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Doomed To Repeat It

Virginia Postrel, on Michael Barone, and "change":

I was born in 1960 but remember well the "economic disasters and foreign policy reverses of the 1970s." On my pessimistic days, it worries me that not only voters in general but the young pundit class don't understand how much worse things can be. On my optimistic days, I think the lessons of that period have been largely internalized. After all, you don't hear people proposing wage and price controls. Except on doctors and medicine.

Unfortunately, while I'm generally an optimist about the future, I am a pessimist on the ability of the electorate to be aware of, let alone remember, history. And just as in the nineties, the Obamagasms would indicate that they are clamoring for another vacation from it. Unfortunately, the world often has other plans.

And speaking of remembering history, she also has some thoughts on Ron Paul:

The disclosures are not news to me, nor is the Paul campaign's dismissive reaction a surprise. When you give your political heart to a guy who spends so much time worrying about international bankers, you're not going to get a tolerant cosmopolitan.


[Wednesday evening follow up]

Virginia does something rare (if not previously unheard of). She says that her former magazine fell down on the job:

...I was never particularly interested in the Paul campaign, which I considered a fringe effort in both its chances (nil) and much of its rhetoric (too many conspiracies). Rightly or wrongly, I didn't consider Paul "one of the biggest mainstream representatives of libertarian thought." I'm not sure whether I would have written about him if I had. Life is short, I don't make my living as a professional libertarian any more, and I don't feel responsible for commenting on every libertarian-related development that comes along. These days, I am more interested in understanding culture and economics than focusing on policy, much less policing the libertarian movement. Plus, as the Paulites will be quick to note, I disagree with Paul on his sexiest issue, the Iraq war (and on his second sexiest issue, opposition to immigration).

I do fault my friends at Reason, who are much cooler than I'll ever be and who, scornful of the earnestness that takes politics seriously, apparently didn't do their homework before embracing Paul as the latest indicator of libertarian cachet. For starters, they might have asked Bob Poole about Ron Paul; I remember a board member complaining about Paul's newsletters back in the early '90s. Besides, people as cosmopolitan as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch should be able to detect something awry in Paul's populist appeals.

I agree on the differences that she has with the doctor (in addition to his weird hangers on, which include not just racists and anti-semites, but with his opposition to the war, radical leftists, all the way out to International ANSWER). I just happened to get my dead-tree issue of the magazine a couple days ago, and Ron Paul was the cover story, by Brian Doherty (who, for the record, I generally like both personally and as a writer). I didn't read the whole thing (which I have a tendency to do lately with Reason--I'd prefer more, shorter articles, rather than fewer, in-more-turgid-depth-than-necessary ones--maybe that's something that will change in the incoming Welch era), but I skimmed it, and it did seem to me to gloss over many of the serious issues with him. It also seemed timed to try to boost him in the primaries. I'm assuming that, given the lead time, this was Nick Gillespie's issue, perhaps his last for dead tree before taking over the Reason multi-media gig.

While I complain about living in south Florida a lot, one of the (few, to me) benefits is that Bob Poole and his wife moved out here from LA about the same time we did, and live about half an hour away, so we have the occasional pleasure of an opportunity to get together for dinner. I recall a conversation we had a year or so ago, in which we noted that the war really seems to have split the libertarians (though not necessarily the Libertarians). You could see this in 2004, when there was a roundup of libertarian(ish) viewpoints on who they were going to vote for, and Bob went on record as favoring Bush, contrary to many of his Reason colleagues. Bob, Glenn Reynolds, Virginia (and lowly me) seem to have come down on one side of the divide, and many of our friends (and they really are, as Virginia says) at Reason on the other. But I agree with her that they should have been warning off the younger libertarians who aren't familiar with the history, rather than encouraging them.

It is going to be very interesting to see how this unfolds, and what Ron Paul will do when (despite the fanatical fervor of his supporters) he realizes that he's not going to get the nomination. Will he run as a Libertarian again (as he did in 1988, when I voted for him)? This is problematic, because I think that there are several states that wouldn't allow him to do so after having run as a Republican. And no other party really offers him the prospect of being on a large number of state ballots. Will there be a write-in campaign? Heck, as bizarre as the coalition he's gathered is, he could even run as a member of the Green Party at this point. The thing is, such is the nature of the broad (albeit extreme and eclectic) range of his appeal now that I think he'd likely take more votes from the Dems (particularly if Hillary is the nominee) than the Republicans (depending on who their nominee is, but not that much).

