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US party politics

Jane Galt has a thought-provoking post on the structural instability of the Democratic Party.

The Democrats, on the other hand, are a veritable festival of interest groups: unions, teachers, minorities, feminists, gay groups, environmentalists, etc. Each of these groups has a litmus test without which they will not ratify a candidate: unfettered support for abortion, against vouchers, against ANWAR drilling, whatever. A lot of groups means a lot of litmus tests, because with the possible exception of the teachers, no one group is powerful enough to swing an election by themselves.

. . . .

But the larger problem is that those interest groups are increasingly coming into conflict. African-americans want vouchers, but the more powerful teacher’s union says no. Latinos trend strongly pro-life, but don’t let NARAL catch them at it. Environmentalists want stricter standards that cost union members jobs. The more interest groups under the tent, the looser the grip the party has on any one group. And as social security and medicare turn into the sucking chest wound of the budget, the money for the programs that Democratic politicians have traditionally used to cement those interest groups to them is disappearing.

One can only hope. While I have little use for Republicans, I can at least sympathize with the tattered remains of their fiscal conservative wing, and they do occasionally put up a proposal, like tax cuts, that I can actively support. I honestly cannot remember the last major Democratic proposal that I supported – the Democrats are truly, through and through, the party of state expansion. In their eyes, there is no protruding nail that cannot, and should not, be battered down with hammer of the State. Even their lone “civil liberties” plank – the right to abortion – is shot through with inconsistency and has morphed into a demand for state funding, support, protection, and promotion of abortion. I would shed no tears for the collapse of the Democratic “coalition,” or for the less likely collapse of the Republicans.

I hope it is time for one of the periodic great realignments in American politics. Certainly, the collapse of one of the two major political power centers is a necessary precondition for such a realignment. The current polarities reflected in the two dominant parties are hopelessly blurred iterations of the class struggles of the ’30s, for crying out loud. A realignment might serve to create parties that will debate the one true issue of politics – the scope and power of the State. Currently, this issue is simply out of phase with the structure and ingrained habits and positions of the parties, as a result of which both consistently plump for a larger and more intrusive State. For chrissake, even tax cuts are sold with a pitch that the economic growth they will trigger will in turn result in increased government revenues.

Without an historic realignment of the political parties that channel and mold preference into politics into policy, the growth of the State in the US will continue unabated.

40 comments to US party politics

  • veryretired

    Neither the Dems or Reps are going to fold up any time soon. There are some elements of the Dems that are strongly attracted to the Green movement and party, but there is also a lot of anger at the diversion of votes in 2000 that many Dems blame for their loss to Bush. The Greens may have some staying power if the Dems try to move too strongly to the center and alienate the left wing.

    The Reform party is all but dead, its one major achievement was drawing off enough votes to elect Clinton in ’92, and electing an ex-wrestler as a governor. At this point it’s in a shambles nationally.

    The major political issues over the next few years will revolve around health and energy, on the domestic side, and the various military engagements we’re into on the foriegn side.

    The boomers will almost certainly succeed in forcing universal health coverage to take care of themselves in their dotage. The younger generations will mostly be worried about adequate power for employment and lifestyle maintenance, so there will be a significant debate about forms of energy and which way to go. Since everything is now structured as a governmental function, the energy source debate will be about which ones to subsidize and which ones to ban or restrict.

    Sometime over the next 20 years or so it will finally be realized that the southwest of the US is massively over built and can’t sustain the population without more water and huge amounts of new energy. This will cause a massive campaign to get water from the great lakes, and find new oil deposits in the north and along the coastlines.

    The result will be a rise in domestic terrorism from the eco-left, as well as a great deal of sectional animosity, as the north, with water, squares off against the southwest, without water. Fusion, a new de-salianation(sp?) process, or major medical breakthroughs are all wildcards.

    To be blunt, the libertarian political party and its allied think tanks et al will have little to do with any of these developments. The educational system in the US inculcates a very dominant statist point of view from pre-school all the way to Harvard.

    There is little indication that the Reps will do much to minimize the state, whose military powers are so dear, and the Dems, while quibbling about defense, will certainly never miss a chance to enlarge their constituency, which is mainly government dependents.

    Within the next five years, the major battle will be over proposals for universal service. Both sides will support the idea, with the Reps emphasizing the military, and the Dems social service alternatives. Don’t expect the budget to shrink any time soon.

    My apologies for the length of this. Your post touched a nerve, as I always find the trends to the future more interesting than arguing over the past.

  • Zathras

    Well, RC, the growth of the state may well continue unabated without a realignment of the political parties. Your problem here, though, isn’t that people are not debating the scope and power of the State; it’s that most people don’t agree with you.

    Not all truths are self-evident. To persuade Americans on a point like this, it is necessary to demonstrate why the growth of the State is bad for Americans, preferably backing your argument with examples from American history. I’ve seen more books and articles than I can count that discuss this whole issue in the context of European history and culture. Of course this is an important context, but most Americans do not think it is the most important context where their country is concerned. I don’t think so either.

  • Richard A. Heddleson


    Interesting analysis. I agree energy and health care are the current focus but I think it will turn out differently. Boomers will keep Social Secuirty (and Medicare) alive for those who need it by adding means testing somewhere between 2010 and 2020 resulting in substantial reductions in payments. Standard of living and wealth of elderly will start to decline at that time. By 2040 poverty among elderly will be a real problem again.

    This will be death nell for Government Dependents as the primary constituency of the Democrat party. Dependents will come to be seen a a burden as opposed to victims.

