Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Publius Endures Blog En-and Un-dorsements: The 'Pubs

My en- and un-dorsements for the Democrats are here.

On the Republican side, the choices for both the coveted Publius Endures endorsement and un-dorsement were difficult.

For the endorsement, there were only two choices: McCain or Paul. Each has some major plusses, and some major downsides, all of which bear addressing.

First up: McCain.

Plusses: Understands that all interest groups are "special interests," much like Obama. A true fiscal conservative who is serious about cutting government waste and understands, more or less, that you can't consume more than you produce. Alone amongst the top-tier candidates, he has an understanding and general respect for free market economics that he doesn't toss out the window at the first opportunity for political expediency. While too willing to use military force in international relations, he understands that military force should only be used if you are willing to do whatever is necessary to win, which means letting the generals make the tactical and strategic decisions. Unlike most of the other Republican candidates, though, McCain also understands that victory in which freedoms are sacrificed is not victory at all. Is on the whole a good and decent man who sincerely believes what he says. Is the only one on the stage who doesn't pander to the "base" on the immigration issue. Has a legislator's view of executive power, meaning he'd reverse the Bush-era expansions.

Minuses: While he understands "special interests," he doesn't seem to understand Federalist Number 10 particularly well, in which we learn that the answer to "special interests" isn't to restrict them, it's to let them loose- hence his championing of the onerous campaign finance legislation. His view of interest group politics is also less respectful than Obama's - he views interest groups as just plain evil rather than as a necessary evil; this makes him much less open to opposing viewpoints than Obama. Passionately in favor of restricting firearms rights. While better than Romney or Giuliani, he is still far too willing to get involved in foreign entanglements for my tastes.

Next up: Paul.

Plusses: Often talks a great game about individual liberty and free trade, and usually means it. Would do more than any other candidate to end federal incursions on civil liberties. Is the leader of a campaign that is increasingly exemplifying the Hayekian concept of spontaneous order. One group of supporters has a frickin' blimp that also manages to give the finger to McCain's precious BCRA. Has largely based his campaign on attacking Bush's foreign policy, including the Iraq War, and on Bush's assault on civil liberties. Did I mention he has a frickin' blimp? While politically obtuse, his response to the controversy over "that" donation was well-reasoned and principled.

Minuses: Despite his libertarian impulses, has some very un-libertarian views on things like immigration and states' rights. Is overly insistent on the gold standard, with little regard for the obvious logical flaws in it. Is way too close to Alex Jones and way too concerned about "conspiracies" like the NAU; his concern with the NAU places national and state sovereignty over individual sovereignty. His foreign policy, despite his claim of being just a non-interventionist, comes woefully close to isolationism. Has a large (but shrinking) percentage of supporters who behave in very un-libertarian ways and show a lack of respect for the individuality of others. Has an insufficient respect for the judiciary, and doesn't believe in evolution.

In the end, I have to give the nod to Paul- but it's a lot closer than it should be considering Paul's ability to speak in libertarian terms. Still, the biggest themes of Paul's campaign (if not necessarily his legislative career) are a humble foreign policy, respect for civil liberties, and massively shrinking the size of the federal government (and executive power in the process). Since it is impossible to see him winning the primary, it is these issues alone where a vote for Paul will have an effect- not on things like states' rights or conspiracy theories about the NAU; in other words, a vote for Paul is a protest vote on those issues. This makes him an acceptable protest vote. Even if he were to get elected by some unforeseen series of events, it is difficult to see how his views on states' rights would cause too drastic a change since Congress would wind up restricting him severely on that issue. (On the other hand, we'd see an end to trade treaties and many of even our healthy global relationships- not good).

On top of that, there is the fact that Paul's campaign will, in the long run, have a significant effect on the future of libertarianism; the more successful his campaign at this point, the more likely that effect is to be positive. On the other hand, the more his campaign is associated with conspiracy theorists and hyper-aggressive supporters, the more likely the long-term effect will be negative.

