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Some thoughts after the November 6 election

Andrew Klavan talks a lot in this essay about how the “right” needs to adjust and handle strategy after losing to Obama this week. Of course, mention of “right” immediately begs the question of where classical liberals/libertarians – that I consider to be progressive in the best sense of that misused word – stand. Despite such caveats, this is an interesting essay to read over a coffee. (I disagree with him on religion.)

For me, one thing about this election is clear, and the same applies to Europe. We now have so many people dependent, in whole or part, on state welfare (not just the poor, I am talking about a whole clutch of vested interest groups ranging from farmers to defence contractors to recipients of subsidies and soft loans) that there are not enough people who can see their self interest to vote for small government to swing an election. But this is hardly a new problem. Back in the 70s, Margaret Thatcher and her colleagues such as Nigel Lawson and Sir Keith Joseph were talking about the “ratchet effect” of socialism and big government. And policies such as sales of public housing and privatisation were, in a way, attempts to create a new bloc of voters who favoured free enterprise, property ownership, and the like. The trick for opponents of Big Government on both sides of the Atlantic is to do the same again.

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27 comments to Some thoughts after the November 6 election

  • Antoine Clarke

    I saw that Obama won nearly 96% of the African-American vote.

    A survey pushed by the NAACP claims that 90% of African-American voters want a “Federal Jobs Program” instead of (not alongside, but instead of) private business creating jobs through investment/expansion.

    I think these two figures are connected.

    I don’t think Mr Romney “failed” to attract voters for personal reasons or through lack of effort.

    What people may not appreciate is the scale of the Get-Out-The-Vote operation. Some states saw greatly reduced majorities for Obama, they didn’t matter. The effort was concentrated in places that would make a difference.

    I would like to know if the Romney camp REALLY thought they were in with a shot of winning Pennsylvania in that last week, or if it was a desperate move.

  • James Strong

    If Romney had won 96% of the white vote that would have been evidence of racism.

    But obviously it wasn’t racism that led to Obama getting 96% of the black vote.
    Was it?

  • Jim

    The right need to forget about winning elections. There’s no point tacking to the centre in order to try and get elected, if by doing so you cannot actually achieve anything in terms of reducing the size of the State. Romney wouldn’t have reduced the State any more than Cameron would have if he had got an outright majority.

    The right need to elucidate a clear program of what needs to be done, and how they would do it, on pure principle alone, not electoral advantage. They will lose, repeatedly, because you can’t get turkeys to vote for Christmas. But eventually the Left will destroy themselves, because they cannot resist the temptation to spend money they do not have. The Big State system will collapse under its own weight eventually, and the last thing the right needs is for a Romney or Cameron to be in charge when it does and get the blame.

    Far better to stand on the sidelines, a voice crying in the wilderness, ready to pick up the pieces, than to imagine it can be reformed from within. It can’t. It will only be reformed when the whole thing collapses inward. The right need to be ready for that time, and not before.

  • Steven

    that there are not enough people who can see their self interest to vote for small government to swing an election.

    No, the problem is there are enough people voting for big government’s tit because it is in their self-interest. Someone voting for a free ride and endless government cheese (or subsidies or contracts or laws) is not serving their self-interest by reducing government. We can make logical political arguments until we are blue in the face but someone who is voting for a handout is always going to vote for a handout.

  • bloke in spain

    “The right need to forget about winning elections.”
    S’pose that depends on your definition of right but it certainly applies to those in favour of a smaller State.

    And, as I’ve been feeling for a long time, if you libertarians think you’ve the answer to the word’s ills you can forget about the democratic process as a way implementing it.
    Worth remembering. None of the big changes, American Independence, French Revolution, the Bolshevik one, fall of the Berlin Wall. none of it happened due to popular demand. Yer average Joe isn’t interested & is quite happy with a quiet life & the status quo. Changes are usually wrought by minorities by force. It’s only after the brave have risked their asses Joe wakes up & says he was four square behind it all along. Whatever it is.

    And US Independence wasn’t won by the assholes signed the Declaration. Left to them, it’d be a footnote in history The Queen’s birthday an event in the NY social calendar. It was won by blokes with grubby hands willing to take a musket & put a ball in a redcoat’s guts. Or get one in return.
    You want to tear down the State? You willing to get your hands bloody?

