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They’re Off! Who’s the Winner in Iowa (and Does It Really Matter)?

January 3, 2012

As I write this, the good people of Iowa are casting the first votes for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. The candidates are in the starting gate, bucking nervously… the gun fires, the gate opens and the race begins in earnest. They’re off!

A few will stumble out of the gate, and one or more could drop out. Nobody seems to be a clear favorite, which explains why I’m blogging this event live from the confines of my den. It should be a tight and suspense-filled horse race.

But does it matter who wins? After all, Iowa is a strange venue for the start of the race. Overwhelmingly rural and white, it’s not exactly a microcosm of the twenty-first century republic. The flat green expanses of Iowa have given us American Gothic, plenty of corn and hogs, a good (if overrated) creative writing program — and of course Herbert Hoover, one of those virtuous and intelligent men (like both Adamses, Ulysses Grant, William Howard Taft, Jimmy Carter and the current occupant of the White House) who proved to be less-than-stellar presidents.

So what do the Iowans know about choosing a president? They know they’re first, and that’s enough to command our attention.

Now the votes are being tallied. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are in a virtual dead heat with a quarter of the votes counted. Gingrich, as expected, has faltered badly — at least partly as a result of direct assaults on his candidacy in the form of mudslinging campaign ads. His 13 percent of the vote won’t cut it. Rick Perry, who never recovered from his debating gaffes, is languishing with about 10 percent. Michele Bachmann is even further behind, fading fast into single digits… I think we can color her finished as of tonight. Poor Jon Huntsman, the aberrantly normal Marilyn Munster of this grotesque crew, is barely on the map with one percent of the vote. (He didn’t campaign actively in Iowa… but it doesn’t say a lot for the wisdom of Iowa’s Republican voters that they’d refuse to vote for him on that score alone.)

The big news here is Santorum — a low-key outlier during the overheated debating season, a man few pundits took seriously. And here he is, running neck-and-neck with the well-funded, well-groomed (in both senses of the phrase) Romney. The folks in the Romney camp must be shocked. Even if their man pulls  out a victory before the night is over, he’ll look vulnerable. Weak. Beatable.

Despite his pedigree, poise and electability, Romney has had a hard time winning the affections of his party’s faithful. He looks a little too much like one of those mature male models you see in men’s clothing catalogs — ruggedly handsome but ultimately bland and forgettable. An empty suit. His convictions, such as they are, seem to shift with the seasons. He’s not a card-carrying conservative — a blight on his image in our politically polarized era. Sometimes I have to wonder what Romney actually thinks about, other than winning elections.  I wonder what he feels. If he unbuttoned his shirt, would we see a panel of flashing lights and grinding gears? As Gertrude Stein might quip, “There’s no there there.” 

In his favor, we can say that he’s reasonable, smart and devoid of fanaticism. In short, not the kind of candidate today’s GOP can love.  

What if the Iowans actually choose Santorum? The former senator from Pennsylvania is an amiable and earnest fellow, disarmingly modest in deportment (though Churchill might tell us, as he once said of a rival politician, that “he has much to be modest about”). 

But don’t let that boyish image fool you. Santorum is a fanatical social conservative who could out-pope the Pope when it comes to issues like abortion and birth control. A Santorum presidency (I can hardly believe I’m typing those words) would turn the United States into a would-be theocracy. (“Would be” because Santorum would still have to contend with Congress and the Supreme Court.) Iowans seem to identify with Santorum’s conservative social agenda. They like him. Even if he finished a close second to Romney, Santorum will have been revived in Iowa. He’ll be a viable contender… at least until the New Hampshire primary.

Half the votes have been counted. Still too close to call at the head of the pack. But the other horses are falling into place. CNN has  projected Ron Paul to finsh third — a close third, but still (embarrassingly) behind Santorum.

The crusty old libertarian, outspoken to a fault (a flaw that many find curiously refreshing in a political candidate) had to have been harmed by the recent revelations of borderline racism and sexism in his comments and publications. Give the man credit, though: he promoted his beliefs vigorously and honestly.  May we all be blessed with such abundant energy and conviction at his age.

Paul is conceding Iowa on TV now. Upbeat, plucky and as unrepentantly libertarian as ever, the 76-year-old doctor seems energized and even triumphant as he speaks to his loyal followers. His antiwar sentiments draw cheers, as does his defense of the Constitution and Austrian economics. “On to the next stop,” he promises, as his disciples shout his name. See you in New Hampshire, Dr. Paul.

Gingrich is conceding now. The disappointed fourth-place finisher, still smarting from the negative campaign ads that undermined his Iowa race, praises Santorum for running a clean campaign. “I wish I could say the same for the other candidates,” he adds. Positioning himself as a Reagan conservative who helped shape the conservative revolution during the 1980s and ’90s, he derides Romney as an establishment candidate who won’t change a thing in Washington. He’s probably right, even though he tossed a grenade in our direction by dismissing Romney as a mushy moderate. You can tell that Gingrich wants to bring Romney down, that he’s resolved to be the pit bull to Romney’s unwelcome mailman. Feisty and articulate as ever, Gingrich is down but not out.

Michele Bachmann, upbeat as ever despite her sad showing in her native state (a mere five percent of the vote), concedes now with one of those “the system has worked” messages. If Gingrich is the anti-Romney, Bachmann portrays herself as the anti-Obama. “His liberal reign will end, and the American people and its economy will be free,” she tells us. She reels off a defiant litany of conservative rallying points designed to elicit huzzahs and amens from her base. Despite the drubbing, she still insists that she’s the “true” conservative who can bring down Obama’s regime. She finishes by thanking her “marvelous” husband of 33 years, as well as her children, foster children and the rest of her family. She hasn’t surrendered.

It’s Rick Perry’s turn to surrender now. With ten percent of the vote, he’s mired in fifth place — behind Gingrich and ahead of Bachmann. As he thanks his supporters, he rambles in his engagingly folksy and sometimes incoherent manner. Running for president wasn’t his purpose in life, he insists… he’s been doing it because “America is in trouble.” We agree. But he points to Texas as an example of how we can “take America forward.” Questionable. He lavishes praise on the American servicemen he’s come to know, and you can see that he means it.  Unlike Bachmann, he seems uncertain about his future prospects in the 2012 race.

Meanwhile, Santorum and Romney are still locked in a virtual tie for first — separated by just 37 votes as of 11 p.m. Central time. To judge by the map of Iowa, almost uniformly shaded county-for-county in the Santorum camp, you’d think the upstart Pennsylvanian would be mopping the floor with the former Massachusetts governor. But look more closely and you’ll see that Romney is running ahead in the urban areas; the windswept, churchgoing hinterland is Santorum’s domain.

Santorum is addressing his followers now, though he hasn’t been declared the winner or the loser. He gives thanks to his wife, God and the people of Iowa (in that order). He speaks movingly of his grandfather, an immgrant from Mussolini’s Italy, who worked in the mines of western Pennsylvania until he was 72 and used his big, gnarled hands to give his family freedom. Give the Rickster credit: he’s a natural, sincere, good-humored and engaging speaker. He extols hard work and individual effort, yet he’s critical of the economic purists who would ignore the plight of  those who have been hit hard by the recession. He lambastes the president, of course, and he thanks God for the ordinary folks who still cling to their Bible. They’re his people, and they deserve a candidate who represents them. I’m just not sure if the majority of Americans are his people.

Romney’s at bat now. Trailing by a microscopic five votes as he begins, the candidate from Central Casting salutes rivals Santorum and Paul for their strong showings, then launches into a well-modulated tirade against Obama and his “failed presidency.” He announces that it’s time for someone with private-sector experience to lead us out of our economic morass, and he’s determined to make America the most attractive place in the world for “job-creators.” Number one on his hit list: Obamacare (which of course was patterned after Romneycare).

As if to shun his wishy-washy middle-of-the-road reputation, he unabashedly proclaims America a “merit society.” No leveling, no redistribution of wealth. (Romney’s gargantuan bank account is safe for now.) All in all, a competent boiler-plate speech, as one would expect from a competent boiler-plate candidate. Now it’s on to New Hampshire. Romney looks stoked; those gears are whirring.

And now it’s time for The New Moderate to call it a night. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a photo finish. Nobody knows who will wind up in the winner’s circle, even with 99 percent of the precincts counted. At this point it hardly matters who finishes first. Romney and Santorum have both proven themselves as contenders.

Santorum has won the moral victory regardless of the outcome. (Santorum! Who’d have thunk it?) He’s gained stature tonight. He has heart, he has a refreshingly guileless air about him (even if he lacks presidential gravitas), and he sings to the traditional religious conservative base.

The only problem is that New Hampshire isn’t an especially religious state. Former GOP nominee John McCain has just announced that he’ll endorse Romney. The Massachusetts tycoon is already well-established in the “Live Free or Die” state. He’s more likely to win the votes of moderates, and the conservatives certainly won’t leap into the Obama camp during the general election. Advantage: Romney. But keep your eye on that plucky kid from Pennsylvania.

Postscript: Romney pulled ahead at the last minute and won, as expected — by a grand total of eight votes. It was the narrowest margin of victory in the history of state caucuses and primaries. (Obama won Guam by seven votes, but that’s a considerably larger percentage of the voters on that minuscule Pacific isle.)

Post-Postscript: It seems that the Rickster may have pulled off a victory (albeit an extremely slim one) after all. The latest count is Santorum by 34 votes.  Officials have essentially thrown up their hands, confessing that the true winner might never be known. I say we call it a draw and move on.

139 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Anderson permalink
    January 4, 2012 2:12 am

    Did you see Romney’s concession speech when dropping out of the race in ’08? You can find it on YouTube. It struck me at the sort of lacerating and shocking shpiel that could get one’s right arm jerking upwards in a certain salute, if one were so inclined. I was very shocked at the time. My point is that Romney is a closet reactionary, not a closet liberal. If he gets the presidency, grab your balls.

  2. January 4, 2012 2:27 am

    I haven’t seen the speech, Rob (I might check it out in the morning). But my internal receptors tell me there’s something phony about him. He’s almost a caricature of the insincere, say-anything-for-votes politician. He’s probably the ultimate corporatist candidate.

  3. January 4, 2012 2:28 am

    Good grief… it’s almost 12:30 in Iowa and Santorum has an 18-vote margin. I’ve never seen such a close race in my life.

  4. January 4, 2012 3:05 am

    Absolutely astonishing… It’s 2 a.m. here in the East, and Santorum has a 4-vote lead. I’d love to stay up, but I need my sleep. Wake me when it’s over.

  5. Priscilla permalink
    January 4, 2012 10:28 am

    Romney by 8…….. If Huntsman just hadn’t thumbed his nose at the flyover country of Iowa, he may have affected the outcome. Funny how these caucuses (or is it cauci?) are built up to be the big predictors of electoral success. In 2008, Huckabee won, and went on to be the party’s nominee – oops, no he didn’t. More often than not, they are simply the indicator of where a state with a large, conservative evangelical GOP population is leaning.

    As the resident Romney supporter, allow me to take issue with a couple of things. First of all, Romney IS a moderate. So, if you are going to bash him, bash him as a right-leaning moderate, not as a corporatist. Corporatism can be defined as a state in which government officials often act in collusion with their favored business interests to design polices that give those interests a monopoly position, to the detriment of competitors and consumers, and, in that sense, he is no more of a corporatist than Obama or Bush.

    One thing you have to concede about Romney is that he is probably not seeking the presidency in order to become rich. With a net worth of anywhere from $250-$500M, he doesn’t need the presidency so that his wife can take fancy vacations to Spain on the taxpayer dime. One of the things that turned me away from liberalism was this hypocrisy about wealth. So, it’s ok for John Kerry to be worth a Half a Billion dollars, because he is a liberal, but Mitt Romney is a capitalist pig. It’s ok for Sean Penn to be worth $150M, because he extols Hugo Chavez, ok for Michael Moore to be worth close to $100M, because he claims he’s with the 99%, and so on……

    And, again Rick, the idea that an American president should be in favor of “leveling” and “redistribution of wealth” seems to me, well – un-American. Why is that preferable to a more open, capitalist system with built in safgeguards for the needy? Dave and probably Rich may dispute me here, but I am not against carefully administered social welfare programs for those in need. But, I think there has to be a standard of need that trandscends political interest groups . It’s like the old teaching trick (which I used back in the 70’s and 80’s) of asking your class to allow you to drop the A+’s to B’s, so that the students who failed could get D’s. Boy, did that create howling meritocracy supporters (“What!!! I studied for that test, he went out and got wasted- he’s not getting part of my grade!”)

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Perry and Bachmann drop out, as is rumored, and how that will affect the primaries going forward. I kind of liked Perry, despite all of his Texas braggaddocio and deer in the headlights moments, but I think he would be wise to get out now and endorse…but who?

    • January 4, 2012 11:22 am

      Priscilla: I actually agree with most of your post. I only cited Romney’s stance against “leveling” because he was obviously pandering to the conservative base by proclaiming America a “meritocracy.” (I had the feeling that he went out of his way to say it.) And yes, of course Obama has turned out to be a corporatist, too. I promise he’ll have his day in the hot seat here at The New Moderate (not that he’ll notice).

      As for rich liberals vs. rich conservatives, both tend to come off looking bad. Yes, I snicker at hypocritical liberal tycoons who think they can score brownie points by traveling to Darfur or adopting Third World kids. (But would they give away their wealth to become middle class again? Of course not.)

      So that leaves us with rich moderates like Romney (actually a moderate conservative, but I’ll cut him some slack). I don’t think his wealth is an issue… maybe the fact that he gained that wealth by playing God with companies, breaking them up and rebuilding them for maximum profit. But the more important issue with Romney is the perception that he’s insincere — a slick opportunist who covets power and prestige and will say anything to get what he wants. (Sort of like a male Hilary Clinton.)

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      January 4, 2012 12:25 pm

      You know, explaining the basics to you people is getting old, but I guess I have to do it in order to have the right to bitch about your points of view. So here goes…

      There is no “hypocrisy” about wealth on the left-liberal side of the argument. Mitt Romney is not considered a “capitalist pig” because of how much he is worth, but because he gained that wealth by tearing apart perfectly functioning companies, throwing thousands of people out of work and destabilizing the underlying industries. THAT is what makes him a capitalist pig, not his wealth (though that is obscene). And Sean Penn and Michael Moore? They have *earned* their millions in an entirely positive way, by entertaining and – in Moore’s case – educating the public. This is especially true of Moore, as the bulk of his wealth has come from his book sales and the box office receipts of his documentaries. With Penn it’s more about what the artificially scarce market for acting talent will bear, though he also has earned his wealth. For all of those reasons, neither men are “capitalist pigs.”

      I hope that cleared things up.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 4, 2012 1:16 pm

        Moore’s “documentaries” leave much to be desired, unless, by “documentary” you mean “left-wing propaganda.” But, Rob, you misread me if you think I am saying that Moore and Penn do not deserve their wealth or that they have not earned it. They are hypocrites because they call people like Romney “pigs” for earning it in a much different, although completely legal, way.

        Leveraged buyouts are not necessarily “evil” and often result in much more profitable and healthier corporations. From what I’ve read, Bain created more jobs than it lost. And art is not necessarily “good.”

        So, you have cleared things up to the extent that I understand that you think that fat liars like Moore are morally superior to smooth liars like Romney and therefore deserve their mega-riches for kissing the asses of the poor rather than the rich. How’s that?

      • Kent permalink
        January 4, 2012 4:55 pm

        “Capitalist Pig”. A person who focuses on making a business thrive. Can be by breaking the company up and restructuring to make bigger.

        “Capitalist Pig”. Something “Commie Bastards” made up to represent those who don’t want to stand in food lines or have the same wages as everyone else.

        “Capitalist Pig”. Someone with more than someone else.

        I guess we all are all “Capitalist Pigs” in the U.S. The poorest Americans are on average living a 1950’s lifestyle. Much more than Africa and other parts.

      • January 4, 2012 10:02 pm

        If you you did not steal or lie to aquire your wealth – you earned it.

        “creative destruction” is an intrinsic element of free markets.
        Disruptive technology, is another facet of it.

        The makers of buggy whips are not entitled to a job or a market, nor were whatever businesses Romney engaged in dismantling and re-assembling.

        As I have said here before the natural trend in a free market is to drive prices inexhorably down. That means all businesses everywhere must always struggle to be more efficient all the time. It means each of us must be more productive each and every year – just to stay exactly where we are.

        It means there is no such thing as a “perfectly functioning business”. Free markets are not static, standing still is the same as dying.

        The ever increasing standard of living that I am constantly claiming, is paid for by ever increasing productivity, as individuals and as businesses.

        This is one of the fallacies of an entitlement to a job, a “living wage” or anything beyond our limited natural rights.

        Entitlements are static, they entrap not only you but the entire country. They guarantee your standard of living can not and will not improve.

        You can not receive more wealth year over year without creating more wealth. If you make economics into a zero sum game we can all go back to the 11th century.

        This is also why competition is essential – why almost every instance of prices rising – aside from rare real shortages, and even rarer and ultimately doomed cartels, involves government.

        I have lots of problems with Romney, but this is not one of them.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        January 4, 2012 10:24 pm

        And yet King Louis’s head still rolled, and the Czar watched his family and he get shot, and Somoza got blown up in his limousine. And on a more positive note, the Scandinavian social democracies continue their 100 year reign as the happiest places on earth.

