On Democrats, Republican, and Voting – 127th edition

Golly, it’s been months since the last general election – time enough to drag out this old chestnut: After noting a bit of Democratic union pandering, Jacob Lyles remarks,

I doubt that I can ever vote for a Democrat without breaking out in hives....

which prompts me to ponder what afflictions attend his votes for other parties.

On voting, I basically see two options: 1) vote for the candidate that will always do what I would do, or 2) vote for the lesser of evils. Option 1 requires that I write in my own name (or perhaps engage in some studied ignorance combined with wishful thinking). Option 2 requires me to candidly acknowledge that life is full of trade-offs, go through my pouty period, and get on with it.

As far as I can tell, all successful politics is coalition politics. As Lord Acton remarked, "At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own...." You can have purity, you can have victory, but you can’t have both.

Yes, the Democrats are beholden to unions and trial lawyers. However, these ties have not kept Obama from proposing a tax on the “Cadillac health plans” included in some union contracts, and his substitute proposal for No Child Left Behind that focus both rewards and punishments on teachers; nor have they kept Obama from putting tort reform on the table.

And what’s the lesser evil? As F.A. Hayek remarked in Why I Am Not a Conservative,

Unlike liberalism, with its fundamental belief in the long-range power of ideas, conservatism is bound by the stock of ideas inherited at a given time. And since it does not really believe in the power of argument, its last resort is generally a claim to superior wisdom, based on some self-arrogated superior quality.

[T]he most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it - or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism.... I can have little patience with those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution....

Connected with the conservative distrust of the new and the strange is its hostility to internationalism and its proneness to a strident nationalism.... The growth of ideas is an international process, and only those who fully take part in the discussion will be able to exercise a significant influence. It is no real argument to say that an idea is un-American....

[T]he anti-internationalism of conservatism is so frequently associated with imperialism. [T]he more a person dislikes the strange and thinks his own ways superior, the more he tends to regard it as his mission to "civilize" others....

And Hayek wrote that in 1960! (If Texas teachers remove all their Jefferson quotes from their walls, at least they can put up this quote in their place.)

When it comes to picking the lesser of evils, I regard Republican crony capitalism, loopy public finances and paranoid fundamentalist nationalism as the greater threat.

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Judging by what they have

Judging by what they have done and what they are trying to do, the Democrats seem to be much, much worse than the Republicans, and the Republicans are bad largely because they are Democrat lite. McCain would have been a disaster almost as bad as Obama because McCain is a RINO, one of the greatest Republican friends Democrats ever had. In fact McCain might have been worse than Obama because he would have dragged the Republicans left and created bipartisan socialist outcomes. Since McCain lost, all of a sudden it is okay fir Republicans to oppose the left wing agenda, since they have no white house RINO who commands their loyalty. With the compassionate conservative Bush in the white house, a lot of Republicans caved and voted for the bailout. With Obama, it is suddenly okay for conservatives to say no to massive porkulus spending. With McCain in the WH, it might have been possible to have bipartisan socialist health care, but since he lost, Republicans can be Republicans again and oppose socialism. Obama winning may have been a blessing in disguise in that it gave the Republicans a backbone and thus created health care gridlock even with Dems dominating both houses. So thanks to Obama for that but remember, it is Republican opposition that is currently keeping the US from moving toward massive increase in government. It is not Democrat self-restraint that is preventing the Democrats from destroying the country. It is the Republicans.

voting is the opiate of the people

Nothing changes because our owners own both parties.

Like.

Like.

"Two management teams,

"Two management teams, bidding for control of the CEO job of Slavery Incorporated."

When candidate A is much

When candidate A is much worse than candidate B, then I don't have much trouble voting for candidate B even if I disagree with candidate B on many issues. I also enjoy voting, even if it doesn't do much good. It's fun voting against Democrats.

Democrat enthrallment to the unions results in horrible positions on trade, education, and a host of other issues. You will note that the Democrat "cadillac tax" on high-cost healthcare plans currently includes a special union exemption. So not only do we have to prop up the firms they bankrupt and attend crappy schools that they ruin, but soon we will be paying for the healthcare of union workers too. I also have the privilege of living in a state bankrupted by the cost of public union benefits. Of course, this would be impossible without their faithful lackeys, the Democratic Party.

And they want to run government finances like a giant union company - high employee benefits until the firm goes bankrupt and someone else has to bail it out. But the question is, who is going to bail out the U.S. economy when it's broke?

At the current rate we will see a bankrupt federal government in our lifetime, and all the economic chaos that will entail. The House Republican who wants to balance the budget in 50 freakin' years is treated like some sort of outlaw radical looney.

I can vote against the Democrats all I want. The Senators are evil, soulless union lap dogs to the man, and their house delegation only has a few reasonable people.

