I Am a Right-Leaning Libertarian

What political label do you give yourself?Libertarian-leade-2 Yesterday, I blogged about calling myself a Republican. I was a kid.

Then, from about 1996 on, I called myself a conservative.

Over the past year or so, I've taken on the label of libertarian. Now, a simple online test confirms that I'm a right-leaning conservative. [Take the test yourself]

That's exciting, because I feel like I need a new label.

Labels Matter

I know there was a movement a couple of years ago to abolish political and ideological labels. But the brain likes labels, just as it likes other shortcuts. We want to know the time, not how to build a clock. But group labels are far more important than mere shortcuts. Labels change the way we treat others and increase our willingness to cooperate.

In short, a simple common name triggers assimilation into a preferred group.

Research by Henri Tajfel and others shows that this in-group/out-group dynamic happens for the lightest of causes. In one experiment, he divided a group of otherwise similar people by flipping a coin: heads go to one team, tails to another. Almost immediately and with no additional information, these subjects rated their "team mates" as more interesting and having better artistic taste than the other team's members.

Someone who identifies as "Republican" favors other Republicans over any other label. Likewise for conservative, liberal, progressive, Democrat, centrist, and, of course, libertarian.

So simply saying "I am a libertarian" changes your view of yourself and of everyone else in the world. That's powerful stuff.

Why Libertarian Might Be The Thing

I've pointed out before that the Millennial generation (born between about 1982 and 2002) is becoming increasingly libertarian over time. Ironically, Millennials are also joiners who favor group activities and work well with others. But they want to work in self-forming and self-directed groups, much like the GIs of World War II and very unlikely the radical individualists of Generation X (born about 1962 to 1982).

Also, the Millennials will be the largest generation in American history to date, surpassing the Boomers by several million. With Boomers now reaching elderhood and Generation X being uncentered and small in number, political influence will quickly shift from Boomers to Millennials by 2020, when even the youngest Millennials will have reached voting age.

And Ron Fournier, writing at the National Journal, speculates that Millennials might soon abandon both establishment parties.

In politics, Millennials rewarded President Obama in 2008 because they liked what he was selling. But he quickly damaged his post-partisan brand, and young voters drifted away in 2012. Going forward, Diggles says her beloved Democratic Party can't take Millennials for granted. This is a choosy bunch, a generation of disruption.

After establishing a sociological profile, Diggles pulls together a variety of polling (including surveys I wrote about here and here) to show how young voter attitudes are already defying conventional politics.

  • Since Obama's election, the number of self-identified independents among the Millennial Generation has increased by 11 points, nearly twice the pace of all other generations. "They aren't satisfied with either side," she says.
  • More than other generations, they believe government can play a positive role in people's lives. That could be good news for Democrats, but think of the events that have shaken Millennials' faith in government: Iraq, Katrina, the financial crisis, and the Affordable Care Act rollout. More than half of young voters think something run by the government is usually inefficient, up 9 points since 2009. The percentage of Millennials who "trust the government to do what's right" all or most of the time fell from 44 percent in 2004 to 29 percent in 2013.
  • They're skeptical of big institutions, including corporations and churches. In a warning to Democrats, Diggles writes, "Millennial voters are unlikely to align with a political party that expects blind faith in large institutions – either governmental or nongovernmental."
  • They are socially tolerant, which raises severe problems for the GOP.

But Be Careful

Millennials might not adopt the libertarian label. They may go someplace else entirely. My guess is their preferences will remain what we call "libertarian." They will want government to do fewer things but do them well. They will want government to greatly reduce or eliminate prohibition on behavior, but they will expect punishment for behavior that hurts others. They will expect charity to become a private matter, but ostracize the selfish and greedy who refuse to help out in a pinch.

Most of my life I felt like a libertarian but identified as a conservative or Republican. That was a cop out, really. There just weren't enough libertarians to form a critical mass.

So call me an opportunist or a coward or a bandwagoneer. Just so long as you call me a libertarian.

UPDATE: Dave Leonhardt writes in the NYT that Millennials could morph into more traditional conservatives. H/T Ben Evans of Heritage Action.

