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Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the “F” Word – The Electoral Clown Car Is Full of Nationalistic Socialists – Article by Steven Horwitz

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The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
August 6, 2015
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“There are far too many candidates,” writes Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. “And to gain attention they are juggling, tooting horns and blowing slide whistles like so many painted performers emerging from a clown car.” The two clowns making the most noise in recent weeks are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

At first glance, it would seem they couldn’t be more different: a Democrat and a Republican, a friend of the unions and a CEO, a man of relatively modest means by congressional standards and one of the wealthiest men in the United States. But a closer look reveals some interesting similarities and teaches us an important lesson about the history of ideas. What Sanders and Trump have in common is no laughing matter.

Recent articles by libertarians on both candidates have suggested that they are both strongly nationalist. Dan Bier tore apart Sanders for his views on immigration, and both Jeff Tucker and Jason Kuznicki have associated Trump with nationalism and perhaps even a variant of fascism. I think they are all on to something: Sanders and Trump have a lot more in common than many think. But before I get there, we need to take a detour into the history of socialism and fascism.

In its original conception, Marxian socialism was strongly internationalist. Marx’s theory was based on the idea of class struggle and the disparity in power between those who owned the means of production (the capitalists) and those who did not (the proletariat).

Marxism has nothing to do with nationality. It’s all about class, defined as whether or not one owns capital. For true Marxists, a German worker has much more in common with a Russian worker or an Italian worker than he or she does with a German capitalist. Marxism did not give any importance to national borders.

For many in the early 20th century, this was a problem with Marxism, especially in the aftermath of World War I. Much like today, people were looking for a “third way” between capitalism and socialism. For many of those people, that third way was fascism.

Today we use the word fascism as an epithet, especially for bossy people. We associate it with dictatorships, and especially with Nazism. It turns out that fascism was a fairly well-worked-out theory of how to organize a society, and in its original form was not about racism or anti-Semitism directly. Fascism was an attempt to combine what people saw as the best parts of capitalism and socialism, and then to do so in the context of putting nationality before class.

The most extensive writing about how fascism would work came from the Italians in the 1920s and 1930s, and interested readers should find a copy of Luigi Villari’s The Economics of Fascism to see the details. (You can find a nice summary of those ideas in Sheldon Richman’s entry on fascism in the online Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.)

The fascists argued that the whole notion of class conflict was the problem. Instead of pitting class against class and tearing nations apart, why not bring all the parties together and give them the chance to cooperate with each other rather than struggle their way to socialism? The fascist economy was built around a series of cartels where the state, the nominal owners of the means of production, and the workers (represented by labor unions) would get together and figure out what to produce, how to produce it, what to charge, and how much profit would be “allowed.”

The fascists agreed with socialism’s desire not to leave markets to spontaneous ordering forces, but they thought the nation-state should direct the economy, not the workers. Both capitalism and socialism involved conflict, not cooperation. The same third-way thinking, and some of the same structures, were present in the first two years of the New Deal in the United States. The cartels of the National Recovery Administration were modeled after Italian fascism, and FDR and Mussolini were mutual admirers.

You can see how fascism took elements of both capitalism and socialism, then added nationalism. The idea was to look out for the welfare of the nation-state first. The Italian capitalist and the Italian worker were both Italians first and foremost, and that should be the first call on their allegiance. Lashing socialism to the glorification of the nation-state gives us fascism, and you can see why anyone who represented a threat to national identity would quickly become a problem.

This is one reason why the German version of fascism so easily linked up with a long history of German anti-Semitism. The Nazis were undoubtedly socialist (recall that Nazi is short for National Socialist German Workers Party), as even a quick glance at their 1920 platform will tell you. They were also, even at that date, fiercely nationalist. In Hitler’s hands, that national pride quickly became a desire to glorify the Aryan race.

Plus, recall that Jews were disproportionately both capitalists and supporters of the Marxist revolution in Russia — not to mention the symbol of the cosmopolitan, rootless nomad for centuries. Many of those who wanted to reject both capitalism and Marxian socialism saw the Jews as the symbol of both.

So what does this have to do with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?

I would argue that they are both “nationalist socialists.” That is, they both embody key elements of fascism. They both think the nation comes first, and they both think the United States is an organization (not a spontaneous order) that should be under someone’s control.

The difference is that Sanders sees both the problems and the solutions from the workers’ perspective, so he’s focusing on both the exploitation by capitalists and keeping immigrants out to protect the wages of US workers. The losses to US workers matter more than the large gains to foreign-born workers coming here.

Trump sees all of this from the CEO/owner/capitalist perspective. He thinks the United States is, or should be, like a big firm where we all work together for a common goal. He envisions himself as the CEO, negotiating deals with other countries as if they, too, were just big corporate firms. But nations are not firms — they are spontaneous orders.

As I argued in an earlier column, “Socialism Is War and War Is Socialism,” this desire to turn spontaneous orders into hierarchies is characteristic of both war and socialism. It is also deeply embedded in fascism, and Sanders and Trump exemplify that tendency among the presidential candidates, though they do so with different emphases and rhetoric.

Their commonalities are also why our conventional binary left-right political spectrum makes no sense. That one candidate is perceived as far to the left and the other as (to some degree) a right-wing capitalist shows the depth of our failure to understand history. They have both rejected the spontaneous order of the market as well as the cosmopolitanism of liberalism and socialism. They are fascist brothers under the skin.

That both are getting the attention and support of so many Americans should be a matter of grave concern. After all, some clowns are far more scary than funny.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective, now in paperback.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Nixon’s Vindication – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 8, 2014
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Forty years ago many Americans celebrated the demise of the imperial presidency with the resignation of Richard Nixon. Today it is clear they celebrated too soon. Nixon’s view of presidential powers, summed up in his infamous statement that, “when the president does it that means it is not illegal,” is embraced by the majority of the political class. In fact, the last two presidents have abused their power in ways that would have made Nixon blush.

