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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Against Glenn Beck For LP President

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Did you anarchists ever stop to wonder that maybe, just maybe, the whole small-L/big-L branding problem is due to the LP’s historical crypto-anarchism? For every instance you can cite of a conservative trying to call himself “libertarian”, I can cite a leftist dismissing libertarians as believing in zero government. The Green Party is arguably bigger than the LP, but Google finds sixteen times more references to “small-L libertarian” than to “small-G green”. You guys have made sure that the LP distinguished itself from mainstream libertarianism, and now you complain that you can’t control the small-L libertarian brand that you abandoned? That’s rich.

I quoted Glenn Beck above as saying he opposes both Left and Right and supports smaller government. I dare you to say that’s not a prima facie description of a libertarian. Everybody has views that some libertarian could use to try to read them out of the libertarian quadrant. Take Starchild’s advice, and worry about “libertarian” as applied to positions, not people. So tell us: when has Beck used the word “libertarian” to describe a position inconsistent with neither-Left-nor-Right-but-smaller-government? And again: can you score Beck on my quiz (or the less-precise Advocates’ quiz) as falling outside the libertarian sector? I’m starting to believe you can’t, or else you would have done so by now.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Tom @143, re-read the title of this thread. You just broke my irony meter, since the dispute in this thread is based on nothing more than anecdotal complaints from radicals about Beck at al. invoking the term “libertarian”. I just used a random sample of hard data from’s history to refute your implication above that the LP hasn’t been consistently antiwar, and you just skated straight past the data to make your ironic charge about “anecdotes”. LOL.

Your comparison of perceptions about the LP among 1) mainstream Americans and 2) your left-libertarian/anarchist friends reminds me of the line from Homer to Bart: “we could sit here and debate ‘who forgot to pick up who after school’ until the cows come home”. Your mere ability to pretend to dispute my empirical claim doesn’t magically make my claim a 50/50 proposition. My interest is in recruiting from the 13%-20% of Americans who want more economic and personal liberty. It’s pretty obvious to me that radicalism has weakened the potential of the big-L brand in reaching that audience, and I have no interest in recruiting from the left- and anarchist-leaning crowd that you hang out with. That’s your job, not mine. And if you succeed at it, that’s fine with me as long as you folks don’t try to slam the door on people from the 13%-20%.

Paulie, the reason “’small-G green’ has never been in much use among greens” is that the GP has been ideologically representative of greens generally. My entire point is that the LP has not been ideologically representative of libertarians generally.

I’ll agree with Bob that the LP has been right-leaning in the sense that perceptions of it tend to be colored by the fact that many more people have come to the LP from the GOP than from the Left. However, when I ask for actual evidence of this recruiting imbalance making a measurable difference, all I get is people pointing to the fact that an ex-Republican won the LP nomination over an anarchist and a pot activist and a loopy ex-Democrat. It certainly hasn’t made our platform tilt right, and my data above refute your hand-waving concerns about So where’s the beef? If a mere 25 delegates had voted differently on the final ballot in Denver, somebody would be whining that the LP leans too far left/anarchist, and you guys would be denying it in between excuses for Ruwart getting only the standard LP vote total. Stop with the “marketed in a right-leaning way” hand-waving, and give us specific evidence. The only lean in my data above is an antiwar lean.

I still don’t buy this excuse that Glenn Beck and LPHQ are somehow stopping you from recruiting lefties/Democrats into your local LP affiliates. As for Beck’s positions: I don’t put much stock in random characterizations typed into an IPR text box. I’ve offered a lengthy quote above from Beck that is prima facie libertarian. If people have contrary data on Beck’s views, I’m happy to evaluate it. Until I see more data, I’m guessing that Beck is about a 65/85. That’s not quite in my comfort zone for an LP nominee, and if Tom’s right that Beck is 55/75, then that answers Blanton’s question about why he isn’t interchangeable with Root. QED.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 5:12 pm

