A Good Man is Hard to Find

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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210 Responses

  1. Avatar North says:

    I suppose he wouldn’t be too bad. I mean he couldn’t really screw around with the Fed or Treasury much as long as Congress and the Senate were not drunk or insane so there wouldn’t be too much danger of his goldbuggery causing very much damage there. If in some wacky insane world he got the nod I’d actually consider giving him my vote for if for nothing more than novelty alone. Then again he’s somewhat culturally conservative. It’d probably depend on what state congress and the Senate looked like they’d be in. I wouldn’t trust him with a GOP congressional and Senate majority. That’s for sure.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to North says:

      He’s personally culturally conservative, but politically, he’s culturally liberal.Report

      • Yes, I’m aware of that. But were he heading a government that the GOP was running in congress I wouldn’t trust him to put the political over the personal if they delivered some culture war bill up to him.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to North says:

          Why not? I think Paul would very consistently place political over personal, though this would mean he would leave things like abortion and drugs up to the states.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Because some things are too important to me to trust to politicians, even politicians like Ron Paul, if I have any choice in the matter. Culture War legislation doesn’t just offend my principles; in many cases (particularly some of the GOP’s pet cases) such legislation could well be landing with both feet on my personal well being and that of the man I love more than any other in the world. If I had the magical vote of difference and the GOP looked set to control both the Senate and the House I could not in rational conscience hand the Presidency over to Ron Paul. I’d elect for divided government in a heartbeat. Democrats are unreliable advocates on these matters but they at least have reason to listen to my side. I couldn’t risk that Ron Paul wouldn’t trade something he politically opposes (and personally supports) for something he supported both politically and personally.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            But, let it be clear, if the Dems were on course to win one or both parts of Congress I’d very likely support Ron Paul over a paint by the numbers Dem candidate.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

          Did this happen between 2004-2006?Report

          • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

            He was not the last hope of a veto for something that could ruin my life in 2004-2006 Jaybird.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

              I did some quick mental calculations and I’m not really seeing a whole lot of difference on this one issue between the two last hopes, here.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m not sure how to read that. One reading is he’d be the same as his GOP predecessors in which case I’d say exactly.
                The other reading is that you think he’d not, as President, even consider trading one Libertarian (culture war issue) principle that he personally doesn’t like to his own party in exchange for a Libertarian principle he does personally like. If so then I’d ask that you check your math and keep in mind that for me personally I’d need significantly better than even odds.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to North says:

                If your calculus is, “If anybody on the Right is President, and the GOP holds the House and the Senate, then scary things might happen” then this logic applies to the entire field of GOP candidates.

                If Ron Paul represents an outlier, that’s fine, but iff’n you ask me he’s most outlier on the things that the rest of the GOP would burst into flames over, not the other way around.

                In other words, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the White House. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, the President basically has three jobs: veto stuff, nominate judges, and direct war. In one of those categories, I see him as being a big win over most candidates of either party, really. In a second, he’d be equivalent. And the third he’d probably be about as good or bad as anybody else.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                No, my calculus is that Pres. Ron Paul would be sorely tempted to compromise on Libertarian issues that he doesn’t personally embrace in exchange for getting a whack at Libertarian issues that he does personally embrace. For instance throwing gays under the bus in exchange for getting a whack at say, the Fed or the NEA or any of the other myriad things that Libertarians hate and that culture warriors either hate as well or are indifferent to.

                As a gay man myself in a long term relationship with a great desire to stay in the country I really wouldn’t be able to vote him into power if I thought there was big odds of such a thing happening. I’m personally a neo liberal, remember, not a libertarian and in this scenario I have the deciding swing vote.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to North says:

                In fairness, Obama hasn’t exactly been great on gay rights issues….Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North says:

                End of DADT, no longer defending DOMA, etc. No, he isn’t Gavin Newsom. But, he’s far more gay-friendly than the last Democratic President. JFK wasn’t ‘great’ on civil rights either. LBJ was much better.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North says:

                If by that you mean he hasn’t been passionate firey advocate for gay rights then yes but just recently he helped kill DADT stone dead and has generally been on the side of the angels on gay issues in general. A year ago gay voters seriously considered revolting but Obama’s nailed down that group quite well. I’d say his performance in that area is a B+ or better.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to North says:

                So that’s true…but what are you afraid Ron Paul would do?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North says:

                E.D. my fear would be merely that he’d lay down for the culture warriors in the GOP dominated Congress/Senate as a trade for co-operation on a libertarian item he passionately cares for. I’ve thrown out a couple examples so far.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

                When it comes to the use of the veto pen, I cannot see Ron Paul being worse than Hurricane W Hitlerburton.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

                In order to be worse wouldn’t he have to somehow invent a negative veto?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North says:

                Well of course, but we’re talking about voting for Ron Paul here and in this scenario my choice is between Ron and some mushy uninspiring Dem candidate. I’m simply saying that if Ron’d have some Dems somewhere legislative to slow things down I’d (a liberal) seriously consider voting for him.

                If congress was all GOP… well I can see them rolling up to him and saying “Look Ron, we’ve got us some nice social legislation to nail it to the homos. If you let this one through then we’ll let you… say… abolish the department of Education [or vice versa: we’ll let you abolish the Dep of Ed if you promise not to veto our gay bashing bill].
                I simply lack the faith in the man to believe he’d refuse such an offer.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to North says:

                Oh and for the record I think rather well of Ron Paul. But were I him, in such a tradeoff situation I described I don’t honestly believe he’d consider it a bad deal.Report

  2. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Simple answers to simple questions. They ignore him because he has no real constituency outside of the 10-15% of the Republican party who will vote for him in every primary?

    And yes, he’s great on the War of Drugs and national security. Guess what, with Dennis Kucinich, you get the same deal, without being f’ing crazy on economics.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Despite what I’m already guessing others are going to say about him being nutty, I’m going to say he has the unenviable position, media-wise, of:

    a. Having positions that are far outside his party’s core platform, and

    b. *not* coming off as being frothing at the mouth nutty.

    I think in order to get press you have to have one or the other. Having “a” allows the press to treat you as a serious contender (even when you’re not) because you look like what a Republican (or Democrat) is supposed to look like on TV.

    Having “b” makes you great tv. If Paul were to start saying anti-semmetic remark just for the sake of controversy like a Buchanan might, or chase “concern” issues but double and triple down on the hysteria to differentiate yourself, like Gingrich has done with Muslims, you are cable news gold.

