Michael Hamilton is a libertarian writer living in Washington, D.C. His main interests are economics, immigration, and land-use policy.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint took to the pages of the Washington Post this morning to defend his institution’s latest report on immigration, in which the ludicrous claim that “amnesty” would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion is made.
I’ll leave analysis of the study itself to others (and boy, are they really piling on), but I take exception to the very first sentence of DeMint’s op-ed: ”The economist Milton Friedman warned that the United States cannot have open borders and an extensive welfare state.”
Every now and again a particular clip from a larger Milton Friedman speech is brought up, and this debate is rehashed in libertarian circles. In it, Friedman says, “it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both.” This is what DeMint is referencing, and he seems to think it supports either his general point of view or his immigration policy prescriptions. I believe that either is unlikely.
It was a mere tweet, but it summed up the entirety of the modern conservative movement:
Sequestration Cuts the DHS Off at the Knees herit.ag/WUTzw8
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) February 21, 2013
It has everything: the source is the preeminent conservative “think tank” in DC, soon to be headed by Tea Party conservative and former senator Jim DeMint; lamenting about spending cuts; the laments are all about a government department that by all rights should not exist; and for good measure, it has a photograph. It shows precisely how the sequester had torpedoed conservative credibility.
We have heard relentlessly these past five years, ever since Obama was elected, that we need to cut spending. (Indeed, another Heritage article is a dorky little bit that specifically notes a “thrifty” House which demands that they have a balanced budget and avoid deficits.) Yet now that there is something which will cut—no, sorry, I can’t type that with a straight face; it will not cut spending, but merely slightly decrease the rate of spending—Heritage is up in arms about it.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Military Contractors) wrote the following in an op-ed:
There is a battle raging for the heart and soul of the conservative movement. While there is a near constant discussion over fiscal issues, also emerging is a debate over the foreign policy direction the United States should take.
Despite his anti-war rhetoric on the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama has largely continued the expansive foreign policy views of his predecessor. In 2011, Obama authorized a bombing campaign in Libya, which was aimed at deposing the regime of the country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.
This campaign, which was waged without the consent of Congress, setoff a debate between the neo-conservatives and those who advocate a more restrained, constitutional foreign policy. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the non-interventionist views of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and others, smearing them as “isolationists.”
It’s Sen. Paul who has largely become the voice of reason in the foreign policy debate. During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, suggested that he could, as president, authorize military action against Iran without congressional approval. Sen. Paul responded forcefully, explaining that the “Constitution clearly states that it is Congress that has the power to declare war, not the president.”
Despite having no faith of my own, I am fine with those who do. If you want to live your life according to the teachings of a holy book or religious leader, I’m fine as long as you cause me no harm. I honestly could not care less if you believe in no god or twenty, given none of those gods are telling you to hurt people. But it is a different issue entirely when you try to suggest that our laws should reflect the doctrines of your particular church.
The conservative argument against marriage equality has long been couched in talk about “harm to children” and “destroying traditional marriage”, but in reality it has always been based on a simple idea - my religion doesn’t approve of homosexuality, therefore our laws cannot condone it. As it has become more and more apparent that same-sex marriage causes no harm whatsoever, anti-equality forces have gotten more desperate.
Take this post at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog. Ostensibly about a new marriage equality law in Illinois, the author mentions the actual law only in passing before launching in a defense of marriage buttressed only by the words of a Catholic priest (who, incidentally, had some interesting things to say when a gay pride parade was moved to pass by his church). Does this priest have any special knowledge on the subject of marriage? It doesn’t appear so. His expertise clearly lies in one thing - the teachings and doctrine of his church.
Earlier this afternoon, my colleague, Jeremy Kolassa, raised an important issue about fusionism between conservatives and libertarians. For what it’s worth, I share the frustration. In early June, I attended a local GOP meeting to hear some local candidates talk about the issues facing our county. Unfortunately, the county party’s chairwoman spent 10 minutes complaining about Ron Paul supporters and libertarians who “want to take over the Republican Party.”
The experience was deflating, though not entirely surprising. I wasn’t in attendence as a libertarian. I was there as a concerned citizen, who has twice had his home broken into, to discuss issues important to me.
It’s certainly true that many conservatives don’t find the importance of an alliance with libertarians. The Rick Santorums and Mike Huckabees of the conservative movement have certainly made that clear. Indeed, even CPAC worked hard to ensure a “libertarian-free” gathering earlier this year. But fiscal conservatives, including Sen. Jim DeMint, have offered us an olive branch so that we can work together on issues that are mutually motivating.
Two weeks ago, I wrote not one, but two posts about how conservatives had basically foisted Obamacare upon the populace. About how conservatives wanted libertarians to join them again, and vote for a conservative…who wrote Obamacare. About how conservatives had lost any sense they principles they had.
This is an addendum.
Since the end of World War II, libertarians and conservatives have been allied in a loose coalition known as “fusionism.” The idea was that, as communism and social “democracy” was on the rise, anyone who believed in free markets had to ban together, at the expense of other ideas. It originally began with Frank S. Meyer, an American philosopher, who believed that libertarian free market concepts worked hand in hand with conservative traditionalism.
