Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why Would a Libertarian Vote For Obama?

I was posed that question and figured it was worth the time to hash it all out on the ol' blog.

First and most importantly, I don't think any real libertarian- or any real believer in limited government can a defend a vote for either Obama or McCain on any grounds other than having to to make a choice between the two of them. Neither of them are very appealing, but I think a number of libertarian arguments could be made on both sides that one is better than the other. In no particular order, here are some reasons why a libertarian might vote for Obama.

1- Just as simply a rejection of the Bush administration, in particular over civil liberty issues.

2- The anti-war vote, not because Obama will bring the troops home right away, but because he's likely to start bring troops home sooner than McCain.

3- In the hopes Obama will be a more reasoned voice in the Drug War. At the very least, many of his public statements have indicated that cracking down on drugs is not a priority.

4- Obama seems less likely than McCain to waste time and money on issues like steroids in baseball and gambling.

5- Because McCain was the architect of campaign finance reform, the bane of every free speech loving American's existence.

6- Because McCain's brand of "national greatness" conservatism is more concerned with duty and public service than it is with limited government.

7- In the hopes Obama's (or any Democrat's) big government proposals will get more opposition from Republicans in Congress than would McCain's big government proposals.

8- I've heard bits and snippets of good talk on free trade from both Obama and his supporters and McCain and his supporters. I think it's a stretch to weight trade in Obama's favor, not because of what he might or might not do, but because the Democrat base seems so opposed to free trade. McCain has talked a good game in recent weeks, but hardly enough to inspire any confidence who someone who previously talked about not understanding economics.

9- Barack Obama's health care plan isn't as bad as Hillary Clinton's or even as bad as Mitt Romney's program in Massachusetts. Obama's plan would not mandate health insurance coverage.

When it comes to Obama, I'm not fooled or particularly excited by his dialog of hope and change. Politics is politics is politics is what I always say. I also wonder what would be better; the crushed looks of Obama supporters if he failed to win the election or the more slowly realized sense of horror that the Obama administration will not in fact be bringing rainbows, unicorns, and harmony to every street corner.

Under no circumstances will I vote for John McCain and I couldn't really say exactly why not, other than his role in campaign finance reform which I just find to be a horrendous assault on the basic principles of democracy and free speech that this nation was founded on. McCain talks a good game on making government more efficient and cutting back on pork barrel spending, but deep down he's a statist, and there's no aspect of our lives he wouldn't feel comfortable interfering with in the name of some greater good. Obama is a possibility for myself and many other libertarians, I think because there's the hope he could actually take some bold, freedom oriented stances once the mess with Hillary comes to a close.

Personally though, I'm not all that convinced on Obama. And more importantly, he's going to win Connecticut, making my own vote of little consequence. I'll probably end up voting for whichever certifiably inane person the Libertarian party nominates, just as a protest vote, although I am excited that formed Republican congressmen Bob Barr has announced he will seek the Libertarian party nomination. (Many might remember him from his appearance in Borat.)


Anonymous b.rose said...

How about a response to the character issues I raised and spoke about the majority of the time. Can you address directly the points I made and how you rationalize them away?

Civil Liberties: I personally have no issue w/ the steps the administration took to combat terrorism and I don't understand how that parlays into a vote for Obama.

War: I want my general running the war, which McCain vowed would happen if he was president. I don't want a politician.

Drug War: OK

Steroids Etc.: OK, I see your point. Not a deal breaker for me.

And in terms of limiting government, I have no doubt McCain will be more effective than Obama, if for no other reason than the political pressures McCain faces from other conservatives.

Oh please with the free trade. Obama is an open critic of NAFTA...McCain isn't. End of story. Stop rationalizing.

Baracks health care plan is worse than Hillary's. He doesn't mandate coverage whereas Hillary does. Sounds good in principal...what happens when someone who opts not to get coverage goes to the ER for a cold and can't pay the bill? Tax payers get hit w/ the entire cost.

Forget Obama, Hillary and McCain. How can a libertarian justify voting for anyone in a party led by the pelosi's, howard dean's, and john kerry's. A libertarian understands first and foremost the the US is the most powerful country in the world because of free-market capitalism and limited government intervention. Barack talks a good game, but in the end he is the most liberal of this new breed blame america, blame corporations, blame trade, protectionist liberal party. If you don't like McCain, fine. Obama and his wife, her especially are on record time and time again talking about how evil corporations are ruining the US. "Corporations are willing to ship a job overseas just to turn a profit" No shit Barack, that's what corporations do! They are in business to make money. They are actually required BY LAW to do what is in the best interest of their share holders, so keeping jobs domestically to be nice would actually be illegal. Libertarians understand free-market capitalism and can spot politicians who don't get it. Barack and the democrats don't get it.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous b.rose said...