    Paul doesn’t really fit into any of these molds. Even when he says things I think are a little out there, he does so calmly, rationally, and respectfully. That doesn’t play well on FOX *or* MSNBC.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The thing is, Paul *is* frothing-at-the-mouth nutty, but nobody in the media understands what advocating a gold standard means so he doesn’t get any mileage out of it. And while he’s critical of evolution, he doesn’t do it in the adorable telegenic “JESUS LIZARDS” way, so that doesn’t get him any play either.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to DensityDuck says:

        There are real, concrete, economically solid reasons to have a gold standard, by the way, they just lose out to the real, concrete, economically solid reasons to not have a gold standard. Don’t fall into the Krugman trap of thinking economics is cut and dried. Macroeconomics has more in common with haruspicy than chemistry.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Paul’s plan for the military is to cut the Army’s mission back to guarding the Mexican border (with shoot-to-kill authorization), equip the Coast Guard with torpedoes, drop the Navy and Marines entirely, and cut the Air Force back to Strategic Command (also giving them the nuclear-missile submarines).

    In other words, his world strategic posture will be “stay the fuck out of America and if you get uppity we nuke you”.Report

  5. Avatar Art Deco says:

    One reason the bipartisan establishment finds Paul so obnoxious is how much the past four years have proven him correct

    That’s not the reason.Report

  6. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    If only Ron Paul were younger and good looking in that politically boring way (Marco Rubio/Eric Cantor/Paul Ryan) the media would be taking him seriously.

    Look how serious they take the completely unserious Sarah Palin and ridiculous Michelle Bachman. Interrogate either of these two beyond their fictional realities and superficial policy talking points and they’d be laughed off the national stage. Yet they linger on because they sound nice and are easy on the eyes.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to E.C. Gach says:

      Personally, I wish Rand Paul had not fallen quite so far from the tree. He’s good on some issues, but not nearly so consistent as his father. I don’t think he has quite the philosophical underpinnings as Paul the Senior. But he’s younger, and good looking.Report

      • “I’ll work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.”

        Right on, President Perry.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          You realize he’s lying, right?Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          He’s certainly worked to make the Board of Pardons and Paroles in Austin as inconsequential as he can.Report

          • Unfactual again, Mr. Schilling.

            “Under Texas law, the governor is not permitted to grant pardon or parole, or to commute a death penalty sentence to life imprisonment, on his own initiative (the law was changed after former Governor James E. Ferguson was charged with selling pardons for political contributions). Instead, the Board of Pardons and Paroles will recommend to the governor whether or not to grant such. If the Board recommends such, the governor is free to reject the recommendation, but if the Board chooses not to recommend such, in the case of a death penalty sentence the governor can only grant a one-time, 30-day reprieve.
            In 2005, Frances Newton’s appeal for a commutation of her death penalty was declined. Her attorney had argued Newton was incapable of standing trial. The Board of Pardon and Parole did not recommend a commutation, and Perry did not grant the one-time reprieve. Newton was executed on September 14, 2005.
            In 1990, Tyrone Brown was sentenced to life in a Texas maximum security prison for smoking marijuana while on probation. Texas Judge Keith Dean had originally placed Brown on probation, but changed the sentence after Brown tested positive for marijuana. After being defeated in the last Dallas election, Dean requested the governor pardon Brown. On March 9, 2007, Perry granted Brown a conditional pardon after receiving a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.[108]”Report

            • You should cite this. This was a quality find.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Yes, the Board rarely if ever recommends pardons. Who appoints its members?

              Oh yeah, him.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                The Forensic Science Commission too:

                The Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to discuss the report by Beyler [arguing that there was no evidence of arson in the Willingham case] at a meeting on October 2, 2009, but two days before the meeting Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chair of the commission and two other members. The new chair canceled the meetingReport

              • If you’re going to front for partisan slime, at least get the talking points straight.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That is, you completely misunderstood what I was saying. Not the first time, either.Report

              • I understand you all too well, sir.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Which is why you “contradict” me with an irrelevant talking point? It’s not news that the governor of Texas can’t grant pardons directly; anyone who’s paying attention knew that long ago. He does appoint people to the Board, and their current status as rubber stamp can be laid directly at his doorstep.

                But you’re going to respond to these facts with more name-calling.Report

              • Didn’t call you a name, altho several come to mind, Mr. Schilling. Basically, you’re repeating partisan talking points but screwing them up. Of course we take your word as a gentleman that you were aware of how the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles functions, and of course everybody knew except for poor Mr. Kelly.

                Fact is, there’s no evidence either Gov’s Bush or Perry had their hands in the Board’s deliberations, and on the whole, simply approved their recommendations rather than pore through the trial records and relitigate the facts.

                And as the above account indicates, they weren’t free to grant clemency even if they did. Pls, sir, do some homework on your own before parroting. The worst they have on Perry to date is that he scotched what was probably a partisan attack on him via the review board, since the man was tried by a jury of his peers and executed.

                [I’m not a fan of capital punishment, BTW; I lean against it. I just don’t like slime.]Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Sure, Tom, the fact that I didn’t parrot talking points proves that I got them wrong. Of course it does.

                The fact that you presented well-known fact as a brand-new discovery proves that you really did discover them. Of course you did.

                The fact that you call discussion of genuine expert testimony a “partisan attack” while defending the result of a trial based on ignorant hokum proves that you’re an unbiased observer. Of course it does.

                Now, the fact that you don’t think a board whose purpose is to study forensic science has any business doing so? I don;t know what that proves.Report

        • Avatar Steven Donegal in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          How inconsequential has he made Austin in the lives of Texans? Not so much from what I read.Report

      • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        Agreed. also, Rand is just a bit to arrogant and self-loving (or at least appears to be when ever he’s on camera).Report

  7. Avatar James Cameron says:

    I don’t know, Ron Paul has the racist newsletter and John Birch society craziness. They’re just issues that inspire contempt instead of laughter.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer in reply to James Cameron says:

      Another diversion and smear. Anyone who has followed Paul knows he’s not a racist — and his policy proposals are not damaging to minorities as the progressive/statist policies have been. The unemployment rate among blacks in real terms might be up to 30% — now, I can have contempt for that.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to MFarmer says:

        I’ll stipulate that Paul himself is not a racist, but it’s not a smear to mention the newsletters. Either Paul or someone associated with him thought that racist garbage would be helpful in attracting an audience and contributions, and you know what? They were right.Report

      • Avatar James Cameron in reply to MFarmer says:

        See, now this is what I mean. I’ve done no deep exploration into the issue, I just know that it is one, and by mentioning it I’ve provoked a rather dismissive response, which does not bode well for an average person’s charitably for an argument. The point I’m making concerns media savvy and control over ones personal narrative, things which Ron Paul lacks. No one really engages in rational debates in a democracy, it’s far to time consuming and tedious (not that I condone ignorance, of course).Report

  8. Avatar Anderson says:

    I’ve never been terribly enamored with Ron Paul; he gets credit for ripping on everybody else without having to defend the consequences of his own positions. For one, he’s not a “social liberal.” Check out his recent pro-life pandering in Iowa, anti-immigrant stances, and his non-existent support of “church and state separation.” Even on gay marriage, he doesn’t support the *federal* government banning it; that doesn’t mean he supports it himself. He’s a strong social conservative who stands out because he despises the U.S. government with the fury of a thousand suns. As for Paul “being right about everything over the last decade…”, I would say he had some very big picture ideas right (housing bubble etc), but his details on how all of these economic events came to pass are just ridiculous. He makes it seem as though all of our problems could have been avoided by abolishing the Fed and returning to the gold standard, not to mention: How many times has Ron Paul warned that hyperinflation and the ensuing societal destruction are just around the corner for the U.S.? On top of this, Ron commits the rather cynical act of voting against virtually all federal budgets while taking in more than his share of federal money to his district (http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/07/ron-paul-texas-federal-spending-pork).