I'm not very conservative, though I do have an acute awareness of my own limitations and a little bit of humility when it comes to politics. I doubt whether my preferred policies would lead to the best possible world -that's a conservative mentality. A thoughtful conservatism that believes in evolution and exercises a bit of restraint in remaking society through law has some appeal to me. The Republican Party more often puts forward politicians that I like such as Paul Ryan, Jeff Flake, Ron and Rand Paul. And as far as I know no candidate I have ever voted for has pushed for any nakedly evil policy, like taking kids out of good schools and putting them back in horrible ones to please the unions. I'm comfortable with voting for libertarians, independents, and the occasional Republican.

Structural problems, and Ryan's budget-balancing plan

At the current rate we will see a bankrupt federal government in our lifetime, and all the economic chaos that will entail. The House Republican who wants to balance the budget in 50 freakin' years is treated like some sort of outlaw radical looney.

Being treated by a radical loony by whom?

To date, [Representative Ryan’s] proposal, which is actually an update of a plan he initially put forth in 2008, has a mere nine cosponsors—mostly conservative stalwarts. A number of prominent Republicans, including presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty and House Minority Leader John Boehner, have explicitly declined to support the proposal. At the same time, GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell, Michael Steele, and Newt Gingrich have all released statements staunchly opposing cuts to Medicare—the same sort of cuts that are crucial to Ryan's plan.

Didja catch that? In its drive to stop health care reform, which includes cutting back the Medicare Plus program, the Republican leadership is pledging to protect Medicare from ANY cuts. No doubt these scorched earth tactics make for great short-term politics, but how will we ever balance the budget if we can’t control Medicare spending? Do Republicans EVER hope to govern again?

Yes, the US federal budget is unsustainable. But no, Democrats, it’s not because the current wars were put off-budget for years. And no, Republicans, it’s not because of short-term stimulus programs. As the Concord Coalition has noted for a decade or more, the federal budget is unsustainable because of long-term, structural problems: entitlements and taxes.

Obama is engaged in an effort to manage the impending demographically-driven explosion in health care costs. I understand many people don’t believe that the plan will achieve that end. I regard this as a question of fact and analysis, not ideology. If you think you have better facts and analysis than the Congressional Budget Office, I’d be happy to hear them.

Republicans, in contrast, have generally exacerbated structural budget problems by supporting unsustainable tax cuts without any effort to control costs. Consequently, those “tax cuts” were merely tax deferrals. To the extent the federal government faces bankruptcy, these tax deferrals must be given all the credit they are due.

Again, I acknowledge some people have ideological commitments that require them to regard a $1 growth in the deficit that results from tax cuts differently than a $1 growth that results from spending. But the math looks pretty similar to me.

Obama is engaged in an

Obama is engaged in an effort to manage the impending demographically-driven explosion in health care costs.

That claim is one of the ways he's trying to sell his health care plan. Socialists have always believed that the market was incredibly wasteful and that socialism would be more efficient - i.e., it would reduce costs. Reining in costs has often been a key part of socialist propaganda.

it’s not because of short-term stimulus programs

What I heard about the so-called stimulus package of 2009 is that it was a Democrat Christmas wish list. To the extent that it is, it is not short-term but enacts a permanent expansion of government. "Temporary" expansions of government are in the end permanent, often enough that the words like "temporary" and "short term" should ring alarm bells whenever uttered in proximity to government.

And your point would be ... ?

Obama is engaged in an effort to manage the impending demographically-driven explosion in health care costs.

That claim is one of the ways he's trying to sell his health care plan. Socialists have always believed that the market was incredibly wasteful and that socialism would be more efficient - i.e., it would reduce costs. Reining in costs has often been a key part of socialist propaganda.

What you say may well be true, but I'm not sure what it has to do with the current discussion. Indeed, I believe Obama has characterized our current health care system as wasteful, although I'm not sure he's characterized it as any kind of efficient market system. Do you disagree that it's wasteful? And are you saying its an efficient market system?

Obama is urgently seeking a politically viable improvement to the status quo to deal with an impending demographic wave that will trigger increases in medical spending. While you've clarified that you don't support Obama's bill, I'm still unclear on your reasoning. Are you saying --

1. There is no demographic wave coming that will trigger increases in medical spending?

2. You acknowledge that there's a demographic wave coming, but you join the Republican leadership in concluding that we're better off with the status quo?

3. You acknowledge the demographic wave, and you're not saying we've better off with the status quo, but you favor the ideological purity of Ryan's proposal -- a proposal so far from political viability that his own party is running from it?

Do you disagree that it's

Do you disagree that it's wasteful?

It is largely government-controlled and therefore very wasteful.

And are you saying its an efficient market system?

