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I'm convinced! I'll just keep reading RedStateEclectic and decide what to do about all these uck candidates next November!

I'm convinced! I'll just keep reading RedStateEclectic and decide what to do about all these uck candidates next November!

Well written, Laura! It certainly gives one much to think about. I have read articles in the past which point to the numbers validating your claims to a divided government. Here in the uber-red state of South Carolina, my vote for a third party will not change anything but if enough of us voted that way it would sure send a message. In a way, it's easier for me to vote my conscience since it has NO chance of changing the results. If I lived in a swing state I would be a little more apprehensive when walking into the booth.

"The New Deal, World War II"

Let us not forget the Great Depression which was another byproduct of Democrat control of Congress and the Executive. The economic experimentation that they unleashed caused the prolonging of hardships until well after FDR's death.

"Holding our noses—after having been exposed to the Ron Paul Liberty movement—is an unpleasant prospect for most of us."

This is soooooo true. It felt wonderful to be pulling that lever with a feeling of hope rather than despair. It's like faerie food: once you taste it, you can never go back.

I have had time to read Laura's new piece at the think tank only one time. In order to come close to doing justice to it, it needs to be studied very carefully. Irrespective of one's final assessment of the paper, especially of Laura's conclusions (she takes a very differentiating approach, at the same time telling us clearly where she stands) her presentation and her arguments are excellent, and I can only recommend reading the piece very attentively and several times. I have already learned tremendously from it and discovered profound implications that I had not been prepared for. However, it is so rich in content, I will probably have to think about it for a number of days at least.

One of the points Laura has drawn my attention to I will have to study with particular care: I suspect that the basic construction of the separation of powers as practised in the United States is flawed, and that, as a consequence, the utility of divided government is greatly diminished.

Thanks for the kind words, Eric.

Georg, with respect to the basic construction of the separation of powers, the construction is fine--it's the application that is flawed. However, I would suggest that divided government is the best defense we have against abuse of powers until such time as we can elect people who respect the constitutional framework. Divided government at least provides some resistance--in the interest of partisan power, of course--whereas one party rule generally means a lot of "bending" of the usual rules because "we're all on the same team."

Independent of a wider assessment of your excellent piece at the think tank, I argue with respect to the political will embodied in the two parties that successfully usurp America:

I don't see where you take the confidence that the two parties do have substantively different aims, or from what incentives such principled and substantial differences of conduct are supposed to derive.

They have much to gain from control over the resources of the richest country of the world; they have the political system totally under control, both within their party organisations (which suppress opposition successfully and attract self-enrichers) and through bipartisan action.

To gain votes the two parties have to engage in the same kind of corruptive practices, which are basically expected by the population.

I see both parties going for statist excesses - the Republicans more than the Dems ever, during the last 8 years -, I see both nation-building and warmongering, I see both attacking civil liberties, I see both lacking in understanding of and respect for the Constitution.

To ignore the rule of law, which sad choice both are, must be committed to (irrespective of rhetoric)!, does very bad things to a country and its people - and there is simply no way to ignore the rule of law more benignly merely because you advance Rep arguments rather than Dem arguments and make an effort to get people to believe in the rhetorical profile of a party.

Why the allergic reaction of the Rep party to libertarians?

I see neither parties even perceiving fundamental problems in the present political system or fundamental threats to a free society, and even less do I see efforts to address these dangers.

To put it differently: what should the Republican establishment have done in the last 8 years that would have convinced you eventually: there is no difference between Dems and Reps?

A third unjust war of aggression? Still more inflation? A lower dollar? An economy in worse shape? Still more debt? Still higher taxes (debt and inflation counting as hidden taxes)?

I would call someone "pragmatic" if he/she laid bare the complementing and colluding behaviour of the two parties that own the political system.

Why was Reagan a good man, but ineffective as a vindicator of constitutional politics?

Because the basic philosophy of the state and government that the Democrats espouse has taken over the reality of the political system in America at least since the 30s.

If liberty is the aim, neither parties deserve support.

If incremental, relative deceleration of the pace of abuse and decay is the aim, I see no compelling reasons to consistently support the Reps. Sometimes the Dems are better at it - but these tactical "advantages" of one party over the other, I am not interested in. Otherwise I would not have taken an interest in Ron Paul.

Every vote taken away from the Demublicans is a good vote, undermining its basis of public legitimacy, every effort directed at debunking the system is far more worth than efforts at reinforcing the status quo in the hope that abuses and decay will slow down somewhat.

If those who make the laws that determine what government can do or cannot do, yes, in fact, determine what government must do, are at the same time given the task of running government, the concept of divided government becomes meaningless. For in this way, it is possible to exercise unrestrained power; once that possibility, that incentive is established, what do you think will happen if two parties "compete" with one another? They will keep that sweet option working, irrespective which party happens to be "more in power" at a given, transient time than the other.

