Friday, February 01, 2008

Barack v Hilary v ...

This morning, while driving, I heard some excerpts from the Obama/Clinton debate. Judging by those, Obama is the more libertarian of the two. Both want large scale government involvement in health insurance, but Obama is willing to permit people to choose not to be insured if they really don’t want to be insured and actually sounds uncomfortable with the idea of forcing people to do things. He also has made statements in favor of decriminalization of marijuana, although they suggest a pretty watered down version and it isn’t a position he has emphasized in the campaign.

I am also prejudiced against highly educated people who choose to use “I” when “me” is grammatically correct—as Hilary did in one of the bits I heard. It might be simple ignorance, but I doubt it; my suspicion is that she is playing up to people who think “I” is the classier word.

If I were voting in the Democratic primary, I would vote for Obama. The more interesting question is whether, if he gets the Democratic nomination and McCain or Romney gets the Republican nomination, I and other libertarians should prefer the Democratic candidate.

Just over two years ago, I had a post here suggesting that the Democrats should try to pull libertarian voters out of the Republican party. It will be interesting to see if Obama tries and succeeds. I am unlikely to vote for him; I almost never vote for major party candidates. But there are a lot of libertarians more broadly defined--people who favor more liberty than we have in both economic and social areas--who do. In the past most of them have voted Republican, but that was less true in 2004 than in 2000. It may be still less true in 2008.


After first posting the above, I came across a page where some people are arguing that Obama is, in some important sense, a left-libertarian.


Anonymous said...

In terms of expected policy outcomes Clinton may be a best choice out of all four. There is a good chance that with Clinton as President the entire government will be preoccupied with scandals and intrigues – with little time left for anything else.

Kevin B. O'Reilly said...

anonymous stole my thunder. See my post exactly along those lines:

Anonymous said...

Obama is the least repulsive of the frontrunners - but for the same reason, perhaps is the worst option, since he would be the most effective at pushing through (mostly bad) laws.

On foreign policy, McCain stands out as particularly bad. He's dangerous in a way that none of the others are, because he's a hothead. Compared with McCain, Bush Jr. is a model of patrician levelheadedness.

Anonymous said...

I do expect to vote for a major party candidate for the presidency, if there is a bearable candidate in either party, while voting for libertarians in most of the other races. "Bearable" ruled out all the Republicans—all of them except Giuliani, and I definitely include Paul in this, were looking for ways to undercut or do away with Roe v. Wade. Giuliani's style, like Clinton's, was too harshly authoritarian and repressive for me to tolerate him. My top choice was Richardson, and I'm sorry to see him drop out. Obama was an unknown quantity to me; I was prepared to speculate that he might not be as bad as Clinton, and look closely at his platform if he got the nomination. You've made him sound a lot better, with your discussion of his position on health care; it sounds as if the American medical system might not be completely ruined by his reforms. So I'll be hoping for him to get the nomination.

In a larger historical perspective, I think the Republicans have completely fallen out of touch with whatever libertarian impulses they formerly had, between military adventurism, religious authoritarianism, fiscal recklessness, and a general tendency to big bureaucratic programs that don't even work well. It strikes me that the only reason libertarians still support them is wishful thinking based on old memories. These days, the Republicans are the party that wants to repeal the Enlightenment, and the Democrats are the party that still has some vestiges of support for it. They've managed to become the lesser evil, through no great virtue of their own. But if the part of the American electorate that still has broadly libertarian sympathies starts voting Democratic, perhaps we'll see more Democratic candidates who want to appeal to them, rather than to the narrowly sectarian core of the current Democratic Party. I would like to hope that we already have, but I'll wait to see what happens over the next ten months.

Anonymous said...

Here's a breakdown of where the candidates stand on the issues:

My impression is politics has gradually shifted to the right over time, likely starting with Kennedy's tax cuts. Clinton is far more center-right than any European-style liberal.

It's just a pity that Democrats are still whacked in the head over economics.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Obama is the most libertarian of the remaining serious candidates. A few more points in his favor:
- He is the candidate most likely to end the Iraq war.
- He is probably the least likely to start a new war, especially one with Iran.
- Hillary Clinton wants to repeal NAFTA. Obama wants to amend it. I get the sense that he's less opposed to trade than she is, and would prefer a combination of free trade and government help for people who lose their jobs because of it.