And McCain may or may not get it (economics). But his party in general does and given his service, you can't question McCain's motives and character.

Here's some food for thought. Would Martin Luther King have associated himself with Jeremiah Wright? I don't think so. And MLK lived in a much more difficult time for blacks, obviously.

2:04 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

To return briefly to Rev. Wright, I just can't get worked up about an old black guy who actually was around when this country was pretty fucked up towards people like him. I understand the ramifications of everything Wright has said, but I don't get any of the same vibes from Obama- more importantly, those aren't the attitudes that are going to get him elected or would allow him to accomplish anything as president.

I don't like getting into the character of politicians all that much because politicians are just plain skeevy. All of them are and I'd rather not spend my time worrying about who's skeevier. Clinton was skeevy and Nixon was skeevy, but I consider Clinton a better president not because of how his scandals compare with Nixon's scandals, but because Clinton can chalk up welfare reform and NAFTA to his presidency and Nixon can chalk up the creation of the EPA and the start of the war on drugs to his.

You're probably right about character, but in the end, I'm much more concerned with the awful/stupid things the government is doing. Nearly all the terrible laws and policies we have in this country are the result of good intentions.

As to all the points I made, they're not all my own points, but points libertarians in general might make. There's a lot to be said on civil liberties and the war, but as I said, for those opposed to the war, McCain is a non-starter. For myself personally, I've moved from being strongly pro-war to somewhere in the pragmatic middle, something I've yet to really blog about because I have a number of conflicted feelings. But basically, as far as terrorism and the war go, I'm not going to let myself be swayed either way.

In terms of limiting government, I worry (like many conservatives worry) that McCain will be eager to work with liberals in Congress once elected.

On free trade ... I agree ... some libertarians don't.

As to health care, I actually like a lot of what I've been hearing from McCain- I think Obama's plan is pretty bad, but mandated universal coverage is worse. I'll take a slight tax hike over an infringement of my liberty any day- especially when that infringement of my liberty is a mandated insurance policy far more expensive than any tax hike.

You're right on what a lot of what Obama has said, but I'm willing to give some time to sort out the rhetoric from the reality. I don't think Obama is a nutjob willing to go the crazy route like John Edwards would have been.

My biggest point is, I don't really know what Obama is all about yet ... I really doubt there's much he can do to win me over, but with 7 months to go before the election, I'm willing to keep my eyes and ears open. But like I said, the truth is, the more we find out about him, the less appealing he seems.

As to McCain, my mind is made up, because he is such a known quantity. I don't question his motives and character, but I do question his philosophical underpinnings which are fairly authoritarian in nature. Witness this attack on libertarianism in the National Review, the conservative journal that his been McCain;s standard bearer:

The problem with absolute faith in any ideology, including that of the free market, becomes evident with a glance at the flagship publication of the libertarians, Reason magazine. It is no coincidence that Reason publishes hagiographies of Milton Freedman as well as pleas for drug legalization and appreciations of cartoon pornography: economic libertarianism, elevated to the status of inviolable first principle, leads to moral libertarianism.

The moral vacuity of dogmatic libertarianism is poisonous to public life. By teaching that 'greed is good,' strict free-market ideology holds out the promise that private vices can be public virtues. Recent congressional history has laid bare the fallacy of this argument. Republicans who proclaimed from the stump that greed was good turned out to believe it when they got into office, amassing earmarks and bridges to nowhere by means of their newfound powers. Why should we be surprised? To expect them to do otherwise would be to expect that men sometimes risk their self-interest for the sake of the public good, which our economist friends tell us is impossible. Conservatives who forget that the free market is properly a piece of policy rather than an ideological end-in-itself not only obscure the importance of individual virtue, they undermine it.

This is the sort of distinction that matters to libertarians. No, the free market isn't just a piece of policy, it's perhaps the most important part of a free society. It's not good just because it's useful, but because free exchange between free individuals is a moral imperative.

As I said before, I'm not comfortable that there's anywhere McCain wouldn't feel comfortable sticking the government's nose into.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous b.rose said...

Maybe a longer response from me while wasting time at work quickie right now.

I think everyone takes too short a point of view on matters and never asks the questions 1) why are we the most powerful country in the world and 2) how can we ensure we still will be in 40 years, because the gap will naturally narrow as countries develop.