Obama's Loathsome War on WWII Vets Deserves Our Scorn and Fury

I'm sure you've all see the reports. WWII Veterans asked the White House for permission to visit the World War II Memorial in case of a shutdown. The veterans are part of the Honor Flights program that helps aging veterans visit the WWII Memorial.

Even though there's no cost involved, the White House chose to dishonor the veterans' request. It send forth "goons," in Senator Paul's works, to erect barricades around the memorial. The White House posted armed guards to keep the veterans at bay.

A Republican member of the House of Representatives went out and removed a barricade. The veterans flooded in. Some in wheelchairs.

Only a contemptible, loathsome snake of a man would use WWII veterans--in their late 80s and 90s--as political pawns in his game of dictator.

This is a man who brags of being a "Constitutional Scholar," then tells the American people that Congress is not allowed to choose what it funds. He knows better; he's lying.

This is a man who brags of being a "Constitutional Scholar," but insists that laws upheld by the Supreme Court can never be altered or abolished. He knows better; he's lying.

Loathsome. Despicable.

Democrats should realize they can reject Obama's reptilian ways without leaving their party. They can, for once, put human decency before party loyalty.

And Republicans should take note. When a leader of our party exposes himself as a poisonous snake, run away.

UPDATE: WWII Veterans from Toledo, OH, were told they'd be arrested if they attempted to approach the WWII Memorial.

The White House is playing with fire, now. And its lost the PR battle.

Tomorrow, Andrea Plunkett of Kansas City will escort 90 Missouri WWII Veterans on an Honor Flight to the Memorial. Stay tuned . . .

Shutdown Week Could Turn Into Big Win for Republicans

"I shouldn't have to offer anything."  Barack Obama on why he's shutting down the government. Obama keeps forgetting he's not a dictator. Or maybe I keep forgetting he is.

20130930-192349.jpg

Did you see that list of government shutdowns?

1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1995.

Those first four shutdowns came with Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress.

And none of them affected the next election. None.

John Boehner just gave the speech of his life on the floor of the House. He demonstrated what a belligerent, spoiled child Obama is. He explained what fair means. He described the numerous concessions and attempts to negotiate initiated by the Republicans.

And every single outreached Republican hand came back slapped by Obama and Harry Reid.

Why?

Because Obama and Reid want a shutdown.

Let them have it.

Just don't stop reminding people that the House has passed three bills to fund the government. All three bills reflected the will of the people. All three bills were less than conservatives wanted.

And all three bills were rejected by Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

Tell @BarackObama to stop acting like a tin-horn dictator and start acting like a man.

BUT . . .

If the House caves and passes a "clean" CR, 2014 could look like 1974.

I Will Not Debate Definitions

A commenter to my blog about libertarian kids implies that libertarians are okay—as long as they’re not, ya know, too libertarian. The other night at Heritage Tavern I heard debates break out over the definition of “conservative.”

If you’re wondering why the left is kicking our ass, now you know. They’re busy turning Texas blue while we debate the meanings and merits of political labels.

Maybe this country is beyond hope.

Do Not Push

Why Libertarian Kids, Not Drones, Scare McCain and Graham

Jennifer Rubin—WaPo’s token conservative—said it perfectly:

McCain lost his cool with Rand Paul and sounded like the old man down the street screaming to the new kids on the block, “Get off my lawn!”

The real reason McCain and Lindsey Graham embarrassed themselves on the floor of Senate had nothing to do with what Rand Paul said. Rand Paul's ideas terrify McCain, Graham, and most of the Republican establishment.

Those Troublesome Libertarian Kids

McCain and Graham sit at the top of the Republican hierarchy that thrives on protection money from crony capitalists. (See more on crony capitalism here.)

Senator John McCain complains about appealing to libertarian kids

Young libertarians are the closest thing to conservatives coming out of the Millennial generation. If the GOP is to play a role in the 2016 election, it must attract every possible Millennial libertarian.

That puts establishment politicians like McCain and Graham in a precarious position between two competing interests: small government libertarians and big money crony capitalists.

The Conflict That Divides The GOP

These crony capitalists aren’t evil. Neither are the Republicans who enable them. They all believe in American exceptionalism. They invest money and time and energy to keep America great. They honestly believe that America’s strength depends on companies producing wealth. On that point, they’re right. Where they go wrong is cause and effect.

