Archives for category: Party Push and Pull

As I was dissecting the unfortunate intellectual snobbery of a major libertarian economist, a few years ago, the truth dawned upon me. I knew at last the great purpose of the Libertarian Party:

The most important social function that the Libertarian Party has served has been to find a home in the libertarian movement for not very bright people.

The libertarian movement has been heavily intellectual in one dimension or another for a long time. Think tanks, policy houses, ideological societies — the whole gamut — all sport fairly high intellectual pretensions.

But liberty is for everyone, as Murray Rothbard used to say, and that includes people of normal and below-normal intelligence.

The Libertarian Party has provided a nest for a great many very smart people, of course, but it has also made room and accepted as leaders folks who ring the Liberty Bell, but not the right side of the Murray-Herrnstein IQ bell.

When I was young, and active in the party for a brief time, I sometimes met truly dull-witted people there. One man, who used to be a sailor, brought up the same story every time I talked to him. It took me a while to realize that this retiree was literally on the opposite end of the spectrum from me, and that most of his fellow activists rolled their eyes at him. And yet . . . I came to like him. He was loyal, and he remembered people’s personal histories far better than the nerd-brained, MENSA-types that over-stuffed the ranks of the organization.

Indeed, when I learned that this man had died, some years ago, I was genuinely saddened in a way I probably would not have been saddened by at least half of the others I knew.

One of the important functions provided by Christian churches has been the bridging of social castes and classes. The Catholic Church is especially good at this. A professor will sit next to a person whose janitorial work provides an intellectual struggle. Dealing with people of different abilities in a social way, with respect, is something not fostered much in our increasingly IQ-sorted society. There is, as Murray and Herrnstein argued, a growing division based on a certain kind of measurable intelligence. And the libertarian movement is filled with institutions that do nothing to dissolve those divisions.

Except for a very, very few, the LP being the most prominent.

What if, contra to an intellectual conceit, we won’t have a free society until the non-intellectuals, even the simpletons, come on board? It is not as if they, too, do not have cause to resent the cognitive elites. Arguably, they have the most cause, for the modern state has been designed to serve those elites the best, throwing crumbs at the rest.

Is the Mises Institute, or Reason, or Cato going to encourage this “rest” of humanity?

Too bad that the Libertarian Party is stuck on political non-starters. For it may be one of the few libertarian groups that actually does something absolutely necessary for the future of freedom.

But it will be the libertarian intellectuals, of course, who see exactly what this means: that the Libertarian Party’s most important role is an unintended consequence of its founders’ and activists’ keenest conscious plans.

Once again, the Invisible Hand strikes back.

twv

This answer to the title question first appeared on Quora.

Because people are, for the most part, ill-educated and unthoughtful.

Is that aggressive enough? Sorry. Let me be more specific.

The idea that there are not diminishing returns to government, that kludge cannot be a problem for law, that hormesis does not apply — this sort of nincompoopery is actually promoted by politicians, who gain prestige by enacting laws and “standing out” . . . and gain reëlection funds from special interests for feeding into the legislative pile-on. (Big businesses and government employee unions really like kludge.)

Further, journalists and other media personnel play a game of hysteria-mongering and messianic politics, to make themselves feel more powerful, meaningful. So they continually feed the absurdity.

Finally, citizens fall for all this nonsense because they do not have many incentives for rational appraisal, seeing as they cannot directly effect change and thereby learn from mistakes. So they tend to rely upon dogma and virtue-signaling, instead.

Tribalism fuels this too, and everyone plays the fool. This is a bipartisan folly. There are several sectors of American society that are routinely betrayed by the parties to which they are most loyal. I’m thinking especially of African-Americans by the Democrats, and evangelical social conservatives by the Republicans.

These two groups find themselves trapped by partisanship, and thus can stand in for the nation as a whole. They routinely play the role of Chump. They are milked by their leaders, shamelessly.

Maybe we should laugh. Crying, whining, and voting don’t do any good, anyway.

twv

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N.B. John Stuart Mill, in his great and under-consulted Considerations on Representative Government, argued that “Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfill it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors.” We might notice, here, that creating new laws is not the body’s most “proper office.” A representative body should never limit itself to creating new laws, and never pride itself chiefly on that task.

These mock slogans from Bill Maher are hilarious, and yet . . . the Democratic Party just barely lost a presidential election and four iffy make-up elections in districts that had previously gone Republican. Not really Earth shattering.

