Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Libertarian Problem

Over at the NYTimes, David Brooks argues a big problem with the Republican party is its libertarian bias:
While losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, the flaws of this mentality have become apparent. First, if opposing government is your primary objective, it’s hard to have a positive governing program. 
As Bill Kristol pointed out at the National Review event, the G.O.P. fiercely opposed the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law but never offered an alternative. The party opposed Obamacare but never offered a replacement. John Podhoretz of Commentary added that as soon as Republicans start talking about what kind of regulations and programs government should promote, they get accused by colleagues of being Big Government conservatives.
Alas, there are probably many swing moderates like Brooks who think the path to Republican success is to have a smarter kind of state, not a smaller one.  A vote-seeking Republican probably should adopt this attitude if he wants to be elected.

To libertarians a smarter state is a smaller state, but most voters aren't libertarians. Bush II gave us more (and compassionate) government, and he failed not because he wasn't sincere, but because more government is never smarter. Dodd-Frank and Obamacare just add more bureaucracy to sectors that already are over and mis-regulated.  


InjuredE said...

"a big problem with the Republican party is its libertarian biases"

That's funny. I was going to say the problem with the Libertarian party is it's Republican bias.

"First, if opposing government is your primary objective, it’s hard to have a positive governing program."

Pretty hard to have a negative one, too.

"G.O.P. fiercely opposed the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law but never offered an alternative. The party opposed Obamacare but never offered a replacement."

I really dislike the Times occasionally.

Dave Pinsen said...


Most voters want economic security above pretty much all else. If you don't want them voting for bigger, more putatively "compassionate" government, you need ways for them to get the economic security they need in the private sector.

That's the lesson of the Reagan Democrats: they had economic security from their manufacturing jobs (which paid well and offered excellent health coverage and retirement benefits), so they were free to vote for Reagan for smaller government or for cultural reasons (patriotism, gun rights, etc.). Reagan seems to have recognized this, which is why he used the threat of tariffs to encourage the Japanese auto makers to start manufacturing cars here.

Mainstream Republicans and Democrats today both advocate policies (e.g., mass immigration, naively unilateral free trade) that make private sector workers more economically insecure. Democrats then promise to offer them more government-provided economic security, while Republicans don't. It's a stupid strategy, and it's a losing one.

But so is Brooks's strategy of "smarter government" -- not so much because government is never smarter (though that may be true), but because Democrats are the party of government, smart or otherwise, and voters will choose the real thing instead of the lite version.

Republicans should focus instead on policies that would make Americans more economically secure without new government programs. They could start by opposing the President's new immigration push on economic and employment grounds -- Sailer, Kaus, Krikorian, etc. have done the homework for them, they just have to run with it.

Instead of attempting to pander to Latino voters who will continue to vote 3-to-1 for Democrats, Republicans should ask why Obama and the Democrats want to increase unemployment and lower wages during the worst economy in decades.

Mercury said...

The most rational choice for all politicians in a democratic system where every adult’s vote counts equally is to offer more and more free stuff to some majority of citizens funded mostly by the remaining minority. The authors of our constitution recognized this problem literally on day one.

For 200 years or so, suffrage was limited enough and there was sufficient common ground (remember e pluribus unum?) amongst the populace to prevent this A vs. B terminal (for a free republic) endgame but that ship has sailed.

Even if the USA settles into European style socialist complacency, birth rates well below replacement levels will almost certainly follow and politicians will respond by beefing up the population (as they already are) with immigrants of lower economic potential than the existing general population (they could be much more selective instead but they won’t be and haven’t been – see above).

The USA as a sovereign nation might not actually collapse any time soon but paradoxically our near-pure democratic process will soon breed a society more plutocratic and less free than the one(s) it sought to escape from in the 18th century.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Japan which is much more culturally homogenous, doesn’t really “do” immigration and whose currently crippling, lop-sided age demographics will eventually and naturally evaporate.

stephen said...

Doing nothing would have been better than doddFrank and obamaCare. Objectively better. Thats bad news. Thats a one way ratchet.

Alexander Falkenstein said...

The Liberty Movement is the future. Students For Liberty is hosting a conference in two weeks that will include over 1,250 college students from all over the world. Three years ago we were excited with 500 students.

Anonymous said...

There is obviously a big split between neocon/big government/Israel first republicans and libertarian leaning republicans. The same split exists in the democratic party, though they do seem to have a solid core that coalesces around the common theme of hating the christian white male and the nation's founding population.

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