        You goddamn pure capitalists will never fucking learn. NEVER. Oh well, America was nice while it lasted.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 4, 2012 10:49 pm

        Eh, Rob, the Scandinavian model only works in small, rich countries with homogeneous and well-educated populations and a long history of income sharing. Plus, Scandinavia in general and Denmark, in particular, has greater business freedom, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, freedom from corruption, and labor freedom than the US, while having comparable private property rights and trade freedom. Not the jack boot style of socialism that you advocate.

        I’m not arguing that they’re not happy. But we are not them. We never have been and we’re not going to be. We need to find an American way.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        January 4, 2012 11:02 pm

        I am NOT suggesting “jack-booted socialism.” I have described myself as a social democrat numerous times on this thread. And I love how you libertarians consistently try to toss away the Scandinavian Model with “we’re not them.” No we’re not, but we can certainly learn from them. And as for the freedom you speak of, that may be true (though my cousin who actually *lives* in Denmark would disagree), but the one freedom they most assuredly do NOT have is the freedom to exploit each other. If you open a business in one of those countries and hire other people you WILL pay a decent living wage and offer benefits, and you WILL allow a union, or you WILL be put out of business, as well you SHOULD be, here OR there.

        Jesus, I’m getting a headache.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 5, 2012 12:33 am

        I’m not a libertarian, Rob. The libertarian branding on this site is getting ridiculous. I consider myself a moderate conservative/conservative moderate – take your pick. And, I have plenty of viewpoints that you have labeled “liberal.” So, calm down and stop assuming that everyone that does not agree with you wants to “exploit” people. It will keep you from getting so many headaches, for one thing – and it may open your mind to points of view that may not be so far from your own.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 4, 2012 2:27 pm

      Priscilla wrote: One thing you have to concede about Romney is that he is probably not seeking the presidency in order to become rich. With a net worth of anywhere from $250-$500M

      Rich people do not run for US Presidency to become richer. I don’t know who created this false idea.

      Rich people seek governmental power in spite of being “against” it.

      Rich people run for US Presidency to have the governmental power to work better their money. It’s all “business” for them.

      My education about modern government was that a government should defend and creates a good social life for all its citizens. When I came in the US I find out about the idea that the government should defend the rich and Christianism because these two “pillars” are guaranteeing happiness for all American society.

      All immigrants, when they come in the US, have the opportunity to become one or both of those two “pillars”… but most of the time there’s room for just one more on top…

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 4, 2012 2:40 pm

        I also tend to be viscerally against the rich candidates regardless of political persuasion, whether they are Kennedys Kerrys or Romneys. I did not realize that Mitt had made his fortune that way, tearing apart companies and reselling them, sort of like the “hero” of Pretty Woman. That works against my view of Romney. Yes its legal, yes, its economically efficient in one sense, but its a repulsive way to get rich(er). You could buy my house, tear it down, and build a MacMansion on my property and sell it to rich out of staters and probably make a profit, but you would still be tearing down a perfectly good house, its wasteful and disgusting. Free marketers worship that kind of thing, I don’t.

        Mega-rich candidates to me are people who got bored with all their other playthings and now they want to play with America itself.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 4, 2012 2:58 pm

        I know that arbitrage and leveraged buyouts have a bad rep from the 80’s and 90’s, due to the shady tactics used by unethical business types, but how exactly is it evil to buyout and restructure a failing company to make it profitable and reward investors and create jobs?

        Better I suppose to do as Chrysler did – take money from middle class investors, piss it away, then screw the investors by tanking their company and having it be taken over by the government. But, most importantly, the unions got to keep their contracts.

        Yeah, that’s much more ethical.

      • Kent permalink
        January 4, 2012 5:46 pm

        Ian, you are thinking like i do. The rich are protecting their interests. Rightly so. We also have the opportunity to protect ours, except we don’t have the money to spend campaigning for President like Romney.

        Yes, the rich want to do something more than own yachts.

        If someone is hired to come in and restructure, would you do it for free??? I don’t think I would. Romney came in and made it bigger and hired more people. Some things, not only people probably were trashed and that’s not counting procedures.

        Romney said once, “it is a common task for each generation to expand the countries freedom and renew its spirit…for the future”. “This generation will meet the challenges of our time. That we will leave our children a stronger America and that they can dream big”. When???

        Time for the baby boomers to make on this….you have had now over 40 years to do good on this and I have seen a sexual (70’s), conservative (80’s), materialistic (90’s), expansionist/aggressive (00’s) and now pacifist Government. Time is running out!! I

        Yes, “change you can believe in”. It’s back!!! It happens…you deal with the changes. The pendulum is swinging back again.

        David Bowie….”Changes” Mitt Romney’s song for you all. Want to be a richer man? Time is a changing.

      • Kent permalink
        January 4, 2012 5:53 pm

        Ian, one thing is wrong in your observation of tearing down things. Charlotte and i am sure some other cities have a knack to increase property values by buying houses and tearing them down and building bigger and newer homes. It isn’t just Corporate America my friend.

        I came from Indy and we don’t do that there because house values are low at any size home.

        But other cities like Charlotte, NC. buy houses, destroy them, build new ones and either own them or flip them. Whole old neighborhoods made new. It’s just odd to tear down good old homes, but people are doing it and they aren’t Corporate.

      • January 4, 2012 10:05 pm

        If your net worth is 1/4 of a billion dollars, what precisely is it that you need to acquire more of ?

        This is a point Adam Smith tried to make two centuries ago.

        There is only so much real wealth that anyone can usefully posses.
        Everything after that is money, and ultimately must be invested in one way or another, and ultimately no matter how much that benefits the investor, it benefits the rest of us even more.

      • Jen permalink
        January 6, 2012 11:10 am

        The mcmansions have slowed considerably in Charlotte (thank goodness) due to the end of the housing boom and layoffs in the banking industry here. The banks brought in a lot of that “new” money that’s responsible for more than one mcmansion in or around my neighborhood and created a rippling effect of sorts. There are so many streets where smaller ranch style homes sit dwarfed by the newer homes. Most opted to sell during the boom due to the high prices being offered by mcmansion builders, although some waited too long and still languish. I suppose this was the cost of growth in our city coupled with an ever growing mentality of relative wealth.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 5:03 pm

      Mitt Romney is a Moderate Conservative. He’s Mormon (Conservative), Moderate…probably because he had to tell every person in the companies he managed to prepare to pack their bags for the restructuring and reorganization.

      I read his bios, he will pander to Conservatives on occasion, but he speaks only what they want to hear. Money is backing him that is clear, but it is the politics of who he needs to sway to get his self President.

      His bios show that he is hired to go into businesses. Ask for the details. Charts, graphs, and ask lots of questions. Breaks down the basics. Assesses and makes a plan that he thinks will work. Apparently, he has fired people…that’s clear, but his success is also quite clear.

      Whether he will do the same for America???? and who is going to get the box/axe?? and who is going to be put to mass production??? Something will happen with him.

  6. Ian CSE permalink
    January 4, 2012 10:44 am

    Its very important the the GOP nominee not be a total freak, so I am happy with Romney winning. Having either party nominate ridiculous candidates is bad for the country. Romney and Huntsman are an order of magnitude better than their competition. Paul, oh my god. Not that he is a factor.

    How Vermont’s (my) 3 electoral votes will be cast is already a given, so my voting is unnecessary in that sense.

    I’ve seen analysis that the Senate and House are both likely to be GOP held after the election, most of the open seats in the Senate are Dem held now and people want to through everyone out (and rightly so!).

    If it became very clear that this will be so I guess I’d have to send money to Obama. A GOP sweep would be bad.

    • January 4, 2012 11:27 am

      Ian: You’re right about the danger of a GOP sweep. It could happen, and given the GOP’s current ultraconservative leanings, it would essentially reset America back to the McKinley administration. 1900 was an idyllic time in many ways, but not for the working class, or for blacks or women or immigrants. And our culture is incomparably uglier now. It would really be a dystopic new era.

      • January 4, 2012 10:14 pm

        The working class came into being in the 1900’s. People did nto choose to leave farms, or foreign countires and come here to factory jobs because the wanted their life to suck. They did so because however bad we think conditions for the working man was in the 1900’s it was better than their alternatives.

        In 100 years people are going to look back on the 20th century as neanderthal and wonder how people – even wealthy people lived in such abject poverty. You can not measure past society from the future you have to measure it in its own context.

        Factory workers died at rates and ages that are unconscionable today but they lived on the whole longer than the generation before them.

        Returning to the values of the past will not return us to the conditions of the past, but it is highly likely to return the greater year to year improvement of the past.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        January 4, 2012 10:36 pm

        Ok, Smith, you’ve been peddling your notion that our poor are living “better” than the middle class of the 1950s and 60s without obstruction long enough. Excuse me while I slide tackle your horseshit.

        I’m poor, as you may know from reading the various threads to Rick’s recent postings. I’m homeless, as in no place to stay, as in perpetually stranded (which is what being homeless really amounts to – stranded with no place to go). I sleep in my car, which is NOT as roomy as, say, a ’57 Chevy, sleeping in one of which would be like going from a studio apartment to a penthouse, ok? I subsist on $190.00 a month in food stamps, which as I do not have any way of cooking or storing food means I have to eat non-perishable crap in order to stretch those dollars to last 30 days. People had fridges in the 50s and 60s, and you know what else they had? HOMES, with heating so they didn’t freeze to death in the winter. Right now it’s wintertime, and at night in my car I freeze. I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.

        And the gadgets? Well, people in the 50s and 60s didn’t *know* from gadgets, so they didn’t care, which is the same as saying they were not being denied anything. Today? Well, people of all walks of life get jack-hammered 24/7 by endless arrays of advertising, showing them just what it is they’re missing whether they’re actually missing it or not. So if there are poor people without gadgets because, well, they don’t have the fucking *cash*, they will be endlessly reminded of that fact. I’d say that puts them at a disadvantage vis-a-vis our grandparents and partents back in the day.

        These threads have become moronic infernos, and I am drowning in rhetorical lava that smells like shit rather than brimstone.

      • Kent permalink
        January 5, 2012 12:45 am

        Asmith, I don’t think that all people today are living in the 21st Century as of yet. We still have people struggling in this economy.

        The “poor” are averaging a 50’s lifestyle. Which means some are even farther back in time.

        I would suspect Rob is living in a newer car than 1950’s, but still poor and broke. The car may not even be his. Still, $6 per day isn’t enough to live on given the prices for food these days. It would be interesting to know how long and what nutrients you can get per day for $6? I used to be in soup kitchens as a kid. Met some interesting people with many experiences and plans for their future.

        Rob, is also right about the amount of crap thrown into advertising as people go day2day about their business.

        Anti-aging is one of my big peeves and all those infomercials about how you aren’t good till you get some gadget. When I need something I will find it…I don’t need some “Jack” telling me I need something.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 5:59 pm

      Yes, it would be bad to have all GOP. I like a little fight! It shows no one is left out.

      Odd, Rick mentioned 1900. There was a Populist Party right before 1900 in the same situation as economics as we have today. Similar kind of recession created the party and disdain for the “rich”.

      The People’s Party:1892-1896

  7. Ian CSE permalink
    January 4, 2012 11:05 am

    I saw in my morning reading that Libertarian Paul called Santorium “very Liberal.”

    Now I don’t feel so bad, it puts my own suffering here in context!

    The fact that Paul’s newsletters, about which nothing was borderline, either the racism or the homophobia, did not disqualify him completely is a sad statement on our country. Paul recently enthusiastically received an endorsement from a religious group that believes in capital punishment for gays! If that seems absurd consider that American religious conservatives have gone to Africa to persuade African governments to do just that. Yes, this a relatively small fringe group, still… Hmmm, some Libertarian is Paul. The GOP freak show is not a pretty sight.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 8:37 pm

      Paul, is just trying to get Conservatives to vote for him. First of all, most liberals that I speak to Don’t like Obama, but they don’t like Conservatives even more.

      For Paul to sway to Conservatives is bad for him. He will cater to anyone idea that brings him votes. That is a politician and not a statesman kind of thing.

      Also, most liberals have a disdain for old age. “Paul is too old”. I hear it a lot.

      He also will confuse some “hardcore” Libertarians by courting conservatives, but I suspect this is a minor setback as most Libertarians, Centrists, Moderates and other groups know he is just doing this temporarily.

    • January 4, 2012 10:17 pm

      Santorum, and Romney share a flaw with the majority of this blog – they beleive that government is the answer.

      All that distinguishes Rick Santorum, from Mitt Romney and from Rick Banyan, is what each of them wish to do with the increased government power each seeks.

    • January 4, 2012 11:40 pm

      As Romney celebrates his odd victory in Iowa, all should note – after Bachman, after Perry, After Cain, After Gingrich, Mitt Romney can not get more than 25% of GOP votes.
      Maybe that will change – given that no one else appears to be able to topple him – atleast not for long, but the deep unease that 75% of republicans hold for him is not a path to victory.

      Except for Rick Santorum who leaves little doubt that economics take a back seat to his social conservative agenda, every single other GOP candidate has fallen all over themselves to demonstrate their free market small government credibility no matter how strained that claim might be. Romney’ s speechs are frequently indistinguishable from Bachman’s – who I actually beleive has read Mises.

      Ron Paul has spent virtually his entire political career on almost the same rant. Who has been called lunatic – even on occasion by me, for not only predicting all that is happening to us, but why. Who has been been the but of everyone’s jokes for his rants about the Fed and money, has lived to the moment when some of the world’s pre-eminent economists are now saying almost exactly the same thing. Now shares the stage with many of the same people who made this mess who are actively making the same arguments he has for decades – and still calling him a nut.

  8. Priscilla permalink
    January 4, 2012 11:17 am

    Ron Paul has a doddering, folksy charm, but, yeah, he is a fringe guy if there ever was one. He speaks sense some of the time, and he is the go-to candidate for disaffected voters of both parties, although I think that his support would wither if he tried a 3rd party run.

    I get your concern about a one party sweep of the legislative and executive branches – god knows, the last time that happened we got Obamacare. But I think that Romney, as a moderate, would be different in some ways: 1) he would have similar differences with the right wing of the GOP caucus as Boehner has and 2) he would need to make that up with support from the right wing of the Dem caucus…. now, I’m not sure that that would lead to anything good, lol, but it would certainly be different than what we have now.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 8:42 pm

      I suspect Romney would stick to his guns as a Moderate only when the Republicans decide to leave him alone.

      Romney might surprise us though, but i wouldn’t be surprised if he did GOP things.

      It all comes down to who he chooses to surround himself with once he is in office.

    • January 4, 2012 10:20 pm

      Paul could likely take 6% of the vote running as a libertarian. That would likely ensure a democratic presidential victory, though at the same time it might help congressional republicans.

      The Tea Party has very effetively demonstrated the political power inherent in a spoiler.

      • Kent permalink
        January 5, 2012 12:48 am

        Asmith, Have you heard of Gary Johnson? I heard he is a Moderate on the Libertarian Party ticket.

        Rick, if you read this. Check him out and let me know what you think. I honestly think he might be more moderate than a Libertarian.

  9. Ian CSE permalink
    January 4, 2012 11:53 am

    Well, I hope you are correct about that Priscilla, if it comes to that. But as the new President, Romney would be just as much a captive to his party as Obama was. The worst thing that ever happened to Obama was coming in at Democratic high tide, a tide that was not in tune with the real politics of the country, which leans slightly right as we know. Thus, the Dems were kidding themselves that they were hugely popular in 2008, something a politician or party is ready to believe given the smallest chance. This would not quite be the case of a GOP sweep in 2012, it would be a bit more in tune with actual national political preferences, which is why the damage could potentially be great in the first two years until mid term elections. Lets hope for a split of some kind.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      January 4, 2012 12:34 pm

      For the last twenty years, pollsters have been reporting that when they stick to issues instead of parties, the American public is very liberal. Whether its drug policy, single payer health care, the minimum wage, progressive-vs-regressive tax rates, or what have you, the majority of the people in this country are fair, decent and *liberal*, hell even leftist on some issues. It appears it’s the labels, and their cultural impact, that keeps the public from doing what it knows is right.

    • January 4, 2012 10:24 pm

      Romney would actually be more dangerous than Obama is now. It is hihgly unlikely that romney would get elected and the republicans would at the same time loose the house and senate. We would just be subject to a Romney version of Obama’s disastrous first two years – with similar bad consequences.

      Despite his business credentials, Romney is a top down statist. He might not want exactly the same bad things as Pres. Obama, but ultimately government power is bad regardless of which party wields it.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 4, 2012 10:52 pm

        What would Romney do that would be worse than a lame duck Obama with nothing to fear from an angry electorate?

      • Kent permalink
        January 5, 2012 12:53 am

        Asmith, Romney is known to take graphs, charts and the head managers into a closed office and ask questions.

        He isn’t the kind of guy that adds to the project without taking something out of it.

        After he’s done with the questions, he goes home and plans how to break the company/Government apart and restructure it.

        I don’t know if he has the conjones’ to do it to the Government, but he seems to talk the game more than Obama wants to add more crap on top of what crap there is all ready. Yes, it will be Government power coming down, but is it cutting or adding? or both to make it more efficient?

  10. Ian CSE permalink
    January 4, 2012 1:28 pm

    I’ve been a slave to polls, mesmerized by them, for many years. The idea that the majority of Americans are liberals is nearly as deluded as the idea libertarians try to spread that that the majority of Americans are libertarians. Polls tell us that in some vague way most Americans want a fairer wealth distribution, even through tax policy. But they also want less government regulation in some vague way. They want my fictional car that gets 100 mpg, goes from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds and costs $5000. Most Americans are quite pliable in the hands of pollsters, that is a solid fact.