The party is, remember, more unified than the GOP. It stands for a few very clear principles — no one is uncertain on what the party stands for: anti-racism, feminism, defense of almost any conceivable minority group (other than white heterosexual Christian men), and ever-increasing spending and the raising of tax rates.

If the Republicans prove their disunity by botching their stint at “unified government”* — and that is almost certainly what they will do — the Democrats will be back in power very soon.

Politics is such a weird game: reaction following reaction ad infinitum.

The post-election hysteria and/or offputting denial that losing partisans undergo after a loss is astounding in its breathtaking over-reaction.

twv


* Is “united government” under one disunited party truly “united government”?

Liberty30thAnniversary

This late June marks the 30th anniversary of the first issue of Liberty magazine, the libertarian fanzine I helped found in 1987. (I worked on the project for twelve years.)

My boss, Bill Bradford, and I were very new to the desktop publishing revolution that summer. We had just purchased our Mac Plus computers, and Bradford had invested in the application Ready,Set,Go!, then the leading page layout application. On the first day we produced a newsletter, his hard-money investment four-pager Analysis & Outlook. That must have been in early June. I am pretty sure we finalized the first issue of Liberty in late June, but it may have in July.

The issue itself was dated August 1987, and it sure was ugly.

But the content was interesting.

It featured a fascinating article on Ayn Rand’s film work by Stephen Cox, a Ron Paul for President endorsement and salvo by Murray N. Rothbard, a terrific essay by Butler Shaffer, and a fascinating memoir of a 1960s libertarian survivalist and eccentric, by Ben Best. My written contributions were two: a review of Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions, and a think piece on the Russell Means’ run for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination — the latter published under a pseudonym. I remember senior editor Stephen Cox not thinking much of my piece, but Bradford was enthusiastic. He himself had written about the LP contest between Means and Paul under his own pseudonym, “Chester Alan Arthur.”

Years later, Bradford told me that I had cooked up the name for our final-page feature, “Terra Incognita,” which was designed to carry on in the tradition of H. L. Mencken’s “Americana” series from The American Mercury. Bradford loved the basic idea, and had fun producing it for years. I was initially less than impressed, and quickly forgot I had a hand in any creative aspect of its development. But later I came to enjoy it, somewhat. Now I tend to think it the best part of the magazine!

I will no doubt continue to reminisce about the ongoing 30th anniversaries of Liberty as the months go by.

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The first rule of politics, one would think, must be: Do not turn your opponents more set against you; do not make them your diabolical opposite, your nemesis.

Democrats are doing that with Donald Trump: making him their enemy. Making him more extreme.

They would have found him at least somewhat pliable, I bet, had they not roundly condemned him as Hitler — before and especially after his election. Trump was, after all, a Democrat himself until a few years ago.

I do not think I have ever witnessed such massive stupidity … at least since the united government under Bush pushed massive spending.

But let me take a step back from my utter incredulity: It is not as if Democrats had not made similar miscalculations before, in dropping their anti-war activism, anathematizing the Tea Party, idolizing Obama and granting him one Get Out of Jail FREE card after another.

Indeed, the style obsession that became paramount under Obama — “isn’t he just the coolest, the dreamiest?” — is part of the reason for the current over-reaction against Trump. Superficiality, bewitched passion, trumps . . . reason.

Democratic partisans as well as leftists at large are now forcing Trump’s hand, mobbing him to move further away from their side. And if he succeeds, they could lose big.

Astounding, the stupidity of it. But it cannot be just their superficiality, their tribal othering, their commitment to symbolic action and the rhetoric of intention over follow-through.

Perhaps, thinking themselves outsiders, their “rules for radicals” approach did not prepare them for what the reality of their position was: defense of their status as insiders. They needed a more Machiavellian text.

Sorry, post-Alinskians! Now, the only true radicals left are the La Boéttiens!

twv

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During President Trump’s first speech before Congress, in which one could discern a ramping up to increase spending on the military, the new President prominently featured — called out in the modern, “story-time segment” that Obama had made de rigueur — the wife of the slain Navy SEAL who died in an incursion into Yemen. It was a moving moment, but no one that I follow mentioned that the United States has not declared war on Yemen.