    I will admit, though, that his positions on the war on drugs, military spending, and civil liberties do stand up to the conservative orthodoxy. But I feel a Ron Paul presidency would be to libertarians what Barack Obama’s is to strong liberals- just on steroids. It’s hard to make changes as President when you’ve spent your career demanding a weaker Article II branch; you can’t “stick it to the man” when you are the man.Report

    • “I’ve never been terribly enamored with Ron Paul; he gets credit for ripping on everybody else without having to defend the consequences of his own positions.”

      This one’s used against libertarians a lot: libertarians have the luxury of not having to defend the consequences of their own positions in practice because there aren’t any libertarian positions in practice. So, like, uhh, let’s vote for some, and see how non-coercion and pluralism and freedom and all that good stuff holds up against culture-war noise and “bi-partisanship”.

      Also, it’s worth noting that Paul opposes discretionary budgets and supports earmarked budget items that fall within the range of duties of Congressional representatives; i.e. Paul would support funds directed towards the construction of a bridge (to somewhere) in state X but would not support a 200-million-dollar increase in discretionary spending for the Department of Torturing Brown People Who Speak Funny. He explained this point repeatedly in response to the “scandal” to which you link after it was picked up and circulated by pro-establishment elements of both parties.Report

      • “This one’s used against libertarians a lot: libertarians have the luxury of not having to defend the consequences of their own positions in practice because there aren’t any libertarian positions in practice. So, like, uhh, let’s vote for some, and see how non-coercion and pluralism and freedom and all that good stuff holds up against culture-war noise and “bi-partisanship”.

        I’m with you on this being a lame attack on libertarianism, but this comment is a little too self-serving for me. I mean, they did try out a key libertarian position with that totally unregulated market in derivatives. It went really badly, if you recall. At that point, I really did expect more libertarians to step up and explain why it only seemed to the rest of us as if one of their core positions had cost a lot of people their savings and caused havoc in the world markets. At the least, I expected to be told I’m an idiot and should read more Mises. Instead, I heard a lot of nonsese about how nobody can really tell what went wrong with the world markets and, besides, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac really suck too.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Not quite, Rufus. The financial sector is pretty deeply connected to the state. I don’t think that in a truly free market you would have seen anything like this. The problem is that little pieces of a larger system are left unregulated and then when the system collapses because of it, the government steps in with a bailout.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Do you see where this sounds about the same as, “They never tried real Communism so we can’t say for sure if it would have worked”?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

              “Working” is different under Communism and under the markets.

              When Communism works, it means that everyone has the food they need, the health care they need, the work they need, and the fulfillment they need. We’ll be happy like it’s the millennium.

              When Capitalism works, it means that there are ups and downs and folks win some and they lose some and people get old and they die and some of them have kids first who will go on to have ups and downs…Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Penniless came I out of my mother’s womb, and penniless shall I return thither: the Market gave, and the Market hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Market .Report

              • Applied Theism will not result in the existence of a God.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

                Then you’re not applying it hard enough.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Actually, when Communism works, plenty of people will suffer at first. The people who fail to act properly will be punished by the forces of history and thus the society as a whole will, over time, produce more and more perfected individuals. More rational and less given to greed or other vices.

                In the free market, there are some people who win and some who lose, but over time those who fail to act properly will be punished by the forces of the market and the society as a whole will produce more and more perfected individuals. More rational and less given to greed or other vices.

                At least, that’s what should happen if the theory is ever given a real shot.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Ain’t no perfected individuals in my theory.

                Just people who grow old and die.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Whew! I thought you were making the argument that letting the market punish the bad actors would cause there to be increasingly fewer bad actors in the future. But, if you have a more tragic and realistic sense of human nature and are not arguing that, I guess we’re in agreement.Report

              • Avatar Katherine in reply to Rufus F. says:

                The “perfected individual” in a society defined by the market would be the epitome of greed. The functioning of a capitalist economy is based on greed. When people stop being greedy (ie, stop focusing their lives around earning and spending lots of money; stop wanting to buy loads of things they don’t need and likely won’t use) the market grinds to a halt.

                When you create a society that rewards people for extreme self-interest and self-centeredness, that’s what you’ll get.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Katherine says:

                The perfect market is much more peer-to-peer than the one we have now. So I think Craigslist transactions are a better representation of free markets than Verizon or Apple. I also think those far more human transactions and interactions are much less defined by greed. So I think actually you have this backwards.Report

              • Katherine, you sound just like Adam Smith!Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          In any given situation where there is a partially regulated crony market and an unregulated portion, when the crony market fails, the blame will fall on the part that actually works like a real market.

          This will also happen with Obamacare. Just watch.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            That doesn’t mean that the part that actually works like a real market isn’t to blame.Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Chris says:

              Chris – we can juggle which “part” is to blame back and forth all day. The fact is there is a very obvious revolving door between Wall St. and Washington D.C. and the bailouts are proof enough that no market is actually at work here. Ironically, progressives who were against the bailouts and libertarians who were against the bailouts should all see eye-to-eye on this one but somehow don’t. I guess it’s because progressives want more regulation from one side of the revolving door to the other. I’m sure that will work out great.

              Personally, short of bailing out the banks, I think we should break them up to the point that they are no longer ‘too big to fail’. Then no more bailouts. Let risk-takers suffer the consequences as well as the benefits of taking their risks, just not in a way that will shatter the economy.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Are you factoring the idea of gummint policy wankering the ‘market?’Report

              • Avatar NoPublic in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                What’s the free-market low-regulation Constitutional justification for breaking up the banks again?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to NoPublic says:

                The failure of a small bank offers less systemic risk. Many small banks help keep financial panics contained.Report

              • That would be the pro-consumer free-market approach, huh? Do you think a similar model holds for other industries? Could we have like a legislative equivalent of Dunbar’s number, where once a particular market reaches a certain level of consolidation, it gets broken up?Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to NoPublic says:

                The banks are only this big because of government regulation and bailouts. The free market justification is undoing the damage done already.Report

              • Avatar Anderson in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                “The banks are only this big because of government regulation and bailouts”

                Wasn’t the Gramm-Leach-Bliley (Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999), a bill that *de*regulated financial mergers, passed under pressure from Citigroup and others so that the government could get out of the way and they could form banks as large as they liked? Free markets, as they exist in the real world, can be quite friendly to monopolies and trusts, just ask Rockefeller and Carnegie.Report

              • Is the real world of which you speak the real world under American law or some other government’s law?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                The free market justification is undoing the damage done already.

