Thursday, September 8, 2011

Democrats and libertarians 9/9; Republicans 9/8; the gold standard 1886

I call it “eclectoral” politics:

This Friday (6:30pm) brings a campaign kick-off party for Dan O’Connor, the libertarian Democrat for U.S. Congress from the 12th District, which spans Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg, and more.  I’ll be there, and it’s a familiar location: Lolita Bar (266 Broome St. at Allen St. on the Lower East Side, one block south of the Delancey St. subway stop).  Details are on Facebook.

(Since Dan also spoke at Manhattans Project, this is a nice transition between the era when I hosted those events and the impending, vastly more historically significant, era in which I host events in Williamsburg.  More soon about the Brooklyn Forum!  Speaking of my organizational skills: sorry about that line in the mass-e-mail referring to a “Tuesday” GOP debate when I meant Wednesday – and sorry about making you wait one more day for my blog entry touching on Superman.)

•You know my loyalty is to libertarian – specifically, moderate anarcho-capitalist – principles rather than any one party, though this 1 min. 21 sec. video does somewhat shake my confidence in anarcho-capitalism.

Can there be a Democrat Tea Party?  I think it's fair to say of my fellow libertarians that we were torn during the two decades after the Cold War about whether to (A) work within the Republican Party or (B) openly rebel and break with that party – especially during the decade of Bush’s big-government conservatism.  In the end, we did both, producing a more-libertarian faction within the Republican Party, partially though not fully synonymous with the Tea Party movement (the Venn diagram overlap between all of these things is ambiguous and shifting). 

There had been hope, I thought, of steering the GOP-in-general and conservatism-in-general in a more-libertarian direction.  But a faction will do.  And it avoids the Libertarian Party’s (or a hypothetical new party’s) third-party-as-spoiler problem, for the most part. 

So: can this model be replicated within the Democratic Party?  There was never hope, I rightly said, of turning the whole resolutely-statist Democrat/liberal ideology in a government-shrinking direction.  But perhaps the Democrats need a rebellious internal faction comparable to the Republicans’ – and there's no iron law of history that says it must be a socialist faction instead of a second Tea Party, though it’ll surely find itself less easily tolerated than the GOP’s. 

Remember, a half-century ago, both major parties were ideologically mixed rather than being clearly Democrat-left, Republican-right.  How about two newly-mixed parties, but this time with libertarians instead of Rockefeller-Republican types scattered across the two parties?  Might the “liberaltarian” writers be able to foster the use of the term “Tea Party Democrat” despite their dislike of the Republican one?  It’d be music to many ears, though a terrifying sound to the enemy.

•Instead, “liberaltarian” (and “Rawlsekian”) Will Wilkinson was attacking Ron Paul and Paul-type libertarians in The New Republic in recent days, but one week ago, Matt Welch of Reason deployed Conor Friedersdorf against him, and rightly so.  We all know electoral politics is imperfect and messy, yet Will somehow manages to see Ron Paul as a greater threat to liberty than Democrat Bob Casey, to whom he donated money – and who favors just about every statist measure you can think of (but isn’t a defender of rich white males, as Wilkinson claims Paul is). 

I actually see Wilkinson as a bigger threat to libertarianism in general, with his dangerous and broad historical-social-justice arguments than, say, National Review’s Kevin Williamson with his new cover article rightly mocking the cranks and loons who
are (undeniably) an element of the Paul coalition.  Williamson might end up with more hate mail, but if he ran the country, I’m confident it would be pretty libertarian.  I’m not so sure where the logic of Wilkinson’s arguments really leads.  The fact that we just sort of have to trust his fuzzy Hayekian judgment about it is exactly why I think he’s wrong in principle (or lack of principle).  I say that as a rule-utilitarian (pretty much like Wilkinson), not as a Rand-style natural rights adherent.

•Welch also posted a great summary of how the right and the left dismiss libertarianism while rather condescendingly acknowledging libertarian arguments.  (More Reason tomorrow, if all goes according to plan.)

•We agree on this: Politics is complicated.  Take O’Connor’s Democratic-president hero, Grover Cleveland – and even the gold standard often praised by Ron Paul-style libertarians:

Cleveland is a reminder that even the use of gold and silver as dollar standards in the late nineteenth century was not something left to the free market (though it could be and should be, as Paul – not to mention Milton Friedman – have said).  Defenders of the gold standard at the time wanted gold legally mandated as the sole backing metal for the dollar, while Western and Southern populists, whose constituents possessed more cheap and plentiful silver, wanted the law to mandate a mixed gold and silver backing. 

In each case, the hope was not merely that private citizens would trade in the metal in question but that the government would end up purchasing large amounts of the favored metal.  Cleveland was for gold, whereas William Jennings Bryan, famously, was for the silverites and condemned the metaphorical crucifixion of populist constituents on “a cross of gold.”

Absent government-made currency, neither side would have been involved in the political battle.  Ron Paul-era libertarians should be careful to say that what we want is not a gold standard per se but simply a free market in competing currencies. 

•Speaking of Ron Paul, it’s nice to see him at least holding steady around 10%, and after last night’s debate, I’m not sure if Perry sounds smart enough to retain his 30%-or-so in the GOP voters polls (against Romney’s 20%-or-so and everyone else’s decreasingly-relevant single digits).  Since there’s a case to be made that Perry might be somewhat libertarian – but a case to be made that Romney’s smarter and more electable – my main tactical conclusion is: Ron Paul may as well keep attacking both of them

If Perry were perfect, I’d instead say all us Tea Party libertarian types should be uniting behind him to stop Romney.  But if I’m fairly indifferent between the two of them (and, say, a surge by smart Gingrich seems even less likely than a Ron Paul rEVOLution), why not just hope for the two of them to beat each other up while Paul perhaps rises to a whopping 18% or something and has as big an impact on the race as possible.  And, hey, if the two front-runners destroy each other somehow...

This Paul ad attacking Perry isn’t a bad start.  Look, if Perry’s inevitable, he can take it, right?  I’ll likely vote for him if he wins the nomination, but let’s not make it easy for the doofus.

•It would likely help in the general, I concede, that Romney seems a little bit nerdy, for instance when unveiling his fifty-nine-point plan for economic recovery – whereas Perry’s (quite justified) skepticism about global warming alarmism and (unjustified and likely rhetorically exaggerated) skepticism about evolution had Chris Matthews calling him the “anti-science” leader of the “Luddite” faction after the debate last night.

•Tonight at 5:30, by the way, I’ll see AEI’s War on Terror panel at 1 West 54th.  I’m guessing the Paulites and Chris Matthews fans will both be in short supply, but it seems like the anniversary season thing to do.  Catch you at Lolita tomorrow (and maybe at Urban Folk Art Gallery for a bit, too, but more about that – and Superman – tomorrow). 

•And next month, thanks to Julian Assange’s ever-evolving hairdos (which may vary almost as much as Sander Hicks’s), I may yet be able to pull off being Assange for Halloween.

1 comment:

Todd Seavey said...

Speaking of Democrats and libertarians, David Boaz is still half-rooting for Jerry Brown (about whom my feelings were always pretty much the same as the Dead Kennedys, even though I was apparently visible on TV shaking his hand at a Providence rally way the hell back in '92):