Monday, June 30, 2008

About that Leave Us Alone Coalition

My colleague East Coast Libertarian wrote a critique the other day of Grover Norquist's utterly silly argument that the Republican Party, including its constituent social conservatives, are the "Leave Us Alone Coalition." As ECL pointed out, social conservatives are far from interested in "leaving us alone," but instead are quite insistent on imposing their worldview on others. Of course, it is generally assumed that at least social conservatives are willing to "leave us alone" on economic matters in a way that liberals allegedly are not.

An article the other day by Dem Congressman Barney Frank helps demonstrate that even that assumption is bitterly false, and that the social conservatives even control Republican thought on economic issues. The article discusses a recent attempt to reduce the regulations and restrictions on the free market related to internet gambling. Specifically, the bill sought to reduce the restrictions and regulations on banks, who the previous (and utterly ridiculous) law made responsible for the decisions of their customers who chose to spend a few dollars leisurely placing bets online. The bill did not seek to repeal the ridiculous anti-internet gambling law entirely, but rather only sought to ease the regulations on banks. It was introduced by Republican congressman Peter King and supported by the entire pro-market establishment, including, I should say, Grover Norquist himself.

Congressman King's bill went up for a vote before the House Financial Services Committee, and failed to escape committee after a tie vote. In the vote, representatives of one party voted better than 7 to 1 in favor of this entirely reasonable, pro-market bill that was introduced by the committee's senior-most Republican. Meanwhile, representatives of the other party voted more than 9 to 1 against this bill and, in essence, in favor of tighter financial regulations on banks. Except that the party voting against the free market by more than a 9 to 1 margin was the Republicans; the party supporting the free market by better than 7 to 1 was the Democrats.

As Congressman Frank wrote:

In other words, the leading economically conservative organizations and representatives of financial institutions who are argued that the proposed regulations would interfere with the functioning of our financial system had the support of less than 10% of the Republicans. 90+ % of the Republicans voted along with the social conservatives to maintain the position that the federal government should be restrictive of individual choice in the matter of gambling and should compel the banks to be the banks to be the enforcers.

I regret the fact that this became partisan. I was hoping that it wouldn't be, and I have been working closely with some of those most dedicated to economic deregulation of the appropriate sort. But it became partisan because the religious/social extreme conservatives continue to be in control of the Republican Party on a whole range of issues, and they demonstrated once again that it is they and not those dedicated to what they believe are free market principles who have the upper hand in internal Republican Party disputes.

And then people wonder why I say that the Republican Party no longer has any claim to the support of libertarians. After being defeated like this by his own party, I have to wonder if Norquist is re-thinking whether he should have written that book.