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The Honest Politician: A Fable

December 12, 2011

An idealistic lawyer was about to turn forty. He said to himself, “I make a good living at what I do, but at this point in my life I’d rather make a difference. Our country’s a mess right now, and I want to help put it back on the right course.” So he decided to run for Congress.

The lawyer was well-liked in his community. He looked good, sounded even better and radiated an aura of impassioned honesty. In short, he had the makings of a natural candidate. After putting out some feelers, he won the support of his district’s party organization and launched his campaign. (Whether he was a Republican or Democrat is immaterial to our fable.)

Almost immediately the candidate was approached by an ongoing parade of important-looking representatives from a host of important-sounding organizations. “You’re our boy,” they all exclaimed in one way or another. “We’re going to fund your campaign and see to it that you win the election. After all, we need to have a good friend like you serving in Congress.”

“I’m glad you think of me as a good friend,” the candidate told his backers. “And I’m grateful for your support. You won’t be disappointed.”

The candidate ran a brilliant campaign. He dazzled the crowds with his fervent speeches and promised that, if elected, he’d devote himself to serving his constituents — even the ones who voted against him. And he’d never, under any circumstances, allow himself to be bought by special interests. Meanwhile, his backers looked at each other and winked.

Election Day arrived, and the young candidate won his seat in Congress. Soon after settling into his office on Capitol Hill, he was once again approached by those important-looking representatives from those important-sounding organizations.

“Here’s our agenda for the next two years,” they told him. “We’d like you to study it and get back to us with your plans for implementing it.”

“Wait a minute,” the new Congressman protested. “I’m glad you liked me enough to support my campaign, and I’m grateful that your money helped me get elected. But I’m the one who sets the agenda here, and I set it by listening to my constituents.”

“No you don’t!,”  his backers barked at him. “We financed your election, and now you owe us your loyalty. We own you.”

“Own me?,” the Congressman replied calmly. “As I recall, gentlemen, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery back in 1865. Nobody owns anybody in this country. You can look it up.”

“But you promised that you wouldn’t disappoint us!,” the backers fumed.

“I won’t disappoint you,” the Congressman answered. “I’m planning to be the best representative my district has ever had.”

“But you took our MONEY!,” the backers raged. “We expect SOMETHING in return!”

“Look at it this way,” said the Congressman. “You helped elect an honest politician. That’s something these days, isn’t it? I’ve thanked you for your generosity. Now get out of here and let me do my job.”

“You’ll never get re-elected!,” the backers screamed as they left his office.

The honest Congressman leaned back in his chair. “But you don’t elect me,” he said. “My constituents do.” And he proved to be such an outstanding representative that he was re-elected in a landslide. 

Moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you read in fables.

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116 Comments leave one →
  1. AMAC permalink
    December 12, 2011 5:08 pm

    I know we all see special interests as a problem, or most of us. Where we differ is on the solution(s). I would like to believe that we could just trust the politicians to do the right thing, but I do not. I think that regulating campaign fianances through various methods we have discussed is the only productive solution. We can’t trust people not to murder each other, so we have to criminalize it. I think we have to do the same to eliminate special interest influence on government.

    • December 12, 2011 6:34 pm

      Absolutely, AMAC. I’m convinced we’ll need a constitutional amendment to criminalize the exchange of money and favors between representatives and lobbyists. That blind-trust plan by the two Yale guys is a good start — all political contributions would become anonymous, so the politician would have no idea who’s funding the campaign. But I’d like to take it further and see the buying of politicians become a criminal offense. It’s not just tantamount to bribery… it IS bribery.

      • Anonymous permalink
        April 18, 2013 10:14 pm

        I agree with you. Politician should never able to run for office he/ she If commit a crime. Even if, money goes missing and the person leaves office not to be investagated.

  2. Rob Anderson permalink
    December 12, 2011 6:10 pm

    I think your fabled congressman is headed for a bad day in Dallas.

    • December 12, 2011 6:36 pm

      LOL. I was debating whether to have the poor Congressman prematurely terminated or let him triumph. In the end I sort of had it both ways.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    December 12, 2011 6:11 pm

    I can hear our DBA saying: “Rick, you ability to oversimplify complex issues is amazing”.

  4. December 12, 2011 6:40 pm

    Ah yes… but this fable is so nonpartisan, so high-minded, so moderate in spirit… I don’t know how anyone (except Congressmen and lobbyists) could take issue with it. But let’s see…

  5. Kent permalink
    December 12, 2011 9:34 pm

    Truly a fable that this guy would be re-elected after dissing the lobbyists. Unfortunately there is a bad side to this if it isn’t done correctly.

    As I see it a timid politician can be influenced by dark anonymous figures when the politician doesn’t know exactly who is financing the campaign.

    The solution might be to “pool” money together and distribute per week based on the stats of the public polls or just to distribute equally.

    If you choose the stats route: it would be a race. If you equally distribute weekly among the candidates the “race” is only based on maintaining resources while the candidate is on the campaign trail. Which may make a good candidate fail by lack of proper accounting.

    Either way the “platform” of the candidate sets the mood and not the interest groups.

    This would be a “major overhaul” and I don’t think realistically with only two parties that this is going to happen. Corporations just choose one side and not the other. Which is easy. With more Political parties the funding becomes “cloudy”.

    • December 13, 2011 11:46 am

      I don’t know if pooling is the way to go… Why would anyone contribute to the pool without knowing who would receive the funds? At least with the blind trust, anyone can contribute to the candidate of their choice… they just can’t expect favors in return. They have to trust that the candidate they support will represent their side of the issues.

  6. Kent permalink
    December 12, 2011 9:43 pm

    This is why I suggested a “United Centrist Party” composed of Middle-road, Middle-class Americans. Those who feel they are being “ran over” because they believe in a “Middle-way” (balanced) approach to the problems caused by the two existing political parties.

    The only way to build is ground floor and work up to higher levels of power. Many moderate/Centrist groups would join into the “United Centrist Party” and promote a candidate from within their group to go into debates within the organization or give proxy to one they like somewhere else till 6 candidates are left standing on a predetermined time for primary voting.

    Ok, so I am getting ahead. This wait and see stuff is for the birds. I just read that 82% plan or want to throw out their incumbent on election day. The people are looking for answers/candidates and another party.

    • December 13, 2011 11:52 am

      Kent: If there were ever a time in recent American history for a successful third party to emerge, that time is now. The problem: I don’t see moderates organizing into anything as coherent as a political party. What we have is a collection of dozens of minor centrist groups and would-be parties comparable to the petty states of pre-Bismarck Germany. Where’s Bismarck when we need him? I don’t know if anyone can pull our ragtag crew together… look at the dissension we get here on one small-time blog! I probably mentioned this before, but someone compared uniting moderates to herding cats… it just can’t be done. I’m not totally convinced, but it’ll definitely be an uphill struggle to convince the leaders of the various centrist groups to yield their little kingdoms and unite under a larger banner.

    • Kent permalink
      December 13, 2011 5:56 pm

      I think that if you want change or “move forward” you have to agree to make a step forward in “some kind” of direction. You have to think about doing it and then decide where to go next.

      We are all thinking about doing it. What is next? I would think that getting some “level” players to sit around and take the issues and prioritize and then vote. No “pocket vetos” after the meeting. Then the “Board” moves forward to accomplish their first task.

      From there, if done right and successfully. New input, new discussion and new strategy.

      Everything can’t be done at once. So priorities and decisions must be made by an agreeable party.

      As far as “little kingdoms”, These people can keep their status. All they have to do is support a bigger structure that can be recognized by a wide majority.

      I believe if you don’t give fear to the little guy…they will eventually come around to support your cause once they see the benefit to doing so.

      The start of this only takes at least more than one person and at least 6 eager Moderate/Centrist thinkers. A think tank and an action committee.

      • December 14, 2011 1:50 pm

        Kent: I’ll see if I can address this topic in my next column. I agree that it’s time to unite those petty kingdoms under a single banner, even if we can’t achieve total consensus on our ideology or goals. We just know that the current polarized two-party system is failing us, and that a new centrist option, however imperfect, is better than no centrist option at all.

        We’d have to position the new group as staunchly opposed to the status quo, both because we need to get money out of politics and because we don’t want to be dismissed as bland middle-of-the-roaders. (I think that’s the problem with No Labels — they’re too accommodating with regard to politics as usual, when they really need to kick butt and reform the political establishment.)

  7. December 12, 2011 11:07 pm

    There is a very late Harry Chapin song that follows a similar theme – I don’t want to be President”.

    The are myriads of problems with this fable – starting with its premise.

    Implicit in this fable is the presumption that the hero is the exception rather that the norm. Presuming that is true – aren’t you making my argument that government fails for me ? If the “honest” politician is the rare exception then isn’t the solution to limit the power available to politicians ?

    With the exception of those that make contributions to both parties in return for an audience, most political contributions are directed to candidates because of their views.
    Even in your fable the candidate was approached by interests saying “your our boy”.

    The contributions of organisations are for the most part no different from those individual. Just like each of us, organisations contribute to politicians whose values they share, not politicians they expect to be able to corrupt.

    It is unlikely that the NRA says that to say Nancy Pelosi, or NOW to Strom Thurmond.

    Politicians looking for political credibility on tax and fiscal issues approach Grover Norquist, and willingly takes his pledge and money.

    The President has taken to quoting Teddy Roosevelt, he might wish to heed this remark.

    “[W]ords count for nothing except in so far as they represent acts. This is true everywhere; but, O my friends, it should be truest of all in political life. A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life.”

    When there is an actual quid pro quo for political contributions – as With Rep Cunningham, or when legislators act in their own personal interests as with Rangle and Waters – and possibly Dodd and other Friends of Angelo, this already is a crime.

    Has the president screwed Wall Street or is he their servant ?

    Is it even possible to tell solely based on political contributions ?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-has-more-cash-from-financial-sector-than-gop-hopefuls-combined-data-show/2011/10/18/gIQAX4rAyL_story.html

    • December 13, 2011 12:02 pm

      Dave: You made plenty of valid observations here. Don’t forget, though, that if private interests (or even public-sector interests) didn’t approach the politicians with bribes, the politicians wouldn’t be led astray. I trust politicians just about as much as I trust big-money interests. Naturally we can’t expect all our politicians to have the moral fiber of the hero of my fable, so I think the solution is to criminalize any deals between special interests and representatives. Candidates should still be allowed to accept donations, of course… they just wouldn’t know who’s doing the donating.

      And you’re right that big money usually doesn’t waste its time with candidates who won’t come around to their way of thinking. It’s just that the politician needs to be setting the agenda, not his donors.

      As for Obama… he has to be in bed with Wall Street. He surrounds himself with former investment bankers and has made deals that would seem unconscionable — especially for a self-styled progressive. I’m thinking especially of his decision to reimburse Goldman Sachs for 100% of its bad investments from the 2008 financial meltdown.

  8. December 12, 2011 11:08 pm

    How to Tell a Democrat from a Republican

    http://www.americanpolitics.com/030499dictionary.html

  9. December 12, 2011 11:36 pm

    Total political contributions are fairly evenly divided by party – generally favoring the party in power – though skewed towards the party expected to be in power after the election. Regardless, the differences between the parties are not that great in magnitude.

    To the extent that money generically effects politics there is no significant differences with respect to party.

    But there are differences with respect to where the money comes from. Despite the oposition of Republicans to campaign finance reform, limiting corporate contributions heavily favors Republicans candidates. As a whole Republicans get far more or their money from small individual donations and far less from big corporate donors.

    Accepting Rick’s thesis that corporate political donations have corrupted politics, The corrosive effects should be most obvious when looking at the democratic party.

    Yet it is Republicans that are claimed to be the friends of Big Business, and the enthral to the rich.

    What corrupts our politics and who is most corrupted is debatable, solving the problem by limiting contributions and publicly financing campaigns – as is typical of top down solutions, has thus far proven an abysmal failure – so of course the solution is we need more. More restrictions, more regulations, and now a constitutional amendment – which would not likely solve much as it would be impossible to write without conflicting with the bill of rights.

    But there is actually a solution that may not make things perfect, but almost certainly will make them much better – limited government. The purpose of “evil” political contributions – as opposed to “good” ones – like there is some real objective criteria for telling them apart, is to bend politcal power to serve the interests of the contributor. Deprive government of the power to do so, and the contributions will dry up, and our representatives may focus on matters of real importance – or better still return home to real jobs, their lives and families leaving government as it is.

    • December 13, 2011 12:15 pm

      If the blind-trust idea ever catches on, the only top-down regulation would be anonymity. That’s something we can all live with — except for the donors who want a quid-pro-quo arrangement. I don’t think either party would suffer more than the other. The main difference would be that big-money interests wouldn’t contribute so heavily, and donations as a whole would shrink. If we ban campaign advertising (OK, that’s a serious top-down decision, though not an unreasonable one given the absurdly slanted nature of all such advertising), the candidates wouldn’t need to raise nearly as much cash.

      • December 14, 2011 10:42 pm

        The entire blind trust arrangement is top down. It is an outside imposition, all political money must pass through a third party – likely government. The anonymity itself is horribly problematic.

        if you must go through a third party you are not anonymous.
        I am opposed to the patriot act. I am opposed to the goverrnment gathering information on what I buy, what books I read – atleast without a warant – and yes, I was oposed to the manditory nature of many of the long form census questions. The constitution says “count” not interogate.

        So first you start of being very much NOT anonymous. The candidates may not know who you are, but somebody does. And that knowledge has value, and represents power, and an entirely new opportunity for corruption.

        Next, how do you prohibit a contributor from publicizing their contributions without running deeply afoul of the first amendment. I know you do not grasp the fact that political contributions are speech – though how you can miss that I can not grasp. They are clearly as expressive as Andre Cerono’s art. Regardless, to the extent that we have ranked speech as entitled to more or less protection, political speech has the highest level of protection. There is no difference between “I support candidate X” and “I support candidate X and gave him $1000”

        And I would love to here how you distinguish between advertisement and other forms of speech ? This is not a slippery slope it is a cliff.

        On one hand we look at totalitarian regimes such as China and grasp that one form of freedom can come without others. We grasp that the political speech of dissidents in Russia, china, the mid-east, is sacred, but in this country where we do have political free speech you are willing to sacrifice it for precisely the government control of politics you decry elsewhere.

        If you really have a quid pro quo – then you have a crime – prosecute it.
        Otherwise, your entire argument is that you are entitled to decide whose political speech has merit and whose does not.

      • December 15, 2011 2:01 am

        Dave: I don’t see why some omniscient third party has to know who’s contributing what. The job of collecting the donations can be done by clerks. And no, I’ll never be convinced that donations are speech. (They say money talks, but you know, it’s just a figure of speech.) Speech must contain actual words.

        The issue becomes more ambiguous when a big-money interest feels compelled to announce, “We just gave $XXX to Candidate Y.” THIS is where we might have to make a top-down decision that inhibits free speech. A slippery slope? We already have restrictions on free speech; we’re not allowed to make derogatory remarks about minorities or give away military secrets. I’d have to ponder the issue for a while, but I’d probably opt for enforced anonymity if it means preserving pure representative government in place of government by lobby.

