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Three reasons (and one reason in particular) why I want Romney to win big

And none of them is Romney.

Now that Natalie, to whom deep thanks, has done the I-told-you-so posting that I feared I might have to do for myself, by linking to the piece I wrote last week in the privacy of my personal blog entitled Reasons to think Romney is going to win big, I thought I would follow up her posting and mine, by saying why I want Romney to win big.

First, I really want Obama to lose, big. A few years back, someone made up a quote about how America could survive another four years of Obama. It would be plenty tough enough, provided Obama himself was the only problem. But could America survive a longer term future in which it contains, decade after decade, all the people who re-elected Obama? That’s pretty much how I feel about Obama winning, this time around. An Obama victory would do quite a bit of harm. But worse, far worse, would be what it meant.

Second, if Obama loses, something bigger and more powerful and more important will lose with him, namely the USA’s Mainstream Media. The crowing of these people if Obama were to win would be unbearable. Their humiliation will be exquisite, when Romney, as I now believe he will, wins big.

But third, and by far my most important reason for wanting Romney to win big, is that an Obama win of any sort would be a horrible set-back for the Tea Party, given that the Tea Party has now thrown its considerable weight behind Romney. A big Romney win, on the other hand, will greatly strengthen the Tea Party, and I think that would be very, very good.

The more I learn about the Tea Party and their sayings and doing, the more I am proud of that posting I did here, well over a year ago now, which said that they are Good people with good ideas (a notion confirmed by the commenters responding to this later Tea Party posting I did). It seems that a great many Americans now agree with me. In my opinion this is, politically, just about the best thing that is now happening in the world.


Early last week, in a favourite London haunt of mine, the second hand classical CD shop Gramex, its socialist owner (we are good pals despite our differences – and so we should be given how many classical CDs I’ve bought from him over the last three decades) announced that clearly nobody in their right mind would consider voting for Romney. I’d vote for Romney in a blink, I responded, instantly. And then I had one of those moments when you find out what you think by hearing what you say. I continued orating, still without skipping any beats. “I would vote for Romney because the Tea Party supports him. They say that the US government does too much, spends too much and borrows too much, and I entirely agree. I’d vote with them.” And I’m retro-editing that for fluency hardly at all. Those were pretty much my exact words. I continued, describing the Tea Party as a coalition between Goddists and Libertarians, with both sides setting divisive opinions aside (God and “social libertarianism”) and concentrating on their overlap, see above, and I’m totally for it. Yes, I actually said all this, out loud, in a London shop, with strangers present, some presumably (like most in the classical music tribe) of a deeply anti-Romney-ite persuasion. That’s how much I meant it!

I considered cutting the above paragraph, and finding a home for it at my personal blog. But I do not think it irrelevant to what I am saying here. There is more to what you think than merely being right about it. There is also the matter of how strongly you feel about it, and how comfortable you feel inflicting it upon strangers. Something tells me that many Americans have recently also turned this particular corner.

Anyway, back to what I think as opposed to how I think it.

Suppose that the Tea Party, in the course of its big confabulation amongst itself just after Romney had been nominated, had followed the Perry de Havilland line and decided that they were going to urge people not to vote for Romney, and instead to vote for, e.g., Gary Johnson, on the grounds that he would, unlike Romney, really cut US government spending. Or for some Goddist candidate of equal fiscal and financial clarity and rectitude, who likewise wasn’t going to win, but who likewise might cause Romney to lose or at least to give him a serious fright. Or suppose they had decided to urge everyone to vote for nobody at all. Suppose they had decided, in the words of de-Havillandist commenter “August” (on this) that …

It wouldn’t seem too much of a stretch to me to think Wall Street is running the whole show now. Obama got in because he’s a compliant tool, but now he’s up against one of the finance world’s own. They’ll lock down the private profit, public risk/losses model and keep making us pay for their mistakes until there isn’t anything left.

Suppose that, instead of electing Romney the Even More Compliant Tool, the Tea Party had decided to do everything they could to shaft him, and get Obama to win. And then, having demonstrated their power to break any candidate they did not like, they tried to arrange a candidate whom they did truly like, in 2016.

Well, I can’t vote for anyone in this, but I can blog my preferences, and maybe help to shift a few dozen American voters in my preferred direction. So, suppose the Tea Party had said: Don’t Vote Romney.

I would probably now be saying that also.

