The National Review Institute is accepting applications for their 2013-14 class of fellows. As a fellow from the 2012-13 class, I highly recommend the program to conservatives of any stripe. It’s a great opportunity to read new and classic works of conservative thought, to hear from some of today’s leading conservative academics and writers, and to meet a great group of other young and talented Washington-area conservatives (including many who work outside of policy and politics).
About the program:
Each year, NRI invites 25 early- to mid-career young professionals to join our Washington Fellows program. Its goal is to introduce succeeding generations — not only young people working in the world of politics and policy, but those in the productive economy, as well — to the conservative movement’s most important thinkers, institutions, and writings, and to build a network of talented, like-minded individuals who can assist one another professionally and personally for years to come.
Washington Fellows will meet for ten weeknight dinner seminars from December 2013 through June 2014. For each session, Fellows will be expected to complete a 25-30 page reading assignment, which they will discuss with a leading conservative thinker. In addition, Fellows will receive invitations to exclusive networking happy hours and other conservative events in DC, as well as an annual alumni gathering.
Applications are due November 11, so if you’re interested, time is of the essence.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Today marks the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy which is believed to be caused by global warming. In this podcast James Taylor discusses the factors of why man made global warming is not the source of hurricanes. Even though, the story line in the public sphere portrays that if it weren’t for things like SUV’s hurricanes wouldn’t exist. He notes the objective evidence which shows that as temperatures have slightly warmed there is a significant decline in hurricane activity, US hurricane strikes, and major hurricanes striking the north-east. He further notes that looking at the history of hurricane strikes from the thirties to the fifties, there were six major hurricanes, category three or above, in contrast to the only one major one we’ve had since then in 1985, Hurricane Gloria.
He then looks at how when temperatures were cooler we had hurricanes hitting the north-east on a normal basis, but because of warmer waters it has created a damper on hurricanes in the northeast due to a fraction of rising temperatures in the ocean balanced out by windshear. The problem with the assertion that global warming equals tropical storms and hurricanes goes against what objective data presents, that we are actually undergoing the longest period in history of eight years without a major hurricane striking.
What is important that James highlights is that even though theories are compelling and well trumpeted by the media, these theories need to be tested by real world facts and observations. And what would be revealed is that global warming is not in fact causing major hurricanes.
The R Street Institute, a conservative think tank, said the Government Accountability Office has determined that 78.8 percent of subsidized policies are in counties that rank in the top 30 percent of home values, while less than 1 percent are in counties that rank in the bottom 30 percent.
“Delaying the scheduled phase-out of flood insurance premium subsidies amounts to a gift to mostly wealthy homeowners who get to enjoy cheap insurance on their beach homes thanks to taxpayer support,” said R Street Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann.
”It’s important that flood map designations reflect the risk on the ground as accurately as possible, and to that end, we think it is important that FEMA’s maps account for all flood protection systems, including those state and local levees that have not been certified by the Army Corps of Engineers,” Lehmann said.
Donald Devine- Founder of the American conservative movement and former Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President Reagan- says it has.
In part I of the “America’s Way Back” podcast series, Devine explains that the real problem of government today is not the structure that our founders built for us, but the fact that we’re trying to do too much with it.
The government now is too bureaucratic, too centralized, and we have too much debt- we’re at the end of the rope! We need to send the power back to localities- states, cities, and towns; that’s what the founders had in mind when crafting the Constitution.
Devine’s newest book titled, America’s Way Back, is all about how we got into the mess we’re in, and how we can get out. In a nutshell, we got into this mess via the progressive movement in the early 20th Century (which turned us away from the Constitution), and by turning back to the Constitution, we can clean up the mess we’ve made.
Devine’s book introduces readers to five prominent intellectuals; the first being Woodrow Wilson, which Devine calls “the most important American since the founding fathers.”
Tune in to “America’s Way Back” Part II to learn the rest!
Listen to the podcast in the player above.
For several years now now, a lot of people involved with insurance—me included —have been puzzling out the ways that new tobacco products like e-cigarettes and snus might impact life and health insurance markets. To date, the U.S. insurance industry has only begun to deal with these questions and few if any products directly take them into account.
