My score card accords the winner of each segment 3 points, the runner up 2 points, the third-place-finisher 1 point - with cumulative points behind candidates' names:
I do not necessarily agree with the candidates' views, so my judgement is a mixture of assessing reasonableness (even in a person of different opinions), coherence, communicative effectiveness, and, where applicable, concurrence.
Introduction : McAfee (3), Petersen (2), Johnson (1)
When to go to war? : Johnson (5), Petersen (7), McAfee (6)
Dealing with Welfare State : Johnson (8), Petersen (9), McAfee (7)
Terrorism, ISIS : Johnson (11), Petersen (11), McAfee (8)
Foreign aid : Johnson (14), Petersen (13), McAfee (9)
Personal Questions : Johnson (17), Petersen (15), McAfee (10)
Appeal to Democrats : Johnson (20), Petersen (17), McAfee (11)
Abortion : McAfee (14), Johnson (22), Petersen (18)
Death Penalty : McAfee (17), Petersen (20), Johnson (23)
Gay Marriage : McAfee (20), Petersen (22), Johnson (24)
Gender Pay Gap : Petersen (25), Johnson (26), McAfee (21)
Vote For Other Pres. Candidate : Petersen (28), McAfee (23), Johnson (27)
If my counting is right, the winner by a small margin is Petersen, one point ahead of Johnson.
Nonetheless, if I had to decide who I would vote for, ultimately, Gary Johnson would have my support. McAfee strikes me as a bit of a black horse. He leaves me with the impression that some of his views are not too well thought through. Petersen is personable, a good communicator, with an aura of deep conviction, but his palpable faith comes with the downside of rather a mechanical approach to the issues. Johnson is the one who convinces me that his principles do not cut him off from reality and people with other beliefs.
An administration may reasonably offer indications to other governments on its attitude towards a possible momentous policy change. Normally, such indications ought to be conveyed in politic, perhaps even intramural, rather than publicly ostentatious fashion. All the more, a responsible government is well advised to be very careful to join the fray in foreign electoral campaigns. It may be just about a borderline case of admissibility when the US government takes sides in the debate of Brexit (Britain's exit from the EU), but the sheer incompetence and ignorance of US foreign policy in the face of its most important challenges never ceases to amaze me; the "masterpiece" being the enormously costly, decade-long destabilisation of the Muslim world from Libya to Afghanistan at the hands of both Republican and Democratic Administrations. It would seem, however, none of the presidential aspirants show promise to change this major shortcoming.
The source. There is something special about the English art of vituperative commenting.
While US Secretary of State, John Kerry, emphasises that his country has a ‘profound interest… in a very strong United Kingdom staying in a strong EU’, Matt Ridley begs to differ:
How would Americans like it if we argued that it is in our interests that the United States should forthwith be united with all the countries in their continent north of the Panama Canal — Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama — into a vast customs union governed by a trans-national, unelected civil service. Let’s call it the American Union, or AU.
Imagine that Britain’s Foreign Secretary has just made a speech in Toronto saying he thinks America should join the AU in order to influence Mexico in the direction of free trade. The great and the good in America agree, because they think being part of the ten-country AU will prevent war, boost trade, help smaller nations compete with the behemoths of Europe and China, enable free movement of people, stand up to Russia, encourage scientific co-operation and ensure environmental protection.
Above all, we argue, it would show the world that America is not small-minded, xenophobic, protectionist and isolationist. To this end we think the AU should — er — agree a common tariff against imports from the poorer countries of South America and have free movement of peoples within but not from outside the union. We also think the United States should give up the dollar and use a common currency issued in central America, called the auro, sometimes known as the oreo, or if it is not ready to do that, should encourage others to use the auro, even though there is limited fiscal harmonisation, which bodes ill for the single currency. Oh, and the flag of the AU, consisting of ten radial yellow stripes on a blue background, should be prominently displayed alongside the Stars and Stripes.
Unfortunately, in the current political climate, it turns out that these manifest advantages, deliciously attractive though they might be to the American elite, because they offer an escape from having to think about people in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, apparently do not have quite the same appeal to the American electorate. People are worried about Mexicans taking their jobs, using their health care and drawing upon their welfare if they join the AU. And about Panamanians running up deficits, Guatemalans passing laws that affect Americans and Nicaraguans sharing a common foreign policy.