Also not mentioned? The fact that the Pentagon cannot (or will not) provide an accounting of the money it spends. It seems to me that before we throw more billions at the secretive institution, we should have a thorough audit in hand.

Correction. I saw one discussion of all this . . . by Paul Jacob, today .

Now would be a good time to not only rethink Middle East policy, but to re-consider our expensive role as world policeman. . . . During the campaign, Trump was criticized for questioning our alliances and demanding more of our allies. But he was right. I hope he’ll get tough in prodding our allies to ultimately provide their own defense.

Even more basic? Demand an audit of the Pentagon before new funds are thrown into the five-sided money pit.

U.S. military spending can be summed up in one word: overkill. Mr. Jacob calls America’s longstanding foreign policy as the “overkill always” strategy, and explains it like this:

Two truths: national defense is a necessity for a republic; national defense is a racket.

The latter is the case because the former is the case. Big spenders rely on “better safe than sorry” to always push the envelope, over-investing rather than under-investing.

Jacob identifies this as a “trap,” betting that Donald Trump “knows this.”

Before Trump ran for office, he said that sequestration cuts to the Pentagon budget had not gone far enough. But when he threw his hat into the ring, he promised to “make our military so big, so powerful, so strong that nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to mess with us.”

President Trump now proposes over fifty billion dollars in new defense spending. More soldiers, more ships, more fighter jets.

Donald Trump’s excuse for this nonsense? Well, he has followed the neocon line, claiming, contrary to all evidence, that U.S.military spending was gutted under President Obama. Further, he seems to be leaning neocon by holding to the common charge of Republican politicians to the effect that Barack “Drone-killer” Obama has not done enough in the mid-East.

The truth? That conservatives cannot handle? That even a Democratic war-hating president (who nevertheless was a war president for every day of his two terms, a new record) can do too much.

Killing innocents along with alleged bad guys in other countries that we have not duly declared war upon is one sure way to stir up resentments in those countries. And breed international terrorism.

It does not look like President Trump will bring any clarity or rationality to military spending — or coherence to foreign policy.

But I have to ask: why would Trump, who was such a skeptic of American imperial management before the election prove such a chump for the military industrial complex Official Story now?

A number of theories could be advanced. Maybe he knows that, before being sworn in, he was just talking out of his rectal region. Now he has real responsibility, and, seeing that he knows nothing, he goes along with his neocon advisors.

Or maybe he has been threatened by said complex. The military industrial complex is the strongest sector of the Deep State. They are the real rulers, and have been for some time. Perhaps we could send Gandhi into the White House and he’d quickly be seen towing the line.

How would this work? On his first or second day in office, men in black walk into Gandhi’s office unannounced, and hands the Mahatma a folder. What is in the folder? If I knew I’d tell you. But it is damning.

The folder Trump (may have) received? It could have been damning of Trump himself — it could be that he’s being blackmailed. It could be damning of the U.S. Government (the war crimes and power structure are too terrible to speak aloud). Or it could be damning of humanity itself!

Maybe the Lizard People. . . .

Or it could be all very simple. Might not Trump be caving to the military-industrial complex simply to establish another base of support?

Trump, after all, is not an idiot. He knows he needs supporters. He probably had intended to unite the country after election, but the Democratic nutball response has been so loud and divisive, any tendency he had to move to the Center (which is where I think he’d prefer to be, as I’ve written about before) has been scuttled by a lack of reason to do so. The Left and Center-Left has all but declared war on him. He gets death threats. The major newspapers have columnists and reporters who have publicly discussed assassination — and get away with it! Major Democratic figures talk about impeachment, no matter how groundless. The desperation to the left of center is palpable, and that means that appeasing them will not be a good bet.

So Trump goes the other direction.

He plays up to his core constituency. And he reaches out to the Deep State.

That would be an unfortunate consequence of the whole “Not My President” movement. But a typical unintended consequence of tribalism and overkill. Par for the political course.

twv

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As I migrate from Facebook and Twitter to Tumblr and, especially, Minds.com, it has been interesting to confront the recent election and its fallout. Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, all a-twitter with debate about the Meaning Of It All, mark a moment in Internet history. How long will this go on? I don’t know. As I listen to the Numb and Number guys wrap up their initial YouTube discussion with the idea that Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter were all but conspiracies designed to corral bloggers into venues that are easy to censor, to control, I have occasion to rethink. The gentlemen wonder if the alt media will be of lasting influence.