    Water will be an issue but an alternate solution I read about in Scientific American in the ’60’s will also be considered, redirecting the Peace River in Alaska by pumping it south through British Columbia. In any case, growth in the Southwest (but not the South) will cease. Civil engineering will reclaim glamor.

    Encouraging this will be a major war starting between 2010 and 2020 that will leave the world in 2030 as changed as the 1950 world was from the 1935. This will be cited as the cause for the universal service program. Given the capital intensity of the military, however, the primary need for manpower will not be there. Instead, the young will have to serve caring for the indigent elderly. It will not be fun. We will win. things will then get better.

  • Kodiak


    I’m positively impressed by your colossal expertise in deciphering poultry entrails. Perhaps can you forecast the weather just aided by a quick peep at swallows flying up in the skies, too?

    You should put up for an appointment as official political advisor in the next Bushist cabinet available.

    Any idea about foreign politics?

  • R.C. Dean

    “Your problem here, though, isn’t that people are not debating the scope and power of the State; it’s that most people don’t agree with you.”

    Not so sure about this. Sure, we can always do a better job of growing our intellectual market share, but polls already, and consistently, show that small to mid-sized majorities of Americans don’t trust the government to solve problems, think the government should be smaller, think taxes are too high,etc. The numbers bumped the other way after 9/11, but this is a pretty consistent theme in polling data going back over the years, with some trending our way.

    Unfortunately, a key part of the mechanism for translating these preferences into policies, the political parties, filter out anti-statist thinking. Part of this is the public choice conundrum, but part of it has to do with a long term drift into statism that comes from being part of the power structure, and part has to do with a kind of intellectual blindness towards dynamic, non-statist thinking and possibilities.

    I think a major political party focussed to a significant degree on the fundamental question of the scope and power of the state is a necessary, although probably not sufficient, condition for shrinking the state in the US. We don’t have one now, so it is no wonder that the state continues to grow. Frankly, I don’t know what the prospects are for a major realignment that would foreground this issue, but a fella can dream, can’t he?

  • veryretired

    Sorry Kodiak, I don’t waste my time with trolls.


    The way the system is set up works as a gigantic wealth transferring machine from the young, working person to the elderly. This is, of course, backwards, as the elderly are not in any way impoverished, and the liklihood they will become so does not strike me as self evident.

    As the advances in medical treatment get more and more complex and costly, boomers, who are utterly self-centered and used to being catered to, will demand a comprehensive plan to provide them with the best of everything. I agree that universal service will, for the vast majority, take the form of caring for the elderly as an alternative to military service. (This is not an endorsement, just a recognition)

    I have serious doubts the environmental lobby would allow anything as drastic as changing the course of a river, not after the Soviet debacle with the one they re-routed.

    I know I’ve told my kids that if they want to be richer than Bill Gates, just find a way to cheaply de-salt sea water and recover the minerals at the same time. They just look at me funny and walk away. So much for my condo and yacht in the Virgin Islands.

    I’m afraid I don’t see the war bit at all. Can you expand on that?

  • Russ Goble

    Wow, didn’t think this post would result in predictions 40 years out. I think the overall point that the Democrats have serious problems with their multitude of constituents is dead on. Unfortunately, the Republicans appear to be too stupid to know how to take advantage of this. Bush has made some efforts at appealing to blacks, but hasn’t given near the effort it deserves. And the Southern dixiecrats that now vote Republican aren’t too keen on this anyhow. But, If the Republicans could just shave off a mere 15% of the black vote, you’d have a darn near permanent Republican majority. And the voucher issue is key to that. But, that requires taking on the teachers union and talking to the American public as if we were adults, something Republicans have not had much success doing in the domestic arena.

    As for a realignment, I don’t think we’re near that, much to my dismay. But, we have seen a pretty steady shrinking of each political party’s hold on their respective constituencies. This decrease in their hold has resulted in an increase in 3rd party election spoilage. We’ve now gone 3 election cycles since a presidential candidate captured a majority of the popular vote in November. And Perot most definately took out the first Bush in 92 and the Green’s took out Gore in 2000. Libertarian protests votes have costs several candidates in many state elections.

    So, I think their is certainly a trend away from the two big parties. But, a realignment of which I think is needed is still a long way off.

    I’m not as pessimistic as veryretired about some of the resource issues. People have been predicting resource armageddon for a very long time, long before Julian Simon’s famous bet with Paul Elriech (sp?). I’ll believe it when I see it. However, I will say that if we do see these problems, you will be able to point to government interference as the cause (see Gray Davis & California Democratic Party).

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Kodiak wrote:
    Any idea about foreign politics?

    Yes. Successive French governments will continue to cut off their nose to spite their face by engaging in reflexive anti-Americanism.

    And the EU will continue to be far more corrupt than the US government or US businesses.

    Easy, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Jacob

    I think water is no problem at all. The problem with water is when people get subsidized water and try to make money pouring water and growing crops in desert land. This silly practice will have to stop, but this will not cause any historic upheaval. If you discount agriculture there is no shortage of water.

    The big problem for the forseeable future is that the the Ponzi scheme that is called Social Security and all balooning entitelments and wellfare payments will change drastically one way or another within the next thirty years, as they are not economically sustainable.

  • Abby


    I’m 27, and profoundly concerned by the growth trend of the state and entitlements–especially for boomers (i.e. history’s richest generation).

    But I try not to be too angry with the elderly because I’m not sure its all their fault. Politicians of both parties have fallen victim to AARP’s generational warfare mantra that they command the votes of tens of millions of American seniors and that those seinors all want the government to pay for their face-lifts and hair transplants, among other things.

