Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why this Libertarian Can Support Obama

Obama is NOT in any way a libertarian. However, the goals of libertarianism (well, at least cosmorangelinebeltwaytarianism), and - for that matter, Burkean conservatism, are fundamentally liberal in the classical sense: a meritocracy in which economic and social mobility are maximized. The major difference between the Progressive, libertarian, and Burkean conservative are the means in which these goals are to be accomplished.

Again, I could not disagree more with Obama on many of his policies. Yet I find myself drawn to supporting him - passionately, even - because his goals are liberal in the classical sense. I repeat - I do not think his means are libertarian in any way, and are arguably not even classically liberal means. But the goals, so far as I can see, ARE classically liberal. His are not goals centered entirely around maximizing his own political power, and thus he is a candidate worthy of my deep respect. These ultimate ends are the same ends as exist for us perjoratively-named cosmo-libertarians (as well as for other derivations of classical liberalism).

***UPDATE*** From Caroline Kennedy's endorsement of Obama (to appear in the Sunday NYT):

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved. (emphasis added).

This paragraph of Kennedy's beautiful if unspecific endorsement best sums up why I'm able to support Obama. Much of Obama's appeal to me is in his apparent desire to encourage rather than require moral behavior. If government is necessary, a libertarian should be much happier with a government that relies on encouragement more than mandates. Though this is nothing compared to a lack of any government or a government confined to truly libertarian principles, it is still a vast improvement over most politicians' views of government.

More at memeorandum.

Something Big about Tonight's Results

The big story in the first primary with a large African-American vote is that not only did Obama win that vote, he did so by a margin that is almost unfathomable. Not only that, but he also won by again getting over half of the young, white vote, and by winning by a huge margin in the state's largest county.

So the Obama movement amounts to a coalition of African-Americans and young and/or educated white voters. That sounds an awful lot like the coalition that brought down Jim Crow, no?

I still think Hillary will win the Democrat nomination. But Obama's chances look much better tonight. And reforming the old civil rights coalition is nothing to sneeze at.

More reactions to tonight at memeorandum.

McCain, Libertarianism, and Uniting the GOP

Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey make a compelling case for John McCain as the truest conservative in the race for the Republican nomination. As Will Wilkinson argues, theirs is essentially a case for "national greatness conservatism." They make the point that John McCain's appeal arises out of his commitment to virtue as the ultimate goal of society rather than commitment to any one ideology. For instance, they say, an ideological commitment to free markets misses the point - free markets are merely often useful tools for permitting virtue to flourish in a nation.

With McCain's sense of virtue guiding his thought rather than a commitment to any one "conservative" ideology (or for that matter a commitment to the party platform), they argue that McCain is the truest representative of conservatism in the race.

They make a major flaw in their argument, though. They assume that "virtue" (as they and/or McCain defines it) is not an ideology unto itself. But their concept of virtue is in fact an ideology unto itself- it is an ideology which holds that the goal of the state is to encourage (or require) virtuous behavior amongst its citizens. It is an ideology which I find personally distasteful, but it is an ideology nonetheless.

Still, they are correct in their implication that McCain's ideology of virtue is the best representative of the modern Republican conservative movement. This ideology of virtue in fact explains why McCain is able to (with some obvious and notable exceptions) adhere relatively closely to the Republican party line without sounding like a complete robot along the lines of Mitt Romney. The major difference between McCain and Romney, then, is that McCain's personal ideology roughly lines up with the Republican platform, whereas Romney's ideology actually is dictated by the Republican platform. As such, the Storeys' argument serves as profound support for my longstanding argument that McCain is the only candidate actually capable of unifying the old Republican coalition of interest groups, most of which have a somewhat similar concept of virtue at their core.

Alas, the Storeys' article also makes clear that there is no place for libertarians in that coalition any more:

"The problem with absolute faith in any ideology, including that of the free market, becomes evident with a glance at the flagship publication of the libertarians, Reason magazine. It is no coincidence that Reason publishes hagiographies of Milton Freedman as well as pleas for drug legalization and appreciations of cartoon pornography: economic libertarianism, elevated to the status of inviolable first principle, leads to moral libertarianism. The moral vacuity of dogmatic libertarianism is poisonous to public life. By teaching that 'greed is good,' strict free-market ideology holds out the promise that private vices can be public virtues."