However, in the United Kingdom, where a less intense and cumbersome regulatory system for insurance makes innovation easier, the industry appears to be making some strides. The United Kingdom, of course, has a single-provider health care system and only a little more than 10 percent of the population has private market health insurance. But as the Telegraph newspaper reports, at least one broker has succeeded in getting some individuals who use e-cigarettes covered at non-smokers’ rates for life insurance products. The newspaper reports there are doubts about whether this situation will continue persist, because reinsurers haven’t yet decided how to underwrite these risks.
The subject deserves further investigation. As the article notes, a great number of e-cig users are current smokers. Among those who aren’t, most are former smokers. Obviously, the direct health effects of smoking don’t vanish when one quits smoking. Complicating things further, insurers flag smoking as an undesirable underwriting variable not only because cigarettes are inherently dangerous, but also because smoking correlates strongly with many other risk-taking behaviors.
That said, the long and impressive body of research on snus (which is not sold in the United Kingdom) and the shorter, smaller but still substantive body of work on e-cigarettes (which has been sold widely for less than a decade) both indicate these products are significantly less harmful than cigarettes. This doesn’t mean all e-cigarette and snus users should get rate cuts or that every insurer should be forced to recognize the risk differential in their underwriting and rate-setting. But the U.K. experience with e-cigarettes indicates there’s at least some market willingness to take differing harms into account. Even if they don’t want to go as far as some U.K. companies have gone, U.S. life and health insurers should watch the situation closely to see what they can learn.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
For Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, that begins with overhauling flood insurance.
“For more than 40 years, we’ve subsidized huge numbers of people to live in flood-prone areas,” he said. “This policy alone … would with or without climate change result in massively increased damage resulting from flooding. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen.
“Climate change is likely to make this worse.”
LANSING, Mich. (Oct. 29, 2013) – The R Street Institute welcomes today’s introduction of H.B. 5108, legislation that would repeal Michigan’s outdated anti-”scalping” law.
Under the terms of a 1931 statute, it is illegal in Michigan to sell any ticket above its written face value without the express consent of the event and venue operators, as well as to resell any season ticket that bears the ticket-holder’s name.
Sponsored by state Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, H.B. 5108 would strike those provisions from the state code and allow buyers and sellers to negotiate the resale price of event tickets in a free and open market.
“This change would represent a welcome update to what has become an archaic law, and bring Michigan in-line with 35 other states that do not have any statutory prohibitions on ticket resale,” R Street Midwest Director Alan Smith said. “We should not be wasting precious law enforcement resources preventing Michigan consumers from engaging in an open ticket market governed by the laws of supply and demand.”
(1) see any problem in the housing bubble,
(2) anticipate the bursting of the housing bubble; and,
(3) anticipate its implications for the U.S. economy?
The answers are (1) no, (2) no, and (3) no. Why, then, is she being plumped as the Oracle of the Crash of 2008.
We begin in 2004. By this time, the housing bubble was well underway. Yellen has just assumed her position as President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This is bad news. It means that from here forward practically every word of hers is recorded and scrutinized. This is not good for those who – like Stalin’s photographers – would like to air-brush history. So, what did she say about the housing bubble? In her first public speech as President of the San Francisco Fed, here is what she said:
”…with the major declines in the mortgage rates behind us, the volume of mortgage refinancings has plummeted over the past year or so. Conceivably, equity withdrawals from cash-out refinancings provided a greater boost to spending in recent years than was commonly recognized, and the loss of this source of funds could undermine demand.”
INTERPRETATION: She didn’t notice the bubble. Instead, she was thinking like a Keynesian economist. A house can be a source of liquidity, enabling people to spend more, which adds to aggregate demand, which is a good thing. Or, is continually borrowing against your home a good thing? Today, looking back, maybe not.
Continuing into 2005, the signs of the bubble are now unmistakable. Was Janet Yellen worried? Even if there were a bubble (notice the “if” word), her answer, like Amy Winehouse’s answer when they wanted to send her to Rehab, was “No, no, no.”