    Fifty years from now we will look back and see these two groups, politicians and the AARP, as leaders of the generation whose selfishness broke the back of the American economy and condemened its children to stagnation and medocrity.

  • Russ Goble

    “For chrissake, even tax cuts are sold with a pitch that the economic growth they will trigger will in turn result in increased government revenues. ”

    Boy, ain’t that the truth. That’s the core reason Jack Kemp & Bob Dole lost me in 96. I remember Kemp debating Gore in the 96 VP Debates and saying that we can lower taxes, the economy and thus the tax base will grow and then we can afford everything the voters think we should pay for. I almost cried when he said that. That’s the day I knew supply siders were toast.

    We do need a party that wants to discuss the size and scope of government. The Libertarians could be this if they ever got any competent leaders. The Republicans SHOULD be this, but can’t reign in their populists instincts.

    We also need a party that undertands that a lot of the answers to what the size and scope should be were actually laid down fairly clearly in the U.S. Constitution. Of course, there is one party who recognizes that last point. The Dems understand it and that’s why judicial nominees are one of their core tactics at redefining the Constitution. How many communities in America have now had their taxes raised by a judicial ruling? I can’t begin to describe how far outside the intent of the founders that is. But Dems no this and like this. They know the Constitution stands foresquare against most of what they’d like to do (i.e. turn American into another European paradise). So, they label as “extremist” any judge who tries to interpret literally the U.S. Constituion.

    As for worst case sci-fi scenarios that are in vogue on this thread, I do have some fears for the future. I think there is a very real possibility of the Green Party (which lets face it, is an international political party) growing in influence. I fear the continuing distance between what communism actually was and what is being taught.

    I also believe there is a very real possibility of a further leftward tilt in the state of California (and possibly Oregon & Washington). And I believe that leftward tilt will move further and further away from the American mainstream (including other Democratic strongholds). I think there is a very real possibility of Californians taking that whole “5th largest economy” stuff a little too seriously and thinking they could go it alone. You want a far out prediction? How ’bout a leftwing sucession movement in California within 25 years. Just swinging from the hip here.

  • S. Weasel

    Wow. Interesting thread. I hope we aren’t boring the pants off our British hosts.

    I won’t make any predictions of my own, however. I was completely humbled by my own grievous misreading of the 2000 elections. I thought Bush was going to sweep it comfortably.

    Not that I was much a fan of Bush, I just totted up the fallout from the Clinton years, the already sagging economy, the sheer creepiness of Al Gore and the historical back-and-forthness of American politics and made…a completely wrong diagnosis. That it was the closest thing to a dead-even race in our history, ever shocked the hell out of me. It said things about the political makeup of the country that I wasn’t prepared to hear.

    I’ve had no faith in my own predictive ability ever since – let alone my ability to predict thirty years out.

    How about this? I’ll be a disembodied brain bobbing around in a jar of formaldehyde trailing tubes and wires. But I’ll still be posting on the…ummm…galaxinet.

  • veryretired


    If I came across as pessimistic about resource availability that was my fault for being less than clear. The problem won’t be a shortage of any basic materials, it will be the various roadblocks placed in the way to the delivery system, i.e., the current difficulty of building any new power plants, opening new areas up for oil or other resource exploration and recovery, etc.

    As to the water thing, maybe that’s a pet idea of mine. I live up near the Great Lakes, and I can hardly wait to hear the whining when we charge as much and more per barrel of fresh water as the oil states do for oil.

    The SS system will never make it until its supposed end date. It will either have to be massively refinanced by additional taxes or set up to grandfather current dependees to the grave while everyone else is allowed to set up their own plans. The boom echo generation, however, is large enough to keep the scheme going if they don’t allow it to expand too much more and add means testing.

    If there is any major political realignment, it will come as the younger generations rebel against the “new leftist” social and political structures that are draining the economy with enormous expenses. It’s not going to be pretty, but the prospects are that some of the massive governmental programs will have shown themselves to be so counter-productive that they will be curtailed.

    I personally think an amendment to the Constitution to limit all laws to 10 years unless they are specifically re-enacted by the Congress might help devolve some of the layers upon layers of federal legislation and regulation which are currently strangling chances for economic innovation and expansion.

    The only reason the computer revolution happened was that no one saw it coming, so no strait-jacket of regs was put in place to slow it down. The taxes and other regs are starting to come fast and furious now, though.

  • jk

    There is a very bad book about California secession called “Ecotopia.” It is very bad.

    I’ll be Mister Sanguine here (not too hard in this crowd). And hope that when the Dems implode, as I think they will for a few election cycles, The GOP will have the opportunity to press for smaller government, without being demagoged and outbid for votes by the Democrats.

    I was hoping for a Condoleeza Rice in ’08 candidacy. This will peel off 10% African American and 10% women and establish a Republican Majority mentioned by Russ.

  • veryretired

    The Reps could have done that in 2000 if they had drafted Powell and Eliz. Dole in whichever order on the ticket was most appropriate. Instead they went with traditional party loyalties and blew a major chance to disrupt the Dem coalition.

    The talk of retired Gen Clark for the Dem ticket is the move they might make to undo the “weak on defense” tag. Variations on a theme, like geographic balance.

  • Abby

    If Bush wins in ’04 it will be very hard for the GOP to win in ’08–the fatigue effect.

    I’d like to see Condi run and she’d have my vote, but I don’t think she would win. Up against Hillary, Hill takes the feminist vote.

    What I’m really panting to see is a Rudy vs. Hillary race. He’s been raising his profile of late–perhaps he’s just limbering up . . .