Republican crony capitalists believe that corporate profits are the source of American greatness. Libertarians and tea party conservatives believe that corporate profits are the rewards of American greatness.

(Democrats, by the way, believe that government is the source of American greatness . . . if they believe in American greatness at all.)

Republican Crony Capitalism Can’t Survive On Its Own

Crony capitalists feel they must invest in politicians who will protect and promote their business interests. Those business interests, in turn, create jobs for people, donate funds to improve their communities, fund non-profit charities and schools, and guide politicians on good policy. These are noble activities that benefit all of society.

Over the years, though, these civic investments – increasingly through donations to candidates -- have become less noble and more self-serving. With the rise of profit maximization and shareholder value thinking, corporations treat government and politicians like vendors.

Investing in good government should improve business conditions by promoting a stable economy in which free market capitalism flourishes. Crony companies, however, expect a measurable and direct return on investments for their companies and shareholders alone. The rest of the country be damned.

If those profits made it back into the economy through more jobs, higher wages, and capital investment, things would be better. But they don’t. Even conservative Forbes magazine recognizes that businesses today hoard cash rather than reinvest. Blame “uncertainty” if you will, but don’t overlook the shareholder value mentality that dominates business and finance today.

Crony capitalists accept more regulation and taxes because they think it will give them an advantage over their competition. They trade their independence (and risk) for targeted tax breaks and protected markets. This cycle repeats itself election after election, and each time the government comes out more powerful and corporations more dependent.

This cycle has repeated so many times that corporate dependency on government now threatens the balance of power between people and state. The financial collapse of 2008 demonstrated that big government and big business have grown too large to stand on their own. They lean on each other like weary heavyweight boxers in the 15th round of a brutal championship fight. If one falls, they all fall.  And we get crushed.

What Libertarian Kids Want Threatens the Establishment

Libertarians realize that it was never supposed to be this way. More importantly, we’re pretty sure that America would never have become great had he started out like this. This was, after all, how Europe worked in the 18th century, as mercantilists pandered to nobles and royals who, in turn, granted mercantilists permission to do business, protected their businesses from competition, and collected handsome taxes from their profits. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was, in part, a criticism of European mercantilism. So was the Boston Tea Party.

A libertarian solution to the mess politicians and corporations have made involves untangling the knots that bind government and business and banking together. It means that each Congress reduce the loopholes in law and taxes meant to coerce business behavior, eliminate regulations designed to change behavior toward some ideal, and reduce tax rates on businesses.

But that solution threatens a lot of people’s jobs.

Republican establishmentarians rose to power through this quasi mercantile system. They didn’t run on the idea of getting government out of people’s ways. They ran on getting government to favor their constituents, sometimes by holding back someone else’s constituents. Freeing business to thrive or die on a level playing would eliminate the skills that lifted McCain and Graham (not to mention Reid, Pelosi, Durbin, McCaskill, and Obama) to the top. And they’ll fight like hell to keep their power.

The Democrats practice crony capitalism more effectively than Republicans. While their constituencies might be different, the process is the same. Taxes and borrowing raise money that government distributes to favored groups and companies. Taxes and regulations coerce people to trade with those favored companies and organizations.Public education and green energy are two prime examples of Democrats driving economic behavior to benefit friends.

Still, McCain and Graham know that libertarians pose a bigger threat to their power than Democrats. The two big parties play the same game. Libertarians don’t.

The Public-Private Partnership Generations Are Dying

Just before the 2012 election, a poll showed that younger Millennials describe themselves as economic conservatives and social liberals. Their older Millennial siblings describe themselves as economic and social liberals. But both groups show a distrust of both government and big business.

If the GOP had convinced these younger voters that the party believed in limited government and economic liberty, in 2012 it might have eaten into Obama’s youth vote of 2008. Instead, the gap between the parties widened. We have to ask why.

The reason, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, is authenticity. Establishment Republicans don’t really believe in limited government and economic liberty. They say they do, but they act differently. And younger people see the hypocrisy. Given a choice between Democrats who honestly profess their love of unlimited government power and Republicans who talk about limited government and free markets but don’t really live it, kids go with the party that at least says what it believes.

