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The folly of always voting for the lesser evil

There are some similarities in the USA and UK with the convergence of practical politics into a ‘radical centre’ of regulatory big government statists, whose ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels are rather like those of Coke and Pepsi… sure there are differences, but in the end they are still selling sweet brown fizzy drinks… or selling a vision of state in which the mainstream ‘right’, be it Dave Cameron or George W. Bush, are not talking about shrinking the state (even a bit) and freeing the individual (or even the community) but rather just increasing the pace of regulation a bit slower and in different places than the ‘left’.

Similarly the mainstream ‘left’ like Tony Blair or Al Gore are not selling wholesale paleo-socialist nationalisation of businesses as they did in the past, because they, like the mainstream ‘right’, now follow a more (technically) fascist economic model in which property can be ‘private’ but control of it is contingent upon being in accord with national political objectives and permission from some local political authority.

The ‘left’ and ‘right’ use different metaphors, different cultural references, different symbolism, but in truth they are selling much the same product. They put huge effort into fetishising their product differentiation precisely because there is so little difference in their core beliefs. In the USA, even the issue of self-defence and opposition to victim disarmament is less than solid with the Republicans than it once was as Bush made is clear he was ‘flexible’ regarding anti-gun legislation and needed hard lobbying to not renew the so-called ‘assault rifle’ ban (i.e. semi-automatic rifles which look ‘scary’). Put simply, all mainstream political parties (at the moment) are statist centrists, neither in favour of overt nationalisation nor of individual autonomy, regardless of their sales schpiel.

Why this is true is not hard to glean. Professional politicians are people who have the psychological disposition to both meddle in other people’s lives and to use force to have their views imposed. They are people who value having power over others above all else and the more aspects of society that are subject to political direction, the more important politicians become regardless of their hue.

So the natural order of things, if you are a person who makes their living out of being a politician, is to work to extend the state into more and more areas of life because the state is what you have influence over, thereby making yourself more important to ever more people. Politicians who do not want to constantly expand their power do exist of course, trying to work within the system to limit the system’s power over people. But the very nature of politics makes such folks a rarity, particularly as decency, honesty and frankness are hardly survival traits in in their chosen profession. Centrist politicians keep themselves in power by identifying a group of people that want to hear certain things and then by adjusting their sales techniques to appeal to them whilst being pragmatic about moving your ‘opinions’ to wherever advantages lie.

Most importantly, politicians use what can only be called ‘tribal loyalties’ to act as a base upon which they can rely regardless of their actual voting records. They do this by carefully genuflecting towards a few of the sacred cows the people who vote for them seem to regard as important (hence the obsessive fetishisation of minor differences with the Other Party)… and then by adjusting their actual policy-making to buy voters less concerned with appearances, by diverting bits of national wealth to them either directly or more usually by regulating in ways that favour a narrow sectonal interest. A classical example is Dave Cameron promising all manner of big state interventionism and yet praising the antithetical set of principles offered up by Conservative Way Forward. Thus the quixotic faithful are given a gleaming golden thread upon which to hang their fantasies that their chosen leader actually shares their values and when elected will act completely differently from how he has been telling everyone he intends to.

But the Chosen Leader knows that as long as he can highlight one or two differences with his political opponents, the fact he will leave 99% of the state more or less unchanged if he finds himself in power does not matter to the loyalists. After all, even though conservatives groan about the way George Bush has expanded the state in the USA, or the way Dave Cameron promises to add more ‘green’ regulations and not cut taxes in the UK, those men know that most loyal Tories/Republican would not be able to break the habit of a lifetime and vote for the Bad Guys… why? Because “vote for the lesser evil” has been drummed into them. You are told to be realistic and as you will never get want you really want, you have to vote for the least-worst choice.

And so after years of voting for the lesser evil, Tory and Republican voters have only themselves to blame when all that is on offer is evil. Just slightly less of it than the Other Guys. Or so you are lead to believe.

But to ever have even a chance of getting what you really want, you have to be prepared to let the old party of your tribal affections lose and for the Even Worse Guys to get into office. Again and again if that is what it takes, which is not a pleasant prospect, I grant you.

But in the end, “spare the rod, spoil the child”. Even better (if you think The System is salvageable in the long run) if there is another party which more correctly reflects your views, vote for them rather than staying at home. You may not win but voting for another ‘fringe’ party does make it clear why your previous party lost your vote. At worst you send a message to your old party to reform in ways you can support, at best your new party starts to actually make a difference itself. If you vote for a party which does not really share your convictions, you are part of the problem. In the UK in particular, there is no excuse for any conservative to vote ‘Conservative’ when there is an alternative party that actually is conservative (i.e. UKIP) in a more or less classical liberal sense. It is unrealistic to expect something like a political party to be in complete lock-step with all your views but for a socialist (say someone who wants Harold Wilson style nationalisation of industry) to still be a member of Blair’s Labour Party or a conservative (say someone who wants society strengthened rather than replaced by the state) to still be a member of Cameron’s Conservative Party, that must require some extreme cognitive gymnastics when it has been clear for years that neither party will give those folks what they want.