“First, if the bubble were to deflate on its own, would the effect on the economy be exceedingly large? Second, is it unlikely that the Fed could mitigate the consequences? Third, is monetary policy the best tool to use to deflate a house-price bubble? My answers to these questions, in the shortest possible form, are ‘no,’ ‘no,’ and ‘no.’”
As to whether there actually was a bubble, she doubted it. Yes, homes were overpriced as compared to rent. But, interest rates were low, and homes were affordable. By the way, one of the reasons interest rates were low was the low interest rate policy of the Fed at that time, which Yellen supported.
Continuing into 2006, by this year, the overpricing of homes was becoming obvious. Yellen considered the matter, and admitted that there were some “inflationary pressures”; but, all things considered, she wasn’t worried. Her ‘best guess‘ is that the economy would transition into “sustainable” growth.
“If growth were to continue to roar—that is, to keep running at an unsustainable pace for too long, raising the risk of building inflationary pressures—monetary policymakers like me would start getting those frowny lines in their foreheads. But, at the moment, my brow is fairly smooth. My best guess is that economic activity will remain healthy, supported by strong productivity growth and continued strength in consumer spending and business investment, especially investment by the vital high-tech sector. But I don’t think we will get a repeat of the very rapid first quarter growth. Rather, I expect economic activity to settle back to a more trend-like and sustainable rate as the year progresses.”
By 2007, softness started to show itself in the housing market. Home prices were no longer rising, and unsold homes started to dot the landscape. Yellen was aware of the potential problems, but she did not distinguish herself among the leaders of the Federal Reserve in warning of the problem.
“The most consistent voice” in that regard, according to the New York Times, was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. They said,
“’The speed of the falloff in housing activity and the deceleration in house prices continue to surprise us,’ Janet Yellen, then president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in September.
“One builder she spoke with,’ she said, ‘toured some new subdivisions on the outskirts of Boise and discovered that the houses, most of which are unoccupied, are now being dressed up to look occupied — with curtains, things in the driveway, and so forth — so as not to discourage potential buyers’ …
“But the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, appears as the most consistent voice of warning that problems in the housing market could have broader consequences.
“The general consensus on the board, summarized by Mr. Geithner, was that problems in the housing market had few broader ramifications. ‘We just don’t see troubling signs yet of collateral damage, and we are not expecting much,’ he said at the September meeting.”
In Yellen’s defense, notice that she wasn’t the only leader of the Federal Reserve who didn’t see the risk to the financial system posed by the softness in housing. Neither did Timothy Geithner, then President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, who as President Obama’s first Secretary of the Treasury would oversee the bailout.
Furthermore, it is not clear what the Federal Reserve could have done in 2006 to address the problem. Possibly, the Federal Reserve could have advised the Congress that mortgages significantly in excess of the market value of the homes backing them combined with costly foreclosure threatened the financial system and the entire economy, and promoted some way to facilitate the writing-down of mortgages. But, this is hindsight.
Even as late as 2007, as the housing bubble was bursting, Yellen still did not see the threat this posed to the financial system or to the economy. To her, the risk was to individual investors, not to the system.
“For the conduct of monetary policy, the main question is how recent financial developments and other economic factors affect the outlook for the U.S. economy and the risks to that outlook. The reason this is the main question is that monetary policy’s unswerving focus should be on pursuing the Fed’s mandated goals of price stability and full employment. Monetary policy should not be used to shield investors from losses. Indeed, investors who misjudged fundamentals or misassessed risks are certain to suffer losses even if policy is successful in keeping the economy on track.”
What we know is that, once the Crash of 2008 got underway, the approach taken first by the Bush administration and then by the Obama administrations was to allow the process of foreclosure to run its course, with selective assistance that mostly helped nobody, and to bail out the financial institutions deemed too big to fail.
It is unfair to Janet Yellen for her to be promoted for having forewarned the country of the housing bubble. One of the problems of bubbles is that they are very difficult to discern in real time. They seem, recurrently, to generate themselves; often, in conjunction with actual advances.
The dot.com bubble of the 1990s was not based on nothing. It was based on a tremendous advance in technology. So, too, the housing bubble. Tell me what is wrong with increased home-ownership? Yet, looking back, it is obvious bubbles got underway.
