Monthly Archives: February 2008

What Would An Obama Presidency Look Like ?

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.

Quote Of The Day: Robert Higgs On Immigration And Welfare

The Independent Institute’s Robert Higgs has a great essay out on the debate over illegal immigration as it applies to the welfare state:

Anti-immigrationists often say that the Mexicans come here only to go on welfare. Aside from this declaration’s manifest misrepresentation of the truth, one wonders why the obvious remedy for this alleged problem does not occur to them: get rid of welfare—after all, nobody, regardless of his place of birth, has a just right to live at other people’s coerced expense.

Others claim that the “illegals” crowd the public schools and hospitals, sucking resources away from the taxpayers. If so, then the answer is the same: get the government out of the business of schooling and healing; it ought never to have gone there in the first place.

Some Americans clothe their hatred with the charge that the foreigners who come here commit crimes, such as selling drugs and conducting businesses without a license. Of course, drug peddling and working without a government license ought never to have been criminalized in the first place, for anybody, because these acts violate no one’s just rights. If people are worried about real crimes, such as robbery and murder, they need to recall that laws against these crimes already exist, and no special “preemptive war” against potential immigrant offenders can be justified, any more than I can justify nuking Philadelphia today on the strength of my absolute conviction that some residents of that city will commit serious crimes tomorrow.


If we must choose—and indeed we must—between the world’s most powerful and aggressive state, on the one hand, and a man who wishes to move to Yakima to support his family by picking apples, on the other hand, which side does human decency dictate that we choose? Unfortunately, in this situation, it is all too plain that many Americans are choosing to worship the state and to make a fetish of the borders it has established by patently unjust means. As for this wandering Okie, I’d sooner prostrate myself before a golden calf.

What he said.

John Shadegg Will Run For Re-Election After All

Reversing a decision he announced two weeks ago, Arizona Congressman John Shaddegg has announced that he will run for re-election in November:

Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), who abruptly announced his retirement just 10 days ago, has changed his mind and will be running for reelection in his Phoenix-area congressional district.

Shadegg, who unsuccessfully sought the Republicans’ top House leadership post in 2006, has been one of the leading conservative voices in Congress. After he announced his intention to retire, 146 House Republicans signed a letter last Thursday urging him to reconsider his decision — advice which he accepted.

”My decision was made after deep reflection and consultation with my family. It was entirely a personal decision between me and my family. The reactions of my constituents and my friends now suggest there were implications far broader than we had contemplated,” Shadegg said in a statement released this evening.

“In deciding to leave Congress, I felt I could serve my country and continue to wage the battle for conservative principles just as effectively in private life. It turns out many others believe that would be a mistake.”

Oh the whole, this is good news. Shadegg is a solid fiscal conservative and was one of the few Republican voices dissenting from the spending practices of the party when it held power in Congress.

Shadegg may not be in Congress for long though; word on the Hill is that he will run for John McCain’s Senate seat if McCain is elected President.

UK Considering “Permit” To Buy Cigarettes

Let me ask, does this remind anyone of a marijuana tax stamp?

A ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone who does not pay for a government smoking permit has been proposed by Health England, a ministerial advisory board.

The idea is the brainchild of the board’s chairman, Julian Le Grand, who is a professor at the London School of Economics and was Tony Blair’s senior health adviser. In a paper being studied by Lord Darzi, the health minister appointed to oversee NHS reform, he says many smokers would be helped to break the habit if they had to make a decision whether to “opt in”.

The permit might cost as little as £10, but acquiring it could be made difficult if the forms were sufficiently complex, Le Grand said last night.

His paper says: “Suppose every individual who wanted to buy tobacco had to purchase a permit. And suppose further they had to do this every year. To get a permit would involve filling out a form and supplying a photograph, as well as paying the fee. Permits would only be issued to those over 18 and evidence of age would have to be provided. The money raised would go to the NHS.”

I’m sure that acquiring the permit would slowly become more and more difficult. Just think, the day comes that you apply for the permit and your voice is a bit hoarse from having a cold, or from cheering on your favorite “football” team, and they interpret the voice as an indication that you’re unhealthy and deny your permit.

In fact, it seems like this is one more step in the goal of eventually making smoking downright illegal. If they weren’t making enormous taxes off the sale of cigarettes, they’d already have done it. Of course, you may point out that if they make cigarettes illegal, only the criminals will have cigarettes. And I’d point out that you’re right, as high cigarette taxes have already created a black market that will only expand with a law like this:

The paper, written by Le Grand and Divya Srivastava, an LSE researcher, acknowledges: “Administratively it would require addressing the problem of the existing black markets and smuggling in tobacco; but this should probably be done anyway.”

Hell, if the government can’t stop bacon-wrapped hot dogs, how are they going to stop addictive drugs?

Hat Tip: Radley Balko

More on Obama’s Doublespeak

Last week I wrote a post about how Barack Obama was trying to have it both ways on the Second Amendment. Ken Blackwell at, however, believes that Obama’s doublespeak about the Second Amendment (among some of Obama’s other statements) reveals a disturbing pattern in his attitudes about individual rights and a host of other issues:

Yet while Mr. Obama says he supports your Second Amendment rights, he also says he supports that gun ban. He went on to say that local governments should be able to enact any gun control laws they consider necessary to end gun violence, and that any such measures are constitutional.
What kind of gun rights does he supposedly support? What kind of “right” do you have, when the government can completely rob you of 100% of the exercise of that right, anytime they decide they have a good reason?

That’s like saying you have the right to worship as you choose, but the government has the power to ban attending church. Or that you have the right to free speech, but that government has the power to stop you from speaking about any subject it wants. Or that you have the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, but that anything the government wants to search at your house is automatically reasonable.

A right that the government can completely take away at any time is no right at all.

So to say that the Second Amendment means you can own guns, but that the city where you live can ban all gun ownership, then you have no Second Amendment rights at all.

I truly hope that someone will have an opportunity to ask Obama if he really believes that local governments can toss aside the Constitution whenever convenient (though I have a hard time believing that Obama would restrict federal agents to the Constitution while giving local law enforcement carte blanche to violate basic civil liberties of citizens). As if doublespeak on the Constitution wasn’t enough, we can expect doublespeak on many other issues which concern such issues as the economy, terrorism, and growing government.

The article continues:

This is what Americans could expect from a President Obama. He’ll wax eloquent about your rights, but then say government can take away whatever part of them—or all of them—that it wants.

It’s the disturbing pattern that’s starting to emerge of Mr. Obama announcing a principle or a goal, then endorsing policies that are the exact opposite of what would promote that principle or goal. It’s political-doublespeak. It’s Orwellian. In fact, it’s Clintonian.

Look for this pattern across the board. This is how he’ll empower private markets, by increasing government control. He’ll preserve our private-market healthcare system, by having government take it over. He’ll lower taxes, by raising them. He’ll cut government, by increasing government spending. He’ll create jobs, by raising taxes and fees on business […]

I’m sure there will be even more Obama doublespeak as the campaign wears on. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he proposed a new cabinet level position such as The Ministry Department of Truth.

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