‘The Blogging Caesar’ makes an impassioned plea for Republicans to get out and vote regardless of the scandals and ever bigger government. He makes a direct “Or the Even Worse Guys will win” argument… and of course that is true. But if you really do not like the fact the GOP has expanded the state, abridged civil liberties and a passable attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq (force levels too low, refusal to allow country to be partitioned) and Afghanistan (sub-moronic ally alienating anti-drugs policy), voting for the party which did those things is tantamount to saying “fine… keep on doing that”. Sure, if the Democrats win control of the house and/or senate, they will do even worse things, but only a bit worse. However by making Big Government the ONLY political reality for both parties, you will never, ever get anything except Big Government.

34 comments to The folly of always voting for the lesser evil

  • Ham

    Excellent post.

    On a point of detail, however, I am uncomfortable about voting for the UKIP, because it has not been shown to me that they share my liberal views on issues other than tax and the EU. Do they intend to remove the state from the organisation of the UK’s schools? Will they relax laws regulating self-defence? Are they likely to enact laws against homosexual unions? It’s not clear to me. If I was to receive negative (from my perspective) responses to those questions, I would have to contemplate voting for a lesser evil, even if it was notably lesser than the other three parties. Admittedly, this suspicion stems from my assumption that UKIP are traditional conservatives rather than libertarians – obviously very different things – but I am happy to hear otherwise (very happy, actually).

    Having said that, there was no UKIP candidate in my constituency at the last election, and I don’t expect one to stand next time either, so I guess I’ll save my legs and stay at home again.

  • I disagree with UKIP on several issues (such as immigration) but for a conservative voter it should be a simple choice to make that move.

    They are sound on quite a few civil liberties issues and whilst hardly a libertarian party (i.e. they are probably electable :-)), they are so much further in the classical liberal direction than the Tories it is startling.

  • veryretired

    Yes, an unappetizing situation in all respects. While I generally encourage voting in elections, I can’t see much to vote for on the national level.

    I vote for or against certain candidates, depending on the race, at the local level, and usually vote against incumbents or for 3rd parties at the national level.

    I had some small hope in the 80′s and 90′s that the Repubs might be able to reduce governmental growth and power, but that has clearly been abandoned over the last few electoral cycles. The more they controlled, the more they wanted, and the more money they needed, the less fiscal discipline and prudence.

    I see absolutely nothing that would make me think the Dems would be any better.

    Sounds like another vote for the independent or constitutional party as a protest, not that it will do much good.

    We’ll see what happens in 2008. I can see at least one candidate at the national level I could support, if not get overly enthused about. That’s one more than usual.

  • I am a Canadian. Voting in this country is pure torture. There are too many parties with their slightly different shades of pinkish-hues to flaming reds. Local elections are coming to my part of the world in November, so once again I’ll hold my breath and vote. Any one who’ll treat me as a thinking responsible adult………… hah not likely so hence the nose-holding

  • Rick

    Fantastic post Perry….terrific analysis, says it all.

    I came to this same analysis in the US some 30 years ago and have voted only once or twice for Libertarian candidates since then. It’s only gotten worse.

    We are now being ruled by a pack of immoral, incompetent, corrupt, lying, hypocrites bent on ruling the world.

    If your not a gay or a woman would it matter if we were ruled by the Taleban? Would you put your life on the line to protect what the “west” has become? Why?

  • Alice

    Great post! Now for the obvious follow-up question — is there a way of fixing “democratic” politics short of a civil war?

    There are lots of ideas that could make a real difference — randomly-selected Representatives, rather than elected. (Anyone who wants to be elected is by definition not representative of his constituents). Disqualification of elected incumbents from being re-elected, so that every election involves new faces. No pensions ever for any elected service, so that people cannot become career politicians. But it is hard to imagine any bunch of MPs (or their equivalent in other countries) voting for something that would make their pampered lives less sheltered.

    Looks like we have to wait for things to get so bad that the ruling cliques get swept away on a wave of revolt. And who knows where that would end?

  • htjyang

    The problem about libertarians is that they tend to have politics so extreme that they see everyone else as being the same. Therefore, a lot of them vote for hopeless 3rd parties. Perry’s advice has been taken to heart by countless thousands of Libertarians in the US for decades. Exactly what have they accomplished? Can any of the tax cuts passed by Republicans be attributed to their efforts? Hardly. Is anyone seriously suggesting that on the issue of taxes, there is no discernible difference between the Democrats and the Republicans?