This of course is a repeat of the old "libertarians are libertines" fallacy. In fact, libertarians believe that virtue is a noble and worthy goal of society; in some ways, a virtuous society is even the penultimate goal of most libertarians. However, I (and I suspect most libertarians) have a much different concept of virtue. The Storeys (and by implication McCain) think that virtue arises simply by doing good and virtuous things. Libertarians, however, see virtue as arising from the act of individual choice to do good and virtuous things. To the libertarian, an otherwise virtuous act undertaken with a proverbial gun to your head loses its virtue. It is the very voluntariness of an act that makes it virtuous, not the act istelf. It would appear that McCain's ideology of virtue does not accept this concept, but instead begins and ends with the principle that virtue comes from virtuous action rather than virtuous choices.

Although I find this ideology of virtue deeply flawed, to the extent that this ideology actually motivates McCain, he is worthy of profound respect. His is an ideology in which ends do not justify means, as the means themselves must be consistent with his principles. As such, he has admirably stood up against waterboarding, torture, and abuse of executive power. That is more than can be said about the man without a real ideology other than his own thirst for power, in which his ideology becomes simply a blind adherence to the party line. Since the party line merely represents a conglomeration of priority issues for various party constituent groups, such an ideology lacks any common theme or principle, and is utterly incoherent. As I've argued elsewhere, such an unprincipled ideology creates deep partisanship, hatred, and a deep willingness to abuse power and disregard institutions.

However, McCain's ideology of virtue is also an ideology that is extremely un-libertarian and illiberal in general. As such, libertarians must remain extremely wary of the prospects of a McCain presidency. I still think he is the least-bad Republican (of those with a real chance to win the nomination) from a libertarian standpoint, if only because his ideology is not apparently rooted in his own thirst for power. But after reading this article, it's also quite clear that he is anything but friendly to libertarians. At least he and the Storeys are being honest about that fact.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Abuse of Process

Via memeorandum:

After all the shady things that the Clinton campaign has done in the last few weeks, this one has to be the most blatant: the campaign is now going to fight to have the Florida, and more appallingly, Michigan delegates seated at the party convention. Of course, Hillary won Michigan by default since Obama and Edwards removed their names from the ballot in order to play the part of the "good soldiers."

At this point, any knowledgeable person who still supports Hillary but complains about Bush/Cheney abuse of executive power is close to the pinnacle of hypocrisy. While technically speaking Hillary has no ability to force the convention to seat these delegates, that's not really the point. The bigger point is that the Clintons are demonstrating a complete disregard for the process to which they have agreed. While this is an election rather than a presidential exercise in decisionmaking, it provides a lot of insight into Clinton's views on process and especially the applicability of process to her. Which is to say that she thinks she's above it.

Unfortunately, as this commenter at Obsidian Wings (responding to another excellent post by hilzoy) shows, Clinton's die-hard supporters don't really have a problem with the Bush/Cheney way of doing things in principle. No, their real problem is with the fact that their side is currently out of power. Their view isn't that the problem is that the President has become too powerful. Instead, their view is that the problem is that they're not in control of the Presidency. This kind of rationale (that ends can justify means as long as they're your party's chosen ends) is a perfect example of, or at least a corollary to, Kip's Law.

Now that the Giuliani campaign is on life-support, I'm moving ever more firmly into the Anybody But Hillary camp - and that includes "Battlefield Earth" Romney.

Reinventing the Bush Years

Via memeorandum.

Peggy Noonan is attracting a lot of attention today for her claim (with which I agree) that President Bush is responsible for destroying the Republican Party. Ed Morrissey strongly disagrees with her, but in his typically coherent fashion that is worthy of a read.

But then there's this response, which I found laugh out loud funny from "The Strata-Sphere" (which sounds about where this guy lives):

"She’s is [sic] all upset Bush did not court to her and her ilk and instead represented the nation."