        In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to go that far. Say a big lobby announces that it gave $XXX to Candidate Y. The candidate doesn’t have to act on that news; presumably he didn’t make any deals with the lobbyists and is still free to pursue his own agenda. But in the real world, I suspect that he’d soon feel the pressure. And we’re not going to monitor phone conversations that might lead up to a secret agreement between lobbyists and politicians.

        In short, there’s no easy way to prosecute quid pro quo deals, because those deals are done behind closed doors and are consensual. (Sort of like kinky sex.) We’d have to catch them in the act, which is highly unlikely. So I hope you can see why I’d consider the blind-trust option, with accompanying anonymity, as our first line of defense.

  10. Priscilla permalink
    December 13, 2011 12:18 am

    Somewhat off topic, but Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich had a terrific debate today. The moderator simply provided general topics and kept time, and the two candidates had a fascinating, and very in-depth discussion of economics, foreign policy and a bit of social policy. Huntsman was great – I wish this debate had happened sooner, so that people could see him in this format – but Newt was equally as good. Huntsman says that he will now challenge Romney to a similar “Lincoln-Douglas” style debate, and I hope Romney takes him up on it. More importantly, I hope that Obama is willing to debate in this style once the GOP nominee is chosen. It was enormously enlightening, really raised my opinion of Huntsman (I was sort of ambivalent about him before) and made me realize that Newt would be a very formidable opponent for anyone, even Obama (and maybe especially Obama), despite all of his baggage.

    Having politicians put their beliefs and policy opinions on the line in a very detailed and open format like this is much more educational for the electorate than the “American Idol” style debates that we have seen thus far…….

    • December 13, 2011 12:09 pm

      I missed it, but I’ll try to catch it somewhere on the internet. They’re both very bright guys, though sometimes I wonder if Newt’s bombast is a smokescreen for real or self-imagined intellectual shortcomings. He taught at West Georgia College, after all. And it’s funny, because I used to know someone who also taught in the history department there. I’ve lost touch with him, so it’s doubtful that I’ll ever get a first-hand account of life with Newt. Too bad.

    • Jesse C permalink
      December 13, 2011 5:07 pm

      Is there a link to this? I’d love to see this as well.

      Thanks!

  11. valdobiade permalink
    December 13, 2011 9:32 pm

    I guess Newt will be another Bush the Young, but more articulate:

    “This is one of the great tragedies of the Bush administration. The more successful they’ve been at intercepting and stopping bad guys, the less proof there is that we’re in danger…. It’s almost like they should every once in a while have allowed an attack to get through just to remind us.”
    ~Newt Gingrich, at a book talk in Huntington, NY, April 2008, saying that Republicans should allow terrorist attacks on American soil to remind us of the dangers in the world.

  12. December 14, 2011 12:33 am

    Incredible quote from the Newtster. I’m hoping he was just thinking aloud, but he’s funny that way.

  13. Priscilla permalink
    December 14, 2011 2:01 am

    valdo! Nice to see you back here!

    But, come on, he was not saying that “Republicans should allow attacks on American soil”….he was saying that Democrats would never accept that Republican measures had prevented terrorist attacks unless there was still some proof of danger.

    Just spouting off,ya know, sort of like Obama in 2008, when he said that the president did not have the right to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation……

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 14, 2011 1:48 pm

      Hey Priscilla!

      Well, Obama also said stupid things like: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

      It seems (by the latest polls) that Newt has about 38% chances against 51% of Obama. It also seems that Mitt has more chances than Newt against Obama.

      And also seems that in spite of this thread to be “neutral”, it will never get its purpose 🙂

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 14, 2011 5:25 pm

        Neutral? What fun would that be?

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 14, 2011 5:27 pm

        I have to correct myself. There is no “neutral” in politics. Being a Moderate is not a neutral position, but there is too much sliding between those two parties, and this sliding is wrongly called “moderation”.
        I can see what is wrong with Democrats, I can see what is wrong with Republicans… does it make me a “Moderate”?

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 15, 2011 10:43 am

        valdo, I would more likely describe you as an iconoclast. A moderate one 😉

  14. Priscilla permalink
    December 15, 2011 10:40 am

    On the honest ( or at least “working”) politician topic….two congressmen that I actually admire, Rep.Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden have put together a new Medicare reform proposal. It uses Ryan’s original proposal as its starting point, but makes several significant changes based on input from Wyden, a liberal Democrat from Oregon.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1211/70459.html

    A couple of years ago, Ryan and Wyden proposed changes to Medicare that made a lot of sense ( I actually recall mentioning it in one of my comments here a long while ago), and seemed genuinely bipartisan….but their proposals were swept away in the huge Obamacare controversy.

    Both of them will take political hits from putting this propsal out there: Ryan will be attacked for compromising on his original plan, Wyden for endorsing any plan that includes private plans. But they are actually pushing forward with a real, honest-to-goodness moderate proposal which – at least for now – will probably get little to no support from either side.

  15. Ian CSE permalink
    December 15, 2011 11:11 am

    Ben Stein on the Newt–Hunstman debate at American Spectator.

    http://spectator.org/archives/2011/12/14/its-gingrich-huntsman#commentcontainer

    When Ben describes his wife and marriage I thought he was describing mine. A funny guy, weird and obnoxious opinions on some issues, but still very interesting and funny if you don’t take him seriously. If you took him seriously I guess you’d have to be appalled.

    The comments (from left and right) on American Spectator are actually mostly very funny, interesting, and intelligent, and mainly unusually civil, much as it pains me to admit it.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 15, 2011 12:23 pm

      I had not read all of the American Spectator comments before I said the above! They got pretty bad later.

      But careful reading did allow me to find a few gems of pithy common sense:

      “We Missouri and Iowa farmers know which pigs are greedy at feeding time.”

      Newt Gingrich is “weirdness on stilts.”

      • December 15, 2011 2:31 pm

        Even their insults have flair, though. Here’s one that stood out:

        “You are a retarded, shallow, laughable joke who posts the same transparent lies ad nauseam.”

        I liked Ben Stein’s column, by the way. That’s exactly the sort of gig I’d love to have if I were an established “brand.” Maybe by the time I’m 67…

        I think Ben Stein enjoys life far too much for a guy who looks like Ben Stein. (Just kidding, of course… though I do envy him his fame, his money and his Big Wifey.) At least he appreciates what he has.

  16. Ian CSE permalink
    December 15, 2011 3:14 pm

    Funny Rick. But there were lots of good posts from both sides at the top of the page.

    To be serious for a second, appreciation is everything in life. Really, everything. Gratitude for what one has instead of greed about all the things still left to want. Reading Stein’s words on his wife, I wanted to hug him. My wife and I tell each other pretty much every day how lucky we are and we mean it, its not empty phrases.

    BTW, no one has asked but the title CSE stands for Currently Self Employed, my best title, the one I conferred on myself, which, after my family (and maybe my little corner of heaven) is the best thing about my life, when you include all that flows from it.

    Also, BTW we seem to have survived Libertarian week, my faith is intact, how is yours?

    • December 15, 2011 3:53 pm

      My God, American Spectator! In no time you will be reading The Freeman and Lew Rockwell.

      Gratitude is important. While we are being grateful we should not forget where those things we are grateful for came from. It is the pursuit of more, the unwillingness to remain satisfied that has created everything we are grateful for. What is the difference between greed and hunger, self interest, dreaming of things that never were and asking why not.

      “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages” Adam Smith

    • December 16, 2011 12:09 am

      CSE… I like it, Ian. CSE is an honorable title, and these days our numbers are legion. You’re right about the virtue of gratitude. Sometimes, when I’m in a Dr. Johnson frame of mind and start grumbling about the vanity of human wishes (especially mine), I think about what I DO have and it has a wonderful effect.

      I thought we had managed to survive the week without an onslaught of libertarian opposition (note that for my current column I deliberately chose a topic unrelated to economics)… but I see that Dave has challenged me with about eight consecutive critical comments. (I still have to write my Christmas cards, Dave… so it might be a while before I reply.)

      Maybe my next column should be about the early Marx Brothers films or the prose style of H. L. Mencken. There has to be a topic somewhere that won’t offend libertarian sensibilities, though maybe I’m just a natural when it comes to offending them. Too bad I can’t leverage that talent and turn it into a profit center for my emerging brand.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 16, 2011 7:47 am

        Since when does classical liberalism and fiscal conservatism = libertarianism? Just askin’………..

      • December 16, 2011 9:21 am

        Classical liberalism is libertarianism, or atleast is the direct ideological parent of modern libertarianism.

        Fiscal conservatism is a policy rather than an ideology, though it is consistent with the ideology of many conservatives and libertarians.

      • December 16, 2011 6:51 pm

        We are likely to agree on what many though not all of our problems,

        I could run off a litany of Pres. Obama’s (or Pres. Bush’s) failures, and I would expect that we would agree on many of them.

        It is highly unlikely we are going to agree on the means for most anything.

        In most every problem, the solutions that appeal to you are always top down and government driven. I see top down government driven solutions as the cause rather than the solution.

        Despite this I think there are myriads of issues we can find common ground on.

        Open Transparent government come immediately to my mind.
        There is very very little that government does that is not best done out in the open. The GOP made a big deal of publishing bills online for several days before voting, and though they have actually made an effort, almost anything appears to be sufficient to sacrifice that.
        But I want for more openness than that. I want almost everything our government does published and online and in close to real time.
        Every check that is written every directive issued, every purchase order, every email. The minutes from every meeting,
        I do not want anyone to have to file an FOIA request for current information – because it is already available.
        We likely have different objectives. i beleive in small inefficient open government that can not get out of its own way except for very important things. I beleive that transparency empowers citizens and disempowers government. I beleive the more you know about what is really going on in your government the more you will grasp that government can not do what you want from it. Whether I am right in that or now, we should both support transparency.

        Regardless or our views on taxes, we should be able to find atleast some common ground on spending. Budget numbers for 2012 are now showing up. Spending is up in almost everything, Total spending will increase by approximately the increase in GDP plus 1%. The GOP has purportedly threatened to bankrupt the government, default on our debts, starve children, push old people off the cliff, …. for their effort government is still following an unsustainable trajectory. There is no rate of growth in spending beyond growth in GDP that is permanently sustainable. Not 1%, not 1/2%. If government continuously spends more than some fixed percentage of GDP it will eventually consume all of GDP. This is basic mathematics. Each of us can have a different idea of what the natural size of government is, and it is even possible to sustain continuous growth in government at the same rate of growth as GDP, but anything more eventually fails. Contrary to the professions of die hard Keynesians, there is ample evidence that government spending is pro-cyclical – it makes a bad economy worse. We can argue over the importantance of the “safety-net” with evidence as do most economists, that the cost of the safety net is paid most heavily by loss of wealth in the very groups it was intended to help. Real insurance regardless of the type combines protection from the unexpected with sufficient risk costs to discourage risky behavior. By removing the connection between risk and cost, the safety-net creates disincentives to productive behavior.
        I am a libertarian. I do not care if people make what I consider to be bad choices. I do care if I have to pay for the consequences of their choices.

        i would certainly cut spending far more than you would – but can’t we agree that the rate of increase in government spending can not exceed the rate of increase in GDP ?

        So that you understand, taxes have little bearing. Even if increased taxes did not have negative consequences, government spending will eventually consume the entire economy as long as we have a permanent rate of growth exceeding the growth of GDP. Increasing taxes delays but does not forestall that. Whether we agree on taxes we should still be able to agree to cap spending at its current level plus growth in GDP.

        I would like to see us agree to freeze spending, or better still cut spending. Reps Wyden and Ryan have been able to come to terms on medicare reform. Wyden-Ryan is essentially a weaker version of the original Ryan plan. Apparently the left – even some of the far left are begining to grasp that Medicare is not (and never was) sustainable. But I am am not looking to defend Ryan, or Wyden-Ryan or … I am just asking if moderates have yet come to the recognition that the fiscal problems of medicare are sufficiently great that the problem can not be solve with tax increases. The problems with Social Security are equally large but less immediate. Both are demonstrations of why no government spending – not even a portion of government spending can not sustainable grow faster than the economy.

        Can we agree that those we elect need to keep their promises or openly and explicitly explain to us why they can not ? While we should not force elected officials into honouring commitments at the expense of the nation, we should not tolerate politicians that lie in order to get elected. It is possible for a candidate to honestly commit to something they can not or should not deliver, but even so it is bad for all of us to routinely accept that a candidates promises are meaningless.

        Can we agree that all of us, regardless of orientation, religion, race, disability, … are entitled to exactly the same legal rights and protections as everyone else ?

        I would go further and say that we are entitled to the same legal protections even when we make choices that government or others do not like – so long as we do no harm to others.

        Can we agree that military force has proven an abysmal tool of diplomacy ? That when we chose to use force, we must do so to advance a compelling national interest ? That even when we feel compelled to use force, that our military is not a police force ? That nations are responsible for their own nation building ? Again I would go even farther.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 16, 2011 7:56 pm

        Modern libertarianism is a more detailed and, I guess some might say, more “extreme” form of classical liberalism. In your case, Dave, I have not seen evidence of extremism…..

        On the other hand, I think that the classical liberals do recognize a legitimate role for politics in ensuring the common good….. that would be the “nice way of saying it. You could also say that classical liberals are amenable to some types of statist solutions that libertarians reject. But, in general, I agree that they are indistinguishable for the most part.

        My son has a friend who describes himself as a “left-leaning libertarian.” I asked him who he would vote for if the election were between Obama and Ron Paul….he chose Obama, without hesitation. When I asked why, he said that it was because Paul was pro-life.

        Labels, of the sort that we bandy about here, are really useless in many ways. I guess that Ian’s snarky reference to “Libertarian Week” is just another example of that.

  17. December 15, 2011 4:39 pm

    Rick;

    When you contribute money to a political candidate or to a political cause you are proclaiming support for that person or cause – that is speech.

    Further that money goes towards getting that person elected or advancing that issue – it goes to print handbills, billboards, signs, produce commercials, buy air time – almost everything that money is used for is speech.

    Further still it is the most protected form political speech.

    When Andre Cerano took a crucifix and immersed it in urine that was protected speech.
    When Sally Rand performed her fan dance that was protected speech.

    If the right restricted all payment for abortions – you would be howling.

    Money itself is NOT speech, but restrictions on political money are restrictions on political speech. The government can not evade prohibitions against infringing on our rights by impeding their exercise.

  18. December 15, 2011 4:56 pm

    I can think of only two purposes to restricting political contributions.

    The first is to impede bribery. But bribery is already illegal. There are myriads of prohibitions against all quid pro quo exchanges of contributions for political rewards.
    Criminal corruption is not actually that common.

    The only other purpose is to silence a viewpoint in the political dialogue.

    Any legislation that you propose that has as its purpose suppressing any groups viewpoint is going to run afoul of the first amendment.

  19. December 15, 2011 5:18 pm

    The laws regarding speech (though mostly wrong headed) are much narrower than you proclaim. I do not want to get into a long discussion of technical details of free speech, but criminal prosecution for revealing military secrets requires revealing something that you personally swore to protect. Hate speech laws are abysmal, regardless, they are incredibly narrow, and require credible threats and/or subsequent actions. Further, no class of speech is subject to the constitutional protections of political speech.

    If you really wish to explore the details of more than two centuries of legal history with respect to speech I would be happy to oblige. Though the issue is far more complex than it ought to be, The bar against content based restrictions on political speech are near absolute.