The average Trump voter might not like Congress much, but he likes the idea of an expensive international parliament that shuttles between Mexico City and Vancouver even less, and of an international executive whose directives pass automatically into law still less, let alone one whose corridors of power are positively seething with lobbyists from big business and big pressure groups (funded by the AU to lobby it). As for the idea that the US Supreme Court could be overruled by judges sitting in Toronto or Managua…
Image credit. Thomas Sowell's dictum may be overly trenchant, but the point he is trying to make is cogent.
Also, I do not condone the insult expressed at time mark 02:25, but otherwise Rushdie's argument strikes me as sound.
Writes Richard Larsen:
America has a rich history as a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity, and religion. Those who have come here over the past couple hundred years have sought a better life through the freedoms and liberties assured by our Constitution and the free enterprise system that fosters their “pursuit of happiness.” They’ve brought their culture, customs, and language with them, but they became Americans: learned English, learned our customs and conventions, and became encultured into the American way. America is great in large part because of the diversity of our people, and the richness of our cultural elements brought here. But multiculturalism has become much more than that, and is now more destructive than ameliorative, to American culture.
I have long believed that the most likely outcome of Islam’s civilizational crisis is a body count that would beggar the last century’s world wars.
And, even if the best possible outcome is achieved, the author expects,
There would be no glorious era of Arab democracy, no Arab spring, no happy ending, just a less murderous sort of despotism and an armistice rather than a real peace between Shia and Sunni. That is as good as ever it will get in that miserable region.
At any rate, too fragile are the solutions sketched in the below article that they would seem likely to succeed. Also, I have reservations concerning the author's hopes for the requisite statesmanship.
Still, it is a remarkable article that has yielded me new perspectives and - in many ways - a surprisingly conclusive global assessment of the region and its players (including the US and Europe).
The great task of diplomacy in the 21st century is a sad and dreary one, namely managing the decline of Muslim civilization. There is a parallel to the great diplomatic problem of the late 19th and early 20th century, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, which the diplomats bungled horribly.
It is no job for the idealistic, namely the Americans, nor for the squeamish, namely the Europeans. The breakdown of civil order in a great arc from Beirut to Basra has already displaced 20 million people and raised the world refugee count from 40 million in 2011 to 60 million in 2014, with scores of millions at risk. After it failed to build democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States fell into a sullen torpor in which serious discussion of intervention in the regime is excluded. The hypocritical Europeans averted their eyes until millions of desperate people appeared on their doorstep, and remain clueless in the face of the worst humanitarian crisis since the last world war.
That leaves Vladimir Putin as the last, best hope of a region already halfway over the brink into the abyss. That is a disturbing thought, because the Russian leader has played the spoiler rather than the statesman in his wrangling with Western powers over the past decade and a half. Nonetheless, Russia has an existential interest in sorting out the Levant. Muslims comprise a seventh of the population of the Russian Federation, and the growing influence of ISIS threatens to give a fresh wind to terrorism inside Russia.
When liberals reject politics and the state (the ultimate enforcer of politics), I would argue, they are bound to get caught in a contradiction in that liberty demands the possibility of mass political participation.
Quite in that vein, the classical liberal, Herbert Spencer, worried about broad political participation, despairing of the prospect that political freedom given to the immature masses was likely to destroy freedom. On account of this worry, Herbert Spencer increasingly turned from optimism to pessimism.
The Spencerian pattern is quite common among libertarians, who lacking any confidence in the political processes of a free society, condemn themselves to "hibernating in a self-made winter of discontent," as I put it in On the Importance of Politics.
Also, I have a comment on the second part of Kling's George Smith on Herbert Spencer, continued, where I argue that the strong presumption against politics and the state in classical liberals and libertarians carries the risk of introducing an element of alarming illiberalism into liberalism, as indeed appears to be very much the case in Herbert Spencer:
Do I detect a family resemblance?
Michael Oakeshott once spoke of Hayek’s “plan to resist all planning”.
I am not sure, whether Oakeshott would endorse my interpretation of his phrase, but I read his observation as pointing to an illiberalism within liberalism (European meaning).
Denying the right of political participation by all citizens, strikes me as highly illiberal.
Usually liberals who argue in this vein do not sufficiently appreciate that markets are not an alternative to a political order (the one necessitated by freedom being of a democratic nature), but depend on an extra-market framework largely implemented, enforced, and defended by political action.
You cannot have liberty without an open-ended political competition. But that competition is feared by liberals because it often brings forth as winners those who they disagree with.