Not because I have a huge loathing of Romney, any more than I now have a huge liking for him. What I do have is a huge liking for the Tea Party. I want the Tea Party to win this election, big. I agree with what they decide. I want the Tea Party to emerge from this election as a Huge Fact about American politics, which any politician ignores at his peril.

For what it’s worth, I think the Tea Party made entirely the right decision to go all out for Romney, for reasons which I may or may not expand upon, some other time. But that’s not my point here.

43 comments to Three reasons (and one reason in particular) why I want Romney to win big

  • CaptDMO

    Not to worry.
    One of the biggest problems is “awareness”.
    There’s a goodly bunch of folk ready to wield pitchforks,
    hay rakes, and torches over the freshly maintained moats.

    It’s just that they don’t realize “Oh, THIS is the Tea Party?” yet.

    “Business As Usual(tm)” has gone to great lengths in
    “complicating” the issue

  • I would love to be wrong about the long term cost of Romney winning. If he even rolled back the state to the vastly bloated levels it was under that fuckwit GWBush, I would grudgingly admit he was a Good Thing and I was wrong to want him to lose to the almost unbelievably appalling Obama.

    But I do not think he will do even that.

    I suspect even the things Romney un-does from the baleful Obama years will just be replaced with other massive statist ‘solutions’ which simply further establish the acceptability of the state being at the centre of things like health care, regardless of which party owns Pennsylvania Avenue…

    i.e. much as the existence of NHS is simply beyond party political discussion in the UK and only the details of how to manage it is permitted in polite society. That is the likely long term US outcome of a Romney win. The only argument will be what shape the State’s central presence in healthcare will take, not whether or not it should be there at all. All it takes is a single Republican administration to acquiesce for it to become the default assumption. Turning ObamaCare into some sort of RomneyCare would do exactly that.

    Will he win? No idea. Looks more likely now than a month ago but there is still quite some way to go until the Fat Lady sings.

    So no, nothing Romney has said has changed my views about why I want him to lose, seeing as there is no way to make them both lose this side of an exquisitely fortuitous meteor strike landing on the venue of a future presidential debate (and perhaps said meteor might even take out all of DC as simply expunging everything inside the Beltway would do a power of good to US civil society. Well, I’d miss the Smithsonian but hey, no pain no gain). Well I can dream, can’t I?

  • Tedd

    I was just saying yesterday that, if I could vote in this election, my strongest motivation toward voting for Romney would be the effect of a Romney win on the MSM.

    I like to think that this is only party schadenfreude. There’s a genuine, strategic purpose to it, as well. It seems to me that a lot of media people have set an intellectual trap for themselves in which there are only two explanations for Republican voters: they, themselves (the media) are wrong; or those who vote Republican are crazy, stupid, ignorant, evil, or in some other way irredeemably flawed. Since no one likes to admit that they’re wrong, the second explanation is the default choice. But the larger and more widely spread the Republican vote, particularly among independents and states that are less traditionally Republican, the harder that explanation is to sustain. At some point, at least some in the MSM have got to start considering the first explanation.

    Of course, even if this theory is right, it would only work after a landslide. A close win for Romney will result in an atmosphere similar to that after the Bush-Gore election.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Good points, all 3 of them.
    Strictly speaking, my philosophy of Whig realism (a term which I introduced in another Samizdata thread) should prevent me from writing this comment, since it’s highly unlikely that I will win a State for Romney by writing this; but I’ll write it anyway, as an intellectual exercise.

    I’ll tackle a more general problem though: what principles one should follow in voting in a 2-party system?
    My claim is that one should vote primarily on the policies of the ruling party. If the ruling party is re-elected, then it will double down on its policies, and the opposition party will shift towards them (eg by the collapse of the Tea Party, as Brian fears).
    If the opposition party goes to power and does not govern as hoped, then it must be punished, but a party will learn only from punishment only for what it has done in the last term, not from punishment for what you expect it to do in the next term.
    In other words, elections in 2-party politics are the political equivalent of reinforcement learning.

    The main exception that I admit to this rule is when the opposition party is clearly evil or insane, or both: then the priority is survival, as opposed to teaching a lesson.

  • RRS

    Where in all this chatter is the rational consideration of the legislative deflections of the Executive office.

    Look at the role of the U S Senate for the last 8 years; the last 3+ with NO budget; the failures of the committee processes -despite a proliferation in sub-committees, etc.