  • Laird

    The Republicans will now engage in the usual ritual of deconstructing the election results and trying to figure out how to reposition themselves for the next one. That’s natural, and it needs to be done. But I don’t think it will help them. It won’t matter. As someone else said here in another thread, demographics is destiny (Klavan’s protestation the the contrary notwithstanding). The percentage of minority voters (notably hispanic) in the US is increasing dramatically, and it will take an event of cataclysmic scope* to shake them out of the Democrats’ clutches. Combine that with the entrenched interests (unions [especially public employee unions], welfare and other transfer payment recipients, military contractors, crony capitalists and bankers, etc., all of whom are dependent upon political largesse) and the few unrepentant socialists and commnuists, and the modern Democratic coalition is unbeatable. That will not change until the economy suffers its inevitable collapse as a result of their unsustainable fiscal and monetary policies.

    Republicans should give up on the idea of building a national consensus for smaller government until the collapse occurs. Such a consensus cannot be had, not even with all the strategic initiatives Klavan recommends, because the numbers simply are not there. Which means that Republicans should acknowledge reality and recognize that for the foreseeable future they have no more chance of winning the Presidency than do the Libertarians. At the federal level they will be the permanent Opposition Party, relegated to a purely obstructionist role. That’s important, but it’s not satisfying for anyone thirsting for real power (i.e., any professional politician).

    But that’s not true at the state and local levels. The national Republican party should focus more of its energies on the states, working to elect governors and legislative majorities. To a certain, admittedly limited, extent that will provide a means of thwarting some federal incursions, and it may create bastions of freedom and fiscal sanity when all else is collapsing. But more importantly it will create a pool of talented and experienced politicians ready to step up when the time comes. And, possibly, it will pave the way for constitutional amendments to limit the role of the federal government, or even prepare for disunion if (as may prove necessary) this deeply divided nation must be separated into two or more different countries. It may yet come to that.

    But in the meantime we all have to live with the consequences of this election. And that means the rules of the game have changed, permanently (well, as “permenantly” as anything can be in human affairs). Personally, it means that I will be spending more time thinking about, and preparing for, societal collapse, and looking into relocating elsewhere (not sure I can do that, at my age, but it bears consideration). And I will definitely be seeking to get my snout into the government trough, in any way possible and as deep as possible. I’m going to take everything I can get, and damn the consequences. I’m still going to agitate, and vote, for smaller government, but until that halcyon day arrives I’m going to grab whatever I can. Cloward and Piven are my new patron saints.

    * Prior to the Great Depression nearly all blacks voted straight Republican, the Party of Lincoln. The Depression, and the social welfare policies of Roosevelt, changed that, and the results are with us to this day. It will take an event of similar magnitude to create a generational shift back to the Republican camp.

  • Laird

    Perfect. Smited! I’m feeling better already.

    We are the Little Folk – we!
    Too little to love or to hate.
    Leave us alone and you’ll see
    How we can drag down the State!
    We are the worm in the wood!
    We are the rot at the root!
    We are the taint in the blood!
    We are the thorn in the foot!

  • And, as I’ve been feeling for a long time, if you libertarians think you’ve the answer to the word’s ills you can forget about the democratic process as a way implementing it.

    I agree, which is why I am always urging people to do the things that will bring about Ragnarok sooner rather than later… such as voting for Obama rather than Romney. The system needs to implode and that will not happen by the turkeys voting for Christmas.

  • bloke in spain

    Nice theory, Perry, but left to itself all you’ll have the other side of Ragnarok is one of those distopias* where there’s nothing but the State. It will fight for its existence to the last drop of your children’s blood. It’s got nothing to lose.

    *My spellcheck didn’t like distopias & prefers aspidistras. Wonder if it knows more than I do?

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    Jim,

    I’ve been thinking along similar lines for a while now.

    During the Dark Ages, following the collapse of the Roman Empire, it was the monks who kept the lamp of knowledge lit in Europe, guarding and copying old Greek and Roman manuscripts.

    I think we are now on the verge of a new dark age, at least from a libertarian/small government standpoint. As others have observed, both here and elsewhere, small government politics is now unsellable, both in Europe and the United States. The only times right-wing parties win power is by promising the same things as left-wing ones, only ever so slightly less so. Perhaps it’s time libertarians saw themselves like those monks: people keeping the idea of libertarianism alive and passing it on to the next generation. And, as others have suggested, we also need to prepare people who will be ready to step forward when the current system does collapse.