Bush has done such an excellent job "representing the nation" that his approval ratings must be at record highs, right? Errrrr, no.

According to "The Strata-Sphere," in fact Bush is a great President who is actually a moderate that didn't kowtow to the far right during his Presidency. In fact, President Bush is a true bipartisan who "crafts solutions that can progress conservative values without causing a liberal uproar that stalls progress."

I actually don't have a joke here, this is so off the reservation.

Fun with Conspiracy Theories

Via memeorandum.

Someone at Crooks and Liars picked up on a whisper during one of Romney's answers last night that appears like someone was feeding him answers. This is almost certainly nothing of course....but it would also fit beautifully into my theory that Romney and his supporters are in fact robots. Just saying....

The Trouble With Sub-Samples

Andrew Sullivan is intrigued by this recent South Carolina poll, which appears to show that Obama has a huge lead among Latino voters in the state. But there's one problem:
Hispanics only make up 1% of the expected electorate. In a survey of 685 people, that means the subsample of Hispanics was no more than 7-15 people- not exactly a statistically significant sample.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Must Read for Younger Libertarians

...Myself included. Carol Moore, a longtime "movement" libertarian, has pieced together a compelling history of the story behind the Ron Paul newsletters going back 20 plus years, and where they fit in libertarian history. Her posts provide some much needed background that is free from much of the emotion and invective that has characterized much of the debate.

Her posts are in no way a defense of the newsletters; however, they provide some infinitely valuable context. I highly recommend that younger libertarians or libertarians who are relatively new to the movement take a look at what she has written. I actually have found her posts as or more valuable than Julian Sanchez's excellent reporting on the matter. In either event, I hope libertarians on both side of the divide take her words seriously, though it would seem most of it is directed at the Rockwell side. The first of her posts is here, the second here.

I'd give a couple of quotes, but there is no element of her reporting that is any less invaluable than the rest. If you have about 10 minutes, take the time to read both posts.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Story for Radley Balko or at Least To The People

If Radley Balko or my friends at To The People don't comment on this story, something is seriously wrong in the Cosmorangelinebeltwaylibertarian blogosphere.

A winning lotto ticket as confiscable proceeds from drug dealing? There's got to be a good post in there somewhere.

Madison in the Nomination Process

Via Memeorandum.

Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics takes a look at the Madisonian nature of the Republican nomination, and discusses how he thinks it works to McCain's disadvantage. Certainly he is correct that the process contains many safeguards against dominance by one minority faction of the party.

The biggest problem with Cost's argument is that it fails to recognize the Republican establishment as a faction unto itself. This faction is the sole faction that is vocally opposing McCain; while establishment conservatives vary on their choice of pet issues, they generally insist upon party orthodoxy on all issues. The various other factions within the party, however, do not insist upon party orthodoxy, because they are themselves not adherents to such orthodoxy. In fact, McCain's approval ratings within the party are extremely high - it would seem that his fierce opposition comes exclusively from the establishment faction of the party.

It is true that the GOP nomination process is probably more Madisonian than the Dem nomination process, with its myriad "Superdelegates." However, the GOP establishment still exercises a sizable amount of control over the process. The big problem for the party establishment this year, however, is that its influence within the party has waned considerably over the past several years thanks to the various failures of the Bush Administration, scandals in Congress, and its increasingly incoherent ideology. In this sense, the party's nomination process is far more Madisonian this year than it was in the past.

In 2000, for instance, McCain was stopped early on because the party establishment was extremely powerful and its influence on constituent groups was at its nadir. This year, however, the party establishment is left primarily with only its (un-Madisonian) procedural powers. McCain will be able to overcome these powers so long as he can build a solid coalition of support to get himself a majority.

Given that the party establishment has effectively endorsed the two candidates most despised by the other GOP factions, and given that McCain appears surprisingly popular amongst all of those factions, it is difficult to see how the establishment candidate (presumably Romney) will be able to cobble together a majority coalition even with their procedural advantages. McCain, however, will likely be able to cobble such a majority together as other candidates drop out of the race and back him either publicly or privately.