    I do actually believe that the liberal label puts many folks off when they self label in polls, a lengthy ideology test would place more than the 20% that is taken as the average liberal percentage, maybe its really 30% of Americans that are actually liberal when you consider the issues and not the label, but a majority, no, that is just wishful thinking on the part of liberals.

    And it really depends on where the observer is located in the spectrum, to Paul, Santorium is very liberal!

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 8:59 pm

      Ian, I would say that compared to Socialist Europe. America is liberal. Market Liberal economically. But the two political parties in comparison to Europe are Liberal Conservative (Republican) and Social Liberal (Democrat).

      Social liberal is social justice driven.
      Liberal Conservative is economic individualism coming from classic liberalism crossed with collective traditions, practices or customs are crucial to a moral life

      Most I speak to think Liberal Conservative (Republican) or classic Liberal (Libertarian). Which would explain why most of America is Centre-Right.

  11. Jen permalink
    January 4, 2012 2:07 pm

    Happy New Year Rick & The Gang!

    Thanks for your banter, as always. I’m gonna jump in here, but let me be the first to say that my only desire is to gain more insight from the different points of view that I so often see on this blog. I enjoy it so.

    Can you all tell me what it is about Ron Paul that puts him on the “fringe” for you all? I ask this sincerely with the intention of perhaps gaining more perspective (so please, if possible, don’t attack me!!). I may not be as well read (or versed) in politics/economics as some here, so please give me some leeway 🙂 While I can see that Ron’s idea of a Libertarian utopia may never fully see the light of day (even if he was elected), would it suffice to say that a little bit of a hard correction might be a good thing? The media loves to say that his biggest flaw is his foreign policy, which for me is one of his better ideas. With regard to his social policies, I do have some questions, probably due to the fact that I seem to chase my tail a bit when dealing with individual rights and the interpretation or understanding of all that would be required to attain such a pure example of such in our current society. The media does do a good job of twisting his words in such a way that would promote fear of his principles rather than the desire to understand the basis of of those principles. This will always work against him. Perhaps at this point in my life, I am a bit cynical in my belief that a lot of people just want to be told what to do and that as long as they don’t have to do too much work and they still receive some perceived idea of freedom, that they will go along with almost anything… their own detriment. The idea of less government always appeals to me and I suppose my tendency to root for the man is based on that very thing. Where do I fall in the political scale? I have no idea, but I’m sure someone here will eventually find a category for me.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 9:34 pm

      Jen, The problem with Ron Paul that I hear from others is that he takes a “leave alone approach” to many things. All this sounds good and would work well in a utopia where countries minded their own internal businesses, but honestly money (& powerful people) operate for self-gratification.

      The world is interlinked. Therefore, to become isolationist or pacifist only allows others to promote their agendas or propaganda. Now this would be fine, but some nations aren’t nice countries. They are in fact threatening to either the U.S., the allies or innocent countries which effect us via “limited resource acquisition”.

      Therefore, the U.S. has the role and ability to stick up for issues and the resources that our nation can not provide internally. Heck, China and Russia would protect their resource base as well.

      The U.S. does have a role in the world. Ron Paul hasn’t made his case clear enough and frankly the last time the U.N. was mentioned he said it was irrelevant. If that is true then all the small countries are endangered from greedy large countries. Treaties are more to be ignored over time and such. This would bring us closer to world domination of large countries over small. Similar to prior 1939 borders.

      The U.S. has a role to provide a new global Government that is similar to the U.S. Well-structured and only deals with important global issues and not social issues within ones culture. People, not Government must decide how to develop their own cultures.

      Currently the U.N. is not structured to be a meaningful force. Similar to the League of Nations after WWI. That wasn’t a successful world body.

      • January 4, 2012 10:46 pm


        What specific areas do you beleive Paul would act differently – more specifically harmfully in with respect to Foreign policy ?

        Paul is not so much an isolationist, as a non-interventionist.

        Though I beleive he would significantly cut defence spending, honestly our defence spending is way way to high.

        But the right to self defence, and the right to defend what is yours are core to libertarianism – even Ron Paul’s brand.

        Libertarianism is not pacifism.

        The foreign policy attacks on Paul are coming mostly from the Republican Neo-Conservative wing. I suspect few here are ready to endorse Dick Chenney on much else, why would you adopt his views on Ron Paul ?

        One gain from Pres. Obama’s election and continuation of the worst of Bush’s foreign policy mistakes, is that it has allowed many republicans to reconsider them. The Republicans of the past have had a strong though not perfectly consistent record of favoring a strong defence but staying out of foreign wars. Reagan left Lebanon after the Marine baracks bomb – he did not invade. And his big War was Grenada, Nixon for all his myriads of other flaws, did actually end vietnam.

        I have no doubt that Ron Paul would leave us militarily weaker as a nation – but exactly how strong do we need to be ? What beyond defending ourselves must we have the power to do ? What is our national interest in most of these places we are fighting ?

        So we leave and other nations move in. Russia did so well in Afghanistan last time they were there. Further we are not talking about becoming pacifist, we are talking about ceasing to be the aggressor. Ceasing to see everything as our interest, and violence as the always justifiable means to accomplish it.

        Which military incursion in recent years has actually made us safer ?

        Our greatest ability to influence the rest of the world is not at the barrel of a gun, but by the success of our way of life and the wealth of our people.

        And contrary to all to many establishment republican and neo-con pundits I think stepping back from being policeman to the world has an appeal to an awful lot of americans on both the left and the right.

      • Kent permalink
        January 5, 2012 12:06 am

        Asmith, I would like to think of the U.S. as non-interventionist.

        Although, I question whether a country with 313 million people who demand/consume everything from the highest technology to the smallest Chinese plastic frisbee can be truly non-interventionist. We are a consuming nation…we take..more than give material/resource-wise. We are a people on the move constantly, demanding more.

        We have great ideas in this country and opportunity, but we sell them to the highest overseas bidder. Thus, we consume what we come up with in our heads. If one resource is gone coming into our nation, we are in essence “screwed”. So being non-intervening isn’t an option.

        Not even counting the allies that have resources that they demand/consume that we can’t provide.

        An example, the Iran issue in the past week over the Strait of Hormuz of oil transport. We don’t get oil thru the Strait, but allies do. If they don’t get it, they will get it thru our supplier which drains our resources to get oil.

        Now that I said that I think it is impossible to be non-interventionist. It is also deadly to be Isolationist but that should be common sense in a high tech world.

        We shouldn’t be the policeman, but the world is getting a larger population. Which means more demand for resources. We can’t find enough fast enough at some point.

        So we have some options: Sterilization, War, killing useless people.

        This is just the bad side. or :

        Farm the whole planet and learn to use and recycle limited resources.

        Yeah, right!! learn to use and recycle limited resources??? How??? World Government!!!! Only way to get a planet organized to such a big project.

        Ron Paul says countries need to do their own thing. That’s fine, for the small stuff, but the big issues are coming in the future. The U.N. is the only so-called form of government to take this to all nations. The U.N. can become strong, but it isn’t which leads to the “dark-side” I mentioned earlier.

        We need a Global Government built in some common sense way to tackle global issues: Water, Land, Space debris, Space threats, Population, Resources, Pollution, Humanity crises, Poverty.

        We don’t even have a Global Space Academy to get off this damn planet. Let alone a Global Military Academy. The U.N. peacekeepers is a joke. I can see how Ron Paul doesn’t like the U.N., but it isn’t abandoning the U.N., it’s about engaging the U.N. and unfortunately, the man doesn’t see “the bigger picture” for the future.

        Did you know nuclear power plants is fisson? But three space shuttle loads of H3 (Helium-3) from the moon can provide power to the world per year in a “fusion” power plant?

        A big thing for Ron Paul is that his ideas are great thoughts, but he doesn’t explain how to implement them without causing problems.

        For example: Pulling all our troops out across the world.

        I am for this, but just saying it is scary enough. Ron..please explain how this will hurt the German economy? Many people have businesses outside the American Military bases….and these people have German families.

        Ron lacks detail and that is a problem I also have with him. He gives a “shock and awe” that sounds great, but when you ask for details????

        I do believe we as a world are in for a heap of problems if we don’t take on issues globally in a serious manner. Nukes aside, wars will be fought and it will be barbaric on a grand scale.

  12. valdobiade permalink
    January 4, 2012 3:35 pm

    Priscilla wrote: I understand that you think that […] liars like […] are morally superior to […] liars like […] and therefore deserve their mega-riches for kissing the asses of the poor rather than the rich.

    Yay!! That’s the definition of Communism and Capitalism!
    Communist leaders are the liars that pretend to kiss the poor ass by kicking the rich ass… and Capitalists are the liars that kiss the rich ass and give Jesus to the masses…

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 4, 2012 5:43 pm

      not far from the truth, valdo…..

  13. Priscilla permalink
    January 4, 2012 5:55 pm

    Jen, Happy New year to you, and glad you decided to join the fray, er, I mean the discussion!

    To answer your question about why I believe that Ron Paul is fringe, it’s almost all because of his foreign policy views. Paul has stated repeatedly that America is at fault for the Islamist attacks upon us, because we have meddled militarily in parts of the world where we were not wanted. He also has no problem with Iran stating that they wish to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and his infamous newsletters show that many of his followers, if not he himself, are virulently anti-semitic. And, I know that there is a difference between anti-Zionist and anti semitic, but the newsletters cross the line into anti-semitism.

    I also have a problem with his insistence on going back to the gold standard, which I think is completely unrealistic, but I don’t think that that makes him fringey, necessarily.

    A lot of his ideas about individual rights and freedoms being stomped on by big government are things that I agree with….unfortunately, the fringe stuff disqualifies him as serious contender for president in my mind.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 9:52 pm

      Priscilla, Some Muslim people believe that providing weapons to one group is reason to hate the U.S. and attack us. Are we to deny that hate isn’t something they should have??

      When so many “American-made weapons” go to the Middle East and a Islamic Cleric or innocent Muslim dies…..should some Muslims be allowed to be mad as hell???

      I argue Yes!

      It is a human right to be mad, sad, and to have emotions. Now for them to act aggressively is questionable. They believe “an eye for an eye”. Therefore, the U.S. all ready has accepted the hate that our destructive weapons will cause over there. That is why the U.S. has secret intelligence and spies.

      The U.S. Government knows that selling weapons to that region has reprisals and has back up plans for it. I personally think most of the weapons deals are for money between rich arms dealers (a.k.a. corporations).

      If Spain supplied bombs to Hispanics in the U.S. to blow up English speaking places….would you be mad at Spain?

      I would argue that a person (Ron Paul like) in Spain could say that their own Spanish weapons and meddling in the U.S. would cause the U.S. to retaliate in some form.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 4, 2012 10:28 pm

        Kent, I don’t mean to imply that we haven’t pissed off the Muslim world in many ways….but the main reason they hate us is because we are the Great Satan, as they are taught from childhood in the militant radical Islamic schools that are all over the Arab world. We have given aid and humanitarian assistance to all countries, including our enemies and that has not influenced their opinion of us. And recent polls (back me up on this, Ian) show Obama to be even less popular than Bush in the Arab world,despite his snubbing of Israel and his Muslim outreach.

        I’m not being a neo-con here, I’m just saying that blaming American foreign policy and support for Israel for the 9-11 attacks, for example, is pretty fringe.

      • Kent permalink
        January 4, 2012 10:50 pm

        Priscilla, You cleared the air that I was thinking. I am glad you explained that more.

        Yes, it is hard to be on two different sides of a world, two different religions and two very different kinds of governments.

        Let alone those Islamic nations have powerful leaders that will stop at nothing to gain momentum to hold power either in government or religion. They can use the U.S. as a “tool” to promote hate to the “followers”.

        I also gather that supporting an “enemy nation (Israel)” near these Islamic nations isn’t something they are happy about is another “tool”.

        If we could stop the weapons, hate and start dialogue in trying to understand each other I would say we would be on the right track, but how?

        The generalization of Ron Paul to randomly say only our military caused these problems is somewhat bland and I can see how one can say it sounds fringe. I don’t know if he thinks if this is the only problem. This is only one part of the problems.

    • January 4, 2012 11:05 pm

      I want to be careful as there are issues where I disagree with Ron Paul.

      I might even agree that he has gone a bit overboard on some of his rhetoric – though rationally examining the opposing views makes that more dubious.

      We had a good justification for tossing the Taliban out of Afghanistan. We have no rational reason for still being their. We have centuries of evidence that occupiers can not build nations. People are still killing each other all over the world over feuds starting centuries ago when one nation tried to remake another.

      It looks like we might actually see real peace in northern Ireland – but how many british soldiers have died in ireland over the centuries, and what value did England get from occupying Ireland for nearly a millenia ?

      Why do we wish to be the occupier ?

      The messes in the mideast are much of our own making – and not just during the Bush administration, but for almost a century before, and before we were messing up the Mideast the british were. Aside from oil, and the hatred of millions of muslims what have we gotten for it ?

      Today the US is suddenly actually close to energy independence than it has been in decades – absolutely no thanks in anyway to the government. To the extent that we might need foreign energy, we have incredibly stable neighbors like Canada, stable neighbors like Brazil, and a better class of unstable neighbors such as Mexico and Venezuela to draw from. Let the Europeans and asians fight over the mideast.

      If it is absolutely critical that we support Israel – fine. But that requires little more than a strong public commitment to defend them against aggressors. They can manage their own negotiations with the Palestinians and Arabs. They live there – we don’t. Is that anti-semetic ?

      I have read many of Paul;s purported anti-semetic, rascist, homo-phobic remarks. They are extremely old. They are also the rantings of a far less libertarian and less well informed Paul than today – and most are about not as intrinsically offensive as Pres. Obama’s “clinging to their guns and bibles” remarks.

    • Jen permalink
      January 5, 2012 1:03 pm

      Priscilla, I have read quite a few of the newsletters, although (admittedly) not every single one. I am assuming that the ones cited in numerous articles are the most problematic for people, so I focus on those. While I do see some remarks that make me cringe a bit, I would argue that the a lot of the same has been implied in many publications if one were to read between the lines. You can dress it up, but that doesn’t excuse the implication; it simply renders it as politically correct. Did he write them? Well, I suppose we have to come to our own conclusions since we have no actual proof. Did they go out under his name and did he profit from them? Yes, and I would agree that he has to take accept those repercussions, which I would say he is experiencing now (and has experienced in past runs for office). He has said that he is willing to accept the moral responsibility, so I’m not sure what more can be asked of the man (barring a witch hunt for the person responsible). I see no big danger signs of a right wing conspiracy to legislate for the oppression of any race in his career as a politician. As to some of the Neo-Nazi, 911 Truthers (or other questionable groups) supporting him, I find this no different than the simple fact that blacks overwhelmingly supported Obama (I recall a gallup poll that said 91%) regardless of his politics and assumed that this would somehow benefit them because of race. I would argue that this was a fallacy, just as I believe that any of the crazy groups that assume Ron Paul’s policies will help to further their cause is a fallacy. I do believe that people can hate any race or religious group and still be a proponent of less war, lower taxes and less government. I think the only kooky conspiracy being implied is by the media in their desire to prove that Ron Paul’s libertarianism fosters or favors this abhorrent behavior, which is far from the truth.

      As to Israel, I honestly believe that we do her no favors with our constant meddling in surrounding countries. We have proven ourselves to be bullies time and time again, so to be associated with that behavior is certainly not beneficial in my eyes. They are certainly not helpless and have proven this time and time again. I believe that to be her ally says that we will defend her if necessary and I think (by now) these middle eastern countries know exactly what that means. I have no religious beliefs that would cause me to believe that we need to control or promote Israel, so that argument doesn’t rally me to the cause that so many would promote.

      The terrorists: I simply do not believe that a person can be motivated by religion alone to kill themselves or to commit acts of random attacks on innocent people. It stands to reason and I agree with Kent that the atrocities we have allowed to happen provide a much better marketing tool for terrorist groups than religion. When people suffer, nothing is off the table. We would be wise to realize that we have over-stepped a bit and at least admit some responsibility for the current hostility towards our country. Instead, our current path is to convince Americans that the entire middle east is filled with the “axis of evil”. No different that the radical Islamic militant school of thought really (only it is much cheaper since we just use the current media in place that seems to educate most citizens better than any of our public schools could ever hope to. I don’t believe we can isolate ourselves from the rest of the world, but I believe that if wars are really necessary or in our national interests (as Kent mentions), that we should at least be clear on what that interest is. I also agree that that while Ron Paul has given us a simplistic explanation of his foreign policy, it would be helpful to have a more in-depth examination of his views. I am at the table, Ron, so bring on the goods. I just need to believe somebody gives a damn and Mitt & Rick aren’t ringing my bell. Thanks for reading my rant-n-rambler post.

      Also, being a virtual economics idiot that is incapable of spouting GDP percentages and such, does anybody have input on what the biggest problem with the gold standard idea is (as Priscilla mentions above)? It seems logical that there needs to be some kind of standard other than just “we need it, so print it”. Please remember the simpler the answer, the better for us regular folks. I can follow up on your reply with more research on my own.

      All this aside, I am scared of Rick Santorum. I saw this in a comment section yesterday and thought it appropriate:

      Matthew 6:5…
      “And when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.” 

  14. Ian CSE permalink
    January 4, 2012 8:36 pm

    Those of us who are not ashamed to have a taste for slightly silly things may enjoy this look at 2011 by a Great American Writer, Dave Barry, since my attempts to share my interest in British silly things have met with some disapproval. Its just the first page below. Its full of good political humor any normal person ought to be able to find something funny in.

    “It was the kind of year that made a person look back fondly on the gulf oil spill.