For example, Nixon’s abuse of the Internal Revenue Service to persecute his political opponents was the subject of one of the articles of impeachment passed by the US House of Representatives. As bad as Nixon’s abuse of the IRS was, he was hardly the first president to use the IRS this way, and the present administration seems to be continuing this tradition. The targeting of Tea Party groups has received the most attention, but it is not the only instance of the IRS harassing President Barack Obama’s political opponents. For example, the IRS has demanded that one of my organizations, Campaign for Liberty, hand over information regarding its major donors.

Nixon’s abuse of federal power to spy on his “enemies” was abhorrent, but Nixon’s abuses of civil liberties pale in comparison to those of his successors. Today literally anyone in the world can be spied on, indefinitely detained, or placed on a presidential “kill list” based on nothing more than a presidential order. For all his faults, Nixon never tried to claim the power to unilaterally order anyone in the world detained or killed.

Many today act as apologists for the imperial presidency. One reason for this is that many politicians place partisan concerns above loyalty to the Constitution. Thus, they openly defend, and even celebrate, executive branch power grabs when made by a president of their own party.

Another reason is the bipartisan consensus in support of the warfare state. Many politicians and intellectuals in both parties support an imperial presidency because they recognize that the Founders’ vision of a limited executive branch is incompatible with an aggressive foreign policy. When Republicans are in power “neoconservatives” take the lead, while when Democrats are in power “humanitarian interventionists” take the lead. Regardless of party or ideological label, they share the same goal — to protect the executive branch from being constrained by the constitutional requirement that the president seek congressional approval before waging war.

The strength of the bipartisan consensus that the president should have limitless discretion in committing troops to war is illustrated by the failure of an attempt to add an article dealing with Nixon’s “secret bombing” of Cambodia to the articles of impeachment. Even at the low point of support for the imperial presidency, Congress still refused to rein in the president’s war-making powers.

The failure to include the Cambodia invasion in the articles of impeachment may well be the main reason Watergate had little to do with reining in the imperial presidency. Because the imperial presidency is rooted in the war power, attempts to rein in the imperial presidency that do not work to restore Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war are doomed to fail.

Repealing Nixon’s legacy requires building a new bipartisan coalition in favor of peace and civil liberties, rejecting what writer Gene Healy calls “the cult of the presidency,” and placing loyalty to the Constitution above partisanship. An important step must be restoring congressional supremacy in matters of war and peace.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Congress Defers to President On NSA Reform – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
January 12, 2014
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Congress’s decline from the Founders’ vision as “first among equals” in government to an echo chamber of the unitary executive, has been a slow but steady process. In the process we have seen a steady stream of unconstitutional wars and civil-liberties abuses at home. Nowhere is this decline more evident than in the stark contrast between the Congressional response to intelligence agencies’ abuses during the post-Watergate era and its response to the far more serious NSA abuses uncovered in recent years.In 1975, Senator Frank Church (D-ID) convened an historic select committee to investigate the US intelligence services for possible criminality in the wake of Watergate. Thanks in part to reporting by Seymour Hersh and others, abuses by the CIA, NSA, and FBI had come to light, including the monitoring of US peace activists.The Church Committee played its proper Congressional role, checking the power of the executive branch as it had been spiraling out of control since the 1950s and the early CIA covert action programs. The Committee sought to protect US citizens against abuses by their government after those abuses had come to light through leaks of secret government documents.

The parallel to the present NSA scandals cannot be ignored. What is completely different, however, is that Congress is today acting as an advocate for the executive branch’s continuing abuses, and as an opponent to the civil liberties of US citizens. Not only has Congress – with a precious few exceptions – accepted the NSA’s mass spying program on American citizens, it has actually been encouraging the president to continue and expand the program!

Where once there was a Congressional committee to challenge and oppose the president’s abuse of power, today the president himself has been even allowed by a complacent Congress to hand pick his own NSA review commission!

Are we really expected to believe that a commission appointed by the president to look into the activities of the president’s intelligence services will come to anything more than a few superficial changes to give the impression of real reform?

One of the president’s commission recommendations is that the NSA cease holding our phone records and demand that the private phone companies retain those records instead – for the NSA to access as it wishes. This is supposed to be reform?

The president will make a speech this Friday to tell the rest of us which of the suggestions made by his own commission he will decide to implement. Congress has no problem with that. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) admitted last week that Congress has no intention of asserting itself in the process. “It’s my hope that [Obama will] do as much as he can through the executive process because the legislative process will be difficult, perilous and long.”

Senator Church famously said back in 1975:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air… We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left… There would be no place to hide…. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Have we reached that point? Let us hope not. Real reform begins with the repeal of the PATRIOT Act and of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. If we keep our eye on that goal and not allow ourselves to become distracted with the president’s phony commissions we might force Congress to listen.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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An Opening to Iran? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
October 6, 2013
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Last week, for the first time since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the US president spoke with his Iranian counterpart. Their 15-minute telephone call was reported to open the door to further high-level discussions. This is a very important event.I have been saying for years that we should just talk to the Iranians. After all, we talked to the Soviets when they actually had thousands of nuclear missiles pointed at us! The Iranians have none, according to our own intelligence services. I even suggested a few years ago that we should “offer friendship” to them. Unfortunately, so many so-called experts have a stake in keeping tensions high and pushing us to war. They did not want to hear what I was saying. It seems, though, this is beginning to change now with these recent events.

The phone call was one of the most important moves away from war and conflict in a long time. Taken with the Obama administration’s decision to hold off on bombing Syria, we should be encouraged.

It is also probably a good sign that this phone call has infuriated the neoconservatives at home, the pro-war faction in Israel, and the hard-liners in Iran. Now that a process of negotiation has begun, the chance of war has been significantly reduced. The US is very unlikely to bomb Iran while it is talking with them, and Israel is also unlikely to start a war while the US is at the negotiating table with the Iranian leadership.

But we should also remain very cautious. Obama’s war on Syria was only stopped because the American people finally stood up and said “enough.” The message was received loud and clear and it shocked the neocons pushing war. They were used to being in charge of foreign policy.

In a recent CNN poll, more than 75% of Americans favored negotiations with Iran. This is very good news, but those pushing for war will not give up that easily. Believe it or not, some Members of Congress have recently introduced legislation to authorize war on Iran – even as these first steps toward a peaceful resolution of our differences begin to bear fruit!