There’s a big difference between 1) eliciting agreement with your entire platform and 2) being ideologically representative of the people who use your party name in the form of a lower-case label. When I went through the GP platform looking for hardcore positions to pull out, I found it very hard to pin them down. They have no smoking guns like personal secession, unpoliced borders, or immediately ending all government authority to collect revenue. I have a quote from Rothbard in the early 80’s bragging that what the LP platform advocates is a stone’s throw from anarchism. You radicals (except for Knapp) don’t complain when Ron Paul calls himself libertarian, so the complaints here about Beck and Root can’t be just that they aren’t anarchists. There is a broad mainstream sense of “libertarian” that is not nearly as radical as the LP has been, and I submit that this is why we see the big-L/small-L distinction. It’s certainly why I used that distinction all through the 1990s.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Paulie, in the last decade the GP tops the LP in highest votes received (Nader), registered voters, number of elected officials, and number of higher elected offices won (e.g. mayor, state legislature). The LP’s strength lies less in its popular support than in its organizational strength: ballot access, number of candidates, resulting total number of votes across all candidates, sneaking people into low office (like me). In this last cycle we were ahead in POTUS race donations and probably also national party budget, but their peaks in the Nader years were probably above ours. Even Ron Paul in 2008 would not have gotten the 2.7% that Nader got in 2000.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Blanton, you remain fact-deficient. The only thing the IES said about Afghanistan was: “Ten thousand troops will be placed in Afghanistan for peacekeeping purposes.” That’s nothing like Obama’s Afghanistan surge. The fact remains: opposition to the Iraq war was by far the most prominent policy theme on the front page of in my samples drawn evenly from the last seven years.

You’re the one claiming that Beck’s views are no less libertarian than Root’s. I know Root’s views, but I don’t know Beck’s. Now you admit that you don’t know Beck’s views either. QED.

Regarding Ron Paul, you’re confusing radicalism with anti-establishmentarianism. When Ron Paul got 30 minutes of network TV news time during his campaign, he pussied out. He denied that he was for abolishing public schools, welfare, Social Security and farm subsidies — and even bragged he was the one who “saved” Social Security. Some “radical”.

Paulie, I picked one of the issues on your list, and did a search for Beck’s views. The first search result I found quoted him saying this:

“I’m a libertarian. You want to legalize marijuana; you want to legalize drugs — that’s fine. We have to have a different conversation in America, and that conversation is — hey, America, you know, forget about the whole health care thing, because if somebody is doing heroin, somebody is doing pot and — I mean, pot just rips your lungs up, if you want to do pot, that’s great, but I ain’t giving you any healthcare. And that’s good. I’d rather do that. You can be as high as you want. I ain’t giving anybody healthcare.”

Another time he said: “I think it’s about time we legalized marijauna. Here me out for a second. We have to make a choice in this country: we either put people who are smoking marijuana behind bars, or we legalize it.”

OK, you’re turn.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm

No, Paulie, the GP got 0.71% in 1996, compared to the LP’s 0.50%. In 2008, Nader got 0.56%, which certainly cut into the GP result. Nader hasn’t run as a Green since 2000, but the GP keeps electing mayors and state legislators.

As of 2007, there were 189 elected Libertarians, but 226 elected Greens. The Greens out-elected us 25-7 in 1996, 47-34 in 2000, 81-43 in 2002, and 71 to at most 42 in 2004 (since the article was inconsistent about whether the 42 includes appointed officials). The Greens also list 47 election wins in 2005, 65 in 2003, and 64 in 2001. I think you’re confused because the LP often has lumped appointed and elected officials together.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Here’s Glenn Beck’s “9 Principles”:

1. America Is Good.
2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

I don’t see a single thing on the list that is unlibertarian.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Mr. Blanton, you get to decide who you support as the LP’s representatives, and I get to decide who I support. It’s silly to suggest that if I don’t share your standards, that means I don’t have standards. I have already said that from very limited data it appears to me that Beck is in the libertarian quadrant but outside my comfort zone as an LP representative.

If you know Beck’s views, then tell me how he stands on censorship, domestic spying, establishment of religion, gay marriage, abortion, minimum wages, and taxes.

You ask why Root but not Beck, and I’ve already answered you. Deal with it.

You satirize the idea that perception is all that matters, but it’s you radicals who are whining here about how the LP is perceived because of alleged misuse of the label “libertarian”. Pick one inanity and stick to it.

Paulie, if your video reveals any of Beck’s positions on the above issues, please let us know what they are. All I’m hearing is that you disagree with his views on how to defend Americans from foreign-based aggression. I’m pretty sure I already knew that. Please tell us where in that “National Expositor” diatribe we received evidence of Beck supporting force initiation. I missed it.