The fundamental issue, therefore, is not how many parties vie for unrestrained power or whether government is divided or uniform, the fundamental issue is whether we have "government under the law", meaning is there a law, are there constitutional restraints in place that make sure that government can only assume functions that are needed to foster a free society or whether government - in whatever transient constellation - can basically empower itself to do what it likes to do?

The option of unrestrained power, which the American political system offers in reality, is what has turned the Republicans into Democrats (who never saw a problem with unrestrained power, as they believe in the democratic hoax of the people/the majority as sovereign) a long time ago.

Incidentally, the same will happen to libertarians if they become part of the club in the continued absence of effective constitutional restraints.

Further to my below comments: Once unrestrained power is feasible, once there is no difference between (a) law (supposedly restraining government) and (b) "law" or legislation that is equally used to define what government can and cannot do in principle AND what arbitrary, concrete, particular, partial and intrusive measures of government are "lawful", there is any number of possibilities to create layers, loopholes, ramifications of delegated power etc. to neatly cover society with "lawful" ways of government on levels lower and less visible than Congress or the Oval Office.

The possibilities for bipartisan collusion are countless, and through these hidden ramifications of unrestrained power you develop a system of uncontrolled para-government, bureaucracies, NGO etc. that develop a dynamics of their own, both forcing the visible players to serve them or to live - aware or unaware of it - with the powerful unintended consequences of that machinery.

If my choice is: to cover that system (and be it "only" by tactical voting) or to tell people that they are being lied to about the nature of their political system from cradle to grave, I choose the latter.

Never have libertarians been needed more than today, never has a vote taken away from the Demublicans and given to libertraians been more valueable.

That's my position.

Georg, Obviously we're going to have to disagree on many elements of the American political scene, in large, part, I suppose, because we have differing perspectives of inside and outside.

I don't disagree at all with the general notion that Republicans have acted in a statist manner, especially in more recent years--most especially in the 6 years when they held control of both the Presidency and the Congress. That being said, most Americans perceive a very different focus of that statism compared to the statism of the Democrats.

Compared to the ideal (which, I would note, simply does not exist, and likely will not exist entirely in my lifetime), any combination of the current form of the establishment parties is unacceptable. But when one looks at the current real political climate, and the options which we actually have, I think you underestimate the adversarial nature of our two party system--at least among partisans. Sometimes they'll fight just for the sake of fighting--and in doing so, they limit how much they can get done--and the less that statists of either brand can get done, the better, in my view.

Laura, you write: "I think you underestimate the adversarial nature of our two party system--at least among partisans. Sometimes they'll fight just for the sake of fighting--and in doing so, they limit how much they can get done--and the less that statists of either brand can get done, the better, in my view."

If my logic is correct, the "opposition" of the Republican (establishment) vis-à-vis the Democrats is the best that could ever happen to the Democrats, who have managed to define the nature of the political system, which is fundamentally totalitarian (illegitimate coercion imposed on the entire society) and statist.

Thus, the longer the illusion of differences of principle between the parties is maintained along with a system of unrestrained power, the more statism we will get (which is borne out by 8 years of Rep power). By putting on a show of adversity they don't "limit how much they can get done," to the contrary, they collaborate to widen the scope of it; both stand to benefit from it, for together they have "cornered" a system that allows unrestrained power expansion. They would be fools to restrict this immense power that they wield together - hence their dislike of the Constitution.

Just because the system seems so entrenched does not make it a bit better. I am absolutely opposed to it, and if there is to be a chance at all to change it, you must go against it not with it.

Laura, you write: "...the ideal (which, I would note, simply does not exist, and likely will not exist entirely in my lifetime)..."

Well, the ideal does exist and represents a minimal standard, rather than some airy-fairy utopia. That government power should be meaningfully circumscribed/restrained is something that we should and can get almost everybody to agree upon. But we won't get there, if we seek power restraints where they are not to be had, if we feel sufficiently protected by an arrangement that in fact invites abuse and expansion of unrestrained power. Which is the case, when we think that two parties having different opinions on certain matters are sufficient, while both have any means needed to exercise unrestrained power.

It will always be difficult to enforce and maintain the minimal standard, the ideal of restrained government, but we won't even get to defend it as perfectible as it may turn out, if we spend all our energey on barking up the wrong tree.