  • RDB


    When Bush is reelected and if the Republicans move to 56 seats or above in the Senate look for solid legislation advancing the age at retirement by a few years and matching it to increases in longevity in the future. The sweetener will be a substantial increase in initial benefits. Limited privitization will be another part of the legislation. And remember – a portion of those dollars going to support grandpa and grandma will be returned to their heirs.

    Re the original – subject Jane/Megan made a superficial analysis (no offense intended, an in depth analysis would take twenty minutes to scroll through). I agree with her premise and would add another very important factor – the literal demise of the “yellow dog” Democrats. I’ll be attending the funeral for one on Friday. These are the remaining New Deal Democrats that formed the backbone of the party for forty years. They are/were straight ticket voters and constituted the true “base” of the party until about 92. The Democrats continuing scramble for identity groups to fill in the gaps in the ranks has resulted in the schizophrenia that Megan noted.

    In sum, Robert, I would agree with you that a major realignment is occuring but the shape of the new opposition party is still unclear to me. Until that future shape becomes clear, the Republicans will hold and increase the overall number of elective seats held. This represents an opportunity for Libertarians that they seem to singularly incaple of grasping.

  • cj

    Politically, I side with the “less state intervention” philosophy (at 40, I don’t believe I’ve EVER witnessed anything administered effectively by a state bureaucracy, and “unintended consequences” of laws and regulations are pretty self-evident, not to mention the passing-of-laws-that-we-wouldn’t-dream-of-applying-to-ourself approach of Congress, the recent learning experience provided by the EU Constitution, and my belief that most laws, regulations, and administrative actions should be handled by elected officials as close as possible to their constituency — for increased accountability).

    That said, one subject I REALLY don’t see addressed in any substantial way on libertarian/right-wing blogs is the responsibility — and ramifications of their actions — of a (for wont of a better word) “ruling class.”

    I see missing from a lot of the rhetoric an acknowledgement of the abuses engaged in by the Robber Barons and their ilk, and the impact their actions had in birthing the modern class warfare in America. (Obviously, previously there were examples of this in Europe). Also, reading the likes of Sinclair Lewis, etc., the exploitation of worker class was obviously a reality. You have to consider why the pendulum swung toward unions, communism, the welfare state, etc., and acknowledge that there WAS some good brought about by increased government intervention in some instances (I’m not condoning communism, I’m referring here to health and safety standards, etc.).

    Currently, you have the fraudulent practices of CEOs and BODs, abetted by accountants, lawyers, the SEC and other regulartory bodies. I don’t believe you can write this off as a few aberrant instances. There exists a very real mindset of greed and disregard for fellow citizens.

    Long and short, while I’m a proponent of less interference by the State, most especially in the areas of personal liberty — which today it is ever more concerning itself with, rather than addressing other worthwhile issues — I’d like to hear comments from “libertarians” and “right-wing” people their general philosophy regarding “progressive taxation” (I’m not an economist, so this to me means taxing at a higher rate those who are excessively wealthy).

    I’m not trolling, and I’m not especially interested in bromides. I’m interested in the bigger picture, re: the ramifications of the existence of a wealthy oligoarchy on a society. Issues I can think of are: the feeling of entitlement/anarchy of an exploited underclass, the concentration of political (and other power), the dehumanization of labor (evident today in the massive layoffs and off-shoring of jobs, while the corporate administrative structure accrues excessive compensation), and the ability of third entities (i.e., the greens) to manipulate popular opinion (i.e., global warming is due to “human activity” when the science very well may eventually come down on the side of planetary/cosmological forces).

    I’d be very interested in hearing Samizdata Readers’ opinions on this matter. And again, apologies for the super long post.

  • Ghaleon

    I must admit I feel some of your concern too, cj…

    Now, I’ll try to answer anyways…

    First of all, it is syndicates who did most of the work for better condition at work. In my opinion they aren’t a bad thing as long as they don’t act as a lobby and don’t sell their socialist propaganda on the media. If they stay with their basic role, that is to be an organisation of people trying to improve their own situation, I thing they are very useful… The problem here is when the government encourage them with some stupid law like that law in Québec that say that everyone in a company pays for the syndicate even if he is not even a member…(Formule Rand) The syndicates, an association of consentent people sharing a same goal, is the natural force to counter the ”exploitation’ of the bosses… All government do is to mess things up by advantaging one side or the other

    Also, what you don’t understand is that, in a libertarian society you can’t really gain any interesting political power with your money because, well, political power is very small or inexistant… In a libertarian society, rich won’t really be able to do lobbying so their cash won’t really help them to gain anything in the political arena.

    Who care that some people are richer than you, as long as they can’t force you again your will… Bill Gates is much richer than I but he don’t really have any power over me… the politicians do have power over me though… Nomatter how rich people would be, it wouldn’t give them the power to rule the others, so you couldn’t even call them a ruling class

    You say that they are exploited but, they wouldn’t have accepted those conditions if they weren’t better than the others options they had at their disposal. The working conditions of the people in the third world are indead horrible, but, to my knowledge, every modern society had to pass by that at a certain time(but not all of them left that condition at the same speed)

    I’m not an economist but I can answer you on your taxes question
    Everyone should be taxed on the same level because it’s more fair… it is the principal reason. Because working more is less incitative with that kind of taxation, that is the second one.

