Monday, July 07, 2008

David Friedman, Barack Obama, and the Game of Telephone

As most readers of this blog know, I posted some time back that I preferred Obama to both Hilary and McCain, expanding on that in a later post. There have now been several news articles including me in lists of conservatives who have endorsed Obama, based on that post, phone interviews with me, and random (mis?)information.

I am not, of course, a conservative but a libertarian. And describing Obama as the least bad candidate, while saying that I hope he wins but don't plan to vote for him, is quite a bit short of an endorsement.

My favorite mistake so far was an article in the London Times that said I had been brought up as a "classic liberal." What I had said, of course, was "classical liberal," i.e. libertarian. I expect part of the reason for the confusion was that "liberal" in the U.K. has retained at least some of its 19th century meaning, making the identification of libertarian with liberal less bizarre than it would be in the U.S.

I have also seen one online comment, and received one letter, identifying me as a fund raiser for Obama. I am not sure if this is merely the usual consequence of a game of telephone, where facts get inflated and distorted at each transmission, or if it is a case of mistaken identity. Googling for my name and "Obama" a while back, I noticed a list of contributors to Obama, one of whom was named David Friedman. It is not a very uncommon name.

In any case, for the curious, I am not a fundraiser for Obama, I have no connection with his campaign beyond knowing one or two of the academics associated with it, I have not endorsed him--but I would rather see him win than McCain.

34 Comments:

At 11:50 PM, July 07, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

What, as a libertarian, could possibly be your motivation for electing Obama? Is it simply his promise to withdraw from Iraq? On all other fronts Obama would expand the scope of the federal government and that simply cannot be a libertarian value.

Is it because you'd like to see him take down the country so that the country will then turn to the libertarians as an alternative?

I understand entirely that McCain is not an attractive candidate, but OBAMA?

 
At 6:05 AM, July 08, 2008, Anonymous Sidney said...

Respectfully sir, do you know anything about Obama?

See for example: http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2008/07/obamas-ties-to-acorn.html

I don't see how Obama and the word libertarian appear in the same sentence.

 
At 7:12 AM, July 08, 2008, Anonymous RegualrRon said...

Mr. Friedman, you have no idea how humbled I am for you to have even graced my little space.

And thank you for clearing up my moronic use of the word "edorse". I have changed, and if it's ok, used your comment in the post.

Again, I am humbled. Thank you sir.

 
At 7:34 AM, July 08, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

My post had links to my previous posts on Obama, which I hope explain why, as libertarian, I prefer him to the alternative.

Regualrron is of course welcome to quote my comment online.

 
At 10:13 AM, July 08, 2008, Blogger Jonathan said...

I entirely sympathize with your sense of detachment from all American presidential candidates. I feel the same kind of thing when contemplating politicians in other parts of the world.

Obama is not exactly congenial but he seems relatively inoffensive so far. As for how he'd perform as president, who can know?

Good luck...

 
At 10:24 AM, July 08, 2008, Anonymous Nils said...

"I hope he wins but don't plan to vote for him"

I assume you mean that you hope he wins if the alternative is McCain?

Any thoughts on Bob Barr?

 
At 11:47 AM, July 08, 2008, Anonymous Mr. Mercy Vetsel said...

What, as a libertarian, could possibly be your motivation for electing Obama?

It’s based on feelings and soft impressions. Obama seems nicer than McCain. McCain seems bossy and uptight while Obama seems laid back and easy-going. McCain SEEMS more authoritarian.

Never mind that that when it comes to their voting records, McCain has been libertarian on spending and trade while Obama has been the number 1 statist on both issues. Never mind that Obama has been a radical socialist his entire life or that he has been following the Saul Alinksky script for socialist revolution line by line.

That’s why I find Obama so scary. If you look at his RECORD, he makes Bill Clinton look like Milton Friedman and he makes Jimmy Carter look like Ronald Reagan and in addition, he isn’t going to face ANY opposition in either house of congress. Obama will have the power to increase the size and scope of government on a level that we haven’t seen since Lyndon Johnson.

Despite all of this, everyone lets Obama pretend to be whatever the crowds want on a given day without ever getting called on it. He manages to make both Hugo Chavez and David Friedman think that he agrees with them.

Well, someone is getting duped and I don’t think it’s Hugo Chavez.

-Mercy

 
At 2:29 PM, July 08, 2008, Blogger David Peterson said...