How would be largely government-controlled sector be truthfully be called a "market system" let alone efficient?

Obama is urgently seeking a politically viable improvement to the status quo to deal with an impending demographic wave that will trigger increases in medical spending.

What Obama and the Democrats are primarily seeking is socialization of health care like Hillarycare and like the British (and for that matter Cuban) system. The "impending demographic wave" is merely the latest excuse for the same old thing.

There is no demographic wave coming that will trigger increases in medical spending?

There is nothing wrong with an increase in spending caused by demographic changes. All I think you're saying is that old people spend more on medicine than young people and there are going to be more old people, so there will be more spending on medicine. But there is nothing wrong with such a relationship. Similarly, an increase in the number of vegetarians would increase the amount spent on vegetables, an increase in the number of children would increase the amount spent on trips to Disney World, an increase in the number of Spanish-speaking residents would increase the amount spent on Spanish-language television programming, and so on.

What is a problem is not total spending, but waste and inefficiency. And this exists already today. And it is caused by government intervention, would be made worse by more government intervention, and would be reduced by less government intervention.

One simple way to reduce costs, of course, is to reduce the amount of medicine given to old people. This can be done by socializing medicine and then establishing death panels which will deny medicine to old people. So, yes, you can reduce (monetary) costs. But only at the expenses of increasing other costs (the cost of reduced availability of medicine). If you only have your eye on one kind of cost (e.g. cost to government of implementing socialized health care), then you will fail to notice the cost of reduced availability of medicine, and you will believe that death panels are a net plus. The same one-sided thinking is on display here:

Again, I acknowledge some people have ideological commitments that require them to regard a $1 growth in the deficit that results from tax cuts differently than a $1 growth that results from spending. But the math looks pretty similar to me.

This is the same only if you care about the government deficit - which is just one part of the whole picture. There are also the taxpayers to consider. Mark explains the problem well in his follow-up to this quote about the deficit. To deride those who see a larger picture than your own narrow view as "ideological" is a weak argument.

You acknowledge that there's a demographic wave coming, but you join the Republican leadership in concluding that we're better off with the status quo?

We are better off with a bad system (the status quo) than with a worse system (a more socialized system). If a proposed change is worse than the status quo, then the status quo is indeed preferable to the proposed change. Despite Obama's endlessly repeated campaign slogan, "Change" is not, in itself, good. Most possible changes are in fact bad. A good example of a typical, random change is mutation of organisms. The vast majority of mutations are bad. Only a tiny minority of mutations are beneficial. If "change" as such were good, then there would not be any need for natural selection.

If you're trying to get me

If you're trying to get me to say "I like and support the Republican Party", you're not going to get it. I dislike most of the Republicans and all the Democrats. After 8 years of Bush, I am acutely aware of the shortcomings of the GOP. You are right on the button there.

On the other hand, most of the good ideas in politics are supported by (a minority of) the GOP - ideas like privatizing entitlements, school choice, free trade, lower taxes, federalism, and etc. So I have a higher opinion of the Rs than the Ds. I can't ever vote for a candidate whose platform consists of more socialism and more union handouts. And I am allowed to revel in their defeat and the tears of their supporters (2004 was fun!).

And yes, I treat deficits created by tax cuts differently than deficits created by government spending. At least the cost of the first policy is going towards something useful. And the (minority of) Republican-backed plan to switch elderly entitlements from defined benefit to defined contribution plans are really the only way to prevent federal bankruptcy besides getting rid of the entitlements altogether.

The heart of the matter: what's your concept of tyranny?

If you're trying to get me to say "I like and support the Republican Party", you're not going to get it. I dislike most of the Republicans and all the Democrats. After 8 years of Bush, I am acutely aware of the shortcomings of the GOP. You are right on the button there.

On the other hand, most of the good ideas in politics are supported by (a minority of) the GOP - ideas like privatizing entitlements, school choice, free trade, lower taxes, federalism, and etc. So I have a higher opinion of the Rs than the Ds.

Indeed, the point of this thread is to acknowledge that we must make choices between less-than-ideal alternatives (“evils”), and to question whether Ds are preferable to Rs. After 8 years of Bush, you say you are acutely aware of the shortcomings of the GOP. Yet you favor them over the Ds due to issues like privatizing entitlements, school choice, free trade, lower taxes, federalism, and etc.

Recall that the GOP favored criminalizing consensual homosexual activity between adults. And the GOP favored a policy of arresting people for no other reason that the Executive declaring the person to be an “enemy combatant,” spiriting that person to a “black prison” and holding them incommunicado indefinitely, beyond the jurisdiction of any other branch of government. Indeed, the GOP’s theory would have authorized the president to spirit away every member of the Supreme Court if he had given the order.

