Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”     Thomas Paine,    Dissertation on First Principles of Government

February 22, 2008

What Would An Obama Presidency Look Like ?

by Doug Mataconis

The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner takes a look in the crystal ball:

Barack Obama is now the clear front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. He’s risen high on his inspiring persona and uplifting rhetoric. At a time of prolonged war and economic uncertainty, he appeals to Americans’ hope for something better than the bitter partisan infighting that has paralyzed Washington. And Obama offers an opportunity for closing America’s racial divide. It is hard not to cheer his success.

Yet, politics is also about issues. And on this score, Sen. Obama represents less hope and change than a wish list for every conceivable liberal special interest group.

Tanner examines Obama’s record on a number of issues including taxes and spending and health care, but this comment about regulation of the economy stands out:

A health care mandate is not the only new regulation that Obama wants to impose. For example, he would require businesses to pay an undefined “living wage.” He would require paid “family and medical leave.” He would regulate mortgages and credit card interest rates. He would impose a host of environmental and labor restrictions. The net cost of this regulatory burden almost certainly will be higher unemployment and greater poverty.

And it’s not just businesses that would feel the regulatory hand of an Obama presidency. Consumers too will have to pay, as he imposes new costs on products ranging from homes to automobiles and appliances. In almost everything we do, Obama sees a need for the government to intervene.

All in all, fairly distressing to anyone who believes in free markets and smaller government.

As I’ve been reminded more than once in the comment threads here, I did vote for Barack Obama in Virginia’s primary earlier this month. So, do I regret that vote ? Considering that I cast it with few illusions about what kind of policies Obama advocated, I’ve got to agree with Megan McArdle and say no:

Obama’s rhetoric about trade, and his insanely bad economic “patriot act” have certainly given me pause. But do I have buyer’s remorse? No. For starters, I clearly prefer Obama to Hillary as president; on the assumption that there’s a very good chance that Generic Democrat will win the election, the primary outcome suits me.

In the general? I might not vote for Obama; I will not vote for McCain. There are some things more important than the economy, and free speech is among them. Yes, I don’t like Obama’s stance on the Second Amendment, but the difference is, the president has little wiggle room right now on the second, while McCain might do serious further damage to the first, or the fourth. I dislike the steps Obama is willing to take in order to achieve his goals of economic equality. But these are as nothing to the notion that citizens have to be protected from information because Big Daddy John thinks we’ll get bad ideas in our heads.

For me, it’s more like I am fairly sure that I won’t vote for Obama and definitely won’t vote for McCain. If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, which I think is entirely unlikely at this point (reasons here and here), then I might consider McCain only to stop her, but someone would really have to convince me that it was worth sacrificing my principles to vote against her. If it comes to to McCain and Obama, then it looks like it will be another vote for the Libertarian Party from me.

TrackBack URI: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2008/02/22/what-would-an-obama-presidency-look-like/trackback/
Read more posts from
• • •

26 Comments

  1. If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, which I think is entirely unlikely at this point. . .then I might consider McCain only to stop her

    I have bad news for you: the results of the election will not change because of your vote.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — February 22, 2008 @ 12:31 pm
  2. I have bad news for you: the results of the election will not change because of your vote.

    Heh heh…that’s what I always enjoy telling people who go off on a rant when I choose not to participate. :)

    Comment by UCrawford — February 22, 2008 @ 12:49 pm
  3. I always like how libertarians advocate an idea of small government – an idea that will never be implemented. I think it’s far more important to have a realist perspective of where America is today (not 200 years ago) and take proactive steps to making America more of a country of opportunity. One of those steps is creating a tax code system that actually is fair, and not heavily favoring the rich. This isn’t socialist, this is just good policy. Anyone stuck in the 1700′s should recall the French Revolution for an example of what happens when a middle class is eliminated from society.

    Comment by Irishspacemonk — February 22, 2008 @ 1:03 pm
  4. Heh heh…that’s what I always enjoy telling people who go off on a rant when I choose not to participate. :)

    You should at least throw your support to a third party. It would lodge an obvious protest and help them with the ballot access laws.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 1:11 pm
  5. Jeff,

    Why would a vote for a third party accomplish anything ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 22, 2008 @ 1:17 pm
  6. If it comes to to McCain and Obama, then it looks like it will be another vote for the Libertarian Party from me.