Dominik Hennig said...

@David: I absolutely agree! :-)

America needs change!

Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that the comments of candidates are at all correlated with the policy they eventually pursue? I haven't been following politics for that long, but comparing the current president's policy with his 2000 platform leads me to doubt the connection.

Part of the reason I fear a win by McCain or Clinton is my suspicion of how liberally they will use all the new executive powers introduced by Bush. Obama seems less psychotic than the two of them. But again, Bush seemed awfully tame pre-presidency.

Mike Huben said...

What gets me is the delusion that various positions held by people are libertarian, when in actuality they might be inspired by entirely different motivations.

Take marijuana legalization, for example. That might be inspired by mere populism or pragmatism, not by libertarian desire for freedom. BTW, I've always supported marijuana legalization, and you know I'm not a libertarian.

Likewise, details of health plans might be critically driven by contributors from the industry or pragmatic facts about enforcement rather than any concern with health or freedom.

Libertarians may hold some positions, and politicians may hold positions in agreement, but that hardly means the positions are libertarian. I don't doubt that David understands this, but judging how "libertarian" he is by his positions is at best a shorthand for how palatable he is to libertarians rather than a measure of Obama himself.

David Friedman said...

Mike writes:

"but judging how "libertarian" he is by his positions is at best a shorthand for how palatable he is to libertarians rather than a measure of Obama himself."

I was judging in part by his positions, in part by the tone of his defense of them in the bit of the debate I heard. It at least sounded as though he was actually uncomfortable with the idea of forcing people to buy health insurance.

In part I'm influenced by knowing people such as Larry Lessig and Cass Sunstein who pretty clearly think of themselves as on the left, but at the same time have absorbed a good deal of both the economic arguments and, I think, the moral intuitions of libertarian academics.

Mike Huben said...

Obama's possible discomfort might come more from knowing he's treading close to right-wing hot buttons rather than internalization of libertarian viewpoints.

I admire Lessig and Sunstein a great deal, but you might be making a similar error with them.

Thanks (in part) to you, I too have absorbed a good deal of both the economic arguments and the moral intuitions of libertarians. Well enough to pass a test, I suspect. But that doesn't mean that I agree with them. Instead, I recognize that there are situations where they apply well, and others where they don't. I probably lean a lot more to the latter than you do. And I regularly apply other ideas and intuitions that compete well (in my head) with libertarian ones.

Now it may be simple psychological projection, but that's how I see Lessig and Sunstein. What I really respect about them is that employing their understandings of right-wing and libertarian ideas, they search for new solutions that avoid those particular minefields of opposition.

Along those lines, what do you think of Sunstein's forthcoming book "Nudges"?

David Friedman said...

Mike writes:

"Now it may be simple psychological projection, but that's how I see Lessig and Sunstein. What I really respect about them is that employing their understandings of right-wing and libertarian ideas, they search for new solutions that avoid those particular minefields of opposition.

Along those lines, what do you think of Sunstein's forthcoming book "Nudges"?"

To begin with, I think Lessig, at least, is more of a libertarian than you think (or than he thinks). His argument for end-to-end arrangements on the net is the same as the argument against zoning, building codes, and the like, although I'm not sure I've convinced him of that yet. The problem is that he identifies culturally as a leftwinger, so tends to use leftwing rhetoric even when he knows better.

I know nothing about Sunstein's new book. I'm guessing from the title that it's about using default rules to accomplish paternalistic goals, in which case I suspect he overestimates their power.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else suspect that Obama is perceived as a left-libertarian because he is trying to please both sides? How can one know from his short track record that he is reasonably trustworthy?

Troy Camplin said...

I've always thought that all Obama really needs is an education in economics -- and I believe if he received one, he would believe the evidence, unlike most Democrats

Michael Z. Williamson said...

I found the below in the comments an article about how lefties applaud Obama for blowing his nose :

Here are some of Senator Barack Obama's positions:

Opposed the Iraq war from the start.
Voted to end the war in Iraq.
Supports capturing and killing Osama Bin Laden.
Favors a $1000 tax cut for every working American family.