This is not to say that McCain is inevitable- he may have some financial problems that will hurt him deeply without some major changes. But if he can stay in the race and obtain sufficient funding, I have a hard time seeing how Romney, Huckabee, or even Giuliani beats him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wiedersehen Fred!

Fred Thompson has quit the race for the GOP nomination. In some ways he was probably the least offensive candidate to the most elements of the Republican coalition. He was able to speak coherently enough while still more or less toeing the overall party line (though he was, thankfully, opposed to the Bush/Cheney expansion of executive power). Unfortunately for him, the party establishment had already thrown most of its weight behind Romney by the time Thompson finally decided to enter the race. Equally bad for him was the fact that he finally threw his hat in the ring after Huckabee had started to pick up steam with evangelicals. His laid-back style probably would have had more appeal had he jumped in sooner, I suspect.

Given the deep distrust most non-establishment Republicans have for Romney and Giuliani now, it is pretty clear that McCain stands as the sole remaining candidate who actually can be a legitimate standard bearer for something resembling the old "Reagan Coalition." Unfortunately, the departure of his old Senate pal Thompson may hurt McCain more than it helps him since Thompson has hinted that he does not intend to endorse anyone else anytime soon (if he were to do so, McCain would be the safe bet).

Much of Huckabee's rise came at the expense of Thompson's support. But Thompson's overall support came largely from the fact that he was a credible "fusionist" candidate; I suspect that Huckabee had already milked Thompson's base dry of social conservatives, leaving primarily establishment conservatives and fiscal conservatives to be divvied up among the competition. This means that I somewhat doubt the conventional wisdom that Huckabee will benefit from Thompson's departure and that I think most of Thompson's remaining supporters were establishment Republicans who found Romney's weaseliness to be extremely off-putting.

I'm not entirely certain how Thompson's departure will affect the race, but my suspicion is that it will not noticeably increase Huckabee's numbers. I would think that Romney would gain more points from Thompson's departure than anyone, but Chris Cilizza presents some numbers suggesting the benefits will actually accrue to McCain and Giuliani.

More reactions at Memeorandum.

More on Partisanship vs. Ideology

I just stumbled across this extremely old post at Coyote Blog that hits a home run in terms of fleshing out the problems with "pu-pu platter partisanship," or as he calls it "politics without philosophy."

In my view, the biggest cause of the heated rhetoric and immediate dismissal of all things "bipartisan" is "pu-pu platter partisanship" or "politics without philosophy." When you have differences of opinion on political philosophy, you can explore where those philosophical differences arise and whether a compromise can be worked out on an issue that is consistent with both philosophies. If that will not be possible, the impossibility will be readily apparent, and you can move on. Moreover, you wind up at least understanding the root cause of your differences such that on future issues you may be able to work together in a way that is consistent with both aims. Thus, even when compromise is impossible, you at least walk away from the situation with at least a grudging respect for each other.

But when you are dealing with someone who engages in "pu-pu platter partisanship" or "politics without philosophy," a positive result (either compromise or at least a grudging respect without compromise) becomes impossible. This is because you cannot engage in rational discussion with someone whose political positions lack any philosophical grounding other than "the positions of the Democratic/Republican party," or "I'm for government intervention except when I'm against it." Instead, the party's position IS the philosophy, as I've argued before, even though the party's position is nothing more than the aggregate of top-priority issues of its constituent interest groups. The reason this makes rational discussion impossible is that a completely different set of logic applies to each position the person holds; the fact that this set of logic is completely inconsistent with the person's logic on another issue never crosses their mind. It is, in a word, doublethink.

When there is no philosophical underpinning to an opinion, it is impossible to engage the person on terms that they can understand. They have no ultimate goal for how society should look, and so the policy is a goal or principle unto itself and thus not subject to compromise. In order to justify such an uncompromising attitude, the individual must view the opposition as fundamentally evil and thus unworthy of acknowledgement.