David, in your earlier post expanding you seemed to say that McCain is the only "war" candidate and I largely agree with your analysis. However, even though Obama has explicitly opposed intervening in Iran and even withdrawing completely from Iraq (which I have to admit I have mixed feelings about), what about the possibility of intervening in say Darfur or Burma? He has after all made statements in favor of intervening in both of these countries problems.

 
At 6:13 PM, July 08, 2008, Blogger David Friedman said...

"I assume you mean that you hope he wins if the alternative is McCain?"

Or Hilary, who was still in the race I originally made the statement.

I don't know enough about Barr to have an opinion. If there doesn't seem to be anything in particular wrong with him I will probably vote for him, assuming I vote--I usually vote for the LP candidate.

 
At 7:07 PM, July 08, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roderick long recently criticized both Barr and the LP:

http://praxeology.net/blog/2008/05/21/a-crossroads-in-denver/

 
At 8:47 PM, July 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mercy is not having any mercy on the facts. He says:

"Obama will have the power to increase the size and scope of government on a level that we haven’t seen since Lyndon Johnson."

But since George W. Bush has increased the size and scope of government more than Lyndon Johnson, it is simply impossible for Obama to comply with his prediction.

 
At 5:54 AM, July 10, 2008, Blogger Mark said...

Not sure I understand a position where you favor one candidate (Obama) over another (McCain) but don't intend to vote for him. Yes, you may vote for Barr while recognizing that he won't win, but it's hard to find any "protest" candidacy that ever benefited the cause. Are Nader voters really happy with 8-years of Bush?

 
At 10:59 AM, July 10, 2008, Blogger Vadim Iaralov said...

Mark:
On the other hand, there was no presidential election tied or off by one (1) vote, so it makes little sense to persuade one ("protest") voter to change their vote for strategic considerations. It makes no difference whether one particular voter votes or abstains with probability very close to one, so they can vote for whoever they want on other grounds (consumption vote, sense of duty, warm glow, ...).

 
At 11:04 AM, July 10, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

No vote publicly discussed is made in isolation. The reasons Mark, or I or anyone may give for voting one way or the other, particularly on a blog that is somewhat well read, influence others. Indeed, the public debate between two persons may not change either vote, but may in fact change the votes of others.

In the end, Florida, in 2000, seemed to swing on the perception of about 200 people. My mother, who was not planning to vote was urged, by me, to vote absentee. She did so. Mom voted for George Bush. A few people so activated probably changed the history of this nation though it has yet to be determined if that was a good idea or not. I happen to think it was a better idea than Al Gore.

 
At 6:27 PM, July 10, 2008, Anonymous Rex Little said...

in addition, he isn’t going to face ANY opposition in either house of congress. Obama will have the power to increase the size and scope of government on a level that we haven’t seen since Lyndon Johnson.

This is a point that should be emphasized. Certainly during the first half of the next President's term, and almost certainly for the rest of it, Congress will be controlled by the Democratic Party. The Federal government grows a lot faster, and does a lot more damage, when the President's party--no matter which it is--also controls Congress. Obama might be preferable to McCain if you consider them both in a vacuum, but this is far more important than any differences between them. (To a libertarian, those differences amount to hair-splitting anyway.)

Oh well, it's academic in any case. The landslide for Obama is going to make Johnson-over-Goldwater look like a photo finish. And like David, I'm voting for Barr if at all.

 
At 6:21 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger chriscal12 said...

Like David I am a libertarian, and also like David I have generally preferred Obama to McCain. For me, this preference has turned almost exclusively on Iraq. War is the health of the state, not to mention its single most cruel and destructive activity. But for three reasons, I have been rethinking my preference for Obama.

The first has already been mentioned: One party in control of Congress and the White House makes government growth easier.

The second reason is the appointment of judges. As bad as mainstream conservatives have been for quite some time, they still seem to be doing alright on judicial appointments, and it is the courts alone who have the power to nullify legislation. A handgun ban has just been overturned, and with one or two more originalist judges on the bench (for life, by the way) we may see much more federal legislation get the ax. This consideration, obvious as it is, has escaped my notice until recently.

The last, and maybe most important reason, is that I am becoming less confident that there is, in fact, a significant difference between Obama and McCain on foreign policy. McCain may talk a more militant game on Iraq, but neither politician seems to seriously question the War on Terror, or an interventionist foreign policy generally. I'm reminded of the Cold War. It was started by a Democrat (Truman), and at first, there was a stronghold of Republicans who opposed it. They were unfortunately phased out, and eventually, both parties accepted it. Even Goldwater, probably the most libertarian of any mainstream presidential hopeful during the Cold War, was quite militant. Not one president from Truman to Regan opposed the basic premises of our foreign policy. Our new paradigm seems to be the War on Terror, and I would be surprised if Obama was willing to give it a serious overhaul, apart from setting a foreseeable timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Because of this suspicion, the other two reasons mentioned, and the fact that McCain seems to be much more libertarian than Obama on nearly every other issue, I am, at the very least, indifferent.