Recently the grassroots have begun to police themselves better (a fact Hayek would be proud of, no doubt), reducing my concerns about the long-term effects of the Paul campaign in the process. Moreover, some of the things the decentralized grassroots campaign has come up with have been nothing short of genius, at least in terms of reminding us how joyful life can be. I'm of course referring again to the frickin' blimp. I'm also referring to things like this: a planned online "march" in the World of Warcraft role-playing game. I've never played on online game like that, but I've seen enough of them that the thought of a massive "march" of cartoon-ish characters waltzing along a path in an online world gives me a good chuckle in much the same way as the Pirate Captain's legendary campaign for student council President at NC State did a few years ago. It's a beautiful way of telling the blowhards and power-mongers how idiotic they look in their quest to tell other people what to do. In many ways the grassroots portion of the Paul campaign has become a pure meritocracy, with the worst of the bunch contributing little other than being individually obnoxious while the most creative and best rise to the top and put together massive organized efforts like the Blimp, the Tea Party, and Guy Fawkes Day.

So in the end I've got to stick with Ron Paul for my Republican endorsement; but the non-libertarian segment of the GOP would be digging its final grave if it nominates anyone other than McCain.

...Which finally brings me to my un-dorsement. There are no shortage of choices for that less-than-coveted role on the Republican side: a Small Man in Search of a Balcony (Giuliani), "Battlefield Earth" Romney, "Real Fascist Bastard" Hunter, the Huckster, even poor ol' Lazy Fred (scratch that- I'm perfectly fine with a lazy President). So I'm just going to count them down in reverse order:

4. Duncan Hunter: You know a guy is scary when he makes Giuliani and Romney appear restrained in their views on foreign policy, and Huckabee restrained in his views on the role of religion in government. Luckily for him, he's unlikely to pick up a single delegate, which means he can't get my un-dorsement.

3. The Huckster: Plenty of other libertarians and conservatives fear the Huckster more than any of the other options, since he is in many ways the exact opposite of a libertarian: a theocrat with populist economics. But he doesn't scare me quite so much. If he wins the nomination, the GOP coalition simply breaks up; since my loyalty isn't to the party but rather to the cause of individual liberty, this bothers me not at all- libertarians will just find a new home for themselves in which they will have more influence. Besides, it's not like he'd have a chance of winning the general election. As scary as he is from a policy perspective- and he is plenty scary, he's at least sincere in what he believes, which means he's less concerned about his personal power than he is about doing what he thinks is right. On top of that, he is better than most of the other Republicans on one or two important issues: immigration and torture. He's also far less likely to use aggressive force than anyone other than Paul, which makes him better than most from a libertarian foreign policy perspective. Again- he's plenty scary, but in the GOP primary this year, we're talking about a matter of degrees. Romney and Giuliani scare me more.

2. Giuliani. He would have no regard whatsoever for civil liberties and his use of military force would be shocking. It's still plausible for him to win the nomination. If Hillary or Edwards win on the Dems' side, it's even still plausible for him to win the Presidency. He has pandered like hell to the socially conservative base of the GOP on things like gay marriage, immigration, and gun control. But you get the feeling that he'd back down from some of his newfound social conservatism if he were somehow elected. On his scarier positions on civil liberties and military force, at least you know he really believes what he's saying, which is scary in its own right. But at least he's serious.

Which leads me at long last to my big un-dorsement:

Mitt "Battlefield Earth" Romney. There are many, many reasons for this un-dorsement: His repeated assertion that the most important civil liberty you get "from" the government is the right to life; his perpetual flip-flopping on social issues; his outright meanness; his refusal to say whether he thought waterboarding is torture; his love of an L. Ron Hubbard novel; his pandering on economic policy questions; his nanny-statism on video games; his abuse of dogs; his Ken Doll roboticism; his exemption of atheists and agnostics from the concept of American freedom.

Get the picture? There's probably not a single area of agreement he has with libertarians at this point. He has a very good chance to win the nomination, and probably would have a shot against Hillary or Edwards. But most important of all, the only thing he seems sincere about is obtaining power for himself; he will say anything in front of any audience, as long as he thinks it's what they want to hear. Which means not only is he inclined towards authoritarianism, but it's also impossible to know what kind of authoritarian he'd be. But my guess is that he'd just be a younger, tanner version of Cheney- except he'd actually BE the President.