Limited Government

Dear Media: This Isn’t About Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist is under fire. Unjustly.

With Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Peter King and others seemingly deserting Grover Norquist and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge created by his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, media outlets across the spectrum are declaring that the GOP is “Over Grover” and that his vicelike grip of eternal dominance on the GOP might not be so eternal after all. We have images like this one, showing Republican leaders bowing to him as if he is a god. And on and on and on.

What it really is, though, is just another round of misinformation, wrong data, and interpretations based on faulty premises. Yet another sideshow that is completely missing the point, the real debate we should be having in DC.

Time to Separate Conservatism from Religion—And Fast

Religion and Politics

It is far past time to separate the conservative movement in this country from it’s fanatical marriage to religion, to once and for all put to bed the idea that all conservatives are Christian and that to be a conservative one must be a very religious person.

This is complete balderdash.

Recent surveys have put the number of nonreligious Americans at 20%, or one-fifth of the population. That’s right: one out of every five Americans does not have a religious affiliation. That’s not the same as being atheist or agnostic—we’re only 6% of the population—but it is significant. That’s because almost every argument for social conservative policies, which are a main course in the conservative policy dinner, are argued for on either religious lines or appeals to “tradition” or “Western civilization,” and those almost always come back to religion too.

What that means is that there is automatically one-fifth of the population that disagrees with you, and will always disagree with you, and will very likely always support your opponent.

Reflections on the 2012 Cycle

Excerpted from “How I Voted — 2012 Edition” at The Dangerous Servant.

vote

Obama won a large Electoral College victory, but he did not receive a mandate for his agenda

People more eloquent than I am (who probably had more coffee today than I did) have already made this point. I thought this tweet from left-of-center blogger Cory Doctorow summed things up pretty nicely:

When it’s a struggle for your most vocal supporters to root for you, that’s not a good sign about how effective you’ve been as a leader. To read more on how exactly Chicago pulled off this election, see thisTIME piece. That kind of attention to detail made the Obama reelection effort more nimble and better prepared to adapt to changing conditions on the ground, and it’s really no surprise (from an operative’s perspective) that they won.

Prime Time for Liberty Movement

Liberty Bell

How many of these post-mortem soundbites have you heard?

  • Where was the Tea Party this time?
  • All that campaigning from AFP and FreedomWorks wasn’t very effective.
  • Romney lost because people want free stuff.
  • Romney lost because people are uneducated.
  • Romney lost because of voter fraud.

I don’t know why Romney lost. I will leave that to smarter people than me to figure out. I will say, though, that there’s some truth in a couple of those sound bites and none in others.

The analyst in me says those things only matter to the extent we use that knowledge to win hearts and minds (and elections) in the next four years.

We have a golden opportunity right now in the conservative and libertarian movements. Don’t get me wrong, I am afraid for my financial future and the future of civil liberties (1st, 2nd, 4th Amendments for starters) after last night. But it’s the perfect time to regroup and define what I’m going to term the Liberty movement.

Liberty is a winning philosophy. It’s what America is built on. The current GOP loses because they’ve embraced judgmental social policies and haven’t differentiated themselves enough from the Dems on financial and big government-principles. A younger generation, the Paul Ryan generation of conservatives, holds a much more Liberty minded philosophy. It’s time for them to take over leadership positions on the right and start a massive education and outreach movement aimed at the 15 to 45-year-old demographic (and start a preschool and elementary school program too).

Election Eve Meditation

Cross-posted from The Dangerous Servant.

RomneyObamaCaricatures

I don’t like to make political endorsements and, on principle, I certainly don’t discuss my vote before an election (the protection a secret ballot offers me from harassment and intimidation only works if I keep my preference a secret). I was stunned to read in an email yesterday, “I had no idea high-information, intelligent undecided voters even existed!” You know, as if the choice between an underwhelming incumbent president, an underwhelming challenger, a list of names with no mathematical chance to win, and not voting at all is an easy one to make. If your only goal is to beat the incumbent, then your decision is easier than mine. I, however, don’t only want to beat the incumbent; I want to elect a president worthy of the exercise of one of my most sacred rights, the right to vote.

Another Benefit from Citizens United: Political Letters from Companies to Employees


FEC logo

Last Friday, former FEC commissioner and chairman of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Center for Competitive Politics Brad Smith published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Koch Industries*** sending its employees letters about the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, and left-wing hysteria over those letters. Smith does a great job demonstrating why these types of corporate communications are good for employees:

A report released this week by the Business Industry Political Action Committee (Bipac) found that employees ranked their employer’s website as the most credible source of political information on the Internet, more than media sites or parties and candidates. Over 75% of the more than 500 respondents from a variety of industries indicated that employer-provided information was useful in deciding how to vote, and over a quarter said it made them more likely to vote.