I just think that this is more proof of Jonah's thesis that the simplistic and conventional wisdom of left versus right is crazy. Unfortunately, there are many ways to split the ideologies. I prefer Virginia's dichotomy of stasists versus dynamists. And I certainly don't see Ron Paul as one of the latter.

[Update in the late evening]

Tim Cavanaugh, former Reasonite (and the editor for my dust up with Homer Hickam in October), has some thoughts over at the LA Times. And of course, I should have checked out Hit'n'Run, Reason's group blog, to see what they've been saying about it. Matt Welch, incoming editor of the magazine (and erstwhile LA blogger buddy when I lived there) has a lot of linkage.

[Update a few minutes later]

Following links from Cavanaugh's piece, I found this one to Matt, with more links to a lot more commentary from yesterday, including some of mine (though not this post).

[Update once more]

Nick Gillespie professes shock.

And I don't mean to imply that he's not sincere--I'm sure he is. Virginia's point (and mine) is that if he'd asked some of the older hands around, they probably could have warned him about this, months (or even years) ago.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 09, 2008 05:23 AM
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I think Barone is right that many more people are fed up with "Washington Experience", but I don't think this is either new or in a 16 year period. Neither Bill Clinton or George W Bush had Washington Experience. In both cases, they beat candidates that had far more experience in Washington. Indeed, you have to go back 16 years to find a President that had previous experience in Washington before ascending to that office.

Voting for Obama simply gives Democrats a similar platform as Hillary with out her 50% cap in the National elections.

Posted by Leland at January 9, 2008 06:11 AM

Indeed, you have to go back 16 years to find a President that had previous experience in Washington before ascending to that office.

To avoid any confusion, Leland says "to find a president," not "to find a successful presidential candidate." For the latter, you'd go back 20 years.

Posted by McGehee at January 9, 2008 09:34 AM

It's interesting, in fact, to notice how far back you have to go to find the most recent president before Bush 41 who'd had (at least pre-VP) Washington experience before becoming president.

Ford, though he wasn't elected as either Pres or VP.

Nixon, though he hadn't been an officeholder in Washington for several years before 1968.

LBJ had been Senate Majority Leader before becoming JFK's VP, and is about as much a Washington insider as the presidency ever saw in the post-WW2 era.

Posted by McGehee at January 9, 2008 09:39 AM

I fixed the typo.

Posted by Virginia Postrel at January 9, 2008 12:01 PM

Looking back on the 80's from a twenty-years-later perspective, I wonder if Ron Paul's only accomplishment over that time period has been to poison the well for the vast majority of small-government-in-general advocates.

Posted by Phil Fraering at January 9, 2008 12:09 PM

Fixed here to correspond, Virginia, thanks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 9, 2008 01:00 PM

Those who think things are so bad now are either too young or too dense to remember just how godawful the 1970s were. They sucked beyond easy explaination.

Posted by Larry J at January 9, 2008 03:05 PM

History is something Americans seem to be too ignorant of.

I can claim to be quite well educated from a well educated family going back generations. My grandfather Charles Divine was Rutgers class of 1890. His father was a successful corporate attorney. His mother is how I am related to John Donne, a poet contemporary to Shakespeare who became dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1621.

I should know quite a bit about British history, shouldn't I? Well, two years ago I knew far less than I do now. What started changing me was encountering the book "1066" by David Howarth in a local book store. I was appalled at how little I knew about the country. When I asked my cousin Harry -- who teaches history in England -- what I should do, he suggested "Try the library." I took out the book "The Story of Britain" by Rebecca Fraser. I learned a lot -- but I know I've got more to learn.

If someone with my abilities and my background is so inadequate in the history department, I wonder about the average man on the street.

Posted by Chuck Divine at January 9, 2008 03:42 PM

Our prosperity and our security depend in large measure on having abundant and affordable energy. What has any presidential candidate lately offered of any substance on that issue apart from platitudes about ethanol, energy independence, and perhaps some digs "at those oil companies?"