    Granted, the oil spill was bad. But it did not result in a high-decibel, weeks-long national conversation about a bulge in a congressman’s underpants. Which is exactly what we had in the Festival of Sleaze that was 2011. Remember? There were days when you could not escape The Bulge. At dinnertime, parents of young children had to be constantly ready to hurl themselves in front of their TV screens, for fear that it would suddenly appear on the news in high definition. For a brief (Har!) period, The Bulge was more famous than Justin Bieber.
    And when, at last, we were done with The Bulge, and we were able to turn our attention to thepresidential election, and the important issues facing us, as a nation, in these troubled times, it turned out that the main issue, to judge by quantity of press coverage, was: groping.
    So finally, repelled by the drainage ditch that our political system has become, we turned for escape to an institution that represents all that is pure and wholesome and decent in America today: college football.
    That was when we started to have fond memories of the oil spill.
    I’m not saying that the entire year was ruined by sleaze. It was also ruined by other bad things. This was a year in which journalism was pretty much completely replaced by tweeting. It was a year in which a significant earthquake struck Washington, yet failed to destroy a single federal agency. It was a year in which the nation was subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of highly publicized pronouncements from Charlie Sheen, a man who, where you have a central nervous system, has a Magic 8-Ball. This was a year in which the cast members of “Jersey Shore” went to Italy and then — in an inexcusable lapse of border security — were allowed to return.
    But all of these developments, unfortunate as they were, would not by themselves have made 2011 truly awful. What made it truly awful was the economy, which, for what felt like the 17th straight year, continued to stagger around like a zombie on crack. Nothing seemed to help.President Obama, whose instinctive reaction to pretty much everything that happens, including sunrise, is to deliver a nationally televised address, delivered numerous nationally televised addresses on the economy, but somehow these did not do the trick. Neither did the approximately 37 million words emitted by the approximately 249 Republican-presidential-contender televised debates, out of which the single most memorable statement made was, quote: “Oops.”
    As the year wore on, frustration finally boiled over in the form of the Occupy Various Random Spaces movement, wherein people who were sick and tired of a lot of stuff finally got off their butts and started working for meaningful change via direct action in the form of sitting around and forming multiple committees and drumming and not directly issuing any specific demands but definitely having a lot of strongly held views for and against a wide variety of things. Incredibly, even this did not bring about meaningful change. The economy remained wretched, especially unemployment, which got so bad that many Americans gave up even trying to work. Congress, for example.”

    For the rest of Barry’s review of 2011, use the link above.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 4, 2012 10:19 pm

      Alright, Ian, we totally agree on something. Dave Barry is my favorite! In fact, I used to give my writer son the Dave Barry desk calendar every single year, and he now says that Barry is one his main writinng influences. Thanks for linking, he’s not syndicated in any paper I read anymore (truth be told, I don’t read many papers anymore).

      • January 4, 2012 11:13 pm

        I think Dave Barry retired from the syndication grind a few years back. I used to read his column regularly, too… along with those other prematurely retired relics of ’90s humor, Gary Larson’s Far Side and Bill Watterson’s (did I get his name right?) Calvin and Hobbes.

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 5, 2012 2:07 pm

        Yes, Dave Barry and defense/foreign policy seem to define our overlap Priscilla.

        I grew up on Russell Baker, my family used to read his columns aloud at dinner on Sunday, he was not so silly as Barry, but had very pointed and sharp humor.

        Bloom County was another comedic staple in my life, I raised my kids on that and Dr. Seuss and the kids are still grateful.

  15. valdobiade permalink
    January 4, 2012 9:15 pm

    … bottom line about primaries… and in general Presidential elections:

    – What is the difference between a good leader and a talented manipulator?

    Should I say what’s the difference between a “good servant of the people” and a talented manipulator?

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 10:02 pm

      Valdo, That’s better than what I said in the earlier blog comments I made.

      It isn’t the difference of a “servant” or a “leader” mentality we have in the U.S. as citizens.

      It is the difference between recognizing a “good servant of the people” or a “talented manipulator”.

  16. January 4, 2012 11:15 pm

    Though I spilled the beans above, I would not to those who are sure that I am some “ultra-conservative” that the actual ultra conservative in the current election is Santorum. I had hoped that his previous low numbers would keep him out of the spotlight. Unfortunately as most of the rest of the seven dwarves have had their moment in the sun and then faded, Santorum is now being viewed as a serious contender. For the record, I do not think there is a current candidate – or potential candidate, I would not chose over Santorum. His moment of promenence can not end too soon for me.

    To Ian;

    Those within the GOP and it is not actually a majority, that heartily endorse Santorum are the real dangerous ultra-conservatives. And they are far different from the Tea Party, or neo-cons. Santorum has mostly ignored the fiscal rhetoric of the rest of the GOP candidates. He is not seeking to right this countries fiscal compass, he is intent on seting its moral compass to match his, and he is perfectly happy to grant government whatever power is necescary to do so. Except that he has differnet values, his means are in no way different from those of progressives.

  17. January 5, 2012 12:09 am


    “What would Romney do that would be worse than a lame duck Obama with nothing to fear from an angry electorate?”

    There is little Obama can accomplish without congress. In contrast to most here I am actually a firm believer in political grid lock. I think the odds of the federal government doing anything actually positive about anything that actually needs to be done are near zero. Fortunately I also think aside from shrinking there is nothing the federal government actually needs to do about anything. Nor is that a particularly new situation.

    What exactly is it that a lame duck Obama can do – on his own ? Maybe there are things that should be done that he can not or will not do, but there is very he can actually do that would make things worse.

    Pres. Romney with a Republican House and Senate – possibly even a filibuster proof house and senate, could do an awful lot. Worse still contrary to beliefs here, the republican fiscal conservatives who are responsible for most of the current gridlock – something I applaud, something I beleive our founders actually intended. Anyway the fiscal conservatives would be dis-empowered.

    While in theory Rick Santorum could be far more dangerous, I honestly hope he can not possibly get elected.

    What could Romney do with a GOP majority – anything he wanted. In his heart Romney beleives govenrment is the answer. I have little doubt he beleives that honestly. I suspect that aside from the dog incident which I find more offensive than any of Paul’s newsletters – what a person actually does speaks more about them than what other people say in their names. And whatever is in the Paul newsletters I am not aware of anyone that is actually claiming Paul wrote or said it. The normal culprit is supposed to be Lew Rockwell. But having followed Rockwell for several years it does not actually sound like him.

    Romney’s recent remarks about meritocracy are telling. While free markets are possibly the closet thing that is actually possible to a meritocracy, Free Markets are not purely about merit. There is an element of random chance thrown in, and that is actually important.

    If success was driven by merit, then why not political success ? And if you beleive that your election is confirmation of your personal merit – yet you actually have no deep underlying values to guide you, you can do anything and be sure that it was right.

    Regardless, I would rather have Obama and a republican congress than Romney with a Republican congress.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 5, 2012 12:23 am

      You are aware, I’m sure, that Obama made “recess appointments” to the NLRB today, despite the fact that Congress had not declared itself in recess….you don’t see this type of unconstitutional imperial presidency as a potential issue? This is exactly where I diverge from libertarians political thought. I simply don’t believe that “all statists are the same.”

      • January 5, 2012 12:40 pm


        the constitutionality of the appointment is more a political problem. Democrats had used the same tactics during the Bush administration. It does not much matter whether the appointment is determined to be constitutional or not, whatever the decision is both parties will have to conform in the future. This is true of the entirety of the means each party uses to impede the other congressionally.

        While I would prefer broad minority powers to forestall action – essentially a super majority requirement for everything, ultimately when either part argues for or against fillibusters, recess appointments and whatever tactics the other side employs, they are virtually always arguing that we should be able to do this, but you should not.

        Regardless, Obama’s actions are likely to be a net loser for his party. There is a fairly high probability that the GOP will control the federal government in 2012, and democrats will be seeking to employ the tactics that republicans have used for the past four years.
        I want to see the minority – regardless of which party, with great ability to forestall the agenda of the majority.

        There is a separate problem with Cordray’s appointment. The CFPB’s authorizing legislation explicitly required congressional approval. This is actually distinctly different from most agencies – because in agencies like the FDA, the FCC, …. final authority is vested in a number of commissions usually representing both parties. CFPB power vests solely in its director. There is negligible congressional oversite, as well as negligible congressional budgetary control. Inside its domain the CFPB may have more authority than the president. The GOP agressively lobbied for more oversight, and/or more distributed power. They lost, but they did get a specific requirement that the directory receive ccongressional confirmation. While this might seem analogous to the similar constitutional requirement for other positions, the specific nature of the requirement as well as the fact that it is unique in comparison to other posts strongly sugests that it is and will be interpretedd by the courts as a requirement beyond those of the constituion. In otherwords, the CFPB director must meet the requirements of the constitution AND the requirements of the legislation.

        Regardless, in doing this Obama has created a mess.
        Reccess apointments are rare, even when constitutional they inevitably result in increased hostility, and they have significant political cost elsewhere. Further he has likely eliminated for both parties the ability of significant minorities to stop appointments they find disturbing. Liberals should ponder the possibility of not being able to block the appointment of a Robert Bork to some critical policy position. Next, the CFPB is now in a legal moras. Cordray can take his position and the CFPB can enact new rules – and every one is likely to be tied up in the courts long past the next election, further there is a reasonable probability that CFPB opponents will win in court – either on the constitutional issue, or on the more explict confirmation requirements within the CFPB legislation.

        The only real political upside to this is that Obama gets to claim to have acted and to have been stopped by partisan politics.

        Then there is the final issue – ultimately the CFPB has absolutely nothing to do with anything that created the current mess. Despite administration claims the CFPB more strongly resembles the causes of our current mess, than the solution. The explicit purpose of the CFPB is to remove impediments to credit for the poor and minorities. There are really only two possible consequences of CFPB actions – credit drying up. When you can not discriminate on the basis of creditworthiness, the next best choice is not to make loans at all. The other alternative is creating the same kind of credit bubble that fostered the housing bubble that wrecked the economy.

      • January 5, 2012 12:49 pm

        Those dead economists that people here like to berate effectively demonstrated decades before Keynes that the most dangerous economic phenomena is misallocation of credit. Too little chokes the economy, too much creates capitol misallocation, bubbles and eventual economic collapse. Freidman’s analysis of the causes of the Great depression – and other economic collapses which is generally considered the authoritative work on the subject places monetary issues at the root of economic crisis. But the role of monetary errors in creating crises passes directly through credit. There is very little doubt that the current mess had monetary causes – the Fed clearly kept rates too low for too long. But the policy of lax credit standards pre-dates the monetary mistakes.

        Ian wants to jail Arnal – why ? For lying about creditworthiness.
        Even accepting Ians argument at face value, the underlying premis is that Bankers, Mortgage brokers, …. should have said NO to more borrowers. The purpose of the CFPB is not to get lenders to say no, but to say yes more frequently.

        A separate missing analysis of the current mess that directly concerns the purpose of the CFPB is that saying no is not the only choice for addressing weak credit. The proper market response is not to say no to people with weaker credit. It is to increase the cost of that credit to the point that the rewards justify the risk. I have heard estimates that as little as a 1% increase in mortgage rates for ALT-A and subprime loans would likely have averted this mess. Higher rates reduce borrowing by those with weaker credit, further they encourage the behavior that will result in better credit in the future. Establish a good payment record for several years, build equity, and then creditors will be willing to refinance at lower rates. Finally, higher interest rates cover the cost of an increased default rate.

        Ultimately few people can not borrow money, the only issue is how much will they have to pay to borrow. The financial crisis was not actually caused by the housing bubble or by mortgage defaults. It was the result of pricing the risk on all those ALT-A and subprime loans too low. For any level of creditworthiness there is an interest rate that will justify the risk of the loan. Essentially banks and mortgage companies sold mortgages for too low a price – they failed to properly price risk, and as a result when conditions resulted in a predictable percent of those mortgages failing, the cost proved insufficient to cover the loss.
        This kind of failure just does not happen on this grand a scale without government incentives.

        The avowed purpose of the CFPB is to increase lending and decrease the price of loans. Precisely the bad policy that created the mess we are currently in.

  18. January 5, 2012 12:34 am


    Though our relationship to Israel has not made us any friends in the mideast, that is not what made us a target of Islamic fundamentalists.

    In Iran, we overthrew and elected government and imposed a tyrant.

    Bin Laden was clear that his problem with the US was our military presence on their sacred land.

    The Islamic fundamentalists may be nuts, but they beleive what they say and they say what they beleive, and if you take them at their word, our support of Israel is inconsequential in their litany of our sins.

    Their view of us is a caricature of who we really are – but so is our view of them.

    Many of these people – particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan are the very people we were supplying weapons to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan. While they did not love us then – they did not hate us either. They were happy to take our weapons to fight their enemies, they were happy for our aide, what they did not want was our soldiers, and our meddling in their affairs.

    But for oil we care about as much whether Shite’s were slaughtering Suni’s as we did that the hutu were butchering Tutsi’s

    Regardless, the only thing we have to offer Arab or any other nations in the way of nation building is our own example. The cold war ended not because of our military might – as important as that was, but because in the US even poor people had color tv’s and apartments.

    We can not civilise or democratise the remainder of the world. Nations must build themselves.

    We invaded Iraq and deposed a despised tyrant, we think that should have earned us their love. Of course the British thought they were doing us a favor in the French and Indian war, and we refused taxes to pay for a war that served our interests and was fought by their soldiers. Why should we expect different in the Mid-east ?

    What people do not resent soldiers of foreign nations stationed in their homes ?

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 5, 2012 10:23 am

      I don’t want to get too deep into a discussion of our military role in the middle east, but if you are putting forth a “blood for oil” argument for our most recent invasion there, I will say that I think that is too simplistic. Paul’s insistence on US isolationism and his contention that Israel can “take care of itself”, despite a looming threat from Iran – and soon Egypt, where the MB has stated that they will not recognize the state of Israel – is, I think, unrealistic at best, and dangerous at worst. I’ve considered Paul’s argument that allowing Iran to go nuclear will be “no more dangerous” than our twenty year Cold War standoff with the USSR, but I just don’t buy it. When the leaders of a nation state that they will use a nuclear weapon to establish a global theocracy, I think you have to take them at their word.

      On the other hand, I would agree that our current policies (which is to say, the same policies as the Bush administration had, only with less conviction and more weakness) are not effective either. Global interventionism is not the answer, but neither is isolationsm.

      South Koreans for the most part, do not resent US troops on their soil. My point being that monolithic characterizations of the outside world, which I think Paul is guilty of making, are not helpful in arriving at a coherent foriegn policy.

      • January 5, 2012 1:00 pm

        Yes, I am putting forth a blood for oil argument. Though contrary to the left I am perfectly willing to accept that there may be circumstances were – ignoring other factors that trade is valid.

        High energy costs have economic impacts, those costs, can be measured in dollars, time, and in some instances lives.

        I am as an example (as actually is everyone else, they just hide from those choices) perfectly willing to trade seen costs measured in lives against greater unseen costs, that ultimately also translate to lives.

        This is not a perfect analogy, and may not even be true, I am using it to illustrate an approach rather than the accuracy of the specific facts.

        Presume that an increase in the speed limit of 10mph will result in 5,000 additional highway deaths per year, but it will also result in a time savings of about 100 hours per person per year. A human life is just under 1M hours. a savings of 100hours/year across 300M people is the equivalent of 30,000 lives.

      • January 5, 2012 1:26 pm

        We did not invade south korea, they invited us, further at various times they have been less than happy about our presence.

        We have had less problems in Iraq in the kurdish regions – because they had essentially been begging for our intervention for some time.

        Nor am I trying to pretend this is simple – that all Iraqi’s or Afghans or … hate us and want us gone. Possibly a majority are either favorably or atleast neutrally disposed.

        Regardless, there is a large enough body that is willing to die to see us gone that they are a world wide threat to our nation. The same has been true many many other places for many many other nations.

        Even if you can find a way to justify Iraq and Afghanistan – and I would be happy to accept that we had an absolute right to destroy the government of Aghanistan. The military act, even right or destroying those responsible for harming our nation – pretty much the textbook right/responsibility of government, does not presume an obligation or right to determine what follows. Only the Afghans and Iraqi’s can determine their own government. Hopefully they will do so in ways that serve both their own people and our interests – still nation building is something only the people of a given nation can do for themselves. It does not matter whether we are talking about as military invaders from the outside or even efforts to aide undeveloped nations. It can not be done from the outside. It can not be imposed by force nor through money.

        We have few things to offer the rest of the world.
        The best we can offer them our example.
        Proof that freedom brings prosperity for all.

        Fortunately in contrast to even the European social democracies with their broad safety nets that so many progressives idolise we are an amazing example. One increasingly followed by much of the world – including Europe.

      • January 5, 2012 1:53 pm

        There is a gigantic difference between defending another nation such as Israel or Kuwait from attacks by its neighbours, and feeling compelled to involve our self in the internal affairs of other nations. We have an absolute right and responsibility to decry the mistreatment any nation imposes on its own people, but our right and responsibility to do anything about it ends outside their borders. But we have gone far beyond that.

        About a dozen nations world wide have nuclear weapons – we alone have used them in anger. North Korea is an unbelievable scary and dangerous nation – yet at least so far they have done nothing.

        We can effectively deal with Iran as a nuclear power:

        First publicly announce that the actual unilateral use of a weapon of mass destruction outside a nations own borders will result in US removing the government of the nation that does so. Our military ability to behead the Iranian government has never been at issue. The destruction of the government of Iran would take longer than that of Afghanistan, and Iraq, but not orders of magnitude longer. We do not invade Iran because of the follow up costs of military victory. It is the cost of rebuilding an Iran that will atleast be partially hostile to use that will cost hundreds of Billions and take decades.