And this is how you get the hyperpartisanship characterized by those who condemn Obama for (gasp!) speaking positively about Ronald Reagan, or daring to acknowledge that there is a major problem with Social Security's stability. It is also how you get the hyperpartisanship of Rush Limbaugh when he condemns John McCain for his stance on immigration and fiscal responsibility or when Republicans simply dismiss Ron Paul and anti-war activists as "Blame America Firsters."

It is my position and belief that the politician with a cogent political philosophy is the politician that is most likely to engage in bipartisanship, while the politician whose philosophy is governed primarily by his party's talking points will be the least likely to engage in bipartisanship. In the process, the principled bipartisan will actually build coalitions that achieve or work towards broad philosophic goals, while the "pu-pu platter partisan" will simply push through whatever policies he can without regard to whether the policy achieves some fundamental underlying goal.

Stephen A. Smith Calls Giuliani a Dictator

Per Crooks and Liars, ESPN Radio host called Rudy Giuliani a "dictator" last night on Hardball with Chris Matthews.

...Wait a second! Stephen A. Smith was on Hardball talking politics? When did he become an acceptable candidate for political discourse? It wasn't bad enough for him to ruin one field of journalism in which he actually knows something - now he gets to make a contribution to the cesspool that is political debate in this country, too?

At this point, is there any way that you can take Chris Matthews' show seriously?

The GOP Establishment vs. the GOP Coalition

David Brooks picks up on the vast disconnect between the McCain-hatred (and for that matter, Huckabee-hatred) in the GOP establishment and McCain's performance with the actual GOP voters. He points out that despite McCain's deviance from Republican orthodoxy on arbitrary litmus test issues, he manages to have by far the highest second-choice approval ratings of any Republican candidate. Of course, amongst the GOP establishment class, he likely has by far the lowest approval ratings (other than Huckabee of course). Indeed, McCain's support in South Carolina was solid almost across the board.

What this all shows is that the old remnants of the GOP "coalition" still exist - they just no longer have much respect for the GOP establishment as an arbiter of what is best for them. The GOP establishment has pandered to certain elements of its coalition on issues like immigration and the Terry Schiavo case, expelling Republicans who failed to support the party on those issues as RINOs. But issues such as those were wedge issues not only nationally, but also within the elements of the GOP coalition. By placing those wedge issues front and center, the GOP establishment arrogantly forgot one of the rules of interest group politics:

"Political parties are merely vehicles for the election of interest groups who have chosen to unite under a single coalition. They have no independent ideology of their own; only the collective ideologies of coalition members."

While illegal immigration may have been a top priority issue for one of the GOP's constituent groups, by going along with that group's top priority, the party ignored the fact that a good chunk of its members are actually pro-immigration, and always have been. Indeed, even in South Carolina, as orthodox a Republican state as you can usually find, just about half of Republicans in exit polls favored either a guest worker program or a path to citizenship.

The party establishment figured that immigration supporters would either go along with the chosen orthodoxy or at least ignore it. They were wrong. But instead of backing off on the immigration issue, the attacked Republicans who supported it, calling them RINOs, squishy moderates, etc. In the process, they didn't just make the party smaller by alienating so many of these Republicans; they also made their hold on the remaining Republicans weaker.

McCain and Huckabee have both drawn the continual ire of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, and more, yet have suffered not at all from it.

The GOP's problem in recent years is that it figured it could tell its voters what to think. Perhaps this is because, as I've argued, the party's constituent interest groups no longer have much in common, and so almost every issue became a wedge issue within the party. As a result, the establishment cannot cobble together a united coalition on many issues at all; indeed, the party's attempts to do so lately have resulted in official Republican orthodoxy being completely incoherent, requiring a level of doublethink heretofore unheard of, which I have dubbed "pu-pu platter" partisanship. That still, however, does not excuse the extent to which it has attempted to use intimidation, name-calling, and purges to keep its constituency in line.

By contrast, when the Republicans swept into power in 1994, they did so on a platform that was based on its supporters telling it what to think. The Contract with America was successful as a political strategy precisely because it avoided wedge issues while focusing on issues upon which nearly all Republicans already agreed. It was a matter of building consensus, even if that consensus was largely just within the party. To accept the principles of the Contract with America did not require massive amounts of doublethink, and so orthodoxy was relatively easy to find.