The question is, why did the bursting of the first mainly affect only private investors, and the bursting of the second devastate the financial system and the overall economy?
Some eight years ago the media was excited that Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich had formed an alliance about reforming health care. In 2005 Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post about a joint appearance in gushing terms –
Clinton, asked about electronic medical records, deferred, again, to her friend. “Newt has a very dramatic way of saying this,” she said, “which is ‘Paper kills.’” Gingrich sent the praise right back at her, hailing Clinton’s legislation on medical records as a “major breakthrough” in Congress. “This is absolutely the case that Hillary is making,” he said.
Of course, they were not alone. President Bush had already embraced the idea in his State of the Union speech to Congress.
Later, President Obama built the HITECH Act into his 2009 stimulus package and appropriated some $20 billion to make it happen. All promised to get everyone’s complete medical records in digital form by 2014.
Man, this is going to be GREAT! A model of modern efficiency! Bipartisan support! Interoperable! WOWSA!
Now, of course there were the usual naysayers and Gloomy Gusses. I was one of them in this research and commentary I wrote for the Heartland Institute. Dr. Bruce Landes, who comments here frequently, was another. Dr. Scott Silverstein at Drexel University was also skeptical. And Dr. Deborah Peele was very concerned about patient privacy in a digital era.
Most of these concerns were not about whether digital technology is a good thing. Of course it is, or can be, a very good thing. But the track record of top-down, politically imposed solutions is abysmal. And when you add vast amounts of money to the mix, chaos is inevitable. Great Britain went through a similar, though more modest, exercise and recently concluded that the whole thing was a failure, but only after spending some $12 billion.
But we skeptics were not able to overcome the hordes of advocates who were eager to get their hands on a bit of the $20 billion.
Now the results of all this are coming to the fore. The Washington Post recently ran an op-ed piece by Dr. Dan Morhaim, who is also a Democrat member of Maryland’s House of Delegates. (One of the refreshing things about bipartisan ideas is that the opposition can also be bipartisan.) He writes –
These systems tend to be fantastically complex. One doesn’t have to be intimately familiar with, say, Hertz or Enterprise to rent a car online. But many electronic health record systems have pull-down screens listing each of the 68,000 possible diagnosis codes in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases and 87,000 possible procedure codes.
Or consider what happens when I write a prescription: Every potential drug interaction or side effect listed generates a warning prompt. Inevitably, recognizing that the warnings are generally inapplicable and take time to sort out, clinicians start to bypass the alerts. Sooner or later, ignoring one will lead to serious complications.
Dr. Morhaim concludes –
Perhaps the most pernicious side effect is the erosion of the provider-patient relationship. When I first began working with electronic health records, I caught myself staring at the computer screen instead of engaging patients, who rightly felt ignored. Like many colleagues, I’ve reverted to the practice of talking with the patient and taking notes with pen and paper. After the evaluation is over and the patient has left, I type in the data. This takes much more time, but it is the only way to complete a proper history and exam.
The result is decreased productivity and frustrated providers — and a lack of meaningful data to manage patient care.
And The American Journal of Emergency Medicine published a study finding that ER physicians are now spending 43% of their time on data entry and only 28% on direct patient care.
So we have spent well over $20 billion (that was the appropriation for the first year alone), and are left with a system that reduces productivity, fails to provide “meaningful data,” and destroys the patient/physician relationship. From 2011 to 2012 there was a 21% reduction in the number of family physicians who had “meaningful use” of electronic medical records, according to the American Association of Family Physicians. Yet the mandate to use this system continues.
Boy, isn’t it great to have policies with bipartisan support? Meanwhile, I don’t know about you, but I think it would be swell to have a simple wallet-sized card that listed my emergency contacts, personal physician, allergies, and current medications. But that isn’t grandiose enough for the Washington elite.
R Street Senior Fellow Reihan Salam recently joined political commentator Stephanie Miller and Mediaite’s Joe Concha to discuss unpaid White House internships on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Next week, voters in Virginia will go to the polls to choose the next governor of their state, and if current forecasts are any guide, it will be a dismal day indeed for Republicans. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe currently leads his Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli by about seven points, according to the most recent poll, while the Real Clear Politics average is closer to ten points.
