Thursday, November 6, 2008

The 2008 Election: A Libertarian Perspective

By Phil Fraietta

On November, 4th 2008, around 11 PM Eastern Time, the final blow was dealt to the Republican Party as Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States. But, I do not believe this loss will throw the Republican Party into the wilderness forever, in fact I believe it will finally make the Party wake up. What do I mean by “wake up?” I mean that the Party will now finally understand the reason for its demise—the alienation of libertarians.

At first thought the average reader will probably say, “ So what? There are hardly any libertarians anyway” but this statement is simply untrue. In fact, the American National Election Studies finds that roughly 13 percent of voters are libertarians. The shift away from the Republican Party started four years ago in the Bush-Kerry election. In the 2000 election, libertarian voters preferred President Bush to Former Vice-President Gore, 72%-20%, according to the Cato Institute.

In 2004, however, libertarians preferred President Bush to Senator Kerry, 59%-38%, once again according to the Cato Institute. And now in 2008, although the data has not been made official yet, it is very likely that Senator McCain and President-elect Obama may have split the libertarian vote. This assumption being made due to the vast number of “libertarians for Obama” movements as well as Obama’s victories in the libertarian strongholds of the nation.

These areas include the “sun-belt” region of the nation, as well as the “live free and die hard” State of New Hampshire. Not coincidentally, in the 2008 election, President-elect Barack Obama won such sun-belt States as New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, while only losing Arizona by 162,482 votes. In 2004, President Bush won all of these States. Perhaps even more telling is the election data over the past 8 years from the State of New Hampshire. New Hampshire, a State that is known for its heavy libertarian presence most notably seen by its lack of State Income Tax, State Sales Tax and seat-belt laws, went for President Bush in the year 2000 by a 1.4% margin. In 2004, however, the States went for Senator Kerry by a 1.37% margin, and now in 2008 the State went for President-elect Obama by a 10% margin.

From this evidence I believe it is undisputable that libertarians are leaving the Republican Party and opting to instead vote with the Democrats most likely because the Republican Party has decided to forget about us. The Bush Administration grew the size of government larger than any Administration since the Lyndon Johnson Administration. The Republican Establishment, who instead chose to compel to an idea of “compassionate conservatism”, has laughed off our prominent voices in the Party, such as Ron Paul and Jeff Flake. And what did they get for it? A government controlled by the far-left.

What I believe this election must do for the Republican Party is help us return to our Goldwater-Reagan roots. We need to center a platform on limited government ideas. Such ideas as school vouchers, privatized Social Security, and a flat-tax may be good places to start. But, either way, as a libertarian while I am deeply stung by the Obama victory, I am also confident that it will return the Republican Party to its limited government roots and bring us victory in 2012.


nolita said...

I'm pretty sure Obama's election is not the "death blow" of the entire Republican Party... in fact, you say so yourself in the very next sentence! Great argumentation skills!

Though, I'm not really sure what I expected from someone who's still so naive to think that libertarianism actually works. If you haven't been paying attention to, um, all of history, one would think at least the recent major financial crisis would have you questioning laissez-faire policies.

Phil said...

Nolita, I'm not sure of your political views although I would guess you are a neo-con. Nevertheless, libertarianism is a philosophy that works and I do not see how you can criticize it when we have never seen it in practice.

The current financial crisis is not a result of laissez-faire policies but is instead the result of increased government regulation and poor Federal Reserve policy. Unquestionably, the current financial crisis is a result of the housing crisis, therefore it is appropriate to analyze what caused the housing crisis.

This answer is relatively simple. First off, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the quasi-government mortgage agencies, handed out mortgages to people who simply could not afford to pay them due to pressure from the federal government. The second cause of the housing crisis was the Federal Reserve's drastic reduction of interest rates in order to try and "combat" a recession. Economist Milton Friedman warned of the dangers of the Fed focusing on the business cycle rather than long-run economic stability. So, while the Fed's drastic interest rate cuts may have gotten us out of a recession, they provided credit artificially cheap and thus caused a housing crisis because everybody could "afford" a home.

Now from this argument I think it is clear that laissez-faire economic policy is not to blame but rather big-government "conservatism" and poor Fed policy

nolita said...

1. Actually I'm a progressive- a 'liberal,' if you prefer.

2. If it's a philosophy that works, then why haven't we seen it in action?

3. Regardless, we don't have to see libertarianism in action to know it doesn't work. We know it doesn't work because the opposite works so well, if imperfectly; most laws that increase government oversight help the country run better or help to protect personal freedoms (depending on the scope of the law). Of course, too much of anything is bad, and such legislation is no exception. I suppose we disagree about how much is too much.