                I’m getting nutpicky here …

                What you’re suggesting is not a ‘free market’ justification. It’s a pragmatic justification for heavy state intervention to ensure healthy stable markets. And I’m certainly not opposed to that. But it isn’t a ‘libertarian’ justification for ‘free markets’ in any sense of either of those two words.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic in reply to Stillwater says:

                What Stillwater said.

                I don’t think you’re wrong. I just think it’s not free market or libertarian to think what you think.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Let risk-takers suffer the consequences as well as the benefits of taking their risks, just not in a way that will shatter the economy.

                I think this quote is indicative of the deep divide between ‘liberals’ and ‘libertarians’ (scare quotes emphasized): the idea that anonymous actors whose individual behavior doesn’t significantly effect price or market stability would provide for a better economic system. And I think it boils down to a couple of things. For the libertarian, the argument supporting this idea is entirely a priori, since even libertarians admit that there has never been a functioning market that didn’t have a heavy government influence. In that sense, libertarianism is just another form of conservative ideology derived from first-principles: it cannot fail, it can only be failed. For me personally, that that’s a very serious strike against it, since countervailing empirical evidence is dismissed out of hand not because the evidence isn’t real, but because all the evidence shows is that the theory isn’t being implemented properly.

                The question, then, is what evidence would possibly constitute a confirmation of the theory? Well, one comprised of anonymous actors who are some way or another constrained from influencing government legislation/regulation or colluding with other market participants to gain leverage over market share, supply and price. But these ideals are clearly utopian. Anyone who enters the market on the supply side is presumably motivated by profit-seeking – at least, this is a truism from the libertarian pov. And that motive is at one and the same time a necessary condition for ‘free market activity’ as well as a sufficient condition for regulatory capture, favorable legislation, too-big-too-fail, price fixing, etc., etc.

                By my thinking, there is no way to create the libertarian’s conception of free markets, even under ideal initial conditions, that doesn’t entail heavy government influence or monopolistic/oligopolistic markets given human psychology. The equilibrium will always tend towards centralization where one or a few market participants are necessarily no longer anonymous and in fact have radically disproportionate power.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                The flip side of that is always the assumption that one more law would have prevented this, one more regulator with access to the right books, one more rule in a book, one more guiding principle.

                This could have been prevented if only we had been allowed to regulate things the way we wanted to but were prevented from doing by The Libertarians.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

                You know, for those who committed fraud, handcuffs make sense. If people are punished for theft rather than given bailouts, this serves as a decent incentive not to screw people over.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                But it wouldn’t have needed to be prevented in a completely free economy.Report

              • Prior restraint has saved more lives by several orders of magnitude than laws outlawing murder.

                “I know! We’ll institute a death penalty for murder cases! That’ll work *REALLY* well!”Report

              • Whenever I hear about someone being murdered, my first thought is that it proves the failure of making laws against murder.Report

              • I think it more demonstrates their irrelevance.

                A thread on the justice system might be a fun diversion, though.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                The idea that crime proves that laws are irrelevant may be one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. Next thing you’re going to tell me is that grammar is irrelevant because I sometimes say “ain’t.”Report

              • I did not say that crime proves that laws are irrelevant.

                When it comes to murder, however, it’s usually a crime of passion.

                The irrelevance of laws against crimes of passion seems tautological to me, though. I mean, we agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder, right?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                “The idea that crime proves that laws are irrelevant may be one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. ”

                I guess you haven’t read many IP-protection arguments, then, because one of the big anti-protection arguments is that it’s totally easy to violate patents and copyrights, and everyone does it all the time.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Laws against murder aren’t intended to prevent that crime; they’re intended to provide for an objective, third-party-enforced punishment of those crimes.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Jay, ah, I understand you. I don’t think laws are simply meant to prevent crime, though they clearly do (I do not, however, think the death penalty is a deterrent).

                Density, see above.Report

              • Which is why a thread on the justice system might be a fun diversion.

                I’m not a fan of the Panopticon.

                But I repeat myself.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Incentives matter. When the incentive structure is set up so that if you do X you might go to jail that might help more than if you do X you might get a bailout. The problem with regulations in many of these cases is that they don’t really provide any incentive at all, except the incentive to get around whatever rule.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                > The problem with regulations in
                > many of these cases is that they
                > don’t really provide any incentive
                > at all, except the incentive to
                > get around whatever rule.

                We need better whistleblower rules.

                Seriously. No organization is free from bad actors (including the government). Many of the otherwise-good actors get snowjobbed into going along because there is a serious power differential there.

                Conversation One:

                “We need to secure the web server, or our customer’s data might be compromised.”

                “You said that would require the site to be down for two days, that’s unacceptable.”

                “Okay, you’re the boss”.

                Conversation Two:

                “We need to secure the web server, or our customer’s data might be compromised.”

                “You said that would require the site to be down for two days, that’s unacceptable.”

                “You have a legal obligation to inform the SEC that we are not secure, or you can go to jail. It’s your signature on the form.”

                “Okay, that’s on me.”

                “By the way, reporting someone who fails to inform the SEC of a security vulnerability issue nets you $100,000 in cash. Failing to report someone who fails to inform the SEC of a security vulnerability puts you on the list of people who can go to jail. I don’t want to go to jail. Just full disclosure.”Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                The flip side of that is always the assumption that one more law would have prevented this, one more regulator with access to the right books, one more rule in a book, one more guiding principle.

                Exactly. But regulation/one more rule/etc. finds an an equilibrium of its own. Sometimes there’s too much, sometimes not enough. From my pov, less regulation leads to less social utility and more actual harms, not only to people but to markets as well. From your pov, the reflexive inclination to create one more law is self-defeating and exacerbates problems.

                Independently of our concerns, tho, corporate entities are lobbying congress and the WH for the policies most likely to enhance their bottom line – whether that means more or less ‘regulation’. They’re not on the Hill arguing for legislation that would require them to be better corporate citizens.

                So, while we debate principled views of ‘regulation’, corporate America is busy shaping policy based on purely pragmatic self-serving grounds.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Except in this case, it was that old laws that had been removed might have helped. Sometimes, clever observations aren’t very observant.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Chris says:

                There’s a “might” in there. It’s lifting a bit.

                Yes, in the particular case of financial meltdown, there were old laws that were removed that certainly would have changed conditions on the ground (I think you’d be hugely challenged to say that they would have been necessarily better, since the CDS market would still have likely existed, Fannie & Freddie would still have been doing their thing, etc).