So no, they will not give up that easily. There are many in the president’s own Cabinet who do not want to see US/Iranian relations improve. Even the president himself seems unable to avoid provocative statements — such as his claim that the Iranians are only willing to talk because the sanctions have been so successful in bringing them to the table. That is a false and unnecessary boast, and if he continues in such a way he will destroy what progress has been made.

But we are in the majority now. There are more than three-quarters of us who do not want war on Iran. It is essential that we keep the pressure on the Administration to ignore the war demands in both political parties and among the so-called foreign policy experts. There will be much more war propaganda coming our way as the warmongers get more desperate. Americans must see this propaganda for what it is. They should educate themselves and become familiar with alternative news sources to gain the tools to counter the propaganda. We do have a better chance at peace, but this is no time to let down our guard!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Libertarian Democrat: When New York Produced Giants for Liberty – Article by Lawrence W. Reed

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The New Renaissance Hat
Lawrence W. Reed
August 18, 2013
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The idea pervades the bill that severe penalties will secure enforcement; but all experience shows that undue severity of laws defeats their execution … [N]o law can be sustained which goes beyond public feeling and sentiment. All experience shows that temperance, like other virtues, is not produced by lawmakers, but by the influences of education, morality and religion. Men may be persuaded—they cannot be compelled—to adopt habits of temperance.

—Horatio Seymour, 1854

This essay is about a long-forgotten New Yorker who served in his state’s legislature and twice as governor, then nearly became President of the United States. Much respected, even beloved by many in his day, his name was Horatio Seymour. He deserves to be dusted off and appreciated now, almost 130 years since his death. But first, some context.

The Democratic Party in the state of New York these days is about as “liberal” (in the twentieth-century, American sense of the term) as it gets. On economic issues in particular, it is reliably statist, meaning it rarely deviates from the “more government is the answer” mentality, no matter how strongly logic or evidence point elsewhere. But not so long ago, New York’s Democrats were largely of the opposite persuasion. They were often what we now would call “classical liberals,” ardent skeptics of the concentration of power. Classical liberals really believed in liberty; today’s liberals really don’t.

Local and national Democratic Party organizations today host “Jefferson-Jackson Day” dinners in honor of two of the party’s early representatives. If Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson could stop in for a drink, it’s not likely that either one of them would recognize their party after all these years. Arguably, they’d be horrified enough to resign their memberships. My guess is that Jackson would become an Independent while Jefferson would bolt for the Libertarians.

New York City in the 1830s was the birthplace of the Locofocos, the most principled libertarians the Democratic Party ever produced. Their opposition to subsidies, high tariffs, special favors, fiat money, and interventionist government helped keep the state and national party on the right side of liberty until the silver-tongued currency crank William Jennings Bryan came along in 1896.

Martin Van Buren, Jackson’s successor, was a New York Democrat. Economist and historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel argues that Van Buren may be the most libertarian of all the American presidents.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Democrats fought the Whigs, who stood for a Hamiltonian big government that would dispense privilege and corporate welfare, jack up tariffs, and centralize banking. When the Republicans picked up the mantle of the Whigs in the late 1850s, Democrats opposed them for the same reasons. With the exception of Horace Greeley, the most pro-liberty presidential candidates in the thirty years after the Civil War were the Democratic nominees who didn’t win (Seymour, Tilden, and Hancock). The only Democrat to actually capture the White House between 1865 and 1912—Grover Cleveland, born in New Jersey but a New Yorker most of his life and governor of the state—was arguably one of the very best and most pro-liberty presidents of the 44 we’ve had.

New York was home also to eight-term congressman Bourke Cockran, who emerged in the 1890s as one of the staunchest and most eloquent defenders of Jeffersonian liberty Americans ever sent to Washington from anywhere.

But something happened to the Democratic Party in the years between Cleveland and the next Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson—my personal choice for the worst of all presidents. That sad turn of events is a story for another day. Allow me now to return to my primary subject, Horatio Seymour.

Seymour wrote those words at the top of this essay. They were part of his 1854 veto of one of the earliest alcohol prohibition measures that made it to a governor’s desk. If the wisdom of that veto message had been heeded 65 years later, America would have been spared the imbecility of Prohibition. So, too, it could have saved us from compounding that destructive error with a futile, expensive, and tyrannical War on Drugs in more recent decades. His view on Prohibition was indicative of his general perspective on the role of government in our lives. He was no friend of the meddlesome nanny state.

Seymour was born in 1810 in Onondaga County, New York, early in the presidency of another Jeffersonian Democrat (from Virginia), James Madison. At the age of 23, he went to Albany, where he labored for six years as military secretary to the state’s Democratic governor, William L. Marcy. There, he gained detailed knowledge of the state’s politics. In 1841 he won election to the New York State Assembly and served simultaneously as mayor of Utica from 1842 to 1843. He was elected speaker of the assembly in 1845, then governor of the state in 1852. His veto of the Prohibition bill cost him in his reelection bid, which he lost by a mere 309 votes statewide.

FEE’s senior historian, Dr. Burton Folsom (author of The Myth of the Robber Barons, New Deal or Raw Deal, and other great works) reminds me that Seymour wasn’t as solid on economic issues as New York’s Locofocos: “Seymour was from Utica, and because that town was right on the Erie Canal, he favored state-funded construction of the Erie Canal.  He also favored (though with less enthusiasm) the state funding of the eight branch canals, all of which lost money.” Indeed, Seymour should have seen the logical inconsistency of canal subsidies and small government, but such are the blemishes of politics, which is why when we grade its practitioners, we have to do so “on the curve” or most would flunk. I still see greatness in Seymour on other counts.

The country drifted inexorably toward sectional conflict for the rest of the 1850s. Out of office but an influential former governor of the most populous state, Seymour made headlines whenever he spoke. Prominent party leaders promoted him for the presidential nomination in 1856 and 1860 but he declined to run. He opposed slavery but was reluctant to go to war over either it or the question of secession. When war came in 1861, he staked out a definitive position on the Lincoln administration’s suppression of civil liberties and questionable constitutional ventures such as suspension of habeas corpus:  “Government is not strengthened by the exercise of doubtful powers, but by a wise and energetic exertion of those which are incontestable. The former course never fails to produce discord, suspicion and distrust, while the latter inspires respect and confidence.”