  20. December 15, 2011 5:47 pm

    Contrary to your assertion quid pro quo deals are not all that difficult to prosecute.

    It is nearly impossible to transfer any significant amount of money for any purpose in this country without leaving either public records or atleast records available to government. And we are not talking about $25 bribes to building inspectors. You are talking about substantial sums of money. Individual political contributions in this country above $10,000, are less %1 of 1% of all contributions, there are less than 30,000 per year in the entire country.

    How is it that a legislator can act in secret ?
    I will fully support ANYTHING that makes government more transparent and open.
    First because i beleive it is an excellent idea. And second because I beleive the more we know about the inner workings of our government the quicker we will shut it down.

    Ultimately, political secrets out. Any offensive act has two parties, most have far more than two. If a legislator secures favors from a government agency someone on his staff, the agencies staff, within the organisation that initiated the bribe will almost certainly come forward eventually. The only things you can keep secret are those that accomplish nothing, and they arguably are not bribes.

    Regardless, of what you claim it is not those relatively rare instances where a legislator takes money to do something he would not do otherwise that are the target of your efforts.

    You are after those instances where those elected are acting openly to accomplish exactly what they promised when running for election.

    You are offended because people who beleive differently from you contributed lots of money to elect someone who also believes differently from you and that person is doing exactly what they promised.

    You are free to be offended, you are not free to act to silence those you disagree with, and sugar coated as much as you wish that is still what you are seeking to do.

    I am more unhappy than you about much of what goes on in government. The difference is I am arguing to reduce the power of government to do anything. You are still under the delusion that you can have a powerful government that will do those things you want, and not do those you do not wish. You do not understand that so long as what you wish to accomplish is legitimate, what you would prefer to prevent is too.

    If the powers available to government are unlimited, sometimes those powers will be exercised by those I agree with, in ways I support, but far more often they will be used by those I disagree with for things I do not support, even things I find offensive.

    You seek true democracy and then are offended because decisions are made by imperfect people the majority of whom disagree with you.

  21. December 15, 2011 6:07 pm

    I am opposed to many of the things you propose because they are infringements on individual rights. But you should be opposed to them yourselves – because they will elect the very people you seek to keep out of office.

    The democratic party receives a disproportionate portion of its funding from large business contributions. Despite the outrage Citizens United was a gift to the left. Pres. Obama was the first presidential candidate to opt out of the public financing system and all its constraints on large political donations. John McCain was likely the last political candidate in the general election to accept government matching funds.

    It is not a coincidence that democrats returned to unlimited private financing first. What should be amazing is that the value of huge corporate and individual donations to democrats became so great that by 2008 for democrats it exceeded the value of government matching funds.

  22. December 15, 2011 6:08 pm

    I personally have a very dim view of almost all election law – particularly efforts by government to influence the outcome. One of the problems that the Supreme Court ducked in 2000 was the fact that elections are surpa government, supra constitutional.

    In 1989 millions of east germans took to the streets and in three days a totalitarian state that had existed for nearly 50 years vaporised.
    Jefferson told us
    “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” over 200 years ago. There was no united states, no constitution. There was no consent of the governed and therefore no british government of the colonies.

    Elections are one means by which people grant or revoke their consent – revolution is the other.

    Governments role in an election is purely to protect the process and prevent fraud – no more. Even the constitution is meaningless without the consent of the governed. We approach the ballot box with our natural rights – not our constitutional ones. Absent our consent there is no government, no constitution, no untied states, no law of any kind.

    I see government financed elections as incestuous fraud. And any effort by anyone to use government to manipulate the outcome as criminal – regardless of good intentions.

  23. December 16, 2011 1:21 am

    Another perspective on income inequality
    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2011/12/income-inequality-babe-ruth-vs-alex.html

  24. AMAC permalink
    December 16, 2011 10:22 am

    Rick

    I like the idea of the Marx Brothers’ film discussion. Duck Soup would seem appropriate! Sarcasm is my favorite comedic method. Nobody does it like Groucho.

  25. Ian CSE permalink
    December 17, 2011 10:30 am

    Whatever our differences, one character is in common, the obsessively political brain has a chemistry that does not like to avoid rising to bait. As to your snarky comment about my comment, Priscilla, you missed the main point of my recent post. Be grateful for what you have received, including what you have received from our society and from our government, its a lot better for your soul to appreciate what you receive than your very frequent caustic ungrateful riff on the government; “they will probably just waste our money.” If you really believe that the thrust of the US government is that they are an entity that just wastes our money, have you ever consider trying life in France or maybe Hong Kong?

    AND (never start a sentence with and) if you read carefully through the comments here you will find that I am far from alone in noting that New Moderate spends a disproportionate amount (sometimes seems like about 90% to me) of its energy discussing what Libertarians think or object to. I can point those other posters and their posts out to you explicitly if you’d like to review them.

    The 20 leftist campus radicals in a student population of 10,000 at my former university did much the same thing, with the same result, which was not a win for them or for milder forms of their basic concerns. People get tired of fanatical bandwidth hogs, its not persuasive to the vast majority in the long run, in fact its pretty effective at getting people opposed to their ideas in any form. The tactic of a small minority monoplizing a political conversation does yield a little new blood for their little group, which is why such groups do it. The rest of us just grit our teeth; think of your own reaction to OWS and then try to imagine Libertarians/Tea party/ultraconservatives from the perspective of the other side of the left-right divide.

    I’ve said it before its still true: This is the New Moderate, its not the New Libertarian/Conservative.

    And, in conclusion, your point about the uselessness of labels would be more credible if you had not already freely used the word “liberal” in a way that was not especially sweet or objective, dont you think?

    Yes, I just hogged bandwidth, again, I see the irony.

    • December 17, 2011 4:56 pm

      What got you up on the wrong side of the bed today ?

      I appreciated your remarks on gratitude – some of us choose to be grateful for different things than others. I also took you remark as a springboard to note that little or none of the myriads of things we have to be grateful for are the work of government.
      The fact that some of us do not share your gratitude for the myriads of things government has not done for us, or the myriads of others it has inflicted on us, does not diminish our gratitude. Though your wigging out over our remarks begs the question of yours.

      Is there some limit to bandwidth hear that makes it a scarce resource we need to regulate and conserve ?

      I am glad that young people are out protesting again – even if I think OWS is confused and does not really represent more than tiny part of us.

      “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If
      you’re not a conservative when you’re 40, you have no head.”
      Purportedly Churchill.

      If you do not wish to discuss a particular point of view – don’t. You are entitled and have proven perfectly capable of totally ignoring things I have said in the past.
      Free speech is a right, but one person’s speech does not obligate you to be the audience.

      This blog choses to make politics the focus of its discourse. We do not live in Barney the purple dinosaur’s blisstopia. Vibrant disagreement, particularly on politics is a good rather than bad thing. If my views were miraculously to shift several degrees left, I would still not exactly align with you or rRck on many issues.

      If we are going to play “America, Love it or leave it”, then why don’t all of you who wish to turn this country into Europe solve the problem by moving there. Just as you are entitled to both your oppinion and your right to be here – so are all the rest of us.

      Do you understand that by making demands of the rest of everyone else, you are making the libertarian case.

      There is real dissent on many issues. Whatever the cause, none of us have the right to demand the agreement of others. You do not have the right to force anyone – not the left or the right to beleive as you do. You do not have the right to force anyone else to leave. You do not have the right to use force for any reason except self defence, nor advocate that government do so for any reason beyond punishing those who have harmed others.

  26. Priscilla permalink
    December 17, 2011 11:31 am

    Ian, I have never shied away from using labels, but I realize (and you have helped me to realize) that labels are, to a large extent, useless in determining whether a person is truly moderate in their perspective and manner.

    As you have endlessly commented, you are a “true moderate” while I, on the other hand, am an “ultra-conservative” (or sometimes a “libertarian” when that label suits your purpose.) I myself, have repeatedly described myself as a moderate conservative, or a right-leaning moderate, or whatever the hell you want to call it. But that label does not suit you, because you would like me to go away and hang on some right wing site. No problem, call me whatever you wish. I don’t think that my son’s friend is a “libertarian” either….

    Glad to see that you see the irony in your bandwith hogging, however….there may be hope for you yet.

    What do you think of the Ryan-Wyden plan, by the way?

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 17, 2011 12:41 pm

      Hi Priscilla,

      OK, that was clever, I give you credit, you gave ME credit. That kind of thing works on me (and most people).

      Libertarian was the result you reported from one of the political ideology tests, n’est-pas? As well, you are not able to see that a lot of what the dhlii lama has said is truly extreme, so… thats another indication of your politics and it supports your Libertarian test result. Don’t worry, I don’t suspect that you will take the Libertarian view on defense spending, (where you and I probably have the most political overlap.) As to me, I reliably reported that I am -3.5 on the 20 point scale of that political litmus test I took. It makes me liberal leaning, as I have almost always thought I was.

      I won’t claim to know all the details, of the Ryan Wyden. I have a basic outline. Since its not very likely to fly, learning the details would just prevent me from doing some work on the house or practicing an instrument. I have the same suspicion that many have when discussions of switching to a blended system that includes voluntary privatization of medical entitlements is concerned that the hidden agenda is to make the government-run system collapse by removing revenue. If someone can show me that they have designed a system where people can choose and that does not lead to the financial collapse of the basic existing systems then I would take a close look at the pluses and minuses of such a plan. Lots of level headed objective wonky non-partisan government economic analysts would have to certify that the govt plan would remain funded and stable.

      BUT it is a sort of hopeful sigh, maybe after the election something can get done and compromise can be found and the two warring parties can put the good of the country first for a few months. Both sides are equally to blame for the political hostage taking on the medical entitlements and both sides actually have their sincere beliefs as well as their nasty purely political tactics.

      Lets hope for a truce after the election. As Yasir Arafat once said, “Who do you expect me to make peace with, My Friends?”

      • December 17, 2011 5:06 pm

        Ian;

        You are constantly calling other people extreme, but you rarely identify why. I will be happy to own up to extreme views on many subjects – such as drug legalization, or the use of torture.

        And yes, in my version of utopia government would at best be a small fraction of its current size.

        At the same time I have repeatedly made it clear, though I will never cease arguing for more and more freedom, and less and less government, I would be ecstatic just to halt the inexorable and unsustainable growth of government. You oppose that and still manage to call me extreme.

      • December 17, 2011 5:44 pm

        Many, possibly most of those favoring any sort of blended system, are seeking that because we expect the government system to fail. But then the failure of the government system is inevitable, we are just moving towards having something better available when it self destructs.

        Expecting government run programs to fail – with or without private competition, is not the same as trying to make them fail. Government needs no help failing from the rest of us.

        Even taking a less fatalistic view of government – and presuming that the government system might survive on its own, but that it will fail in competition with a private system just demonstrates the weakness of the government system.

        If Medicare and Social Security can not survive on a level playing field (and honestly even in a blended system the government systems will be artificially favored). Then why should we have a government system ?

        No private system could compete with Social Security or Medicare. Rather than risk you ire by calling Social Security a ponzi scheme, lets just call it a financial structure that would be criminally fraudulent if done by any private competitor.

        I can go on and on, but ultimately if real free market competition to Social Security and Medicare is permitted, they will be at tremendous disadvantage – and they will still crush the government system – because they are abysmal.

      • December 17, 2011 6:06 pm

        What you call the political hostage taking, though to some extent a normal part of politics is also driven by government failure.

        Though the current recession and the failed Keynessian response has brought the day of reckoning for medicare and social security early, their impending insolvency was known decades ago.

        Government growth beyond economic growth is unsustainable, Growing debt is unsustainable. Schemes dependent on population growth are unsustainable, Ponzi Schemes are unsustainable.

        The political conflict you abjure is the response to current crises caused by past recklessness.

        Actually solve the underlying problems and the ability of either party to “hold government hostage” will disappear.

  27. December 17, 2011 6:56 pm

    The honest politican would concern themselves with the law.

    So here is a link to a left libertarian site – yes Ian there are such things and some observations on Bastiat’s “the law.”

    http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2011/12/ron-paul-read-the-law-by-bastiat/

    Rick has frequently asked why we should have any interest in the political and economic philosophies of people like Smith and Basiat dead for over a century.
    The world is so different now than then, how could anything they say apply.

    Aside from the myriads of modern economists and philosophers sharing similar views, Basiat’s own words and predictions established his relevance today more than a century ago. Bastiat examined the logical consequences and fallacies of the socialist and statist thinking of his era. The world may be more complex, but neither sides arguments have changed. The left is no less enthralled by the ideas of the past. The arguments of his day that Basiat refutes are indistinguishable from those made by modern progressives. Bastiat predicts the consequences of corporatist, statist, and socialist policies – and we are living them.

    We are all ensnared by the ideas of the past. We have a choice between the good ones and the bad ones. I prefer the good ones

    • December 18, 2011 12:19 am

      Dave (and Priscilla, and Ian): I’ll have to rush this response, since I can’t pretend to address every recent concern and I’m still in the midst of pre-Christmas preparations (tree, cards, etc.). But let me put a few thoughts out there for you to ponder…

      I don’t think Ian is off-base when he complains that the dialogue here has been bent to wrap around libertarian arguments, prejudices and objections. This is a moderate (a.k.a., centrist) site, after all, and I don’t feel obligated to apologize for the fact that I’m not an acolyte of Ayn Rand or Bastiat. Dave is a doctrinaire libertarian, which doesn’t keep him from adding valuable and well-informed insights here. But I can’t for the life of me understand why he expects moderates to echo his belief system.

      As a moderate, I don’t believe in meddlesome government that dictates the details of our daily lives or punishes those who have worked hard to achieve what they’ve achieved. But I also don’t believe in abandoning our markets to the whims of a devious private elite whose every move seems calculated to reinforce and perpetuate its own elite status. The system has been gamed long enough.

      In my moderate utopia, we’d use the government to check the excesses, oversights and more outlandish inequities of our current rogue capitalist system. (That’s essentially how we operated until recently, and our economy flourished.) Unless you think it’s fitting and proper to return to the days of child labor, monopolies, uninspected food products, 80-hour work weeks, sweatshops and unsafe workplaces, you have to acknowledge that government MUST play an role in regulating a system that exists, by its own admission, solely to produce profits for its shareholders. (Well, of course you don’t HAVE to acknowledge it — moderates aren’t coercive — but let’s say you’d put yourself on the side of justice to incorporate it into your belief system.)

      Being a moderate is all about maintaining a balance between left and right, between too much and too little. I suspect that your ideological idols on the right, in the grand sweep of their abstract macroeconomic theorizing, shared one major flaw: they overlooked the individual PEOPLE who comprise the less privileged classes of society… their hardships, frustrations and (as of today) hopelessness. The trickle-down theory has failed; millions of people are out of work or seriously underemployed; nest eggs built over a lifetime (including mine) are withering, the equities market is dead in the water. We’re talking about the suffering of real, honest-to-God flesh-and-blood individuals, and your venerated supply-side texts are proving to be wholly inadequate at saving them from ruin.