Why should McAuliffe be crushing Cuccinelli so thoroughly? His relentless air war on the Virginia attorney general probably has something to do with it, but there is almost certainly also another reason: because libertarian Robert Sarvis is polling in double digits, and drawing from voters who, if they decided to vote at all, would almost certainly vote for Cuccinelli.
Many (especially Cuccinelli supporters) want to know what gives. So far, only two explanations have emerged: One from Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner, and the other from Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller. Both are people I have great respect for, and also with whom I have disagreed on occasion, so it’s probably not a shock that I have to (respectfully) dissent from both, while still acknowledging the validity of their points.
First, there’s Carney’s explanation:
Why are libertarians working so hard against Cuccinelli, who is probably the most libertarian statewide official in Virginia in recent history?
I suspect identity politics plays a role.
I asked Sarvis why a libertarian should oppose Cuccinelli, and the first words out of his mouth were “social issues.” [Former Cato Institute President Ed] Crane’s only critique of Cuccinelli when announcing the $300,000 buy for Sarvis: “Ken Cuccinelli is a socially intolerant, hard-right conservative with little respect for civil liberties.”[...]
But the social liberals’ attack on Cuccinelli conflates his personal conservatism with his policy views.
And here’s Lewis’:
What does this all mean? First, the fact that Cuccinelli is having base problems is indicative of how absurdly far the “purity” litmus test has gone. It’s also a sign that — in some quarters, at least — Republicans will be made to pay for holding socially conservative positions. (It’s no longer enough to have libertarian-leaning positions, one must also eschew traditional conservative positions in order to be deemed acceptable.)[...]
It sounds to me like the libertarians are the ones who aren’t tolerant…of Christians.
So, are libertarians who won’t vote for Cuccinelli anti-Christian? Or are they simply too blinded by identity politics to see what a staunch corporate welfare fighter he is (a point both Carney and Lewis stress)?
Well, let’s be honest. Both factors probably play a role. Cuccinelli certainly hasn’t helped himself with libertarians with his social issues talk, especially when you consider that (as Carney admits) many libertarians are pro-gay marriage and pro-choice. However, to elevate this to the status of “identity politics” is a bit of a misnomer. Libertarians aren’t pro-gay because of a belief that being gay is inherently political. They’re pro-gay because they want sex to stop being politicized — in other words, because they want the state out of the bedroom. Ditto abortion, which is extremely easy to conceive (at least, from a libertarian perspective) as analogous to an issue like gun rights, where the question of whether someone gets to have ultimate rights over their property (in this case, their body) trumps any potential harm they might do to other people defending it.
These framings aren’t necessarily correct, or even universally held ones, but they’re certainly more convincing as explanations than identity politics. What is more, treating Cuccinelli’s opinions about gay marriage and abortion as mere “personal conservatism” is rather a dodge, from a libertarian perspective, at the point where he plans to use that “personal conservatism” as a basis for policymaking.
So alright, if libertarians aren’t out to make the personal political, are they simply anti-Christian? Here, too, I disagree. Yes, there are probably anti-Christian elements in the liberty movement (most of them are probably in the Randian camp), but libertarianism is plainly not a purely anti-Christian movement, nor is objecting to particular iterations of Christian political activism necessarily anti-Christian. I suspect most libertarians have no problem with the Christian political causes that Lewis cites as evidence of his belief — a list which omits Cuccinelli’s opinions on gay marriage and abortion — and to suggest they do strikes me as a leap. Moreover, I simply can’t see reflexive anti-Christian sentiment motivating either George Will or Jen Rubin, both of whom have endorsed Sarvis.
So why are libertarians refusing to vote for Cuccinelli? Polling data is thin on the ground, but I have a theory, based mostly on the history of the conservative movement, and on the direction which the liberty movement has increasingly been taking since at least the 2008 election. Please note, however, that in explaining this theory, I am seeking to do only that — explain it. This article is not meant as an endorsement of, nor an attack on, Cuccinelli himself. He is merely the occasion to point out a particular trend.
