Scary stuff from every honest person's favorite progressive about the seemingly unbridled power of the unelected intelligence community, and their not-so-subtle threats against President-elect Trump.
Scary stuff from every honest person's favorite progressive about the seemingly unbridled power of the unelected intelligence community, and their not-so-subtle threats against President-elect Trump.
In Stephen KIng's 1980 novel, Firestarter, the book ended with the heroine going into the counter-culture offices of Rolling Stone magazine to tell her story of government gone mad to reporters who would presumably be brave and uncorrupt enough to publish the story. In the 1984 film version, the offices were those of The New York Times.
These days, Stephen King is a loud member of the privileged socialist caste we call Democrats, and would therefore undoubtedly not change the ending one whit if writing the book today. However, if I were writing such an ending, I'd take Edward Snowden's lead and Glenn Greenwald's Intercept would be the plot device of choice.
Here's Greenwald's latest aggressive takedown of the Washington Post's "Fake News" list and the anonymous people who published it. It's brutally wonderful and spot-on accurate. Titled Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group, he simultaneously ridicules and shames the reporter and editors who cite shady anonymous sources while calling for a government investigation into other journalists they're accusing of spreading Russian propaganda.
The article by reporter Craig Timberg – headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” – cites a report by a new, anonymous website calling itself “PropOrNot,”which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.”
The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute.
So according the Washington Post, Ron Paul and Justin Raimondo are Russian propagandists. As is David Stockman, the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan.
Yes, it's that bizarre.
Truth be told, I find the whole political environment scenario to be quite beyond bizarre at the moment, and that's not even including the fact that we as a nation elected Donald freaking Trump as president. Here's what I mean: 10 years ago, the liberals mocked Romney's anti-Russia position with snarky comments like "The 80's called. They want their foreign policy back!" while Barack Obama promised he was going to hit the reset button on the US/Russia relationship. Heck, some say he won the election with talk like that.
But once elected, he apparently decided he preferred to stay within his community organizer comfort zone and essentially turned foreign policy over to Hillary Clinton's State Department. Fast forward to Syria, suddenly we're at loggerheads with Russia again, and the left-leaning Democrats are simultaneously accusing the far left Russian government of tampering with our elections and the right wing Republicans of being in bed with those filthy Communists.
Wait - what?
There is a propaganda technique called the Big Lie, which is usually stated along the lines of, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth." Saul Alinsky is attributed with telling people to repeatedly accuse enemies of doing what they oppose, while doing that very thing. That seems to be what this is - a chess move in the game of psychological warfare. Conspiracies involving fake news and Russian propaganda is a way liberals who were blind-sided by the election results can explain away their stunning electoral losses. Calling Donald Trump and his supporters deplorable Nazis during the election cycle didn't stop him, so now they're faced with either believing that the majority of their countrymen are in fact Nazi supporters, or they need to explain the election win another way. Blaming Russia is a tool the leaders of their movement can use to drum up more hate and division without admitting that perhaps the core of their very philosophy is unpalatable to the masses.
I mean, everybody hates the Communists, right?
If you like Glenn Greenwald, you might like to follow me on Twitter.
In an editorial entitled Say no to 'lazy policymaking', the Omaha World-Herald portrays Senator Laura Ebke's efforts at maintaining the nature of policy formation as a duty pursued in the service of the public:
Ebke, known at the State Capitol for her energetic committee work and well-informed comments during floor debates, said she wants to approach policymaking responsibly rather than having her stance dictated to her upfront according to a party’s or the governor’s particular needs.
Describing the pressure applied by partisans to Republican senators to vote a certain way, she wrote: “There is no discussion about ideas, and little negotiation — if a bill is controversial, the teams are supposed to split up, and everyone is expected to ‘fly right.’ I believe that’s lazy policymaking.”
She added: “Those who want my vote on a controversial issue will have to make the case based on solid reasoning — not on manufactured partisan hyperbole.”
Well-considered decision-making, she wrote, isn’t compatible with being “held hostage to partisan considerations.”
