"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
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Bob Barr was not an ideal choice for libertarians, but he got the nod, so he's the only person likely to be on most ballots in November offering a freedom-ish alternative to the two War Party candidates. His platform is halfway decent, it has a lot of good stuff. Here, however, is one form of words prominently missing, in his segment on "Taxes":
"Taxation is theft, yet provides the financing of all government; so it doesn't just need simplifying or merely reducing, it needs to be exterminated for the moral cancer that it is. That will be my purpose, if elected, and here's how I will begin the process . . . ." No word about Presidential pardons for those convicted of breaking alleged tax laws (nor drug laws, for that matter). No promise to abolish the IRS . Just the same old, tired old general intention to make taxes simpler to collect, with a tirade against Amendment 16, which seems to authorize an unapportioned individual income tax but actually doesn't.
Similarly absent is any quantified and dated plan for winding down the FedGov such as appeared in the 1996 Browne campaign. Ladbroke's (> Quick Menu > Politics > US Presidential) however, is offering odds of 250:1 against Barr actually winning, so I'll focus here on the other two.
No reader, I hope, will actually take part in the election, for all the sound reasons discussed in STR 's non-voting archive; but even so, from the sidelines it promises to be a fair bit less boring than usual - so I offer this child's guide to the amphitheater.
Today's poll numbers on ABC-TV say that Obama is leading McCain by 47% to 41%, and given the mountain of free support heaped lavishly on the former by the media, that lead is surprisingly small. It suggests that when voters actually start giving thought to the matter, to the extent that any of them can, the race may be another cliffhanger.
Two things appear to me to matter, somewhat: what the respective candidates will do about (a) socialism at home and (b) imperialism abroad. Will the winner punish success even more by increasing wealth redistribution, and will he withdraw from the disaster in the Middle East, and if so, how and when. I suspect the latter-- Iraq --may be the swing issue, but the former may well be more important for our well being. Let's deal with the first, first.
I wonder whether McCain has even heard of Ludwig von Mises and whether he would recognize a free market were he to trip over it, but just possibly he might pick as running mate a Conservative of the variety not obsessed with banning abortion and compelling school prayer, who would guide him in such matters and therefore cause a President McCain to hold the line against the further collectivization of America. If so, things might not get much worse. Of the two and in that case, I therefore think we'd have an easier time of things domestically if he were to win.
Obama, in contrast, is committed to destroying what is still the best health-care system in the world by increasing government control, and has shown no great reluctance to raising taxes to pay for it; he's derided as a Marxist by those who know such things, and it may be true. Given that the economy is already in serious trouble, a President Obama could deliver it a coup de grace and send everything spiraling down into a depression. As I suggested recently, that would not greatly affect the date on which government will implode altogether, but it would make things a whole lot less comfortable while we await that happy day.
An increasingly common view is that whoever wins in November, the US financial system will come unglued big-time because mortgage defaults are exposing the flimsiness of paper money and nothing can be done to stop that; however, the person who presides will get the blame for the resulting depression, and it may possibly suit the Republicans to let Obama win and so take the blame for it, ready to be ousted in 2012. That's not impossible, but for simplicity I'll assume they aren't that smart.
So to the second big issue that divides the candidates: Iraq . Obama gained huge popularity by promising to get out immediately, though in recent months he's reneged on that by saying it will happen in 16 months and only if the commanders concur; there must be some powerful pullers of puppet strings behind the scenes to have caused that change because some of his supporters are real angry about it. Credit him, though, with entering the election with the unusual record, shared with Ron Paul, of having voted not to invade in the first place.
McCain, in contrast, says "we" were right to invade but screwed up the execution of the war, and he will lead US troops out when enough success has been achieved but no sooner. His military experience would fit that task. It all depends, really, on what was and is the real reason for being there; nobody in DC admits it but I suspect it had to do with placing the FedGov in control of Mid-East oil resources. If so, it's improbable that any withdrawal will be total, whoever wins. I suspect that the main obstacle to a swift departure is Iraqi government reluctance to let residual US troops stand guard over its oil wells and pipelines and to sell the stuff (for dollars, not euros) on terms acceptable in D.C.
So, we can summarize the lineup as follows.
1. Obama has outraged his most ardent supporters (such as Mark Shields on PBS) by breaking his promise to accept "public funding" after finding that voluntary contributions had already provided three times the limit set by such funding, while McCain will continue to accept those tax dollars. So (hold tight) Obama is a bad guy because he will not use stolen money, while McCain is a good guy because he will. This is a fine example of the total inversion of morality in the political arena.
2. Obama will pull out of Iraq on a fixed timetable regardless of any "victory" achieved, thereby conveniently informing the FedGov's enemies of its intentions and enabling them to make firm plans in response; McCain will leave only when those enemies are sufficiently subdued. If there has to be a war (there does not), this contrast reveals Obama as a first rate idiot.
3. There does not have to be any war, for it can be avoided if the FedGov would terminate all interference in foreign affairs, including support for the State of Israel--which generated Muslim hostility in the first place, during the last 60 years. Instead of declaring any such intention, however, both candidates rushed to bow down before AIPAC--so whichever of them is elected, war in the Middle East will continue. This fact reveals both candidates as first rate idiots.
4. A predictable and affordable supply of energy is vital for the well being and extension of civilization, and a free market alone is capable of providing one--for every other possible method involves compulsion, and compulsion is necessarily non-optimal and usually highly distortive. Neither candidate understands that, but Obama and his verdant friends in Congress appear wedded to the opposite view and therefore are likely to create the most havoc. Of the two, McCain would therefore delay human progress the least.
5. Nobody can fail to hear that Obama is a better orator than McCain by several orders of magnitude; he can enthuse a crowd better than anyone I've watched since the old movies of Adolf Hitler--and unlike the latter, he can do it using vacuous phrases alone, without ever getting specific! It's an amazing talent, and no doubt accounts for his supernova success to date. His transatlantic trip, a triumph of style over substance, gave new zip to the phrase tour de force; one commentary in the London Times was hailed by a reader as "The finest piece of political satire I have ever seen," eclipsing even Twain. The talent is, however, at the same time deeply ominous, for it means he can command loyalty without any reason or platform at all, and make himself into an American F'hrer without even the constraint of being expected to fulfill particular promises. That spells dictatorship and, nice guy though he seems, there is not even a guarantee of benevolence.
6. The platforms of McCain, Obama and even Barr stand in stark contrast to what is actually needed to liberate Americans: namely, to exterminate all trace of interference with the right of every individual to own and operate his own life exclusively. Ron Paul, whom the Libertarian Party might have chosen to recommend but did not, would have been closer (though not in my opinion close enough), and so might Mary Ruwart, whom it also rejected. The unsurprising net of it is that for those who recognize that right as inalienable, there is no acceptable option in November. Why ever would there be? The whole political premise is that A can properly rule B to one degree or another and the whole charade is simply a game--or as Mencken put it, an "advance auction of stolen goods"--to determine who gets to receive the loot.
Fortunately, the avalanche of real freedom is already moving, and it doesn't much matter. Their nasty game will soon be over.