May 29, 2004

Libertarians and Communists

Very good post by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, commenting a forthcoming article that tries to show libertarianism as some new form of communism:

Lawler’s most significant misrepresentation is his accusation that, like Marxism, libertarianism promises "a life constrained by nothing but personal choice." Ugh! Barf! Arghh! Every libertarian whom I know has as part of his or her bedrock understanding of reality that the world is a constrained and constraining place. It is precisely because reality is no utopia, no empyrean dreamland of superabundance, that people must make careful choices - often very difficult and painful ones. It is not our choices that ultimately constrain us; it is the unavoidable scarcity of desirable things in the world that constrain us and that, in turn, oblige us to choose.

Libertarians (unlike Marxists) understand that even the most ideal economic system will never, ever eliminate scarcity and the consequent and constant necessity for each of us to make choices. Furthermore, libertarians (unlike most non-libertarians) understand that the state is a thoroughly human institution that is often asked to work miracles - which, of course, it has no hope of performing, but in its modern guise nevertheless specializes in pretending to perform such scarcity-eliminating feats. That is, it specializes in masking the need to make some choices. In the process, it actually reduces the range of options over which most people can choose.


Micha Ghertner also made some interesting comments on this issue at Cattalarchy.net.

May 23, 2004

Bush's Third-Party Threat

David Paul Kuhn on the possible libertarian threat to Bush in the 2004 election:

With conservatives upset over the ballooning size of the federal government under a Republican White House and Congress - and a portion of the political right having opposed the war in Iraq from the start or else dismayed at how it's being handled - the Libertarian nominee, who will be on the ballot in 49 states, may do for Democrats in 2004 what Nader did for Republicans in 2000.

It is a hypothesis not yet made in the mainstream media. But interviews with third-party experts and activists across the country, as well as recent political patterns, illustrate that there could be a conservative rear-guard political attack against President Bush.

"I think [the Bush campaign] should be concerned. I don’t know how concerned," said Don Devine, vice chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime GOP insider. "They need to work on it and I think they know they need to work on it."

(...)

"The Libertarians will impact Republicans more than Nader will impact Democrats," said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the 2004 Elections Project for the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota and possibly the nation’s preeminent expert on third-party politics.

In the key battleground state of Wisconsin, the 2002 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ed Thompson garnered 85,455 votes, a startling 10.5 percent. The new governor, Democrat Jim Doyle, won the state by about 75,000 votes.

(...)

For Robert Novak, if Libertarians do not make their presence felt this election and Mr. Bush’s loses, the third-party will hold political weight in 2008.

"I just had breakfast with a guy and we discussed that people are already talking, as politicians do, about the what-ifs," said Novak. "Everybody believes if Bush loses, the Republican Party will move to the left in ’08, to the Schwarzenegger and Giuliani strain, and that is where you really get the possibility of a serious third-party movement."

May 21, 2004

Bush caves to Democrats....again

Neal Boortz on Bush's stance regarding the confirmation of judicial nominees:

When the Democrats lost control of the Senate in the 2002 elections they decided that a simple majority vote would no longer be good enough to confirm a judicial appointee. Over the years leftists have depended on judicial activism and fiat to enact much of their agenda. The future of their anti-individualist, big-government designs depend largely on the left’s ability to keep Constitutionally oriented judges off the federal bench. Since they didn’t have a Senate majority, they needed a new rule. To keep constitutionalists off the bench Daschle and Company decided to change the Constitution to require a super-majority for a judicial confirmation. Sixty votes. No less.

(...)

Let's review here. I’m not trying to waste space, but there may be Democrats reading this column. In government schools, we must be careful not to leave them behind when we get into even the most moderately complicated situations. We will call this "back up and repeat essential points" as the "No Liberal Left Behind" style of writing.

A. The Democrats modify the Constitution by requiring a super-majority vote for the confirmation of certain judicial nominees.

B. The president responds by using the perfect constitutionally legitimate exercise of making a recess appointment.

C. The Democrats, outraged at the president's legal use of his Constitutional authority, bring nearly all Senate business to a halt in retaliation.

D. The president promises to stop any further recess appointments during this term if the Senators will only do the job they were elected to do.

This is leadership? When George W. Bush was sworn in he swore an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Just how are you preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution when you promise to stop using a constitutionally legitimate procedure to prevent political opponents from defying the Constitution.. and for this we get a quick confirmation of about 27 judicial nominees whom the Democrats didn’t object to in the first place? Wow! What a deal!

Senate Democrats must be getting a real chuckle out of this in their private gatherings. Time after time they have rolled George Bush. Protectionist trade rules for the steel industry, obscene spending increases for hopeless government schools, even the left’s current political showpiece of the 9/11 Commission hearings.

