a month voters will decide who they want to see on the ballot in the 2020 general election. Early voting for the March 3 primary will begin in the middle of February and run up until Saturday, Feb. 29.
Heres everything you need to know about when, where and how to vote:
Two polling locations will be open for early voting, the Market Place Shopping Center, 1740 E. Dixon Blvd near Hobby Lobby and Bargain Hunt and the Kings Mountain Fire Museum, 269 Cleveland Ave.
How long do I have to vote?
Polls will open Thursday, Feb. 13, and will remain open every weekday through the 28th. Saturday, Feb. 29 will be the final day of early voting. Polls will open from 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. every day except for Feb. 29, when they will close at 3 p.m.
Do I need to register?
The deadline to register to vote or to make any changes to current voter registration has passed. However, voters will be allowed to same-day register and vote during the early voting period.
Do I need an ID?
A federal district court has temporarily blocked North Carolinas voter photo ID requirement from taking effect. Unless the courts direct otherwise, this means that voters will not be required to provide photo ID when they vote in the primary election on March 3.
All Cleveland County registered voters are eligible to participate in the upcoming Presidential Preference and Primary Election. Three parties - Republican, Democrat, Libertarian conduct semi-closed primaries. Two parties - Green, Constitution conduct closed primaries.
This means that if you want to vote for a particular candidate, you must pick which primary you wish to participate in. Registered Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Green Party and Constitution Party voters must all vote for their parties only.
Unaffiliated voters will choose one party to vote for in the primary election.
Who is on the ballot?
Depending on which primary you choose, your ballot could have as many as 13 races to vote in or as few as one. Green, Libertarian and Constitution party primaries only decide who they want to see on the presidential ballot later this year. Republican and Democrat voters will decide which candidates get to appear in presidential, school board, county commission, governor and other state and federal ballots in November.
Sample ballots are available at the Cleveland County Board of Elections.