Funny enough, in explaining the libertarian disaffection with Cuccinelli, it’s probably best to start with a question Lewis asks:
So much for fusionism?
For those who don’t know, fusionism is the theory advanced by libertarian theorist Frank Meyer in his 1962 book “In Defense of Freedom” that libertarian and socially conservative philosophies are not merely compatible, but necessary for the survival of a coherent conservative opposition to liberalism. Meyer argued that whereas libertarians were quite right to lament the fall of the free market and of laissez faire capitalism, their moral theory was so thin as to lead them toward moral relativism, which in turn would eventually lead to a rejection of the very morality that made saving, self-denial and other quintessentially capitalist virtues possible.
Social conservatives, meanwhile, were correct (in Meyer’s estimation) to be leery of radical change, but also too quick to turn to government as a means to enforce their own moral codes (virtue, in Meyer’s book, was meaningless unless it was freely chosen), and too hostile to capitalism. In other words, the two philosophies had incontrovertible weaknesses that could only be fixed by virtue of being held in tandem with each other.
Sarvis’ challenge to Cuccinelli, a social conservative, on the grounds that Cuccinelli is a social conservative, certainly does seem like a challenge to this theory. Which raises the question, why did fusionism decay to the point where this sort of open schism could occur? Again, a Lewis quote provides a clue.
As attorney general, Cuccinelli fought to get a wrongly accused man out of jail – and focused on compassionate conservative issues like human trafficking and child pornography.
Now, I don’t know anyone, libertarian or otherwise, who would object to any of these causes. But I do know plenty of libertarians who would object very strongly to two words in this passage: “compassionate conservative.” In fact, I would argue that the very concept of “compassionate conservatism” is why libertarians are presently refusing to lend their votes to Cuccinelli, and many like him.
The nomination of George W. Bush and his subsequent presidency mark quite possibly the greatest low point for libertarians in recent memory. Bush’s brand of “compassionate conservatism,” initially billed as a move away from Gingrich-era intransigence and anger, ended up nothing less than an attack on libertarian values pretty much across the board. Bush’s Medicare Part D plan, and his rhetoric arguing that “when someone’s hurting, government has got to move,” were clear thumbs in the eyes of economic libertarians.
His construction and expansion of a massive surveillance state, and involvement in several wars, offended both civil libertarians and cosmopolitan ones with concerns about the brutality and coerciveness of warfare. And as to Bush’s opinions on social issues? With the exception of his stance on immigration, politicians don’t come more anti-libertarian than W.
But more to the point, the Bush administration was also a low point for libertarians in terms of their relation to the broader conservative movement. By which I mean, there may as well have not been one. Caught between neoconservative dreams of global Americanism and social conservative evangelism, the Republican Party was in no mood to listen to a group that dissented from both. In fact, they were openly dismissive of them, so much so that libertarian professor Randy Barnett felt the need to pen an op ed in 2002 calling for conservatives to be less dismissive of libertarians, because the latter were already bolting and becoming spoilers a la Sarvis:
Stop making snide gratuitous remarks about libertarians. Nothing turns off libertarians more than the sort of wholly gratuitous snide remarks about libertarians in conservative publications. By gratuitous, I mean they show up even in articles about policies with which libertarians and conservatives agree. The more libertarians feel unwelcome in the coalition that is the Republican Party, the more they will vote Libertarian.
By 2006, the split was already so poisonous that it was garnering fretful articles on Real Clear Politics, as well as entire books devoted to explaining it. Some libertarian writers, like Brink Lindsey, even openly flirted with creating a new “liberaltarian” coalition after the 2006 elections, even though Nancy Pelosi’s statist leadership of the latter soon put an end to this idea.
Nor was it only libertarians flirting with the idea. As the 2008 election neared, socially conservative writers like Mike Gerson and Rod Dreher, as well as socially conservative politicians like Rick Santorum, began openly attacking libertarians as political albatrosses who were holding back the GOP from its (in Gerson’s case, literally) heroic quest to remake America in a more Christian and responsible image. These latter figures found their champion in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was fond of baiting libertarians as well as fiscal conservatives generally, like the Club for Growth (or as Huckabee called them, the Club for Greed).