The attempts at enforcing orthodoxy within the party in recent years have left the Republican establishment badly weakened, and the party as a whole rather smaller in number.

More reactions at memeorandum.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rare Praise for Rudy Giuliani

I was listening to Rudy's Sunday interview with George Stephanopolous this morning. For the most party, Giuliani is about the scariest candidate out there to a libertarian, but for (perhaps) the presence of Romney in the race. In any event, Rudy was asked a question about foreign investment in US banks - and specifically investment by foreign governments. To Rudy's credit, he took the unpopular position and argued that this is, in fact, good for the US - any foreign investment in the US is good news. Stephanopolous tried to distinguish between investment by foreign governments and investment from Japan in the 1980s, which caused panic at the time but was ultimately good for our economy.

In any event, Rudy's argument in favor of the foreign investment amounted to an argument for diversification. As long as a large number of foreign governments are investing in the US, they wind up cancelling each other out, and no one foreign government gains much, if any, sway over US policy or the US economy.

Moreover, implicit in Rudy's reasoning is the argument that foreign investment in the US builds cooperation with foreign governments and makes an aggressive policy by those nations towards the US counterproductive to the foreign government's interests. In a way - and I highly doubt the exceedingly hawkish Giuliani would have meant this - foreign government investment in the US serves as a tremendous deterrent to war or foreign aggression against the US.

Indeed, there is substantial evidence that foreign investment and free trade are tremendous forces for international peace. Point being that Giuliani may have inadvertently advocated a policy that would actually reduce the US government's ability to engage in an interventionist foreign policy.

It is in essence a Madisonian argument - maximize the number of groups with an interest in the American system, and those groups will buy into that system and cooperate with each other.

Rudy is still close to the scariest choice of the Republicans, but you have to give credit where it is due.

More on Bipartisanship, Obama, and Shifting Alliances

I've been arguing for quite awhile that Obama's view of bipartisanship is what I call "principled bipartisanship," in which he seeks common policy goals with individual Republicans and independents and then works with them to arrive at a workable policy solution. Hilzoy today has an excellent (as usual) post that starts out as an explanation of why Hillary is a poor vehicle for advancing Dem Party values (a term that I personally find meaningles, but which Hilzoy uses more to mean "left of center" values). But it ends up as a stirring defense of Obama's bipartisanship.

Hilzoy, referring to an old post of hers, hits on the central point that I've been talking about:

Obama tries to find people, both Democrats and Republicans, who actually care about a particular issue enough to try to get the policy right, and then he works with them. This does not involve compromising on principle. It does, however, involve preferring getting legislation passed to having a spectacular battle.

As evidence, she cites Obama's work with Tom Coburn on ethics reforms, and Richard Lugar on nuclear non-proliferation. The point of this all is that Obama - both rhetorically and in practice - views the American political system as a competition among shifting interest groups. He does not accept, in principle, the belief that membership in a political party means that all members of that political party accept the party line on every issue.

Thus, to Obama, what is important is finding a working majority on the given issue, while also leaving open the possibility of creating working majorities on future issues. So rather than steamroll a plan that has the specifics that he proposes, he seeks out individuals who share the same goals as he does on the topic. He then works with them to create a proposal that will actually achieve their common goal. What he is doing is in effect removing himself from pu-pu platter partisanship, and making the only relevant partisanship whether he can find people with the same policy goal on a given issue.

Since that particular goal is all that is relevant at a given moment, appeasing party interest groups on the details of the solution is less important. And so the final policy result manages to reflect an actual policy preference more than interest group horse trading or the policy preferences of the most influential group in the Dem Party on the given issue. Put another way, the policy that gets implemented represents a meaningful policy rather than simply the intra-party Dem compromise that seeks to appease all Dem Part interest groups (who often are at odds with each other on various issues; see for instance the Dem Party's championing of ethanol, which is mostly ineffective on environmental issues but manages to appease constituent farmers' groups and unions while still being sufficiently "green" to keep the environmentalists on board).