    You point out one of the main problem, that is that poor people will rebel and say that they are opressed and that kind of shit… we will have to convince them that they own to the power to change their situation(wich is still true most of the time, not everyone can be rich but it’s false to think that their isn’t any possibilities to get a decent live if you work hard)…this is going to be hard because the socialists worked very hard to convince them that they can’t help themselve and that it is the duty of the richer to help them.They worked hard at putting that in their heads, and it worked incredibly well…Socialists are expert at convincing people that they are victims(fat people, smokers with cancer, gamblers, etc) and in the case of the poors I think it will be very hard to destroy that illusion, but in the end it’s the only solution… Keep in head that it’s not all societies that play victims as much as our, that this feeling of being exploited is not completely natural and that it is intellectuals from the left that helped to make it so strong. Seriously, those days everyone try to sell us that they are exploited, even when in fact they win more than the the average income.

    Btw, sorry if my english isn’t alway very clear

  • CJ,

    To restate Ghaleon’s point, the negative “Robber Barons” were generally mercantilists, not laissez-faire capitalists* (i.e. they wanted STATE interventions {tarriffs, etc} on THEIR behalf) and bought and paid for state legislators to influence local regs. (this is one of the reasons for the direct election of U.S. Senators, before 1913 they were chosen by the state legislatures) The Pullman strike, for example, was broken when the rail barons deliberately linked the Pullman cars to U.S. Mail rail cars and got the Feds to intervene when the strikers refused to service a state monopoly.

    *We saw a modern example of this “mercantilism” when Oracle and other computer companies made the idiotic move of jumping in on the FedGov’s side during the Microsoft Trial. Karmic payback has proven to be a female dog the size of an Irish Wolfhound.

  • Larry

    Perhaps a mis-understanding of the role of parties in American politics.

    They’re coalitions, forcing votors to choose between agendas. That’s it. No fixed platforms, or even attitudes.

    As events force change the Demorcrat & Republicans will adjust. The high level of personal insults and demonizing suggests that they’re few substantitive differences. So they fight on personalities, not policies.

    Probably not stable. But neither is our economic system, our war on Economics 101.

    Econ 101 will win, and we’ll have to change. This process will generate new issues, perhaps if the State should grow or shrink to deal with our economic challenges.

    As mentioned above, our schools indoctrinate children in the virtue and power of the State. In my opinion, little doubt which side they’ll choose.

    But too many unknowns to speak with certainty about the outcome. What I do believe is that the post-Depression, post-WWII regime is ending — which might take years, or even decades.

  • veryretired

    The libertarian positions on most issues are much too radical for broad acceptance by the voting public, regardless of how reasonable they all seem to people on this blog who are libertarians to begin with.

    The US political system works by incremental change. The fabled 100 days of FDR are so noteworthy because things were done quickly. Usually that is not the case.

    I can remember the big headlines back in the middle 1960’s when the federal budget hit 100 billion for the first time. Even with the inflationary damage done to the currency, the rise in government expenditures is a slow process of accretion, each budget building on the programs and new spending of the last. The result of several decades is the multi-trillion dollar monstrosity we now have.

    The political parties are never going to be able to suddenly scale this spending back by any appreciable, ongoing reduction in the budget. Even Reagan’s boast was that he slowed the rate of growth. When there was talk of cutting back Social Security, the howls were loud and continuous, and Gingrich was gone.

    As one of the other posters said, any significant realignment, and change in policy direction, will take several years and several election cycles to occur. The place for libertarians is to continuously remind their fellow citizens of the value of a constitutionally limited representative government that respects individual liberties.

    If nothing else is gained by the situation in Iraq, it should serve to remind us all how fragile the existence of the rights of man are, and the gruesome alternative to a government controlled by a constitutional framework that recognizes those rights.

    I have often told my children that they are among the most fortunate human beings that have ever lived in the thousands of years of human struggle to survive on this earth. This status is a gift, and also a responsibility.

  • Doug Collins

    Just a short comment, after the excellent prognostications .

    Emotionally, I am in agreement with most of the more pessimistic predictions above. Human stupidity is an awesome force.

    However. I really believe that much of the libertarian philosophy on, not merely governance, but human action, is actually correct. That being the case, any political nostrum that significantly departs from libertarianism, sooner or later will cause a correcting force to be generated by that ol debbil Reality. The force may cause great pain if an attempt to resist it is made, but it will eventually prevail.

    Just ask the Comrades in the ex USSR.

  • Sandy P.

    Abby, you give this tail-end boomer hope.

    Those 60s boomers fail to realize that 1. It’s not about them any more

    2. We’re watching and we don’t like what we see.

    3. It falls to US, tail-end boomers and Gen-Xers to lead you and the millenials into battle. We do this right, you will be the “greatest generation” and we will be the unsung heros. We do this wrong, and we will be vilified for ages.

    I’m all for getting those 60s boomers off the stage, the only problem is, I’m next.

    40-odd years is enough, give it a rest already.

  • HTY

    verytired offered an interesting and rather pessimistic analysis. Let me offer a more optimistic alternative:

    Social welfare is on its way to oblivion.

    Well, maybe not complete destruction, but certainly sharp curtailment.

    In 1996, the GOP Congress, for the first time in the history of US welfare system, eliminated an entire social welfare program (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and replaced it with TANF. It imposed work requirements, capped spending, and devolved federal responsibilities to the states.

    So much for social welfare being the “third rail” of politics.

    That same Congress also passed the Freedom to Farm Act which was supposed to eliminate most agricultural subsidies in 6 years. If not for the Demogogues passing that atrocious Farm Bill last year, most agricultural subsidies would be gone by now.

    In 2000, for the first time in the history of US welfare system, a candidate from a major party (namely, then Governor Bush) proposed the beginning of privatizing Social Security. Even Ronald Reagan was forced to defend social security.