As the war groaned on, Seymour chastised Lincoln and the Republicans for imprisoning (without trial) thousands of dissenters who questioned the war or its conduct. He demanded to know why citizens of the North had to be warred upon by their own government. “Liberty is born in war,” he declared. “It does not die in war! I denounce the doctrine that Civil War in the South takes away from the loyal North the benefits of one principle of civil liberty!”

Defending civil liberties in the midst of a major war was a courageous stand in the 1860s. Even among the large and vocal cadre of Lincoln apologists today, it’s not kosher to bring up the seamy side of our 16th President’s policies. But in the day, some very patriotic Americans like Seymour raised serious questions that deserve attention now as they did then.

In 1862, Seymour was again elected governor of New York and was embroiled the very next year in a vigorous battle with the Lincoln administration over the military draft. He strongly opposed it as unconstitutional. He refused to pay the state’s foreign creditors in paper greenbacks, insisting instead on payment in the medium specified in the terms of the debt—gold. Defeated narrowly for reelection in 1864, Seymour resumed his prominent role as a respected elder statesman and spokesman for Democratic principles. He might have taken the presidential nomination away from George McClellan in 1864 but, as in the past, he declined many demands that he be a candidate.

With no strong Democratic contender for the presidential nomination in 1868, Seymour’s name bubbled to the top again. I’ve written elsewhere about Republican James A. Garfield as the most reluctant man ever to be elected President of the United States. Horatio Seymour is easily the most reluctant man ever to be nominated and not get elected, though he came close. Leading up to the Democratic Party convention in 1868, he declared numerous times that he would not be a candidate. He even accepted the role as permanent chairman of the convention because the very position would make it impossible to also be a candidate, but after 21 deadlocked ballots the conventioneers violated party rules and nominated Seymour anyway. He ran against Republican Ulysses S. Grant out of a sense of obligation to his party, not any lust for the job. Democrats made Francis P. Blair of Missouri his vice presidential running mate.

Almost immediately, Republicans waved “the bloody shirt,” accusing Seymour and the Democrats of treason. The Democratic nominee was a “traitor” because he had once supported secession, though he took that position purely (and in the view of this author, correctly) because the Constitution neither addressed nor forbade it. Like it or not, the notion that secession was a right of any state was a widely held perspective in both the North and the South in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Republicans vilified it for reasons of power and politics, but it was not for many decades a “radical” or unsupportable view in America, even among Northern newspaper editors.

In his superb 1938 biography, Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell writes that Seymour was on solid ground in arousing opposition to Republican duplicity, by which I mean claiming to be defenders of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution while trampling on the rights upheld in both. “The fact was,” according to Stewart (quoting liberally from Seymour himself), “that within ten states of the Union any American citizen who dared to quote that declaration in his own defense ‘would be tried and punished by a military tribunal.’” Moreover, “If a citizen of the state where the ashes of Washington lay buried were to remind his rulers that ‘the military should ever be subordinate to the civil authority,’ he could be ‘dragged to prison’ even from the grave of the man who wrote the declaration.”

The Seymour-Blair platform assailed the party of Lincoln and Grant in certain if not grandiloquent terms, and largely from a pro-liberty perspective. It called for restoration of a sound, metallic currency and lower tariffs. It condemned the Republican Party thusly:

It has nullified there (in the ten states occupied by federal troops) the right of trial by jury; it has abolished habeas corpus, that most sacred writ of liberty; it has overthrown the freedom of speech and of the press; it has substituted arbitrary seizures and arrests, and military trials and secret star-chamber inquisitions, for the constitutional tribunals; it has disregarded in time of peace the right of the people to be free from searches and seizures; it has entered the post and telegraph offices, and even the private rooms of individuals, and seized their private papers and letters without any specific charge or notice of affidavit, as required by the organic law; it has converted the American capitol into a Bastille; it has established a system of spies and official espionage to which no constitutional monarchy of Europe would now dare to resort; it has abolished the right of appeal, on important constitutional questions, to the Supreme Judicial tribunal, and threatens to curtail, or destroy, its original jurisdiction, which is irrevocably vested by the Constitution; while the learned Chief Justice has been subjected to the most atrocious calumnies, merely because he would not prostitute his high office to the support of the false and partisan charges preferred against the President. Its corruption and extravagance have exceeded anything known in history, and by its frauds and monopolies it has nearly doubled the burden of the debt created by the war; it has stripped the President of his constitutional power of appointment, even of his own Cabinet. Under its repeated assaults the pillars of the government are rocking on their base, and should it succeed in November next and inaugurate its President, we will meet, as a subjected and conquered people, amid the ruins of liberty and the scattered fragments of the Constitution.
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Grant easily won the election in the Electoral College, 214 to 80, but the popular vote was a different story. There the margin was less than six points, as Grant bested Seymour 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent. With Grant’s troops occupying most Southern states, controlling many polling stations and actively disenfranchising significant numbers of Southern whites whose votes would likely have gone Democratic, Seymour’s 47.3 percent seems all the more remarkable.

In his 1944 book about losing presidential contenders, They Also Ran, Irving Stone described Seymour as “one of the most intelligent, high-minded and able statesmen produced in America since the creators of the Constitution.” He argued that Seymour’s gentle character likely would have made him an excellent president, “the most logical figure in the country to bind the wounds of the war and wipe out the bitterness.” But alas, he didn’t get the chance.

Seymour never ran for office again after 1868 and turned down a guaranteed seat in the U.S. Senate, two more likely nominations for governor, and even two strong efforts to nominate him for the presidency in both 1876 and 1880. He may hold the record in American history for turning down more opportunities for high office than anyone else. His last political activity was to campaign for Grover Cleveland in 1884. He lived long enough to see Cleveland elected as the first Democrat since James Buchanan. Seymour died in February 1886 at the age of 75 and is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York.

Horatio Seymour, a significant figure and friend of liberty in his day, is remembered by few and appreciated by even fewer. We should not treat the good men of our past this way.