4. I don't know enough about economics to debate the finer points of this with you. From what I've read, though, it was a refusal to regulate subprime mortgages that mainly caused this current crisis. I'm sure the cause is (and can be) widely debated, and no one will ever settle on a definitive answer.

Phil said...

1. I apologize I thought only conservatives read this blog therefore I assumed if libertarianism was being criticized it was by a neo-con

2. Libertarianism has never been practiced for a variety of reasons:
a. People cling to power once they gain it. Once somebody gains power they want to impose their morals on others and they have a very hard time granting freedom
b. People, like yourself, are simply afraid of the free-market because they've been influenced to be by liberal academia. For instance, our history books will claim the Great Depression was a product of the free-market policies of the 1920's (which, by the way was the closest we ever came to libertarian policy in the USA and was the most prosperous decade ever), but in reality the Great Depression was recession turned Depression by poor Fed policy, Hoover and FDR. Many economists have put forth this argument today. You see in 1929, when the stock market crashed, the Fed was unfamiliar with proper policy in the time of a recession (being that no such economic theory existed) so the Fed instead chose to cut the money supply and drive up interest rates. This was a terrible idea because during a recession we must make credit and money easier to obtain by keeping low interest rates. Next, Hoover decided that the Federal Government must take an activist role in curing the recession and he chose to launch massive spending programs (Hoover Dam) and increase taxation on those making $100,000 or more (modern day $1.5 mil). This launched us into an economic Depression. Finally, FDR was elected and launched his first and second New Deal. Now, when we analyze economic data we will realize that the New Deal simply prolonged the Depression and it was WWII that really got the economy going again. When FDR took office, unemployment hit an incredible 25%. His New Deal policies did lower unemployment to 14.3% by 1937, as government spending is a good short-run economic stimulus, but then the long-run effects hit and by 1938 unemployment was back at 19%. When the United States got involved in WWII, the economy stimulated again as we spent money to prepare for the war. Amazingly, by 1942 unemployment it 4.7%. So, as you can see, FDR did nothing but extend a depression (that was caused by the government in the first place) and it was the war that really saved the United States economy.

3. I am curious as to which government policies you are referring to that "give us more freedom." Would you mean Social Security which takes a portion of our paycheck without our permission to save it for us because we might be too stupid to do it on our own? Or, would you mean ridiculous tariffs that prevent us from purchasing goods from other nations such as Columbia? Or, would you mean crazy environmentalist policy that prevents us form drilling ANWR and cutting oil prices? Or, would you mean crazy social-conservative ideas that prevent us from drug use in our own home, as well as turn marriage into a matter of the State?

4. Thank you for admitting your ignorance in economics. I have found over the years that most liberals know very little about the field. I hope my lesson the Great Depression helped and I would like to give you some more advice about getting economics news. Do not read the New York Slimes or listen to Barney Frank. Liberal papers and ideologues such as these will blame the credit crisis on "deregulation" when really they were the ones pushing for these sub-prime mortgages to occur in the first place.

DSKohn said...

When you look at the sub prime mortgage crisis, the fundamental question comes up of what exactly is government regulation.

Fannie mae and Freddie mac used to operate basically as regular mortgage banks with decent business practices. They loaned to people who, even though they may not be the most ideal customer, were still able to pay back their loans.

President Clinton then, as part of his ambition to increase the rate of home ownership among minorities and the working class said they had to lower their standards and basically throw away a decent business model. This wasn't deregulation, it was a nonsensical idea that proves the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. There was no deregulation, if there was deregulation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have been completely privatized and permitted to practice their business as any other mortgage bank.

I would like to note though that President George W. Bush decided to let Clinton's already bad policy recklessly go into overdrive and that the Republican Congress declined to rescind Clinton/Bush policy, and that former presidential candidate John McCain voted against his own Congress. Barack Obama voted to continue this stupid and imprudent policy.

nolita said...

1. Someone needs to be here to voice the other side's opinion

2.a. There have been many different political systems in play throughout the world and throughout history, so I'm not convinced that's a valid defense.
b. Again, I'm sure theories on what caused any depression will differ, but unless there is a vast anti-libertarian conspiracy, your assertions can't help but sound ridiculous.