This comes on top of past Bipac research showing that 47% of employees said that employer-provided information had “somewhat” or “strongly” increased their awareness of how various policy proposals affected their employers.

It should come as no surprise that employees want to know how government policies will affect their employers, and by extension their jobs. One might even argue that business leaders have an obligation to share with employees credible, accurate information on how public policies might affect the company.

New Paper: Cronyism & Lobbyists Are By-Products of Big Government

cronyism

I know we’re focused pretty intensely on the elections, which are only two weeks away, but we always need to focus as well on underlying principles and concepts that drive our economy and our government. Elections come and go; this stuff is forever. In that vein, you really need to take a look at a new paper from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, by Randall Holcombe:

Crony capitalism describes an economic system in which the profitability of firms in a market economy is dependent on political connections. The term has been used in the popular press but rarely appears in academic literature. However, there has been a substantial amount of academic research on various components that, when aggregated, describe crony capitalism. This literature shows that crony capitalism exists only because those in government are in a position to target benefits to their cronies, and have an incentive to do so, because they get benefits in return. The ability to target those benefits is a result of the spending and regulatory power of government, so big government causes cronyism. One remedy often suggested for cronyism is more government regulation and oversight of the economy, but this remedy misunderstands the cause of cronyism. The substantial and well-established economic literature on the components of crony capitalism shows that big government is the cause of crony capitalism, not the solution.

By “crony capitalism,” of course, he refers to lobbyists, and big business using those lobbyists to get more power and take more wealth away from the public. It’s the reason we had Occupy Wall Street, and why many folks still cry out for “regulation” to “rein in” big business and the big banks.

Free Market Advocacy and the Myth of “Trickle-Down Economics”

 

G20 capitalism banner

There’s a pervasive myth floating around the progressive left that pro-market advocacy necessarily means pro-business advocacy (and, by extension, anti-poor people advocacy). That is, as I said, categorically a myth, but that doesn’t mean people don’t believe it — they do. Kudos are due many times over to the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney for doing yeoman’s work to try to dispel these myths, like this thorough and merciless rebuttal to Anna Palmer’s joke of a POLITICO piece on a supposed resurgence of corporate lobbyist influence in the White House if Mitt Romney wins the election, as if there’s nothing to see in the Barack Obama White House:

You mean after he kicks out the lobbyists in Obama’s White House like Patton Boggs lobbyist Emmett Beliveau (7), O’Melveny & Myers lobbyist Derek Douglas (8), and Pfizer’s, AT&T’s lobbyist at Akin Gump Dana Singiser (9)?

By that point in the column, Carney had already identified six registered lobbyists working in the administration; by the end of the thrashing, he identifies a total fifty-five registered lobbyists working in the White House.

Profiles in Liberty: Dr. Robert Lawson of Southern Methodist University

Dr. Robert Lawson is the Jerome M. Fullinwider Chair in Economic Freedom in the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. Also, Lawson is co-author of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World annual report, which provides a widely-cited economic freedom index for over 140 countries. The CATO Institute has been partners in its publication since 1996.

As my former academic advisor, Dr. Lawson is a mentor and friend who introduced me to libertarian philosophy. A happy warrior with a dry sense of humor, his love of economics and freedom is inspiring.

Lawson is a member of the prestigious Mont Pelerin Society. He also writes at the popular economics blog, Division of Labour, which you should subscribe to.

bob lawson

Matt Naugle: How did you become a libertarian?

Robert Lawson: I actually wrote about this in a little book that Walter Block edited titled, I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. As with most people, I can trace this to a couple of influential teachers. First, Mr. Eaton at Princeton High School (Cincinnati) who gave me my first copy of The Freeman. Second, Richard Vedder at Ohio University.

There Is No Libertarian Case For Mitt Romney

Romney

Stephen Green, PJMedia’s Vodkapundit, came out this morning with a post putting forward a libertarian case for Mitt Romney. I’ve seen several other people try to attempt to make this argument in the last several weeks, but they’ve all been conservatives trying to convince libertarians why they absolutely must vote for Mitt Romney rather than Gary Johnson on November 6th. Inevitably, those arguments, whether in the form of a blog post or a conversation on Twitter or Facebook end up devolving into the same ridicule and condescension one typically hears from conservatives directed at libertarians. A vote for Gary Johnson, they say, is a vote for Barack Obama, for example. Another common theme is to point out that the Libertarian Party doesn’t exactly have a record of electoral success, a fact which I concede but which I find completely irrelevant to the question of who I should consider voting for and why. They call you a Paulbot too, even though I was an enthusiastic backer of Governor Johnson’s bid for the Republican nomination and had pretty much had my fill of the Ron Paul movement way back in 2007. On the whole, the conservative argument to libertarians regarding the 2012 election has been dismissive, insulting, and based more on the false assumption that we want to be loyal Republicans. I’ve really grown quick sick of it, to be honest.


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