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The author wishes to thank Mr. John Chodes of New York, a longtime FEE supporter, for his tireless efforts to remind his state and nation of the important contributions of his fellow New Yorker, Horatio Seymour.

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in 2008. Prior to that, he was a founder and president for twenty years of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan. He also taught Economics full-time and chaired the Department of Economics at Northwood University in Michigan from 1977 to 1984.

He holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Grove City College (1975) and an M.A. degree in History from Slippery Rock State University (1978), both in Pennsylvania. He holds two honorary doctorates, one from Central Michigan University (Public Administration—1993) and Northwood University (Laws—2008).

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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The IRS’s Job Is To Violate Our Liberties – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
May 21, 2013
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“What do you expect when you target the President?” This is what an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent allegedly said to the head of a conservative organization that was being audited after calling for the impeachment of then-President Clinton. Recent revelations that IRS agents gave “special scrutiny” to organizations opposed to the current administration’s policies suggest that many in the IRS still believe harassing the President’s opponents is part of their job.

As troubling as these recent reports are, it would be a grave mistake to think that IRS harassment of opponents of the incumbent President is a modern, or a partisan, phenomenon. As scholar Burton Folsom pointed out in his book New Deal or Raw Deal, IRS agents in the 1930s where essentially “hit squads” against opponents of the New Deal. It is well-known that the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used the IRS to silence their critics. One of the articles of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon dealt with his use of the IRS to harass his political enemies. Allegations of IRS abuses were common during the Clinton administration, and just this week some of the current administration’s defenders recalled that antiwar and progressive groups alleged harassment by the IRS during the Bush presidency.

The bipartisan tradition of using the IRS as a tool to harass political opponents suggests that the problem is deeper than just a few “rogue” IRS agents—or even corruption within one, two, three, or many administrations. Instead, the problem lies in the extraordinary power the tax system grants the IRS.

The IRS routinely obtains information about how we earn a living, what investments we make, what we spend on ourselves and our families, and even what charitable and religious organizations we support. Starting next year, the IRS will be collecting personally identifiable health insurance information in order to ensure we are complying with Obamacare’s mandates.

The current tax laws even give the IRS power to marginalize any educational, political, or even religious organizations whose goals, beliefs, and values are not favored by the current regime by denying those organizations “tax-free” status. This is the root of the latest scandal involving the IRS.

Considering the type of power the IRS excises over the American people, and the propensity of those who hold power to violate liberty, it is surprising we do not hear about more cases of politically motivated IRS harassment. As the third US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall said, “The power to tax is the power to destroy” — and whom better to destroy than one’s political enemies?

The US flourished for over 120 years without an income tax, and our liberty and prosperity will only benefit from getting rid of the current tax system. The federal government will get along just fine without its immoral claim on the fruits of our labor, particularly if the elimination of federal income taxes is accompanied by serious reduction in all areas of spending, starting with the military spending beloved by so many who claim to be opponents of high taxes and big government.

While it is important for Congress to investigate the most recent scandal and ensure all involved are held accountable, we cannot pretend that the problem is a few bad actors. The very purpose of the IRS is to transfer wealth from one group to another while violating our liberties in the process. Thus, the only way Congress can protect our freedoms is to repeal the income tax and shutter the doors of the IRS once and for all.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

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What No One Wants to Hear About Benghazi – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
May 18, 2013
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Congressional hearings, White House damage control, endless op-eds, accusations, and defensive denials. Controversy over the events in Benghazi last September took center stage in Washington and elsewhere last week. However, the whole discussion is again more of a sideshow. Each side seeks to score political points instead of asking the real questions about the attack on the US facility, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Republicans smell a political opportunity over evidence that the Administration heavily edited initial intelligence community talking points about the attack to remove or soften anything that might reflect badly on the president or the State Department.

Are we are supposed to be shocked by such behavior? Are we supposed to forget that this kind of whitewashing of facts is standard operating procedure when it comes to the US government?

Democrats in Congress have offered the even less convincing explanation for Benghazi, that somehow the attack occurred due to Republican-sponsored cuts in the security budget at facilities overseas. With a one- trillion-dollar military budget, it is hard to take this seriously.

It appears that the Administration scrubbed initial intelligence reports of references to extremist Islamist involvement in the attacks, preferring to craft a lie that the demonstrations were a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic video that developed into a full-out attack on the US outpost.

Who can blame the administration for wanting to shift the focus? The Islamic radicals who attacked Benghazi were the same people let loose by the US-led attack on Libya. They were the rebels on whose behalf the US overthrew the Libyan government. Ambassador Stevens was slain by the same Islamic radicals he personally assisted just over one year earlier.

But the Republicans in Congress also want to shift the blame. They supported the Obama Administration’s policy of bombing Libya and overthrowing its government. They also repeated the same manufactured claims that Gaddafi was “killing his own people” and was about to commit mass genocide if he were not stopped. Republicans want to draw attention to the President’s editing of talking points in hopes no one will notice that if the attack on Libya they supported had not taken place, Ambassador Stevens would be alive today.

Neither side wants to talk about the real lesson of Benghazi: interventionism always carries with it unintended consequences. The US attack on Libya led to the unleashing of Islamist radicals in Libya. These radicals have destroyed the country, murdered thousands, and killed the US ambassador. Some of these then turned their attention to Mali, which required another intervention by the US and France.

Previously secure weapons in Libya flooded the region after the US attack, with many of them going to Islamist radicals who make up the majority of those fighting to overthrow the government in Syria. The US government has intervened in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the same rebels it assisted in the Libya conflict, likely helping with the weapons transfers. With word out that these rebels are mostly affiliated with al Qaeda, the US is now intervening to persuade some factions of the Syrian rebels to kill other factions before completing the task of ousting the Syrian government. It is the dizzying cycle of interventionism.