        Next, one of the most idiotic things this president did was to back away from the prior missile defense shield arrangements we made. Missile defense is an evolving technology. We do not and may never have the ability to protect against a first strike from Russia, or even China, But it is likely already in our grasp to neutralize almost anything smaller anywhere in the world. Even presuming that the odds of a successful interception are only about 50/50 which is probably about right at the moment. Would any nation such as Iran or north korea be willing to gamble on a 50% chance of a single shot at the enemy of their choice when succeed or fail the act itself will guaranteed result in regime change ? If Iran or any other nation even launched a nuclear attack against any nation do you think the US would be alone in condemning it ?

        Nothing would be more damaging to Irans ambitions than to actually use a nuclear weapon.

        Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. The world has not come to an end.

      • January 5, 2012 4:24 pm

        Are we obligated to destroy every nation that engages in saber rattling rhetoric ?

        I supported invading Iraq and deposing Sadam Hussein. But it did not take me long to regret that. Regardless, I was deeply troubled at the time by the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war. It is no better today.

        We have no right to use force against any person or any nation because of what they have said – no matter how threatening nor how much we may believe their words. the right to use force is reserved solely as a response to actual actions.

        I do not want to speak entirely for Ron Paul as I am not familiar with all the nuances of his approach to foreign policy – though nothing I have heard troubles me.

        Isolationism is turning our backs on actual acts of aggression. Neither I nor to my knowledge Paul are advocating that.
        Our existing military might dwarfs anything else in the world. We could cut our capabilities by a factor of two and still be able to decapitate any regime on the planet at almost any time we desired.
        Yet even at its present scale we do not have the military strength necessary to perform the impossible task of imposing our will on the entirety of the people of any nation. Bush campaigned against the nation building of the Clinton administration – only to out do them by an order of magnitude.
        We have spent nearly a trillion dollars, and thousands of our own lives and tens of thousands of those of others. Have we gained something that is clearly worth that ?

        There is a broad spectrum between our currently level of military engagement and full scale isolationism.
        I beleive Paul is making a very credible argument that we have gone way to far in the direction of involving ourselves militarily and otherwise in the affairs of other nations.

        It is actually troubling that Pres. Obama was able to commit the US military to participate in another nations civil war, without any real threat to any US interest.

        With respect to Iran Paul is doing little more than saying outloud what is inevitable. Unless we are prepared to go to war with Iran, it is a near certainty that they will have nuclear weapons all to soon.

        You complained about their rhetoric, unless our rhetoric is “continue on your current path and we are invading”, anything less is meaningless bluster. Whether the voice of the United States is Bush, Obama, or Paul, if we do not say what we mean and mean what we say, the outcome will be worse. We can not credibly beleive what Iranians say and disbeleive ourselves.

        The only effective difference between Paul and Bush/Obama with respect to Iran, is that Paul is willing to state what has essentially already been decided – that we are not going to war with Iran over their efforts to possess nuclear weapons.

        If you feel differently – fine argue that, but argue it with the president, congress and the rest of the presidential contenders. Because short of alot of bluster and total and deliberate lack of clarity with respect to when they are willing to commit US troops and for what purposes, when push comes to shove the primary difference between them and Ron Paul is in word not deed.

  19. Jen permalink
    January 5, 2012 3:38 pm

    I agree that it would be suicide for Iran to even consider a nuclear attack. I honestly am inclined to believe that the threat or even actualization of nuclear weapons in Iran would serve to stabilize rather than inflame. As always, this brings into question how far our alliances should go with Israel.

    • January 5, 2012 4:38 pm

      I am not certain but I do not think anyone – from Paul through Bush/Obama is claiming that we would not help defend Israel should it actually be attacked.

      During the Yom Kippur War Pres. Nixon contacted Israel and started airlifting weapons and supplies almost immediately – despite being an extremely well known anti-semite, and despite virtually no constitutional authority to do so. That was all the Israeli’s needed to destroy their enemies. The Israeli’s have repeatedly demonstrated there is nothing more they need from us, in order to take care of themselves.

      Nor do I think anyone is suggesting that there would not be terrible consequences to any nation that initiated a nuclear attack.

      I doubt a nuclear Iran would prove a good thing, but it is not our business what any nation wishes to waste its resources on. It is our business when they directly try to harm other nations.

      It is not our job to convert by force if necessary every nation of the world to our beliefs, principles, norms or morals. We are always free to speak out against whatever evil we perceive, but our use of force against another nation must be a response to their initiation of force against others. Not our desire to see a different regime or different policies.

  20. January 5, 2012 4:46 pm

    This is a more detailed elucidation of Ron Paul’s actual views on the use of US military force.

    Only a neo-con would consider this pacifism or isolationism

    It was military positions like this that resulted in the anti-Goldwater “Daisy” attack add.

    Also an example that politics has not gotten particularly more bitter or divisive, either in the last few decades or the last two centuries. Us Politics has been partisan divisive, and negative since our founders.

  21. Priscilla permalink
    January 5, 2012 4:59 pm

    Dave and Jen,

    In my attempt to keep my comments reasonably brief, I may have been unclear about my objections to Ron Paul’s ideas. I guess you could say that I would agree with most of what he says, if I believed that the underlying assumptions that support his arguments were true. In short, I think many of those assumptions are either overly simplistic or untrue.

    So, for example, you’ve both said that Iran would never consider a nuclear attack on Israel, because it would be suicidal. Paul has said that it is “natural” that Iran should want nukes because it is surrounded by enemies. And it is generally accepted that Iran wants nukes so that it can threaten Israel, or any other enemy nation. So, to agree with Paul, we have to assume that this is a perpetually empty threat, and/or that the world does not become far more dangerous because an aggressive enemy of the US has acquired the means to attack at a time when we have effectively shut down our missle defense plans and have been backing away from Israel.

    As far as the gold standard, I wish I believed that we could go back there. But, lord knows, we cannot even get most politicians to accept the importance of monetary policy in preventing economic collapse. Attempting transition back to a gold standard would require and major, major re-entry process, with all of the accompanying destabilization in US and world markets. And, our government can’t even agree to cut discretionary spending. Agreeing to the decades-long process of returning to the gold standard seems pretty pie in the sky.

    So, there you go- perhaps I’m too much of a pessimist and a cynic, but I just believe that a lot of what Paul says is pie in the sky.

    • January 5, 2012 6:46 pm

      The short version of my remarks below are that some form of monetary change is inevitable. It will happen because what we have does not work. It will happen because the Federal Reserve has demonstrated that it is not sufficiently trustworthy for the rest of the world to rely on it. It will be driven by the nations of the world not Ron Paul, but ultimately it will vindicate him.

      As little as 2 years ago Paul was being called a nutcase for even talking about the gold standard. Now there are very important economists all over the world seriously discussing how that might happen.

      Initially I thought Paul was a nutcase for proposing a gold standard. The more I learned about both Paul’s views on money and monetary policy the less nuts it all sounded.

      First Paul is not actually a “gold crank”. He is very educated on monetary policy, I do nto think there is a single politician from either party that comes even close to actually understanding the working of money.

      Further he is not actually an advocate of a gold standard, which is not the perfect solution to our monetary problems. He is actually an advocate for free market money. The gold standard is the next best alternative. Most importantly the fundamental issues is that control of money must be removed from government.

      The anti-gold crowd is found of noting that there were monetary failures when the gold standard was in place. And this is absolutely true. But those failures were still rooted in government manipulation of money and credit. As an example for most of the 19th century the US actually used a bi-metal standard. So long as the government controls the exchange rate this is a guaranteed disaster. The most insiginificant discrepancy between the exchange rates of gold and silver would result in the trivial ability to create money by exploiting the error. Prety much fundimentally the way Ponzi’s stamp scheme worked in the 20th century. The problem with the original “ponzi scheme” was not that it was fiscally unsound, it was that absent modern electronic trading abilities, it was impossible to generate the exponentially increasing profits Ponzi needed – the actual root investment exploited mispricing of italian postage stamps.

      You can have pricing errors in the free market – they will be detected and corrected at market speeds – which today are near instantaneous. You can not have a pricing error by government – or trades can pillage the entire treasury in milliseconds. In the 19th century it took months, but it still happened faster than government could adjust.

      As to whether Paul is a nutcase because regardless of how sound his fiscal ideas are adopting them is impossible.

      I think the likelyhood of radical changes in worldwide monetary systems over the next decade approaches certainty. Romney is pissing all over China for its monetary policy – China is strongly hinting that the days of the dollar as the worlds reserve currency are numbered.

      Ultimately all the rest of the world – except the US essentially operates under a sort of gold standard – where the US dollar is the substitute for gold.
      The rest of the world’s currency is pegged against the dollar, and mostly valued by markets, rather than governments.

      The use of the dollar as the world reserve currency gives the US broader monetary latitude than any other nation. So long as the US federal reserves machinations are minimal, the rest of the world has not only been tolerant, but ultimately benefited – we essentially have fiat currency, while they either have a rough equivalent too the gold standard – nations that have a fixed exchange rate to US dollars such as china, or free markets in money for the rest. But if the Federal Reserves manipulations or too far out of line, not only does it have effects in the US but the ripples can turn into tidal waves accross the world.

      A significant cause of the recent “arab spring” was the specific mechanics of Quatitative Easing. Myriads of monetary zealots complained that QE would result in inflation. They were completely correct, but the Fed successfully exported that inflation and it primarily showed up as increased food costs for the rest of the world.

      How often can the Federal reserve play policy games that trade harm at home for harm abroad before the world loses faith in the Dollar ?
      “All money is a matter of belief” – Adam Smith. Still true today more than ever.

      I do not expect radical changes in the worlds monetary systems tomorrow. But the 50 odd trillion of unfunded social security and medicare debt virtually assure that the dollars days are the worlds reserve currency are numbered. There is no other national currency that can step in, the Euro is already clearly a worse choice. It could take 50 to a hundred years for any other national currency to rise to the dollars stature – if ever.

      The alternatives are real free markets in money, and something like a gold standard. That is pretty much it, and one or the other is coming, and Paul would be happy with either.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 5, 2012 6:56 pm

        To be clear, I do not consider Paul a nut. I consider his policies to be on the fringe of American politics and I have lost a decent amount of respect for him over the newsletters situation. He may be eccentric, but he is far from a nutcase.

      • Jen permalink
        January 6, 2012 11:16 am

        I think my hair caught on fire when I read “quantitive easing” due to brain overload…….perhaps I will attempt to educate myself more once the smoke clears! **Kidding……kinda** Thanks for your reply 🙂

    • January 5, 2012 7:05 pm

      Motives, words and actions are all different.

      It is what Iran or anyone else actually does that matters, not what they think, not why they think that, not what they say. While it is true that we use (and should use) what they we beleive they think, and what we beleive are their motives as a basis to make our own plans, rhetoric and our perception of their motivation are not a basis for our pre-emptively acting.

      I suspect Iran does feel threatened – we have threatened the crap out of them. It can be no secret that both the US and Israel have very seriously discussed military action up to and including invasion and regime change as the means of defanging them. Not only does Iran feel threatened – but we actually want them to feel threatened.

      We don;t like the current regime in Iran – for good reason. But the fact that we have essentially decided they are evil, does not mean that they do not feel threatened, nor that they might not feel less threatened possessing a nuclear weapon. Presuming they succeed, it is likely that the future US and Israeli policy towards Iran will be far less belligerent. Regardless of the fact that we would ultimately win a nuclear confrontation, winning is relative and the damage including to us who be monumental – even if no nuclear weapon ever detonated in our own or any alies country.

      As to whether Iran would use a nuclear weapon – no other nation in the world has yet.

      But even accepting your argument that the world would be a far less safe place.
      Does the decrease in our perceived security – absent an actual overt threat – an act rather than words, justify any pre-emptive action – beyond contingency planning ?

      We can not either as individuals or as states initiate violence, because we beleive even with good reason another is a threat to us – until they have acted.

      That is essentially the social contract we make to form a nation, it applies equally to the community of nations that make up the world.

  22. Pat Riot permalink
    January 5, 2012 10:24 pm

    Many who think Ron Paul’s views “extreme” don’t fully grasp how dire the situation has become for the future of the U.S. Constitution.

    It’s a shame Ron Paul isn’t a better communicator and that he’s “old and squeaky” and “too nice” when confronted, because he’s a great, courageous patriot and one of the last chances for America to use its political system to get off its current path of self-destruction, though it would take a big, bottom-up social awakening and effort to turn things around, not just Ron Paul as chief executive.

    Most of the other candidates, i.e. Romney/Gingrich/Santorum/Obama will continue to appease the “global monopoly men.” “Nation Building” and other military exercises are BIG BIG business–not just the tanks and fighter jets and helicopters, ordnance & petrol & the Meals Ready to Eat, and all the contractors and the kick-backs, but also the deals behind closed doors that open up foreign markets for decades to come for the sponsoring corporations.

    Iran being a threat is a joke. The IMM (Industrial Military Mafia) can read license plates via satellites and precision bomb anyone and anything on earth, including us pesky Americans eventually if we continue to give away our rights and freedoms as we are doing. So many layers of rhetoric that decent, hard-working American people are living in a dream (nightmare) like the schlubs in the Matrix movies. Did you cast a vote for war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who called those shots? George Bush? C’mon people, wake up.

    America and Freedom were nice while they lasted.

  23. Priscilla permalink
    January 6, 2012 12:35 am

    Interesting how many Paul supporters are here… To excerpt Michael Gerson: “No other recent candidate hailing from the party of Lincoln has accused Abraham Lincoln of causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Or regarded Ronald Reagan’s presidency a “dramatic failure.” Or proposed the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or called America the most “aggressive, extended and expansionist” empire in world history. Or promised to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blamed terrorism on American militarism, since “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.” Or accused the American government of a Sept. 11 “coverup” and called for an investigation headed by Dennis Kucinich. Or described the killing of Osama bin Laden as “absolutely not necessary.” Or affirmed that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excused Iranian nuclear ambitions as “natural,” while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as “war propaganda.” Or published a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad,” and defending former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and criticizing the “evil of forced integration.”

    I clearly made the mistake of trying to have a discussion. Pat Riot set me straight.

  24. January 6, 2012 1:38 am

    Ron Paul fascinates me because he mingles native intelligence and common sense with sheer lunacy. It’s unusual to find all three traits in the same person, and he’d definitely make an “unusual” president. 😉

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 6, 2012 9:05 am

      I don’t even know if I agree with the lunacy part….unless we’re talking “crazy like a fox” (no slur there, Paul people, just saying he’s smart). But he does inspire a belief in his supporters that trandscends politics, in sort of the same way that Sarah Palin does. I think it has to do with both of them being perceived as politicians of true principle rather than…well, just politicians. Kind of the way Obama was perceived, even though he, unlike Paul and Palin, never really defined much in the way of what his principles were. And I still doubt that he has any. And that is the problem, of course, with Romney – he is perceived as having no core principals, because he has compromised in politics and of course, because he is perceived as a technocrat, who gets things done, as opposed to talking about why he’s doing them. Truth be told, I do think that Romney talks a little too tough on Iran and China, but I’m not sure that outreach and diplomacy are the only tools in a US president’s box, and they certainly haven’t done much for Obama.

    • Jen permalink
      January 6, 2012 12:06 pm

      I think the term “unusual” hits the nail on the head. For me, Ron Paul has inspired me to dig deeper and in a sense, to think differently. While I do not believe him to be a messiah of sorts (as some have remarked his followers do believe), it is ever so tempting to take the chance that the man may be onto something worthwhile; something that may never be implemented in full during his lifetime (or mine for that matter) if elected, but would at the very least give us a starting point in which to begin a more concerted effort to regain some sense of freedom and purpose. While it’s easier and less questionable to assume that we will have to find something to like about Romney, I’m not quite ready to abandon the idea of “unusual” for the sake of a false sense of familiar comfort. I agree with Pat when he says that Paul is not very good at communicating and this is where, in my case, it has created the need to understand or learn more, but in many cases it either repels or draws others to him. The “unusual” , as Rick mentions, has a way of being popular when people become disaffected and current options are less than desirable. To that end, I believe that if he ever has a chance (and I emphasize *ever*) then it is now.

      I think I should probably print a copy of this and put it next to the newspaper picture of me in the 5th grade mock election at my elementary school where I had to dress up as a peanut and tell people to vote for Jimmy Carter…….how times have changed. hahaha!

  25. Pat Riot permalink
    January 6, 2012 6:38 am

    Don’t worry, Ron Paul won’t get elected because too many Americans get their filtered news from GE and the other five information owners, and because the Good Doctor doesn’t explain his against-the-grain views enough. Because he operates from a foundation of personal LIBERTY and fiscal responsibility, he often concludes that IT’S NOT OUR BUSINESS, especially because we can no longer afford it when our own infrastructure is crumbling. That doesn’t mean he is FOR whatever he thinks is not our business, but that’s how it can easily look, and also easily made to look.

    I confess I don’t know about his racist-leaning comments and haven’t had time as a busy American to research what has recently surfaced, but I’d bet he was defending the RIGHT to a view and not the view itself, and he does that to his own demise because as I say he doesn’t explain himself enough. He lets his viewpoints hang out there as radical and unorthodox without explaining the reasoning adequately…that the end doesn’t always justify the means, that the means becomes an end in itself, i.e. erode personal liberty and human rights to achieve short term “security.”