    Pray tell, how many Congressional votes did the Libertarian Party deliver to pass free trade agreements? The Republicans have always voted overwhelmingly in favor of them and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed. But of course, as the issues of free trade and tax cuts effectively destroy Perry’s “they are all the same” paradigm, they are not mentioned in his post.

    Such extremism led Perry to commit other mistakes. He claims that the president had to be pushed “to not renew the so-called ‘assault rifle’ ban.” There was never any possibility of Republicans pushing for it. The president did claim that he would sign its renewal but anyone who paid attention to how US politics worked knew that the bill had no chance of passing Congress in the first place and the president had to avoid alienating moderates. Unlike Perry, the president was running for re-election at the time.

    The NRA has been defending the 2nd Amendment long before Perry was born. (and I dare say they have done more on that front than Perry) They have compiled a list of what the Republican Congress has done for gun rights here(Link). That list looks very formidable and the NRA certainly doesn’t consider themselves disappointed by the GOP.

    Every now and then, Perry delivers one of these diatribes which sounds to me like a mixture of a fit of pique and despair. I can understand such diatribes if Perry confines them to the British side of the Pond. But it is quite false to claim that things are the same in the US as well.

    The US system of checks and balances, unlike the British system, was designed to slow down political change. That has the salutary effect of limiting the damage done by FDR and Lyndon Johnson. But the system is blind, and it is not surprising that efforts to roll back the welfare state has been slow as well.

    Furthermore, it’s curious to see Perry place so much faith in politics. Apparently the expectation is that some libertarian Savior will emerge and save us all and that anyone who falls short of that is guilty of high treason.

    I would remind Perry of what a great libertarian sage, Ludwig von Mises once said when asked what he would do if he gets to be the dictator of the country: “I would abdicate!” Von Mises recognizes that drastic change is usually not for the better of the nation. It is precisely because the will of a dictator is immediately enforceable that makes them so destructive.

    I won’t pretend to find the Republicans “satisfactory.” I merely find them “barely tolerable” which is still a much higher ranking than I would give to Democrats. There is a Grand Canyon’s worth of difference between the 2 parties on the 3 issues I named. There are many others I can name. The Republicans are certainly more receptive to privatizing Social Security than the Democrats.

    The last time Perry put up something like this, I responded by saying that the best thing libertarians can do is to strengthen the positive parts of the Republican Party by joining them and remove moderate and liberal Republicans. The fiscally conservative group Club for Growth is busy at it. It has recently removed the liberal Republican Congressman Joe Schwartz from office in a primary election and replaced him with a conservative. It is obviously too much to ask Perry to join their efforts. But is it too much to ask him to stop sniping from the sidelines?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Perry, on a related matter, you might be interested in this piece of research from CATO Institute. It shows that there is quite a large block of voters who could meaningfully be described as libertarians in the US: people who are “conservative” on economics and “liberal” on social policy issues like civil liberties (yes I know the terms are hazy but bear with me).

    Now, in the British context, I think we might find there are a quite a lot of folk who could swing elections and who conform to a similar set of views: favouring private enterprise, strong defence, but also relaxed on issues like free speech, strong defenders of trial by jury, etc.

  • Johnathan

    Oops, forgot to give the CATO link, which is a pdf file. Here it is.(Link)

  • htjyang, you really need to go back and re-read my article as you clearly did not understand it. I am not addressing libertarians, I am addressing conservatives.

    Sure, if you think the Republican party can be reformed from within, then do so. I see nothing wrong with voting for a local ‘good guy’ but refusing to vote for some RINO running for some other office… the problem is people who just vote Republican because a person is running as a Republican, not because of the policies they support.

    George W. Bush is proof that voting Republican can get you Big Government and the horrendous Patriot Act. The ‘Republican appointed majority’ on the SCOTUS made the Kelo ruling. Those things are what voting for a party you find “barely tolerable” gets you. And as the likes of George Bush know you will vote for them regardless of their actions making them barely tolerable to you, you views count for nothing. All they have to be is slightly less dreadful than Democrats and they own your vote. Well done.

    My diatribe is neither pique nor despair as in the long run I do not think ‘my side’ can possibly lose, but I just think that conservatives need to realise they are part of the problem and will not be part of the solution until they stop showing unthinking tribal loyalty. If you are not one of those, then you are not the subject of my article.

    Regarding the NRA… I used to be a card carrying member. And you should note that the NRA also supports Democrats who are on the correct side of the self-defence issue.

