Monthly Archives: March 2008

Mike Gravel: Libertarian ? — The Round-Up

Reason’s David Weigel catalogs some of the reaction to yesterday’s announcement that Mike Gravel had joined the Libertarian Party and is running for the LP Presidential Nomination.

This statement from Presidential candidate Wayne Allen Root fairly sums up how I feel about the idea:

Gravel is in no way, shape or form a Libertarian. He’s just a big government, big-spending, redistribute the wealth, liberal- big difference. He’s clearly stumbled into the wrong party. Worse, he’s a Green Party supporter and potential candidate as well. The Green Party is not in any way compatible with the Libertarian Party. They are polar opposites of the political spectrum.

Anthony Gregory says pretty much the same thing:

[I]n his announcement to supporters of his intentions to run as an LP presidential candidate, he writes, “The fact is, the Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR. It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views.”

This is just hysterical. Of course, FDR created the military-industrial complex. To the extent the Democrats are no longer the party of FDR, that is a good thing — and indeed, one could argue the GOP became the party of FDR with Nixon, Reagan and the two Georges Bush.

Of particular interest are the comments of several non-libertarians, such as this from The New Skeptic:

Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped. Besides that, the Randians (oh no a word I just made up!) are in that “big tent” and stink the whole thing up. People who are serious but realistic about small government and civil liberties want nothing to do with the kooks. It’s one thing to say, for instance, that the Commerce Clause is a strict limit on congressional power; it’s another to formulate a reasonable interpretation of that provision while dealing with and changing the system currently in place. Getting rid of the FDA overnight = kooky; not just kooky, but intellectually immature. Criticism is not the final step in political theory, and if libertarians cannot construct a viable ideological system from the rubble of rejected ideas, then they offer nothing worth overhauling our government for.

Oh, I know, Mike Gravel is hardly the best representative of the party. But still, libertarianism often marginalizes itself, and that’s bad, because some of its ideas need to be implemented if we want any hope of surviving China, the collapse of Social Security, and an Islamic Europe.

And at least one Democrat is glad to see Gravel go:

As the resident Democrat around these here parts, I want to thank the Libertarian Party for taking this certifiable nut-case off of the Democrats’ hands.


Seriously though, I don’t mean to knock the Libertarian Party because I believe that we need more than just two political parties engaged in the debate over the direction or our nation. However, with Mike Gravel now in the Libertarian Party’s ranks, it makes it a bit more difficult for the Libertarians to be considered as a viable third option for disenchanted Republicans and Democrats. You need more Bob Barrs and Neal Boortzs and less Mike Gravels.

The thing is that the Gravel move isn’t all that surprising. The LP clearly enjoys the publicity of having a former Senator among their ranks now. The fact that he shares absolutely none of the core principles that the party stands for doesn’t seem to matter to them.

And that, above all else, seems to be evidence of just how useless that Libertarian Party has become.

It’s Time To Call For An Olympic Boycott

Over at The Crossed Pond, Rojas gets on the bandwagon:

After some reflection, I think I’m now ready to fully endorse a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics. I don’t do so lightly. For one thing, I like sports. For another thing, I don’t like the corruption of non-governmental enterprises by political concerns.

The bottom line, however, is that there’s no point in pretending at this stage that these Olympics are apolitical. The Chinese regime views them entirely as a means of establishing its international credibility and prestige. And based on various reports, they have proven willing to do anything and everything awful to maintain that prestige–from the forcible relocation of thousands of citizens to a vehement crackdown on any possibility of dissent. There is simply no case to be made anymore that the Olympics exert a moderating effort on Chinese policy; they are clearly and demonstrably having the opposite effect.

China wants these Olympics for the same reason that Moscow wanted them in 1980 and Nazi Germany wanted them back in 1936 — to give an aura of international legitimacy to a dictatorship that has no intention of reforming.

We shouldn’t give it to them.

Mark Your Calendars

Tax Freedom Day is April 23rd:

Tax Freedom Day, the day on which Americans have earned enough money to pay all their federal, state and local taxes for the year, will fall on April 23 this year, according to the Tax Foundation’s annual calculation using the latest government data on income and taxes.

Tax Freedom Day is calculated by dividing the official government tally of all taxes collected in each year by the official government tally of all income earned in each year. Governments—federal, state and local—took 29.6% of income in 1970, 30.4% of income in 1980, 33.6% in 2000, and so on. This percentage is the nation’s total tax burden. We then use the historical trend and the most recent economic data to make a projection of what the tax burden will be in the current year and we convert that burden into a date—a percentage of the year—on which Americans will have earned enough income to pay their total tax bill for the year.