    Admittedly, that talk died away eventually. But it is only because of the economic slowdown which caused people to lose faith in the free market. Once the US economy restores, it is entirely possible that social security privatization will be back.

    Thanks to the Supreme Court decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, school vouchers can be tried on a much larger scale.

    I can go on, but I think I made my point. If people insist on seeing the cup as half empty, there’s not much I can do. I would simply like to make the observation that the glass is both half empty and half full.

    Personally, as a conservative (not libertarian), I think it is best for all concerned for progress (in the right direction) to be slow. It takes time for people to absorb change.

    I hope people will keep in mind how far we have come. Nobody who lived during the 1950s would seriously believe that one day, Congress would propose ending most agricultural subsidies and AFDC.

    I am not oblivious to the bad signs. What I am suggesting is that one should not ignore reality by ignoring the good signs.

  • Weasel: Wow. Interesting thread. I hope we aren’t boring the pants off our British hosts.

    Far from it. I would like to see more US discussions like this. Samizdata.net is not and never has been a ‘British’ blog as most of the issues we discuss are of universal interest regardless of where they occur.

  • Kodiak

    Ted Schuerzinger,

    “And the EU will continue to be far more corrupt than the US government or US businesses.

    Easy, isn’t it? :-)”

    Yes, very easy indeed.

    And archifalse >>> Floridagate, Enrongate, Irakgate I, Irakgate II, Irangate I, Irangate II, WMDgate, Kellygate, Kyotogate, Halliburtongate, Schwarzeneggergate, Prescottbushgate, Policestategate, Rumsfeldgate, Powell-at-the-UNgate …


  • Kodiak


    About the probable Democrat victory in 2004:

    “When Bush is reelected (…)” ???

    “IF Bush is ELECTED AT ALL (…)” !!!

  • Q

    For the past 40 years, the only thing the American Democratic party has managed to accomplish is maintaining and extending the poverty level for hundreds of millions of Americans.

    Their mantra is force the people to become reliant upon the government, then give the people just enough to keep them poor and stupid so that they will continue voting the party line.

    Special interest groups care not for anyone except themselves and merely aid in the perpetuation of the Democratic Party’s manipulative deceptive agenda.

  • CleverNameHere

    Larry wrote:

    “As events force change the Demorcrat & Republicans will adjust. The high level of personal insults and demonizing suggests that they’re few substantitive differences. So they fight on personalities, not policies.”

    I would dispute the claim that there exist few substantive differences between the two major parties, but even if the claim is true, those differences that do remain are each characterized by veritable canyons of separation. One need only to look at the deplorable conduct of Senate Democrats on a judicial nominee obstructionism kick to see that the parties themselves see very real distinctions.

    I’d be all for US Libertarians except for the following:

    “20. Women’s Rights and Abortion
    Individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question. ”

    When Libertarians decide to recognize the humanity of even the youngest, smallest, most vulnerable humans, I’ll consider them a viable alternative. But as things now stand, I cannot support a party which prefers ignoring biological fact to defending the rights of the “inconvenient”.

  • Russ Goble


    The short answer to your question can be summed up by a quote from Churchill. I believe he said something to the effect: “The problem with capitalism are the capitalists. The problem with socialism is socialism.” In other words, it’s some individuals who create some of the problems whereas socialism is broken at it’s core.

    I think Ghaleon pretty much hit your question out of the park so I don’t have a lot to add. I’ll focus on the taxation question.

    The central problem with progressive taxation is that it punishes the successful (if we define success by income) and rewards the unsuccessful (using the same definition). 95% of America’s tax revenue is paid by the “top 20%”, or the well off as Democrat would label it. Read that again: 95%. So, whenever a Democrat says that the wealthy need to pay “their fair share”, one has to ask where does “fair” end?

    Again, the central problem of progressive taxation is it’s based on an extremely faulty assumption: that the rich became that way by taking advantage of the poor. In a few cases that is surely true, but by and large it is completely wrong. It was said that libertarians believe that everyone should be taxed the same. This generall goes for conservatives to, but the devel is in the detail.

    Taxation is where I break from my libertarian cohorts. Libertarians largely believe in sales taxes and user fees as the primary means of taxation. I personally think a flat income tax is preferred for a number of reasons. Dividend income would be included in this assuming corporations were not taxed before doling out the dividends.

    The central reason is that sales taxes can be gamed just as easily as a progressive tax system. for example, food (since it’s a necessity) would probably be exempted, but would that include imported lobster from Maine (who only the wealthiest could affod)? Or clothes would probably be exempted for the same reason, but would that include $40 t-shirts from Saks? You see what I’m saying? The politicians would play the same games with sales taxes with choosing whose more worthy of tax exemptions (thus more class warfare) and it would be just as complicated and convoluted that the economic distortion it causes could be just as severe as our current progressive system.

    A flat tax with no exemptions (or maybe one for mortgages for individuals and interest for corporations) would be simpler as long as it was taken out of the withholding system and simply billed straight to the taxpayer. That’s probably more detail than you wanted. But, I’d say their are two points that “right wingers” generally agree on with regard to taxation:

    1. The tax code should treat everyone the same. The same tax rate for everyone. It’s not the government’s job to choose winners and losers.

    2. Simplicity. It needs to be simple and straightforward so that it does not cause distortion in the economy. This last bit is key, the right generally wants the economy left alone (yes, this isn’t absolute). Yet taxation is an economic intervention by the government no matter how you slice it, so the simpler and more stable it is, the less government influenced economic decisions.