I don't recall if President Bush campaigned on this issue, but his big initiative in the "first 90 days" was the national energy policy. Basically, it was a plan to assist through a variety of public policy measures the growth in our energy supply and electric transmission and pipeline infrastructure to keep up with our still increasing population, given the many immigrants who come here one way or the other, and the growing economy.

Back in the days of FDR, a plan like that would have had a name, say, like "TVA" associated with it, and liberals and progressives and Democrats would embrace it as an engine of properity. The Bush plan went over like a lead balloon.

In politically-correct circles the plan was dead-on-arrival for relying on oil drilling in ANWAR and the fact that the plan was wholly focussed on increasing supply -- there was not even a token nod in the direction of conservation as an adjunct to energy supply. There was also the final repudiation of the Kyoto Protocols -- missing and given up for dead in the previous administration with the now Nobel Laureate vice president, but pronounced dead by the Bush Administration.

Is there anyone, Democrat or Republican, who was any kind of serious answer to $100 oil, or is $100 oil good for us to make use drive small cars, give up our houses for apartment condos, and reduce our "carbon footprint" whether we care to or not? Does anyone have a serious response to carbon reduction apart from letting electricity double in price a second time in 10 years? Is there any Democrat willing to have a "Sister Souljah" moment with the environmental lobby regarding balancing economic prosperity against environmental correctness?

A politically-liberal relative was afraid that his Florida home would get inundated after viewing "An Inconvenient Truth." When I told him that Rudy was reputed to be ready to go wonkish on energy policy and nuclear power, I was told that Rudy was getting an otherwise Democrat vote.

Is energy policy part of anyone's campaign apart from the tired, the cliched, the predictable partisan platitudes? Or is $100 oil and gosh-who-knows-what-we-are-paying-for-the-electric-bill not a concern of the electorate?

Posted by Paul Milenkovic at January 9, 2008 05:43 PM

For Paul:

(long version) (short version)

You be the judge

Posted by at January 9, 2008 09:05 PM

Here is the long version:

Posted by at January 9, 2008 09:06 PM

Why should we even take the time to read the energy policy of someone from the party that spent the last six years (or more) successfully thwarting ANWR and offshore oil drilling off most of the continental US?

Posted by Phil Fraering at January 10, 2008 08:38 AM

Paul asked about Democrats.

Posted by at January 10, 2008 09:53 AM

Ayn Rand was right!!

The Ron Paul fiasco demonstrates just how right Ayn Rand was about the libertarians. Without a comprehensive, underlying, objective philosophy at your base, you end up with all kinds of kooks who are attracted by the freedom to be racist or pedophiles.

Posted by Peter McCormick at January 10, 2008 10:26 AM

Before the war I was a regular Reason reader, and thought my world view generally similar to other libertarian-minded folk.

The war or, more specifically, the non-serious response from the libertarians and the left, finally pushed me into the Republican camp.

I now consider myself to be in the fiscal-con, strong defense, socially moderate wing of the Republican party. I've made peace with the fact that to get what I want (sound econ policies, strong national defense) I have to compromise with social conservatives because they also support my goals and there are a hell of a lot more of them than there are of people like me.

I come from a family of Dems (a mix of the old --working class union Catholics--and the new --upper class elite progressives), so there's serious personal downsides to my choice. (By the way, the upper class progressives are by far the meanest and least accepting of my change of heart.)

There are some Dems (Lieberman) who are like me, but they are being purged from the Dem party, so I have little hope of achieving my policy goals there.

I do worry about the far right in the Repub party, but, from my perspective, the far left has much more power with the Dems than the far right has with the Repubs.

Posted by jim at January 10, 2008 11:36 AM

I've met many more libertarians - and Libertarians - who were right about Objectivists than vice versa. The LP has way too much "comprehensive, underlying, objective philosophy at [its] base"; the insanely long platforms and position papers have done nothing to keep out the conspiracy theorists.

It's already too late (137 kB *.pdf) for Ron to run as a Libertarian in some of the states where the LP has ballot status. He could run as an independent (Bloomberg seems to be preparing for an independent run of his own) if he withdraws from the race within the next few weeks and has a ballot-access petitioning operation ready to go.

Posted by Jay Manifold at January 10, 2008 12:29 PM

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