                However, let’s take a look at this post that was referenced the other day < -- by the way, Mr. Carr, that is an awesome, awesome post. "More" doesn't always equal "better". In fact, "more" regulation can introduce all sorts of wiggles. If you're charged $1,500 per 1lb of trash you dump, regardless of whether or not you're a private citizen or a major corporation or some other organization, this is a fine that scales linearly. If you dump 100 tons of something in the river, that's a mofreakin' huge fine - $300,000,000. If, however, you have two sets of rules, one for the proles and one for organizations, you can bet your bottom dollar that the rules for the proles are going to be different than the rules for the large organization. And the difference is *not* going to be more punitive on the organization side.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                The old laws were removed via passage of legislation that repealed some laws, tweaked others, and added new ones entirely.

                The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act did a lot of things even as it undid things.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                E.D., I’m largely in agreement with you. As someone put it back when, the bank failures showed that in our system, we have private profits and socialized risk. If nothing else, I’d want to make the risk private.

                The only point of my pithy comment, however, was that Jaybird’s comment, while it may be observant, said nothing about the actual distribution of the blame. It might be contrued by some as having done so by implication.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                If nothing else, I’d want to make the risk private.

                Absolutely.

                100%.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

            Dude, I had a front row seat for the meltdown. My in-laws are big mucky mucks in world finance. I listened to many nervous breakdowns around the Sunday dinner table. None of them were about how the state crony market was hindering the free market. The part that worked like a real market crashed catastrophically. At this point, it would have been incumbent upon libertarians to explain to the rest of us why the unregulated derivatives market would not have crashed if only the entire economy was free of state interference. Or at least bitch about how we’re not letting the market crash take its natural course. Instead, you’re asserting that it actually was working really, really swell until there was some massive frame up to pin the meltdown on the derivatives market and, besides, Obamacare sucks? Really?Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Rufus F. says:

              As experimental economics has found, the introduction of new asset classes will tend to produce speculative bubbles.

              Clearly, this means we need price controls for health care.

              I’m missing something here, Rufus!Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Rufus F. says:

              Rufus – first off, what normal people sit around bitching about crony capitalism? Blogland and the real world are two very different beasts, and most people in the real world don’t think that much about what sort of capitalism we have.

              Second, nobody is saying anything was working really, really well. We’re saying you can’t really look at the financial sector and its transactions and follies, at the revolving door between it and Washington, etc. and think that this is a free market at work.

              Jaybird’s point with Obamacare is that any failures we see will likely be pinned to the few market mechanisms included in the bill. We’ll see about that.

              But look at private for-profit universities. Lots of people say the problem with these is that there is no place for profit and competition in education. Maybe that’s true, maybe not. But the fact is, the reason for-profit colleges are such a mess is because they rely on government grant and loan money for virtually all of their revenue, and don’t produce a valuable product because of it. It’s a scam, not a market.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Rufus – first off, what normal people sit around bitching about crony capitalism?

                My father-in-law is a CFO at one of the world’s largest corporate accounting firms and my wife and I have most of our money invested with people who weren’t terribly far removed from the bad actors here. Trust me- we talk all the time about what sort of capitalism we should have. And, for the record, we’re still pretty enamored with the free market. But, yeah, right around meltdown time, we were asking ourselves if more regulation wouldn’t have helped or not. Did libertarians ever ask themselves that?

                We’re saying you can’t really look at the financial sector and its transactions and follies, at the revolving door between it and Washington, etc. and think that this is a free market at work.
                Sure. But, again, according to the Communists, the Soviet Union was never Communist. You have the economy in the world that hews most closely to free market principles; and you had a sector that was, very intentionally, left totally unregulated. A fishload of liquidity built up in that sector created by more and more creative sorts of fraud. When the market righted itself, like it’s supposed to, a lot of people went through a lot of pain who were not bad actors because their money was invested, whether they knew it or not, with bad actors. A whole lot of sectors of the economy were hurt by the sector that came closest to free market principles.
                At that point, it was understandable that people would be calling for a more tightly regulated market, and, yes, for the magical state to save them; and there’s got to be a better response to that outcry than “If you think about it, this was really the government’s fault all along. What happened actually proved the superiority of our ideas!”

                Jaybird’s point with Obamacare is that any failures we see will likely be pinned to the few market mechanisms included in the bill. We’ll see about that.
                But, see, I’m asking how do you respond to this past event that, in the minds of a lot of people, really called libertarian ideas into question and the response is that future events will prove how right they were?

                Look, I know the argument against state penetration into and direction of the economy. I made it here last week, really in the most anarcho-capitalist way I know how. I agree that leaving the market alone to shit its own bed and then clean up after itself would be far superior to the state making every tax payer responsible for the bad actors. But, the idea that a totally free market economy wouldn’t have these sorts of problems or worse doesn’t strike me as realistic. At some point asking people to make trade offs means articulating what those trade offs are.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Rufus, you can’t stop at one point in time and point to something that looks like a free market when intervention in the market, especially from the Fed, has been going on for centuries. Cause and effect are so far removed in time, that it’s difficult to trace back from the effects to the original causes — looking at a snap shot is misleading. This is where theory comes into play — the free market proponent explains the process through theory and the history of intervention. It’s more complex and it takes a lot of investigative work, but economists like Thomas E. Woods have done the work and they make a lot of sense.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                well, not the Fed for centuries, but interventions in general and espeically the Fed since createdReport

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Rufus F. says:

                A free market will have plenty of problems, but the idea is that they will be less catastrophic and more dispersed since they won’t come after years of the state propping up failures upon failures.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                But, yeah, right around meltdown time, we were asking ourselves if more regulation wouldn’t have helped or not. Did libertarians ever ask themselves that?

                Regulation written by whom? Passed by whom? Enforced by whom? Enforced against whom?

                Are these questions worth asking as well? Because when you start asking them, you get to a position that looks remarkably like someone who never asked if more regulation would help.

                If corporations knew that if they failed, their assets would be sold for pennies on the dollar to the vanishingly small number of people who would want them, do you think that that would result in more restraint than what results from the answers to the questions listed above?Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                As for this,
                But look at private for-profit universities. Lots of people say the problem with these is that there is no place for profit and competition in education. Maybe that’s true, maybe not.
                Hard to say for sure, But couldn’t we just compare the results that American academia obtains to those obtained in countries where the state funds academia? I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems like a way to judge.

                But the fact is, the reason for-profit colleges are such a mess is because they rely on government grant and loan money for virtually all of their revenue, and don’t produce a valuable product because of it. It’s a scam, not a market.
                This I agree with to a great extent, although certainly banks can make college loans without government backing, so you can get the same sort of tuition bubble and all the other problems with easy credit/debt that you have with easy state funds.

                Admittedly, right now it looks like my Enlightenment course will be cancelled because only 15 students have enrolled, which means of the tuition coming in, only 70% will be profit for the university and the expectation is to draw enough students for 95% profit. Given that I have a bias towards thinking the Enlightenment is a worthy subject for college study and it envious of our course on “Pornography and the Internet”, which is fully enrolled for the next two years, I’m not totally open to the argument that more market forces would produce a better education.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rufus F. says:

                > … you can get the same sort of
                > tuition bubble and all the other
                > problems with easy credit/debt
                > that you have with easy state funds.