 
At 6:37 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

The arrogance of those that contemplate NOT VOTING because the choices are not to their liking is insufferable.

Do you suppose that I like the choices? Buck up, there has to be a commander in chief. Vote as conservatively or in whatever libertarian fashion you wish for your congressman and solve it that way. Quit WHINING on the one hand, and acting holier than thou on the other.

Those that contemplate NOT voting as an real alternative DISGUST me. Get your hands dirty, politics is real work.

 
At 9:55 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger chriscal12 said...

"The arrogance of those that contemplate NOT VOTING because the choices are not to their liking is insufferable."

Maybe some people who don't vote for this reason are arrogant, but I don't know who you're criticizing in particular. I certainly haven't seen David act this way.

"Quit WHINING on the one hand, and acting holier than thou on the other.

Those that contemplate NOT voting as an real alternative DISGUST me. Get your hands dirty, politics is real work."

Complaining AND being inactive may be irritating (it doesn't happen bother me), but who are you accusing of doing this?

Also, voting isn't the only way to affect change or get your hands dirty. In many, probably most, circumstances, voting is probably one of the least effective ways. Writing books, letters, essays (or blogs), making political movies, giving speeches, arguing with friends (especially if THEY are voting), donating to campaigns, engaging in civil disobedience or revolutionary activities, going to protests, volunteering, or even running for office all come to mind as drastically more effective means of change than voting.

P.S. Many people who believe voting is quite important have a holier than thou attitude as well. As in, "Those that contemplate NOT voting as an real alternative DISGUST me."

 
At 10:52 PM, July 11, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

If you're NOT going to vote, you should take the advice of "Thumper's" dad.

 
At 5:33 PM, July 12, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

In spite of some misgivings about him, I intend to, contribute to, do champaign work, and vote for Bob Barr and a straight Libertarian Party ticket. That includes me running for state representative.

Given that, I agree with my understanding of David's position, that at this time Obama appears to be the proverbial lessor of two weevils.

Yes he is a big government liberal, but frankly he will fail at making the economy any better, and thus re enforce opinion against that.

 
At 6:46 PM, July 12, 2008, Blogger David Tomlin said...

I've done some research on Barr, and I think there is a lot wrong with him. Off the bat, I don't think he is a libertarian. He is much more a social conservative.

Barr was one of the authors of the Defense of Marriage Act. In support of it he said 'The flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundation of our society: the family unit.'

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E06E7DC1231F937A2575AC0A96E958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

Barr's recent statements on DOMA have been contradictory. At times he says part of it should be repealed. At other times he says there is nothing wrong with it.

In Barr's home state of Georgia there has been a controversy over a young man named Genarlow Wilson. Wilson was sentenced to ten years in prison for receiving oral sex from a girl two years younger than himself, at a time when both of them were minors.

Barr wrote a most peculiar editorial, excoriating Wilson and defending a Georgia official who was actively working to block his getting an early release.

http://www.conservative.org/columnists/barr/070704bb.htm

Barr's statements about drug prohibition are like those of a conservative who admits that it has failed in practice, at least at the federal level, rather than being like those of a libertarian who sees prohibition as fundamentally wrongheaded.

http://blogs.rockymountainnews.com/rockytalklive/archives/2008/05/post_32.html

Appearing on The Glen Beck Show last May, Barr supported 'crippling fines' on companies that employ illegal aliens.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0805/14/gb.01.html

Appearing on the same show in June, Barr went along with the idea that 'energy independence' should be a policy goal, and implied that the U.S. should imitate France's policy of subsidizing nuclear energy. Only once, late in the discussion, did he suggest that 'freeing up the market' would also be part of his energy policy.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6300661667256681550

That's enough for one comment. I do have more. I've been debating the Barr nomination at this site:

http://thirdpartywatch.com/

 
At 7:19 PM, July 12, 2008, Blogger David Tomlin said...

Hugh:

'On all other fronts Obama would expand the scope of the federal government . . .'

I was recently re-reading a book called The Rise and Decline of the State, by Martin van Creveld. According to Creveld, 'Though the New Deal did something to change the picture, its achievements were limited; in the event, it was World War II and the subsequent Cold War which really ushered in the age of Big Government.'