    I would only vote for the Libertarian Party candidate if they were qualified to be president. Wayne Allen Root and Ron Paul both need to kept as far away from the Oval Office as possible.

    What I’m going to do is probably not vote.

    Comment by Kevin — February 22, 2008 @ 1:17 pm
  7. Kevin,

    At least on the Presidential side I will probably end up doing the same.

    There are at least two races here in Virginia where it’s probably going to be worth casting a vote in November, though.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — February 22, 2008 @ 1:19 pm
  8. Doug, do you ever read more than the first 10 words of my posts? The second sentence said why.

    It would lodge an obvious protest and help them with the ballot access laws.

    By taking the few minutes out of your year to vote, you go on record as not being apathetic. You care; you just hate the options. That in and of itself would help in the long term.
    Most people stop doing that at some point in their lives. If the dissenters would just make that one minimal commitment for their entire lives, it would significantly increase our power.

    But even if you don’t think that’s the case, ballot access laws should compell you to vote. I don’t know about VA, but here in MI, if LP doesn’t reach a certainly threshold of votes in each Presidential election, they have to spend gobs of money on petitions to stay on the ballot.

    If I’m gonna spend a few hours a week talking to you guys, the very least I can do is spend 10 minutes every four years casting a vote that helps LP (or any other minor party, for that matter).

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 1:27 pm
  9. Jeff,

    You should at least throw your support to a third party. It would lodge an obvious protest and help them with the ballot access laws.

    I’ll consider a vote for Wayne Root if he’s the Libertarian candidate and runs a decent campaign. He’s on the right side of most of the issues as far as I’m concerned.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 22, 2008 @ 1:32 pm
  10. Why the qualification? We all know he can’t possibly win, so what does it matter if the candidate is actually good? You’d only be voting for the ideals he represents.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 1:39 pm
  11. Jeff,

    Why the qualification? We all know he can’t possibly win, so what does it matter if the candidate is actually good?

    Because I won’t vote for a candidate who I think is unfit for office simply because I agree with him on some issues. If I think the candidate is qualified enough to hold the office and I have enough common ground with him, then I’ll vote for him…otherwise it’s not worth my time and I think it may be a setback to vote for incompetent people as a protest vote.

    Did you ever consider that perhaps the reason why so many libertarian-leaning candidates are incompetent is perhaps because we don’t hold them to high enough standards of leadership ability in addition to ideology?

    Comment by UCrawford — February 22, 2008 @ 1:48 pm
  12. Because I won’t vote for a candidate who I think is unfit for office simply because I agree with him on some issues

    I understand that, but I disagree, because I know there’s no chance in hell he would ever have the chance to prove he was unfit.

    I think it may be a setback to vote for incompetent people as a protest vote.

    That would only be the case if people outside the movement were watching. Do you think that’s actually the case?

    Did you ever consider that perhaps the reason why so many libertarian-leaning candidates are incompetent is perhaps because we don’t hold them to high enough standards of leadership ability in addition to ideology?

    Yes, but I think it’s just because the pool is too small. If the LP suddenly became cool and an instead ticket to office, we still couldn’t fill all the seats. The movement is just too small and most people don’t want to run a campaign that has no conceivable chance of winning.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 1:55 pm
  13. Jeff,

    That would only be the case if people outside the movement were watching. Do you think that’s actually the case?

    I think that it has more to do with the fact that the Libertarian Party tends to do a very poor job of giving their constituency a focus or holding them accountable for what they do. Bringing up my own personal experience with the LP in my area, the party membership here consists of a handful of guys who have no interest in networking, no interest in running credible candidates for office, no interest in supporting candidates from other parties who support their agenda (even after the LP drops out), no interest in updating their website, and no interest in even showing up on time to their own meetings. The only apparent reason that the party in my region exists is because the guys are older, retired people who like to get a good table for the Early Bird Special at the steakhouse where they meet. And yet, the state LP has never stepped in and asked this chapter why they haven’t had a membership drive or even talked to their campus advisor at WSU (probably the best recruiting ground here for new members and volunteers) for two years.