The real lesson of Benghazi will not be learned because neither Republicans nor Democrats want to hear it. But it is our interventionist foreign policy and its unintended consequences that have created these problems, including the attack and murder of Ambassador Stevens. The disputed talking points and White House whitewashing are just a sideshow.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

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Why Republicans Deserved a Crushing Defeat in the 2012 Presidential Election – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
November 12, 2012
Recommend this page.
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                If ever there was a party that deserved a thorough electoral defeat, it was the Republican Party in the 2012 United States Presidential election. The party’s abandonment of any semblance of principle, combined with suppression of its principled and intellectual elements, was responsible for the crushing defeat dealt to it by Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. While I am no supporter of, or enthusiast for, Obama and the Democrats (I was part of the 1% who voted for Gary Johnson), I must confess that my intense love of justice is satisfied by the extent to which the Republican Party has been punished at the polls. Here, I aim to enumerate the primary reasons why the Republicans lost, and deserved it.

                Reason 1: Suppression of libertarian ideas and people. If ever there was a political movement in the United States that captured the minds and passions of wide segments of the population, it was the movement spearheaded by Ron Paul, which began to pick up momentum in 2007 and which greatly intensified during the 2011-2012 campaign season. The massive enthusiasm generated by that movement among young people and typically non-Republican constituencies would have been enough to result in an electoral landslide for the Republican Party, had it not been ruthlessly combated by the party establishment and its allied news media’s rhetoric, as well as underhanded, fraudulent, and sometimes even violent actions at state primaries, state conventions, and the Republican National Convention.

 Indeed, the rule change enacted by the party establishment at the National Convention, over the vociferous objections of the majority of delegates there, has permanently turned the Republican Party into an oligarchy where the delegates and decision-makers will henceforth be picked by the “front-runner” in any future Presidential contest. Gone are the days when people like me could, through grass-roots activism and participation at successive levels of the party conventions, become delegates to a state convention and exert some modicum of influence over how the party is governed and intellectually inclined. In addition to the suppression of Ron Paul and his supporters, the Republican establishment marginalized and denied debate access to Gary Johnson, one of the most principled and successful Republican governors in history – leading Johnson to favor a Libertarian run for the Presidency instead. Johnson, too, could easily have garnered the sympathies of voters who favor civil liberties, limited government, and an end to wasteful, reckless foreign-policy interventionism.

                 Reason 2: Creation of an alternate reality. In the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” The Republican Party, however, constructed around itself an alternate reality where facts did not matter. Instead, an entirely parallel universe of “facts” was constructed in accordance with party orthodoxy. How ironic it is that the party that was supposed to denounce political correctness in universities and culture has itself fallen prey to the most massive form of politically correct delusion imaginable – a way of thinking where no facts are admissible unless they cohere with a certain preconceived worldview! It is one matter to have a set of normative positions about what is desirable – even if they are wrong or damaging positions but still based on the data of reality. It is entirely another matter to begin to make short-term empirical predictions based on ideology and wishes, rather than the evidence of the senses and the general factual inferences that can be drawn from such evidence. This is why, on the eve of the elections, virtually the entire Republican punditry was predicting a landslide win for Mitt Romney and accusing objective election observers who anticipated an Obama win of exhibiting a left-wing bias. But the malaise goes deeper than that. The entire advertising and rhetorical strategy of the Romney campaign was based on outright, publicly debunked falsehoods – from the claim that Obama “gutted welfare reform”  to the easily refutable allegation that Jeep was relocating its plants from Ohio to China. But when fact-checking services from all over the political spectrum (including truly neutral ones) called Romney out on these outright lies, the fact-checkers themselves were branded as biased by the Republican punditry. The Romney campaign’s blatant distortion of the truth is a leap beyond the typical promise-breaking prevalent in American political campaigns. As David Javerbaum put it, Romney engaged in “quantum politics” – e.g., “Mitt Romney will feel every possible way about an issue until the moment he is asked about it, at which point the many feelings decohere into the single answer most likely to please the asker.” The Romney campaign was based not on the reality of facts, but the “reality” of political polls and interest groups, the question not of what is true but what will please whom. This is what Ayn Rand termed a social metaphysics, and a key reason why I compared Romney to James Taggart in Atlas Shrugged.

                Reason 3. The “lesser evil” mentality. It is interesting, also, that the Republicans never embrace a candidate with more energy, and never behave with such intensity of vitriol toward any doubters or critics, as when the candidate is a man whom they themselves consider a candidate of dubious conservative credentials. Mitt Romney, the oft-styled “Massachusetts moderate“, was surely such a candidate, as numerous conservative Republicans did not hesitate to admit, until Romney seemed likely to secure the nomination. But once the nominating process was trending Romney’s way, many of those same Republicans reacted with every possible tactic to undermine Romney’s opponents and critics. Perhaps the hatred of Obama (and the irrational inflation of Obama as the Evil Communist Atheist Muslim Kenyan-Born “Community Activist” Who Threatens to Destroy the Very Fabric of America by many Republicans) led the reluctant Romney supporters to consider absolutely anybody to be preferable to the strawman Obama they had built up in their minds – and also any means to be acceptable for achieving Obama’s defeat, including lies, fraud, voter suppression, and violence against peaceful critics. It is often the case that the mentality of supporting the “lesser evil” causes people to behave with the greatest evil. Surely, in their behavior on the campaign trail in 2012, the Republicans were by far the more evil party.

                Reason 4. Refusal to differentiate based on true principle. While Romney continued to attack Obama on the basis of factually false trivialities, the substantive principles of Obama’s governance did not come under attack. Completely absent were any criticisms of drone assassinations of American citizens and foreign civilians; the threat of indefinite detention of Americans on US soil; repeated attempts to control the Internet in the name of “cybersecurity” or “intellectual property”; political favoritism and bailouts directed toward large financial institutions; a bizarre and perverse surveillance and “security” state, exemplified by the Transportation Security Administration’s backscatter X-ray machines and grotesque full-body pat-downs;  the continuation of bloody and unsustainable foreign entanglements;  an increasingly impoverishing fiscal and monetary policy; and the escalating devastation caused by the War on Drugs. Of course, Romney did not wish to criticize any of these policies, because he would likely have supported their escalation were he elected. The substantive policy differences between most Republicans and most Democrats have been narrowing over the past three decades. This election cycle, they have been reduced to virtually nil – even as the political rhetoric achieved levels of virulence and polarization unprecedented over the same time period.