However, it has become clear to me, and to growing numbers of libertarians, that this is false. That the entire fusionist experiment was really born out of necessity, not principled ideology, as a way to survive the Cold War. And especially the last few years have shown, the conservative “movement” has come utterly unhinged.
The birthers. The Kenyan anti-colonialist crap. The accusations our president is a secret Muslim. The now ludicrous defenses of bigotry against homosexuals, transgendered, and those who do not believe. And then there is the vehement and heated arguments against spending…but on the same front, conservatives themselves spend and spend and spend. They just want to spend a tad less than liberals.
I spent most of Friday in disbelief.
The House was supposed to be considering the Cyber Intelligence Safety and Protection Act, otherwise known as CISPA, on Friday. Thursday I caught some rumors that it was being moved up a day, and when I got online Friday morning, I found that they had indeed voted on it, and it passed 248-168.
My disbelief wasn’t that it passed but rather that my Congressman, Tom Graves, had voted in favor of it. He has a 5-way conservative test for considering legislation, and I’m still not sure how CISPA passed his test. I think CISPA has some obvious Constitutional problems, and when I saw Graves’ vote, I felt (for lack of a better word) betrayed.
That’s not to say that Graves is awful and needs to be thrown out. On the contrary, Tom really is a pretty good Congressman, and he’s usually on the right side of an issue even before I offer my input on legislation. For example, he opposed NDAA, and he was opposing SOPA before everybody else. Graves wasn’t the only usually-good Congressman to vote for this bill. Several others shocked me with a vote for CISPA as well.
While asking around and looking for reasons why these Congressmen went the wrong way on this bill, I was told multiple times that The Heritage Foundation was a major influence in CISPA’s passing. How unfortunate. While The Heritage Foundation typically does a good thing, apparently when it’s wrong, it’s really wrong.
On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual report on economic freedom across the globe that measures interventionist government policies and ranks countries accordingly.
Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, gives us an idea of what we’ll find in this year’s report, and it’s not pretty:
As Friedrich A. Hayek foresaw decades ago, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Thus, the battle of ideas must also be a battle for the meaning of the very words with which we debate. Is it “progressive” to utilize the coercive power of the state to redistribute and level incomes within a society? Is it “liberal” to build a massive state apparatus to regulate conditions of employment, usage of energy, and access to capital? The answers to such questions will determine how we live as individuals in the 21st century.
The 2012 Index of Economic Freedom documents a global economy that is engaged in this evolving battle between the forces of government and free markets. Today’s troubles have been neither accidental nor inevitable. The problems we face are the outcomes of politically driven and economically self-defeating policy decisions that have turned an economic slowdown into an accelerating decline.
Unfortunately, the report shows that the United States has, once again, lost more economic freedoms as corruption, cronyism, government spending, and a poor monetary policy continue to drag us down. While we are still ranked as “mostly free,” we can no longer say our economy is the ambition of the world.
It’s been an interesting CPAC this year. Before the conference even started it was embroiled in controversy over the participation of gay conservative group GOProud. Several organizations pulled out of the conference, but few of them were regular participants anyway. The most high profile and only real loss was The Heritage Foundation. Rumors are that their refusal to participate this year was not over GOProud, but due to a financial dispute with the American Conservative Union—the organization behind CPAC. Regardless of the dispute before then conference, GOProud seems to be getting a good reception from attendees.
The big surprise yesterday was Donald Trump. Trump showed up yesterday afternoon to a fairly responsive crowd, but quickly digressed into a fight over Ron Paul with a heckler. Considering the room was stacked with Paulie’s waiting to hear Rand Paul, that was NOT a smart move. No one seems to be taking Trump for President seriously. Rand Paul did a really good job. He seems to have more charisma than his father.
Speaking of presidential candidates, Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, looks like he’s gearing up for a run. Johnson has a booth and professional campaign consultants wandering around. He actually gave a good speech yesterday, but is still considered a long, long, long shot candidate. Johnson’s biggest obstacle is his drug policy (he supports the legalization of marijuana) and he will have a hard time getting traditional Republican primary voters to buy into him because of it.
Mitt Romney spoke earlier today and got a very tepid response from the crowd. The ballroom was only three quarters of the way full, and he largely skipped over the health care issue which did not go unnoticed. The fake Sarah Palin was a bigger hit than Mitt.
As you probably know, President Barack Obama released his health care proposal yesterday (you can read it here), outlining what he sees as “reform,” in attempt to bridge the divide between the House and Senate versions of the bill:
The White House today unveiled President Obama’s health care overhaul bill, which it says will expand health insurance to 31 million more Americans and reduce the federal budget deficit by $100 billion in the next 10 years.
The White House also released the changes Obama wants to see in the Senate Democratic health care bill. Even before its release, the White House’s plan had already met with fierce Republican resistance.
Administration officials call the health care bill a “starting point” point for Thursday’s televised, bipartisan discussions on health care overhaul.
“I think it’s a starting point in as much… as Republicans come to Thursday’s meeting with constructive proposals that they’re willing to discuss,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today.
Obama made sure to pander to his constituencies, such as labors unions, and while the Cornhusker Kickback is gone, other vote buying provisions, such as the Louisiana Purchase and the Medicaid provision for Florida, are still included in the proposal.