Not only is Obama building a working majority on issues where he actually can find enough members on either side of the aisle to do so, he is also generating goodwill amongst those new allies. He implicitly understands that there will be issues in which he is in the minority. But by building coalitions on specific issues rather than on all issues simultaneously (ie, "pu-pu platter" partisanship), Obama is ensuring that he will get a say in those issues as well, provided that the goals of policy are broadly "liberal." (In the classical sense).

As I've said before, his political acumen shows a deep understanding of Madisonian views on faction.

Individualism vs. Conservatism

Timothy Sandefur has a terrific post in which he shows how divergent the paleo-libertarian view of the world is from the traditional Rand-inspired individualism that has historically been the central characteristic of libertarianism.

The post to which Sandefur is responding (by Nick Bradley of is here. Bradley's post attacks the derisively named "cosmotarians" (which includes Cato, Reason, pro-choice libertarians, and pro-immigrant libertarians). Bradley's argument is summed up in these few sentences:

"Those on the Postrel crowd [sic] are nothing more than "fans of the cool": technology, drug use, prostitution, warfare (before 2004), etc. -- their creed is atomistic individualism, to hell with communities, churches, families, and all non-coercive communities. To them, the individual must stand alone, only to be crushed by the state. They'd support (and do support) a federal ban on the local regulation of abortion long before they'd support a city council's right to put up a Christmas tree, a nativity scene, or teach intelligent design in their schools. "

Since individualism is absolutely the core of libertarianism, and collectivism (of any stripe) is its enemy, Sandefur points out that Bradley is essentially acknowledging that the libertarianism of Ayn Rand, Thoreau, Emerson, etc. has nothing whatsoever to do with the self-styled libertarianism of the Rockwell brigades. Indeed, Bradley himself links to an old LRC article that praises "conservatism" over "libertinism."

I wanted to add a few things to Sandefur's argument, though.

1. Bradley seems to argue that the core of paleo-libertarianism is the non-coercive community. If that is true, then it seems to me that he has several hurdles to overcome: first, if you restrict immigration, communities are not, in fact, non-coercive- you are using the power of the state to force people who wish to leave their communities to remain in them; in addition you are using the power of the state to prevent local communities who wish to have more immigrants from actually receiving such immigrants. I might also add that Bradley's arguments in favor of local governments teaching ID and eliminating church/state separation in fact are ways of saying that local governments should have coercive authority over those who live within their jurisdiction, regardless of whether those persons agree with the sentiments of that coercive authority. Call that what you will, but please don't claim it is a non-coercive community.

2. Bradley's argument falls into the same fallacy as other conservatives (which is what Bradley is, as Sandefur points out) who pay homage to "free markets." Bradley argues that "[t]he public hears "libertarian" and thinks "heroin addict" "prostitute", and "private military contractor", not "peace", "free markets", and "local communities" -- all thanks to the libertines." Bradley repeats the oft-stated fallacy that libertarians who support legalized, well, most everything, are libertines. But really Bradley is just showing a selective understanding and acceptance of free markets. In other words, for someone who claims to be in favor of absolutely free markets, Bradley seems to have no problem with the state imposing restrictions (ie, bans) on markets in drugs, prostitution, and yes, labor (via immigration restrictions). He is perfectly comfortable with forcing those things into a black market, rather than exposing them to sunshine in a free market. In his mind, supply and demand curves apply to goods and services in virtue, but somehow don't apply to goods and services in vice and migration.

The fact is that we "cosmotarians" have no problem whatsoever with voluntary communities, churches, etc. Indeed, we (or at least I) generally think that each of those things have tremendous value; but the value that they have arises from their very voluntariness. When people are forced to remain in communities they do not like or when they cannot join in voluntary associations (as is the case with bans on gay marriage and/or on civil unions), the result is detrimental to society.