  • Some guy from Scranton

    And you should note that the NRA also supports Democrats who are on the correct side of the self-defence issue.

    Yes, and that’s what makes effective. If the Republicans thought the NRA would support them because they’re less bad overall, the NRA would lose their ability to apply selective pressure and would be writen off as irrelevent to Republican policy making and would give local Democrats who are often willing to be reasonable on 2nd Amendment issues, no reason whatsoever to make policies that would get the NRA off their back (if they thought the NRA would oppose them regardless). So yeah, I guess that is just a long way of saying I agree with what you wrote. If the Republicans take conservative votes for granted, you end up with George Bush, a Republican non-conservative.

    As a micro example, i’m NRA and we’ve worked hard to get compromisers thrown out of leadership positions, but if that had failed, I would’ve left the NRA and let them know I was now sending my membership money to JPFO (even though I am not even a Jew) and GOA… ok, to be honest I suppoprt both of those guys with my bucks anyway but the important thing is that I would STOP supporting the NRA the moment I felt it was becoming “part of the problem”.

  • Brad

    htjyang,

    Privatizing social security, like with those Federally approved conduits that have to meet a laundry list of do’s and don’ts (a la IRA’s and 401k’s) that simply funnel money into mutual funds that will eventually be more highly regulated thereby by the alphabet soup bureaucracy? THAT privatization. Until they support dramatically lowering taxes across the board AND spending, they are merely the “right” side of the Statist center that was referred to. Dems have been known as tax and spend, the Repubs are borrow and spend. Very little difference. Even privatizing SS correctly will accomplish very little if other spending and promises are not reeled in, something that the Republicans are reluctant to do.

    And what good does privatizing SS do when at the same time Bush signed Medicare Part D effectively adding $11 TRILLION to the accrual basis debt? Social Security is only one part of the total $46 Trillion accrual debt, so privatizing SS, again correctly, would simply reduce the accrual debt to about $31 Trillion, which will simply have to be taken from the then current production or that “private” savings that has been accumulated. It doesn’t do me much good to save for the future if it is simply taken then to the public treasury.

    Simply put, neither party deals with reality. They have to buy votes in the short term, appealing to only the 50% who vote, which is comprised largely of older/elderly voters who don’t want their situation changed one iota. So BOTH parties continue to make endless unfunded promises and push the bill off into the future. Privatized anything doesn’t mean much unless the whole kit and kaboodle is privatized. Unless a party truly speaks of putting the Federal Government back into its Constitutional box, the rest is just 1984ish blather.

    We have a $46 trillion accrual debt which both parties have galvanized over the last 70 years. Neither is doing anything to change this. In fact they have both tried to add even more to it, either making unfunded promises or cutting taxes while doing very little about spending (and in the case of Bush, adding dizzying amounts to both spending and the bureaucracy).

    The saddest part is that what is now crazy libertarian, impractical talk used to be much nearer the mainstream. A hundred and fifty years ago, long debates were made about the propriety of compulsory education and philanthropy was a private affair. Now we live in world where “conservatives” add a years total domestic production to the transfer pile with the sweep of a pen.

  • In the past I have voted at every opportunity available to me because I was told that it was a ‘sacred duty’ and that if I didn’t I would have no right to complain.
    By voting I gave tacit approval of everything done by the government even when in actuality I abhorred it. I’m never going to vote again, not because there is no-one worth voting for but because my vote it is worth absolutely nothing to me but everything to those who would seek to control my life and restrict my liberty. Voting doesn’t change anything, ever. It only increases the power of the state and gives legitimacy to those who deserve none.
    None of the current slew of parties will change one iota of the system that puts them in power and it is the system that is the problem. I withdraw my support of the system. You never know, if enough people do this then the system might collapse.

  • htjyang

    Perry,

    I was also pointing out what happens when Libertarians adopted your advice: Nothing. Your advice would effectively disarm conservatives as well. All the more ironic considering that Libertarians also benefit from the things conservatives have done yet instead of coming up and help push the wagon, they remain content chirping from the side. Perhaps you’re satisfied with complete helplessness and launching polemics from your home. Many of us are not.

    As for the Kelo majority, it was a 5-4 vote. You will not find any Republican presidential candidate who either praises it or commits to appointing justices like Kennedy, Stevens, and Souter. Mistakes happen. There’s no sinister collusion between the 2 parties on this. Furthermore, Kelo, unlike Roe v. Wade, did not foreclose all state and local action to defend private property and over the past year, a number of initiatives to that effect were passed. Assuming that such initiatives will not be overturned by the Court, one can argue that the decision actually promotes federalism. In time, states that arbitrarily seize private property will decline and those that protect private property will prosper.

