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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Neither full-blooded libertarians nor allegedly liberty-loving tea-party enthusiasts really care much about governing. Libertarians, accustomed to dwelling on the margins of American politics, participate in elections without hope of electoral success, if they participate at all. For them, presidential campaigns offer at best an occasion to preach the libertarian gospel to the wary public, and the more table-pounding the better. As for the tea partiers, they seem less interested in practical policy solutions to America’s problems and rather more interested in fighting a culture war over what it means to be authentically American. Unless ostensibly liberty-loving conservative voters become convinced that the sensible liberalisation of drug and immigration policy is implied by the inspired language of the Constitution of Independence, the eagle will not soar for Mr Johnson.

I’d find this pessimistic take refreshing were I in a bad mood.  But it occurs to me another approach would be to try to build momentum for Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign.  Look, if you want to see a political candidate get elected because of X, Y, and Z, and you recognize that not enough other people care about X, Y, and Z to elect that candidate, then the best response would be to try to convince all those people that X, Y, and Z are important.  I file this defeatism under failure of marketing creativity.


Matt Yglesias, while defending realist foreign policy, nonetheless is morally adamant that dictatorial rule is morally wrong.

Ruling a country as a dictator is morally wrong…Killing protestors is even more morally wrong…If your only way to hold an office you don’t deserve is to shoot protestors, then you’re deep in the weeds of some morally wrong conduct. That’s obvious and it would seem bizarre for Obama…to voice any other kind of opinion on the matter.  But if the President of the United States says things, he’s expected to back them up with action. Which is fine. But action often isn’t warranted!

I don’t think it’s so bizarre to add some gray to black and white world of dictatorial decision-making.  There are unanswered questions that may mitigate or even justify the decision to shoot protestors.  If the protestors intend to overthrow your government, what type of government to they plan to install?  What’s the likelihood your country descends into anarchy?  History tells us that unexpected and terrible things can happen to countries when their political structures collapse; this seems like an outcome that everyone should be trying to avoid.  It seems quite likely there are cases where harsh rule to maintain stability is morally sound.  As Matt Yglesias points out, stability is a good thing.  And as Matt Yglesias also says, these issues are complex:

It’s difficult to understand world events by trying to reductively view everything as a struggle of visionary good guys against blood-stained tyrants…Politicians are normally a mixed bag, and need to be assessed as such.

My perception of discussions of racism is that they tend to suffer from equivocation errors.  Racism is a politically charged term that has many different meanings, and too often conservations reach this awkward point.  I’m going to attempt to break apart three separate types of racism, which are related but independent.  I don’t mean this analysis to be exhaustive; it’s merely one way of framing the discussion. Read More »

Ross Douthat writes:

It’s important, I think, to distinguish “talk radio conservatives” from “the base” writ large: The former is a subset of the latter, and…not a large enough subset to actually decide a primary campaign… The underlying theory behind the talk radio critique of Daniels is basically that you can’t trust a man who disarms liberals with his seeming reasonability, and what you need instead is somebody who takes the fight to the left at every opportunity. This is an excellent description of the qualities required … to be a good talk radio host. But when applied to the presidential scene, it amounts to a kind of politics of schadenfreude, in which actual conservative accomplishments count for nothing, the ability to woo undecided voters is downgraded or dismissed, and all that matters is how much a prospective candidate irritates liberals.

I think this interpretation, which casts blame upon specific conservative media figures, is both accurate and actionable.  There’s a clear path for thinking conservatives to take to restore power to their side: criticize the crazy people on their own side.  Or in other words, be Conor Friedersdorf.

…and both can be used to stab yourself in the eye.

My mood lately has been one of agitation and restlessness.  My recent attempts at writing blog posts have reflected those moods, and have also been utter garbage.  Interesting/important news events have occurred, and I have commentary, but have not converted it into compelling prose.  In time, I will.

I find this research from Pew really interesting, as it tries to segment voters beyond a one-dimensional political spectrum.  Segmentation can produce meaningful results, but it can also be misinterpreted.  For instance, consider this chart:

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Osama bin Laden was buried at sea because the United States worried that a land burial might create a place where bin Laden supporters could go to be placed under surveillance.