Thursday, October 1, 2009


How Can Any of You Take Voting Seriously At This Point?

Jon Stewart nails it: The Democrats not only control the White House and both houses of Congress, they have a supermajority and they still aren't doing anything that American voters thought they were signing up for in 2006 and 2008.

(And don't gloat, Republicans: Remember when you blamed the Reagan deficits on those dastardly Democrats in Congress who "left him no choice"? Well, what happened during the George W. Bush years?)

Here's my theory, folks: SUCCESSFUL POLITICIANS ARE LIARS. The parties have rigged the system so that no decent candidates will ever win powerful positions. Rather than focusing your efforts on getting Awesome Candidate X on the ballot in 2010, I suggest that you promote liberty through more satisfying--and more potent--methods. Example: Work overtime at your job instead of gathering signatures, and use the extra money to send copies of my books to every school in your city. Now that's a promising idea!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democratic Super Majority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

It is a good idea, sending books.

Related Q: how come my local libraries (10 in our borrowing system) do not have copies of PIG to GD & ND, the 2 recent Ron Paul books, Meltdown, or anything by DiLorenzo?
...or Rothbard, Mises, and Hayek?
Bob, we have to take voting seriously because that is our ONLY lever over the Great Theft Machine.

But maybe it`s about time that libertarians started focussing on other levers, in addition to education and opinion, such as by encouraging alliances between consumers and non-statist firms, which would be in a position to point out, criticize and ostracize rent-seekers at statist firms.
According to Caplan's story voters have an incentive to be rational as consumers, but because their vote will not affect the outcome, people see politics as a fun social event akin to sports not an intellectual one.

Sure a lot of countries have more parties getting legislative seats, but if you look at majorities, it likewise is an alternation between only two parties. It has to do with the scope of the elections and other characteristics of the government (e.g. if elections are national, smaller parties have a bigger chance to get a representative) than anything to do with some conspiracy orchestrated by the elite .
Can anyone say Hotelling's Theorem?
BlackSheep said:

It has to do with the scope of the elections and other characteristics of the government (e.g. if elections are national, smaller parties have a bigger chance to get a representative) than anything to do with some conspiracy orchestrated by the elite .

So you think, say, the fact that they passed the bailout last year--despite calls 9-to-1 against, I believe--was because they were catering to the median voter? It wasn't that the recipients of the $700 billion were cutting back-room deals?
The Blackadder Says:


While true, this is not an adequate explanation (unless you think that the Senate Dems secretly favor abstinence education and hate government health care).

Here is my theory: voters are fickle. They say they want X, then when you give it to them they punish you for it. So if you're a Democrat and think that the voters elected you not because they are all hard core progressives but because of some fluke or temporary factor (say, a financial crisis) you are going to be very restrained in enacting liberal legislation.
Bob, I am not American, and I have not the slightest idea how strong the support for the stimulus is there. I'd think it is substantial considering the president's popularity. I can tell you here people very much support public works programs and the nationalization of a couple of banks.

There is no doubt that idiocy and zealotry runs stronger in politics today than even in religion. Election day was just the other day so the topic of politics was unavoidable, and I will just tell you this: if indeed there is an elite controlling politicians for their own benefit, I feel sorry for the countries where politicians actually follow voters commands. Hoppe said monarchy could actually work better than democracy because rulers think long run. If indeed the world is run by shadow monarchs that would explain a lot why things aren't as screwed as you'd deduce from public opinion alone.
I came to the conclusion that "voting" under the current system was immoral a few months ago. Voting has become about who you can tax and who you can bomb. I don't want to be associated with that and don't vote. This video just strengthens my belief.
"So you think, say, the fact that they passed the bailout last year--despite calls 9-to-1 against, I believe--was because they were catering to the median voter? It wasn't that the recipients of the $700 billion were cutting back-room deals?"

Dr Murphy,

But this is only half of Caplan's story. Caplan also says that in the political arena it's likely that politicians who get elected really will share the views of the electorate. This seems pretty compelling to me and borne out by empirical evidence.

The point is that libertarians, and people associated with the LvMI specifically, are all too willing to point to politicians as liars and crooks for their "Keynesian", "socialist" or whatever policies. As far as I can tell the assumption here is that these people really believe in free markets etc. but that just doesn't make sense given the opinion of the median voter.
Blacksheep, I take it you didn't vote PS?
The Blackadder Says:

So you think, say, the fact that they passed the bailout last year--despite calls 9-to-1 against, I believe--was because they were catering to the median voter?

Yes. The median voter was against the bailout, but if the bailout hadn't passed and their was an economic collapse he still would have punished his representatives for voting against it (note: to believe this theory you needn't believe that the bailout actually was necessary to avoid disaster, only that Congress thought it was).
Dr. Murphy,

As Harry Browne pointed out:

"A growing number of people have deliberately decided that the voting process is the wrong approach to making social and economic decisions. These are the people who believe that it's wrong for one person to exercise control (through voting or otherwise) over someone else's life and property."