                Not the same. Similar, but seriously different in some pretty fundamental ways.

                This cuts both ways, to be sure. If you relied upon a private market to provide educational loans, it’s pretty obvious that almost everybody would have an ARM instead of a fixed rate loan and right now lots of people would be declaring bankruptcy.

                The flip side is when the government is giving away loans at 3 points below market for education, people will be going to school to get degrees that don’t pay back on the real investment.

                Both are bad. The real alternative is to actually make education cheaper, instead of just giving away money. But this requires you to change other underlying conditions on the ground.Report

              • Both are bad. The real alternative is to actually make education cheaper, instead of just giving away money. But this requires you to change other underlying conditions on the ground.

                That was exactly what I was trying to say.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                > That was exactly what I
                > was trying to say.

                That’s not exactly a problem with the libertarian position vis-a-vis the educational market.

                You guys are both arguing about how the other guys’ position regresses when applied to the current “market-government” environment. Well, of course. You’re both right. Both of your positions regress in the current environment.

                I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing for the government to subsidize certain things. The problem is that we subsidize all these things at the wrong layer of abstraction. And the libertarians (well, Jaybird would probably say this) are right when they say that this happens because the subsidy has to go through the legal process and of course that is gamed.

                Giving away cheap money doesn’t reduce the cost of the thing you spend the money on. It results in new, bigger, more upscale sporting facilities at universities, which keeps the operational cost of the university high. And then, of course, when we need to cut back on the cheap money, they cut the Enlightenment course, because that’s not a sunk cost and the giant workout room *is*.

                If you want to subsidize things, you have to keep the subsidy simple, and you have to introduce it at the right layer of abstraction. You do that, and it’s easier to cut off, for one thing.

                This is one reason why I like some aspects of federalism. If the states controlled more of the discretionary pot of money, collecting that revenue, and the federal government controlled less of it, more of the subsidies would likely be arranged at a better layer of abstraction.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

              At this point, it would have been incumbent upon libertarians to explain to the rest of us why the unregulated derivatives market would not have crashed if only the entire economy was free of state interference. Or at least bitch about how we’re not letting the market crash take its natural course.

              I thought I was doing the latter… there is a very harmful assumption that markets need to go up, up, and up forever. When the sine wave starts to go back down, there is an automatic outcry that this will harm people and we need to start bailing out the bad actors lest the world as we know it end.

              I’d probably instead explain that the sine wave was a natural part of the business cycle and allowing the system to wring out the rot would result in a lot less long-term pain than trying to cushion the failing businesses by transferring them money from businesses that haven’t failed.

              Look at the PIIGS. Germany does not have enough money to bail them all out.

              Germany doesn’t know why it’s incumbent upon Germans to do so… and it looks like, oh, Greece is going to default.

              The first bailout didn’t work. It just flushed the money away. If bailout after bailout continued, it would just flush the money away. A tenth bailout wouldn’t work.

              Greece would need an eleventh.

              Just watch. The folks who make a living off of other people’s money will always need one more bailout when things are going south.

              (And it’s not that Obamacare sucks, it’s that Obamacare *WILL* fail and, when it does, the blame will fall on the portion of the market that is unregulated and the solution will be to absorb all of the health care market rather than to go back.)Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

                With Germany keep in mind that most of the debt for the PIIGS is held by German and French banks so they are, in essence, bailing out themselves (or rather their pensions).Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Germany knows full well why it’s incumbent on them to bail out Greece, it’s because a huge portion of that debt is owed to German banks and if Greece really defaults, guess who doesn’t get paid?

                The problem with the bailouts from Europe is that they aren’t bailing anyone out. They’re just re-structuring slightly to buy a little more time and hoping that a miracle occurs in the meantime. The fact is Greece is in a situation where they have really zero options to service their debt obligations on their own without the ECB’s intervention.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Plinko says:

                Yes, not to mention they know how utterly disastrously painful it’d be to try and get any of the individual economies off the Euro train. What they face is pressures that demand either a significant contraction of the Euro zone or an expansion of transnational governments in Europe; aka they need to either be a large number of small sovereign economies like pre-Euro Europe or a big bundled economy like the US. This business of trying to have their cake and eat it too isn’t working.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

                Don’t knock it. It’s helped keep the dollar where it is.Report

              • Avatar Art Deco in reply to Plinko says:

                Germany knows full well why it’s incumbent on them to bail out Greece, it’s because a huge portion of that debt is owed to German banks and if Greece really defaults, guess who doesn’t get paid?

                No, it is French, Swiss, and Greece’s own banks that are exposed.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’d probably instead explain that the sine wave was a natural part of the business cycle and allowing the system to wring out the rot would result in a lot less long-term pain than trying to cushion the failing businesses by transferring them money from businesses that haven’t failed.

                Okay, let me repeat this: I really did make all of these arguments last week and I still believe them. I fully understand the argument against the state taking it upon itself (well upon the rest of us really) to clean up capitalism every time it shits the bed. I am also totally aware that there will be less long term pain if the market is allowed to punish the bad actors instead of the rest of us being on the hook. Okay? I also am fully aware that bailouts draw out the suffering for years on end. I am not arguing for government bailouts or a state directed economy. Certainly, let’s let the bad actors be punished by the market. I’m all for it.

                Now, a married couple in their 60s who saw their life’s savings wiped out by an investor who sank it into a series of collatoralized debt obligations that god knows what happened to- do you think they will be more open or less open than myself to the argument that the pain they’re going through will be justified by the greater freedom and financial responsibility of the next generation?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Oh, I imagine that they’ll be a lot less open to it.

                If someone came up to them and said “we will give you all of your money back if you just push this button. Now, if you push the button, a small family of…”, they’d rip the button out of the guy’s hand and press it like rats on heroin before they even heard the Twilight Zone setup.

                So, yes. I absolutely agree that any given married couple in their 60’s would reject out of hand the argument that this represents a “correction”. Absolutely.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Uh, alright. And I will agree with your argument that libertarian ideas will be tried out more seriously only when we give less people a choice about implementing them.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                There are worse jobs than Cassandra’s.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                For the record, though, I don’t argue that libertarian ideas will be tried out more seriously only when we give less people a choice about implementing them.

