Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Libertarian-Republican President Ticket Thought

The August 14-20 issue of The Economist tackles the topics of Australian coalitional politics, government-shrinking UK politics as something akin to punk rock, literal “hive minds” (artificial intelligence programs based on insect colonies), and offices that have resident dogs.  Combine all those phenomena and you get…well, something not remotely human.  Best just to look away.

But it does somehow remind me that I was excited recently to see that possible 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitch Daniels’ list of five favorite books was a perfect libertarian box set: society-analyzing works by Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Charles Murray (not The Bell Curve), Mancur Olson, and Virginia Postrel.  This alone (quietly, cautiously) raises the possibility that he would be the best president the U.S. has ever had, something worth thinking about.  Or that he has a libertarian staff member answering questionnaires, but that’s better than nothing.

And he was busted for pot circa 1970 while at Princeton (where at least three libertarians for whom I’ve done work got their start), which in itself seems like a good sign that he would not just turn into an authoritarian social conservative once elected.  If he and anti-drug-war Gary Johnson were a ticket, what on Earth would the hipness-seeking Democrats do?  Lose, I suspect.


Alexandra said...

The problem with Daniels is that his head is oddly shaped and shiny, almost like a pink peanut.

More seriously, I am sure he would be flayed by the press for mentioning Murray’s name in a positive light.

Todd Seavey said...

Even Murray himself seems to have been left fairly unflayed over the past two decades despite _The Bell Curve_, all things considered, and _What It Means to Be a Libertarian_ doesn’t touch on those topics, so I think Daniels will be OK in that regard.

Here are all five of his stellar choices — almost exactly the same short reading list I’d recommend to the world, actually:

And to paraphrase something Jonah Goldberg (with whom I’ll be appearing on a panel or two in October if all goes as planned) once said about Mr. Peanut: Do not cast aspersions on America’s most esteemed legume-humanoid.

ken silber said...

I’m puzzled as to how I can have so many disagreements with you on what seem like more than matters of quibbling detail, eg should there be a US government — and then have the same level of enthusiasm about the same prospective presidential candidate. So much for the importance of political theory.

Todd Seavey said...

I am puzzled by your puzzlement. At the risk of sounding like I’m substituting a new simplistic linear measure of politics for the old simplistic linear measure of politics, we both want _less government_, right?

We live in a world where virtually no politicians are interested in that — and where even the writers in nominally-conservative magazines such as _The Weekly Standard_ are often so blissfully unacquainted with the concept of property rights that they see all politics in terms of zero-sum redistributions of power and thus (to take an example from a glaringly ignorant recent piece defending Robert Moses and urban planning) say things like “construction always displaces somebody.”

You and I will presumably notice the same tiny handful of potentially government-shrinking figures and are presumably both trying to move things in the same _direction_, with disagreements over the precise final destination for now so irrelevant that it’s like arguing about where exactly to park in London before even buying your plane tickets to England.

When the day arrives that the world has one minarchist and one anarchist party, we can run opposing campaigns. Until then: maybe Daniels.

ken silber said...

Fair enough, though I don’t consider myself a minarchist. If it comes down to a Misean vs a Nozickian someday, I’m voting third party.

Alexandra said...

I rarely hear Murray’s name mentioned without “racist” attached. And there’s also this comment from Daniels: “I like most of the things Charles Murray has written.” I can’t imagine that that won’t raise questions, especially if he’s running against a black guy.

But you’re right, it’s a stellar list.