      So please stop insisting that we’re leftists simply for questioning the wisdom of abiding by 18th-century theorists and their latter-day apostles. We need real-life solutions that we can apply NOW to keep the former middle class from crumbling any further. The longer our companies refuse to hire American workers, the more willing I am to trust the government over the private sector to solve our problems.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 18, 2011 10:41 am

        I must say, Rick, that I am impressed that you still do Christmas cards….with the advent of email and Facebook, I have allowed the ancient art of actually writing out cards to become one of the holiday traditions that I have given up.

        As far as libertarianism being out of the mainstream, I think that you and Ian are wrong in many ways. As a small example, Ian cites a short quiz that a bunch of us took a week or two ago….. (it was not the Pew quiz on which I scored closer to the center than Ian, and about the same as you)….But, it only had a very few questions, and 4 “labels” on each side of the spectrum. The first label on the right was “disengaged” or something like that, and the second was “libertarian.” So any right-leaning test taker who was not extreme in his/her views was going to end up in one of those two categories, according to the testmakers. I certainly would have been surprised to have been labled “disengaged”…….but I am not a libertarian, although I agree with libertarian positions, particularly on the economy, and I was surprised to earn that label. I disagree with libertarians on certain important social policies, foreign policy

        Nevertheless, I think that the majority of Americans are very much in support of a free market and limited government, whether or not they define such things in the same way. It explains why being labeled a “socialist” is seen as such a negative, despite the fact that those on the left routinely use terms like “spreading the wealth,” and “redistribution,” as well as stating outright that there should be a limit on income and wealth, i.e. “there comes a point where you have earned enough money” ~Obama.

        So, I think that, to a certain degree, yours and Ian’s reluctance to acknowledge that capitalist free market ideals are part of the majority viewpoint comes from your more leftwing baseline. And your view that a “free market” means child labor, 80 hr work weeks, and unsafe workplaces is simply not aligned with what anyone on the right, libertarian or otherwise, is saying.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 18, 2011 11:35 am

        Eeesh, I forgot to mention my main point, which is that the whole “flesh and blood individuals thing.” One of the reasons that I part ways with both the right and the left on social welfare programs is because of my own experience and the experience of some of my family members, vis-a-vis joblessness and governmnent assistance.

        1) I lost my job in this recession, and was elated to realize that I could collect unemployment during the interim that I was unemployed. Contrary to Ian’s claims, I was and am very grateful for the safety net that UI provided. On the other hand, despite that safety net, and, in some part because of it, my current job is quite below the income level of what I earned before. My gratitude for the government’s largesse is tempered by the fact that it is merely postponing for many the reality that the jobs are not there – and that the government cannot provide them. But I appreciate it nonetheless.

        2) One of my sons interned at Covenant House, a large faith-based, private charity, providing shelter and aid to homeless youth between 18-21. Many of the kids he came in contact with had been on the streets for years, and were hopelessly unprepared and unable to hold down even the most menial of jobs. He once told me that there was an independent living coordinator at the home, who often had to teach 19-20 year olds the proper way to bathe. Despite the billions thrown at government social programs “benefitting” poor kids, most of the kids who ended up at CH were uneducated, many starving and suffering from addiction. The welfare that their parents had received and the grants provided to their schools for programs, food, etc. were in large part wasted. But this private charity was able to do for many of them, and at cheaper cost, what the government could never do.

        So, don’t be too sure that the government is the answer to what ails us.

      • December 18, 2011 12:25 pm

        Rick;

        The two dimensional view of the political spectrum is a gross over simplification, and distortion. We do no all share to a greater or lessor extent one of two world views. Each of us holds a different view. Even labelling me libertarian is a carciture of who I am, their are as many types of libertarian as their are people willing to label themselves libertarian. The same is true of left, right, conservative, liberal, republican, democrat, ….

        At the same time, I do not grasp why you take such offence at being labelled left of centre. Everyone here is happy to place me on the far right – “ultra-conservative” which is both ludicrous and a perfect demonstration of the inadequacy of one dimensional perspectives.

        At the same time, you are on the left, based on the values you claim as your own. You are not on the extreme left. You are on the mushy left.

        I do not grasp why you take offence at that characterisation, it atleast as accurately describes your views as libertarian does mine. If it is so important to you to own the label moderate – then you are going to have to take a couple of steps to the right. If on the other hand you are happy with what you beleive – then accept that you are not moderate.

        A read a post elsewhere by a prominent social scientist. He was speaking at a conference, and asked how many of the participants were democrats – nearly all hands went up, how many were liberal – again nearly all hands went up, how many were conservative – there were three hands.
        Then he noted that by almost every measure there are twice as many conservatives in this country as liberals. Even among independents conservatives outnumber liberals by almost 2:1.

        I am not trying to argue that conservatives are right. I am trying to get you to grasp that the political center of this country is significantly to the right of you.

  28. December 17, 2011 11:53 pm

    Oops

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047272711001472
    Food Stamps increase unemployment – who would have thunk it ?

    Oops
    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2011/12/today_on_the_eu_1.html
    The economy needs certainty, politicians need uncertainty.
    Wonder which wins ?

  29. December 18, 2011 12:36 pm

    Rick;

    Let me try this labeling argument a different way.

    If you wish to define moderate sufficiently broadly to include yourself on the left edge, then you are stuck including the majority of libertarians, and an awful lot of conservatives in the right half of moderate.

  30. Ian CSE permalink
    December 18, 2011 12:36 pm

    Everyone wants to be a moderate, its interesting. I guess moderate has the connotation “reasonable” and reasonable means electable and enactable, so even people with rather extreme beliefs need to feel moderate or to claim that their positions are moderate, reasonable, popular, and therefore their side should be elected. Problem is that moderate also connotes the center and not everyone can be there.

    Priscilla: “And your view that a “free market” means child labor, 80 hr work weeks, and unsafe workplaces is simply not aligned with what anyone on the right, libertarian or otherwise, is saying.”

    Me: Did Rick (or I) say any of that? Maybe I missed it and Rick said that. Its a complete straw man in regard to me, i never said any of that and don’t even nearly believe it.

    Priscilla, yes I’ve seen the polls where people say they want less regulation, I’ve also seen the polls where they way they want a much fairer distribution of wealth, and favor government redistribution to achieve that. I’ve also seen the polls that say the Tea party has abut 5% support, and that is a group that embodies those free market less regulation, lower taxes ideas. How do we explain these completely opposite wishes by the majority?

    Pretty simple, the majority do not have even the moderate level of understanding of economics TNM regulars have. Americans as a whole want everything, they want all the candy and all the good things and are as a group completely unrealistic about paying for it. You can lead them by the nose in polls and find whatever answer you want.

    If one said I want a car. It should get 110 mpg, it should have a top speed of 180 mph, it should cost $2000, we would understand that is realistic. But if one says I want lower taxes, more of my favorite government benefits and I want the debt reduced, most Americans as a group ask for just that even though its just as unrealistic as that dream car.

    Libertarian beliefs are similar to the beliefs of everyone who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, in a very very fuzzy vague sense. The exact issue that cannot be avoided with Libertarian beliefs is their extent, their religious belief in certain basic laws and their absolute inability to process the information that makes the picture a lot more difficult and complicated beliefs. In that form those Libertarian economic beliefs you agree with a extremely conservative, they are more conservative than what any Republican president elected to date has believed. You seem to be sincerely lost in placing Libertarian economic beliefs where they really belong on the spectrum. Some vague question about whether people want free markets ( no such thing, but people want them anyhow) or less regulation, well, I also want “less regulation” and “free markets” as an abstraction or as a vague tendency. The question is fuzzy utterly nonspecific question asked of people who have no idea what they are really talking about as a group. Hang your place in the spectrum on that and you are just kidding yourself.

    As usual, I have been baited into rehashing the debate on Libertarianism on TNM. Grrrr.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 18, 2011 12:45 pm

      er, If one said I want a car. It should get 110 mpg, it should have a top speed of 180 mph, it should cost $2000, we would understand that is UNrealistic

    • December 18, 2011 1:42 pm

      Again… just driving by here (unfortunately, not in Ian’s hypothetical 110 mpg, 180 mph roadster).

      Ian: I was the one who claimed that a totally free market would take us back to the days of child labor, sweatshops, etc., etc. And I stand by that statement, because a system based entirely on the profit motive can’t be relied upon (and really can’t be expected) to create humane conditions on its own. I think we need to give some credit to government for establishing universal standards to promote the well-being of workers.

      Dave: Now I see the root of our ongoing dispute as to whether I’m truly a moderate. If two-thirds of the country is conservative (it isn’t, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it is), I’d be to the left of the majority, and therefore I’d be a leftist. Your approach to the political spectrum is relativist; mine is more absolute. I say I’m a moderate because I believe in a set of ideas that place me between the conservatives (who have put all their faith in the free market and none in the government) and the liberal/left cohort (who believe in a bottomless well of benefits for people who can’t make it on their own). If 90% of the country were conservative, I’d still be a moderate regardless of my position relative to the population, because my views still lie midway between those of the conservatives and those of the leftists.

      The further to the right our country lurches, the further to the left I’ll SEEM to be — even though my views haven’t changed. I could even see myself being driven to call for a (peaceful) revolution — if the right continues to consolidate its power, collaborate with the financial elite and destroy the middle class. But I’d still be a moderate (or at least a centrist, since “moderate” implies a certain, well, moderation). In other words, I’d still be in favor of appropriate balance between the private sector and government, between the rights of the successful and the needs of everyone else.

      Priscilla: Yes, you’ve had some first-hand experience dealing with the whims of the system. I’m glad you recognize the value of government safety nets. As for private charities… they’re obviously doing good work, and the best ones are doing it better than the government ever could. But as the middle class dwindles, so will the charities’ base of support. (I’ve been giving a lot less this year because I’ve been bleeding money and not earning nearly enough.)

      Anyway, the biggest crisis right now is the lack of hiring by the private sector. We can’t let millions of lives just slip through the cracks or depend on unemployment checks when the government could be creating actual jobs to put food on all those tables, restore pride and stimulate consumer spending. Those “New New Deal” jobs would be better than the non-jobs being offered by the private sector. And once people feel financially secure enough to start spending again, maybe (can we hope?) the private sector will start hiring again and we won’t need the government to create jobs. Think of government-created jobs as a “bridge over troubled water.”

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 18, 2011 2:17 pm

      Ian, I am not confused. We disagreee. There is a difference….thanks, Rick for owning up to the “80 hour child labor” statement…no, Ian, I don’t just make stuff up.

      Rick, you are absolutely right about private charities suffering because of the struggles of the middle class, yet you seem to think that the middle class can be saved by government intervention and higher taxes.. That, to me, is the core of the disagreement here.

      Anyway, gotta run…will look forward to reading later in the week! Good luck with those cards, Rick (and yes, I feel guilty for not doing them now ;))

  31. December 18, 2011 1:48 pm

    Rick;

    You say you just want to use government to level the playing field, to address the most egregious excesses, to reign in the “rogue capitolist” system.

    I will be happy to agree. People who commit fraud or use force to get their way to steal from others, should go to jail.

    But for more than two centuries we have had laws against fraud, theft, and the use of force. If you wish more vigorous enforcement of those laws – I will be happy to agree.

    Where we part is that I beleive you are misrepresenting your own views. You want to do more than punish those who have done something wrong. You want new rules. You wish to create new crimes, and new offences. You wish to punish those who have played by the rules and succeeded. You want to punish people for what you perceive as their motives rather than their deeds.

    We also have a different view of history.
    We have had child labor, uninspected food, unsafe workplaces, sweatshops, monopolies…. long before we had free markets. These problems all end naturally as a society becomes more wealthy. All have ceased in prosperous nations – with or without laws and regulations to eliminate them. Just asserting that these were all the great evils of unregulated capitolism that will come rushing back if we take even a small step back does not make it so.

    Macroeconomics is the creation of Keynes, not liberatarians.

    We both want a society with better conditions for the least of us. Where we part is the means to accomplish that.

    You want justice for the least, but you can not have justice for any, when you start by stealing from others.

    All those dead eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophers that so annoy you, claimed that capitolism was going to be the greatest force for improving the conditions of those on the bottom that had ever existed – and they were right. The left has been claiming for two centuries that they could do better – but all we have is a record of failure.

    If you care in the least for those you claim to advocate for, you would open your eyes to the damage to them that the very policies you advocate have caused.

    Your assertion that activist government has improved things is an assertion, a presumption, a claim absent historical justification.

    There can be absolutely no doubt that capitolism regulated or otherwise has dramatically improved the lot of this entire planet. And it has done so in a way that nothing in all the rest of human history has even come close to. Whether we look back 10 years, 10 decades or 10 centuries, the results are the same, Free markets have made things better.

    Over a century ago we were told that the Federal reserve would end the boom and bust cycle – do I even need to argue that nothing has changed ? Economic growth in the 20th century was atleast a full percent lower than that of the 19th. Do you grasp how much improvement in standard of living 1% over 100 years is ?

    Our lives improved in every possible way prior to the modern progressive era. They have continued to improve – albeit more slowly since. Maybe progressives are not responsible for the decline, but claiming they are responsible for a trend that started before they were born and continues uninterrupted to this day, and is repeated over and over in almost every nation in the world is ludicrous.

    If you care for those you claim to, then open your eyes. Look at what has worked and what has not.

    I constantly hear arguments from the left – from you. That government should do X.
    Those argument universally presume a better outcome without even making a credible argument as to how.

    You want to alter the way political donations are made. Few would argue that what we have is perfect. But why is your statist imposition an improvement ?
    Are different candidates going to be elected – if so why is that a good thing ? Not why is your system more fair – I do not think it is, regardless that is arguable, and anway fairness is a conclusion. how is the outcome going to change ?

    We are on the cusp of a federal takeover of a large portion of healthcare.
    If monopolies are so bad – why are government monopolies good ?
    What is the historic example of a good government monopoly ?

    You complain that I rely on long dead economists – ones who have stood the test of time, who have been prescient in their ability to foresee both the good of freedom, and the bad of restraining freedom. Yet you tell me we MUST do this or that. That things will be more fair, that we will be better off. But we are to take this on faith.

    We were told if we did not sped a trillion dollars that unemployment would reach nearly 10%. So we spent a trillion dollars and unemployment nearly reached 10% – now the same people tell us that if we had not spent a trillion dollars it would have been worse.

    Those dead guys that trouble you so much told us more than 200 years ago that spending would make things worse not better. My dead guys have a far better track record than anyone else.

    You claim that libertarian ideology loses sight of the people – particularly those at the bottom. Yet the core of that philosophy is INDIVIDUALS. You claim free markets are soulless oppressors of the least of the people – yet the worst oppression in all of human history – oppression that makes up almost all of history, is that of government. I can name an infinite number of benefits that have improved the lot of the very bottom a thousand fold in the past three centuries – all the result of free markets. What do you have to balance this ?

    It is not my values that lose sight of individuals, or the least well off.

  32. December 18, 2011 1:59 pm

    Priscilla;

    I was self employed at the begging of this mess. I was doing reasonably well. By 2010 my personal income was negative. My family AGI was below the median. Because I am self employed I am not entitled to any part of the social safety net – despite the fact that I pay for those benefits just like everyone else. In 2011 I have rebuilt my business. I will end it at about the same point I was in 2008. 2012 is already looking like it may be my best year ever. Though I have plenty of apprehension.