    The things that need doing cannot be done at the Executive level, only affected by that level.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Another point, in reply to the “Romney is no Thatcher” crowd, such as Perry above. The more I think about it, the less qualitative difference I see between voting for a candidate who wants to shrink the State and voting for the candidate who wants the least expansion of the State.

    What is really needed is not a leader who shrinks the State, but constitutional arrangements that ensure that the State stays shrunk, and neither Reagan nor Thatcher were able to introduce them. (In fact Thatcher, by centralizing government, might have made it easier to expand the State.)
    Until such arrangements can be introduced, all what we can do is vote for the lesser evil — or emigrate: THAT is a realist solution.

  • Bruce

    I supported Gary Johnson in the primaries, but I’ll vote for Romney as the least worst choice in the general election.

    In the American first-past-the-post election system, voluntarily assigning yourself to an ideological party, be it Libertarian, Constitution, Communist, etc., is at best to marginalize your influence. It’s an example of what Voltaire referred to as making the perfect the enemy of the good.

    This is something of an aside, but the word “libertarian” unfortunately carries with it strong negative connotations for many people who share generally libertarian values. Say you’re socially liberal and fiscally conservative (a generally libertarian position) and many people will agree with you. Say you’re a libertarian and people think of Ron Paul, Alex Jones, and assorted cranks.

    I wish Gary Johnson the best, but I hope his foray into third-party politics is temporary and that he devotes himself to building a base and influence within an established party.

  • Alisa

    Brian, to address your main point (no. 3): I truly have no idea if Romney is going to be as awful as Perry predicts, but if his prediction proves to be correct, wouldn’t it effectively neuter the Tea Party, while ostensibly having it as the winner? It seems to me it is all about Romney after all.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    The effort the Tea Party puts into electing Romney may also result in its electing a Congress inclined to rein in Romney’s excesses (if any). A Romney presidency isn’t necessarily cause for despair: caution, yes; despair, no.

  • Alisa & Perry;

    You both seem overlooking Congressional elections and thinking of a Romney Administration as if the Presidential election is the only one that matters. It’s clearly not, the 2010 results should show that by how President Obama was stymied by a change in control of just one house of Congress. The Tea Parties are putting a lot of effort in to Congress as well which is likely to pay off. The Tea Partiers I know are quite open and aware of this and talk about using Congress to “hold Romney’s feet to the fire”. Whether that will work is of course debatable but it is not, IMHO, ignorable.

  • Jimmy Florez

    The Tea Partiers I know are quite open and aware of this and talk about using Congress to “hold Romney’s feet to the fire”. Whether that will work is of course debatable but it is not, IMHO, ignorable.

    Gotta say I’m with the pessimists on this one. I don’t think the system can be reformed. Doubly so if the guy at the top doesn’t really think it needs to be reformed, it just run more sensibly by Our Guys. That’s clearly the mainstream GOP view. I’m done with voting for now at least. I just don’t think it matters. I wish I didn’t think that was true but I just can’t see it any other way.

  • Alisa

    AOG: I am really, truly, genuinely undecided on this. My point is that if, as per Brian’s link, the TP is really behind Romney (and Ron Paul did endorse him), then a serious disappointment with Romney’s presidency (regardless of what kind of Congress we get, Romney can still very much disappoint) will cost the TP a lot of its enthusiasm and credibility. Unlike Perry though, I am not at all confident that such a disappointment is forthcoming – I really have no idea.

  • Regional

    Obama is only a spokesperson for the Meeja.

  • Bombadil

    As a resident of Washington state, which will go to Obama even if it turns out that he has been molesting puppies and snorting meth in the White House kitchen, I am going to vote for Johnson. All of Washington’s electoral votes belong to Obama, as if he had his name inscribed on them. So why completely waste my vote on Romney, rather than only partially wasting it on Johnson?

    I say partially wasting for Johnson, because the larger the share of the popular vote Johnson gets, the more awareness of libertarianism in general there will be, and the more clout and ability to shift the debate libertarians will have.

  • Bombadil

    Of course, on further thought I have to concede that the worst possible scenario is an Obama win and Democratic control of both houses of Congress.

    I shall therefore accentuate my vote for Johnson by voting for Republicans in all the other races. Not because I love Republicans, but as a hedge in case Obama gets re-elected … in that case a Republican Congress will be the only thing that could possibly save us.