3+4. Yes, Social Security is one example. Your characterization of it is entirely unfair, but I'll play along. As hard as it may be for upper-middle-class white people like ourselves to fathom, not everyone has the education, time, and/or resources to consider opening an IRA. For the working poor, people who live paycheck to paycheck, Social Security may be all they have once they retire. This is not a classist assertion that certain people are too poor or too stupid to save for the future; it's an acknowledgment of the sociological factors that often prevent people from doing so. The small economic freedom people sacrifice for Social Security pales in comparison to the freedom it grants many elderly people in helping them to continue to support themselves after retirement. The basic libertarian philosophy of 'every man for himself' is something I strongly disagree with, something I believe is at odds with a compassionate society. As for your example about tariffs, again, I don't know enough about economics to argue this point. Your main concern with libertarianism seems to be primarily economical, whereas mine is from a social standpoint. Just because my knowledge of economics is limited, however, does not mean you have the right to condescend to me. If I ever decide in the future to learn more about it, I certainly won't go to someone who talks about 'crazy' environmentalists and the likes; I prefer impartial sources.

Going back to those 'crazy' environmentalists... there is nothing insane about wanting to protect the earth from vicious exploitation. This is, again, another example of 'every man for himself' except, in this case, it's every ecosystem and species. By the way, even if we did drill every oil reserve within our country, it would 1) take 10 years for any oil to reach a consumer and 2) barely put a dent in our dependence on foreign oil. Those crazy environmentalists actually have the more reasonable solution: investing in green energy.

Also, as a liberal, I obviously disagree with bans on gay marriage and our country's ridiculous drug policies, though for different reasons than you do. What I actually had in mind, when talking about how legislation can enhance our freedom, are sexual harassment laws (though of course there are many other examples.) Most libertarians seem to hate such laws, calling them a regulation of private behavior. Well guess what? We regulate private behavior all the time when it infringes on other people's rights, as we should. Any libertarian who actually experienced sexual harassment, furthermore, would likely change his/her mind.

Phil said...

Not everybody has the education, time and/or resources to go to the bank and deposit their money into a savings account? My problem with Social Security is that it does not allow for our hard-earned money to be turned into additional profit. Those of us who are upper-middle class, like you described, are in these conditions because they were able to invest their money and turn it into a capital gain. With the way Social Security is working now you receive about a zero percent return on your "investment." So, I would rather have the option to invest in a mutual fund, a CD, or even a savings account so that I can make some return on my money. However, assuming you are right that some people simply do not have the education, time or resources to make it to the bank that still does not account for why Social Security could not be optional or privatized. Basically, if I feel that I'd rather have the government handle my money for me so be it, but if I feel I can do a better job myself then why not?

You are right that a lot of libertarians oppose sexual harassment laws but I personally do not agree with these people in entirety. While I do agree that it is ridiculous that you can be charged with sexual harassment for saying "you are very pretty", I do think people should be punished for continually making sexual advances on a man or woman who is denying it. After all, this type of harassment interferes with our right to privacy.

Finally, I do constantly refer to economics when defending my positions because the social science is able to explain just about every action people make individually, and also because it is my belief that societies which enjoy economic freedom and prosperity, also enjoy social freedom and betterment. I do not believe a society can really experience "freedom" when we focus on our "social standpoint." No two people have the same social views so who is to say which is correct? Therefore, politics should be completely exempt from moral values. While you may view "compassion" as welfare programs and income redistribution, I will view "compassion" as granting economic freedom to all because this brings about the most freedom for all.

I believe that government programs aimed at helping the poor have actually made conditions worsen. Some examples of this include but are not limited to: the disallowance of school choice, rent control, medicare and medicaid. If we simply would allow for a national school voucher program, children in dire poverty would be able to take their tax voucher and go to a private school and have an opportunity to succeed, not to mention it would increase the quality of our public schools as competition always does. Rent control took away incentives for landlords to compete with one another and create a better living environment for their tenants because a better living environment means nothing to his/her profit (Sorry liberals people work for and are motivated by profit. While you may think this is morally wrong it is the way the human mind works.)Medicare and Medicaid, designed to make medicine more available, have driven up the price of medicine nearly 600% since they were enacted.

Basically, I am a libertarian because I have come to the conclusion the government can do almost nothing well other than protect our rights from the infringement of others, both domestically and internationally. A society with the most freedom would be one where the government does as little as possible.

PS. You wouldn't so harshly criticize others if you knew economics but you would be willing to harshly criticize my writing ability? This doesn't make much sense to me.

nolita said...

1) Saving for retirement requires a little more than that, like the ability to leave your savings account untouched.

I wouldn't be completely opposed to partially privitizing social security, or making it optional, though it has to be very well thought out. This would be very different from eliminating it all together.