Plus, she noted, maintaining the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches is a fundamental doctrine in American government.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 07/23/2016 at 01:47 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Books & Media, Constitution, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Laura Ebke, Libertarian Party, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Hit & Run reports:
The Daily Beast reported yesterday that the vice chair of the Washington, D.C. Republican Party, Gary Teal, has announced that he's voting for the Libertarian and therefore resigning his post within the GOP. He was joined by three other D.C. delegates to the RNC:
Justin Dillon, Kris Hammond, and Peter Lee—who were wearing #NeverTrump buttons—spoke to The Daily Beast in the hallway of Quicken Loans Arena, just minutes after Donald Trump finished his keynote speech on Thursday night. "The RNC has bungled this nomination process by having bad rules," Teal said, referring to a controversy over nominating rules that caused chaos on the convention floor Monday. "And now at this convention, they've sacrificed integrity in favor of unity."
Prior to the convention, Rhode Island Republican State Sen. Dawson Hodgson, who is described as "prominent" by The Providence Journal, resigned as a delegate and pledged his support to Johnson. Other elected officials supporting Johnson include:
* Nevada Assemblyman John Moore, who was elected as a Republican but switched to Libertarian.
- Montana State Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (at least as listed on the Johnson/Weld endorsements page and on Wikipedia; Schwaderer's June 28 Facebook post extolling the virtues of the L.P. ticket concludes with less decisive language: "I recommend that you hear what they have to say and genuinely take on board their perspective. In a cycle of vitriol I believe that this ticket deserves a slot on the Presidential debate circuit; if anything the[y] elevate the rhetoric on the stage and entice all three candidates to bring this debate back to policy." I have emailed Schwaderer for clarification.)
* Utah State Sen. Mark Madsen (R).
Anthony Fisher found other Utah delegates who said they were leaning Johnson, and when Nick Gillespie and I interviewed a bunch of Millennial delegates at the RNC, it was hard to find any who didn't prefer Gary Johnson to Donald Trump.
Still, the big endorsement gossip yesterday was about whether Johnson was going to get the nod this week from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 07/23/2016 at 01:25 PM in 2016 Presidential Race, A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Laura Ebke, Libertarian Party, Media/Media Bias, Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Republicans, State/Nebraska Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Senator Laura Ebke's move to join the Libertarian Party after decades of dedicated political work as a member of the Republican party is eliciting media coverage, including this report at Reason.
As a subscriber to her regular newsletter, I have received the below statement, which I would like to share with the readers of RedStateEclectic:
June 1, 2016
Yesterday, Tuesday, May 31, I sent a letter, primarily to folks in the district, who had supported me financially in my campaign for the Legislature in 2014. The purpose of the letter was to give them the courtesy of a "heads up" before a more general announcement. I am now providing you with most of that letter, because I want you to hear this from me before it hits the presses. Based on phone calls I'm getting, it would appear that rumors are out there, and before I talk to the press, I want you to know what's going on.
Late last week, I initiated a change of political party registration online. I have switched from Republican affiliation, to Libertarian. PLEASE take the time to read my reasons below.
My reasons for making this switch are many, and it was not made without many months of consideration. Let me tell you a little bit about the thought process I’ve been through—and assure you that my basic view of the world has not changed.
First, I have always considered myself to be a conservative. I was born into a conservative Republican family in 1962, heard talk of politics from an early age (I’m not sure I believe the family lore that my first word was “Goldwater”). I idolized Nebraska’s late Senator Carl Curtis while I was still in elementary school in Fairbury. For most of my childhood, someone in my family—either my father, grandfather, or mother, was chair of the Republican Party in Jefferson County.
When I turned 13, I joined the then-active Teen Age Republicans (TARs). In 1976, at the age of 14, I watched the Republican Convention in Kansas City on TV with my dad, cried because Ronald Reagan lost the nomination to President Ford, and then went out to the family cars the next morning, and changed the bumper stickers from Reagan to Ford.
By the time I was 16, I was the Nebraska TAR Chair. I’d knocked on doors with Congressman Doug Bereuter in his first campaign. I was a political activist, a proud constitutional conservative, and a proud Republican. I have, as I write this, a collection of about 40 Frankoma elephant mugs, in my home office, which were sold beginning in 1968 until the early 2000’s, primarily as fundraisers for local Republican Women’s clubs. I’m only missing a few in the total collection.
I cast my first vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and my second one for him in 1984. I voted for George Bush, senior (although I probably would have preferred Jack Kemp as a more visionary alternative); I voted for Bob Dole, even though his approach was not really what I yearned for; George W. Bush got my vote in 2000 and 2004, even though I became increasingly disillusioned with the “conservatism” of the Party and its leaders.