The answer to both is free market economic policy and a strong national defense (which is impossible with out a strong economy). In my mind Obama is weak in both areas as we can come and my last quick point is that, no, they are not all the same level of skeeviness. I'm sorry but John McCain is a better man than Ted Kennedy for example. Generally we have to guess quite a bit at character, but in McCain's case while not perfect, we know what he's about. Thats way off subject, more about this later.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous b.rose said...

Oh, what I left out in highlighting the two most important things for me, is that I think we can fuck other stuff up and fix it later. I think those two matters are urgent; and while everything else is important, we can fix it later. We won't know the ramifications of poor economic policy and poor defense policy until 20 years from now. People want to look at how an economy does during a presidency; economic results lag economic policy. ok gotta run, through that together might not make sense.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous b.rose said...

To more directly address your point, I agree that McCain's track record economically isn't as conservative as I'd like. Which is why I'd love for him to take a VP who has expertise in economics and someone who doesn't back down to libs who want to introduce any policy that sounds good to the average moron that doesn't understand unintended consquences.

So McCain policy wise for me isn't perfect, but when we're talking about Obama (a far left lib who bashes corporations and associates with people like wright and has zero experience)and Hillary (I voted for the war, now I'm the one you can trust to end it)(i'd eat my only child if it meant i could be president) clinton, versus a moderate conservative who I have some ideological differences with, who submitted to 5 years of torture, basically voluntarily for his country, proof to me his presidency is about his country, not himself (maybe the first politician we can ever say we're confident in that about)...yeah it becomes pretty easy for me. He's not perfect, but dear god, this is the easiest decision I've ever made. And no, not every soldier should be president, so skip that argument. I'm aware of the differences. What I mean is the good of the country will be his first priority no matter what, not how high his poll #s are. So to wrap up, I'll take the guy who spent this prime years in a vietnamese torture camp, refusing early release, over a guy who spent his prime years learning religion, philosophy and politics from jeremiah wright.

But somehow I'm way off topic. Point is, if I were a libertarian and I'm not that far from it, the idea of Obama being in office with a democratically controlled house and senate would be the LAST thing I'd want. And I'll say again, I think you're way off in minimizing the jeremiah wright stuff.

11:05 AM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Just thought I'd end by saying you're right on a lot of accounts and in the end McCain might be the safest choice just because of what you said there at the end- the thought of a President Obama and a Democrat controlled Congress. In terms of domestic policy, we've seen over the past several decades that one party control sucks, be it Democrat or Republican. Just look at what happened under Republican control- the Medicare prescription drug boondoggle, campaign finance reform, and No Child Left Behind.

I see you hold McCain in high esteem because of his service to the country, but as I've been saying, just because someone is dedicated to their country doesn't mean they're going to make good policy decisions. Of course, that being said, between two guys I don't trust to make the right policy decisions, maybe we're better off with the guy with the history of service .. I dunno.

Truth be told, there was a lot I liked about George W. Bush, despite a less than stellar record on the domestic front and even now, a record in Iraq that's a lot more shaky than it was four years ago. But even though I favored Bush in both of the last two elections, I voted libertarian both times, for Harry Browne in 2000 and for Michael Badnarik in 2004. I'll talk a lot about Obama and McCain, but I have a feeling 2008 will be more of the same for me.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous b.rose said...

Fair enough. In wrapping up let me distinguish something; yes I absolutely hold McCain in high esteem for his service and the word service doesn't even do it justice. I could never do what he did and I don't think I know many who could. But for me, it isn't the fact that he somehow deserves the presidency because of that. Not at all. And just because someone serves, or is an honorable person doesn't mean that they will be a good president. But I think we end up with so many politicians in office who are motivated by everything but the good of the country, whereas McCain's actions speak to the fact that he wants to be president so that he can improve America and thats it.

I just think its a rare opportunity to have the chance to elect someone who didn't just serve and risk his life, but basically willingly laid down his life for his country. And being singular in motivation, for the good of the country, not popularity or credit or anything else goes a long way towards being a good policy maker. My hope is that someone like that can swallow their pride and allow the geniuses they are surrounded by in office help them make policy decisions that they aren't really experts in; maybe decisions that aren't popular(blasphemy!). Could an Obama or Clinton do that? Nah, they are motivated by popularity. I have no doubt Obama is the smartest of the three. But at the end of the day I think a slightly less intelligent person, who is motivated only by improving their country will be a better policy maker than a genius who's primary motivation is to be popular so they can give their BS speeches that get standing ovations from thousands of moron college students, who hate the Bush Administration more than they hate Al-Qaeda.

10:08 AM  

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