    Aside from providing government jobs, government has no ability to positively impact unemployment. I would hope that everyone could grasp that by this point.

    • December 18, 2011 2:13 pm

      Dave: Ah, so you’ve admitted that the government could positively impact unemployment by providing government jobs! And yet you’d dismiss those jobs because they didn’t come about “naturally,” even though they could provide sustenance to people who have been squeezed out of the system by the private sector. I know libertarians place a premium on the individual, but I’ve come to suspect that they only care about individuals who happen to be active capitalists.

  33. December 18, 2011 2:00 pm

    Quick question, Dave: If the private sector won’t hire American workers, who will? Scrooge famously asked, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” But we have to do better. How is the private sector improving the lives of unemployed Americans right now?

    Also… you need to distinguish between reasonable government and totalitarian government. I do. To conflate the U.S. government with the Soviet government is willful distortion, don’t you think?

  34. December 18, 2011 2:16 pm

    Rick;

    The political spectrum is whatever it is. 2/3 of the nation is not conservative. Even a simple majority is not, but conservatives do outnumber liberals 2:1 by just about every measure and have probably for my entire life.

    My argument is not really relative. But it is that on almost every issue you are to the left of a majority of people.

    Views do change over time – mine have, those of the majority have, my guess is yours have. I am not trying to argue about where you were 10 years ago. It is irrelevant to the argument.

    But I am arguing that relative to most of the majority views today – which by definition include the center, today you are on the left.

    In a less relativistic argument your perception of all problems is that they are caused by failures of the market – failure of people, individuals, and your prefered solutions are statist government solutions – which whether you like it or not have come at the expense of the very people you cherish.

    So both from a relative sense – it would be my guess based on your views that 65-70% of americans are to the right of you, and from the ideological sense – you want top down solutions, and you are willing to tolerate injustice on an individual or even class basis in return for some common good based definition of justice. Further, you favor redistribution of wealth – from each according to their ability to each according to their need, while support for redistribution is higher than it was 5 years ago, and depending on how the questions are asked may temporarily include a majority, I do not gather that your views are really just a temporary emotional reaction to current circumstances. I am gathering they are core values. Regardless, just as tradition and resistance to change is the core value of conservatives the redistribution of wealth is the core value of the left.

    So by three different measures you are on the left. Some further than others.

  35. December 18, 2011 2:38 pm

    Ultimately I value individual liberty so highly that I would have a system of greater freedom even at the expense of greater economic well-being.

    I make primarily pragmatic economic arguments because I am fortunate enough that my values also produce the best economic results. On some level we all accept this. We know that the USSR failed, most of us knew it was going to. We know that one way or another China will transition from more totalitarian to more free – and will be better off for it.

    If there is any problem with my argument that freedom produces prosperity for all, it is only in the edge cases. Most of the world accepts the basic premise that at atleast some level more freedom produces more prosperity – even for the least well off.

    Is there a single participant on this blog that does not beleive that freedom in most instances produces a better economic outcome ?

    I am an “ultra-conservative”, and extremist, a doctrinaire libertarian (an oxymoron if there ever was one), and “economic-fundimentalist”, because I beleive that the system that has done better for all of us than anything before over the past three hundred + years, will ultimately continue to do so.

    Except for the edge cases we are all agreed that capitolism works. It works so well it is disconcerting that I even have to make the argument.

    The only question is whether at the margins government intervention can improve things.
    A contention that has not been demonstrated.

    We are on a purportedly moderate blog, and somehow I am arguing against solutions that have no track record of success, and a pretty good record of failure, and defending those that are responsible for all the good things we have.

    Even if government can improve things, it is only at the margins – yet government now consumes between 40 and 50% of what we produce – that is an extremely high cost to protect against problems at the margins.

  36. Ian CSE permalink
    December 18, 2011 4:01 pm

    The answer to the Libertarian issue is really pretty simple. There is no libtopia or any place similar because Libtopia cannot exist for the reasons that Rick, I, and many others have given. Hong Kong is apparently the closest anyone has come due to its very unusual history. Do Libertarians move there en masse? No they do not. They make a sacred market choice, they exercise their free will and they remain here and bitch about the government and claim that everyone is repressing them or planning to.

    Heh, Libertarians are free, they could move to Hong Kong, which should be very attractive to them if you believe their rhetoric. Libertarians just like to argue ( yeah I know, the pot, the kettle). In actuality, with all our American taxes, regulations, and “ponzi schemes” its still better here than in the Hong Kong libtopia. The Market has spoken! Libertarians are just venting, endlessly.

    • December 18, 2011 4:40 pm

      We are all free, and just as I can move to Hong Kong if I choose – you are equally free to move to Europe or Cuba, or North Korea, or Scandanavia if that is what floats your boat.

      Of course Hong Kong is unique – as is Singapore. At the same time myriads of studies which you perused previously have demonstrated a strong positive correlation between:
      Small Government
      Economic Freedom.
      Freedom in general,

      And economic prosperity,
      At the same time they have demonstrated a weaker negative correlation between deep social safety nets and prosperity.

      Hong Kong is about as unique as the United States. Even here in myriads of ways, more limited government has corresponded to greater growth in prosperity for all of us, and larger government has had demonstrable negative impacts on all of us.

      We are watching as the EU implodes. Is there anyone here that thinks the problems in Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain are too little taxes on the wealthy, or the housing crisises ? The rest of Europe is only economically healthy by comparision. Most of Europe has lagged a full percent behind the US in growth for almost three decades – and their standard of living shows it.

      The US problems were aggravated by the housing collapse, but not created by them. Look around those states with high tax rates and expansive government are haemorrhaging money.

      Even if we fixed the entire economic damage caused by the collapse of the housing bubble tomorow and suddenly were experiencing real economic growth and declines in unemployment, the most we would have accomplished was to briefly delay serious problems that face us.

      You are correct the US is not today some libertopia – though all that we have to be grateful for comes from that economic freedom we do have.

      At the same time libertarians and libertarian values are as divorced from the causes of the problems we face as is possible. We are possibly a decade away from the problems Europe faces today – though in this interconnected world a European collapse could substantially advance that clock.

      Regardless, look at Europe, how should they solve their problems ? They have the high marginal taxes you want, they have the broad and deep social safety net you want, they have most everything you want and they are in trouble. And that is the direction you wish to take us.

      In the eighties they called the US – Japan, Inc. now they have an economy going into two decades of stagnation. They have crushing debt. They have stimulated themselves sufficient to make every Keynesian but Krugman happy. And what they have is more debt.

  37. December 18, 2011 4:09 pm

    Ian, aside from child labor, sweatshops, unsafe working conditions, 80hr work weeks, what other fabled flaws of capitalism are you prepared to repudiate ?

    It is not that libertairans do not grasp that problems are complex, it is that we grasp that the entire field of human endeavor is so complex as to be far beyond the ability of institutions to manage in all but the broadest ways.
    We can reasonably expect government enforcing a simple set of laws to protect each of us from others using force to deprive us of life, liberty or property.
    But it is beyond the ability of any institution to manage end to end the production of even the simplest item.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I,_Pencil
    Yet almost all of 7 billion people mange not only to meet their basic needs, but to produce more improving circumstances for themselves and their children, every day, day in, day out. In the process pencils are created – as are computer chips with more transistors than there are people in the world – and still produced such that an increasing portion of the world can afford them.

    Adam Smith called this “the invisible hand”, Hayek identified it more thoroughly as “Spontaneous order”, in 2009 Elinor Olstrom became the first women to win th enobel prize by demonstrating that in the real world, the “Tragedy of the commons” is a fallacy and when left alone people resolve conflicts between self interest and the needs of the community through spontaneous order.
    It is a kind of economic version of the sermon of the mount – look arround you, no one fully grasps everything necessary to produce even the simplest of good in the free world, yet the division of labor combined with spontaneous order produces everything that is produced, without a single mind fully comprehending more than the smallest part.
    And the market place is just one small facet of the entirety of human existence.

    Libertarians grasp complexity. They grasp that human complexity is beyond our ability to even pretend to manage. That ultimately we have no choice but to trust that free individuals persuing their own self interest will create not only your daily bread, but everything that is created.

    I do not know if there will ever be a $2000 car that goes 180mpg and gets 110mpg. But I do not that absent government interference future cars will reflect the wants and desires of buyers. That we will not publicly chastise one car company(toyota) because white men of a certain age are unable to tell the brake pedal from the gas pedal while hiding the fact that another(GM) is selling cars(volt) that explode because publicising that might hurt the sales of government motors.

    The psychological profile of libertarians is distinguished from that of liberals and conservatives, by the pre-eminence of logic over emotion. We care for the disadvantaged, but prefer solutions that will actually help them to ones that demonstrate our empathy for them. We will not sacrifice reason to emotion.

    I do not want smaller government, less regulation and free markets as an abstraction.
    I want them because I value individual people and their freedom, above all else. Because I trust that people acting on their own will get things better than the elite in government. Because finding examples of the failure of government is trivial, while absent government interference market failures are rare.

    Poland transformed from a totalitarian economic regime to a successful first world free market economy in just a few days – by getting out of the way. Russia is still struggling to do so.

  38. Ian CSE permalink
    December 18, 2011 4:20 pm

    As far as the 40, 40, 20 split, I have not questioned it and have generally accepted it. Thinking about it today I am beginning to doubt this split is correct. The last 5 presidential elections have gone Dem. three times and Rep. twice, by very narrow margins. That is hard to relate to a state in which conservatives outnumber liberals two to one. The GOP should be rolling over the Dems if it were true. Congress has been the same deal, back and forth between the parties for many years.

    If Libertarians can define a libertarian majority by choosing an absurd definition for who is a Libertarian, than liberals can also define a liberal on their own terms. Anyone who believes in government programs is a liberal. That makes liberals a strong majority and explains the election results. That 40, 40, 20 split is based on how people label themselves, people seem not to like the word liberal but accept the liberal (according to dhlii, progressive) agenda. Based on how Dhlii has labeled Rick and myself and the members of both parties as big government “statists”, fine, lets accept that for a minute. By Dhlii’s definition 60-80% of the American voters are liberals.

    By demographics that is only going to change more in the favor of the liberals in the coming years.

    Flights to Hong Kong leave regularly!

    • December 18, 2011 5:30 pm

      And Sweden awaits http://www.sas.se/sv/. or would you prefer england http://www.britishairways.com.

      I did not do the polls, if you do not like the results take it up with Gallup, Zogby, Pew, ….

      I am not aware of a poll on political identification that did not find conservatives outnumbering liberals by approximately 2:1 since probably the 70’s.

      Both parties are broader than a single ideology.
      Since Reagan Republicans have become more conservative and in doing so pulled a significant portion of conservatives under the Republican umbrella. The fundamental weakness of the Republican party is that Conservatives are a large and reliable voting block, but alone they are not quite sufficient to win national elections.

      The democratic party has been forced to grasp that liberals alone are insufficiently to win almost any election, and have had to appeal to a broader tent.

      Regardless of other Issues, Clinton as an example was more economically conservative than either Bush.

      Since atleast the 80’s democrats have almost always had a 2-10 point advantage in voter registrations. Elections have increasingly been determined by independents, and independents – another group that could stake a claim to the title “moderates”, clearly lean more conservative than libera – or using your own logic no Republican could have been elected.

      There are myriads of demographic changes coming, with impacts on both parties.
      Voters are identifification polls currently have democrats and republicans about equal – a significant gain for the GOP since 2008. And generic ballots giver republicans about a 3% edge – again better 2008.

      There are demographic increases in minorities, mostly among Hispanics, who are not a reliable democratic voting block. But there are strong population shifts to heavily republican and successful states – some people are actually voting with their feet.
      Even traditionally democratic voting blocks are increasingly disappointed by the failure of democrats to deliver on promised solutions. An increasing number of blacks are questioning their support for liberal democratic education solutions that have delivered increasingly abominal performance to poor communities and are willing to consider other approaches. In Pennsylvania we actually had a black libertarian in the democratic primary for governor – who I would have enthusiastically taken over traditional candidates from either party.

      Further, despite the shift of conservatives to the GOP in the 70’s and 80’s, there are still conservatives and libertarians in the democratic party. Clinton demonstrated that Democrats could succeed by appealing to “moderate” conservatives and libertarians.

      Though there are no indications of a democratic shift back towards the center, there can be no doubt that the democratic party still has its own conservative and libertarian elements and can successfully compete politically by shifting towards them.

      Both parties have problems with their base. You can not get elected as a republican without the manpower provided by some fairly hard right conservative troops, just as democrats depend on unions and students as foot soldiers – even if students are notoriously bad at voting. Both parties have to get through primaries that require them to shift to the extreme one way, and then a general election that requires them to move toward the middle without disenchanting their base.
      These factors are far more responsible for polarising the parties, than Rick’s fixation on political contributions, which if he got his way would likely shift elections to the right – republicans receive more small contributions than democrats.

  39. December 18, 2011 4:45 pm

    Why is it somehow libertarian to say

    “We should not make the same mistakes that other nations have made ”
    or

    “We should not continue to make the same mistakes that have created the problems we currently have”

    I do not see that as conservative, libertarian, moderate, centerist, liberal or progressive.
    Nor is it a failure to grasp nuance or complexity.

    I think it is just a willingness to confront reality, and use reason rather than emotion to evaluate decisions.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 18, 2011 5:01 pm

      You are the most emotional person here! Fear is an emotion, its what drives your massive output, massive fear. Spock you ain’t! Nor have I found your output to be especially logical.

      The International Socialist Organization, an ultra leftwing organization, also packages itself with understated mildness, they are just the nice people who brought us the 5 day workweek and civil rights. I don’t believe their spin or yours when you play that disingenuous game!

      • December 18, 2011 5:59 pm

        What is it that so offends you in this post ?

        What is this disingenuous game I am playing ?
        I have tried extremely hard to be upfront about what I say.
        There is no hidden implication in my statements above.

        Nor am I the one trying to hide from the world as it is, rather than as I wish it to be.

        And what has the ISO got to do with anything ?
        And why would you counter and argument based on repeating past mistakes, with an organisation that if not actually responsible for past mistakes, would still happily take credit for them.

        I am also confused as to why you would use the deciept of an extreme left wing organisation that would willingly endorse many of your own policies and that says many of the same things that you say as an example of disingenuous spin ?

  40. December 18, 2011 5:41 pm

    Links to a wide variety of polls.
    Contrary to Ian, these are not nearly so inconsistent as claimed.
    While there may be some tepid sympathy towards Rick’s wealth redistribution, it is not a strong sentiment. On the other hand we are angry with government, with incumbents, particularly with democrats.

    Almost all of this runs in opposition to anything the socalled moderates on this blog push.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/151556/Fewer-Americans-Divided-Haves-Nots.aspx
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/151490/Fear-Big-Government-Near-Record-Level.aspx
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/151568/Americans-Prioritize-Growing-Economy-Reducing-Wealth-Gap.aspx
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/151433/Record-High-Anti-Incumbent-Sentiment-Toward-Congress.aspx
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/149543/Americans-Say-Federal-Gov-Wastes-Half-Every-Dollar.aspx
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/148472/Deficit-Americans-Prefer-Spending-Cuts-Open-Tax-Hikes.aspx
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/partisan_trends
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/trust_on_issues

    Libertarians do not presume that the majority is always right. But unlike the left we do treat average people with respect. We beleive that regardless of agreement or disagreement on specific issues of policy, that absent government interference ordinary people on the whole will get things right on their own the overwhelming majority of the time.