My view of conservatism has always been a Goldwater-Reagan based view: smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, respect for constitutional rights—and on the national scene, a strong military, but not an overly aggressive one. In other words, I believe in a constitutionalism which looks to the principles of our founders as a guide.
By 2008, I was feeling like “movement conservatism” that I’d grown up a part of, was becoming largely absent in the Republican Party. I saw a glimmer of hope in the presidential campaign of Congressman Ron Paul. He was, perhaps, a little too eccentric and even too ideologically pure, for the Republican Party, but after attending one of his rallies in Kansas City in the summer of 2007, I saw hope for a party that could attract young people who actually had a philosophy of government that I could match up with.
A group of Ron Paul supporters (mostly) and I chartered the Republican Liberty Caucus here in Nebraska. The RLC is a national organization, founded in the early 90s, for the purpose of promoting the cause of liberty within the Republican Party. Some welcomed the activism of the RLC in Nebraska—others didn’t. But we persisted, and for anyone who saw the significant crowds of people who walked with me in most of the parades in 2014, most of those folks—in addition to family—were my RLC friends.
Although the Legislature is a constitutionally NON-PARTISAN body, and many would never know—based on election filings or ballots—that I had changed parties, I think it’s important for you to understand why I’ve made the decision to do so at this time. Let me just give you the highlights:
- As a partisan activist who was part of an insurgent group of volunteers (the RLC), it was easy to wear the occasional disdain of establishment partisans as a badge of honor; as a state legislator, the pressure to “vote the ‘party’ way”—even if that way is contrary to one’s firm beliefs—is immense. I am happy to discuss and take responsibility for the votes I cast with my constituents and those of you who are getting this letter. We will not always agree, but you deserve to know why I voted the way that I did. But the pressure—sometimes near bullying—by some of my colleagues, and outside forces—to vote a particular way because “that’s the Republican way” has disheartened me. There is no discussion about ideas, and little negotiation—if a bill is controversial, the teams are supposed to split up, and everyone is expected to “fly right.” I believe that’s lazy policymaking.
- As a Republican, the pressure to vote with the Republican governor is significant. The truth be told, on the vast majority of issues I agree with Governor Ricketts, and will continue to agree with him. But the notion that the Governor should be able to tell legislators how to vote because they are registered in the same party—or that “good Republicans” would work to keep something “off of the Governor’s desk”--does a disservice to the role of the legislature and to the intention of the founders when they created a republican form of government with separate branches--and guaranteed state governments would be the same. I have no objection to conversations between the branches of government—in fact, I suspect that better policy would be made if there was more conversation and fewer demands of partisan loyalty.
- I consider myself a “movement constitutional conservative ”—and while not all libertarians are conservative constitutionalists, many are; and those who would be considered “movement conservatives” almost always have a strong stream of libertarianism running through their veins. As President Ronald Reagan said, “the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” As the Republican Party has seemed to ignore constitutional governance; as Republicans have failed to make good on their promise of smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal control…this decision to make a break from the party that I’ve been registered with for 36 years, and active in for most of the 18 years before that, began to weigh heavily on my mind.
- My decision to change my registration has nothing to do with a changing philosophy on my part. It has little to do with any particular candidate or candidates. It has some to do with life in the State Capitol, but it has a lot to do with a growing sense that I’ve had that the Republican Party of 2016 is fundamentally different than the Republican Party that I grew up in.
To review more succinctly:
- I am changing my voter registration, but not my view of the world. If you have mostly liked the way that I’ve voted in the past, you’ll probably continue to like it.
- To the extent that I’m welcome, I will continue to work with ALL of the constitutional conservatives in the Legislature; and I’ll certainly work with the Governor if he wants to work with me. I will always be open to conversations and negotiations, but I won’t be held hostage to partisan considerations. Those who want my vote on a controversial issue will have to make the case based on solid reasoning—not on manufactured partisan hyperbole.
Finally, while I hope this doesn’t change your view negatively of me, I realize that it could. I have reconciled to the idea that I might not receive the support for future campaigns that I did in the past. I’ve also reconciled to the notion that it’s possible that the Republican Party will seek to “take me out” if I run for re-election in 2018. It’s also possible that I will be looked upon less kindly for potential leadership positions—even though we do not run as partisans, nor do we organize by party.