    Finally, you also ignore how far to the Left the Supreme Court used to be. Justice Kennedy, for all his faults, was an improvement over Justice Powell, the man he replaced. Justice Souter cannot possibly be more liberal than the man he replaced, Justice Brennan.

    I’m quite aware that the NRA supports Democrats. I’m also aware that the number of Democrats they support is much smaller than the number of Republicans they support. That’s not a coincidence.

    As for Brad’s complaint about the proposal to privatize Social Security, he’s guilty of exactly what I accused libertarians of: Extremism and lack of consideration about the natural moderating mechanisms of American politics.

    Just as a mighty tree must start with a small seed, eliminating the welfare state can only start small. Brad rather forgets that 25 years ago, nobody except the Cato Institute was talking about privatizing Social Security. Today, it’s been adopted by the leader of one of the 2 major parties. Brad also ignores the fact that drastic change is usually unsustainable. On the other hand, incremental reform is likely to creep in unsuspected and thus more easily accepted by the people.

    It took conservatives 30 years to stop Republicans from raising taxes. I expect it’ll take at least as long to get them to start cutting back government. Whining from the side gets you nowhere.

  • ktel

    While I understand your frustration, the arguement made here smacks (to me at least) of the Stalinist school of “making things worse so we can make them better”. I cannot in good conscience intentionally vote for the worse candidate in the general elections. Here in Texas we have a counterproductive ballot access mechanism whereby voting in a party primary disqualifies one from signing ballot acces petitions. Therefore, to get a libertarian or independent candidate on the ballot, one must forego any input in the other parties candidate selection. Or, simply put, I can’t support both a conservative republican in a primary and, if dissapointed in the primary,a libertarian in teh general election. Sucks, huh.

  • ktel, I read this a bit different. I reckon the point is “you don’t make things better by support people who make things worse, just because they make it worse slower”. By voting for the lesser evil, you’re voting to eat the shit sandwich your being handed a nibble as a time rather than in a big bite, but you are still eating a shit sandwich because the guys you vote for knows you’ll eat it anyway. He is saying you need to make it clear you don’t want no shit sandwiches at all.

  • Kevin B

    So the natural order of things, if you are a person who makes their living out of being a politician, is to work to extend the state into more and more areas of life because the state is what you have influence over, thereby making yourself more important to ever more people.

    While there’s obviously some truth in this, I think you overlook another important reason why the state expands continuously.

    Whenever something bad happens, a great hue and cry goes up, (from the opposition, the media pundits, and the great and good), that the government should do something about it.

    So the goverment passes a law, which extends the state into yet another area of our lives. So-called ‘hate speech’ legislation is a classic example.

    No, the main reason polititians extend the state is not because they want to control all our lives, it’s because they’re too weak to stand up to ‘public opinion’.

  • No, the main reason polititians extend the state is not because they want to control all our lives, it’s because they’re too weak to stand up to ‘public opinion’.

    Where I disagree is that very few people go into politics so that they can ‘stand up to public opinion’. The sort of people who become professional politicians are (and I am of course generalising) not people of principle (and I do not say that just because they rarely share my views), but are rather ‘power professionals’.

  • Brad

    ***As for Brad’s complaint about the proposal to privatize Social Security, he’s guilty of exactly what I accused libertarians of: Extremism and lack of consideration about the natural moderating mechanisms of American politics.***

    We’re $375,000 in debt PER WORKING PERSON or $750,000 per working couple. What is fucking MODERATE about that? Do you have it? I don’t. It would seem that both sides have been consistently immoderate for too damn long. And according to statistics I’ve read recently, my wife and I are off the charts savings wise versus the average american (of whom 75% have saved less than $50,000 for retirement) and we’re not even close to having such savings as $750,000 laying around.

    There is nothing moderate about being $46 trillion dollars in debt WITH NO PLAN to do anything about it other than shift a little of it off the books into highly limited and regulated “private” funds. Any other master plans, fast or slow, that you know of?

    Maybe you’d like to read for yourself the fix we’re in without MASSIVE changes to our public policy. Without a major paradigm shift soon our gross misallocation of resources is going to haunt us VERY soon. Perhaps the likes of Comptroller General Walker may be more persuasive (if less whining) starting page 27-.

    Continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security. – page 28

    http://www.fms.treas.gov/fr/05frusg/05frusg.pdf

    By the way, Walker didn’t think much of Bush’s privatizing plan, knowing what a leaky bucket it was. And from what I’ve read by Walker, and seen him on McGlaughlin One on One, he’s outwardly neither left or right, he just calls it like he sees it.