    Expressed differently we believe that not only can the average person that the left considers to be an idot can manage their own lives, but a significant percentage of the real idiots will faire better on their own than they will with the help of government.

  41. Ian CSE permalink
    December 18, 2011 6:28 pm

    I’m not offended dhlii.

    The ISO bit was an analogy. I was just pointing out that Libertarians are no more just people who try to be logical and not repeat past mistakes than the marxist ISO is just a nice group of folks who gave us the 5-day work week. Those two descriptions leave out the meat of the issues that are radical and try to make extreme ideologies sound mild and reasonable.

    If you want to be more honest, not about facts but about the argument you make, you can list the ways, as you so often have, that the Dems and Reps are statists who are big government progressives relatively speaking compared to libertarians. By your own words Libertarians are different than mere republican conservatives; you have a much greater distrust of government and regulation. You are torn between being quite proud about that huge distinction and trying to say that Libertarians are just economic moderates who embody mainstream beliefs. You simply cannot have it both ways, its illogical. Choose one tack and stick with it and I won’t use the word disingenuous any further, I hope, as its hard for me to spell.

    • December 18, 2011 7:27 pm

      My point about your ISO analogy is that it was like a rabbit comparing a bear to a fish.

      I have already provided myriads of examples of areas libertarians depart from both.
      If you want an indepth scientific assessment from a researcher in psychology, morality, and politics, try.
      http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID1702401_code1530516.pdf?abstractid=1665934&mirid=1

      I agree with most though not all of Haight’s conclusions. A large body of libertarians are driven by empathy and logic – we beleive what we do BECAUSE it will provide a better outcome for the less fortunate.

      Regardless, Haight does a fairly good job of demonstrating that libertarianism is a completely distinct set of moral values from those of liberals and conservatives.
      Haight finds enormous commonality between liberals and conservatives – something virtually all libertarians know. So why do even you more strongly identify libertarians with conservatives ? Because logic matters, because freedom matters, because we will not sacrifice reason, and freedom even to reach a laudable end, and because we know that if you do the end you actually reach is not the one you aimed for. Conservatism is not an ideology, it is as William Buckley famously said “standing Athwart history, yelling stop.”
      Conservatives are wrong, but mostly they are not wrong on ideas – their value is not ideas, but tradition. Libertarians are more able to poke and prod conservatives slowly along the right track. We can vote for them with the assurance that MOST of the time they are not going to make things worse than they are.

      I have not been trying to claim that libertarians are just economic moderates. You are the one with the great difficulty placing placing libertarian values in a one dimensional spectrum.

      What I am claiming is that if you insist on a one dimensional measure, you are are confronted with the problem that Libertarians fall in the center of that spectrum. Ultimately that is simplistic – libertarians is a pole – an extreme if you wish, but one the axis of statism vs. authority while conservatism and liberalism are the extremes of a different axis.

      You also mistake my intentions when placing Libertarians into the center of YOUR scheme. I am not looking to take ownership of the political center. I am happy with my own set of values as they are regardless of whether the center actually agrees with them or not.

      But the “moderates” here are looking for ownership of the political center, and I am deliberately using both libertarians and poll majorities and your own values to crowd you out of the center.

      I am not happy that a majority of americans have bought into this income inequality idiocy, or that they have been persuaded into beleiving that stealing from others is the way to solve our problems. I am happy that both of those views are not held very strong.

      I am happy that at the moment the majority of amercians agree with libertarians on some issues. I am not deluded into beleiving that they share most of my values, or that their views might change.

      I am conflicted because I honestly beleive that both the left and the right have two choices, move towards smaller government and more individual freedom, and watch current conditions improve, or try anything else and watch them worsen.

      I am also not deluded into believing that the current congruence of values between libertarians and republicans on economic issues is robust or lasting. Republicans adopt libertarian values when it suits – when their form of statism has failed, and sometimes when democrats are in power. I personally find Obama and Bush almost indistinguishable – except in the magnitude of their errors.

      I have covered myriads of issues where my values part company with those of the left and the right before. If you are unable to grasp that individual freedom runs strongly counter to conservatism – well it is not my job to attack hypothetical conservatives to make you happy. Should a real one appear on this board advocating say manditory school prayer, escalating the drug war, I will be happy to go after them. In the meantime you can expect me to counter those views I disagree with that are hear.

      Beyond that, while the “moderates” here are not especially moderate, and despite some of our voiciferous disagreements, This is not TPM or Daily Kos, or ThinkProgress – or the ISO. There is a knee jerk expectation that the state is the best response to every problem – particularly those the state has made. But the moderates of TNM are redeemable, and we do need more voices than just the extreme left and the extreme right.

      I am not torn or conflicted about myself or my views – atleast not in any ways that anyone on this blog is ever likely to challenge.

  42. December 18, 2011 6:39 pm

    Ian;

    It is extremely difficult to absolutely refute or prove anything in economics – ultimately economics is driven by human behaviour. Though that does not make it not science.

    Despite that difficulty I will guarantee you that if you are able to successfully use reason and logic to refute or prove anything that challenges core libertarian values, the overwhelming majority of libertarians would change their views. Rand starts with Aristotle and builds an entire philosphy from “A is A”, though objectivists are somewhat cultish and ultimately Rand is no more than one of myriads of participants in the classical liberal tradition, even objectivists, will not overrule logic with faith or emotion.

    I am aware of the edge conditions in my value system – myriads of libertarians have debated vigorously the question of “how little government is needed”. I personally ignore the issue – as it does not matter. We are not getting to government the size of Hong Kong in my lifetime, it is purely academic whether something smaller or even nothing is better.

    At the same time there is a building three century intellectual tradition that I can rely on that stands behind my values and arguments. some mistakes have been made along the way and these have been challenged, tested and discarded.

    There have been myriads of other competing traditions – most are gone, many that remain still share fallacies with those we have already discarded. The best any other economic tradition can claim is to have survived seventy years without yet being found so fallacious as to be discarded.

    I am not expecting that you or Rick are going to find the fatal flaw in the classical liberal tradition, but I will abandon all or any of it that does not hold up under scrutiny.

    If you have read any of the classical liberal scholars, you would grasp that none of them persuade through appeals to emotion.

  43. Ian CSE permalink
    December 18, 2011 6:55 pm

    I have never had the intention of trying to get you to abandon your Libertarian beliefs. It would be, A a waste of time and B, cruel. Let folks have the belief systems that give them comfort.

    At the smallest or even no provocation you start to assert that someone is trying to take away your freedom or Norquist’s freedom etc. even when no one has made any such proposal. That is fear. You are terrified of infringements of freedom by government. That is pure emotion.

    I’m not interested in the political philosophy of anyone who has attempted to dehumanize themself to produce a so called purely logical philosophy. A, that a pure conceit, there is no such person and B, if there were such a person then they would be inferior to a computer at what they do. Not interesting.

    I also have fears, its part of why I am addicted to this. Its not a condemnation to say that a person has fears. But thinking that you are logical and unemotional is a conceit that just works against you.

    • December 18, 2011 8:47 pm

      The Good Samaritan bandaged the wounds of the robbery victim he found at the side of the road, he did not say, “It would be cruel to save him from the afflictions that are causing him harm” My views on many things have changed throughout my life. I do not expect them to be the same ten years from now. If your views are not constantly evolving and changing to reflect what you learn I am sorry for you.

      I would suspect I have a much narrower view of human rights and freedoms than you. My rights are only those found in nature, where I an entitled to nothing and must provide for myself. I sacrifice only the right to interfere with the same rights of others in return for government securing those rights. If you do not recognise that it is a paraphrase of the declaration of independence – also John Locke, more of those irrelevant dead classical liberals. When you claim the right to dictate what someone else can do with what is theirs, or what they can say, you are infringing on their rights. I happen to agree with Norquist on some issues, I do not agree with Sorros on much. But I have no right to prevent either from using what is their as they please, or saying whatever they wish.

      Governments infringe on peoples rights all the time. I am not terrified of it, I just know it is a bad idea, it produces bad results. In my own personally life I am pretty inoffensive, aside from occasionally driving a bit faster than the law allows, I have little to fear from much of the idiotic government infringements of both the left and right. If I am afraid, I am afraid for Mr. Sorros or Mr. Norquist, they are controversial enough that a shift in political power could have either labeled as criminals.

      I did not claim to be unemotional, only that I will not make choices that I know logically are wrong, because I can justify them emotionally.

      I am very human Ian, and I wish to remain that way. I grasp that the more freedoms we take – even the small ones, even the ones that harmless people like myself never exercise, the less human we become. It is freedom that separates us from machines, not logic.
      Computers are not logical, they are logic machines. They will reach conclusions that are logically consistent with their data and programming. Humans have the freedom to change their own programming. – for whatever reason they chose, they are self aware.

  44. Ian CSE permalink
    December 18, 2011 10:08 pm

    Dhlii, I find much of what you believe to be sort of sweet and naive and almost Buddhist in a way. I can respect your Libertarian thoughts on, say, defense, in principle but I cannot join you in fact, the world is full of evils that don’t stop unless they are stopped, Uncle Joe Stalin’s system could have owned the world if we let him. How to stop armed and aggressive evil without force that does evil itself is a question that no one has solved, I’m afraid. Sometimes we have to choose the best of the bad answers and we can only hope that we guessed correctly. If the US went Libertarian on Defense it would be a catastrophe.

    Other parts of Libertarianism are just oblivious to evil done in the business and finance world and the harm that it does. We go back to Roland Arnal. That is the part of Libertarianism that makes me see red. I know from experience that it is useless for me to type a big collection of words trying to explain to you what is wrong with a man who makes billions by taking advantage of the lack of sophistication of mostly poor people by hounding them incessantly to make decisions that are disastrous for them and make the rich bastard richer. In your logical scheme his victims just should have known better and turned him down. He worked hard to disguise his poisonous contracts and unreasonable fees and he sent his employees out to do swindle suckers. Yeah, I know your answer, if he committed a crime then prosecute him. He is beyond that now and his type of game has been shut down by regulators, too late unfortunately for millions of victims of predatory lending. In your universe there is no predatory lending. I only hope that the Libertarian type of logic about “freedom” in business that you believe in can be held in check most of the time.

    There is a simple idea most people grasp that runs against the Libertarian freedom to do business and the “let the buyer beware” ethics that Libertarians believe in. That idea is that no person has absolute rights and rights always come into conflict with other persons’ rights. Society must prevent the wreckage that an Arnal can wreak by keeping the law of the Jungle out of business transactions and money lending. Its what you refer to as “My rights are only those found in nature, where I am entitled to nothing and must provide for myself.” That so-called principle is not civilized, which is why you cannot find a society based on that principle of yours.

    The idea that “When you claim the right to dictate what someone else can do with what is theirs, or what they can say, you are infringing on their rights.” is absurd. As a parent I “infringed” the right of my kids constantly, for which they are very grateful today. Teachers do the same. Society could not work otherwise. We give up your ideas of that right we have to do as we please in order to be part of a society. People can tell me on a regular basis what I cannot do or say and I accept most of it as reasonable.

    Children are born into rules and infringements on their “rights” and I’m sure they have been for as long as humans have had language. Take a night flight with some *&^%$ yuppie parent whose kids run around “free” making everyone miserable while they take the Libertarian view that they must not infringe on their children’s rights sometime. The idea that “I can do what I want, you’re not the boss of me” needs to by squashed thoroughly by age 3, maybe age 2. Its a childish idea but its the basic Libertarian idea, no one can tell me what to do. No Thanks that’s not an ethic I want to live under.

    • December 19, 2011 12:09 am

      I am not sure how we get from your perceived evils of capitolism to Stalin.
      While we get some credit for stopping Hitler and Musolini, I do not recall our having stopped Stalin or Mao, or myriads of other totalitarians. Hayek did demonstrate how corporatism could lead to totalitarianism (as can all means that increase the power of government), there are myriads of examples of socialist states moving to totalitarianism, I am not aware of a single instance of real corporation driven repression – I am not by the way ruling it out just noting that as totalitarianism has repeatedly evolved from socialism in the real world we should far more concerned about the paths that have been followed rather than those that have not.

      My views are not naive. I have lived in the world and though there are certainly people who have experienced worse, I have had to directly confront plenty of evil.

      Defence is not an issue with a consistent libertarian ideology. Most – but not all libertarians are opposed to starting wars, and to the initiation of the use of military power against other nations. But there are libertarian pacifists, libertarian isolationists, and possibly even a few libertarian Cheney supporters. Libertarians have been far more consistently opposed to Wars like Iraq II, but we have not had the misfortune of a president who was against it until he was for it.

      Regardless, there is no libertarian ideological dogma against the use of force in self defence. Everyone is entitled to defend themselves – even nations. It is the individual right to initiate the use of force that we cede in return for societal protection of natural rights.
      Most of our founders would make perfectly acceptable libertarians. They fought a war for individual liberty.

      I still do not get your fixation on Arnal or Sorros or ….
      Did any of these so-called villians use force in whatever it is you think they did that was evil ? If so – I have no problem prosecuting The actual use of force, even the threat of force violates the law as well as libertarian principles.
      Did they actually lie – commit fraud – real misrepresentation – again that violates the principles of libertarians.
      But as best as I can tell that is not what you are alleging.
      In the case of Sorros I beleive you alleged that he recognised that the Bank of England was over extended before anyone else did, bet against it and won big. This is part of the general liberal misunderstanding of economics. Placing an economic bet against something is part of the self regulating process that preserves the stability of the market, not a destabilising influence. Nor do I believe that particular view is confined to libertarians. Most if not all economic traditions recognise short selling, speculation and other means of betting on a different economic outcome than norm as a positive rather than negative force.
      I beleive your venom towards Arnal is because he provided mortgages on homes to people who could not afford them. As best as I can tell, that is just bad business, and he is the one taking the risk. Someone who had insufficiently good credit and income to buy a home in the first place loses little or nothing when they end up renting which is what would have happened had Arnal not written them a mortgage.
      The other possibility is that Arnal is a crook because he then sold those mortgages to others. I could actually be persuaded to call that fraud but for two things: First I do not think that is what you are upset about, and second most of these crappy mortgages were sold to Fanny and Freddie who were government vassals and obligated by law to buy ludicrous volumes of mortgages under conditions such that they had to be crap. Nor was this idiocy limited to Fannie and Freddie.
      Arnal profited handsomely, but not by doing anything illegal or even wrong. What he engaged in was something libertarians and some other economists call “rent seeking”, and “rent seeking” requires conditions that only government can create, therefore we hold government not the rent seeker responsible.
      In your version you have Arnal hounding and brow beating people. Do you honestly beleive that Arnal on his own sent goons out to poor neighborhoods, seeking “unsophisticated” victims, and persuaded them to buy houses they did not want and could not afford ? You are aware that in apporximately 1993 the Fed started browbeating lenders to increase their lending to poor and minorities and to use the ridiculous credit standards that got us into this mess ? You are aware that HUD (and Andrew Cuomo) was successfully suing the crap out of huge lenders and forcing them into writing more and more loans to poor minorities. And that FHA is already starting to put the screws to lenders to relax standards once again. That by law lenders are still compelled to write loans with mispriced risk ? Dodd Frank has promulgated myriads of regulations on aspects of the financial system that had absolutely nothing to do with the current mess, but everything that we actually know went wrong has been left untouched. Fannie and Freddie have survived, the laws and policies that created this mess have survived. In fact we have more risk than ever because the entire financial system now has been assured that in the event they screw things up, we will all have to bail them out again.

