Category: Politics

“Nope, the GOP Still Isn’t Libertarian”

Indeed, as Harry Cheadle writes:

Since the party’s 2012 defeat, there’s been a lot of talk in political publications about how to “fix” the GOP. Generally, writers have recommended that Republicans run candidates that have libertarian views on social issues so they can appeal to young people, which dovetails with an idea circulating in the blogosphere called “libertarian populism.” The latter is basically an ideology that is pro-free market, anti-interventionist when it comes to foreign policy, and opposed to both big government and big corporations. Those might be good ideas, but they don’t seem to have a constituency beyond a bunch of bloggers who need something to debate in between elections, and there has yet to emerge a flesh-and-blood candidate who is running for office on a libertarian, anticorporate, antiwar platform. The Republican Party hasn’t embraced libertarianism for the simple reason that the people who belong to the party and vote in its primaries aren’t libertarians.

Via Nope, the GOP Still Isn’t Libertarian | VICE United States.

‘More Than Sharks Love Blood’


How does one explain politicians like Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, or Mark Sanford? They’ve kept returning no matter how risible their revealed conduct. Their particular motivations are known (if then) only to their families or therapists. It’s possible, though, that a suitable political explanation is available.

In the American version of House of Cards, Congressman Francis Underwood professes that he loves his political wife, Claire, ‘more than sharks love blood.’ It’s quite the description: Underwood’s describing his bond as a feeding instinct. Nothing higher-order about it: he simply needs Claire the way predators need food.

There’s something almost predictable about some politicians expressing that need, because there’s a part of politics (for some) that’s similarly elemental, beneath policy, programs, and philosophy: an insatiable desire to advance oneself, to promote oneself.

Some politics, even small-town politics, runs on the dangerous impulse to advance not a position but a person, not an idea but a man.

On a grand scale, the damage of this impulse is easily understood – most are taught to recognize insatiable ambition at a distance. Close at hand, one’s not so good at spotting its local equivalent. Personality and familiarity distort one’s judgment, and so we foolishly tolerate unprincipled striving, an overweening sense of entitlement, and ceaseless self-promotion.

We’d be foolish, though, to think that ambition of this kind exists only in faraway places, among New Yorkers or those living on the coasts.

It’s closer than that.

Posted also at Daily Adams.

The Three Ways Policy Goes Wrong

How does public policy go wrong? I’m sure the answer’s not complicated.

There are a few principal ways, with all else being derivations: (1) bad information, (2) bad ideas, or (3) bad motives.

So either knowledge is poor, theory is poor, or ethics are poor.

I’ve organized the possibilities this way in order of severity, from least to most troublesome. Unsound information is most easily corrected, unsound theory some more difficulty, and unsound ethics with the most difficulty (if susceptible of correction at all).

Of ethics, a community may face either intentional misdeeds (lies, theft), objective conflicts of interest (self-dealing), or the occasional character flaw (laziness, a sense of entitlement, needy self-promotion, excuse-making, bigotry). One might separate character flaws into a fourth category, but I’ve classed them as ethical problems because their presence in matters of public policy acts as a cheat against the public, of resources or opportunity.

What’s missing here is an excuse for bad policy that is, in fact, almost never true: lack of intelligence. It’s not an excuse because the overwhelming number of people in a community don’t lack for intellect. There’s no immutable characteristic within a community, in fact, that inhibits good policy.

That’s true and fortunate, of course, as it means that there really is no good (insuperable) excuse for bad policy.

Looking at Japan’s Past to See China’s Future

Over at the Financial Times Alphaville BlogJapan’s lessons for China, about state capitalist China’s systemic economic problems. (Those who write that China’s a perpetual juggernaut either don’t understand fundamental economics, don’t understand that fundamental theory applies universally, or most likely commit both errors).

The post outlines China’s four principal economic problems (per Stephen Green, Standard Chartered’s chief China economist), how Japan faced similar problems (per Lombard St Research’s Brian Reading and Diana Choyleva), how Japan’s temporary fixes failed (per Reading), and how China is trying to apply some of those same (sure-to-fail) fixes (Choyleva).

Solid analysis, all around.

China needn’t wind up with two lost decades of stagnation (“Stagnation, the default solution to excessive savings in the absence of structural reform”), as happened in Japan. China could avoid these Japanese-situation mistakes, but

Choyoleva says the party is also wedded to the idea of growth and many officials benefit directly from the status quo. While that’s possibly beginning to change, it does appear to remain a big conundrum and source of tension. It remains to be seen how much pain can be inflicted for longer term gain.

In the end, a sound economic analysis like Michael Pettis’s – that China could rebalance – runs up against political impediments of the kind that Minxin Pei so well describes.

Via Japan’s lessons for China.

Gov. McDonnell of Virginia: Crony Capitalist or Old-Time Moocher??

The New Republic describes Bob McDonnell as a crony capitalist, but their own enumeration of his greed puts McDonnell in a more mundane (but wrong nonetheless) category of self-entitled moocher:

McDonnell has not lived up to Democrats’ worst fears as a religious-right zealot. Aside from that brief and disastrous flirtation with the transvaginal ultrasound, he has mostly left social-issue ideology to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee to replace him. But he has also veered from the Republican script as well. Sober, upstanding Bob McDonnell, we now know, has been on a term-long bender. The Washington Post’s ace reporters in Richmond have laid bare a seemingly endless stream of self-dealing in the Governor’s Mansion, most of it revolving around a major donor, a dietary-supplement entrepreneur, who has showered McDonnell’s family with gifts: picking up the $15,000 catering tab at McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding, buying McDonnell a $6,500 Rolex, and giving $70,000 to a corporation owned by McDonnell and his sister and $50,000 to McDonnell’s wife, a former Redskins cheerleader who has helped the donor, Jonnie Williams, Jr., market his controversial new dietary supplement with, among other things, an event at the Governor’s Mansion. Just to make things a little tackier, the governor and his family have allegedly been absconding with food and supplies from the mansion kitchen and improperly spending taxpayer money on all manners of personal goodies, including detox cleanses, energy drinks and trips to pick up his grown children’s dry cleaning.

Via Bob McDonnell Scandal in Virginia: Why Democrats Should Capitalize @ The New Republic.

Meanwhile, the left is worried about flacking ObamaCare

Funny, but proponents don’t seem to be relying on the law’s own supposed strengths, anymore.

Kevin Drum writes that “Republicans will be relentlessly exploiting Obamacare’s rollout problems during next year’s midterm elections.”

If these rollout problems weren’t likely to be real problems, the left wouldn’t be so concerned about politics.

Via Democrats Better Start Selling Obamacare Soon @ Mother Jones.

Florida Libertarian nets 43% of vote on platform to abolish his office

That’s the stuff:

Joseph Wendt, 2012 candidate for Florida’s Soil and Water Conservation Board, netted the largest Libertarian Party vote total in his state, and one of the largest in the nation, running on a platform to defund and abolish the board he was campaigning to join.

“I am going to be blunt, the board is a waste of your tax dollars,” Wendt wrote on his campaign website. “It has a budget of about a quarter of a million dollars. What do they do with it? They fund a poster contest, and have 2 full-time employees that act like plumbers and doesn’t fix anything. Gee, call me crazy, but I think your tax dollars should and can be better spent. So, I want the County to stop funding the Board.”

He realized that it would take more than that to keep taxpayer funds safe, though, and made the next logical step a centerpiece of his campaign.

Via Florida Libertarian Joseph Wendt netted 43% of vote on platform to abolish his office | Libertarian Party.