While serving the people of the 32nd Legislative District has been one of the great honors of my life, the people of the district have every right to vote me out of office if they feel that I’m not representing them adequately—and that includes if they feel that as a Libertarian instead of a Republican, I’m not adequately reflecting their views. Time will tell whether that label will matter to the citizens of the district, or whether they’ll judge me by my actions.
I hope that in the next two years, I can prove to my constituents and other supporters that the Party label doesn’t mean anything other than wearing the label which more accurately reflects my political views. I hope that they can see that by taking the “road less traveled”, I may be able to better serve ALL of our citizens, and not just the Republicans. I remain steadfastly in support of constitutionally limited government, and doing everything I can to reduce the negative impact of government in all of our lives—especially in the taking of our income through taxation.
I am, of course, always willing to exchange email, or talk with you in person about this, or anything else. And, as always, my office staff and I look forward to serving the people of the 32nd Legislative district the best that we can over the next 2 years.
Senator Laura Ebke
See also here.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 06/02/2016 at 01:25 PM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Campaign for Liberty, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Grassroots Activism, Laura Ebke, Libertarian Party, Libertarian Report Card, Media/Media Bias, Pure Politics, Republicans, State/Nebraska Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)
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A surprise prima facie that will not surprise anyone for long who knows Laura Ebke, the Nebraska State Senator who keeps attracting many supporters thanks to her conscientious reasoning and her honest and upright political conduct.
Sen. Laura Ebke of Crete left the Republican Party and registered as a Libertarian Party member two weeks after Gov. Pete Ricketts called out state senators who are Republicans by name for not supporting him or the GOP on some contentious legislative issues.
"I'd been thinking about changing for several months," she said Wednesday, "but I suppose that was sort of the final push."
Ebke, who always had identified herself as a Republican whose political philosophy was Libertarian, changed her registration online last week.
"I'm not willing to bend my principles to go along or cast a vote just for the sake of party unity," she said during a telephone interview.
Ebke was sitting in the back of the room at the Republican state convention in Omaha last month when Ricketts criticized more than a dozen state senators who are Republicans for votes they cast, arguing for the need to elect "platform Republicans" to the nonpartisan Legislature.
"The governor is entitled to call people out," she said, "but that was an interesting time to do that."
Ebke has cast votes to override several of the governor's vetoes, including his rejection of bills to repeal the death penalty, authorize Nebraska driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants who have lawful presence in the United States and grant the right for those young people to acquire professional and occupational licenses to work in the state.
"I agree with the Republican Party on many things and I have many friends in the party," she said.
"Republicans talk about fiscal responsibility, but they tend to place not such a high emphasis on civil liberties."
Ebke said the approaching nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican Party's presidential choice affected her decision "maybe a little (because) I can't imagine myself voting for him."
"But it's less about Trump per se than what that reflects about the Republican Party," she said.
Now, she said, she has a presidential nominee she can support.
The Libertarian Party last weekend chose former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as its nominee and paired him with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld as the party's vice presidential nominee.
Ebke said she has "great respect" for Republican Sen. Ben Sasse because of his determination to "stand his ground" in refusing to support Trump despite growing pressure from his party.
"The negative ramifications for me may not be as great as they are for him," she said.
Ebke was elected to the Legislature in 2014 and is midway through her first term.
As reported by Don Walton of The Lincoln Journal Star
Posted by Georg Thomas on 06/02/2016 at 02:40 AM in American Culture, Books & Media, Campaign for Liberty, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Georg Thomas, Intramural Politics, Laura Ebke, Libertarian Party, Libertarian Report Card, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Pure Politics, Republicans, State/Nebraska Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Relaxing to think on a Sunday afternoon.
Reason TV sat down with Georgetown Law's Randy Barnett to talk about his new book "Our Republican Constitution" and a number of other issues.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 04/10/2016 at 09:06 AM in American Culture, Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Constitution, Current Affairs, Film, Georg Thomas, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Republicans, Social Philosophy, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Watch the first part:
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)
Terror., Military, Foreign Policy : Petersen (5), McAfee (5), Johnson (2)
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.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 04/08/2016 at 05:34 PM in American Culture, Anti War libertarians, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Health Care, History Lessons, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Religion, Republicans, Ron Paul, Social Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (1)
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The late Sir George Martin [producer and arranger of The Beatles] created substantial British exports. Had the import of his music to America been banned to save the jobs of US musicians, Britain would have missed out on some revenue but the American consumer would have been the biggest loser, missing out on the music. Trade benefits the importing country: that’s why it happens.