    Paul is a Patriot because like Michele Bachman he speaks against the elements of the establishment that are not for personal liberty and fiscal responsibility, and not for the American people. How despicable and immoral and a Pandora’s box are drone attacks, for example? It’s one thing for a country to defend itself, for people to be brave enough to fight for their homes and lives after communication/diplomacy breaks down, but it’s something altogether different when an unseen, unaccountable few can order twenty-year-olds to operate a joystick in Nevada that kills people in Pakistan. I believe more American soldiers committed suicide in 2010 and 2011 than were killed by combat.

    We need a breakthrough in human communication abilities, for our social skills to catch up with our technological destruction capabilities.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 6, 2012 9:30 am

      Pat, you are right in that many of the so-called racist and homophobic comments had to do with having the right to a view that was not politcally correct. For example, one of the quotes that I read was “We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.” Now, a) that is almost certainly taken out of context and b)probably similar to Juan Williams’s comment about being nervous about getting on planes with Muslims……….but, it still says something about the cluelessness of a man who wants to be president that he would think that his official newsletters could print something like that without causing incredible anger and blowback.

      The Jewish stuff is worse, because it buys into the notion that Jews don’t deserve to live in Israel because it causes problems for the US. I understand that Paul believes that Israel should not have been “located” in the middle of the Muslim world, and he has apparently said that Alaska would have been better, haha. Now, I actually kinda agree with that, but- and this is a big problem – no American president, or anyone aspiring to be the American president should be saying that stuff out loud and reinforcing the already toxic belief that Israel should be “wiped off the face of the earth,”

      • January 6, 2012 10:43 am

        Or the Jesse Jackson quote about crossing the street when encountering a group or black teenagers.

    • January 6, 2012 10:41 am

      The supposed Rascist Ron Paul Newsletters are old news. They have followed him for more than a decade.

      Paul did not write these newsletters – though they were published under his name – I beleive from his congressional office.

      Most of the so called racist remarks are things like noting that Martin Luther King was a philanderer and communist, or using Black as an adjective to describe the 1992 Rodney King rioters.

      There are also remarks with respect to Aids to the effect that if Gay men have repeated unprotected sex they should expect to get aids.

      A significant portion of the remarks are technically accurate – or very close – though some are not. Most could have been phrased less offensively. Regardless, these are not KKK or skinhead remarks.
      I do not think anyone credible has actually claimed these remarks were actually written by Paul, and I an fairly certain that he has personally said as much. But they did go out in his newsletter. Normally they are blamed on Lew Rockwell, but unless Rockwell has changed radically in the past twenty years, many items are inconsistent with Rockwell. Lew Rockwell is one of the very extreme libertarians that Paul is accused of being, and prone to conspiracy theories, but many of the themes conflict with Rockwells current ones.

      Paul has distanced himself from the newsletters, but as I understand he has not condemned them.

      Paul has been in the public eye for decades, when asked questions he answers them directly rather than evading or reverting to ambiguous rhetoric that can mean anything.

      Obama has demonstrated similar tendencies when off the tele-prompter – with equally abrasive results. however Barack Obama has not been infront of cameras without handlers for multiple decades so we do not have the same huge body of abrasive quotes.

      At the same time, beyond the conspiracy type of claims, The President (and some of his staff) have their own troubling pasts.

      What Paul, Palin, Obama, ….. have said in the past matters – though not as much as what they say now, and more importantly what they have done.

  26. Ian CSE permalink
    January 6, 2012 10:44 am

    Priscilla I feel your pain! You may be beginning to feel mine as well (little smiley face icon would be here if I knew how).

    I’ve lived all my life in a country that became the world’s cop a few years before I was born. Its a hard position to understand, it really is. But I understand it. To do so one has to put themselves in the shoes of those who had fought world war two and who were well aware of the horrors of WW1. The endless series of “world wars”, surely the Napoleonic wars were just as deserving of the term, or you can more accurately call them European wars, that stretch back thousands of years, did come to an end in 1945, along with the destruction of the concepts of the British and French colonial empires, even if those empires themselves took longer to fall. Since then, the combination of the UN, atomic weapons, and the predominant US role in world affairs (which is slowly fading) have prevented another world war. Everything was finally understood to be so linked together by 1945 that we cannot afford (at least in first world countries, as well as middle eastern, eastern European, and Asian ones) to let events get out of hand or we will have the next and exponentially worse world war dead to bury. So, the US goes around spending our money and blood sticking our noses in everything. And sometimes we are really wrong about it, as in Iraq, and other times the price paid to contain Stalinism (Vietnam and Korea) seems terribly high and questionable in retrospect. We face only bad foreign policy choices, we try to pick the best of the bad choices. Isolationism, in my view, or following the libertarian/leftwing concepts of US foreign policy, would be horrible choices, we would be headed for WWIII in short order.

    I read Churchill’s six volume set on WWII long ago, yes, he was a pompous imperialistic horse’s ass, among other things, but he was there and he was correct about Hitler. The important volume was the first one, in which he described how Hitler and Naziism were allowed to rise with only impotent international efforts to stop them, even after the partitioning of Poland into Russian and German spheres of influence and the invasion of Czechoslovakia. That history, and the goal of avoiding that kind of catastrophic mistake ever again, is the view that has (correctly) informed US foreign policy ever since. Many (most?) people are not going to understand or accept that we have to prevent evil from rising, but its been the basic framework in which both liberal and conservative American foreign policy makers have operated. How one counters evil leaders and their movements in foreign countries without resorting to force and doing evil things oneself is a problem no one has been able to solve.

    Both Iran and North Korea fully qualify as countries with evil leaders and fascist governments that have the ability to perform the equivilent action to assassinating Archduke Ferdinand. We are correct to be concerned. I do not think it will come to war with Iran, and I think that would also be catastrophic, but we have to contain them and the credible threat of war is part of that.

    This is the short synopsis of the worldview of one educated liberal-leaning American born in the mid fifties, its the propaganda I believe. Others from other circumstances believe other propaganda. The truth is that there is no truth, only points of view and we cannot really know what would happen if America went all Libertarian and tolerant in our foreign policy. I’m hoping never to find out.

  27. Ian CSE permalink
    January 6, 2012 11:08 am

    I believe that the below scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” nicely dissects Ron Pauls views, vis a vis, the Right to have an opinion compared to actually believing said opinion. It will be too silly for some, but I think its positively brilliant and universal.

    (A huge Roman amphitheatre, sparsely attended. REG, FRANCIS, STAN and JUDITH
    are seated in the stands. They speak conspiratorially.)

    Judith: Any Anti-Imperialist group like ours must *reflect* such a
    divergence of interests within its power-base.
    Reg: Agreed.
    (General nodding.)
    Francis: I think Judith’s point of view is valid here, Reg, provided the
    Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable right of every
    Stan: Or woman.
    Francis: Or woman…to rid himself–
    Stan: Or herself.
    Reg: Or herself. Agreed. Thank you, brother.
    Stan: Or sister.
    Francis: Thank you, brother. Or sister. Where was I?
    Reg: I thought you’d finished.
    Francis: Oh, did I? Right.
    Reg: Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man …
    Stan: Or woman.
    Reg: Why don’t you shut up about women, Stan, you’re putting us off.
    Stan: Women have a perfect right to play a part in our movement, Reg.
    Francis: Why are you always on about women, Stan?
    Stan: (pause) I want to be one.

    (pregnant pause)

    Reg: What?
    Stan: I want to be a woman. From now on I want you all to call me Loretta.
    Reg: What!?
    Stan: It’s my right as a man.
    Judith: Why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
    Stan: I want to have babies.
    Reg: You want to have babies?!?!?!
    Stan: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
    Reg: But you can’t have babies.
    Stan: Don’t you oppress me.
    Reg: I’m not oppressing you, Stan — you haven’t got a womb. Where’s the
    fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?
    (Stan starts crying.)
    Judith: Here! I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually
    have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the
    Romans’, but that he can have the *right* to have babies.
    Francis: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to
    have babies, brother. Sister, sorry.
    Reg: (pissed) What’s the *point*?
    Francis: What?
    Reg: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies, when he
    can’t have babies?
    Francis: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
    Reg: It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.

  28. January 6, 2012 11:19 am

    To be clear Defending Paul – atleast where he deserves to be defended is not the same as endorsing or entirely agreeing with him. I happen to prefer him over the current credible Candidates, but I am far from universally in agreement.

    To the extent that he has demonstrated rascist, anti-semite, or homophobic tendencies, I would just ask that you measure him against his actual remarks, rather than what others have said of him.

    Overall I am more interested in articulating my own positions on issues such as foreign policy than Paul’s. At the same time libertarians in general and Paul in particular tend to “walk softly and carry a big stick”, the right to self defence belongs as much to nations as individuals, and the obligation to protect its citizens is one of few roles most libertarians afford to government.

    Generally libertarian foreign policy is consistent with libertarian views on individuals. We tolerate behaviour that offends us personally as long as it does not involve violence to others. Paul as an example has also remarked that while we should let Pakistan address the terrorists within its borders, if it can not or will not do so, and if they continue to harm other nations, we have the right and obligation to go in and do so ourselves.

  29. January 6, 2012 11:32 am

    Many have complained that the libertarians have taken over this blog.

    Yet on an post on the Iowa caucuses where Mitt Romney won by some miniscule margin, and Rick Santorum hithertoo unknown, came in second by a whisker, the posts here fixate on Ron Paul.

    Hopefully voters in South Carolina and New Hampshire will do the same and we can eliminate Santorum from contention.

    I particularly find it interesting that Paul is the one accused of being a dangerous Lunatic, when Santorum – more so than any other GOP candidate has not embraced the limited government values that bond libertarians, the tea party and current republican candidates.

    Santorum represents values anti-podal with the current administration, but they both share the view that government should be a strong positive force for good. The critical distinction being Santorum has a radically different conception of the good government should accomplish.

    I find Santorum the perfect foil for progressivism. If rights are not intrinsic and supra government, if they are decided democratically by the government, then Santorum’s activist social conservative agenda is a legitimate as anything from the left – presuming that he is elected.

    Where Rick sees Norquist as the boggey man, Santorum represents a far greater threat, combining the progressive embrace of powerful government with a social conservative agenda.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 6, 2012 1:03 pm

      Geez Dhlii, could it be that we fixate on Libertarians and Paul due to the steady influx here of their supporters? Its amazing, 0.4% of the votes were cast for the Libertarian Presidential candidate last election and yet over half of the posters here have a Libertarian perspective. From a statistical standpoint what must we do to the null hypothesis at the 5% confidence level that this is merely random?

      Its not random chance is it? Libertarians seem to have chosen to use internet forums to the same purpose that Jehovah’s witnesses use Saturday mornings, minivans, and heathen doorbells.

      And, while these folks seem mostly like an intelligent and likable lot, I cannot say the same for the Paul/Libertarian politics, which I would not touch with a well-grounded carbon-fiber pole,, speaking as a vanishingly rare species, an outspoken moderate .

      Here’s a thought, perhaps Paul is a poor speaker because he is a poor thinker and his ideas are a chaotic unusable mush; perhaps his ideas sound ridiculous, as Priscilla has nicely documented, because they ARE ridiculous. Just a thought from rapidly sinking moderateland.

      • January 6, 2012 4:28 pm

        Or maybe it is possible that the population of libertarians or libertarian leaning is far greater than you perceive.

        I know many libertarians. I do not know a single one that voted libertarian in the last election. The only times I have voted Libertarian have been as a protest against abysmal candidates from the republicans and democrats.

        Though I would sort of agree with your blog proposition in a way. If you label a blog moderate, as opposed to liberal or conservative – you are going to attract libertarians. Whether you like it or not the largest centrist block is libertarians. If you want to stake a claim to the center you are going to have to share it with libertarians.

        I would also point at that your statistical analysis is flawed, and demonstrates one of the most common statistical fallacies – your numbers are likely all perfect, but libertarians != libertarian voters, therefore you entire analysis is only meaningful with respect to people who voted libertarian in the last election.

        The inclusive definition of libertarian socially liberal, fiscally conservative
        covers 59% of the population.
        Only 0.24% of us register as libertarian.

        Regardless, I do not think it is the libertarians who drove the discussion to Ron Paul. While I have responded to remarks about Paul, I personally am much more interested – from the negative perspective, in Santorum.
        What is troubling is that even here, Ron Paul is the wack job, and Rick Santorum is just run of the mill.

        But I guess that goes with the statist bias of TNM. Less government is somehow far more scary to moderates than bigger evil government.

        I am particularly disappointed in you as Rick Santorum really is the hard right extremist ultra-conservative that you are constantly accusing the libertarians among us of being.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 6, 2012 5:11 pm

        Well, if it makes you less disappointed, Dave, I agree with you in large part, when it comes to Santorum. I don’t think he’s a whacko, but he is certainly hard right. Newt Gingrich has also turned out to be exactly what everyone thought he was before his “not-Mitt” surge and susequent fall – a thin-skinned, pontificating bloviator. SInce it is now Santorum’s turn to be in the “not-Mitt” role, people will pay more attention to him, and his boom will start to burst.

        I still think you are wrong about Romney being worse than Obama though, and I still think that Paul would be a disaster as president – I admire Paul for many reasons, I just don’t see him as executive or C in C. But you have said (Ithink) that if it were a choice between Obama and Romney, you would choose Obama, and that doesn’t make much sense to me, since I see Obama as the most statist president that we have had. I know that your rationale is strategic, I just think it’s wrong, and it sort of illustrates to me the kind of political “bubble” in which I think too many libertarians exist, believing that, if we can just push statism to a point where everyone can see it failing, voters will turn to a libertarian candidate.

        Anyway, I think libertarians in general, and Paul in particular, have influenced the GOP in a very positive way, by focusing the discussion on the size of government. Turning the ship around takes some time.

  30. Jen permalink
    January 6, 2012 1:20 pm

    An excerpt from
    They Thought They Were Free
    The Germans, 1933-45
    Milton Mayer

    But Then It Was Too Late

    “What no one seemed to notice,” said a colleague of mine, a philologist, “was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

    “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

    “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 6, 2012 1:29 pm

      Oh, please, we’ve all memorized these words by now. I would not call them false profundity, I’d call them instead misunderstood and misapplied profundity that is usually used to justify near anarchy as a form of government. Just take no action, ever, you will never repress anyone, but everyone will still be repressed in short order. Still, you can consider yourself holy because you were not part of it.

      • Jen permalink
        January 6, 2012 2:05 pm

        Well, don’t sugar coat it, Ian! I certainly did not post this to imply that it supports or reinforces any particular view on politics as definitively right or wrong, but more as a means to say that this is sometimes the way it feels to some when faced with an ever-growing government that so easily dismisses or runs roughshod over the rights of the people in the name of whatever cause du jour. I enjoy all the views expressed here and am always open-minded enough to accept that there is always great benefit in exploring other avenues of thought. I’m sorry if I have offended anyone by contributing to this discussion; that was not my intention. I did not realize that my thoughts or opinions would be considered somehow less important because you deem them so in your apparent attempt to belittle me.

        We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. ~Anaïs Nin

      • January 6, 2012 8:44 pm

        I am not familiar with Jen’s particular quote, but it strongly resembles Hayek, albeit more political and less well argued.

        The fact that something has been said before does not mean it has been understood.

        Nor does claiming everyone who wants less government – even radically less government is an anarchist advance anything.

        I am constantly trying to understand your perception of the political spectrum. Some how it has, All libertarians, anarchists, social conservatives, almost the entire GOP, and Tea Party members way over on the far far right. You do not leave many people to populate the center.
        There is not even a common thread tying these groups together.

        Claiming we have all heard this before does not make the claims false.

        Regardless, even you have finally conceded that 45% of GDP is probably too much government. Yet the political road – since long before 1933, has been ever more, we are still headed in the more direction. Ranting that anyone talking about trying to take even a tiny step in the other direction is an anarchist is fallacious. We have tried smaller government – only in the sense that if you go backward in time government was smaller – just as if you move forward it is always larger. At the same time whether you accept it or not there is a strong even compelling argument that little or none of the gains of society and all of the increases in problems have derived from that ever increasing government.

        Even in the most extreme form – arguing to do nothing, your claim that repression will eventually result anyway is a claim, a conclusion, a presumption, not a known fact. It is possible you are right, but far from certain. Leading to another fallacy, we are comparing a near certain outcome with a possible outcome concluding they are the same, and then choosing the most costly route to purportedly the same ends.

        Even if doing neither leads to exactly the same ends as doing something – an unproven assertion, it would still be the most efficient means of getting there.

        If the anarchism you think would result if we failed to act resulted in the same loss of freedom as increased government – it would still be net positive.

        In fact the choices are not between statism and anarchism.
        But they are between more statism or less, and we know with certainty that more statism inevitably leads to failure. Even if less leads to exactly the same failure – it is the least costly choice. But more importantly, there is no certainty that less leads to failure. In fact there is very good reason to be optomistic that it leads to success.

  31. Ian CSE permalink
    January 6, 2012 2:29 pm

    Jen, I do my best to be less rude than I would be if I were not trying not to be rude. Nothing is personal; generally, the goal is that ideas get wacked, not posters. But…. If you have always enjoyed the comments here, then you know how we are and so please stop feigning childlike innocence and intellectual martyrdom, its boring.

    Anyone who was not hatched yesterday knows that government is a blunt instrument that can be extremely dangerous. We all need to keep that in mind and living in a free society we try to keep our political leaders in check. Still, many who were not hatched yesterday have not yet come to terms with the equal reality that modern life in an advanced technological world inhabited by humans who just as capable of being destructive as constructive is not possible without a great deal of government and that government often succeeds (along with terrible failures of Nazis, Stalinists, etc.) and makes life much more livable. Yeah, Libertarians tend to disagree, tell me about it.