Huckabee’s argument was simple: libertarians needed socially conservative voters to serve as their base, and should never be allowed to forget it, because their ideas were so heartless and soulless (his words) there was no way they could possibly win a majority in an election. They should be grateful they got anything out of the GOP’s agenda at all, the immoral, greedy freaks, and they should remember at all times who really had all the votes. I am sorry to say that, at the time, he was cheered for making this argument.
Now, obviously, the trauma of Barack Obama’s election and his massive strides towards statism managed to bring libertarians back into the fold once 2008 was over. What is more, when the tea party arose and suddenly it became clear that libertarians not only could motivate large numbers of voters, but were doing so successfully, the balance of power began to shift. Huckabee, and his ilk, noticed and bemoaned it. Libertarians, and conservatives who wanted to win, celebrated the infusion of new populist libertarian energy and let it drive them to their massive victory in 2010.
Had the GOP gone on to win in 2012, buoyed by this fresh infusion of new political talent, this story might have ended with libertarians and social conservatives reunited and better friends than they were when they came in. But it didn’t. Instead, libertarians watched all through 2012 as Rick Santorum did his best to crib from the Huckabee playbook and, for his efforts, was branded as the “tea party” alternative to the GOP. Mercifully, Santorum lost the nomination and another civil war was avoided.
But then came Obama’s 2012 campaign, which was fought primarily over two areas: class warfare and social issues. And unlike Bush, who had won pretty much by running as far to the right on social issues as he could, Obama won by making every issue that would have been a boon for Bush a liability for Romney. The horror of Elizabeth Warren and her brand of leftism, combined with the rise of libertarian politicians like Rand Paul, kept libertarians in the GOP, but they surely could not have failed to notice that it was the hardline social conservative issues that hurt Romney the most with the demographics that would make up the future electorate, and that it was the social conservative radicals like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who cost the GOP some of the most winnable seats that cycle.
Meanwhile, Obama coasted to reelection as pot was legalized for the first time and gay marriage was legalized by popular vote, also for the first time. In other words, after 2012, social conservatism looked more and more like an electoral loser, and polls bore that out.
Which brings us to 2013, and the Cuccinelli campaign. If Cuccinelli were running in 2006 on the same platform, there is little doubt that he’d have enthusiastic support from every libertarian available. But that was when libertarians believed themselves to be a politically beleaguered minority and feared that that status would be permanent.
Now they not only know that it won’t be, but that the same issues that kept them alienated from the GOP during the Bush years are keeping other people alienated from the GOP now. They know that other libertarians have taken the grassroots through groups like Freedomworks, AFP and the Club for Growth. They know that much of the money in the GOP comes from socially liberal libertarians like the Koch brothers. They also know that, given the chance, many social conservatives would happily throw them out of the party in favor of explicitly Christian welfare statism. And they know that, unlike in the 2000s, it is now libertarians who can claim that their ideological rivals are holding back the GOP from the popularity it deserves.
Now, imagine yourself a libertarian with this knowledge, and ask yourself, is there any chance you will vote for a candidate who has been branded as a radical social conservative, when another libertarian is explicitly making the argument that everything you dislike about the GOP is a reason to spoil his chances? Especially when established commentators like George Will and Jen Rubin are comparing that candidate to William F. Buckley Jr.? Whatever Ken Cuccinelli’s bona fides may be, on some level, to a libertarian with this view of history, voting for him would simply look like an unnecessary assent to being ghettoized by social conservatives again.
A vote for Sarvis, meanwhile, would look like retreating to Galt’s Gulch until the GOP comes crawling back to small government in all areas, even the ones that make social conservatives uncomfortable.
And I think I can say confidently that, until Cuccinelli’s backers reckon with that narrative, they will continue to be stymied.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
There’s a wonderful book, “The Experts Speak”, that is filled, page after page, with predictions and pronouncements by people of presumed wisdom and knowledge, all of which turned out to be often hilariously wrong. In 1913, regarding Einstein’s theory of relativity, Ernst Mach, a professor of physics at the University of Vienna, said, “I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogmas.”