    Unfortunately, that collapse may be a very long time coming: hence the inter-generational remark above. It took the communists about seventy years to use up the accumulated capital of the Soviet Union and for the country to collapse. However, the current accumulated capital of the West, even in its current state, is far greater than that of the Soviet Union circa 1920. So the current liberal-left hegemony may endure for a while yet.

  • Steven

    I agree, which is why I am always urging people to do the things that will bring about Ragnarok sooner rather than later… such as voting for Obama rather than Romney. The system needs to implode and that will not happen by the turkeys voting for Christmas.

    You’re assuming that when this collapse happens the survivors will look around, examine what went wrong, and decide that government was to blame and reset the whole thing to 18th century standards. What is far more likely is that the government in place when the collapse happens will tell the people that it was the lack of government that led to the disaster and that more government is needed, just like we’ve been hearing since 2008 about the banks, Wall Street, and the rich.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Bloke in spain, I’ve felt for a long time now that what we need is a viable underground black market. If all governments end up with lots of laws, perhaps as a natural tendency of all governments to fix problems by expanding their powers, then all governments can be considered as occupying powers. so why not set up a permanent resistance movement? a permanent black market in Capitalist services? I.e., if gun controls start getting onorous, this resistance could sell weapons to whoever seems to need it. And provide training in the use of such weapons. Want to smoke- go to your local breathe-easy joint for a cigarette or a joint. Want to cook and eat your trans-fat foods? the resistance could supply it. Want to take out insurance in case you are jailed for possession or trafficking drugs? Perhaps you could even pay to be freed from jail.
    I had an idea for a story about such an anarchic, pro-freedom group, which I called ‘Underdogs- United!’. Their motto would have been ‘Liberating Victimless Underdogs’.
    That might be our way ahead.
    Or i might be able to get rich enough from my ‘The Self-Hooking Button’ idea to set up a new nation in, perhaps, the Kimberleys, the northern mountains of Western Australia.

  • JimGl

    I agree with the tenor of the people writing about a collapse, but I wonder if we won’t get a Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin that will impose order with violence rather than a complete collapse. As their will not be an England or US to oppose them they may well last until, at least the “charismatic” leader dies. The Roman empire began as a primitive democracy, turned to an oligarchy and finally classic monarchy and lasted for a damn long time.
    Just throwing out ideas.

  • Regional

    It’s game set and match for western civilisation;
    Alexis de Tocqueville knew what he was talking about:

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

  • Russ in Texas

    No idea what the Republicans are going to do.
    I know they’re doing it without me. But they’ve been happy to do that since Bush got into office, and have more or less not cared about the protests folks like me on the libertarianish side made as Bushco spent like drunken sailors. Online, plenty of right-leaning conservatish types simply said “you’re a tiny minority and we don’t care what you think.”

    They’re right, and they don’t.
    Pity, though, they didn’t realize that huge chunks of those “independents” they were polling were people who used to be in their party. Turns out there were a lot more of me than I thought they were, and we stayed home for good reason.

    Obama sucks. But the same men whose reaction to owning government lock, stock, and barrel was to pass McCain-Feingold, and later Bush’s entitlement expansions will now tell us with a straight face that they stand for a smaller, limited government? These men who raped the First Amendment now say they stand for personal freedom?

    The Democrats have the ball now, and the singular challenge of figuring out how to afford a welfare state w/o either default or hyperinflation. (c.f. Detlev Schlichter, good luck, guys…) Some of them are actually engaging in meaningful reform, believe it or not. Fortunately, I don’t put my hope in government, anyway.

    So screw the Republicans, and God bless Elon Musk.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Welfare dependency punishes activity and rewards idleness.

    I’m a postgraduate student living off my scholarship and also in receipt of about £160 in housing benefit each month.

    This month my university offered me £150 to teach some courses, which I took.

    I just got a letter from the council with their “judgement” on the matter. They are cutting my benefits by £102 this month.

    Hardly seems worth working does it? On the plus side now more of my income this month will be fair and square, and I’m happy with this. However I suspect most would not view it this way.

    I could take the view that it wasn’t worth putting in 15-20 hours work for an effective wage of £3.20 an hour with a lot of hassle attached in terms of explaining myself to the council……

    I’m sure many do.

  • lucklucky

    Well that was the “error” of Thatcher.

    Privatization like that is nothing more than free money for politicians.