(Yes, I know Democrats lie all the time, and I’ve blogged about that ad nauseam. But on their fundamental belief in the near-miraculous power of government, Democrats speak the truth. You have to give them that.)

At the other end of the age spectrum, older voters vote Republican—not conservative or libertarian. They want government to increase entitlements, for instance.

These older generations include the last of the WWII generation who grew up during the New Deal and raised families during the massive government programs of the Cold War. Behind them is the Silent Generation which revered (and envied) their WWII elders, becoming the bureaucrats and regulators doing the grunt of government’s growth. The Silents implemented the Great Society programs, the War on Poverty, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. They were young teachers who conducted air raid drills, and they were the first to grasp the power of television. They believe in group work.

Then come the Baby Boomers—those too young to remember FDR’s death. They didn’t trust government to tell the truth, but they never complained when government did their bidding. Boomers were less statist than WWII or Silent generations – after all, Bill Clinton signed off on welfare reform – but they believe government can be molded into a force for good.

Generation X—those too young to remember Kennedy’s assassination—rallied to Reagan’s most famous maxim: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Gen X is the tip of the libertarian spear, and it’s the generation that’s just reaching the pinnacle of power in business, government, education, information, and entertainment.

As I’ve said, the next generation, Millennials – those too young to remember the Challenger Disaster—are split. As generational historians Strauss and Howe point out, Millennials are much like their WWII great-grandparents. They believe in the power of groups and teamwork. They believe in working together to overcome obstacles. But they may not believe government should force people to do things. We see this in their attitudes toward the war on terror and their increasing drift toward libertarianism. Most compelling, Millennials support federalism when it comes to marijuana laws.

In a nationwide poll that asked whether the federal government should respect state laws on marijuana or enforce more draconian federal law, seventy-four percent of Americans said the feds should respect state law. But 81 percent of Generation X wanted the feds to stay out of states’ business.

With their patriotic embrace of business and careful defense of entitlements, establishment Republicans are the natural allies of WWII and Silent voters. But those generations are dying fast. Nearly 10 million of them died between 2008 and 2012. The 2012 presidential election was the last for 11 million more.

There will be no more Gen Xers or Boomers to swell the ranks of older Republican voters. The last Xer was born during Regan’s first term. The only way the Republican party can grow, then, is by attracting Millennials.

Embracing Libertarian Views Will End the Old Republican Establishment

“The country need more Senators who care about liberty,” Senator McCain said Thursday. “but if Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously, he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms.”

There it is. Those libertarian kids and their vision of open, honest, limited government that does what it’s supposed to do—what we’ve authorized it to do—and nothing more.

Those damn libertarian kids in their dorm rooms who want to own their own lives instead of borrowing one from the government of Barack H. Obama.

Those libertarian kids with wacko-bird ideas like leaving businesses to compete in a fair and open marketplace where everyone plays by the same rules, faces the same risks, and benefits from the same economy.

Those libertarian kids who want America to go to war only when our liberty is at stake and only when we’re willing to fight for the unconditional surrender of the enemy. (And that’s not very often.)

McCain and Graham and the establishment—Republican and Democrat—fear libertarian kids more than al-Qaeda or Iran.

For a century, but especially beginning with the New Deal in the 1930s, the government has imposed restraints on everyone—some more so than others. Managing those restraints is what the establishment does best. It makes them rich and powerful and supports their fabulous lifestyles.

Those libertarian kids who terrify McCain and Graham want to grant equal liberty to everyone. Libertarians would, over time, remove the government shackles from our ankles.  McCain and Graham, Obama and Pelosi, and all the restraint-keepers will have to find something else to occupy their time.

Rand Paul’s filibuster sparked the imagination in those libertarian kids. Imagination leads to stories, and stories, sometimes, become reality.

If the GOP survives, it must become more libertarian, younger, and authentic. It must look more like Rand Paul and less like John McCain.

And that’s a horror story to McCain and Graham.