Will implement tax form simplification to reduce filing time.
Provide tax credit for all middle class homeowners.
Provide a tax cut for all families making less than $75,000 a year.
Amend NAFTA to protect American workers.
Amend NAFTA to strengthen environmental protections.
Providing Flex Ed training accounts for workers.
Extending Trade Adjustment assistance to service workers.
Supported Patriot Employer Act of 2007 that gives tax credits to large companies that keep workers here in America.
Double funds for basic federal research.
Implement a long term research and development tax credit.
Invest in green technologies.
Reduce carbon emission gases.
Tackle the challenges of global warming.
Create an energy focused youth jobs program.
Create Federal Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Extend the Production Tax Credit.
Expand Broadband into every community.
Keep the Internet tax free.
Expand high speed internet access in rural areas.
Fight for passage of Employee Free Choice Act.
Ensure freedom to unionize.
Would overturn "Kentucky River" classifications of Bush's NLRB
Protect rights of striking workers.
Increase the mininum wage to index it to inflation.
Crack down on predatory lenders.
Provide a universal mortgage tax credit for homeowners who don't itemize.
Sign the Stop Fraud Act to prevent lending fraud.
Mandate accurate loan disclosure.
Create a fund to protect people from foreclosures.
Close the bankruptcy loophole for mortgage companies.
Establish a credit card rating to improve disclosure.
Ban utilateral credit card charges.
Apply interest rate only to future debt.
Prohibit credit card interest on fees.
Prohibit Universal defaults.
Require prompt and fair crediting of cardholder payments.
Protect working people from unfair bankruptcy laws.
Ban executive bonuses for bankruptcy companies.
REquire disclosure of pension investments.
Cap outlandandish interest rates on payday loans.
Implement legislation to drive unscrupulous lenders out of business
Create a bankruptcy exemption for people that went broke because of medical bills.
Double funding for after school programs.
Extend Family and Medical Leave Act.
Encourage states to adopt Paid leave.
Expand the Child Care Tax Credit
Supports ratification of UN Convention Rights of Persons With Disabilities.
Supports independent, community based living for people with disabilities.
Expand educational opportunites for people with disabilities.
Expand job opportunities for people with disabilities.
Strengthen civil rights enforcement.
Sign into law the Fair Pay Act.
Sign law reversing recent SCOTUS rulings that permitted discrimination against women.
Sign law reversing recent SCOTUS rulings that permitted discrimination against racial minorities.
Strengthen federal hate crimes legislation.
Eliminate the sentence disparities regarding crack cocaines.
Establish drug courts for first time, non violent offenders.
Create a prison to work incentive for those transitioning back into society.
Passed a law to prohibit the practice of racial profiling.
Supported reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.
Opposes all discriminatory barriers to voting.
Helped reform death penalty system in Illinois to protect innocent people on death row.
Voted to ban cluster bombs.
Provide high quality affordable child care to families.
Will quadrulple Early Head Start funding.
Will increase Head Start funding.
Creates early learning challenge grants.
Abolish overly rigid teach to the test curriculum in schools.
Improve accountability in public schools.
Invest in intervention strategies to reduce dropout rates in schools.
Increase funding for afterschool programs.
Supports Step Up program to increase summer learning opportunities.
Support English language learner programs.
Expand college outreach programs.
Create teacher service scholarships.
Requires all public schools to be accredited.
Create teacher residency programs.
Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit for higher education.
Streamline financial aid application.
Introduced legislation to increase Pell Grant to $5,100.
Reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.
Confront deforestation.
Promote carbon sequestration.
Accelerate commercialization of plug in hybrids.
Promote development of commercial scale renewable energy.
Invest in low emission coal plants.
Transition to new electric digit grid.
Double science funding for clean energy products.
Create Green Jobs Corps.
Invest in programs to help manufacturers make transition to green products.
Create clean technologies venture capital fund.
Deploy cellulosic ethanol.
Expand locally owned biofuel refineries.
Increase renewable fuel standards.
Establish national low carbon fuel standard.
Increase fuel economy standards.
Invest in solar energy.
Invest in wind energy.
Establish a centralized database to track lobbyist activities.
Appoint an independent watchdog group to oversee congressional ethic violations.