This observation reinforced my sentiments regarding the major parties since 9/11. Nothing the Democrats are likely to do domestically would be as bad for the country as the endless state of war favored by the Republicans.

Regarding the Supreme Court, my enthusiasm for 'strict constructionists' like Scalia and Thomas has been eroded lately by decisions regarding executive power and civil liberties. I'm thinking I would like more 'centrist' justices like Kennedy who, however shaky might be his theoretical foundations, is willing to defend both the right to bear arms and habeas corpus.

I understand that in the coming years it will be mainly the liberal justices who are likely to retire, so at worst Obama will maintain the balance.

 
At 7:49 PM, July 12, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

You say "endless state of war" as if we have a choice in that regard. I don't think those that utter those words known the history of this country well enough to speak them.

I refer continually to the "Barbary Wars" when such nonsense is brought up. Weakness provokes attack. The resolve and intent of the founders was tested in the lab of the real and yes, war was the answer.

I am libertarian myself in most ways. I dislike the intrusion of Government into private matters, I think though that the majority of libertarians are ostriches that think enemies go away when you don't look at them, and like rabbits who don't think see you them if you stand very still.

On another front I think libertarians are beset with a horrible brand of nosiness of their own, a passive aggressive nosiness that desires we "get what's coming to us" when we don't see things THEIR way. This I think is the root cause for Obama preference among libertarians. We are to be PUNISHED for the presumption of not following the truth path, and God help us, Obama will punish us like Carter SQUARED. Perhaps from the ashes of this bloody collapse we'll finally get it, right?

Balance? You speak of BALANCE in SCOTUS? You show yourself in fact to be no libertarian AT ALL. The court is tipped center-left. It will STAY that way at best. We are one heart attack away from a leftist activist organ of government that may last the next 20 years. I think you EXPOSE yourself as the above mentioned passive-aggressive element of Libertarianism. Another round of Bush like appointees and perhaps we would begin to see what a leftist organ it is NOW and HAS BEEN. Put another Thomas on that court, or another Scalia and perhaps the tide of activist decisions will actually be stopped.

You want freedom here? Have the COURAGE to KILL "THEM" over THERE. Shoot "them" as invaders for illegally entering the country or RANSOM "THEM" like pirates back to the nations who supposedly love them so much. A certain aggressive Savagery at and outside the gates of this nation gives us the Freedom we have here, or did have.

I may vote for Barr as imperfect as he is come fall. It depends on where the polls are. Yes, I watch them to inform my vote. If McCain is clearly winning, heck yeah I vote Barr. If McCain is clearly losing, same program. If Iraq is a foregone conclusion, I may vote Barr. If perchance Barr pulls ahead of McCain, Dang STRAIGHT I vote Barr.

Whoever you vote for, remember, we have to have a country, to argue about it, and that's what war is for.

 
At 11:26 PM, July 12, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hugh, you sound more like an unhinged right-winger than a libertarian. You need to cultivate a more objective and circumspect cast of mind rather than being a sponge of propaganda.

 
At 11:37 PM, July 12, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

It's not surprising that all an anonymous commentator can come up with is an insult.

There are flaws in the classic libertarian position, and it is not classic in the sense that it is sound, but that it is the historical position. Classic libertarianism is unfortunately a Pollyanna world view.

I cannot fully embrace the libertarian party because it is soft on defense. Defense of this nation is best served by aggressively meeting real threats before they embroil us in the trench warfare of WW I or the Island hopping brutality of WW II.

6800 Americans died on IWO JIMA ALONE. About 4000 have died in Iraq in 5 years. In terms of human capital this war has been fought at fire sale prices. That, I call a good deal. Libertarians of the classic mode, would not have fought it.

Do not tar me with the epithet UNHINGED because I have passion for an important topic. You do not address the points I made.

 
At 7:00 AM, July 13, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Defense is certainly a problem for anarchists and libertarians, in terms of how to fund it properly and how much to fund it, but in any case an interventionist foreign policy does not seem like a good idea.

 
At 7:12 AM, July 13, 2008, Blogger Hugh said...

Iraq was not interventionism. Iraq was a strategic decision in the War on Terror.

 
At 10:44 AM, July 13, 2008, Blogger montestruc said...

Regardless of his failing he talks the talk, and all BS aside he will not be in that office.

From a get out the vote standpoint he is a good choice for the party. I liked Mary, but I doubt the vote totals for her would have ever exceeded 1% in any state. Barr is polling in the double digits in some states and 6% nationally and in Arizona, McCain's home state.

He can get more than the margin of victory in several states and so move us into a much stronger political position.

