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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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