    And, again, cutting taxes without cutting SPENDING does absolutely nothing. Bush just added $11 TRILLION of present value liability with Medicare Part D, the largest expansion of the Welfare State in 40 years; that’s progress? I hate to tell you this, BUT WE DON”T HAVE 30 YEARS.

    We’ve less than a decade (considering budget cycles are pretty well locked two years in advance, other than discretionary spending which usually only goes up) to figure out what the hell we’re going to do, and highly regulated “private” plans that ended up going nowhere ain’t a good start. Conservatives today NEED to be disarmed as many pundits don’t see a thing wrong with borrowing instead of cutting spending. Ultimately there is no lesser of two evils to debate here, they just use different colored smoke and different style mirrors.

    The body politic at this point is a junky and Pols are the pusher, and it’s either relative cold turkey or we’re in for whole world of hurt.

  • htjyang

    Brad,

    It’s extremism because that $375,000/person figure was not all generated yesterday. It was generated over a period of several decades through increases in benefits. Expecting those obligations to disappear immediately when it was generated over several decades is utterly unrealistic. I freely concede that much more work on privatization is needed. If it is done, however, then there is no need to worry about it.

    As for your complaint against the prescription drugs plan, I share it, though I would point out 2 mitigating factors:

    i. It included the Health Savings Account.

    For once, Democratic scaremongering has some basis in reality. During the debate over the bill in 2003, they screamed that it would privatize Medicare which, of course, is exactly what conservatives are hoping for.

    It won’t privatize Medicare immediately. It needs follow-up work. But it does provide a window of opportunity.

    That leads us to

    ii. The bill was unavoidable.

    I would have preferred no bill at all, but political reality forbids that. The reality is that the American population is aging. As a result, the seniors’ lobby is only going to become more powerful as time goes by. It is best to deal with this issue now when Republicans are in control than to wait a few years until Democrats come back in power and impose a much more state-centric plan. As things stand, private companies are still massively involved. Liberals would impose price controls. As I mentioned earlier, the Health Savings Account allows for the possibility of privatizing Medicare in the future.

    Your mistake is in assuming that the 2003 bill was the end. It was not. I see it as merely the beginning of privatizing Medicare.

    Finally, Republicans did pass a bill in early 2006 to cut spending. It was a small cut, only about $40 billion. But I refer you back to my point about incrementalism. Furthermore, that is still a far larger amount than Democrats will cut. ($0)

  • Some guy from Scranton

    As a result, the seniors’ lobby is only going to become more powerful as time goes by

    For sure, which is why trying to reform the system is a waste of time. Play your political games and vote if it makes you feel better but realise it’s all just a form of prozac. The bubble will burst and the only difference between Reps and Dems is it will burst a bit sooner if the Dems are in control.

    My assets are in property, gold and workshop tangables. Got money in the bank? A pension? Insurance policies? You’re pretty much fucked if you’re still around 10-15 years from now. Me, I’ll get back into politics after it all goes down the crapper and some reality comes back into the equation.

  • Brad

    ***It’s extremism because that $375,000/person figure was not all generated yesterday. It was generated over a period of several decades through increases in benefits. Expecting those obligations to disappear immediately when it was generated over several decades is utterly unrealistic. I freely concede that much more work on privatization is needed. If it is done, however, then there is no need to worry about it.***

    The accrual debt per worker was $165,000 in 2000. It had grown $210,000 in the last 6 years.

    I shall end the debate here. Suffice it to say that you have a rosier picture of the state we now are in. Fine. I see that we are in an untennable situation on the doorstep of a dystopian future. Liberties are whisked off the table at an alarming rate, and the Republicans sit where Dems sat 40 years ago, if not slightly leftward.

    Both parties are fiscally irresponsible and have basic plank policies that do not comport with basic economics. How are things going to be changed incrementally for the better? The inevitable failures in the system are not going to be corrected with less intervention and control, it will be met with more.

    There is a logical way to do things, and it is nonsense to think that continuing to do things wildly illogical, hoping over time that things will get better by being moderately illogical, hoping one day to wake up perfectly logical. The greater the illogic, the greater the misallocation of resources. History shows that nations that do not have a sound interface with how their resources are allocated have revolution.

    At the end of the day it wasn’t the libertarians who changed all that much. It was the conservative/repubs who concluded “if you can’t beat’em join’em.” We’ve had a “thousand points of light” and compassionate conservativism give way to outright collectivism and centralization. They moved away from us, not the other way around. It is a bit unnerving to be called extremist when we’ve done nothing but stand still. Everyone else has drifted off into fuzzy, collectivist, unboundedly resourced la-la land.

    Respond by all means, and I’ll read it, but I don’t think there is much left to say. If a $46 trillion debt doesn’t blow your socks straight off, and we have all the time in the world to meander to a better, freer world, there’s nothing else I can say or point to. If such patent nonsense isn’t a bracing slap to the face, there is nothing else for it.