Yes, Bob, Tyler Cowen excused the initial bailout as a less-bad government intervention than the “government intervention” of trying to unwind the toxic-mortgage crisis through the bankruptcy courts. He’s wrong, of course — perhaps because he’s spent too much time in his life hearing radical libertarians say that all government action is “intervention”. Government action is not “intervention” if it polices fraud or force initiation, and bankruptcy proceedings are nothing more than prevention of the potential fraud by defaulters treating their creditors differentially. By contrast, bailouts are blatant intervention: stealing from taxpayers, and adding moral hazard to the marketplace.

So even the brilliant libertarian Tyler Cowen can’t offer a decent excuse for the initial bailouts, and supporting them is enough reason to reject Beck as an LP spokesman — if not permanently, at least while this financial crisis is fresh in our memories. The crisis of 2008 has probably set the progress of free-market ideology all the way back to the 1971 Nixon travesties that were the impetus for creating the LP in the first place. Say what you will about the Iraq war, but no sober analyst would deny that the cause of anti-imperialism remains far ahead of where it was in 1971. I can forgive a libertarian for naively welcoming the overthrow of a genocidal neighbor-annexing war criminal, but I can’t forgive a libertarian for wanting to steal a trillion dollars and use it to compound the government-created moral hazards that have blackened the name of the free market itself.

Paulie, my data are from LP and GP lists of office-holders. The GP has been far more scrupulous than the LP about excluding appointed office-holders from such lists. I recall that the LP count dropped from over 600 to under 200 when it scrubbed appointees from its list.

If Nader wasn’t a Green, I’d like to know where — if at all — he disagrees with the GP platform. Try as you might to distinguish them, the fact remains that GP got him onto their ticket even after his rep was made, whereas the LP could not lure Ron Paul back onto its ticket after Paul felt he outgrew us. I count that as GP strength and LP weakness.

When I said there’s nothing unlibertarian on Beck’s list, I was saying there was zero evidence in the list of him being willing to use “government force on behalf of his views on god and family” — or on behalf of anything other than policing aggression. If you see some such evidence in the list, feel free to quote it.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 8:58 pm

“Infer” … “insinuate” — FAIL. Either tell us what specific force-initiation you can quote him advocating (like his bailouts), or admit you just don’t like the way he talks about policing aggression. There are waaaay too many government officials brazenly advocating and unambiguously committing ACTUAL force initiation EVERY DAY for me to worry about your “inferences” and “insinuations” about what a talk-show host desires in his heart of hearts.

You’re right — I may not be as paranoid as you. Sorry. :-)

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Mr. Blanton, I already have a test about “God, guns, and tax cuts”. Those are three parts of my 20-part test. Here are the excerpts:

How free should you be?
0 = government decides
5 = unsure
10 = full freedom

* From government religion?
* To own a gun if you’re an adult?
* To keep what you earn, produce trade?

I score Root a 10 on the first two, as I know of no case where he supports government establishment of religion. I give him about a 7 on the third, as I think he wants to replace the federal income tax with ideally nothing (letting states compete on tax buren), and maybe use a flat tax as a transitional reform.

I suspect that Beck is OK on guns, but I saw some unsettling stuff from him today on school prayer, and I have no data on his tax policy.

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Paulie, I never said that anything you’ve quoted from Beck is “my idea of a libertarian”. If you can argue against my actual positions instead of your strawmen, feel free to try. :-)

Brian Holtz // Sep 18, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Paulie, I asked you about Beck’s positions on the twenty issues in my quiz — i.e. on our platform’s full spectrum of principles for personal and economic liberty. I did not ask you whether Beck holds any opinions that 1) many libertarians would find repugnant but 2) are not a prima facie contradiction of our platform’s principles of personal and economic liberty. Again, if you see such a contradiction, feel free to quote it.

I didn’t say Beck was a paragon of libertarianism. I just said that he seems to be in the libertarian quadrant. There are plenty of people there who have some views I find repugnant — and that includes you. This is the Libertarian Party, not the Paulietarian Party or the Holtzitarian Party. I have too many enemies who are officers of the nanny state for me to waste time trying to find enemies among those in my quadrant who are fighting the nanny state.

Nor is this the Anarchist Party. Mr. Blanton, thanks for confirming that you define all non-anarchists as non-libertarians. It saves me the trouble of maneuvering you into that trap.