    And yet the state LP still keeps the leadership in this area around because they still get a handful of libertarian protest votes in each election despite the fact that my four year old niece could probably run a better campaign than they do.

    Protest votes for incompetent libertarian candidates, in my opinion, don’t do much more than encourage those incompetent candidates to stick around and discredit the movement by continuing to run. So if Wayne Root makes a serious stab at running a campaign, I’ll cast a ballot for him…if he doesn’t do anything more than put up a website I’ll probably leave the presidential slot blank or just spend my election day working or finishing off my campaign of “Dead Rising” (which will be infinitely more satisfying than casting a meaningless ballot).

    Comment by UCrawford — February 22, 2008 @ 2:12 pm
  14. Fair enough.

    I would remind you, though, that they are probably still in their positions because no one else wants the positions. Like anything else, you won’t get a good product without a healthy dose of competition.

    Maybe that competition won’t occur until enough people cast pissed off protest votes.

    The chicken? or the egg? Who knows…

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 2:34 pm
  15. Jeff,

    I would remind you, though, that they are probably still in their positions because no one else wants the positions. Like anything else, you won’t get a good product without a healthy dose of competition.

    Tough to insert competition into the equation when you never bring in new members and you screw over people who try to work with you by failing to honor agreements (as when some of the LP guys here reneged on their promise to publicly back a libertarian Republican for a bid for local office because one of their buddies decided he wanted to run, again, as a protest vote in a campaign he put zero work into).

    Comment by UCrawford — February 22, 2008 @ 2:52 pm
  16. No, I meant competition for the LP leadership spot. If your 4 year old can do a better job than those guys, your 4 year old should try to unseat them. You’re not gonna get good LP leadership until good people fight for the positions.

    Don’t take that to mean that I think LP is the best vehicle for our movement; I don’t. I believe we need to force out the statist elements of the major parties. Regardless of your chosen path, though, the only way to get anywhere is to take an active role and step into the vacuums. Once you have a foothold, start working up the ladder until you’re in a position of real influence.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 3:29 pm
  17. Jeff,

    You’re not gonna get good LP leadership until good people fight for the positions.

    I catch your point now…unfortunately the LP here has no regular constituency beyond the dozen or so guys who meet at the steakhouse so it’s not really a battle worth fighting because whoever wins is still going to have to build a party from scratch (and I’ve got enough on my plate with my actual job). They may get a couple hundred votes in each election, but it’s not because they’re in contact with any of those voters…the protest voters are just casting a ballot for the party name.

    Don’t take that to mean that I think LP is the best vehicle for our movement; I don’t.

    I completely agree with you there. That’s why I’m looking at getting involved with the GOP in this area. I think the Republicans in my city are very open to libertarians and I’ll probably look at working my way in with them.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 22, 2008 @ 4:09 pm
  18. That’s cool. It only takes 20,000 or so full-timers to be a major political force, but it takes a couple hundred thousand warm bodies pitching in for 50 hours a year at the lower levels. Where ever you fit in is fine. I would strongly urge you to consider becoming a GOP precinct delegate. They’re the ones that set the party platform and there are always tons of vacancies.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — February 22, 2008 @ 4:24 pm
  19. I always like how libertarians advocate an idea of small government – an idea that will never be implemented.

    I agree, which is why I’m an anarchist.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — February 22, 2008 @ 11:19 pm
  20. I always like how libertarians advocate an idea of small government – an idea that will never be implemented.

    If you’re saying that there will never be a point at which we can have a limited government that we won’t have to still keep tabs on then you’re right, and most libertarians already realize that…the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. But I believe there are some functions that we need government for and I’m willing to accept the tradeoffs.

    I agree, which is why I’m an anarchist.

    I find it interesting how anarchists (who I’m fairly sympathetic to) always seem to miss the point that these private defense groups they often advocate are really just a smaller form of government. And I also find it curious how they seem to think that a society in which we don’t have a government to arbitrate and enforce contract disputes won’t eventually devolve into a “might makes right” situation and, eventually, tyranny.

    Comment by UCrawford — February 23, 2008 @ 5:24 am
  21. [...] scrubone wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI might not vote for Obama; I will not vote for McCain. There are some things more important than the economy, and free speech is among them. Yes, I don’t like Obama’s stance on the Second Amendment, but the difference is, the president … Read the rest of this great post here Posted by [...]