      When you are able to transfer the cost of failure elsewhere, while keeping the benefits of success, you guarantee that people will take risks they can not afford – it is called moral hazard. We have just had a ridiculously expensive lesson in it, and apparently learned nothing.

      If Arnal is a crook for writing mortgages to poor minorities with insufficient credit, than what is the appropriate punishment for the politicians, bureaucrats and regulators who were demanding that the financial institutions do precisely that ?
      Allowing the markets to run their course would have appropriately punished Wall Street for its part in this mess. Not perfectly, some people who deserved to fail would have survived and some who should not have failed would have, but most it would have gotten it right. The world also would not have come to an end, the world is more resilient than that. Destruction is part of free markets. Absent government interference it does not come all at once, but it is still normal. So long as we need banks and homes and cars there will be businesses to provide those services.

  45. Ian CSE permalink
    December 19, 2011 7:13 pm

    Ameriquest was the company that was developed and owned by Arnall.

    If you were not so intent on seeing the anti-regulation and pro business slant in every situation and put as much effort into seeing things from the side of the victims of sleazy business then you might yet achieve a balanced (moderate) viewpoint. Many of the victims of Arnall’s goons did not get off as lightly as so prettily pass it off. They lost their down payments, their equity, paid too much interest and were conned into paying absurdly fees as well. They lost their homes, foreclosure ruined their credit… Meanwhile, Arnall made billions, lived in a 42,000 sq foot house, was a huge contributor to the GOP and was made ambassador to the Netherlands. Large fines were paid $325 million but jail was not mentioned. The next Arnall should be stopped in his tracks by regulations the GOP or Libertarians will fight tooth and nail, and should do jail time, not fines.

    Here are some excerpts from Wiki on Ameriquest, let me know if you find any lending behavior described here objectionable:

    “Ameriquest was one of the United States’ leading wholesale lenders, and the largest sub-prime lender in the nation until all but four of its top-performing retail offices were closed in September 2007. Its loan origination practices were at the heart of the Financial crisis of 2007–2010.[1] Ameriquest originated the stated income loan, which allowed potential borrower(s) to state his/her/their income without any process of verification. Many of these stated income loans were the catalyst to the ultimate failure of Ameriquest itself, and a key factor in the 2008 housing bubble crisis.[2]…

    …In 1996, the company agreed to pay $3 million into an “educational fund” to settle a Justice Department lawsuit accusing it of gouging and predatory lending practices against older, female, and minority borrowers. Prosecutors accused it of allowing mortgage brokers and its employees to charge these customers an additional fee of as much as 12% of the loan amount. As part of the settlement, Ameriquest (then still known as Long Beach Mortgage) agreed to use the educational fund to train its employees in proper mortgage techniques (training which most observers agree never actually occurred to any substantial degree), and to refrain from utilizing predatory lending techniques (such as “bicycling”), but only within the State of California. Shortly after entering into this settlement agreement, the company “switched” names with its subsidiary and began aggressively seeking refinance-mortgage business throughout the United States.
    In 2001, after being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, the company settled a dispute with ACORN, a national organization of community groups, promising to offer $360 million in low-cost loans.
    In February 2005, reporters Michael Hudson (reporter) and Scott Reckard broke a story in the Los Angeles Times about “boiler room” sales tactics at Ameriquest. Their investigation found evidence that the lender had engaged in various questionable practices, including “deceiving borrowers about the terms of their loans, forging documents, falsifying appraisals and fabricating borrowers’ income to qualify them for loans they couldn’t afford.”[4]
    On 1 August 2005, Ameriquest announced that it would set aside $325 million to settle attorney-general investigations in 30 states to settle allegations that it had preyed on borrowers with hidden fees and balloon payments.[5] In at least five of those states—California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Florida—Ameriquest had already settled multimillion-dollar suits. Brian Montgomery, the Federal Housing Administration commissioner said that the Ameriquest settlement reinforced his concern that the industry was exploiting borrowers, and that he “was shocked to find those customers had been lured away by the “fool’s gold” of subprime loans”.[5]
    In May 2006, Ameriquest Mortgage announced it was closing all of its retail offices and in the future would make its loans through mortgage brokers, a channel that is not covered by the predatory-lending settlement with the Attorneys General.
    On June 13, 2007, lawyers for borrowers, who are seeking to combine 20 suits into one class-action suit, asserted in a filing [6] in Illinois Northern District Court that “Assets of the Ameriquest entities were transferred to (the owner of Ameriquest) Arnall with the actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud the plaintiffs in this action.”

    Former employees from Ameriquest, which was United States’s leading wholesale lender,[1] described a system in which they were pushed to falsify documents on bad mortgages and then sell them to Wall Street banks eager to make fast profits.[1] There is growing evidence that such mortgage fraud may be at the heart of the Financial crisis of 2007–2010.[1]”

    Jeez, ya think?

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 20, 2011 4:10 pm

      Intrade lets investors buy shares in political candidates

    • December 22, 2011 12:25 am

      Do you understand that most of what you call “preditory lending practices” were proposed by the Boston Fed in 1993, became standard for all Fed Participating institutions, and eventually attained the force of Law and are STILL mandated ?
      FHA and HUD are already starting to grumble about forcing Banks which have returned to good credit practices to return to the ignorant practices that created this mess.

      I will be perfectly happy to agree with you that The myriads of No-Doc and Liar loans never ever should have been permitted – that they are fraud. But put the blame squarely where it belongs – Washington.

      In the housing crisis we have one of the clearest instances in existence of Government driving down credit standards, driving up home sales – particularly to low income borrowers. I will be happy to aggree that many in business such as Arnal went along Gleefully. I would also note that the force relaxation of lending standards coincides exactly with Lendors holding fewer and fewer loans and selling most of them – primarily to the GSE’s. Do you think maybe the lendors were trying to get rid of “The Old Maids” ?
      The big mistake, was essentially buying back these mortgages in the form of Mortgage backed securities.

      This is not about whether Arnal was a nice guy, it is whether he was a crook.
      Nor is it about being anti-regulation of pro-business. It is about whether there is a fundimental problem here that actually needs fixed.

      Do you understand that the very ACORN suit you site REQUIRED Ameriquest to lend more and more to low income borrowers – even if they were not creditworthy ?
      HUD was playing the same game. You are making my case.

      I purchased a building in June of 2008 – near the top of the bubble. I paid too much, but I am still making my mortgage payments – whether I like them or not, whether the building is worth what I paid for it or not. It was a mistake, but in the long run I expect to do fine.

      People from all walks of like make bad investments and lose money all the time. It is not the norm, but it does happen.

      Your story is self contradictory.

      If Arnal or his employees falsified credit records it is the LENDOR that was being deceived, not the borrower. And the LENDOR should be suing Arnal, maybe they can not get hundreds of billions back but they can get the shirt off Arnal’s back – all they have to do is prove fraud, and the standard of proof in civil court is far lower than criminal court.
      But I am not seeing myriads of civil suits.

      I beleive you that records were falsified – Read the Boston Feds 1993 rant on low income lending. The FED was essentially demanding that Banks and lendor’s falsify credit records. The stated income loan as well as myriads of other essentially fraudulent credit practices for low income borrowers were recomendations of the Federal Reserve.
      And there are recomendations that are far more egregious than that.
      Initially you had to comply with the Fed requirements to do business with the Fed,. Eventually, those standards gained the force of law. HUD was suing lenders.

      Further if the BORROWER’s credit documents were being falsified – then they had insufficient or bad credit to begin with.
      How exactly is it that Arnal has harmed their credit.

      I presume that you have gotten a mortgage yourself at some point in your life. I have had numerous. Yes there is alot of confusing paperwork. But a Truth in Lending statement has been required for several decades identifying all fees and costs and effective interest rates. I have no sympathy for borrowers who fail to read that.
      Ameriquest has actually lost some TILA lawsuits. The Flaw – while everything else was spelled out exactly as the law required – the amount of the payment was not explicitly noted as Monthly. As a result the Borrower won the suit and the lender lost.

      I would also suspect that you know that if you lie on a loan document that there could be all kinds of horrible consequences – including jail as most require swearing to the correctness of the information. Again if Ameriquest was advising people to lie – then the LENDOR’s have a claim against them. But the BORROWER is a co-conspirator in a fraud.

      Further most of these people have borrowed money for cars and other major purchases before – these are not ignorant borrowers.

      Most of the low income loans were bought by Fannie and Freddie. The norm for those is 2% down. I am not ready to work myself into a lather because somebody defaulted on their mortgage and lost a 2% downpayment. If they defaulted that means they missed many many payments – probably more than 2%. Aside from possibly making their already bad credit worse, many paid less to live in a house for a few years than they would have had they rented.

    • December 22, 2011 12:48 am

      What I think is that most of what you are citing is meaningless.

      You are ticked because Mortgages are not a free market, and Ameriquest figured out how to profit by gaming the rules.

      I have a problem with that too. My problem is with the idiotic beleif that regulators can do better than a free market. They can’t. What you see as market failure I see as clear and inevitable regulatory failure.

      I can pretty much guarantee you that anytime you regulate a market you can not avoid creating an opportunity to game the rules.

      Separately as to all the assorted lawsuits against Ameriquest. They mean little. Most ifg not all were settled – usually with Ameriquest agreeing to write even more crappy mortgages.

      Beyond that, I do not actually beleive there is such a thing as “predatory lending”
      The concept assumes buyers are idiots. Yes, there are a few real idiots out there or people who are actually legally incompetent – but they are few, and that is not what we are talkign about here.

      Almost all of us Borrow money. Whether it is for houses, cars, furniture, Credit Cards, payday loans, time payments for merchandise. I deal with some fairly poor people – they borrow money just like the rest of us. Not in amounts as large, and usually with higher interest rates – in keeping with the risk of lending to them, but they still borrow and they have a basic understanding of the process, interest rates, “hidden fees”, ……

      I am sure many of them – just like all the rest of us, get buyers remorse after the sale, or later discover they were not paying enough attention and did not strike as good a deal as they should have. But the fact that you no longer like the terms of ANY loan after you have taken the money does not make the lender a crook. If you did not like the terms – do not borrow the money. If you want lower interest rates, lower fees, better terms:
      Develop good credit, and shop arround just like everything else. And if you can not get the terms you want – either bite the bullet and take what you can get, or do not borrow.

      In any financial transaction – if somebody is asking you to lie – run. If you don’t your not going to be the victim of “predatory lending”, you are going to be a crook.

      Much of what you call predatory lending I call a criminal conspiracy to defraud lendors on the part of mortgage companies like ameriquest AND borrowers.

      All of us are well aware that if we put enough effort in, we can find a better price on anything we wish to buy than at the local mall.

      There is no such thing as the correct price, value is subjective, and the price of anything is that price the buyer and sellor agree on. It is NEVER fraud to sell something at a price higher than someone else. And hidden fees just means failure to read your agreement.

      If Bill Gates agreed to pay a Billion dollars for a stick of Gum, no one would run arround screaming the sellor was a crook. So long you actually have the right to sell what you sell, and so long as you do not lie about the product, and so long as the buyer is legally competent, anything else is legitimate.

      And everything you do to interfere with the process is going to end up getting gamed.

      • Ian CSE permalink
        December 22, 2011 10:51 am

        You’ve confirmed my belief in what you would say. I’d have better luck talking with a 911 truther trying to convince them that Bush did not set explosives in the WTC. . Your Free market cult has collected the facts that support the libertarian notion of the benefits of minimal regulation and the ills of government and ya’ll have ignored the rest of the realities involved.

        You think you know everything about those borrowers, those dirty scammers, what a laugh, the AGs of 30 state had a different idea of who suffered, hence the $325 million is settlements. But it should have included jail for Arnall and his goons, instead of becoming filthy rich and in his case becoming Ambassador to the Netherlands.

        Arnall is dead by the way, cancer. Good riddance.

        This is a picture of why Libertarianism is not just a sort of sweet harmless naive little cult, instead, economically speaking, its a call for the law of the jungle. I can’t waste any more of my time arguing with the idea that we need to go back to the law of the Jungle.

        Evolve! Good luck and Merry Christmas!

  46. Kent permalink
    December 22, 2011 12:34 am

    Rick, I left for a week trip and all I just read was arguments over “what is a moderate”? “What makes a Libertarian?”, “Who is Libertarian?”, “Free-market is bad?” and all the “bashing” of who is “wrong”?

    There is much more things to think than to argue. We must put a “think tank” together and think out the long-term consequences to our thoughts on what things work and don’t work. What has been successfully tried and not tried successfully.

    We must be talking about what defines ourselves and what defines us. Many on the website state thoughts, but little knowledge of why, what or where our background experiences came.

    I have claimed myself a Centrist, but to know for sure I have taken many tests over the internet. They all come back with me on a “centered” line. The last one put me on a line…leaning left in Libertarian land. Nevertheless (which isn’t a word by the way and isn’t good grammar), Everyone has ideas and thoughts. Have people tested to find out what is their “stik” or in other words “What is their ideologue”. I still think you should have something non-political that can be put on your website that people can take to help others identify the ideologue a person originates.

    I find it disheartening that we speak of changing the country and we bash each other over what we think is the right answer over someone else without using examples. I have seen some examples in the week I’ve been gone, but then others are just “stubborn” remarks made back at someone for spite.

    One thing to learn is that you don’t know everything. “A wise person knows that he is never wise, but a dumb person always thinks he is”. Listen, think and find examples to back your stance.

    Another thing I have learned is that being a Centrist is not easy. Balance is everything, but everything in ideology isn’t balanced. Therefore, you have to observe others thoughts and find the balance within the extremes either in one’s mind or more (especially if two or more are arguing). I myself lean different directions on the Centrist fence, but it important not to “fall off”. That would do myself a real disservice in who I am. My emotions and experiences can get the best of me…like anyone else.

    A rule of thumb I use is to take a thought or statement that someone has made. Think the most extreme of it. Then think of the most opposite of the extreme. Then balance the two. At this point you should be at the middle of the two extremes.

    You may not like the result, but the balance is a “give and take” position. Which neither political parties seem to be doing at this moment in our history.

    • December 22, 2011 1:17 am

      You might want to look into Buddhism. It is the ideology of balance, of the middle way.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 22, 2011 7:51 pm

      This post of Kents (12:34 Dec 22) I like quite a lot! Its very thoughtful and quite wise, especially the 3rd paragraph from the bottom, you can frame that one.

  47. Kent permalink
    December 22, 2011 12:39 am

    Rick, Oh, and by the way, I just read your comment on “moving forward” I wrote a week ago. I look forward to how we can get something moving. Hopefully, in your next column.

  48. Ian CSE permalink
    December 22, 2011 11:42 am

    A few other things that are worth noting before I go on Holiday leave from TNM.