This year’s Tax Freedom Day falls three days earlier than in 2007. Fiscal stimulus rebates and a projection of slow growth in 2008 are the principal reasons for the earlier celebration. However, if the large projected deficit for 2008 were counted as a tax in the current year, Tax Freedom Day would fall on May 3.

More importantly, as the chart below reveals, Americans spend more on taxes at all levels than on any other category of spending:

In fact, taxes take up more time than Housing and Health Care combined.

Truly depressing.

The Threat To Limited Government In 2008

The Cato Institute’s William Niskanen points out that limited government is unlikely to fare well regardless of who’s elected in November:

An administration and Congress of either party is likely to approve a federal program of universal health insurance. Such a program was endorsed by most of the presidential candidates in both parties, was implemented by former Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, and has been promoted even by our friends at the Heritage Foundation — despite the prospect that it would substantially increase federal spending, the relative price of medical care, and both price controls and nonprice rationing of medical care. The failure of any presidential candidate or more than a few members of Congress to criticize the $150 billion debtfinanced “stimulus” package as ineffective or possibly counterproductive suggests that there is a broad bipartisan indifference to responsible fiscal policy. Another major threat to limited government that will probably be approved next year, whatever the outcome of the November election, is a first-stage national commitment to reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases; this ineffective but potentially very expensive policy is being promoted as a moral obligation, rather than the best of the alternative feasible responses to global warming.

Each of these would, of course, vastly increase the size, scope, and power of the Federal Government and none of the remaining three candidates who will occupy the White House on January 20, 2009 has pledged to eliminate or even reduce a single federal spending program.

The logic of what we’re likely to face in the future is summed up here:

Bruce Katz, director of the metropolitan policy program at the Brookings Institution, has claimed that “Chicagoland [and other major metropolitan areas] simply [do] not have the power or resources to achieve meaningful reforms to metroscale problems such as crushing traffic gridlock and inadequate work force housing on [their] own. . . . The federal government has a powerful role to play in helping metros address these and other issues — through smart investments, market-shaping information and environment-strengthening regulation. This potential is not being realized, since for too long the federal government has been strangely adrift and unresponsive to the dynamic forces at play in our country.”

Odd — with all these skills and resources, one might think that the federal government would already have solved the major problems of the programs for which it has a clear constitutional responsibility.

You might think that, but you’d be wrong.

The Libertarian Case Against John McCain

It would seem to be axiomatic, but Reason’s Matt Welch makes the case for why libertarians shouldn’t cozy up to John McCain:

BEHIND any successful politician lies a usable contradiction, and John McCain’s is this: We love him (and occasionally hate him) for his stubborn individualism, yet his politics are best understood as a decade-long attack on the individual.

The presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party has seduced the press and the public with frank confessions of his failings, from his hard-living flyboy days to his adulterous first marriage to the Keating Five scandal. But in both legislation and rhetoric, Mr. McCain has consistently sought to restrict the very freedoms he once exercised, in the common national enterprise of “serving a cause greater than self-interest.”

Such sentiment can sound stirring coming from a lone citizen freely choosing public service. But from a potential president, Mr. McCain’s exaltation of sacrifice over the private pursuit of happiness — “I did it out of patriotism, not for profit,” he snarled to Mitt Romney during the final Republican presidential debate — reflects a worryingly militaristic view of citizenship.

As Welch notes, McCain’s disdain for individual rights over claims of “national greatness” can be seen in what is possibly the most significant piece of legislation that his name is attached to, McCain-Feingold:

When people raised First Amendment objections to the law, which prohibits citizen advertisements that so much as mention a federal candidate’s name within 60 days of an election, Mr. McCain responded, “I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has become corrupt.” When the Supreme Court questioned the law’s constitutionality, he complained in a legal brief that ads were targeting “candidates in close contests — and almost invariably in a partisan manner.”

A competitive political system ? How shocking.

For some libertarians, though I am not one of them, there may be a reason to vote for John McCain in November. On economic issues, he is better than either Hillary or Obama but, after eight years of George W. Bush and twelve years of Republican control of Congress, there’s no reason to believe anything that any Republican says when it comes to taxes and spending.

One of Glenn Reynolds readers makes this point:

I can see a libertarian case against McCain, but you go to an election with the candidates you’ve got. Does Matt really think McCain would be *more* of a libertarian disaster than “It takes a village”/”We’re doing it for your own good” Clinton or the “it would be a mandate, but it’s a *voluntary* mandate” Messiah of Change?

The argument, of course, is that they’re all equally bad for someone who believes in free minds and free markets, and there’s no need to vote for any of them.

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