    Pingback by Presidential election 2008 |Republicans Vs. Democrats » What Would An Obama Presidency Look Like ? — February 23, 2008 @ 7:32 am
  22. I find it interesting how anarchists (who I’m fairly sympathetic to) always seem to miss the point that these private defense groups they often advocate are really just a smaller form of government.

    I don’t miss that point at all, which is why I am anti-state and not anti-government.

    And I also find it curious how they seem to think that a society in which we don’t have a government to arbitrate and enforce contract disputes won’t eventually devolve into a “might makes right” situation and, eventually, tyranny.

    I also find it curious how the people who are so willing to screw each other over in their daily lives suddenly become guardians of the public liberty when you put a badge on them.

    Comment by Joshua Holmes — February 23, 2008 @ 8:11 am
  23. UCrawford,

    I don’t have time to pen a huge essay on the subject, but the short answer is that we don’t miss the point.

    The existence of a strong state makes it easier for the people who believe that ‘might makes right’ to have their way. The only way to limit the violence is to develop a cultural bias toward living at peace with each other.

    I don’t have the link handy, but there’s an article on the web soemwhere that looked at the collapse of the closest thing to an anarchy that’s well documented historically, the stateless period of Iceland. They were quite stable (2 centuries) until the priests got the population to accede to a tithe to support churches. The tithe ended up functioning as a tax, transferring money from people who didn’t have churches on their property to those that did. Within three generations, that small tax had resulted in 5 families owning all the chieftainships and most of the land. And, judging from records, the final two decades, when the violence has spiked to such high levels that the islanders voted to bend their knee to an outside king, the violence per capita was lower than what most people living in U.S. cities experience today.

    A nation state can help on occasion when it suppresses rival criminal gangs very brutally, but otherwise leaves people alone. Places like Singapore essentially follow this model. There, the level of violence will decrease to the point where people can develop a cultural habit to living at peace with each other and can prosper almost as well as if they were living in a peaceful anarchy. But that depends on the uncommon benevolence of the dictator. The power of being allowed to use violence on their neighbors that government officials wield is attractive to people who are predators who are decidedly not benevolent. There is no way to structure a government so that these people are kept away from the reins of power. Furthermore, people’s obedience to the state can make these guys more devastating.

    Look at how energetically the American people submitted to state control of the economy, ruinous taxation, and conscription when that racist demagogue Woodrow Wilson decided to bring “freedom” to Europe at bayonet-point.

    Comment by tarran — February 23, 2008 @ 8:47 am
  24. There are some things more important than the economy, and free speech is among them.

    Megan’s thinking on this is exactly backwards on this, for two reasons:

    1. The interested rent seekers that would flock to fill the need for functionaries of Obama’s economic regulation schemes will be extremely hard to dislodge. Once they have a foothold, they’ll fight tooth and nail to keep it, since they will almost certainly be using their regulatory position to their own advantage.

    Restrictions on free speech tend to be much more transitory since fewer people can use them to their personal advantage. A simple examination of history shows that we’ve recovered our expressive liberty much more often then we’ve recovered our economic liberty.

    2. Once we lose economic freedom, social freedom is never far behind. There is a significant segment of the population already who won’t speak out against the state on anything… because they’re already dependent on it. Bringing that same dependence down on the rest of us through socialized medicine will only erode our will to speak out.

    Sure, the right to free speech will still exist de jure in the Bill of Rights, but we’ll be chilled out of it because we fear that Uncle Sam could cut off our medical care.

    Comment by Quincy — February 24, 2008 @ 12:21 am
  25. UCrawford:

    or even talked to their campus advisor at WSU

    Hey, I didn’t realize we were nearly neighbors! I’m in Seattle. I get out to your neck of the woods once in a while, too.

    Comment by Adam Selene — February 24, 2008 @ 7:22 am
  26. Adam,

    WSU = Wichita State University. Sorry dude. :)

    Comment by UCrawford — February 24, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

Comments RSS

Subscribe without commenting

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by: WordPress • Template by: Eric • Banner #1, #3, #4 by Stephen Macklin • Banner #2 by Mark RaynerXML