    Dhlii has argued that he wishes to push Rick, myself and others from the center using libertarans as a wedge. Dhii admits that Libertarians are at the extreme, “the pole,” of the liberty axis but claims the center of the conventional right-left axis, from which he will try to wedge us off the center. The extraordinary thing is that Libertarians have only extreme views on this axis and not one view that belongs in the center: Economically far right, and far left on many social issues. So, to use the sort of example that is found in statistics texts, if we have a group of ten men and 5 of them are 4’8″ and 5 of them are 6’8″ statistically speaking this group is of average height for an American man, 5’8″, although all the individuals are either very short of very tall. Which is why statisticians long ago created parameters such as standard deviation to indicate how to interpret a mean value. Libertarians, with not one opinion that is near to being in the center, claim that you can somehow average your economic beliefs and social beliefs, even though this is a case of averaging apples and oranges if there ever was one, and displace true moderates from the center. Eh, another Libertarian fail.

    One other point: we can take such tests as the political dipstick test I found and several of us took, and they give one’s tendencies and beliefs, but that is not the whole story. One can have political behavior that is not predicted from their basic beliefs. I’ve been voting Republican in Vermont elections for about 10 years (though I think I am going to stop that this time, my local GOP is often Moderate but they are part of a larger national entity that is not nearly moderate) and I would consider voting for Romney if I could clearly see that Congress would not be owned by the GOP after the election because I think that Obama is a weak president when we cannot afford one. My -3.5 left-right score, which leans moderately to the left, would not predict that voting behavior. I override my purely ideological beliefs for other practical reasons. Just like I override the fact that I am actually terminally lazy, and act very much otherwise in my life such that no one ever calls me lazy or suspects the truth. Some people act FURTHER to the side of their actual beliefs and seem to actually exaggerate them, others, like myself, moderate their actual beliefs when they act politically.

    I think this is a Hugely Important Point, probably it will get lost because I blovulate so much, but there you have it.

    Happy Holidays to All and to All a Good Night!

    • Kent permalink
      December 22, 2011 4:50 pm

      Ian, I believe you hit a point on certain people in the blog that push ideas that seem more of either Left/Right, Central planning or non-Central planning, other than a “balanced/centered” way.

      Libertarian is clearly non-central planning. Some would say pure anarchy, but I don’t think many people want others to break the law without some form of law and order on others. Although, some I have spoken to have an “individualist” view of the world in a form of extremism. I gather this comes from background experience.

      Libertarians show little regard to Government being any good. This is a negative view. Government is of the People. Therefore, the people can change Government. Which means Government isn’t bad…it just needs a “cleaning” every time it gets a little “dirty”. Which is happening right now in our history.

      I sense dhlii’s language is anti-government from past experiences and the problems the Government has created with the intention to help others.

      “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”…..just ask the followers of Hitler.

      Dhlii has some good references and then he has some emotions mixed in. Being able to discern them is sometimes a challenge even for myself, but I do think that he means that “we” as individuals should be doing things for ourselves rather than relying on others to do it for us.

      • December 24, 2011 1:35 pm

        Kent;

        If I one of my arguments is emotional rather than based on fact and logic – tear it apart. Emotion has no place in rational decision making.

        Only a few libertarians are actually anarchists. Virtually all of us grasp a role for government.

        With few exceptions libertarians are not “anti-government”. We require government to guarantee our rights. Government protects us from the violence of others. These are important – indispensable roles.

        We end up at odds with others – particularly the left, when they demand the power of government be used for every conceivable purpose.

        Dogs are not cats. Cars are not airplanes. That no better way that government exists to secure freedom, does not make it suitable for any purpose. What attracts all of us to government is its power to do what can not be done otherwise. That is also why it is dangerous.
        Danger and power usually come together.

        Wanting less government. Is not being “anti-government”, but it is anti-infinite government, it is anti the proposition that every or even most problems have a solution in government.

        History teaches us of both our successes and failures. I do not think it requires much effort to recognise that almost all our successes of the past three centuries are the result of freedom, nor that almost all our failures derive from government.

        Even if I conceded every leftist claim as to the flaws of a more free world – freedom has done incredible well.

        We need more freedom, and less government.

        Government is an important good, not something evil. Its purpose is to secure our freedom, but as the role of government shifts away from that purpose it becomes increasingly evil.

  49. Priscilla permalink
    December 23, 2011 12:29 am

    A few excellent points made….Ian says he votes GOP locally. I vote Democrat locally. The Dems run my town much better, not to mention that the local GOP is a bunch of clowns. I think his point is very well taken that political behavior and ideology do not necessarily go hand in hand.

    The stereotyping of “mainstream” libertarian thought here is often distracting. Kent makes a great observation that, in large part, libertarians champion ” doing things for ourselves rather than relying on others to do it for us.” There are those who would say that that involves the elimination of safety nets, but I don’t think so at all….I think it means removing many of the obstacles that a overly intrusive government (call it a nanny state, if you will) places on the average citizen.

    Kent also brings up a point that I have tried to make on occasion – that “good intentions” do not necessarily result in good outcomes. Dave often makes this point with myriads of examples, but the point is often lost due to others’ perception of him as anti-government. I think that you can be highly critical of and opposed to big government, while still be supportive of that government’s rightful role. You know, the role that we argue about all the time 😉

    Anyway, happy holidays to all of you!

    • December 23, 2011 9:12 pm

      I’ve been silent the past few days… pre-Christmas madness, of course. I’m afraid I’ll have to bail out of this thread without contributing any more to it, because it’s time for me to start my next column. And sorry, Kent and AMAC… this won’t be the one about how moderates can organize into a potent political force. (I’ll have to research all the existing groups and blogs out there… no easy feat. So maybe you can expect something on that topic around mid-January.)

      Anyway, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate that venerable holiday.

    • December 24, 2011 11:59 am

      Republicans and democrats as well as moderates, come in different flavors – so do libertarians.

      As with people of other political orientations, we do not expect to get everything we wish. We know we are not going to convert everyone.

      Distinct from most other ideologies, even given the power to do so, libertarians would be ideologically prohibited from using that power to deprive others of their rights.

      Libertarians are not opposed to anything that either the left or right or anyone else wishes to do. Whatever you political, religious, moral, or ethical views, you would be free to pursue and implement them as you were able -so long as you do not use force to do so.

      Where we end up in conflict with every other political ideology is that the only distinction between any private organisation, and government is that government is legitimately allowed to initiate force. It is the right to use force that requires the power of government to be limited.

      Think about it, there is no political desire of the left or right that can not be achieved inside a voluntary organisation.
      If “social Security” is an excellent idea – create it yourself – the only feature government provides that can not be accomplished in a private voluntary organisation – is the compulsion to participate.

      Libertarians are not intrinsically opposed to anyone else’s ideas wishes or desires – they are opposed to imposing them by force.

      When a majority determine that something is good, unless that decision was unanimous, whatever the issue there is a minority that is opposed. That minority is NOT free to prevent the majority from having for themselves whatever it is they wish. But they should not be forced to into that themselves.

      Most of us already recognise that government should not be allowed to force us all into a single religion. Most of the time we even grasp that government should not be allowed to force us into violating our religious principles. What distinguished religion from everything else ?

    • December 24, 2011 1:39 pm

      I live in a county that is dominated by the worst of the GOP, with one large city run equally badly by democrats.

      Nothing in Lancaster argues favorably for either party.

      I vote primarily against incumbents, favouring the few competent people that exist regardless of party.

  50. Kent permalink
    December 24, 2011 10:12 am

    I just read that Trump is talking about running as an independent. That isn’t a surprise.

    What is amazing is that nature has a way of going opposite.

    For example: Bush then Obama. You couldn’t go any further opposite.

    Obama is anti-business and the only choices for next years elections other than Obama are a business owner (Trump), a business fixer (Romney), and a business talker (Gingrich).

    • December 24, 2011 1:07 pm

      I would argue that in myriads of ways Obama and Bush are indistinguishable.

      Sarbanes-Oxley is a product of the Bush era, just as Frank-Dodd is of Obama.

      Though the rhetoric on Iraq is different, the actions are not.
      They was less justification for our Actions in Libya than in Iraq.

      Obama is continuing the practice of Signing Statements.
      We are as allowed to torture as ever, we just require more layers of euphamism.
      Guantanamo is still open.
      The Patriot act has been broadened and extended,
      Bush gave us Medicare Part D, Obama APACA.
      Both passed middle class tax cuts to stimulate the economy – despite the fact that most every economist knows that the “stimulative” effects of tax cuts are only for cuts to taxes on investment.

      ……

      Accept for the accent I find them hard to tell apart.

  51. December 24, 2011 12:38 pm

    Ian;

    You claim I am trapped in some cult of the free market – yet you fail to grasp you are atleast as trapped in your own.

    I am not happy with Arnal’s behavior. But Arnal could not have succeeded – atleast not to the scale he did without the very government and regulation you claim is the cure.

    Regardless, What is it that Arnal did that should be illegal ?

    He loaned people money. How can loaning people money – regardless of the terms or conditions be wrong ? So long as he did not use force to compel people to borrow how can you make the case that loaning someone else money is vile, evil, reprehensible ?

    Even if I grant you that government MIGHT have some role in dictating that some loan terms can not be enforced, that “regulation” would be limited to prohibiting the enforcement of that term. It would still not convert lending money to someone else into a crime.

    You are converting every act you do not like into a crime. That is a far more dangerous cult than any you ascribe to me.

    BTW, SEC is actively engaged in charges against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives specifically for defrauding investors, for lying about their financial condition and about the risk of the loans they were buying. These actions are driven primarily by infomation Fannie and Freddie have previously admitted.

    Fannie and Freddie lowered their lending standards in order to broaden their share of the market – precisely what you are claiming Arnal did.

    Starting atleast as early as 1999 they created the so called “liar loans” and “no doc” loans that you were claiming were Arnal’s crime several years later.

    Fannie and Freddie REQUIRED companies like Contry-wide and Ameri-quest to use these “paperless” loans in increasing frequency.

    By 2006 Fannie and Freddie held loan portfolios with well over $120B in loans their own analysis considered high risk, delinquent, undercapitolised, …” Yet they reported an exposure of only $8B in exposure.
    Fannie and Freddie under-reported the volume of “Liar Loans” they held by over $341B.

    If people like Mozillo and Arnal are criminals, it is because they defrauded the people who invested in these loans, not the people who received them.

    The reason that Arnal and Mozzillo – as reprehensible as they might be, are not criminal, is because their investors – primarily Fannie and Freddie, not only knew that Ameriquest and CountryWide were writing and selling them loans bit abysmal underlying credit, but they were demanding it.

    If Arnal’s only possible crime was in defrauding his investors, and the investors were fully aware, initiating and demanding the misrepresentation, then there is no fraud.

    Regardless, it is pretty ludicrous to claim that any of this has anything to do with an actual free market.

    While I find the SEC information illuminating, I am not even prepared to jail the Fannie and Freddie executives involved. This entire mess was being driven by government.

    Today the very politicains that were prepared to “roll the dice” on increasing precisely these types of loans are the ones most vocally ranting because others did exactly what they asked. It is these same politicians who are drafting the new rules purportedly to prevent this – yet the very laws that created this mess are still on the books, and increasingly being enforced again.

    And you think I am blinded by some cult thinking ?

  52. December 24, 2011 12:54 pm

    There is an unbelievable logical contradiction in the left rant over the housing/financial crisis.

    We are told by the left that this mess was not the result of writing way to many loans to the poor and minorities with bad credit – at the same time we are told that people like Arnal and Mozzillo are the culprits – because they wrote way too many bad loans to the poor and minorities with bad credit.

    It is not possible to lay blame for this at Arnal’s and Mozzillo’s feet without accepting that this mess was triggered by the bad loans they wrote.

    Either the financial crisis was caused by the government policies driving writing more and more loans to people with insufficient credit, or Arnal and Mozillo (and Fannie and Freddie) were themselves victims, just like all those who lost their homes, or retirements.

    It is impossible to target the irresponsible behaviour on the part of the financial system, without recognising that it was being driven by government.

    The justification for government regulation is the failure of free markets, but even the most cursory examination of so called market failures always leads back to government.

    Yet I am the one blinded by cult thinking ?

  53. December 24, 2011 2:55 pm

    Ian;

    Are you arguing that Arnal and others are guilty because people suffered ?

    So any time something bad happened someone most be guilty ?

    Are you also arguing that Arnal must be guilty because Ameriquest paid 30 AG $345million to settle ? Worse still as I read the settlement, the agreement was essentially to sell even more bad mortgages to even more poor and minority borrows ? Is this really your smoking gun of guilt ?

    I have been a part of myriads of lawsuits. I have never been a part of one that went to trial. Every one was settled. In the sense that I wasted time and spent money I lost every single one. Yet in not a single instance did the other party get more than a fraction of a percent of what they were after. They all claimed victory.

    As best as I can tell Ameriquest admitted no wrong doing, and actually paid no fines. They agreed to write 1/3 of a billion in additional crappy loans. If anything this makes my case.

    You come up with what I think is a clear and obvious example of failure on the part of government, and somehow you manage to make a villian of someone else.

    Arnal is no hero. He was just a toady doing the governments bidding and profiting from it.

    Libertarianism does not advocate a return to the law of the jungle. It advocates a return to the rule of law.

    It holds people responsible for their own decisions.
    Arnal receive a government reward for doing the governments bidding.
    Not very libertarian to me.

    I have find Arnal’s actions very disturbing.
    But even when something is a lie, it is not fraud when both parties know it and are complicit.

    Those Arnal loaned money too knew more than anyone else – including Ameriquest, what their assets and income were. If any deciept occured they were complict in it.
    And no, I have no sympathy for someone who misrepresents things – even at the encouragement of others, and then suffers as a result.

    And those who bought Arnal’s loans not only knew what they were buying, but they demanded precisely what they got.

    I can grasp that you see Arnal as some villian who ought to go to jail.
    I can not understand how you can be blind to the fact that however gleefully and profitably Arnal and ameriquest acted – they were doing precisely what their borrows and lenders wanted. What you have is a near perfect textbook case of exactly how things go wrong when government steps in and distorts the market.
    And yet you persist in seeing this as a failure of the market rather than a failure of government, and your solution is more government, and you expect more government to produce better results.

    This is what government interference in the market brings – how could you possibly want more ?

  54. Pat Riot permalink
    December 24, 2011 11:32 pm

    Dhlii, I have to admit I think some of your best posts are above in this thread, e.g. about different flavors of Libertarians, about Obama and Bush being barely distinguishable, and about Libertarians being “less government” not “anti-government.” You came across as more reasonable and less idealogical.

    I’m curious to know why I don’t see you mentioning Ron Paul since he is so very Libertarian/Constitutionalist. Is it because you think he is “unelectable” for President for one or more reasons, or do you think some of his views are too extreme?

    • Pat Riot permalink
      December 24, 2011 11:34 pm

      And I think Ron Paul is appropriate to this thread as more and more people believe he is the fabled “honest politician.”

    • December 26, 2011 12:46 am

      Except that I have on rare occasions criticised specific candidates, I have tried to refrain from endorsing any.

      Paul is not my “ideal” candidate, he has drifted too close to Conservative Republican for me. But I am very glad he is in the race.

      I have no idea how I will vote in either primaries or the general election.

      There are circumstances that could compel me to vote for Obama

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