    I think that sums up what the folks on the right believe is both the problems with progressive taxatoin and what the goal of a tax code should be.

  • Russ Goble

    Another response to CJ’s inquiry.

    Following up on Earnest Brown’s point, there is a common misconception among the left that the right always sides with big business. And this sometimes is because SOME on the right actually do side with big business (as do many on the left if truth be told). But there are many conservatives who believe “corporate welfare” should be ended. After all, that’s what farm subsidies are. Corporate welfare for the romanticized farmer (Europe has this problem too). Libertarians obviuosly against corporate welfare to, but with much more zeal.

    Basically, the libertarian argument is that if you don’t have government mechansims for protecting businesses from their labor or their consumers, then the market will ulitmately set things right. Particularly when their is a free press to tell the public when a company has abused it’s market position. And with less government regulation, then you would have lower barriars to entry in any given market allowing for more competitors to knock the “robber baron” off their pedestal. Conservatives argue this to, but with far more caveats and compromises.

  • M. Simon

    The future of the Dem party will be decided in Nov 2004. I’d bet against it having a future.


    I’m with you. What we need is a return to the days of the black market abortion. And women performing them in livingrooms (Berkeley 1969) vs doctors providing them. That will be a big improvement.

    The abortion question has been in play for 2,500 years. Science did not just find out that abortion kills a child in 1970. They knew it 2,500 years ago. With better technology abortions are easier for laymen today than they were for doctors 100 years ago.

    So please explain how outlawing abortion will work better than outlawing drugs?

    For me the morality was never in question. Enforcement is the question. Can ther state really outlaw abortion effectively without bedroom police?

    Will we have a Pregnancy Enforcement Administration? Will the PEA brains actually design an effictive program?

  • Russ Goble

    Larry said: “As events force change the Demorcrat & Republicans will adjust. The high level of personal insults and demonizing suggests that they’re few substantitive differences. So they fight on personalities, not policies”

    I actually bought into this perception myself in 2000 and cast my vote for the same lightweight that the Libertarians keep running out their every 4 years. I thought Gore & Bush were only slightly different and did it really matter who wins? But, since Sept 11th it’s been plain as day that the difference between the parties, their constituents and their standard bearers couldn’t be more different (yeah, darn self-absorbed American bringing up that whole 9/11 thing).

    Furthermore, as HYT helpfully noted, Bush has actually brought Social Security reform into the national debate, as well as vouchers (though he caved bigtime on that last one). These are two issues that the Democrats would NEVER promote, unless the result was a massive tax increase. And Oh yeah, there’s that to. Bush put forth major tax cuts which would never have happened under a Gore administration. Social Security and taxes are two of the largest interventions in the economy and only one political party actually has ideas on how to ease the burden for these. So, I think to say that there are few substantive differences between the parties is way off the mark. I certainly sympathize with the idea that it seems like their aren’t that many differences since very little changes, but that’s really just the mechanisms of the U.S. government working the way it has for over 200 years now.

    And if we could get a few Northeastern Republican Senators to pull their wishy washy heads out of their ass, the U.S. could drill in ANWR, and increase power production through the building of new plants.

    BTW, thanks HYT with your optimistic view. I agree with what you say, I just worry about the continued radicalisation of the left, a radicalization that is being indoctrinated at every level of our public schooling. But, going on your hopeful thrust, home schooling is growing exponentially, and the voucher movement certainly has a little bit of momentum but needs more (see my post about Bush reaching out to African Americans above). But, public schooling is, and will be for the foreseeable future, a cancer on this country’s soul.

    One quibble with an otherwise good post from Veryretired: Gingrich was booted because of ethical problems and his general incompetence in the Clinton impeachment process (which culminated with information that he had cheated on his wife as well). And remember, Gingrich volunteerily stepped down out of shame, something the dude in the White House sorely lacked. He and the Republican Congress actually came to power touting the reforms you speak of. The problem was their follow through was a disaster. I think you are right about the slow pace of any reform and the Gingrich crew certainly did try to move too fast.

    Anyway, this is an enjoyable thread.

  • Jonathan L

    Floridagate, Enrongate, Irakgate I, Irakgate II, Irangate I, Irangate II, WMDgate, Kellygate, Kyotogate, Halliburtongate, Schwarzeneggergate, Prescottbushgate, Policestategate, Rumsfeldgate, Powell-at-the-UNgate …

    Thats one hell of a lot of gates, most developed and manufactured by Kodiak Gates Inc.

    On the EU side we have, Berlisconi, (That on its own is probably enough) Chirac (Ditto), Helmut Kohl’s “business dealings” with Elf, The resignations of the entire European Commission, The total lack of a proper accounting system in the EU, The CAP (subsidies for non existent sheep and olive trees) , Edward Heath’s theories on EEC membership without loss of sovereignty, and not forgetting regional aid (bribes) to keep poorer regions and countries on the one true path.

    PS I tried herbal tea and it didn’t work

  • Abby

    Kodiak: Here’s a prediction for you, albiet one more than 20 years old:

    “France will remain hostile toward any manifestation of courage in the free world. She will go on courting enemies and scorning friends. She will welcome the abuseof the Occident from any quarter and celebrate the reatreat of Western civilization in the backward world.”

    M. Simon: abortion is a painful issue for women and I suppose men too. I am deeply ambivilent. But I do believe there are honorable arguments on both sides and people must be allowed to to debate it and choose or not choose it on the state level.

    The effect of Roe has been to disenfranchize the half of the country who believes it to be an abomination. Subsequent legislation has banned the picketing of abortion clinics (a compelling state interest vitiates the right to free speech). This has led to the bombing of abortion clinics and the murder of doctors who specialize in late-term procedures.