  • There is no doubt in my mind that Romney would be far less damaging to my country than a continued Obama administration. I haven’t heard a single person besides myself say that they think Romney is a genuinely good man, and follows his good conscious as much as a politician can. I am willing to give him a shot, if only because every libertarian I know is prepared to apply pressure to the legislative branch to roll back spending. This will be a long slog, probably a generation or more. But it has to start somewhere, and Romney, however unperfect (misspelling intentional) is the tool at hand.

  • Roy Lofquist

    I have been avidly following politics in the US since 1952. I have seen more public discussion of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and The Federalist Papers in the last 3 years than in the previous 57.

    We have had a number of awakenings in our history – the westward expansion, emancipation, suffrage (women’s vote), prohibition and civil rights being the most noteworthy. It is happening again.

  • Myno

    Residing in Hawaii, the state’s votes are all going for Democrats, at every level. So I’m voting the Capital L Libertarian ticket. But I wish Romney well… well, until he does something predictably abysmal.

  • Alisa

    ‘We have had a number of
    awakenings in our history
    – the westward expansion,
    emancipation, suffrage
    (women’s vote), prohibition and civil rights being the most
    noteworthy. It is happening again.’

    And yet, despite all the positive progress that was made on all those particular issues, the State and statism grew immensely and steadily, often using those same issues as stepping stones.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Alisa: there is a hidden assumption in your question, apparently, which is that the Tea Party will collectively stick with Romney. Should they decide instead to punish him if and when he strays, then I shouldn’t think the Tea Party would be tainted or demoralized.
    Anyway, every endorsement is a risk: if the Tea Party managed to put Ryan, or indeed Johnson, in the White House, they could still be disappointed.

  • Alisa

    Snorri: absolutely. My issue is with Brian’s (ostensible) assumption that if a certain group supports a certain candidate, then the win for that candidate is automatically a win for that group. What I am trying to show is that would depend on the reasons for and the nature of their support. If the TP supports Romney conditionally, with the clear and loudly outspoken understanding that the proverbial fire is chasing his feet as he walks the rooms of the WH (and it might just be me, but I am yet to hear any such thing declared anywhere) then you may be right. But if they have simply resigned to supporting whoever is Not Obama, then they may find themselves politically irrelevant if/when Romney indeed proves himself to be the Lesser Evil that many assume he is.

  • Andrew

    As regards tactical voting in Washington state, that might be more effective than first thought, as I’ve read that the Obama team have been watching with some concern the effect of Johnson’s stance on the legalisation of marijuana, which is apparently very popular with large swathes of the Washington electorate. Go for it, you never know, you might cause an upset…

  • Roy Lofquist


    I was alluding to the historical reality that the American people, more than any other, determine their own destiny. It has taken a while for the fallacies of the consolidation of power to intrude on the conscience of this happy land.

    This Republic was designed to resist radical changes in direction, preferring to cool temporary passion lest we strike out in ill considered directions.

    “But if that body is to be vigorous, the change must occur in a regular manner, harmonizing with the form and nature of that body; otherwise change produces a monstrous growth, a cancer, which devours its host.”


    It is frustrating for mere mortals to have their vision constrained by the centuries long progress and regress of civilization. Sorry about that.


  • Alisa

    Roy: for what it’s worth, I wasn’t disagreeing with anything you said, just making a tangential observation.

  • Roy Lofquist

    An astute observation.

  • veryretired

    It is not only the leader of the current regime, but the truly criminal gang he has put into power in the various federal agencies he controls, and the endless graft that has resulted.

    Neither party has clean hands in these issues, but I haven’t seen anything from Romney to indicate he’s as committed to the kind of gutter, pay-off politics we’ve seen in the last 4 years.

    As mentioned above, the crucial element is voter turnout to elect many new members of congress from the tea party perspective. Increasing the number in the house, and winning control of the senate, are both very critical and doable objectives, if not now, then in the next elections in 2014.

    One election will not bring about any sudden transformation of the collectivist ideology which has powered politics in the US, and the world, for over a century.

    It is a step in the right direction if the results bring about a strong faction in our politics which is committed and focussed on smaller, constitutional government.

    Even so, there will be many battles, and elections, ahead in which each step must be toward that goal, and away from the bankrupt doctrines of the megalithic, progressive state.

    The most important issue, by the way, is energy development. Everything else, the economy, unemployment, debt, terrorism, etc., hinges on that issue.