  • Midwesterner

    Brad’s got my vote. ‘Wasted’ or no.

  • Asus Phreak… er, thanks for that imagery…

  • Paul Marks

    To be fair to George Walker Bush he has supported the cutting of some taxes (such as income tax rates) and he supports getting rid of some other taxes (such as inheritance tax) – this is rather different from the record of his father George Herbert Walker Bush.

    As for “my local Democratic candidate is no worse than the Republican so I will……” Washington D.C. does have a party system (weak though it may be).

    Who is the majority in the House and Senate does matter. For example, there will be votes on whether to keep the cuts in tax rates (without a “yes” vote these taxes will automatically rise as the rate cuts were only for a certain number of years) – if the Democrats gain control of either the House or the Senate taxes WILL go up (let no one pretend that they did not know this).

    Also the Democrats will be given control of key committees and they will not just use these committees to attack President Bush and others over Iraq and Afghanistan (although having the Administration bogged down defending itself from investigations by these committees will guarantee DEFEAT in Iraq and Afghanistan).

    There is also the point that Democrats will use the committees to attack private business.

    I must confess that I am enough of a social conservative to have some distaste for a man, Barney Frank, who uses male prostitutes and allowed his home to be used as a base for an underage male prostitute operation – but I accept that other libertarians may not feel any such distaste.

    However, do people really want Barney Frank, an ardent statist, in charge of a key economic committee? He will be if the Democrats win – and there are other Democrats like him waiting to slot into place.

    “Are your prices fair?”, “Are your business practices fair?” – it will not just be words, there will be the big stick behind it.

    Is everyone just going to trust President Bush to turn into Captain Veto? And (of course) he can not veto investigations anyway – investigations which will make Republican ones look like a tea party.

    Can President Bush be trusted to veto (for example) all the pro union regulations that the Democrats already have drafted and ready to go?

    “But my Democratic candidate is not like this” – see above, what matters is who is in the majorty (the leadership of both Houses of Congress and the key committee chairmen set the agenda).

    The budget deficit is presently 1.9% of G.D.P. (lower than most Western nations – and they are not at war and have not been hit by natural disasters recently). Also (contrary to what is often said) discretionary spending (other than defence) has NOT been greatly rising as percentage of the economy under the Republicans (the spending tends to be quoted as raw numbers – what matters is spending as a percentage of the ecomomy).

    The real problem is (as ever) entitlement program spending. The thing that the Treasuary Secretary talks about every chance he gets.

    Certainly the Republicans may not do much about this (for all the talk of President Bush and others) – but there is no chance at all that the Democrats are going to deal with the Welfare State.

    Of course none of the above applies in the United Kingdom.

    Mr Cameron and his party have decided to attack the Labour government from the left (in spite of vast increases in government spending, tax and regulations that make President Bush’s America look laissez faire in comparison). According to Mr Cameron and co the government National Health Service has been the victim of “cuts” and they will give it more money than Labour will – ditto many other “government services”.

    Also (according to Mr Cameron and co) the Labour government has not imposed enough regulations on British business enterprises, more need to be imposed to make sure that private business serves the public good (and so on).

    There is no justification for voting for a political party led by Mr Cameron – they are not even the “lesser evil”, they are just evil.

  • jk

    I think you’re mistaken, Perry, to conflate the US and UK situations. While similar, the different governmental structure fundamentally changes the argument.

    Other commenters ask “what have your Republican votes produced?” and it’s admittedly not much to brag about.

    But I’ll ask “what have your boycotts produced?” Sit at home to not honor a candidate with your vote and you allow the two statist parties to proceed apace.

    Like htjyang, I see a chance to reform the GOP from inside. If all you folks staying home became active in the GOP, you could inch the party toward more liberty loving positions. It might discourage the less liberty conscious Democrats in the meantime.

    The margins are so narrow that little-l libertarians could become an swing constituency — well, unless they stay home.

  • Paul Marks

    What jk says is also important during Primary elections.

    Joining the Conservative party gives someone virtually no say in deciding who the candidate will be (when Mr Cameron’s “reforms” are finished it will not be “virtually” no say – it will be simply no say at all).

    However, registering as a Republican does (in most States) give someone a chance to vote on who should be the candidate.

  • I think you’re mistaken, Perry, to conflate the US and UK situations. While similar, the different governmental structure fundamentally changes the argument.

    The situation is similar in the USA in the sense that the party is heading in the wrong direction and will continue to do so if conservative keep voting for non-conservative Republicans… I regard the Tory party as beyond salvage completely and utterly, whereas there are elements within the Republican party who are still classical liberals.