Frankly, we might as well be living in the 17th century, so antiquated are our current debates over trade, both here over Brexit and in America over the presidential nominations. Many current assumptions about trade were debunked more than two hundred years ago and then tested to destruction in the mid-19th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries European governments were in thrall to “mercantilism”, the belief that the purpose of trade was (roughly) to push exports on to other countries in exchange for cash and so build up a surplus of treasure with which to pay armies to fight wars. So they sought to restrain imports with tariffs and bans, while encouraging exports with monopolies and gunboats. Britain’s Navigation Acts after 1651, and the chartering of companies such as the East India Company, were part of this policy.
Along came Adam Smith and made a different argument, that mercantilism punished consumers and the poor, while rewarding producers and the rich; that imports were a good thing because they raised people’s standard of living by giving them what they wanted at lower prices. With money to spare, consumers bought more things from producers, creating jobs and generating prosperity. If bread was cheaper, people could afford more textiles. Gradually, with the help of David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, Britain was persuaded of this and by the time Robert Peel, William Ewart Gladstone and Richard Cobden were in charge, Britain had declared unilateral free trade and dared the world to follow.
It is true that unilateral declarations of free trade, while benefiting everyone as consumers, can hurt those producers who have previously been protected from competition by tariffs and other barriers. Because the pain is more concentrated than the gain, their voice is louder, and Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been amplifying it. (America has never been as convinced by the free trade case as Britain: its infamous Smoot-Hawley tariffs of the 1930s worsened the depression and hastened war.)
Yet the effect of trade on jobs is no different from the effect of innovation. Just as imported Chinese goods have destroyed the jobs of British manufacturers, so threshing machines destroyed the jobs of farm labourers, washing machines destroyed jobs in laundries and Uber will destroy the jobs of taxi drivers, yet everybody was net better off.
Governments should certainly compensate people for locally destructive effects of changing trade or technology, but not by raising barriers against imports. That just punishes consumers and stifles economic growth.
Ridley denies that the
... European single market is a free trade area. It’s not: it’s a customs union — a fortress protected by an external tariff. And it’s shrinking as a share of world trade.
Ridley thinks, the UK would be better off after a Brexit:
Professor Patrick Minford of Cardiff Business School argues in a recent study that the single market distorts Britain’s economy, making us “produce more of what we are worst at and less of what we are best at, while our consumers have to pay excessive prices”. If Britain left the EU it would gain about 4 per cent of GDP as a result, he calculates.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 03/25/2016 at 07:43 AM in A Climate of Changes, American Culture, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Economics, Georg Thomas, History Lessons, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0)
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The black-and-white aspect of politics also encourages people to think in black-and-white terms. Not only do political parties emerge, but their supporters become akin to sports fans, feuding families, or students at rival high schools. Nuances of differences in opinions are traded for stark dichotomies that are largely fabrications. Thus, we get the “no regulation, hate the environment, hate poor people” party and the “socialist, nanny-state, hate the rich” party—and the discussions rarely go deeper than this.
No doubt, partisanship can be exaggerated to the point of becoming dangerous and destructive. I am not going to repeat what I said above about political dichotomies being the very rationale (among other rationales) of practising politics, and the many features of a modern political order dedicated to attenuating the most detrimental effects of radical antagonisms. My purpose is not to reject out of hand the authors misgivings about politics, but to show that in their criticism they are looking at only one side of the overall story.
We tend to indulge in a rationalistic perception of politics, which is natural as we are apt to assess most political arguments in as rational a way as we are capable of. For this reason, we may not feel particularly inclined to recognise "the sense in the nonsense" that much of politics may bring about, the symbolic, ritualistic and sublimational functions of politics which help build and structure, maintain and develop multi-ideological communities.
Symbols and rites can serve the function of ordering society, i.e. keeping it in a working condition especially by preventing violence and oppression. The symbols and rites of bipartisanship may well serve the purpose of a war dance that replaces the need for outright war.