Ron Paul's Fifteen Minutes

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) generates more internet press than all the other candidates combined, it seems. His name has been on Technorati's most-searched list for a couple weeks, rivaling Paris Hilton and YouTube for search popularity endurance. Whether or not his fledgling campaign for President will so endure is another matter. Rummaging through the odd blog with a Ron Paul theme, I found some common characteristics among his supporters:

  • Young
  • Typically apolitical
  • Technology careers
  • Homosexual
  • Educated
  • Atheist
  • Decent writing skills
  • No particular axe to grind

I know many who fit the type, particularly working in the software industry. For a few years, I was surprised at all the Ayn Randians in my trade. At my last company, The Fountainhead was as common on the desktop and backpack as slashdot was on the monitor. (By the way, I'm not saying "all Ron Paul supporters are " [fill in the noun phrase from the list above]. I'm saying that of the dozen or so sites I looked over last night, 100 percent fell into at least two of the categories above. Unscientific, perhaps, but striking.)

Great. So where is Ron Paul going?

Well, nowhere, really. He has a low ceiling. As something of a libertarian, Paul's views will quickly steer into that terminal maelstrom of American politics where liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the godless and the Godly all find fault with a single one of Ron Paul's views.

It's sad, in a way. Except for being more interventionist that Paul, I share most of his political and economic views straight down the page. Like William F. Buckley, I describe myself as libertarian except for the atheism (which is not a requirement of libertarianism but has become frightfully common). I oppose almost everything the government does under the commerce clause and the 14th Amendment. I have no use for the Departments of Education, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, or Homeland Security. I can live without HUD, Labor, and Energy, too. I think each new Congress should be issued exactly one ream of 8.5 X 11 paper onto which the whole of its legislation must fit. I'd like to see Congress spend more time in recess than in session so that members could hold down real jobs with which to supplement their $55,000 a year (plus travel and office expenses) salaries.

When it comes to foreign policy, I could probably live with a libertarian's isolationism for as long as the public would tolerate it. (Events would force even Ron Paul's hand, though, as his solemn oath of office would require him to finally defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.) In exchange for his foreign policy, I get the elimination of 80 percent of the government, and that it is a fair trade. The military could be reconstituted much faster than the bureaucracy. And the people whose after tax income increased 40 to 70 percent would be most reluctant to return to the tax and spend days of monstrous government. Likely, a generation would have to pass away before government could begin to grow significantly.

I am encouraged by the support, the passionate support, Paul receives. I am, frankly, surprised that so many people who don't fit the profile of libertarian are eager to dismantle big government as we know it. Is this surge in idealistic libertarianism analogous to the grass roots conservatism that Buckley, Goldwater, and Russell Kirk ignited in the late 50s and early 60s? If so, we have much to look forward to 15 years hence.

So why Fred Thompson and not Ron Paul?

First, better either man than any Democrat. Second, I believe that a Republican and a conservative must win this election to stave off the totalitarian beast that the Democrat party yearns to foist upon us. Third, Fred Thompson has a chance because he won't steer into the maelstrom in which Ron Paul must attempt to navigate. Fred will protect the many vested interests that keep those seas a-churning. Otherwise, he couldn't gain his party's nomination.

Ron Paul's star has not crested, but it will soon and long before the primaries are over. His central ideas will not drive the parties toward a more libertarian view. At best, Thompson might propose elimination of the Department of Education, but it won't happen. Reagan couldn't do it. As soon as Paul's numbers climb high enough to reflect the party's radar, they will unleash a flurry of deadly accurate heat-seeking missiles to destroy him.

Also, his supporters will soon see that he isn't a left wing nut case out to destroy Bush. Almost 30 percent of the Ron Paul blogs I checked out also promoted the 9/11 conspiracy theory (Bush did it, Cheney did it, Murdoch did it, Israel did it). A significant number demonstrated patently anti-semitic or anti-black themes, leading me to believe that some white supremacists have mistakenly adopted Paul as one of their own. Most of the bloggers expressed strong opposition to at least one or two of Paul's major issues, though the bloggers don't seem to realize that Paul disagrees with them. (He's pro-life, for instance, and more than 80 percent of the blogs were vehemently pro-abortion.)

Too bad he doesn't have a chance. We could use some real entertainment and a real choice. And I could use an 80 percent tax cut.