Unfortunately, he changed his mind when he decided to run for president. John Pugsley wrote him a wonderful open letter: "Harry, Please, Don't Run for President - An Argument In Defense of the Invisible Hand". If you haven't already, you should absolutely read it:

Just one highlight from the open letter: "Political action is built on exactly the same false premise as that of a centrally-planned economy: ie, that an organized group of political activists engaged in a planned group effort can build freedom more rapidly or better than the individual efforts of independently acting people."

Regards, Art
GilesS, I gave my vote to someone who was in convalescence.

Either way, all the drama around PS is the kind of irrationality I'm talking about. People were not merely unhappy about them, they were enraged. Yet noone seemed to be able to state their hate to my satisfaction. (Mind you I'm not defending PS, I am an egalitarian on these matters. My hate for them is shared equally.) Fact is every few years people get enraged about either PS or PSD, because they invariably disturb some bee nest such as the education establishment or the medics union (as Hayek would say, the plans necessarily clash). Call this the business cycle of politics as PS and PSD fight for the allegiance of the public.

Now, why did PS won? Because PSD wasn't able to entertain the public to their satisfaction, so the vote got split by the other parties. If they don't put on a good show, the Left Bloc sure seems to be getting better and better at entertaining. I predict as soon as they manage to get the vote above a given critical level, the next election they'll get the majority as the public sees voting on them as "useful".
By the way, this "useful and useless" vote debate is yet another display of the irrationality in politics. As if _any_ vote is useful. Yeah, it was because _you_ voted for them that they managed to earn another representative you algebraically illiterate clod. :P
Art, it might make sense for libertarians to run for public office. Not because they expect to win (did Harry Browne thought he had a chance?), but because of all the media coverage that they'll get, measly as it may be. It also provides a focal point for people to spread liberal ideas -- if it wasn't for Ron Paul, do you think libertarians could have amassed such volumes of donations, and such spontaneous demonstrations? If you don't think that made a difference, I invite you to ask people over how were they introduced to liberalism.

You cite the "9-to-1 against" pseudo-statistic (I never heard what group published that number but I've seen it used, uncited, muchly amongst libertarian bloggers so I can't tell if it's actual or not) and I would have to ask you what, if anything, does such a statistic signify? I don't see you telling everyone to shut up about the political system we've got given that voters picked Obama 2-to-1 (or whatever the statistic is).

In other words, you know as well as I do that democracy doesn't settle anything, and even if it somehow did, the people calling into their representatives are not necessarily a valid sample for the "will of the people."

I agree with you successful politicians are good liars.
Blacksheep -

Thanks for the reply. On your points, I would say yes and no... Yes, in recent years a lot of people have been turned to libertarianism by way of Ron Paul, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

However, there are some important caveats:

- How many years has he wasted in DC before finally getting some recognition? How much more good could he have done if he remained in his medical practice (remember Bastiat's dictum)?

- Most of the Ron Paul converts fundamentally believe in the goodness of a constitutional government. It is just that the right people are not in charge.

- People that give up a productive career in order to run for office normally don't do it to be able to spread ideas of freedom. They do it because they think they can actually make a difference through government. Think about Peter Schiff - he couldn't possibly have a bigger audience and fan base than he does right now. So, by running, he will actually stop spreading ideas to those that are willing to listen to him and learn, and try to convert politicians in washington. A monumental waste of time imho.

- Participating in the political process legitimizes it.

In the end, I think there is a larger difference between an an-cap and a minarchist, than between a minarchist and a full fledged statist. The minarchist does not see the modern state as fundamentally evil. The an-cap does. The minarchist may be willing to concede the state is evil, but will opt for the "lesser" evil of a small government. The an-cap thinks that the lesser evil is still evil.

Let me try a tortured analogy: There is an organization that is dedicated to rape and murder. The minarchist says that if he were in control of the organization, he would see to it that there were a lot less rapes and murders. The an-cap might be willing to admit that 10 rapes is better than 1000 rapes, but if given the choice between 10 and 1000, he will choose none of the above. The an-cap prefers the option that doesn't include rape, and if that is not an option, than he doesn't want to participate.

I guess over time I have become more radical on this, and i'm at a point where i don't see any moral or even pragmatic justification for the state.

That said, i like big-tent libertarianism. Above I focused on the one issue that probably divides most an-caps from minarchists, but we ought to also focus on the 95% of ideas where we do agree!

Today's Mises quote is very apropos to this:

Ludwig von Mises: "Perhaps they think that they will exercise power for the general good, but that is what all those with power have believed. Power is evil in itself, regardless of who exercises it." - Nation, State, and Economy
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