I believe, it is necessary to focus far more than is customarily done on the spontaneous order of politics and the state, which may well contain features that turn politics into a valuable part of modern civilisation without anyone intending the system to work and have effects as it does, thanks to overall results achieved by human action but not by human design.
As in the spontaneous order of the economic world, ignorance is a key challenge that needs to be met by the political order for a modern civilisation to emerge. We are hugely ignorant vis-à-vis the countless topics that tend to occupy the political mind. Some of that vacuum of ignorance can never be filled with secure knowledge. We resort to unreliable, woolly, and non-scientific ways of filling the void. Sure, we begin to tell one another stories that may be well on their way to scientific respectability, but many of them may have no hope to ever become more than just-so stories.
Politics like this is no better than arguments between rival sports fans, and often worse because politics is more morally charged. Most Americans find themselves committed to either the red team (Republicans) or the blue (Democrats) and those on the other team are not merely rivals, but represent much that is evil in the world. Politics often forces its participants into pointless internecine conflict, as they struggle with the other guy not over legitimate differences in policy opinion but in an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice.
Again, in human communities, especially in large ones, we cannot help but face fundamental differences of some kind or other in our views and objectives. We shall hardly be able to ever get rid of that phenomenon. In fact, freedom encourages diversity of opinion and vision.
I cannot see how anyone, including us libertarians, should be able to determine for the rest of us what counts as legitimate differences in policy opinion - it is part of politics to compete over this question. Also, I cannot see that we libertarians refrain from an apocalyptic battle between virtue and vice. We are part of the symmetric pattern that is being formed by opposing discussants. Political opposition has an experimental side to it. We need to find out, what it is that we disagree about and what avenues may open up to resolve differences. Furthermore, political opposition has a ritualistic side to it (see also my remarks under section 8 above). There are a number of powerful reasons to form partisan groups (see below), and if a population is divided among two or three major, traditionally viable camps, this may be a sign of stability, especially if being part of a camp means that (a) one's strongest convictions and political feelings are powerfully represented in the political system and that (b) therefore there are overwhelming incentives to keep the competition non-violent, non-oppressive, and open for challenges and new developments. Being part of a very strong camp can be a "relaxing" experience, i.e. encouraging trust in the prospects of non-violent negotiations, alternating preeminence (in government) and compromise (on the level of the operative bureaucracies in which political fiat is ultimately hammered out).
So what matters is how we deal with antagonisms. The principles of liberty are one of the means by which we attempt to keep the level of tension reasonably low among millions of people with different and even incompatible preferences.
Why do we become partisans? A political agent that is powerful - intellectually and in the exercise of influence - can be helpful in reducing (subjectively experienced) rational ignorance and strengthen one's sense of responsibility and engagement - "alone I cannot do anything about outrage X, but as member of a larger group, I can." In that way, partisanship creates leverage that people will always seek, for better or worse. Having said that, we should expose such leverage to criticism where it malfunctions, but we should also be sensitive to instances of success, which certainly exist - a partisan community improving ones's knowledge and furthering a worthwhile cause. Also, there are natural and legitimate reasons to feel drawn to this group rather than that one, and thus there is a expansive need to manage legitimate partisan differences.
As for "politics like this is no better than arguments between rival sports fans:" I happen to support the soccer team of my hometown. I am pretty sure, had I been brought up in a different town, I would be supporting a different team than today. Social outlooks and political affiliations too are often a matter of upbringing and, in principle, no less worthy of tolerance than other core elements of a person's socialisation that - like her religious faith - appear to be largely determined by location/accident of birth.
How can this be? Republicans and Democrats hold opinions fully within the realm of acceptable political discourse, with each side’s positions having the support of roughly half our fellow citizens. If we can see around partisanship’s Manichean blinders, both sides have views about government and human nature that are at least understandable to normal people of normal disposition—understandable, that is, in the sense of “I can appreciate how someone would think that.” But, when you add politics to the mix, simple and modest differences of opinion become instead the difference between those who want to save America and those who seek to destroy it.
The authors make a distinction between two fundamentally distinct worlds:
For reasons explained above, such a complete separation of political views and the world of politics is unconvincing. However, this artificial dichotomy is rather characteristic of the libertarian view of politics, which latter is deemed to be essentially an admixture of malice and evil.