Am I wrong to see the ominous signs of censorship not as conspiracies but as typical examples of capture? These media hubs were designed to network people better than email and blog trackbacks. Internet developers had failed to construct the obvious next step of technical networking advance, full P2P information and sociality interplay. So these hubs proceeded to re-AOLize the Internet. And then the opportunities for control crept in, in part to monetize their operations, in part because their makers are weak-minded ninnies utterly in hock to the race/gender intersectionalists (the SJWs), susceptible to the merest accusation, no matter how idiotic, of Racism or Sexism!

I head off to Minds.com (I’m “wirkman,” of course) because this platform shows more promise of free speech than Facebook, at least. Facebook’s protocols for delivering messages alone are reason enough to abandon the service. Besides, Minds.com, even in beta, features some networking advances that might indeed promote free interplay, which is what most of us want on the Net.

Of course, the n&n guys’ discussion centered around the election. And a number of ideas were thrown up and pinned to a wall. I have slight disagreements with them. So I shall restate, succinctly, my basic take:

  1. Hillary lost mainly because she was a corrupt Clinton, and, beyond that, a horrible, corrupt and unpleasant-to-listen-to, embittered scold.
  2. Not enough Americans are sexist enough to accept the Feminist rationale for Hillary, that her female pudendum alone entitled her to their vote. The Vulva is not enough to trump corruption, thank the Norns.
  3. To argue that had Biden entered the race, he could have easily beat Trump, while probably true, is irrelevant: Trump was selected, in great part, out of a vast upsurge of the collective unconscious, a mass reaction to Hillary herself; had Biden been selected, or merely in play as the presumptive nominee, Trump would not have been selected to oppose him. (For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. See my posts of earlier this year, on just who bred their Nemesis.)
  4. Trump was allowed to rise to the top of the Republican line-up because of at least three mutually reinforcing factors: (a) because the GOP competition was littered with too many too-similar lackluster contestants, and they dropped off one by one because they picked off each other, not Trump — he is the only one who stood out; (b) because the party and its insider operatives had been betraying the membership for decades, accomplishing nothing — indeed, accomplishing the opposite of most promises — leaving an ideological hole at the heart of the coalition, ripe for Trump’s hostile takeover; and (c) Trump could turn on his un-PC charm and get away with it because, finally, the race/gender intersectionalists had screwed the pooch with their protests, censorship, and general unpleasantness, inoculating at least half of America to any censure regarding racism, sexism, and even the grossest breaches of decorum.

How do I know? Call me vatic.

Actually, this is all just my interpretation of American culture today. In my defense: it helps never to have “your guys” win elections. Repeated loss clarifies the mind and scrubs off the crud from one’s corneas. A tragic, or ultimately comic, view of the world settles in. One accepts reality as it is, even knowing that things could go better, were more folks to wise up. 

In my story, the Ice Giants always win.

twv

I have been arguing that the Libertarian Party needs to dissolve, give up. For years. I’ve made my case many times. Why? Well, American are not libertarians, on the whole. And Americans still support the two-party system . . . with their votes, if not their full soulful effort or actual party membership. Further, Americans seem to grant only a short grace period for a new party to take form. If a new contender does not gain traction right away, it is dismissed as a Losing Cause. And the fact that the major parties have set up huge barriers to entry means that opposing them is an almost Sisyphean task.

Why try? Over and over? The rock up the hill, only to be defeated each time?

And yet, this outing, the Libertarian ticket didn’t do too badly.

This, in a sense, should be no wonder, given that the ticket sported the most prestigious candidates in this year’s presidential race — the most governing experience, the only experience cutting government programs — and what I think of as “not bad” ideas.

And yes: Much was indeed arrayed against them. The private/public-be-damned Commission on Presidential Debates balked at their inclusion. The VP candidate betrayed his commitment by focusing only on the Evil of Trump, witlessly missing the sheer horror posed by Trump’s main opponents, “old friend” Hillary. And then there were a few charming “gaffes” that the media played up as if Gary Johnson had spoken of grabbing a woman in the petticoat junction, or called half his opponents’ followers “deplorables.”

The following notice is off LP.org:

Yesterday Libertarian for president Gov. Gary Johnson won 4,013,780 votes, the highest vote total for an alternative party presidential candidate since Ross Perot in 1996.