    To destroy the current statism the only way is to give the schools, hospitals, etc to the people.
    Make them owners of it. Any citizen have a paper that says owns a part of it and can trade.
    For example for the BBC, tomorrow the Governemnt says that all taxpayers to the BBC is stopped and the new owners are the British people. They are now in charge and should deal with it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Steven writes:

    “No, the problem is there are enough people voting for big government’s tit because it is in their self-interest. Someone voting for a free ride and endless government cheese (or subsidies or contracts or laws) is not serving their self-interest by reducing government. We can make logical political arguments until we are blue in the face but someone who is voting for a handout is always going to vote for a handout.”

    That is nothing more than the flipside of my observation that there are not enough people with an incentive to vote for smaller government, so you are not really disagreeing here.

    One way or the other, for freedom-oriented policies to thrive, you need a majority to see the benefits to them, not necessarily just financial, but benefits there must be.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    One way or the other, for freedom-oriented policies to thrive, you need a majority to see the benefits to them, not necessarily just financial, but benefits there must be.

    Well, this presupposes they are able to see in the first place. If they can’t see what freedom is offering, they won’t choose it. Plenty of blind people around in evidence.

  • Paul Marks

    Antoine – the Romney campaign had a “get out the vote” program of its own.

    It was centered around a computer system called “ORCA”

    It did not work – and 40 thousand Republican campaign workers spent election day messing about.

    They might as well have made me the technical head of the campaign – indeed I would have done a better job, and I would not have wasted weeks trying to make the master computer work.

    I would have just sent the campaign workers out with their cars and music.

    Patriotic songs (and Country – why do Republican candidates play pop are rallies? pop music people HATE Republicans) and a ride to the polling station. Anyone who likes the songs would be a Republican (or Republican leaning Independent) and could have hitched a lift to the polls.

    And those with their own cars could have carried on in convoy – it would have worked especially well in areas like the Penn coal country.

    Make voting for Romney a parade.

    It would have been better than looking a computer screen all election day.

    As for “Federal Jobs Programs”

    The education system (and the media – even episodes of Star Trek) have been trying to brainwash people that this is a good thing since as long as I can remember.

  • Paul Marks

    As I never tire of pointing out…..

    Now the Welfare State economy is going to go bankrupt.

    Then will come the times that test the souls of men – and of women to.

  • Paul Marks

    J.P. “Progressive” means statist – has done for more than century.

    A few weeks ago the Economist magazine (yes who I love so dearly) had a front cover feature on “True Progressivism” a free market version.

    Against my better judgement I read the article.

    It started off with praise of David Lloyd George and T. Roosevelt (I should have stopped reading there – why not just praise Richard Ely as well?)

    It carried on praising “pubic services” and “anti trust” “competition policy” (i.e. a state controlled pretend market) to the end of the article.

    True the word “Progressive” is not automatically evil (as “social justice” is), but it is not going to get reclaimed by pro freedom people.

    Not after more than a century – and not with the vast majority of Progressives being statist scumbags like the Economist magazine crowd.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul,

    I wish you HAD been running the damn campaign. That with the vote-for-R convoy-cum-parade is a terrific idea and I think it would have been extremely successful.

    PS. I never heard of this “orca” until an hour or so ago.

    I thought they were some kind of finny critter….

  • Paul Marks

    Cars. flat top trucks (with bands, marching band style, playing on them), speakers playing music, bunting…..

    At least it would have been FUN Julie – win or lose, it would have been FUN.

    I bet staring at a computer screen all election day was not.

    If you have a “candidate from the 1950s” – then have a 1950s style campaign.

    “I Like Ike”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I can picture it…it WOULD have been fun. Now I’m feeling as if there should have been a ferris wheel and cotton candy and fireworks, after the polls closed. :>)

    There could’ve been large cardboard or papiér-machê figures of Reagan, sure, but also Silent Cal (he’d probably turn over in his grave ), maybe Grover Cleveland–VERY strict Constitutionalist. Maybe the dude with the hatchet and the cherry tree? Alongside figures of The Candidates, of course.

    The smaller towns would have been in heaven. Some of the more modern “cities” would have been all exercised about the bands and speakers, I suppose…who cares. If your mayor or alderman cut up rough about it, tell the bustard you’d throw him out!

    We should have done something like that, we really should. And that’s what the Tea Party was supposed to be good at. Lloyd Marcus would’ve been there in a New York minute! (Too bad there’s only one of him. Same for Ray Stevens.)

  • Paul Marks

    Might-have-beens Julie might-have-beens.

    That is what we have now.

    But as Henry Hazlitt once wrote “Time Will Run Back”.

    We may will not be around to see it – but it will happen.