                I argue that libertarian ideas will result in higher troughs and lower peaks on the sine wave. I play down the “lower peaks” portion in public, though. I focus on the higher troughs.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                If you’re Cassandra and you say, “Don’t go that way- it’s certain doom! Go this way!” and a second Cassandra shows up and says, “That way, too, is certain doom!”, do you, as Cassandra #1 listen to Cassandra #2, or ignore her because she’s distracting from your important point about going the first way?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                You start debating the finer points of certainty, different levels of doom and what is entailed by “doom” (I mean, let’s say that I promise a world where every family has a refrigerator, a microwave, a color television, ubiquitous calories on more or less every street corner available for pennies, and 200 channels with nothing on… is this relatively paradise or is it something that of course everybody has and it’s specious to argue that it represents some form of obligation being met).Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Meanwhile, the bear chasing us attacks and kills us. As we’re dying, we debate what sort of political system, if any, would prevent bear attacks.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Well, if both exit paths were doom, the bear was going to catch you anyway.

                If you’re lucky, he eats the other guy first.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                The third path led to paradise, but nobody would shut up and listen to Cassandra #2 after she told them they were wrong about the second path.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I think it’s likely there was no third path, just a dream.

                Usually, when people are calling doom, they’re also telling me that if we just do some magic, there will be no doom.

                Almost always, they’re full of shit. I’m just sayin’. There are exceptions to this rule, but they’re pretty damn rare.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                When someone promises paradise, put one hand on your wallet and your other hand on your gun.Report

              • “I argue that libertarian ideas will result in higher troughs and lower peaks on the sine wave. I play down the “lower peaks” portion in public, though. I focus on the higher troughs.”

                Yes, and the Keynesians make the same argument. The only problem with the Keynesians’s argument is that it depends on politicians to run surpluses in good times. hahahahahahahaha.

                So, to bring all of this back to Ron Paul, he’s really the only guy in the race not promising shit he can’t provide just to get elected. If we don’t vote for an honest politician this time around, when’s the next time we’ll get a chance like this?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I fully understand the argument against the state taking it upon itself (well upon the rest of us really) to clean up capitalism every time it shits the bed.

                As I said a few threads ago, capitalism needs the state more than the state needs capitalism. The entire ideology hangs by a thread. And since capitalists control the state, in moments of panic the state throws down rescue lines.

                The corollary of this is that ‘correctives’ are required only because of harmful prior state involvement. Capitalism cannot fail. But you already knew this.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Stillwater says:

                As I said a few threads ago, capitalism needs the state more than the state needs capitalism.

                Well, if Communism in practice proved anything it was that the state sure doesn’t need capitalism to survive. Marx was definitely wrong about it whithering away anyway. We’d have to see what happened when capitalism had no help from the state.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Rufus F. says:

                We’d have to see what happened when capitalism had no help from the state.

                I think you just need to look back thru US history to find this out. So for me, it’s not really an open question.

                Personally, I think that the only viable form of capitalism is state sponsored capitalism, and the only socially useful form of capitalism is heavily state-regulated. Capitalists and private owners will, of course, oppose restrictive regulations for pragmatic reasons (it cuts into their bottom line) as well as principled ones (freedom Baby!). But their opposition trivially follows from their ideological commitments.

                And the useful myth, accepted almost as a truism these days, that capitalism completely separated from state regulation/protection would result in the least-sub-optimal social outcomes, will persist. Even tho evidence directly counters this view, and the opposite conclusion is derived from a priori first principles.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Let’s talk about “necessary bailouts”, since this is the flip side of the “necessary subsidy” question that’s going on upthread.

                What would be better, an environment where we bail out bad organizational behavior, or we bail out bad individual behavior?

                Would you rather see that old couple in their 60s get a monthly check for a cost-of-living allowance in a cheap locale or some financial institution get propped up and the corporation still pay out bonuses, while passing most of the loss down to the 60 year old couple anyway?Report

              • I’m not arguing for bailouts at all. And I’m not convinced that either option would be sustainable for more than a generation or so. I’d lean towards bailing out only the good actors, since I’m a nice guy. But that would bankrupt us just as surely, right?

                All I was saying with that example is that there were a lot of people who were fished hard in the ass because they were financially connected directly or indirectly to those “bad actors”. Now, when a politician comes to them and says, “More regulation could prevent this from happening in the future,” and the libertarian says, “Nuh-uh; not in theory. Letting you suffer will prevent this from happening in the future,” which one do they find more convincing?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Well, now, hold on. Are you arguing that this is a PR problem?

                Because yeah, I agree that this is a PR problem. But I didn’t think that was what you were arguing. I thought you were arguing that more regulation would prevent this from happening in the future.

                Anywho, you can have a pragmatic libertarian who would say, “Well, this is why I make the exception for the social safety net. If we bailout AIG and these other big companies, what will happen is that very little of this bailout will make its way down to you, 60-year-old-couple, and most of it will be skimmed off by everybody else who works for or is invested in AIG. So we’re not going to do that.

                If you can’t make your house payment vs you’re stuck looking at a retirement where you can’t go to Key West every year any more, those are two different problems.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                We’re talking about bailing out the bad actors, though.

                Not even discussing different punishments that could be applied (flay them and stuff their skin with straw and drag it through the streets! Then put the skin in a case outside of Wall Street and make the brokers walk past it to get to their offices every day!) but discussing how big the bailouts ought to be.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Because yeah, I agree that this is a PR problem. But I didn’t think that was what you were arguing. I thought you were arguing that more regulation would prevent this from happening in the future.

                I don’t know if it was exactly PR. I was really disappointed with libertarians during the meltdown because I didn’t see them doing any sort of questioning at all. Not only did they see their ideas as irreproachable, but the meltdown only proved to them how right they were all along! I mean, you had the government doing what libertarians have wanted for years, namely allowing a market to flourish without any government interference. When the market finally righted itself, it caused pain on a scale that was higher than what we’d gone through for decades. People were naturally going to come out of that crying for more regulation. To be honest, I don’t think more regulation would have made much difference- it’s really more about the business culture and there’s a pretty easy libertarian argument to make there about what happens to a business culture under corporatism. Nevertheless, it makes complete sense to me that someone who got fished in all of this would think, “Hey, look what happened when the state turned a blind eye- we need more regulation!” This, to me, was a moment in which libertarians could seriously step up to defend or, hey if necessary, modify their ideas. Maybe they could have even analyzed those ideas and see if they were holding up instead of circling the intellectual wagons yet again.

                I’ve tried to suggest some good libertarian arguments that could have been made against the state getting involved at all in the economy. Here are some bad ones that I heard more often during the meltdown:
                1. The derivatvies market was blameless in all of this. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac singlehandely wrecked the economy,
                2. We’ve never had a totally free market, so none of us can tell whether or not deregulation would work,
                3. I wonder when you talk about regulation if the idea of freedom scares you, or if you just want to make sure others are controlled,
                4. If you read more books you’d understand my ideas better,
                5. The government caused this crash by bailing out the banks after it happened,
                6. In conclusion, the crash only proves the superiority of libertarian ideas!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Bad things are always, always going to happen.