                Reason 5. Xenophobia and demonization of “the other”. It is truly unwise for a party seeking to win elections to brand entire vast categories of peaceful persons as undesirable. Yet, in their rhetoric, this is precisely how many prominent Republicans portrayed immigrants, homosexuals, the non-religious, and people whose income is below the threshold for a positive income-tax obligation.  Is it any wonder that many such individuals chose to vote against the Republicans, if only because they wished to secure the defeat of the party that so vocally advertised its intent to oppress them and restrict their rights? Perhaps the lessons of this election will teach the wiser among the Republican pundits and politicians that collectivistic demonization of large numbers of people not only fails to win elections, but it is a generally sordid practice to engage in. Commentators such as Sean Hannity seem to have already shifted their positions on immigration. One can hope that others will follow suit – though I suspect the changes in attitude will be too little, too late, especially with other pundits, such as Bill O’Reilly, decrying the demographic changes and the alleged decline of the “white establishment” in America – a mild expression of the not-so-latent racism and xenophobia that, unfortunately, still plague too many in the Republican Party.

                Fundamentally, the Republicans lost the election because many of them lost touch with any semblance of truth, liberty, and basic human decency. It would be a welcome outcome if the results of this election chasten the Republicans to cease suppressing libertarian ideas and to instead embrace a full-fledged advocacy of civil liberties – especially including the right to engage in peaceful behaviors of which many Republicans may personally disapprove. The success of ballot initiatives permitting same-sex marriage in Maine, Maryland, and Washington, as well as legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, should teach Republicans that their advocated intensification of crackdowns on personal freedoms will find only ever-dwindling support, particularly among young people. Unless the Republican establishment dramatically changes its ways, it will increasingly sink into irrelevance (though not without inflicting tremendous damage in the meantime). And, unless it changes its ways, it will be justified to say of that irrelevance: “Good riddance!”

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Vote for Principles and Liberty in 2012 – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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Mr. Stolyarov, a supporter of Gary Johnson, explains why principles and policy should be the only considerations for voters in the 2012 Presidential Election.

References
Gary Johnson Campaign Website
ISideWith.com
– Free & Equal Elections Foundation – Page on Third-Party Debates

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Lesser of Two Evils: A Final Shot – Article by Charles N. Steele

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The New Renaissance Hat
Charles N. Steele
October 26, 2012
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Mr. Stolyarov has responded to my twopart essay on Mitt Romney as a lesser of two evils.  Here I comment on his response .  I don’t want to rattle on endlessly, so this will be my final “shot” in the debate, unless Mr. Stolyarov asks for my response on specific questions.  I am grateful to him for the opportunity to discuss these issues in this forum.  I’ve found it useful, and hope others have as well.

Mr. Stolyarov’s part 1, “The Imperative of Libertarian Rejection of the Two-Party Trap,” is a reply to my part 1 “Is it Evil to Vote for a Lesser Evil?” in which I express doubt about his assertion that “in casting one’s vote” [one earns a] “share of moral responsibility in what would transpire if one’s candidate of choice (even half-hearted choice) gets elected.”

I’m suspicious of this “moral responsibility.” My piece explores whether someone who votes for a candidate has moral responsibility, and if so, what is the nature of that responsibility.  I take pains to keep it a general argument and avoid discussion of the 2012 election.  Unfortunately Mr. Stolyarov doesn’t really answer the questions I raise and instead addresses details of the current presidential candidates.  To the extent he does mention the moral responsibility of a voter, he simply asserts it.  At some points he asserts that a voter provides “moral sanction” in voting for a candidate, but this is something I directly challenged.  Elsewhere he claims to be a consequentialist, and that one bears responsibility only for contributing to actual harms.  I think this conflicts with his “moral sanction” argument.  It also fails to explain how a non-swing voter who votes for a winning candidate shares any moral responsibility at all, since his vote didn’t matter.  In short, I don’t think Mr. Stolyarov’s “Imperative” adequately addresses the philosophical issues I raised, and I remain skeptical of the “moral responsibility” one allegedly bears in voting for a lesser evil.

In part 2, “Why Mitt Romney Will Not Benefit Liberty,” Mr. Stolyarov really lets Mitt Romney have it (and does a good job of it).  We agree in our dislike for Romney.  I also share Mr. Stolyarov’s disgust at Romney’s unwillingness to attack Obama on important matters of principle.  But the question at hand isn’t “Is Romney bad?” but rather which candidate – Obama or Romney – is a lesser evil, or are they equally bad?  I gave four areas of fundamental importance in which Romney easily surpasses Obama, in my view.   I don’t think Mr. Stolyarov succeeds in showing that Romney and Obama are equivalent in these four areas.  Allow me to revisit them.

1. General Vision

Mr. Stolyarov discounts the differences between progressives and conservatives, and argues that conservative skepticism of government is a thing of the past.  This can’t be correct.  The Tea Party phenomenon is explicitly an anti-big-government phenomenon.  It was behind a crushing electoral blow to progressive and moderate Democrats and Republicans in 2010.  Regardless of any inconsistencies, confusions, or errors expressed by Tea Partiers, one can’t sensibly argue the movement isn’t exceedingly skeptical of government, often quite hostile to it.  Conversely, one can’t sensibly argue that progressives aren’t overwhelmingly enamored of ever more government solutions to problems in almost every aspect of life.  Mr. Stolyarov repeatedly refers to the Republican Party establishment.  It’s true that this “establishment” hasn’t welcomed the Tea Party, but the bulk of the support that exists for the GOP today is from people skeptical of big government, not people enamored of the Republican leadership.  To miss this is to miss one of the most important political developments of the last ten years.