The amount you give to SS should not significantly impede your ability to invest and profit from such investments.

2) Good to hear, though, no, you can't be sued for saying, once, "you are very pretty," though I'd be loath to say it to someone who works for me out of ethical concerns.

3) No one social theory can adequately explain everything. This is the same trap that Marx fell into, although he came to quite a different conclusion.

4) You also seem to be a moral relativist, which I vehemently disagree with, but I can agree to disagree.

I don't support 'income redistribution'.

5) Some social programs have failed, most are imperfect, but to summarily dismiss them? I don't care which way you bend the data, it can't support the theory that all social programs are harmful. I won't argue with the individual assertions you make, but will only say that the case for the benefit of such programs can also easily be made, has been made, and will continue to be made.

Humans are also characterized by an ability to empathize with others. If one constantly acted simply to make a profit, s/he would certainly be violating the rights of others, something which you libertarians supposedly disagree with. Society must be a careful balance between self-interest and concern for the other. Needless to say, I disagree with your fundamental philosophy.

P.S. You would probably have different views, too, if you had a broader understanding of social theories. Also, I feel pretty secure in my ability to criticize your writing. That's an area I actually know about (I'm a soc/English double major!).

Phil said...

I have no problem with you criticizing my writing, in fact I appreciate it. My problem is with the hypocrisy you make to say that I am obnoxious in my economic attacks, when you do the same in your writing attacks (we are all guilty of being obnoxious).

Next,you returned to the typical liberal argument of, "I can't name a government program that works well, but I know they exist." Well you are correct they do exist. They are as follows: military, police force, building roads, the legal system. That's about it.

Next, acting to make a profit is not in violation of the rights of others whatsoever. Here, may be our greatest disagreement in philosophy. What are our rights? Human beings have the rights to life, liberty and property in the United States. I challenge you to show me an example of how one acting with the idea of making profit can infringe upon the rights of others (Assuming they are acting within the laws of the United States. I do agree that economic prosperity, as well as freedom, depends on a stable legal system with well-defined property rights)

Next, I am a moral relativist. And, I am curious at to what you mean by "social theories." Which theories should I become familiar with in order to understand American politics? Being that I am a moral relativist, I do not see how any social theory could possibly change my view on any issue but I am always open to knowledge (free-market place of ideas).

Next, why are you so afraid of libertarianism? As you have admitted, you do not know enough about economic policy to criticize the laissez-faire policies we support, so which aspect of our philosophy do you find to be so dangerous?

Finally, this conversation has become quite interesting, and I am glad to have had it. I hope you become a weekly critic of my articles (although most of them will be on economic policy)

nolita said...

We'll also have to agree to disagree about the definition of 'obnoxious.'

Where did I say I couldn't name any? And how is calling something imperfect saying it doesn't work? I think social security and welfare both work, albeit imperfectly. I'm just choosing two I know you'll disagree with. I don't think I need to make a comprehensive list.

Yes, we do disagree. I'm not here to get into a philosophical argument, just to point out some factual inaccuracies, so I'm not going to respond to this.

I'm not going to try to change your moral relativist philosophy either, but I will say it's logically contradictory. If you want further explanation, talk to your philosophy prof.

Which theories should you become familiar with to help you understand politics? The fact that you still think we're talking about politics shows just how much you WOULD benefit from reading about conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, critical theory, and feminist theory, to name just a few.

I'm only afraid of certain verbs and certain nouns, anything ending in '-ism' not being one of them. And judging by how difficult it is for me to shut up, I might just keep commenting.

Phil said...

1. Welfare and Social Security do work depending on your definition of work. Yes Welfare does provide for those in need, but it has in no way helped destroy poverty which I believe was the intention. The idea was not to set up a program that encouraged people to not work and instead collect checks from the government, but this is what happened. Like I've said time and time again Social Security works in that it does protect our savings for retirement, but in doing so it takes away my right and ability to invest my money and retire even wealthier (I used the example of a savings account to point out how even something so simple turns better profit than Social Security)

2. If we are no longer discussing politics then this conversation should not be taking place on this blog. This is a political blog not a social theory blog. But, for your information, I am aware of conflict theory (Karl Marx) and feminist theory. I find very little use with either.

3. I am open to all criticism on anything I write on this blog so please do go ahead. Just be sure to next time criticize me with an argument you can support, not, "If you haven't been paying attention to, um, all of history, one would think at least the recent major financial crisis would have you questioning laissez-faire policies."