I prefer optimists to pessimists and the co-authors of “America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century—why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come”, James C. Bennett and Michael J. Lotus, are optimists.
In his foreword to the book, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, better known as the “Instapundit”, cites the late economist, Herbert Stein, who said “Something that can’t go on forever, won’t”, noting that “The American 2.0 approach, which delivered stability and prosperity to many for decades, is now more problem than solution, as banks fail, bureaucrats flounder, and the economy fails to deliver the jobs—or the tax revenues—need to keep the whole enterprise going.” Reynolds, however, agrees that “The Jeffersonian individualism that was embodied in in America 1.0 never really went away.” And that’s the good news.
Bennett and Lotus begin by saying, “We are optimistic about the long-term prospects for American freedom and prosperity. You should be, too.” They do not believe the nation is “on an inevitable road to tyranny and poverty. Predictions of the end of America are deeply mistaken,” but they do say that “The current politico-economic regime is falling apart.”
I think most people will agree with that as a deeply divided America struggles to deal with slow economic growth, a Marxist President, and the final gasp of a government that has expanded to a point of demonstrating the wisdom of the Constitution’s limits on its size and role. The Tea Party movement and the founding principles of the Republican Party are all about those limitations.
As Obamacare fails dramatically, Americans across the political spectrum will want to return to a more manageable, less intrusive government. They did that when they elected Ronald Reagan. America needs a leader to emerge who will bring the two factions together and, if history is a guide, they will find one. It will not be easy because two generations have passed through the liberal indoctrination of its schools and because the nation’s media, composed of those graduates, is dominated by liberals.
Another factor is demography, the study of populations. Americans are living longer and the effects of that are undermining the future of progressive programs such as Social Security and Medicare. At some point they will have to be reformed, along with the rising costs of medical care.
Americans, since the early years of the last century have gone back and forth between progressive programs and a yearning for less control from centralized government. The income tax, the government’s “safety net” introduced following the Great Depression, the growth and decline of unions, and even Prohibition demonstrate this ambivalence. Obamacare is likely to be repealed just as Prohibition was.
America 1.0 stretched from the century the preceded the Revolution and extended to the Civil War. It was a largely agrarian society of farmers with the emphasis on individual responsibility. It was, as well, a society based on the nuclear family, a structure that remains today, though is under attack by liberals. America 2.0 saw the rise of industrialization and, following World War Two, the nation as a superpower in the world.
America 2.0 is crumbling, say the authors, and that “we are in the midst of slow but wrenching transition to an emerging America 3.0.” It will be “an even bigger transition, from industrial to an individualized-and-networked economy that we are undergoing now.”
One of the elements of the transition that the authors recommend is the abolishment of the federal income tax and replacing it with a national consumption tax, saying that “The required disclosure of personal economic information required in filing tax forms constitutes perhaps the largest single invasion of civil liberties in America, violating the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against search and seizure of personal information without a judicial warrant.”
Here again, putting the Internal Revenue in change of enforcing Obamacare will likely trigger a backlash against it, the income tax system, and generate a return to the individual rights enumerated in the Constitution.
Then, too, the world is also changing as Islamism seeks to drag its population back to a dark age of feudalism and slavery. The wave of terrorism is generating a backlash, even in nations where Islam is the dominant faith. America, in the process, has learned it cannot export its unique democratic system and engage in “nation building.” The original faith in the United Nations to deter wars has faded and the growth of various regional organizations will likely replace it.
The co-authors of “America 3.0” say “We can sketch only the bare outlines of what an America 3.0 defense and foreign policy might be like in reality. But those policies must be consistent with what can actually be achieved by American power, with a renewed focus on securing the global commons for trade, maintaining our alliances, and defending the American free and prosperous way of life.”
We are living in times of both rapid and slow change, and America has the mechanism—the Constitution—to make the changes needed to adjust and the strength to protect itself from enemies, domestic and foreign, in a global economy. It won’t be easy and it will not be fast enough for most, but America will remain a dominant agent for change.