Mr. Stolyarov missed my point about the “Peoples Rights Amendment” (PRA).  The PRA isn’t about campaign finance reform.  It is about ending all constitutional protections for all rights of any organization: a business firm, a non-profit organization, a church, a labor union, a political party, anything.  Among other things, it would mean that news organizations, publishers, internet service providers, YouTube, etc., would no longer be protected by any part of the Bill of Rights, and certainly not by the First Amendment.  Under PRA, Mr. Stolyarov will be free to stand on a soapbox in the city park and speak, but You Tube will have no legal protection if legislators decide to ban Stolyarov’s videos.  He’ll be free to publish The Rational Argumentator on a home printer, but his internet service provider will have no legal protection if legislators decide they disapprove of his essays.  Democrats have actually introduced this totalitarian nonsense in the House, with the endorsement of Nancy Pelosi; it’s not simply some pipe dream.  They are promoting similar proposals at the state level.  I cannot think of anything that Republicans are proposing that would so fundamentally change America’s political system to enable totalitarianism.  Regarding the examples Mr. Stolyarov provides (NSA, SOPA), I’m unaware of how Obama and Romney (or Democrats and Republicans) differ.  If Democrats aren’t demonstrably systematically superior, then it can hardly be said that these are relevant.

Regarding gun control, Mr. Stolyarov is simply misinformed.  The fact that no new gun-control legislation has been passed is beside the point.  The Obama administration has worked to undercut private firearm ownership, not through legislation but through regulation, subterfuge (“Fast and Furious,” for example), and international negotiations (which are on hold pending the outcome of the election). And the proposals for a renewed assault-weapons ban (AWB) are more draconian than the Clinton version, not less.  Proposed restrictions on ammunition sales, handgun ownership, semiautomatic weapons, etc., are more restrictive than anything we’ve previously suffered under, not less.  And Heller is not settled law, if Obama is able to appoint one more progressive to the Supreme Court.  Progressives would like to eliminate most privately owned firearms.  Their attacks on the Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground laws show that this hostility is directed at honest citizens and is not about crime prevention.

My examples suggest that progressives are seriously working to eliminate the Bill of Rights.  On the other hand, Mr. Stolyarov responds that he’s concerned about “Occupy” protesters being pepper-sprayed at UC Davis.  I’m uncertain what this event has to do with the Romney v. Obama choice, but he and I have very different definitions of “peaceful.”  My definition of peaceful does not include forcibly blocking public thoroughfares and occupying public spaces so that others cannot exercise their legitimate rights to use them.  It’s shameful that taxpayer money is now going to these “victims.”  But again, how does this indicate anything about the differences in the candidates or the issues I’ve raised?  I think it’s irrelevant.

2. Health-Care Reform

Mr. Stolyarov is probably correct that for Romney and the Republican leadership think of the political base primarily as a means for winning elections.  That’s exactly why Romney wouldn’t veto a PPACA repeal, were it presented to him.  It’s crazy to think he’d veto it against the will of everyone in the GOP and then “rely on political amnesia” to get him by in 2016.  He’d have nothing to gain, and everything to lose.

I didn’t discuss specifics of the PPACA, but I don’t believe the mandate is the worst part.  The mandate isn’t a giveaway to insurance companies.  Without a mandate, the requirement to sell insurance without regard for pre-existing conditions and without risk rating would trigger adverse selection that would eliminate private insurance almost overnight.  Other bad parts of the law include the Independent Payments Advisory Board (IPAB), a component that has the potential to do great harm to American health care.  But then, the PPACA is 2000-plus pages long; there’s lots of mischief in it.  (The Romneycare bill was only 86 pages.)  But this is all beside the point.  The President does not have a line-item veto, so if a Republican Congress repeals PPACA, Romney cannot pick and choose which pieces to preserve.  He’ll sign and we’ll be rid of it.  There’s no other way this can happen.

3. Supreme Court Appointments

Mr. Stolyarov sees a “clash of interpretations [legal philosophies] as too many steps removed from the outcome of a Presidential election. To be sure, the President may appoint Supreme Court justices, but that is all. How the justices subsequently rule is out of the President’s hands.”

It’s true but completely irrelevant that how justices rule is out of the president’s hands.  From a libertarian standpoint, progressive legal theories are worse than libertarian legal theories, obviously.  It’s also obvious to those who study the matter closely that Romney is far more likely to appoint justices sympathetic to libertarian theories than is Obama.  The two candidates are not even roughly similar in this regard.  This alone is sufficient to make Romney the lesser evil, and is a place where he might well do positive good.  Alternatively, if Obama appoints three Ginsburg clones, it will be a very dark day indeed.

4. Economic and Fiscal Issues

I’ll admit that this is the weakest part of my argument.  But still, on environmental regulation, Obama is clearly worse.  It even appears that EPA may have put new energy regulations on hold until after the election.  It’s very likely that an Obama victory will lead to much heavier regulation of one of the bright spots in our economy, the boom in hydrocarbon production.

On fiscal policy, neither candidate (and neither party) has seriously grappled with America’s looming sovereign-debt crisis.  It’s quite obvious, though, that Democrats would be much happier seeing government take a greater share of the economy in revenue than Republicans would – the recent battles over the debt ceiling are evidence of that.

Conclusion

I’ve made two very distinct lines of argument in this exchange.  Concerning the philosophical issues of a voter’s moral responsibility, I think Mr. Stolyarov has largely talked past my arguments.  In the end, I don’t think a voter should worry about “moral responsibility.”  My advice to a libertarian voter: study the principles, issues, and candidates carefully, and then vote (or abstain) according to whatever you think will do the most to further liberty.  Don’t waste any additional effort contemplating the moral responsibility you’ll allegedly bear.

Concerning whether Mitt Romney is the lesser evil, Mr. Stolyarov provides lengthy critique of Romney, a case for voting for a libertarian alternative such as Gary Johnson, and blistering scorn for the Republican leadership and their treatment of Ron Paul’s supporters.  In each case, he does so eloquently.  But these are tangential to the question at hand – is Mitt Romney the lesser of two evils?  I think that I’ve made a strong case that from a libertarian standpoint, Romney, bad as he is, is superior to Obama.  In the end, we’ll never know, of course.

Dr. Charles N. Steele is the Herman and Suzanne Dettwiler Chair in Economics and Associate Professor at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. His research interests include economics of transition and institutional change, economics of uncertainty, and health economics.  He received his Ph.D. from New York University in 1997, and has subsequently taught economics at the graduate and undergraduate levels in China, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States.  He has also worked as a private consultant in insurance design and review.

Dr. Steele also maintains a blog, Unforeseen Contingencies.

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