    How to take this from the Libertarian unrealistically minimal government theme back to the purpose of this site, moderation?

    Moderates are those quiet folks that balance society and probably keep it from embracing the ideological extremes of government size. I personally think that US government is too large at 45% of GDP and growing. I have not seen any realistic plan that is going to do any more than slow the rate of growth. Ron Paul has no chance, and most of his ideas have no chance, because they are a kernal of truth buried under layers of nonsense.

    If you’ve really been watching for some time, and always enjoyed the comments, then there should be no shock in hearing my repeat this, which I have more or less said about the Libertarian worldview many times before.

    • January 6, 2012 6:09 pm

      If you grasp that government is a blunt instrument – then you should also grasp that there are very very few things it is capable of doing well.

      You have already bought core libertarian arguments – government can neither be sufficiently knowledgeable nor sufficiently flexible to do more than the most simplistic task – basic law and order, and defence without screwing it up.

      The argument against free markets is that it does not always get everything perfect – agreed it does not – but neither does government. More importantly free markets – and that is a misnomer because it is far more than markets, it is free individuals acting on their own desires and needs, limited only in their infringement of the rights of others, but that just does not roll off the tongue, free markets self adjust – often nearly instantly, definitely more quickly as technology progresses. Government is as you say a blunt instrument. It starts as the wrong tool for the job, and become worse as the situation gets more and more complex.

      Individual liberty is a very simple philosophy, but it is also the only mechanism capable of managing an increasingly complex world.

      Next, you have accepted that 45% of GDP is too much – welcome to the libertarian community.

      Now where can we start cutting ? You an I may not agree on how far we need to cut, but atleast it appears we can agree that less is the direction we need to go.

      Pick something – I will doubtless agree to cut it.

      We end up at odds, because when push comes to shove you are not really willing to cut spending. Contrary to assertions in the media and here, not a single budget plan discussed over the past year represents real cuts in government spending. All represent decreases in the rate of increase at best. I do not think any even bring the rate of increase below the rate of increase in GDP. But any measure the most conservative GOP proposal is spendthrift.

      If you do not like Ryan’s or whoever’s choices fine. But so long as the growth rate of government exceeds the growth rate of the economy as a whoie – then government as a whole is growing – not shrinking – even if some segments are being cut radically.

      I have another question. Numerous studies tell us that each 10% of government spending costs 1%/year in GDP growth. That is a doubling of the standard of living each generation.

      Are you willing to cut government 10% – I do not care if you take it from Local, State or Federal, but if you can get spending down 10%, you are talking about doubling the median real income/wealth of everyone in the next generation.

      In comparison to what is a huge gain in standard of living, how valuable are all those social safety-net programs ?

      That also means many more jobs every year. Is it better to be able to create jobs for people or better to support them on the dole ?

      In 1950 the US GDP/capita inflation adjusted was $20,000, In 2010 it is approximately $40,000. In 1950 Hong Kong’s was less than $5,000 now it is very nearly that of the US.

    • Jen permalink
      January 6, 2012 6:52 pm

      Point taken, duly noted and moving forward.

      Maybe I just don’t see much moderation in government and the debt problems are extreme, so, naturally, my logic (flawed or not) leads me to believe that (right now) moderation is not something I cannot afford to entertain and feel good about. That is not to say that I could not be persuaded to entertain some leeway towards center if I felt there was even a chance to get there from where we are now. Will any of these guys get us there or should we just accept that what will be, will be?

      • Jen permalink
        January 6, 2012 7:06 pm

        That should have read “not something I CAN afford……..”

  32. Ian CSE permalink
    January 6, 2012 5:14 pm

    I can’t respond to you dhlii, in the correct place. Yes, I am guilty of exaggeration, even deliberately of the smallness of the Libertarian population by only counting Presidential votes.

    Guilty, guilty, guilty, as charged. I’m sure that actual bona fide libertarians really make up 5+ % of voters and may be having a surge this cycle.

    But the middle I will not concede to you guys, as you do not have one single issue where the typical Libertarian position is in the middle and in fact all your position lie at the extremes of the spectrum.

    It may, however, be true the as you say Libertarians do CONSIDER themselves (wrongly) as moderates. Heck, we all want to be moderate=reasonable.

    I’m pleased to agree with you on Santorum’s nuttiness, btw.

    • January 6, 2012 6:34 pm

      If Santorum represents one extreme and say Bernie sanders the other – then I am in the middle.

      I have pointed out numerous issues where not just a majority but the overwhelmining majority of Americans sides with me. Super majorities beleive the US government wastes more than 50% of the money it spends, 72% prefer free markets to government managed economy – 23% want government out of economic matters entirely. 59% say the bailouts were bad for the country, even 43% of americans think 99 weeks of unemployment makes unemployment worse. Oddly apparently 57% beleive something that is pretty much an economic falsehood.

      We can trade dueling polls forever. I personally do not care whether you think I am a moderate. It is not a label I covet. I am more interested being right than being in the political center. But the fact is that on myriads of significant issues libertarian views and the center of american politics coincide.

      Absolutely there are places they diverge – these are almost exclusively social issues such as legalising all kinds of moral offences and self destructive behaviour.

      This country has always been sceptical of government since its founding – that has not changed. The majority may not be seeking libertopia, but they are headed in that direction, not the direction of bigger government. Oddly this has always been true through my entire lifetime – despite the fact that government has grown enormously during the same period.

      The gradual transition towards democracy has done precisely what democracy always does and allowed politicians to bribe voters with their own money – even when they knew that was what was happening and even when they knew it was wrong. The continuous growth of government is not a proof that people want more government overall, it is proof that so long as they beleive (falsely) that they are on net going to do better that they will accept something that they know makes everyone worse.

      I beleive we are paying $150B to continue to extend unemployment benefits to 99 weeks.
      There is fairly broad support for that. But put the question correctly – will you agree to have your family pay $!500 more in taxes per year or more accurately to owe $1500 more per year in taxes, that you are going to have to pay at some future date in order to extend unemployment – now see how the polls run. I would guess that you can not get a majority of voters to agree to extend unemployment benefits if it only cost them $100/year.

    • January 6, 2012 6:36 pm

      Santorum is more dangerous than nutty.

      Again I would point out he is just as pro-government statist as those on the left. He just wishes to use government power differently.

      There is no objective distinction between him and the hard left. The real differences are subjective.

      • January 7, 2012 12:35 pm

        Oh, there are some pretty sharp and obvious differences. The difference between Santorum and the hard left is that Santorum would use the government to legislate moral issues while the left would use government to legislate economic issues. Same reliance on government toward very different ends. See, you can’t really think of government as a monolithic force. Government is a medium, like paint. You can paint meticulously detailed landscapes or wild abstract fantasies. Libertarians would belong to the “less is more” school, I guess.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 8, 2012 12:33 am

        The left also uses government to legislate moral issues. All the time. Why do you think they call it the nanny state? 😉

      • January 8, 2012 1:56 am

        Priscilla: Oh, you’re probably right… though I think of the left as meddling more in social and environmental issues than strictly moral ones. (They tend to be moral relativists, after all.) But I guess meddling is meddling.

      • January 9, 2012 5:43 pm

        How do you distinguish social and environmental from moral ?

    • January 7, 2012 1:28 pm

      Ian: Frankly I’m surprised that libertarians continue to use that “fiscal conservative + social liberal = moderate” formula. Yes, if we were balancing an old-fashioned scale, we’d see that their extreme ideas average out somewhere in the center… but it’s like saying that if you have one bed that’s too hard and one that’s too soft, you have a bed that’s just right. Conservative extremism and liberal extremism do not a moderate make.

      You need actual moderate views to be a moderate. That means believing in balance, fairness, even-handedness and all those other mushy moderate traits — including an irrepressible urge to rebuild the system if it tilts too far in one direction or the other.

      • January 9, 2012 5:34 pm

        I do not grasp – nor does the vast majority of the country, how responsible money management is extremist. I think it is trivially arguable that anything else is extreme.

        Also I beleive the formula is Fiscally conservative + socially liberal – libertarian, and by that definition of libertarian about 40% of the country would be libertarian – again not particularly extremist.

        Your definition of Moderate is balance, fairness, ..
        I have found myriads of definitions of moderate, some equating to average, or centerest, some focused on temperment – sort of political Buddhism. I can find some support for balance in the more buddhist definitions, I have already attacked fairness – but long before I did, myriads of others (including my 12 year old) have demonstrated how abysmally unworkable a measure it is for anything. The entire concept of rule of law is to escape the impossible ambiguity of “fairness”.

        I will be happy to agree that if moderate means believing that the best choice is always the choice with the least conflict, or the choice averaging views – then neither I nor any libertarian is moderate – though I would suggest you fail the same test as your views almost never are the middle between the left and right.

        The fact that I am not prepared to dictate to someone else what absolute truth is, does not mean nothing is demonstrably or objectively correct

        We fixate on fiscal issues here, but they are the easiest to test.
        We can fight over Keynes vs. Hayek – but there is no credible school of economics that believes permanent large deficits are sustainable.

        Keynes insisted that deficits during the bust had to be balanced by surpluses during the boom. Does that in anyway resemble the fiscal irresponsibility we engage in today ?

        And even Keynes rejected the notion that all spending is equally stimulative, eventually concluding that both the type and timing of government stimulus in response to a downturn needed to be correct – again, far from modern political keynesianism.


      • January 9, 2012 5:41 pm

        There is an obvious fallacy hiding somewhere in your definition of moderate.

        You have assumed that in all conflicts the best choice is the one that splits the difference. This can not possibly survive “reductio ad absurdum”.

        Ultimately you are compelled to make judgements based on some system of values. Whatever value system you adopt, on many decisions one pole or the other rather than the middle must be correct – by your own values.

  33. January 6, 2012 9:13 pm


    “Why is Romney more dangerous than Obama ?”

    Barring a miracle in 2012 republicans will significantly strengthen their hold on congress.

    If Romney is president a single party will control the federal government.
    Personally I find little to distinguish Romney from Obama.
    I will agree that his rhetoric in this cycle has been targeted at fiscal and social conservatives, but that does not make him either.

    When Bush was first elected he ran on a fairly fiscally conservative platform. Though the 2000 election did not give him a mandate, it still left him with campaign promises to atleast pay lip service to. Not only did Pres. Bush not attempt any measure that returned to individuals responsibility for their own lives and wealth, but instead he enacted the largest new social welfare program since Medicare. At the market level he enacted Sarbanes-Oxley. The left claims our financial disaster was the result of deregulation when the demise of the last insignificant vestige of glass-steagal was meaningless and inarguably unrelated to the actual crisis. Sarb-Ox on the other hand was a huge step in the direction of far greater regulation, rather than less. The argument that the Bush administration was pro-market or pro-liberty is lunatic. What little difference there is between Bush and Obama is almost entirely a matter of scale.

    Whatever Bush was I think he is truly inarguably more conservative than Romney.

    It is also likely that absent a common enemy in the whitehouse the influence of the fiscal conservatives and the Tea Party on the Republican party wil wane after the election. If for no other reason than that a statist and activist Republican president will be able to count on sufficient statist activist democratic votes to get precisely the same types of legislation as Bush and Obama fostered passed.

    I strongly suspect that APACA will be repealed as a matter of politics, but a wholely republican federal government – but that does not mean that reform advancing freedom in healthcare will be enacted. The fact that Romney beleives he can credibly distinguish between APACA and what he put through himself in Massachusetts does not mean that president Romney would pass something substantively different.

    Ultimately I suspect Romney would take smaller steps towards greater federal government power than Obama would, but President Romney would succeed in passing those. The fight between Democrats and Republicans in a Romney administration would be over how much compromise with eager democrats Romney and the rest of the republican party would have to make to neutralize fiscal conservatives.

    I have no doubt that a President Romney would sound fiscally conservative – Pres. Bush sounded incredibly fiscally conservative, that did not mean he was.
    I have listened to much of What Romney has been preaching more recently – and I have to admit I like some of what he says. But that does not mean that I beleive him, or I think he means it.

    I do overall think that he is a decent person, and I think he beleives he will be a good president, I feel the same About Barack Obama, but neither are/will be decent presidents.

    Conversely if Pres. Obama is re-elected and the GOP retains control of congress, it is likely that the conditions of the past two years will continue – accept that the Republicans will be stronger. They will have greater power to push for real spending cuts, they will remain in opposition to democrats and therefore the fiscal conservatives will remain in control. It is even possible that Pres. Obama will discover his inner Bill Clinton, and seeking a real legacy will take the only one possible and actually work with congressional republicans towards rational reductions in spending.

  34. Priscilla permalink
    January 7, 2012 12:09 am

    Well, I hope you are right, Dave, although Obama’s recent declaration that he will accomplish through executive order and regulatory agency fiat what he cannot pass through Congress does not encourage me. The NLRB has already been successful in increasing big union power, and the EPA is working to shut down power plants nationwide. And, do you honestly believe that he would not veto a repeal of Obamacare (or that the GOP would have the votes to override)?

    And it would be great if Obama were to find his inner Bill Clinton, but I think it is far more likely that he will continue to thumb his nose at bipartisanship. And he won’t owe anything to libertarians, the way Romney would, if he were to be elected via a coalition of tea party types, moderates and conservatives. But you never know, I guess…….

    • January 9, 2012 10:39 am

      I doubt that Obama is capable of the kind of political shift Clinton managed. But I am willing to be surprised.

      Ultimately congress controls the purse strings.

      I am not sure that efforts to accomplish through executive order what can not be done legislatively will not ultimately be more harmful to his agenda.

      One of the facets of free markets people fail to grasp is that they force us to place prices on our values. It is unlikely congress will be able to find the votes necessary to override a presidential veto, it is probable that I republican congress will not even be filibuster proof.

      Directly repealing APACA or reigning in the EPA or …. may be impossible directly. At the same time the president will not be able to unilaterally obtain the finding for everything he has or claims the authority to do.

      Money forces us to discipline ourselves. To rank our values. To decide what matters and what does not. It forces us to make the tough but important choices. Each of us must do that in our own lives. Like it or not government must too.

      Many of us would like to see a full trillion dollars removed from the federal budget in 2013. That would be a giant step towards balancing it.

      But ultimately even reducing budget increases to the rate of inflation or economic growth would leave the president with the authority to do far more than he could afford, and compelled to make the same tough choices all of us make everyday.

      Imagine how the debt ceiling conflict this past summer would have gone with a republican majority in the Senate.

      Despite this blogs distaste for political conflict, our history is filled with political conflict. Our worst mistakes have been made when one party controlled the entire government. We have generally had the best government when it was divided.

      In libertopia we would be scaling government back as rapidly as could be done without great pain. But I do not ever expect to see any significant decline in government power – yet still I am an optimist.

      In the real world, I think the benefits to this country of divided government would be enormous – gridlock alone would insure economic recovery.

  35. Ian CSE permalink
    January 8, 2012 11:28 am

    The whole left right scale is a bad idea in the first place, it only works because we agree to call the issues that liberals favor left and the conservative issues right and those issues do not hang together they are a historical accident based on parties putting together voting blocks to get elected. So, the middle only exists as something in between two ideals that are only historical accidents. I call myself moderate because I strongly disagree with most of the actions of both parties and try to take every issue on its own merits. Libertarians just don’t fit on that scale at all, they agree with Bernie Sanders extreme camp on some social issues and defense spending and agree with the Santorium extreme camp on government spending and size. Its not any kind of middle, its just its own thing! Its certainly not moderate because all the typical Libertarian views are at the extremes.

    • January 9, 2012 10:10 am

      There are two problems with the left right scale:

      First is that it is one dimensional and politic orientation is multi-dimensional.

      My most important value is individual liberty. That value has only the weakest correlation to the left right scale. essentially it is a different measure intersecting rather than paralleling the left right axis. There is a comedian that jokes – way over on the extreme right are your libertarians, and way over here on your extreme left are the libertarians. So long as you are unwilling to sacrifice freedom for other ends you can be libertarian and fall most anywhere on the left right scale. Libertarians find more common ground with conservatives – not because of ideology, but because conservatives are less often threatening to use government power at the expense of freedom – while liberals typically see no other means to accomplish their desires.

      The other issue which impacts the self identification of this blog as Moderate, is that peoples views do not fit neatly onto a one of two dimensional coordinate system.

      People are complex – we are each a minority of one. Though many of us have views that are contradictory, what is more true is that polls do not accurately measure our views.

      It is frequently possible for to find an overwhelming majority of us in favour of some broad issue, or principle, but find similar majorities completely at odds with the political formulated solutions. The failing is not with the common man, with the perception that consensus on a problem is consensus on a solution.

      One of Rick’s core issues is the corrupting influence of corporations on politics. To a substantial extent I concur. Though he has explorer numerous different creative solutions to the problem, all involve greater government power and infringement on individual rights.
      Like many it appears obvious that more government is the answer – whatever the problem is.

      I concur with Rick that corporations corrupt politics, and that it is a problem. But we are at loggerheads over solutions.

      My point is that broad agreement on a problem is rarely a mandate for a specific solution – and often not even a mandate for any solution.


      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 9, 2012 10:39 am

        I think i agree with almost all you wrote at 10:10. Describing problems is always much easier than solutions, see Karl Marx!

        I truly agree with you that government is too large and growing, I fear that. But I also fear an entire long list of things, most of which you don’t fear. Its another reason why I think I’m a moderate, I fear many of the things the left fears and I fear many of the things the right fears. Going from fear to solution is the hard part and I’m fearful that there are no workable solutions, just a whole series of human and environmental systems that are unsustainable and driven by huge impersonal forces.