    For that reason alone, the obstructionism of the current regime must be ended, and replaced with someone friendly to the private sector and developing our energy resources fully and quickly.

  • Laird

    I don’t want Romney to win; I want Obama to lose.

    Four more years of Obama would be disastrous for the country; four years of Romney somewhat less so. I think he will make far better cabinet appointments, and so slow the rate of growth of the suffocating web of regulations and executive orders which is destroying the economy, and far better Supreme Court appointments (of which there will likely be several in the next few years) as well as lower court appointments (which in some ways has an even greater, and longer-lasting, effect on the legal environment than does the Supreme Court).

    But make no mistake: Romney is no small-government devotee, but a plain-vanilla big-government Republican. Anyone who watched last week’s debate can see that in his complete flubbing of the question about the proper role of the federal government, as well as in other questions. He has zero interest in really shrinking government; he just wants to manage it better. Yes, he did get in a great line about his test for whether a program should be started or kept is whether it is important enough to borrow from the Chinese to pay for it, but that is just nibbling around the margins. He never once mentioned eliminating whole agencies; he couldn’t even bring himself to talk about shrinking the Department of Education, a wholly unconstitutional and completely useless excressence on the federal government. Under Romney we will see the ratchet effect in full force: Democrats start new programs and agencies, then Republicans manage them better.

    The Tea Party is supporting Romney because they have no real alternative. They failed to derail his nomination (perhaps “coronation” would be a better word; the Republicans have a habit of giving the nomination to the man whose “turn” it is, regardless of merit) during the primaries, and since Romney is Not Obama they hold their collective nose and support him. But (as has been mentioned above) their real passion is for Congress, and specifically the Senate. Taking both the Senate and the House would lead to four years of gridlock if Obama were re-elected (the best possible outcome in that scenario) and also give the Tea Party activists significant leverage over a President Romney. But if he doesn’t govern in a way which suits them, and simply becomes another big-government “conservative”, the seeds will have been sewn for the fracturing of the Republican Party and the creation of a new political party from the seeds of the Tea Party movement. Either way, the next four years should prove very interesting. I only wish I could be watching from a safer vantage point.

  • bradley13

    I disagree with this article for one main reason: the Tea Party has been nearly entirely co-opted by the social conservatives. The small-government folks seem to accept this as a necessary compromise, without realizing that they have lost control of the movement.

    If you took a poll of people identifying themselves with the Tea Party, you would find that religious issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.)) are more important than government spending. From an article from 2011 “Tea Party supporters…are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues.” (Emphasis mine)

    Farther down in the same article: 42% of Tea Party supporters agree with the conservative Christian movement, while 11% disagree. The remainder are somewhere in the middle, but the dominance is clear.

    The Tea Party was a great idea, until the religious zealots got ahold of it…

  • bradley 13

    Some of what you say is obvious and not bad news at all. None of what you say is definitely bad news.

    Much depends, in surveys, on what questions are asked.

    It’s obvious that Tea Party Christians get their social issue opinions from their Christianity. Who has ever doubted it? This does not prove that they will use the Tea Party primarily to spread or to enforce these Christian views to or upon others.

    Even the claim that they take social issues more seriously than government spending, though suggestive of what you are arguing, does not prove it.

    If any question had asked: What do you think the Tea Party is for? Cutting government spending? Or: propagating (or even enforcing) Christian values? Then, the answers would be interesting, and very troubling if the Christians mostly said: For propagating and enforcing Christian values. The government spending stuff is just something we say, in order to spread Christianity.

    But a quick read of the piece you link to tells me that no such question was asked, or if it was, the answers was not reported. What this survey seems to be about is what else Tea Partiers tend to believe, besides believing in the Tea Party. Nothing in it surprised me, or lowered, or even altered, my opinion of the Tea Party.

    By the way, not only am I a libertarian, I am also a strong atheist. I think Christianity is not just untrue. I think that Christian beliefs about such things as the virgin birth and the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ are downright daft. If I thought that the Tea Party was either founded to create a Christian theocracy or if I ever think in the future that it has degenerated into such an enterprise (as it certainly might), I would not merely stop supporting it, I would, for whatever difference it would make, oppose it. Meanwhile, what seems to unite Tea Partiers now is, see my posting, the belief that the US government does too much, spends too much and borrows too much, and making that idea stick is what the Tea Party is for. Nothing in this survey says otherwise.