That is worth it to me.

 
At 12:55 AM, July 14, 2008, Blogger David Tomlin said...

Barr's failings include (but indeed are not limited to) failing for the most part to 'talk the talk'.

Most of Barr's vaunted TV interviews feature little more than Barr making lame excuses for his previous votes. He won't say the Patriot Act and invading Iraq were bad ideas. He didn't think the Bush administration would actually do everything the Patriot Act authorized. He wasn't expecting 'nation building' in Iraq.

As previously mentioned, Barr has been brazenly two-faced on the Defense of Marriage Act. Sometimes he wants to repeal part of it; other times he defends it in toto.

Before getting the LP nomination Barr talked tough on immigration, promising to deport illegals and crack down on employers. Since getting the nomination he has sometimes suggested a more lenient policy in line with the LP platform. Mostly, though, he has avoided policy specifics in favor of rhetoric calculated to appeal to restrictionists.

A good example is a fund-raising letter that ranted at length against the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill, and praised the grass-roots movement that defeated it, without giving a single specific objection to the bill.

On energy policy Barr has also been vague about what he wants to do, but he echoes the conventional wisdom on 'independence', and talks up the French nuclear power industry without mentioning that it is heavily subsidized.

 
At 7:59 AM, July 17, 2008, Anonymous b-psycho said...

"Iraq was not interventionism. Iraq was a strategic decision in the War on Terror."

Yeah, a strategic decision that encouraged more terrorists & handed radical islamists more influence than they've ever had. Ahmadenijhad says thanks.

As for the Iraq War being "cheaper" in terms of US lives lost: by this logic you should be furious we didn't just nuke Iraq, that would've been a LOT "cheaper". That is, if you don't care about the mass murder of civilians.

BTW: I'm not voting either. I have no one to vote FOR. My long-term preference is for the gradual dismantling of the US government itself, and obviously no one's going to run for President on that. Feel free to gripe about that while you co-sign atrocities because you -- ironically -- buy into the romantic portrayal of representative government that's fed to government-school students every day.

 
At 9:19 AM, July 18, 2008, Anonymous Bill Woolsey said...

If you want to know Barr's positions on the issues, the best place to look is his webpage,

www.bobbarr2008.org

Second hand accounts of his positions cannot be trusted. For example, in this thread there was a statement that Barr refuses to say that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. It doesn't take too long to find quotations from Barr saying that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

His "libertarian" detractors make claims for which I can find no evidence. For example, I have never seen or heard Barr claim that state and local governments will be able to efficiently erradicate drug abuse.

 
At 3:47 PM, July 19, 2008, Blogger David Tomlin said...

'For example, in this thread there was a statement that Barr refuses to say that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.'

Not what I said.

There is a difference between the invasion being a mistake because in the event it led to 'nation building', and it being a mistake because invading Iraq was an intrinsically bad idea. I'm sorry I failed to make the distinction clear.

Of course my research included consulting Barr's website. Barr's vagueness on immigration policy, for example, extends to that issue page on the website.

'I have never seen or heard Barr claim that state and local governments will be able to efficiently eradicate drug abuse.'

No one has alleged that on this thread. Bringing it up here is a straw man.

 
At 3:44 PM, July 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW: I'm not voting either. I have no one to vote FOR. My long-term preference is for the gradual dismantling of the US government itself, and obviously no one's going to run for President on that. Feel free to gripe about that while you co-sign atrocities because you -- ironically -- buy into the romantic portrayal of representative government that's fed to government-school students every day.

I couldn't agree more. People seem to think that if you don't vote, you have no right to argue on the matter, and that in any case arguing is useless, you ought to just vote.

But a vote is an implied acceptance of the system. I don't want a one in a million say over my own property, I want a million in a million say over my own property. And I don't care about a one in a million say over other people's property, that's none of my business.

I also don't want to be held responsible for the things other people do with their property, such as slaughtering millions of innocent civilians. And I definitely don't want to pay for it.

 
At 4:15 PM, July 31, 2008, OpenID gurugeorge said...

For my money I'd marginally prefer Obama too. The reason is this: for what, 8 years now, half the population of the most important country in the world has been pissed from a sense of disappointed entitlement. This anger, this sense of disappointed entitlement has spun everything, all news, academia, everything, in a consistently negative direction.

Psychology is important. Policies less so, in fact. In the long view no policies either side institute are going to either totally f**k up everything or totally make the world a living paradise.

Of course if Obama gets in, the other half of the population of the USA will be pissed off, but at least they will be somewhat out of practice.

 

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