    It makes no sense to vote for any Tory because the party itself need to be destroyed… and the UKIP is starting to look increasingly like a viable alternative. In the US, whilst it may be possible to salvage the Republicans, that will only happen if people do NOT vote for people like G.W. Bush just because he is a Republican… the dynamic is actually the same in the US and UK, the difference is the Tory party is well past the point of no return.

  • but in the end they are still selling sweet brown fizzy drinks

    well, it ain’t sweet and fizzy, but it is brown. LOL

    Yeah, I keep looking for someone who will represent my core political philosophy. Picture here a dead old ghost town with tumbleweeds blowing through.

    However, seeing none, I will continue to be a whore for power and pork and vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell and Congressman Hal Rogers.

    I can bring home the bacon
    Fry it up in a pan
    And never never never let you forget I’m your man
    Hal Rogers
    Vote for me!

    I see these guys as having high level appointments and so can advocate for Kentucky’s interests. I live in an economically depressed area that has come a long way in the time I’ve moved here, usually with some pork involved.

    In 2000 especially, with the Green Monster Gore going all Kyoto on our @$$, being from coal country meant that the candidates’ different outlook on energy policy really meant something for local economic impact and the wellbeing of families. Bush was elected and a coal boom started. Many local folks didn’t vote for him, because the D’s scared them by saying they’d lose their welfare, SS, SSI, disability checks if he got elected. See, everyone votes their economic interests.

    There are real issues and the parties differ this election (on the national level). Given the opportunity, I will vote for the party that supports financial tracking of terrorist supporting organizations, warrantless wiretapping of international calls from AQ, authorizing CIA to interrogate with clearly defined prohibitions, not granting full constitutional rights to non-state actor enemies (i.e. terrorists) [which is more rights than I had as a tacpaying, long-term legal permanent resident alien!], I don’t want to Saigon Iraq and make our efforts so far a total waste…let’s stand down when Iraq can stand up! And I don’t want Michael Moore inspired investigations and impeachments during a time of war, which just aids and abets the enemy. THERE IS A LOT AT STAKE HERE, FOLKS. I don’t want to be defenseless against the enemy and I don’t want to abandon the good people of Iraq to those who desire a theocracy-caliphate. It will be mass bloodshed if we withdraw too soon.

    Unlike Australia, you have the right NOT to vote; thanks for handing more power over to me who does vote and has every time since becoming a citizen.

    Registering and voting increases the weighting of my citizen lobbying efforts. Staff aids check out that stuff. My lobbying groups are 800 lb gorillas because we register and vote and know how to exercise influence even without money.

    Y’all can be political philosophy purists but I choose to live in the real world and play the hand that’s dealt according to the real rules of the game. Being effective at doing so even before becoming a citizen inspired me to follow through and naturalize.

  • Yeah, I keep looking for someone who will represent my core political philosophy [...] Y’all can be political philosophy purists but I choose to live in the real world and play the hand that’s dealt according to the real rules of the game.

    If The System is so effective for you, then why are you still looking for someone who will represent your core political philosophy? And if you are willing to vote for people who do not, why should anyone even try to represent your views seeing as they are obviously not a precondition for your support? The ‘rules of the game’ only work because enough people agree to play by them. That is the mistake conservatives are making.

    I am not talking about ideological purity, I am talking about the real world practical consequences of voting for people whose only virtue is being ‘less evil’.

  • jk

    Ryan Sagar’s “The Elephant In The Room” speculates about a split in the GOP between mostly southern, evangelical conservatives and the libertarian economic conservatives in the Rocky Mountain states (hey, that’s me!)

    I just don’t see where anybody ever progressed their policy ideas by not voting. Where or when have the ideas of liberty been advanced by staying home?

  • Maybe I am naive in thinking Cameron will deliver what his speeches have implied. But I do think it is too early to judge the Tories lost to our libertarian preferences.

    I would only consider my position when I consider it possible with an educated understanding of what the policies are.

  • Maybe I am naive in thinking Cameron will deliver what his speeches have implied.

    I do not think you are naive at all… His speeches have stated (not implied) that he will introduce more regulation (pandering to the Green vote) and he will not lower taxes. In other words we will see the state continue to grow. I do not oppose Cameron because I am ‘reading between the lines’, I oppose him because of what he actually says quite clearly.

  • Actually he said he won’t put tax cuts before economic stability which is deliberately misleading. He knows that economic stability and tax cuts are not directly affected but the BBC and those not overly interested in politics take that to mean that the Tories won’t put ideology before pragmatism…

    I cannot defend the attempts by Cameron to placate the enviro-socialist lobby.