I give up. You win, Georg. I'm not going to convince you of the political realities that I see as one who has spent most of my life a part of and studying the American political system. I don't disagree with you that both party establishments are repugnant right now. But we have what we have. It's not going to change overnight. So I believe we need to minimize damage as best as we are able. I have to live and raise my children in the system, and anything I can do to minimize damage--even if it's encouraging inter-partisan squabbling to limit what they can get passed that inhibits our liberty more, I will. And in addition to educating people, I will also be very busy getting my hands dirty organizing folks who will make the political system turn. Hence, the projects which will limit my participation a bit for the next 2 weeks.

In our political system, purist ideology rarely does anything more than make a bit of noise--usually nothing that's even paid attention to. Bob Barr's status as a former Republican Congressman opens doors that let him promote the cause of liberty more than most Libertarian candidates, and yet many LP members will openly acknowledge that he's not "pure enough" for them.

American politics is often about striving for the highest possible (under the circumstances) good.

I am now going to get to have a late breakfast with my children, and then get to work on some of my projects.

Laura, your absolutely outstanding paper


has shaken me, given me a sleepless night and, as a result, forced me to begin to think through matters of the greatest importance.

And I will have to read your paper over and over again, which I encourage all our readers to do, too.

If your political activities are driven by a genuine desire to approximate truth, you are a winner.

The depth, high quality and honesty of your paper has been my gain. It has given me insights I haven't had before and a lot more doubts, but honest, truth-facing doubts from which come still better insights.

Thank you, Laura.

My apologies for any role my article may have played in a sleepless night. Have an extra beer this evening!

Laura, you know more about births. Your brilliant paper got me so involved, I had to think all night...and the process your paper started, helped and informed isn't over yet.

Cheers, and to your health and thank you so much.

The extra beer is a "Bitburger", from a place Reagan visited when on tour in Germany, not far from Spangdahlem (sounds funny in German, too), where now all US fighter jets in Germany are concentrated.

Spangdahlem is 15 flying minutes from Ramstein, where they used to be stationed too - but now Ramstein is almost exclusively a hub for passenger/troop transporting and cargo planes, the modern ones being amazingly "leise" (not noisy, what's the word for a "quiet" plane? "Low noise", I suppose.)

I remain convinced, Laura. Especially after taking Georg's advice and rereading this fine article. And, after checking this site to learn your background and that of Georg (per his suggestion), I confess some intimidation in offering my opinion here! Certainly I lack your credentials. But in true Libertarian fashion I assert that none of us have all truth while all of us have some truth.

My perspective is one unfiltered by scholarly application, and thus perhaps more representative of the American public. And I'm testifying that what you suggest, Laura, divided government, is for me the best possible outcome given our candidate slate. The less Congress is able to work with the president, the better. So barring some unforseen awful revelation about the warmongering McCain, I'm thinking he'll get my vote. (Besides, he has pledged to finally fund special ed., a nearly four decades old unfulfilled promise in this country, and one of which I take a personal interest, Libertarianism notwithstanding.) Hopefully the Democratic Congress can keep some McCain warfare at bay.

I did not note in your piece, Laura, any comment about the unreliability of campaign rhetoric. Too often I have voted for my candidate only to discover that he/she would not do what had been promised. (This effect was so maddeningly true at the state and local level while I lived in Nebraska that I quite literally fled the state at early retirement!) I am certain you are all too aware of this phenomenon, yet you offer no derision. Are you just too nice?


I had ample opportunity to state my case, so let me be appropriately brief and leave the forum (of this thread) for fresh players. The position that Laura takes in her conclusions could not be better argued. Who am I to decide how others should vote; I only hope that my ideas will be taken into consideration which ever way one decides to vote. Yes, D'Anne, Laura has provided us with a most inspiring paper. I hope as many of our readers as possible will study it, and gain from it, in their way, as much as I have.

D'Anne and Georg,

Thank you for the kind words all around. D'Anne, it's not that I'm too nice (although I do try to be nice). I am fully cognizant of the problem of broken campaign promises, but even so, I don't really care too much about what John McCain or anyone else promises at this point--my concern is that neither Democrats nor Republicans have full control of our government until we get enough people who will think constitutionally in place. By the way, no one should feel intimidated about commenting here--we're all students of liberty, and can all learn from one another.

Bravo. I knew I liked you Laura. I've linked to you before, when I drafted one of your posts into an early edition of the Carnival of Divided Government - a more or less monthly compilation of writers and bloggers thinking along these lines. I'll include your article and this post in the upcoming 4th of July edition. Its a great article, succinctly summarizing the issues that we face in this election. I've been flogging the divided government meme for over two years now. Your article echoes many of my views and we even cite some similar sources. In particular - James Madison is also a favorite of mine - particularly when writing in Federalist #51 - "ambition must be made to counteract ambition." I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the subject as the political season progresses, and count you as an ally in the Sisyphean task of promoting the idea.

mw--thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for including this piece in your July 4 edition!

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