This behavior, while appalling, shouldn’t surprise us. Psychologists have shown for decades how people will gravitate to group mentalities that can make them downright hostile. They’ve shown how strong group identification creates systematic errors in thinking. Your “teammates” are held to less exacting standards of competence, while those on the other team are often presumed to be mendacious and acting from ignoble motives. This is yet another way in which politics makes us worse: it cripples our thinking critically about the choices before us.
Research shows clearly that we live in a far more peaceful world than our ancestors, and that the movement toward open access societies with their avenues for mass political participation is a movement toward less violence and more peace. The big challenge that needs to be dealt with successfully before modern civilisation can unfold are violence and trust. We need to reduce violence and increase trust to such an extent that people can become productive, immensely productive compared to most of mankind's history. We achieve this by a co-evolution of (a) economic relations and (b) conducive political structures. Politics is also a grown order, yet adapted to different tasks than the economy. It would seem to me that a presumption in favour of the civilising function of politics is a more promising hypothesis (to be challenged in a thousand ways) than the preconception that politics is the big spoiler of advances in our civilisation.
Psychologists have shown for decades how people will gravitate to group mentalities that can make them downright hostile. They’ve shown how strong group identification creates systematic errors in thinking.
That may well be. But the story does not end here. Civilisation is all about finding ways around dysfunctional kinds and levels of hostility. Civil society is one big complex set of arrangements to challenge tribal uniformity and foster individualism, pluralism, and a permanent and multi-pronged onslaught against strong group identification. Practicing group identification in a free society is a totally different exercise from what it used to be in closed access societies or tribal formations. Politics is the driver behind the dynamism that constantly challenges what shapes of group identification may be forming at a certain point in time. We are witnessing tremendous fragmentation and turn over of group identification thanks to our pluralistic political order. Group identification can succeed best in a stable world with strong taboos against or simply an absence of critical challenges, such as they are being organised by modern politics. It would seem that the great distinct paradigmatic blocks in politics are more like tectonic plates that grate one another, rather than one plate slipping over and thereby subduing the other plate.
This is yet another way in which politics makes us worse: it cripples our thinking critically about the choices before us.
Taken altogether, I have great difficulty to see how the political culture of a free society can be characterised as predominantly, even essentially crippling our thinking critically about the choices before us.
The human ability to think critically, express dissent and positive opinion, advertise one's own view and challenge adversaries, along with the means that support critical analysis (like the internet) has never been surrounded by a more friendly and conducive environment than today's pluralistic democratic political order.
The issues that politics must deal with are often extremely difficult and many can never be resolved harmoniously, but why should we feel entitled to indulge in a stabilised harmony?
What’s troubling about politics from a moral perspective is not that it encourages group mentalities, for a great many other activities encourage similar group thinking without raising significant moral concerns. Rather, it’s the way politics interacts with group mentalities, creating negative feedback leading directly to viciousness. Politics, all too often, makes us hate each other. Politics encourages us to behave toward each other in ways that, were they to occur in a different context, would repel us. No truly virtuous person ought to behave as politics so often makes us act.
It would be helpful if the authors explained more fully what they mean by politics. What I read suggests that to them politics is exhaustively described as the business of fomenting hate between human beings.
Also, it is not uncommon even for people who live or work together for long periods of time to feel strong antipathy for certain traits and habits in another person, without ending up in a radical conflict. When playing the game "being a soccer fan," I do not appreciate my brother-in-law cheering for the opposing team, but when playing a different game like "exploring the cultural treasures of Barcelona," we get on like a house on fire.
My impression is that in general people are quite capable of making a distinction between political divergence and other modes of human interaction. In fact, it is rare that people hate me for my political convictions; some of my friends think of me as a right winger and, notwitstanding that ugly wart, go on having a great time with me.
Again, I feel that our political culture tends to encourage tolerance and the avoidance of extreme and pointless confrontations, both among the broader population and among activists, the more confrontational among which being too easily mistaken for the larger numbers of reasonable participants in politics.
While we may be able to slightly alter how political decisions are made, we cannot change the essential nature of politics. We cannot conform it to the utopian vision of good policies and virtuous citizens. The problem is not bugs in the system but the nature of political decision-making itself. The only way to better both our world and ourselves—to promote good policies and virtue—is to abandon, to the greatest extent possible, politics itself.
The last two sentences have merit in that they give us an incisive summary of the wrongheaded approach to politics that is unfortunately predominant among libertarians, even defining the libertarian.