    I agree that Christians loom very large in the Tea Party, but Christianity is not the Tea Party’s publicly agreed purpose. As of now, I remain optimistic that whereas most Tea Partiers seem to be Christians, and as such profoundly influenced in what they think by their Christianity, these Christians do not think that the purpose of the Tea Party is to spread Christianity, and that the government spending stuff is just a front.

    If your response to that is: well, of course they wouldn’t say that. My response to that would be that nothing in this survey settles that particularly argument about what these Christians are trying to accomplish one way or the other. Are you aware of any other evidence that Christian Tea Partiers are actually engaged in a huge deception of this sort? I am not, but that proves very little. What I do know is that your link does not supply such evidence.

    An analogy. The libertarian movement seems to consist largely of men. (It’s certainly that way in London.) But this absolutely does not mean that the libertarian movement’s purpose is to spread the idea of male domination of the world generally. To say that “libertarianism has been taken over by men” is sort of true, in the sense that it is indeed mostly men. But as an attempt to describe what the men in the libertarian movement are really trying to accomplish, such an observation would be seriously misleading.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Brian: a brilliantly cogent answer to Bradley.
    A bit long for those in a hurry, but even so there is more to say.
    Let me focus on history: afaik the concept of natural rights has a theological origin in Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham.
    Certainly Locke, echoing Thomas, found it necessary to invoke both the Bible and “reason” to justify the natural rights to life, liberty, and private property. This does not make the US Declaration of Independence unacceptable to us heathens.

    The point is, if you really believe in limited government, you should not question the motivation of others in believing the same.

    Interestingly, it’s only when the theological rationale was removed from the libertarian movement that we got cranks such as Rand (atheist) and Rothbard (agnostic afaik). (Apologies to objectivists and Rothbardians for my blunt language.) At the other, “moderate” end, we also got airy-fairy “liberaltarians”.

    Just to explain where I stand: I am religiously agnostic, which means that I regard atheism as daft. I mean, it’s OK to regard Christianity as daft, but there are several other actual forms of theism, and an infinite number of potential forms: how can you say that all of them are wrong?
    (My favorite actual form is Odhinism, though I am taking an interest in Tengriism.)

  • Tedd


    Perhaps this is off topic, but I agree with what you said about natural rights. I think there’s a tendency among anti-theists to reject natural rights because earlier arguments for natural rights relied on theism. While I don’t challenge the legitimacy of that approach, my approach has been more to see if there are non-theistic, non-consequentialist arguments for natural rights.

    Obviously, I’m not suggesting that I’m smarter than Acquinas, et al, but I do think that it’s possible they didn’t have sufficient motivation to find non-theistic arguments for natural rights — arguments that modern-day atheists and agnostics could accept. Until relatively recently, it was neither necessary nor pragmatic to purge theism from your philosophical argument. But I wonder what Acquinas and others might say about natural rights if they were debating the issue today?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Tedd: off topic or not, that’s a valid point. On this issue, I recommend David Friedman’s essay:
    I cannot recommend it too strongly.

    A historical note: Thomas, Occam, and Locke could not possibly come up with this idea, because they were not familiar with game theory and the concept of Schelling points.
    The trouble with Rand and Rothbard is that they did not ground their theories of natural rights either in theology or in game theory.

  • Alisa

    ‘Christians loom very large in the Tea Party’. Christians loom very large in the US in general – that’s one of the reasons that it still has not descended as deeply into the multiculti nightmare as Europe, and thank the Deity of your choice (or the lack thereof) for that.

  • Alisa

    ‘my approach has been more to see if there are non-theistic, non-consequentialist
    arguments for natural rights.’

    Mine has been too, bit for a very brief period – the reason being is that there’s no such thing as ‘natural’ rights. Rights are granted to men by men – or otherwise they are replaced either by mutual agreements or chaos.

  • Alisa

    .’..but for a very brief period…’

  • Snorri Godhi

    Alisa: I beg to disagree, strongly.
    The median “European” (in as far as taking the median across Europe makes sense) is definitely more statist than the median American.
    However I believe that the median American is (a) more Keynesian and (b) more multiculturalist than the median _continental_ European.

    WRT (b) I started feeling that way in the months after 9/11, and even more strongly after then cartoon jihad.
    The election of arguably the most postmodern leader in Western history as US President reinforced my prejudice.