I regard this to be the most alarming threat posed by government. In contrast, the fear that I might be subject to the tyranny endured by pretty much every European doesn’t strike me as so terrible. Being compelled to live in Guantanamo strikes me as less appealing than being compelled to live in Geneva; it’s not even a close call.

We each have our own concept of tyranny, I guess.

Yeah, it matters more to me

Yeah, it matters more to me that I can live in a country with a dynamic, wealthy economy and good education than a country where I can marry a guy. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather have both. It's none of the government's business if I want to marry a guy. But living in a country with a stable, growing economy where I get to keep most of the money I earn is more important. To me. If you'd rather have it the other way, that's your call. It's an everlasting divide between left and right leaning libertarians that will never be resolved.

Yep, my tyranny is different from yours

I believe the tyranny of having half of your income confiscated is egregious. Being demonized for being successful is little different from being demonized for being a minority. Having your savings disappear in a few months (due to hyperinflation, which is where we're headed due to the coming entitlement crash) is tyranny.

The point of this thread

Indeed, the point of this thread is to acknowledge that we must make choices between less-than-ideal alternatives (“evils”), and to question whether Ds are preferable to Rs.

If you end up having to choose which liberties you surrender this legislative session, shouldn't you question whether you really should be spending time and effort on voting?

As Martin Niemöller wept....

[T]he GOP favored a policy of arresting people for no other reason that the Executive declaring the person to be an “enemy combatant,” spiriting that person to a “black prison” and holding them incommunicado indefinitely, beyond the jurisdiction of any other branch of government. Indeed, the GOP’s theory would have authorized the president to spirit away every member of the Supreme Court if he had given the order.

I regard this to be the most alarming threat posed by government. In contrast, the fear that I might be subject to the tyranny endured by pretty much every European doesn’t strike me as so terrible.

.

Yeah, it matters more to me that I can live in a country with a dynamic, wealthy economy and good education than a country where I can marry a dude.

.

I believe the tyranny of having half of your income confiscated is egregious.

They came first for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the Islamists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Islamist.

Then they came for those accused of being “Enemy combatants,”
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t accused.

But they sure kept my taxes low.

Quantity matters. There is a

Quantity matters. There is a difference between a government that over a decade has rounded up and indefinitely imprisoned one person, and a government that has rounded up and indefinitely imprisoned thousands of its own citizens. I'm talking hypotheticals. My point is not to characterize the actual situation but to point out a weakness in your description. Your description avoids telling us how much. You write:

[T]he GOP favored a policy of arresting people for no other reason that the Executive declaring the person to be an “enemy combatant,” spiriting that person to a “black prison” and holding them incommunicado indefinitely, beyond the jurisdiction of any other branch of government. Indeed, the GOP’s theory would have authorized the president to spirit away every member of the Supreme Court if he had given the order.

This does not tell us how much the government has actually done. In fact the only quantity offered is paranoid speculation: the government could spirit away "every member of the Supreme Court." Never mind that it has not done so. Never mind that there have been not even the slightest noises about coming even within a hundred miles of even thinking about doing such a thing to even one Supreme Court member, apart from your own paranoid speculation.

Quantities matter but you omit them. And when you omit them, the obvious inference that a skeptic is going to draw is that the quantities are very, very small. The actual evil effect, then, of "the GOP's theory" is very, very small.

Meanwhile we have a very good grasp of the approximate magnitude of the effect of (say, for example) the health care legislation. So on the one side there is a problem whose magnitude those playing it up tellingly fail to reveal. And on the other side there is a very large problem.

I don't like invoking Godwin's law very often....

...as the rise of the Nazis is, after all, a valuable teaching point, but in this case...

I assure you that if Nazis came to power, I would sacrifice low taxes to fight them. Happy?

I just think you dismiss the tyranny of taxation too easily.

As the great philosopher once said....

I assure you that if Nazis came to power, I would sacrifice low taxes to fight them. Happy?

Thing is, though, that when the earthquake comes, the vast majority of people are not going to expect it. These things take people by surprise over and over and over. Hindsight fools us into thinking that we must have known what was coming, but it's an illusion. The Nazis surprised the English, surprised six million Jews, and surprised Stalin. Pretty much everything really awful is a big surprise. Isn't it?

Don't believe me?  See here:  http://distributedrepublic.net/archives/2010/03/26/2015-two-headlines-alternate-universes#comment-93420

Ideology

Again, I acknowledge some people have ideological commitments that require them to regard a $1 growth in the deficit that results from tax cuts differently than a $1 growth that results from spending. But the math looks pretty similar to me.

  1. I spend $10,000 with no income. I am $10,000 in debt.
  2. I take $10,000 from you and spend $20,000. I am $10,000 in debt.

The ideology that makes these two cases different is that it is not okay to steal.