Bradley is arguing not for individualism, or for diversity of factions a la Federalist Number 10, but for local majoritarianism. He is thus arguing in favor of a tyranny of the majority - just so long as that majority is sufficiently local for his tastes. The irony is that his ideal communities are in fact quite coercive because of his support of restrictions on immigration and opposition to allowing people to choose just about anything on their own so long as the local community chooses to forbid it. If we have learned anything from American history (and, for that matter, world history) it ought to be that more local governments are every bit as capable of trampling on individual rights as are national governments. Or were Jim Crow laws justified?

Machine Politics

My friend Kyle finds growing evidence of seriously dirty tricks by the Clinton campaign in Nevada this weekend, including this report at DKos. Many of the charges seem consistent with this email to Andrew Sullivan. I'm not going to comment on the charges of fraud in New Hampshire, which I think still lack any real substantiation; however, there is little doubt that the Clinton campaign had better resources there to make sure that it got its supporters got to the polls.

What all this shows is that political machines still exist in this country at a national level - they're called the party establishments. While it is overly pessimistic to think that we haven't advanced since the days of Boss Tweed, it is also naive to think that political machines suddenly disappeared overnight. This is especially true in the case of party primaries, where one group controls most of the relevant infrastructure, much as Tammany Hall controlled all of the infrastructure in New York City during its monopoly on power.

When a candidate is the favorite of his or her party's establishment, they get access to the entire party infrastructure. In a primary, that access is particularly valuable since the party infrastructure includes control over the primary/caucus procedure and process. We've seen hints of this in New Jersey, where the local GOP party establishment is nearly unanimous in its support of Giuliani.

Political parties in this country are really just rough coalitions of interest groups. These interest groups support the party within which they think they will have the greatest amount of influence. In doing so, rather than striking out on their own, they are able to reap the benefits of the party's massive infratstructure. But that infrastructure is controlled by die-hard party members, not the constituent interest groups. The die-hard party members have an ideology that is best described as fusionist- nothing more than a conglomeration of the top priority issues of each of the constituent interest groups. However, we should keep in mind that the die-hard party members are themselves a constituent interest group, whose primary goal is maintaining the overall party coalition (which entails that they keep control over the reins of the party to keep one constituent group from gaining too much power and annoying the other interest groups). Their top priority isn't implementing policy goals, but ensuring the party retains a hold on power, and that they retain control of the party.

There is also a certain sense of entitlement that comes along with controlling the party - the party doesn't belong to the constituent groups, but instead to the establishment who built the party. The constituent groups are just there because the establishment lets them be there because they are politically convenient at the time. We see this sense of entitlement in the GOP with Hugh Hewitt's meltdowns over John McCain, which he calls an attempted coup that must be stopped in order to "put the campaign back into the hands of the people who built the party over the past 28 years."

When you have this kind of sense of entitlement - as the Clintonites largely do with the Dem Party - the temptation to use your control of the party's vast infrastructure to ensure you keep that control are overwhelming. If you can do so in ways that are ethical (like massive get-out-the-vote operations), then great; if that won't work and you must skirt the boundaries of ethics without necessarily reaching outright fraud, then so be it. As a result, you get what happened in Nevada this weekend, you get the campaign against McCain in 2000 in South Carolina, etc.

By becoming part and parcel of a party, interest groups get access to the party's infrastructure on the groups' top priorities; but when it comes to secondary and tertiary issues, the party winds up having a much bigger effect on the interest groups than the interest groups have on the party. The interest groups, unless they are sufficiently large, do not control the party; the party instead controls them.

The problem we face in this country is that our system of campaign finance regulation, federal control of the airwaves, etc. have institutionalized the two-party system on both the national and local levels. As long as that system is institutionalized, interest groups will be unable to mount credible efforts on their own, which means they will have to continue to subvert their secondary and tertiary goals to the wishes of their chosen party's establishment. And that establishment isn't about to allow itself to lose control of the party, at least not without a fight. The end result is that our national and local governments wind up being controlled primarily by two super-factions, rather than the shifting factional interests envisioned by Madison's Federalist Number 10. When these two super-factions that control each party's infrastructure have to share power, government is at least tolerable as there are truly competing interests on each issue. But that doesn't change the fact that the super-factions' first goal is always maintaining their control of the party infrastructure.

More at Memeorandum.