  • Alisa

    Well, it would depend on what one means by ‘median’. I lived among what I think of as regular Americans for 13 years, including 9/11 and a couple of years after. My impressions are as follows:

    1. A regular American is a Christian, if not a devout church-going type, then at least as far as core Christian moral values are concerned.

    2. A regular American is certainly not a Keynesian – both because he/she, like most regular people everywhere, has little, if any, understanding of economics, and because if they did understand Keynesianism, they’d oppose it because it is polarly contrary to their aforementioned Christian values.

    3. A regular American did not vote for Obama – either because he/she voted for McCain (because he’s a war hero and because he’s a Republican), or simply because he/she simply didn’t bother to vote at all.

    4. A regular American is certainly not a multiculturalist – simply because he/she doesn’t live in NYC or LA (or Miami). He/she do come in daily contact with immigrants from all over the world, but these immigrants are usually well assimilated into American culture and even admire it.

    Now, when it comes to Europeans, you may have at least one point: I can certainly see your regular European not sharing his/her Lords-and-Masters’ multiculturalism. Problem is, it seems to me, that having abandoned their Christianity, they have found nothing to replace it when it comes to well-defined moral system, and so have very little to serve them in their resistance to the multiculturalism that is being imposed on them from above.

  • Paul Marks

    I basically agree with you Brian (although most Tea Party people are holding their noses when they support Mitt Romney).

    If Mitt Romney wins the United States (and the West generally) may well fall anyway (that must be understood).

    However, if Comrade Barack Obama wins – destruction is CERTAIN (well unless some alien civiilisation from another star system, comes to save us all – which is not likely).

    Now what might emerge from the destruction (a Republic of Texas – a Republic of South Dakota or……) might be good – but the process of destrution would not be good at all (and millions would die in it).

    And what came out of the far side of the fall of the West might not be good at all – for example the People’s Republic of China dominating the world (and enforcing the rule of the party elite by project Orion style ships in high orbit – or whatever).

    We can not know what would come out of the far side of the fall of the West (it might be good – it might be bad), but we do know that the process (the fall of the West) would be nasty – very nasty indeed. With no real reform of anything – just everything going backrupt and so on.

    Those who scream “smash the system” tend to forget about all the people who depend upon it. And are too old to start again.

    As I said at the start – a President Romney might still mean that everything falls apart (indeed it most likely will still mean that everything falls apart).

    But there is a chance (a slim chance – but a chance) that it will not, that Ryan style reforms (and rather more radical reforms) will happen.

    If Comrade Barack wins it is over – it is all over.

    The “game” is over.

    True a new “game” would begin (and it might, eventually, be a better game – who knows?) – but any new civilisation emerging from the collapse would come too late for vast numbers of human beings.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Alisa: I’m not sure that there is anything to add to my last comment, but I’ll add just a few words.
    I have no objection to your point #1, but whatever one might say about your other points I do not think any of them is directly relevant to my comment.
    As for Europeans having lost a moral compass, I myself have found something to replace Christianity. I do not expect many Europeans to reach my Olympian (or perhaps Asgardian) heights in the near future, but in the long term I think that much of the West, indeed much of the world, will have to.

  • Laird

    Ah, Snorri, so you’re a Muslim now?

  • Tedd

    …but for a very brief period…

    I know that the idea that there are no rights but those we grant to each other is a popular one, and I’m not even going to try to argue that it’s wrong. But I think there’s an equivocation inherent in it that some of its adherents aren’t seeing. If the only “rights” are those we grant to each other, then there are no rights. To say that you are free “as of right,” for example, is to say that it’s a property inherent in you, like free will or consciousness, that you can’t give up even if you want to. Whatever “rights” we grant to each other can never be a right of that sort, and so we’re talking about two fundamentally different things.

  • Tedd


    Thanks, I enjoyed that David Friedman essay a lot.

    I see some similarity between his argument, regarding the body as natural property being the starting point for wider property rights, and some of the ideas I have had about rights, though his argument is much more rigorously thought through than any of mine.

    Another thing that’s interesting about Friedman’s essay is it seems that it might provide a bridge between my abstract notion of rights and Alisa’s more concrete notion. If rights arise because of Schelling points, then they are both natural phenomena and also agreements between people.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Tedd: thank you for your feedback. I agree with what you say in as far as I can judge from a short comment.
    BTW I am embarrassed to find that my comment on Oct 9 had a garbled last paragraph, but never mind: I was going off topic anyway.