                There is no magic bullet that will ever prevent bad things. No philosophy can. The question comes about what kind of bad things do you want.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Yes. Yeah yeah yeah. I know that. It’s very basic. Most people choose one set of bad things over another based on the good things associated. This is called making trade offs.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Lies distort the marketplace.Report

          • Avatar Katherine in reply to Jaybird says:

            You do realize that virtually every other developed nation in the world has some form of health care, don’t you? And that ours is, in general, working far better than that of the United States?

            If your system has been and still is working substantially less well – both in terms of costs and in terms of services provided – the rational option is to look at what it’s doing differently than everyone else’s.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Katherine says:

              Does Obamacare move us to be more like virtually every other developed nation in the world?

              Or is it a system that will result in more giveaways to insurance companies without addressing the fundamental disconnects between supply and demand?

              Because, lemme tell ya, a law that said “we need to be more like France” would have been 100 times better than the PPACA.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Katherine says:

              If you divide “total dollars on healthcare” and “overall health statistics” by “number of people in the US” then you get some bad-looking numbers, like we’re spending a lot on healthcare and getting poor results.

              But if you correct for the number of deaths by violence, the US average life expectancy gets a lot better. In fact, it matches that of countries with government-paid healthcare.

              And if you correct for the money spent on end-of-life care, the US average healthcare payment gets a lot better. In fact, it matches that of countries with government-paid healthcare.

              And if you correct for the insistence that babies born 16 weeks premature, or with spinal bifida or microcephaly or other such things, are still live babies whose near-certain death counts in fetal mortality statistics, the US fetal mortality rate gets a lot better. In fact, it matches that of countries with government-paid healthcare.

              And so on.Report

      • Avatar Anderson in reply to Christopher Carr says:

        I don’t mean to be making any simplistic arguments against libertarianism as a whole. I would prefer we have a PR system in which a serious libertarian party could be formed, and thus represented, for the 10-15% of the voting populace who would support it. Once in this position, the libertarians could form coalitions and have greater sway over the country’s policies. Yet, they would also have to compromise and engage in the messy art of politics….I guess I’m trying to say that Paul gets the political luxury of defending a number of purist positions that are alot easier to back up in Congress than as President (Just ask sen. Obama!)

        As for “no libertarian positions in practice today.” Really, none? Not even a wee bit? Compared to every other large country, we generally have the lowest taxes, smallest welfare state, most localized education system, most federalism, largest private sector health system, and, most importantly, freest market (though Canada, Australia, and Switzerland beat us out in heritage’s economic freedom index). Unless you only count libertarianism as *no* taxes, *no* welfare state, etc. Because, let’s face it, nothing could be that perfect in a society of 300 million people of divergent interests..So I’m not saying don’t vote for Ron Paul, libertarians are crazy; I admire many libertarians that work within the system to make small, but meaningful, changes, like Balko…I’m just saying a vote for Ron Paul should come with the caveat that things will get messy and imperfect, and he’ll have to take positions that aren’t 100% amenable to his.

        Also, one last thing, I don’t think Paul taking earmarks/ federal money is a scandal at all. As a good liaison, he should be making sure constituents can obtain federal funding. I just find it slightly ironic that the most libertarian member of the House is elected out of a district that receives some of the most federal dollars per capita of any in the u.s ($14,700). Hence, in an era of shrinking governments, his district would be hit hard.Report

  9. You know what we call a man that sticks with his convictions at great material cost? Crazy. Okay, well not crazy in the clinical sense, but there is this: The guy who stands with you against the tidal wave of common opposition also stands against the common sense that you agree with.

    In a legislator, I can go with the flow. We need people like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. But as president? That just gives me the willies.Report

  10. Avatar MFarmer says:

    It’s a sad statement that someone with integrity is classified as scary, kooky and dangerous. Even Paul’s views on abortion are consistent with his understanding of being a doctor and his ideas regarding the right to life as in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I disagree on abortion because of the special biology and a woman’s right to what’s in her body, but I don’t think society has to make the decision easy — it should be a deep soul-searching decision based on important ideas of life and rights — not just a trip to the doc for a fix.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to MFarmer says:

      I don’t think RP has any more integrity then most people. I think in this conversaton integrity or conviction is being mistaken for being an ideologue. Plenty of people live their beliefs but their beliefs may include such things as compromise or without thinking there is one preset answer to every question or empiricism.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to greginak says:

        This ideologue charge is trite and meaningless. You either agree with his ideas or you don’t, but he’s consistent and most of his warnings regarding statism have been spot on, thus the support he has from those who don’t just take a partisan stance and hold to it for dear life, but rather search for solutions. The talking points on the Left and Right are worn thin. Ideology? Good lord we need more clear ideas and less obscurantism and cliches.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

          There’s also a big difference between someone with convictions who is open to change if proven wrong and someone with a closed mind unwilling to listen to reason and facts. Paul is the former, a reasonable man who’s open to better ideas if they come along.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to MFarmer says:

      In other words, abortion is OK, as long as the woman has a reason I agree with.Report

  11. Avatar Plinko says:

    I heard Eric Erickson on the way home tonight talking about the GOP field and I think he explains quite well why Paul is taken so unseriously. He spent several minutes of vitriol on how his supporters are all willing to turn out for him, but they won’t turn out for anyone else, followed by an assessment of them all as pimply faced college kids or anti-Semites.
    Ergo, the problem with Paul’s supporters is they like him/his ideas more than those of other Republicans and the establishment isn’t really interested in appealing to them anyway.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Plinko says:

      Huh. The mask slipped a little.

      Back in 2008, the hatred was directed towards Ron Paul because he was a crazy, crazy goldbug.

      Hating him because the folks who support him support him for reasons such as the WoD, non-interventionism, and something vaguely akin to Constitutional Originalism when *NOTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THAT* is found *ANYWHERE* else in the freaking party (sorry Gary, I don’t mean you) gives away the game.

      Double-E needs to realize that the folks who are libertarianish or paleoconservativish believe what they believe just as strongly as those who oppose gay marriage and/or those who oppose abortion.

      He understands opposing abortion to the point where he’d be willing to withhold a recommendation or a vote from a Republican… he just gets upset when conservatives of different flavors have similar backbone.Report

  12. To EDK’s very good post, Paul’s unelectability enhances his appeal. He’s a safe protest candidate, not a real candidate: socially conservative libertarians have no parade to stand in front of. We need not consider what a President Paul would do, because there ain’t gonna be one. [Unless his first name is Rand.]

    On Ron, that the “bi-partisan” establishment wants him gone, that’s certainly true. Some of it, I think is definitely that the dude’s squirrelly on a personal level, and his supporters are passionate but few.

    Matt Welch asks, “Is Paul the Right’s Lyndon LaRouche?,” and there’s a certain truth to that.

    [Nice to see Welch and Reason.com get a pass-through on the way to Carney’s article.]

    There’s a disconnect between Paul-as-political thinker and Paul-as-political phenomenon. A lot in common with Perot. A lot, come to think of it. Esp the squirreliness.

    And Paul in Brüno. Case closed.

    Report

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