Favors campaign finance reform.
Sunshine on legislation proposal.
End abuse of no bid contracts.
Release presidential records in a more timely fashion.
Prevent political appointees from working as lobbyists within two years after employment has ended.
Reform political appointment process.
Sign ethics legislation that he proposed as a Senator with Russ Feingold.
Obama sponsored a bi-partisan bill allowing regular people to track federal grants.
Take leadership in the global fight against AIDS.
Provide tax cuts to small businesses.
Provide income tax cuts for all senior citizens making $50,000 a year or less.
Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Protect workers from caregiver discrimination.
Increase mentoring programs for beginner teachers.
Provide universal health care for all Americans within 4 years.
Combat fraudulent subprime loans.
Expand Nurse Family Partnership.
Provide automatic workplace pensions for workers.
Expand savings credit for retirement accounts.
Reinstate pay as you go budget rules.
Repeal Bush tax cuts for top 1% which led to lower middle class standard of living.
Slash earmarks to pre 2001 levels.
Abolish obsolete wasteful government programs.
Voted against raising the minimum debt in 2006.
Supports wiping out Al Qaeda wherever they may be.
Opposed Kyl Lieberman.
Supports tough attempts at diplomacy with Iran to protect America's interests.
Will work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Restrengthen NATO.
Passed a bipartisan law with Senator Lugar to prevent smuggling of WMDs.
Introduced a bill with Senator Hagel to reduce nuclear arsenals around the globe.
Supports securing loose nuke arsenals from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Strengthen Non Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.
Expand size of Army by 65,000.
Expand size of Marines by 27,000.
Provide our troops with new equipment and the tools they need.
Provide National Service troops with adequate leave time.
Will insulate the Director of National Intelligence from partisan politics.
Guarantee that health care can never be denied because of a pre-existing condition.
Introduce a health care plan similar to the one members of Congress have and give all Americans access to this plan.
Simplify the paperwork in health care costs.
Make premiums and co pays affordable.
Require mandatory coverage of all children for health care.
Expand SCHIP.
Expand Medicaid.
Reduce costs of catastrophic illnesses for employers and employees.
Support disease management programs.
Require hospitals and providers to have full transparency over costs.
Promote patient safety by requiring providers to report medical errors.
Establish an independent institute to guide reviews + research on comparative effectiveness in health care.
Strengthen anti trust laws to prevent insurance companies from gouging medical providers.
Lower medical costs by having electronic health info systems.
Increase competition in prescription drug markets.
Advance biomedical research field.
Improve mental care coverage.
Reduce mercury deposits to help prevent miscarriages.
Increase funding for autism research.
Cosponsored Healthy Kids Act of 2007.
Cosponsored reauthorization of SCHIP in 2007.
Obama introduced legislation to establish guidelines to monitor fuels from nuclear power plants.
Sponsored a bill with Senator Lautenberg to protect chemical plants from possible terrorist attacks.
Introduced legislation to upgrade monitoring of water supplies.
Introduced legislation to protect localities from radioactive leaks.
Create secure borders with additional personnel and infrastructure.
Remove incentives for people to enter this country illegally.
Crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
Invest in transitional jobs.
Improve transportation access to jobs.
Fully fund community block grants.
Create an affordable housing trust fund.
Establish a program called 20 Promise Neighborhoods.
Invest in rural areas, especially small businesses, schools, and doctors.
Implement a payment limitation program to help small farmers.
Protect family farms from anti-competitive monopolies.
Implement tough fines for CAFO violations.
Establish country of origin labeling for all products.
Support regional food systems.
Encourage organic farming.
Provide tax credits for young farmers.
Increase capital for small farmers.
Modify FCC so all rural residents have access to modern communications.
Upgrade rural infrastructure.
Supported legislation to reverse 2 billion dollars of agriculture cuts under Bush.
Cosponsored Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2006.
Sponsored a bill to combat the scourge of methamphetamines.
Expand Americorps.
Double the Peacecorps in 8 years.
Expand Service learning in all our schools.
Offer an opportunity tax credit for college students in exchange for 100 hours of community service.
Promote college work study programs with public service.
Expand on the YouthBuild program.
Create a Social Investment Fund Network.