    The people must be free to make up their own minds on this, the most compelling moral question of the age.

  • Russ Goble

    Sigh. Why do I feel the need to respond to Kodiak. Oh well, here goes:

    “Floridagate, Enrongate, Irakgate I, Irakgate II, Irangate I, Irangate II, WMDgate, Kellygate, Kyotogate, Halliburtongate, Schwarzeneggergate, Prescottbushgate, Policestategate, Rumsfeldgate, Powell-at-the-UNgate ”

    Let’s see:

    Irakgate I, Irakgate II, WMDgate, Kyotogate, Schwarzenaggergate, Rumsfeldgate, Powell-at-the-UNgate: Perhaps you could explain why these are “scandals.” See, being a software guy, I look at those “gates” and I think: “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

    Enrongate had nothing to do with Bush or really any presidential administration. If there is a POLITICAL scandal, it was that the Bush administration let them fold (they requested help and the Bush folks said no). Bill Clinton (Europe’s wet dream of a president) was far more implicated in the Enron scandal than any Republican. Kenneth Lay was a golf budy, and Clinton’s Treasury Secrtatry was up to his neck in the scandal, though most of that was after he’d gone to the private sector. But, by and large, Enron was a corporate scandal which began and ended with the schmucks who ran that company into the ground. This occasionally happens in a free market.

    Halliburton is a nonstarter for a scandal. PresscottBushGate is relevant why? Was anyone here even born then?

    Policestategate is laughable, especially when viewed against the draconian measures the EU has taken.

    Kellygate I presume refers to the Blair dossier, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is a British problem. And from what I’ve read, is a journalistic scandal more than anything else. So, I don’t see how that fits.

    So, what’s left of your scandals are Florida, Iran I & Iran II. Assuming Iran I is the Iranian hostage crisis & II is IranContra (get the names straight will ya?), then I’m with you on those. Though, I guess my reading of why Florida was a scandal is vastly different than yours.

    Oh, and Jonathan L forgot one other:


  • HTY

    To Russ Goble:

    1. Yes, I agree the education bill was disgraceful. For whatever it’s worth, the funding is much lower than required for the bill.

    2. Don’t worry about northeast Republicans. They’re just about wiped out. The future of the GOP is in the Rocky Mountains and the South, both of them growth areas and vast production centers of solid conservatives and libertarians. Barring any unexpected disaster, the GOP is bound to gain seats in Congress next year, further diluting the influence of moderate/liberal Republicans. (Personally, I want the Club for Growth to eliminate Sen. Specter.)

    Even in the northeast, there are still some hopeful signs. Taxachusetts elected the Republican Mitt Romney and came within 5 points to abolishing their state income tax last year. The anti-tax impulse of Americans still lives.

    3. Radicalization of the left is a good thing, for it further divides the Left. Personally, I’m hoping that a few Dems join the Green Party after 2004.

    There is a similar “radicalization” on the Right as well. American Conservative Union statistics show that Congress has become much more conservative over time, especially since 1994.

    Radicalization of the Left also exposes the Left as the riotous, anarchic thugs that they proudly flaunted themselves in Seattle. That will only help convert libs. Remember how the radicalization of the 1970s caused a good number of libs to migrate to the Right?

  • veryretired

    I might have a slightly different view of Gingrich’s situation because of the relentless campaign against him in the press, i.e., a Time cover titled “The Gingrich who stole Social Security” or some such. I remember my mother asking me almost in tears who this “Greengrich” was and why was he trying to abolish social security. As an eldery widow whose SS payments are the bulk of her income, she was terrified by the scare campaign.

    The stereotype of Republicans always being for big business and Democrats against them is worth as much as most other stereotypes. There are any number of corporate entanglements on the Dem side, as in WorldCom, for example, and the major labor unions are certainly “corporate” entities, in that they exist for their own sake now and funnel huge amounts of money into political campaigns.

    I’m sorry if I come across as pessimistic, because I am actually quite optimistic about the prospects for the survival of free societies in the long run. I will admit a certain cynicism, but that comes from being a Kennedy democrat who supported LBJ when he promised “I won’t send your sons to fight an Asian war.” The next few elections weren’t much better.

    The coming generations seem to have rejected the relentless leftism of the previous generation of academic and media elites, at least to some degree. I chuckle when I read the occasional report about college attitudes, with an almost required comment about how the younger kids seem only to care about careers, and “Where has all the idealism gone?” What goes around comes around, and the givens of one generation are routinely questioned by the next.

  • CleverNameHere

    M. Simon

    Ahhh… I see your logic. Because some women would choose to risk their lives to kill their babies in a prohibition society, we should save them from themselves and just allow them to kill their babies w/ no consequence?

    For someone who claims to recognize the humanity of the unborn, you are quick to prefer their unwilling execution to the possible deaths of mothers resultant from a risky abortion.

    Murder in general is illegal, yet murders continue to be committed. I suppose you would favor abolishing the “prohibition” on murder altogether?

    You are gravely mistaken if you claim that the humanity of the unborn is widely accepted. The exact opposite is the case. The majority of “pro-choice” activists simply dismiss even the possibility that the fetus could be a living being. The idiot Supreme Court specifically disclaimed any understanding of “when life begins”. Disingenuously, of course, but plainly and for all to see.

    And of course the state can outlaw abortion w/o bedroom police. The state formerly outlawed abortion w/o bedroom police. In fact, just how many abortions do you know of which occur in the bedroom?