        You could not call me an optimist and I cannot adapt a philosophy or political worldview just because it is optimistic,that is just kidding oneself in my opinion.

        I highly doubt that the US government will become smaller in the future just as I doubt that our descendants millions of years in the future will lack backbones, evolution does not reverse itself.

      • January 9, 2012 1:11 pm

        I have mentioned before that there are many things I am afraid of too.
        Though my fears are mitigated by the fact that ultimately things I feel certain things will get better.

        My Optimism and libertarianism are intrinsically interrelated.

        Seeing the world for what it is, not through the lens of fears of destruction, poverty and scarcity that are increasingly less reasonable, makes it easier to trust that left alone humans will get things right on their own.

        Whatever fears I might have of the rich or corporations, I can find no instance in all of history materialising those fears. The power and danger lies with government, not wealth. No rich person or corporation has even been able to take away my liberty – or anything else, but government can.

        Ultimately we are going to move towards less government – because more is unsustainable, because we have reached or are near that inflection point. The only question is how close to failure we have to get before changing directions. The longer we continue in the wrong direction the more painful the correction will be.

        You hold a dimmer view of people than I do. Still I would ask you even accepting the dark view of humanity that you hold, how do you reconcile that with the far better world we live in today ? Even if you do not adopt my views of the underlying causes, it is ludicrous to argue that humanity is not far better off than it was 300 years ago. Even if I am totally wrong about the causes, even if we do not know why, what reason is their to presume that whatever human characteristic drove that improvement will end ?

        As you noted future humans will likely have backbones. Whatever has caused us to thrive will continue to be evolutionarily favoured.

        The critical question is not whether humanity has and will continue to improve. But whether the relatively sudden increase in individual liberty is the underlying cause.

  36. Ian CSE permalink
    January 8, 2012 11:40 am

    To answer Jen, thanks for understanding that I’m not trying to attack you. If fact in my post that seemed to be aimed at you specifically I meant the word “you” in the general sense, you could replace it with “one”; If one does not get involved then one can consider themself blameless.

    I understand the basic point that the situation with debt and government size has become so out of control that the necessary response to it seems not to be moderate in the sense of mild. Much stronger actions are needed if we are ever to reverse these trends. But the flip side is that moderates do understand the problem and when the politicians, like Paul or Perry, who make these concerns their campaign centerpiece are so completely flawed, it only serves to marginalize the problem. Many people will associate these issues with wackos, because so many of the people who identify with these valid issues do also appear to have associations with other pretty extreme views.

    Is it a case of the adage that “there is no such thing as bad publicity”? I doubt it, I think the Paul/tea party has probably raised the issue strongly and then done it harm with most voters.

    • January 9, 2012 11:12 am

      It is a false perception that libertarians are all about fiscal restraint. Arguments often devolve to that. Our best argument is that freedom and prosperity coincide. We are getting more attention than we normally do because it is patently obvious to most that spendthrift whether republican or democratic has failed. Most everyone grasps – regardless of their specific views that government failure is at the root of the current mess, and that spendthrift stimulus is not going to work. Even Mitt Romney is parroting Austrian economics – regardless of what he actually believes.

      Our economic thought has gained recent prominence because the alternatives have failed.

      But the economics is secondary to individual liberty.

      Statist economic fails because it does not respect freedom. Humans complexity can not be accommodated without broad freedom. Absent sufficient freedom human productivity declines.

      Circumstances are not so complex as to require balance – they are so complex that no top-down directed solution can possibly work.

    • January 9, 2012 11:40 am

      The world did not come to an end because Barack Obama was elected president, nor would this nation collapse or even diminish, if Ron Paul were somehow miraculously elected.

      Regardless of who is president and who runs congress, there are serious limits to what can be accomplished.

      I have not heard Paul talk about what he would do as president in some time, but at atleast one instance in the past, he has explained at great length that within the constraints of the constitution there is no presidential power to impose a libertarian government on the nation. The president absent congressional consent and authority can not just end social security, Medicare, welfare. He can not even eliminate public funding for NPR. The president is constitutionally obligated to enforce the laws that exist – whether he likes them or even whether he personally believes they are constitutional.

      The greatest area of autonomy that a president enjoys is the ability to start a military conflict with other nations. Does anyone really beleive Ron Paul is more likely to get us into more wars and military conflicts than any other candidate from either party ?

      The differences between not just the most extreme candidates that we have, but even the most extreme candidates we could possibly have are not all that great.

      The primary issues distinguishing each of the potential candidates from each other are:

      To what extent will each increase the regulations that are an enormous economic burden on this country. Regardless of the rhetoric, not even Paul can end the FDA, Homeland Security, Department of Education, or Department of Energy. He can not de-fund them or even prohibit them from enforcing existing regulations – atleast without congressional support.

      to what extent will each work towards more or less spending. Almost nothing can actually be changed without the consent of congress. Even Ron Paul is just not going to pass a budget cutting federal spending by $1T. He would be lucky to succeed in freezing it where it is at.

      I have used Paul as an example, but it is equally true of Perry, Huntsman, Romney, Obama.

      Whether the objective is to increase or decrease the role of government, the unilateral authority of the president is inconsequential.

      Just as neither Bush nor Obama could have accomplished their socialist lite measures without the cooperation of congress, neither could our next president move in the opposite direction.

      Ultimately the difference between each of these candidates will not be in the broad strokes, but in the minor alterations to what we have now that they can accomplish.
      At one the extreme Ron Paul might be able to reduce actual federal spending by a minuscule amount below where it is right now. He might be able to significantly impede the creation of new regulations. At the other, while I suspect that Pres. Romney will result in greater spending than the re-election of Pres. Obama, no candidate is going to increase spending more than a few percent above the baseline. Nor is any candidate going to increase our regulatory burden absent congress authorising the money to do so.

      This election is not about specific policies. It is not about big changes. But it is about what direction we wish to head.

  37. January 9, 2012 12:18 pm

    There is no connection between libertarianism and the Tea Party. Michelle Bachman now withdrawn is more representative of the uneasy mix of social conservatism and limited government that epitomises the Tea Party, than Ron Paul.

    Libertarians may welcome the Tea Party as a step in the right direction, and appreciate their support for candidates closer to libertarian principles, but the Tea Party and libertarians diverge on many issues. Further the Tea Party mostly limits itself to small government and immigration issues – the latter of which it gets entirely wrong, libertarians are about freedom, smaller government is a means to that, not an end.

    Liberty is the philosophy that results in our views on government and economics – not the other way around. When libertarians and conservatives share common ground on issues, the underlying philosophical connection is weak or non-existent. Liberals often do a far better job of paying lip service to freedom, but ultimately in the choices of means and ends, they are willing to sacrifice liberty for unattainable objectives and statist means.

    Of current candidates the Tea Party is likely to have a stronger affinity to Perry than Paul.

  38. January 9, 2012 1:32 pm

    “Liberals and conservatives both believe the government should force peaceful people, at gunpoint if necessary, to live the way they think they should. Libertarians are against this.”

  39. January 9, 2012 5:45 pm

    I have noticed that Ron Paul is going after Santorum fairly agressively.
    For reference my views on Santorum were formed when he was my State Senator.
    Paul is giving me even more reason to dislike him – but I had plenty without Paul’s help.

  40. January 9, 2012 9:30 pm

  41. Anonymous permalink
    January 9, 2012 10:16 pm

    On Crony Capitalism. Maybe if someone else says it, ….

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 10, 2012 7:01 pm

      Excerpt: “The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has focused a lot of attention on private wealth creation through the exercise of government power — what we might more familiarly call “crony capitalism.”

      Is there another kind of Capitalism in the US?

      The most successful corporations are giving kickbacks to government… uhh … lobbying.

      A smaller government means just a government that is controlled by a few “contributors” to a “meaningful small government”- Oil and Defense.

      • January 10, 2012 10:06 pm

        Crony Capitalism is endemic throughout the developed would. It is not Free Market.

        But it is a direct result of the scale of government. Rent seekers and other corporate parasites seek to bend government power to their own interests. A government with less power is less attractive.

        Have none of you ever asked why the insurance companies wanted Obama care ?

        Why almost always contrary to leftist expectations big business supports government regulation. From a corporate perspective regulation is a cost to consumers with negligible or even positive effects on profits. The value is that it creates barriers to entry – it protects dinosaurs from the encroachment of smaller carnivores.

        If government is smaller, at the barest minimum the rest of the marketplace – the unprotected arena of unbridled competition is at the very least larger in proportion – there is less sanctuary.

        Do you grasp that a government that is 45-50% of the economy, means that 45-50% of the private economy serves government, not consumers.

        Have you ever even thought about the fact that pro-regulation statist democrats get far more big corporate political donations than even moderates of either party ? That the largest corporate political donors live off the government ?

        Crony capitolists feed on the power of government, there is only one way to kill of reform them, and that is to starve them of the power they feed on until they die or join the free market.

        You are specifically worried about an oligarchy of oil and defense companies.

        Where are these small governments that stay out of the economy that are ruled by oil companies, defense contractors, or any other large and powerful corporations ?

        The corporate oligarchy you fear can not exist absent powerful government.

        The oligarchy of arms is best exemplified by the Germany of Bismark and Hitler – Not Hong Kong, or Singapore or whatever small government state you chose.

        It is debate-able whether oil companies serve tyrants or tyrants serve oil companies, or just that statist tyrants have consumed the oil companies in the mid-east. Regardless these are not examples of weak, free market governments only focused on the rule of law.

        There are multiple factors that determine the extent of corruption and an incestuous relationship between government and business, but one of the most significant and robust particularly in developed nations is the scale of government.

        You can create whatever rules you wish to reign in corporatism – so long as government remains powerful, a way will be found for big corporations to symbiotically entwine themselves with government.

  42. January 9, 2012 10:53 pm

    The Seen and the Unseen.

    In 2003 9% of the directors of Norwegian corporations were women. Norway passed laws that Norwegian corporations had to have boards of directors with atleast 40% women.

    Immediately the stock prices of Norwegian companies plummeted – and they have remained depressed since then. The resultant less experienced boards became more leveraged, and their operating performance deteriorated.

    Stock prices are values assigned by investors to corporations. Though they are not perfectly set by the market – the market still does an excellent job of getting them right.

    Norway chose to change the composition of corporate boards – in doing so the market decided that change devalued those companies, and the subsequent performance proved the market correct.

    Myriads here, at OWS and elsewhere complain about the compensation of board members, directors, etc. in both the business that were bailed out as well as those that were not.

    Atleast on the surface I can agree that I do not see how one director or CEO is worth Millions and another a few hundred thousand. But when directors and CEO’s make less than perfect choices their company suffers – stockholders lose value, productivity declines and people lose jobs, or people who would have been hired are not.

    Big business can be far more efficient that smaller business, but it is also far more vulnerable to harm from bad decisions. The larger a business grows the greater the consequences of even the most inconsequential decisions of its management.
    Few businesses survive 25 years. Destruction is inherent in free markets, successfully treading water in a tank full of sharks is a life saving skill.

    Milton Friedman is famous for noting repeatedly that private meritless discrimination of whatever form is self correcting. If we discriminate against one group based on anything other than their contribution to the business, we create the opportunity for a competitor to profit by serving that minority – whether the group is employees, or customers.

    The self-interest the left chooses to call greed is antithetical to most every other vice the left abhors. Self-interest and poor business choices can not co-exist, and discrimination is a poor business choice.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 10, 2012 7:10 pm

      Stock prices fail and raised at Greenspan farting… now is somebody else… whatshisname.

      Maybe stock prices had fallen so it can be bought cheaper by better companies.

      • Anonymous permalink
        January 10, 2012 9:41 pm


        These were not US Stock Prices, these were the prices of Norwegian companies, in Norway, on Norwegian stock exchanges. The analysis about comes from a Norwegian economic article that went to a great deal of trouble to confirm for robustness against things like Greenspan farting.

        This was not a decline in weak Norwegian companies that were then bought out by strong ones. It was a decline in the value and productivity of ALL Norwegian companies, the drop occured immediately after the adoption of this policy, and has persisted right to this day. It is not a bernanke fart, and it substantially preceded and is independent of the current worldwide economic malaise.

        When everyone’s price is declining who are the better companies ?

  43. January 9, 2012 11:54 pm

    Ron Paul’s positions on everything are nuts, and have been for years.
    I mean the guy has it out for the Federal Reserve.
    He actually wanted to audit them !
    And with the GOP in control of the House ultimately got atleast a peek behond the curtain.
    And here is what we found.

  44. January 11, 2012 12:07 pm

    The results from New Hampshire are in.

    For those who still think Libertarian and moderate are in congruent.
    “independents” in New Hampshire were the largest group of voters – 47%.
    Of independents Paul received 32% of their votes, Romney 27%.

    Inarguably Libertarians are more likely to vote republican.

    To the extent that we are still using the one dimensional left-right ideological map,
    Libertarians are the right side of the political center.

    According to a Jan 10 CBS poll Ron Paul loses to President Obama in a head to head election by 1 point.

    I think it is highly unlikely that Ron Paul will be the Republican candidate, And he has recently formally taken running as a libertarian off the table.

    Nor is Ron Paul some perfect libertarian candidate.
    I also strongly suspect that Paul would lose far more decisively in a real election against Pres. Obama.

    But all those caveats aside, Paul is clearly establishing that libertarian ideas are palletable to a substantial portion of the electorate.

    New Hampshire likes to identify itself as a bell-weather state. It leans republican in national elections, but is balanced otherwise. However New Hampshire Republicans are described by most of the rest of the country as “moderates”.

    Paul’s low numbers nationwide are over 12%. It has been projected that he could take atleast 6% of the vote running as a libertarian – most of that vote would come from independents – those between Republicans and Democrats.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 11, 2012 12:23 pm

      Hi Dhlii,

      Independents and moderates are not one and the same thing at all. Some moderates are independents, some independents are moderates. Independent means not affiliated with any party. If they were voting in the (open I know) republican primary it means they were mostly GOP leaning independents.

      Ironically, it seems to you will vote for Obama and I will vote for Romney!

      That may have been too much to take for some other posters, I hope they did not take to drink.

  45. Ian CSE permalink
    January 23, 2012 5:07 pm

    How well you love something can only be determined by putting that love in conflict with something else you love and seeing which love comes out on top. I am sure the that you dhlii, other libertarians, and CEOs of all kinds all will proclaim your intense and truly touching love of nature and the environment, right up until the moment that love comes into conflict with something you love even more, such as the rights of an individual in your case, or profits in the case of a CEO.

    It is not necessary that people be evil to engage in environmentally destructive practices, just human and able to rationalize, which includes me. Corporations, industries, even farmers, as a group have all engaged in enormously destructive practices and have all rationalized it away under the heading of being necessary due to competition in a “free” market, just as I rationalize eating ham sandwiches although I believe that pigs are intelligent animals who are brutally slaughtered. I don’t chose to eat that tofu, I chose to eat ham and violate my own principles. As we all do. Which is why, in the case of the environment, government had to step in to stop direct discharges of industrial wastes in water bodies and unlined landfills. As long as there were no regs to forbid it, each factory owner could not make his enterprise uncompetitive in the market with other similar enterprises by doing a more expensive but environmentally sound job of waste disposal. Only Govt regs can level such a situation and create industry wide incentives not to pollute. The free market failed to protect the environment, it was another of the many races to the bottom the market mandates.

    Other absurd arguments you make that are easily knocked down:

    Dhlii: I can’t find evidence that our water is less polluted now than it was in the bad old days.

    Me, So, we stopped dumping industrial wastes and pesticides into our water bodies and ground water, and this had no effect on water quality? Please, if you can’t find evidence its because you don’t want to.

    Dhlii; Government as a whole is the largest generator of pollution,

    Me: Since government makes up 45% more or less of our economic pie, needless to say it is the largest single source of of pollution by economic sector, how could it be otherwise? Not all “pollution” is created equal, however, the truly toxic nasties are not what government makes, other than perhaps a moderate quantity of radioactive wastes from some of the National Physics labs, Los Almos, etc. No, the really toxic wastes are the result of private manufacturing, mining, and even food production.

    Dhlii: Whatever benefit there is from government regs on pollution is barely above the random level, government is still a failure.

    Me: Again, industries, businesses, mining ,and farmers did serious damage damage to the environment until the good old US govt stepped in and regulated waste disposal and other practices. Its a win for government and a black eye for the free market. There is no other way to describe that one.

    Dhlii: Something or other about Hamarabi

    Me: Nice attempt at a George Will impression. Work in something irrelevant about the Duke of Wellington next time and it will be an even better impression of that pompous conservative horses ass, Will.

    Dhlii: if you want to control environmental damage, we don’t need govt regs, just sue if you are affected. That’s what Libertarians would do.

    Me: Under what basis would I sue and where would I sue? Oh, yeah, the basis is the violation of environmental laws and regs and the place is US or State courts. And when the Ohio River is on fire or the great lakes are biologically dead, who do I sue, and how am I a party?

    Your idea as stated is absurd and evasive. However the Superfund legislation was created to put some teeth into the idea of suing on behalf of the people of the US and with triple damages, damned if companies did not find ways to eliminate their destructive practices.

    So, despite the fact that you, like every other educated person, have a Huge Respect for the Environment and don’t believe its a good thing to harm it, that did not stop you from selling a philosophy that is a giant smokescreen for people who would and have done tremendous damage. Which sure pisses me off at you and your %$#&@ Libertarian philosophy!


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