Sunday, January 20, 2008

MLK, Hillary, and Lisa Loeb Clarifications

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As corrected in my Terminator post, Lisa Loeb plays at the Columbus Circle Borders, not the Park Avenue one, this Tuesday (7pm), the day after Martin Luther King Day is observed.

And an afterthought on the important post before that, about utilitarianism: I did not have Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in mind when I mentioned Martin Luther King.

I mentioned King being valuable not only because it’s the truth but in part as a response to praise of him by my ex-girlfriend Koli and praise of him by a certain doomed Republican presidential candidate whose old newsletters were less kind to King.  Ironically, King not only made it easier for whites and blacks to get along (and helped end the coercive Jim Crow legal regime) but, to the occasional annoyance of elderly civil rights activists, made it far easier to be a libertarian or conservative in the 70s and subsequent decades.  After all, some major cultural problems had already been somewhat ameliorated by people on the left like King before I was born, which was in 1969 (as I occasionally remind my spoiled and perhaps not-all-that-ancient self).  I must have been conceived right around the day Nixon was elected.

My political priorities would undeniably be different today — though still thoroughly libertarian, I hope — if I were fleeing a lynch mob instead of railing against regulators and tax collectors.  Similarly, I might think of my libertarianism as more left-allied (and more akin to egalitarianism) if I were facing execution by monarchs and aristocrats in Continental Europe centuries ago instead of worrying today about high Scandinavian taxes and absurd European regulations that make it hard to get an apartment in Italy or do repair work on your own car in Germany.

But only after writing that blog entry did it occur to me that it may have looked as if I was trying to take sides in the more fleeting and petty spat over whether Hillary was insufficiently positive in her recent comments about MLK.  That didn’t cross my mind, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m such an opportunistic reactionary that I suddenly love anything Hillary appears not to love quite enough.

Her reasons for praising Lyndon Johnson as a necessary supplement to King in those comments do, however, run counter to libertarians’ reasons for liking King.  Despite King’s own sympathies for some socialistic causes, we would argue that helping to end Jim Crow laws and change human hearts — that is, enhancing voluntary interactions — constitute his real legacy, not the secondary moral impetus he may have given to regulatory and government-growing schemes from later in LBJ’s administration (or for that matter Nixon’s).  Hillary’s comments were misguided not in a remotely racist way but — in keeping with her overall pro-government thinking — more in the way that Ted Kennedy was misguided when he said once that all change in America “begins at the ballot box.”  Socialists always think that, whereas markets (taken here to mean all voluntary associations from companies to bird-watching clubs to churches, anything not run by government) create billions of changes, big and small, every day.

In any case, if Hillary appears to diminish the achievements of Bob Dylan, I will not suddenly prefer folk music to alternative rock — though Loeb is a bit of both, so I’ll be there, and maybe if fellow Brown alums demand it, she’ll do the catchy “Ten Little Indians” song from her college days.

And here again is a link to another circa-1990 Brown alum performing for you: a PDF file of Jacob Levy explaining “Federalism and the Old and New Liberalisms,” namely the tricky question of when a limited central government should step into local affairs in the name of advancing freedom and when it should stay out.  Would that ours had stepped in to end Jim Crow without immediately imposing countless other regulations.

Of course, a limited period of affirmative action as legal compensation for prior coercion is not hopelessly unlibertarian.  Permanent regulation of the workforce’s ethnic composition is, though.  It would be very hard for a president to end affirmative action without being accused of pro-white bias at this point in history, though — unless, of course, that president were black.  Ah, if only that whole Iraq War thing had gone more smoothly and been more popular, so we could have run Condi Rice…


Karol said...

Ex-girlfriend Koli!?! Awww, I liked you guys together.

I know a guy that went on a blind televised date with Loeb. They didn’t get along:

Todd Seavey said...

Uh, I gotta say…he sounds a _little_ less pleasant than she does, but what do I know?

She was cute and funny in the performance, joking when all the photographers left en masse that that never happened to her back at her peak in 1992 (back when the contents of her new CD, _The Purple Tape_, were literally on a purple tape). She has a kids album called _Camp Lisa_ coming out, which isn’t hard to imagine.

Harder to imagine is why her second album reportedly took her ages to produce and mix, given that, much as I like her, she ain’t exactly Yes or Pink Floyd. Not that everyone should be.