Your “radical” Ron Paul “does not favor gay marriage and is against abortion”, too. Were you trying to say that Glenn Beck would have the federal government outlaw both of those? Can you quote him saying that? If so, your “radical” Ron Paul has supported a constitutional amendment banning abortion, and you need to share your dowsing rod that distinguishes good “radical” (and yet non-anarchist!) libertarians like Paul from evil “collectivists” like Beck.

By the way, supporting government doesn’t necessarily imply supporting force initiation, any more than supporting trials of the not-yet-convicted implies supporting force initiation.

I’ve already explained why I stand athwart the tracks of the Beck Train. The train I’d like to take would have a name like Williams, or Stossel, or Clark, or Friedman, or Sowell, or Palmer, or Paul, or Elder, or Sarwark. In the meantime, I’ll help the Root Train as long as it is making progress in the direction I want to go.

Brian Holtz // Sep 19, 2009 at 12:25 am

Mr. Blanton, I’ve often accused anarcholibs of caring more about their clean hands than about the amount of aggression in the world, so thanks for the apparent guilty plea. :-)

I’d ask you why Ron Paul is “OK” when he calls himself “conservative”, but Root is expletive-deleted when he does the same, but I guess I’m just not equipped to understand the answer you’d give. I’m afraid I’m not a sophisticated enough thinker to understand a personal system of ethics that is so relative to who you are in “cahoots” with, how clean their hands are, whether bystanders call them “conservative”, whether they call themselves “libertarian”, etc.

Instead, I just naively advocate for the institutions I judge would result in the least amount of aggression in society, and I support whatever initiatives that I judge move us most effectively toward that goal. I don’t really invest much time worrying about what mental categories that uninformed people might lump me into, or who will be standing next to me as I push for my goal. As an engineer, I’ve never been accused of trying to be stylish or fashionable or popular, so maybe I just have a congenital resistance to the sorts of concerns about extrinsics that seem to dominate your ethical thinking. To each his own, as we libertarians say.

Re: “gay marriage” — nice try, but I no more buy into government licensing of pair-bonding (or multi-bonding) than I do into government licensing of baptism. “Marriage” is to me just a special synonym for “contract”, and I have no problem with people filing notice of the contracts they want to be enforced, any more than I have a problem with people notifying the government of the birth of a new citizen.

Brian Holtz // Sep 19, 2009 at 1:13 am

Mr. Blanton, I don’t write things I can’t defend.

if you’re going to protect liberty, you have to protect the life of the unborn just as well. I have a bill in Congress which I would certainly promote and push as President. But it’s been ignored by the right-to-life community. My bill is called the Sanctity of Life bill. What it would do is it would establish the principle that life begins at conception. That’s not a political statement, but a scientific statement that I’m making. We’re all interested in a better court system, and amending the Constitution to protect life–but sometimes that is dismissing the way we can handle this much quicker. - Ron Paul in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb 7, 2008.

Paul refers to, which he apparently didn’t tell his audience would also remove federal jurisdiction over any state law that “protects the rights of human persons between conception and birth; or prohibits, limits, or regulates the performance of abortions”.

According to his endorser Chuck Baldwin, “Congressman Paul introduced the Human Life Amendment in Congress in his very first term of Congress, a couple of years after Roe v. Wade was first handed down.” I’m reasonably sure that this amendment would have been a federal ban on abortion, but I haven’t yet been able to confirm that.

In 2008, however, there was widespread criticism of Paul by pro-lifers on the web for allegedly no longer supporting a Human Life Amendment. As near as I can tell, what Paul has done here is some clever triangulation. As a constitutionalist, he genuinely doesn’t want the the federal government to force a uniform national standard for murder laws, which he views as a state matter. In practice, this would legalize abortion nationally for anybody who can afford a bus ticket. Still, it lets Paul oppose Roe v. Wade and appear to support “pro-life” legislation, even though he often says that ending abortion is something that can only happen by reforming society’s morals. Some on the web say he supports sanctity-of-life legislation at the state level also, but I can’t confirm him actually saying that.

So, once again, we find that the truth doesn’t quite fit on a bumper sticker. Does Ron Paul want the government to restrict a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy? The principled/radical Paul seems to deliberately straddle the issue. Whatever Paul believes, one thing is clear: there is not much room for any “radical” Ron Paul fans to criticize other libertarians for being “pro-life”, or for taking a federalist approach to e.g. drugs or marriage.