Perot, whose net worth was over $3 billionaire [sic] in 1992 dollars, became a household name that year after he bought 30-minute prime time infomercials to boost his first presidential campaign. He was subsequently included in the presidential debates.

Perot received 8,085,402 votes in his 1996 bid.

The rationale for continuing to support the Libertarian Party thereby got a little stronger — despite the inanity of LP Chair Nicholas Sarwark’s comments on the night of the vote. We can forgive party hacks their hackdom. Besides, the man did better at running a political convention than any other I’ve witnessed in my lifetime . . .this other man’s antics on the floor of the 2016 Libertarian Party Convention notwithstanding:

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Remember: Neither candidate received a majority of the popular vote. (Please see the information I pulled off of Wikipedia, to the right, summarizing the vote counts so far.) This would be a narrow “win” for Hillary were the United States a plurality-is-enough democracy and not a mixed-system republic.

But this is a republic, and it’s the distributed, decentralizing check of the Electoral College that counts. And the College requires a majority.

It will be interesting to see how many elector defectors there are!

An elector can vote for anybody. If laws in an elector’s representative state have been enacted to regulate elector behavior, that state can punish. But I am pretty sure it cannot prevent a rogue vote. There have been rogue votes before. Were there enough to take away a Trump win, the whole election of the President of the United States goes to the House of Representatives.

This is the system our Founding Fathers — who were far wiser than are either shrill Hillary or vulgar Donald — built for us.With a technical victory in the Electoral College, and a lack of even a plurality victory in the popular vote, anything like a “mandate” — that quaint Chinese notion! — can only be illusory.

And no physical laws have been repealed. Neither have any economic ones. Causes have consequences, and a few of them are predictable on the pattern, eyes-wide-open/scanning-the-horizon level.

But precisely what happens in the next few weeks and months is inherently unpredictable, even by determinists. Right now, the most powerful people in America are the electors who will head off to their “colleges” on December 19. (There is no actual collegium in the geographical sense: the electors meet in their respective states.) Thirty-six electors is a huge spread, of course; Trump’s win sure looks secure. But, were something dramatic to happen in the next month, and Trump goes off reservation, or is indicted for some horrid crime. . . .

If you have been astounded at how weird this election has become, know this: it can indeed get weirder. Probably won’t, but still: this is America, and your vote does not count. It is only one drop in the bucket of a complex system designed to transfer power peacefully. Not optimally — whatever that could possibly mean.

twv


Trump won, think of that. The last I saw, he nabbed 274 electoral college votes, which should surely be enough to withstand a few defectors, rogue electors. . . .

The Republicans maintained control of the Senate and the House. GOP insiders are rubbing their hands in unexpected glee: united government!

Do you fear united government? Well, you should. It was terrible in the Bush years. It was what led to the repudiation of Republicans in 2006 and 2008, and to the eight years of the Barack Obama disaster. The Republicans were punished. American voters punished them.

Yesterday, it was The Democracy’s turn, turnabout being rough, but a sort of poetic justice. Call it doggerel-eat-doggerel justice. And no better candidate for repudiation could be imagined than Mrs. Hillary Clinton. I gloat and glory in her defeat. Her agony. Driving home from town, after the night’s big turn went from the West Coast States’ blue board results, and the red began racking up, my fellow traveler chortled along with me: To be defeated by the most hated man in America! What a blow. What a slap, what a thwacking. None dare call it comeuppance?

And yet, and yet . . .

America works better with divided government. A certain amount of checks and balances in the opposing parties vying for supremacy in House, Senate, and the White House.

But take heart! If I have been right, we will have divided government, despite Democratic dashed hopes.

Republicans have retained congressional majorities, sure. But another Democrat will enter the White House.

The devil, you say.

Well, yes. You see, Trump is, at the very least, not a conservative. His speech last night was all about spending increases, when not making vague promises of getting America “back to work.” If he gets his way, deficits will increase, as they did under Bush; and debt will increase, as it did under all presidents in my lifetime. Bigly.

My past prediction was that Trump will rule as an old-time moderate Democrat, a sort of vulgar Jimmy Carter with a propensity for super-Gephardtian trade barriers.

When will Democrats realize they won? When will Republicans realize they lost?

Mundus vult decipi. The world wills deception; the world wants to be deceived.

twv