In the face of (permanent) defeat, for the liberal, it is at least psychologically comforting to refer back to the false “economistic” assumption that “dirty politics” would not be required if only one could have a liberal world as he conceives it.
From this biased perspective, democracy appears to be an unpleasant, even dangerous redundancy. Because democracy destroys the liberal’s illusion that his is a self-contained, non-contradictory world view and as such naturally resistant to challenges of indeterminacy, i.e. outcomes of human interaction in a free world that may differ from the liberal’s expectations and preferences.
“How deeply the rationalist disposition of mind has invaded our political thought and practice is illustrated by the extent to which traditions of behaviour have given place to ideologies, the extent to which the politics of destruction and creation have been substituted for the politics of repair, the consciously planned and deliberately executed being considered (for that reason) better than what has grown up and established itself unselfconsciously over a period of time…. This is, perhaps, the main significance of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom — not the cogency of his doctrine, but the fact that it is a doctrine. A plan to resist all planning may be better than its opposite, but it belongs to the same style of politics.”
(1991, “Rationalism in Politics,” in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, new and expanded edition, pp. 26-7.)
In the first part Herbert Spencer on Exit and Voice, Arnold Kling reflects on Spencer's preference for "exit" (independence/turning away from government) over "voice" (political participation, democracy, turning toward the state), apparently doubting the sense and feasibility of (attempting) a life without substantial government in the contemporary world. In my comment, I give an account of my theory of the state, in nuce:
As for explaining and justifying government, I find it useful to consider:
Violence is the fundamental problem of human association.
Once a community is wealthy enough to sustain specialists, there will emerge, within the unfolding division of labour, specialists in violence and governance.
There will always be a competition for “structures of maximal power”, which will tend to create oligopolistic (coalition of rulers) or monopolistic outcomes (state monopoly on violence) which reduce inefficient levels of violence, at least in the long run.
Probably, the biggest plus of government (there are many others) is the immeasurably large difference between a state of anarchy and a state of being protected from anarchy – the transition from roving bandits (anarchy) to stationary bandits (state), in Olson’s terminology.
Also, a state can not be arbitrarily destructive; if state structures are to face good chances of survival they will evolve to enhance the state’s own material substratum, foster productivity, and as precondition of this, peace and other expedients supporting productivity in the populace.
Anarchy remains on a retarded level of development, where violence and personal security have not yet reached the stage of being dealt with within an extended division of labour.
In an anarchic environment, violence, trust-building, and governance are still left to inefficient producers. Anarchy is unsustainable because it is brutally inefficient, and fortunately humankind has worked out more efficient social technologies: such as the modern state, or more generally “structures of maximal power”, in my terminology.
Structures of maximal power are growths of long standing, they are fundamentally ambiguous and capable of severe regression – but they are the best we have.
The founding fathers understood wisely that it is the liberal’s task to understand and improve these structures by “reflection and choice”.
The state is an indispensable precondition of freedom, and endeavouring to improve its structure by “reflection and choice”, that is by conscious design is not necessarily the same as statist ambitions at building and micromanaging the system as a whole and in any conceivable detail.
The big tragedy of the forces of liberty is that they have given up the battle for the state.
SUMMARY: Natural inequality among human beings, the need to manage violence in and between groups and communities, the intrinsically hierarchical nature of power and other factors turn man into a political animal naturally engaged in political competition which includes the struggle for structures of maximal power which, in turn, culminates in the evolution of the modern state. Politics and the state are a natural growth of long standing, while ambivalent and capable of regression they are nonetheless indispensable. Liberty changes the conditions of politics and the state. Liberty fosters, indeed requires, the possibility of mass participation in the political processes, which involvement cannot be curtailed without curtailing liberty herself. Democratic institutions and procedures (which ought not to be reduced to the act of election alone) tend to best fulfil the requirements of political participation in a free society. Liberals who reject politics and the state thus take a position that is incompatible with the basic principles of liberty. Ultimately, they are not willing to face up to the fact that a free society is an open-ended project in which liberal principles and prospects must prove themselves in a competition involving powerful rival views. This is a natural and necessary condition of liberty, whose future is impossible to predict.
Gas attack on the West Front, near St. Quentin 1918 -- a German messenger dog loosed by his handler. Dogs were used throughout the war as sentries, scouts, rescuers, messengers, and more. (Brett Butterworth) - image credit.
The first world war was only two months old, one hundred years ago, a maelstrom gorging on everything living and alive.
Vintage everyday has a fascinating series of black and white pictures showing humans and animals in World War I.