Create a non profit entrepreneur agency.
Protect Social Security.
Reform corporate bankruptcy laws.
Strengthen laws protecting against age discrimination in the workplace.
Ensure heating assistance for senior citizens.
Protect the openness of the Internet.
Encourage diversity in media ownership.
Protect children from Internet predators with strict law enforcement.
Support transition of the internet into the digital world.
Preserve artistic expression.
Keep inappropriate advertising away from programs for children.
Enhance safety standards for toys imported into this country.
Protect the right of privacy of every law abiding American.
Update surveillance laws under the rule of law.
Higher salaries for teachers.
Work with the FTC to cut down on cyber crimes.
Eliminate teach to the test curriculum and restore true learning to the classroom.
Open up government to citizens by providing transparency.
Provide all our schools with broadband technology.
Modernize public safety networks.
Make the research and development tax credit permanent.
Protect intellectual property at home and abroad.
Reform the patent system to encourage innovation.
Allow all veterans back into the VA.
Strengthen VA care for all veterans.
Fight veterans employment discrimination.
Fix the benefits bureaucracy to help veterans.
Expand vet centers across the country.
Obama passed legilsation to slash red tape to help wounded soldiers at Walter Reed.
Introduced legislation to direct the VA and Pentagon to fix its veterans record systems.
Introduced legislation to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Rebuild the roads and bridges that need to be rebuilt.
Will end the genocide in Darfur.
Will restore habeas corpus to America.
Reject torture.
Close down Gitmo.
Pledges to obey the Constitution of the United States.
Will fully implement and enforce the Equal Pay Act.
End tax breaks for US companies sending jobs overseas.
Voted to reinstate 1.15 billion to the COPS program to reduce crime.
Wants to keep drinking age at 21.
Supports grants to local educational agencies.
Voted to protect ANWR.
Voted to protect the Great Lakes from polluters.
Favors labor and trade standards with trade with China.
Opposed CAFTA which hurts American workers.
Voting to give the District of Columbia its proper vote in Congress.
Voted to expand enrollment period for Medicare Part D.
Favors repealing the discriminatory don't ask don't tell policy.
Provide first responders with the health care and equipment they need.
Voted to implement the 9/11 commission recommendations.
Voted to restore money to ports and first responders.
Voted to establish a Guest Worker program.
Voted to increase the minimum wage.
Voted against anti-Constitution radicals Alito and Roberts.
Voted against the repeal of the estate tax that only applies to 1% of the wealthiest of estates.
Supports the first amendment freedom of religion clauses and establishment clauses.
Introduced a bill requiring public companies to give shareholders an annual nonbinding vote on executive compensation.
Protects our schools by opposing voucher schemes.
Introduced Biofuels Security Act in 2007.
Favors closing corporate tax loopholes.
Understands that global warming is a real problem that must be addressed.
Supports civil unions for LGBT couples.
Favors the death penalty in the rarest but appropriate of circumstances.

That's SOME of his positions, folks. If you don't like them, he has more. He'll shut that pesky Supreme Court up, tell the banks how to do their jobs, control health care, trade, employment and thought.

Anyone who thinks this clown has ANY libertarian qualities after reading this (I just found it myself), is delusional.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the long list, Mike. The situation reminded me more than once the Simpson episode, in which the two aliens took the form of Clinton and Gore. At the end of the episode, Homer said," Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos.".

Anonymous said...

I think a Clinton win is probably the best chance we have of seeing a continued erosion of confidence in government. She's already not well-liked by a large number of people, and she'll basically be just like Bush but with a D next to her name so the Dems will have a tougher time continuing to fantasize that their side is somehow any better or different than the Reps.

A McCain win is a closely preferred second, because he'll allow the Dems to easily continue in their fantasies, but with his blatant warmongering he'll probably have the FR print up so much monopoly money that it'll literally be as worthless as Monopoly money.

Obama has the best chance of restoring faith and hope in the government, he'll probably delay economic collapse compared to McCain or Clinton, and there's also a good chance that critics of the government will be labeled racists so long as he's in office.

Unknown said...
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