May 15, 2004

Pure Politics: There's always another campaign finance loophole

Jacob Sullum on "campaign finance reform" and freedom of speech:

In a speech last month, Sen. John McCain said Bradley Smith is unfit to head the Federal Election Commission because his principles prevent him from properly enforcing the nation's campaign laws. At the same time, the Arizona Republican suggested that Smith has no principles.

McCain, who co-authored the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, threw Smith in with the "stooges of special interests" who are determined to undo the senator's handiwork. And even while conceding that Smith has rebuked fellow Republicans for trying to use campaign finance regulations to hamper the Democrats, McCain called his positions "politicized."

McCain is so upset he can't think straight. In particular, he's upset about groups like America Coming Together and Progress for America, ostensibly independent (but by no means neutral) political organizations that are tax-exempt under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code.

McCain says it's obvious such groups, known as 527s, should be treated as "political committees," which would prevent them from accepting the unregulated contributions his law prohibits the national parties from taking. On Thursday the FEC decided to delay action on the issue, causing McCain's head to explode (I'm assuming).

McCain's outrage about "these groups openly flouting the law" is the latest episode of a futile crusade that restricts speech to prevent "the appearance of corruption." The pattern by now is familiar: New rules lead to new evasions, which in turn lead to new rules.

There's one basic reason Congress and the FEC have been unable to get it right after all these years. It's called the First Amendment.

May 09, 2004

Kerry's Class Warfare: "Working Families" vs. "The Privileged"

Joseph Kellard comments John Kerry's class warfare strategies:

In his victory speech at the Iowa caucus, John Kerry uttered a line that exquisitely captured a staple of his Leftist politics -- class warfare. "Count the cost that working families are paying while the privileged ride high and reap the rewards," he said. Yet Kerry's policies actually harm productive individuals and engender the worst form of privileged Americans.

(...)

Meanwhile, as Kerry paints America's most productive individuals as privileged, his policies actually punish all hard-working producers and create entitlements for lesser- or non-productive Americans. In his Iowa speech, Kerry raised one such policy: "I'm running for president so that for...every other family in America, health care will be a fundamental right and not a privilege..."

But in reality, like any commodity produced in a free nation, health care is neither a right nor a government-provided privilege. Health care is a commodity produced by individuals such as doctors, prescription drug developers and nurses. Other individuals must work to make the money to receive their services and products. Both providers and recipients have the right only to work and voluntarily trade the values they have produced.

(...)

In short, Kerry is actually for what he claims he's against: punishing America's most productive workers to provide for a class of privileged welfare recipients.

Americans must reject Kerry's socialist policies that destroy everyone's individual rights and instigate warfare between the producers and the lesser- or non-productive of all economic classes. Instead, we must champion each individual's fundamental right to pursue his own happiness -- that is, to employ his abilities to produce what is life requires and to voluntarily trade his values with others.

May 05, 2004

Block, Epstein will duel over domain

Walter Block and Richard Epstein will have a debate on eminent domain at the University of Chicago Law School, May 10, at 12:13 p.m.

The event is the result of the 'entrepreneurial' efforts of J.H. Huebert:

The debate revolves around the question: Should government have a right to take anyone’s property for less that what the owner would freely and voluntarily agree to accept as payment? Or, more formally: Is the state’s power of eminent domain necessary in a free society?

Chicago Law School professor Richard Epstein thinks so, and Loyola of New Orleans economics professor Walter Block vehemently disagrees.

As a result of their overwhelming differences, Block is flying into Chicago to go head to head with Epstein in a contest of libertarian ideas.

Epstein is so sure of his views on a variety of topics, including eminent domain, that he has openly promised to debate "anyone, anywhere, anytime, about anythin...provided that I disagree with them," he said.

(...)

To many of his students in the Law School and most mainstream academics, Richard Epstein is the most extreme libertarian they know. He frequently argues, in his voluminous output in both books and law reviews, against government "evils" like socialized medicine, and even against anti-discrimination laws.

But, unlike Block, Epstein did not begin his post-graduate academic career as a libertarian ideologue. Instead, he began with an inclination toward finding simple rules for a complex world - the basis for a book he would later write. And it just so happened, he found, that many of the best "simple rules" are libertarian rules of private property and freedom of contract. But this was not without exception - and one exception that he famously made in his highly influential book, Takings, is for the power of eminent domain, which allows the government to forcibly take property for such ostensible "public goods" as roads, as long as it pays "just compensation."

(...)

Throughout his career, Block has directed some of his strongest criticism in numerous economics journals and law reviews at the University of Chicago’s supposedly "free market" thinkers, including Ronald Coase, Richard Posner, Epstein, and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman. Block spares no one when he finds that they hold views that are less than what pure libertarianism or the rigorously logical Austrian school of economics demands.