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June 14, 2006

Comments

Sebastian,

I don't necessarily disagree with your 11:08 post as a critique of the state of American politics. But I think it breaks down when you apply to the Medicare prescription drug law to suggest that it was a liberal law.

Liberals certainly felt that the lack of prescription drug coverage was a problem which required governmental action. They have shown they are willing to give support to compromises with the Bush Administration to get problems solved (see, e.g., No Child Left Behind on increasing school funding, at the cost of more stringent teacher licensing and concerns about too great a reliance on standardized tests).

On the other hand, only about 10% of Democrats in Congress supported the prescription drug benefit (and by and large they were the most conservative Democrats). In light of that, one needs to look for alternative explanations:

1. liberals perceived it as not solving the problem -- some evidence for that in Gary's comments, especially the doughnut hole in benefits and the lack of standardization in coverage with so many medications are left out of different plans, suggest that the people who are supposed to benefit from the law will not.

2. liberals perceived it as having costs which outweighed the benefits (similar to the creation of Homeland Security Department at the cost of Civil Service protections) -- lots of evidence for this, with complaints about the giveaways to the drug manufacturers by not permitting negotiation.

Frank:

"What I don't understand is that you haven't noticed....etc."

Wait a minute, are you passing me on the right or the left? I was making a left-hand turn but I may have had my right-hand blinker on.

As to what I have noticed or not noticed about the Bushies, I have duly noted their perverse natures. If you are saying that not only should we get rid of the Bush and burn down the forest of government, too, because look what happens when idiots or worse get control of the big machine .... nah... it doesn't have to be that way.

Although I think you may have learned well the lesson Grover Norquist has been teaching us.

As to being too good to spy on you, Frank, this is true. I'm an elitist that way. Heck, I wouldn't even farm that out to the private sector. We may be thieves and lying low filth, but we could stop today and repay FEMA. Unless we are indeed the bad, bad people (but overtaxed) conservatives think we are

Anyway, I'm off to the wilderness for a few weeks before it gets privatized. Have a good one. ;)

"liberals perceived it as having costs which outweighed the benefits (similar to the creation of Homeland Security Department at the cost of Civil Service protections) -- lots of evidence for this, with complaints about the giveaways to the drug manufacturers by not permitting negotiation."

Yes but this was not a "we are spending too much on medicinal drugs" objection. At the time of the vote the suggestion was that the program spent vastly too little and the too little was on the wrong things. Also at the time were complaints that the Bush tax cuts shouldn't go through--but NOT suggestions that a big tax increase on top of avoiding the cuts should go through to pay for this much bigger Medicare drug benefit that Democrats wanted. This fits well with the "focus on the bold" methods of both parties.

Sebastian,

Your "focus on the bold" comment does not explain why Democrats overwhelming opposed it. I won't disagree that the version a Democratic Congress would have passed and given to a Democratic President to sign would have cost more, but I see no reason to believe that, had the actual program been set up without the elements the Democrats objected to, but at a lower funding level than viewed as sufficient (for example, paying 40% of drug costs instead of 90%, but with no doughnut hole and bargaining with the manufacturers to lower prices), it would not have received the votes of 90% of Democrats, instead of 10%.

Mona,

Thanks, but this really just suggests that there were personal conflicts, not real substantive differences. You even quote Friedman as sayig she had an extremely good influence on those who stayed out of her cult.

Does the business about epistemology mean, as Bruce implies, that the difference has little or nothing to do with actual policy preferences?

Well cant agree to the idea that we should see no reason to believe that Democrats might have opposed it anyway, they oppose all sorts of things that seem to me entirely obvious goods.

But my point isn't to justify the votes one way or another, but rather to talk about Gary's idea that Bush has dragged to the country "to the right". A massive drug entitlement program isn't an idea of the right. The fact that so many Republicans voted for any form of a massive drug entitlement program (as opposed to a much more limited anti-poverty program) suggests that while there may have been "movement" it isn't really accurate to say that the movement was "to the right". It appears to me (as far as social policy goes) that the movement of the "center" is to the right on taxes and to the left on entitlements--a rather bad combination of moves.

A massive drug entitlement program isn't an idea of the right.
Thus revealing another head of that old hydra, the left/right spectrum. From a 'welfare' perspective, the program looks like something from 'the left.' From a 'who benefits the most,' it looks like a boost for corporate interests, specifically the provisions that prevent bargaining for better deals. That sort of knee-jerk deference to and support of corporate interests is traditionally 'right.'

Corporatism, small-government, social-safety-net, and moral-standards are all, in my opinion, individual spectrums that should be treated independently.

Sebastian, the point you seem unable to vget is that the bill was not a massive entitlement program. The people receiving 'benefits' are simply a vehicle for the movement of money to ig pharma.

And as the overwhelming presence of government funded corporate welfare - i.e. the proverbial military industrial complex - shows, this has a long tradintion on the right. Massive giveaways are hardly the mark of the left.

That you continue to classify it as such is quite interesting.

"...Kathleen Harris after all (assuming she makes it that far, or hasn't already dropped out of the race."

She hasn't. She won't, no matter what, I believe. My understanding is that she believes she's on God's mission to get to higher office. (I suspect she thinks she's destined to be President, though I have no evidence for that.)

That is, as regards Katherine Harris, former SecState of your fair state, and current candidate for the Senate; I'm assuming that's whom you meant.

Bernard Yamatov asks:Does the business about epistemology mean, as Bruce implies, that the difference has little or nothing to do with actual policy preferences?

Rand gave the intellectual respectability to notions that became known as libertarian. But she was very dogmatic and would not compromise. Contemporary libertarians (purtside of maybe the Libertarian party faithful) are not looking to repeal the entire New Deal. Hayek did not object to minimal, safety-net welfare programs.

"Rand gave the intellectual respectability to..."

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You may now resume your regularly scheduled conversation...

Bernard: "I don't follow all this closely, so there may well be schisms and feuds of which I am unaware...."

As regards Ayn Rand and her various followers? Uh, yeah, you could kinda say that.

marblex: "Assuming there IS an election in 2008 (my money says no)"

How much money?

"What is needed is for progressives, TRUE progressives, to form a third party and leave the corporate-offered choice of Dems versus Repugnankins in the dirt where it belongs."

Indeed, because that trick always works. And, after all, when Ralph Nader said in 2000 that there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, history has proven him absolutely correct. So learn from that, and try again!

SomeOtherDude: "America’s right-wingers...."

...come in a variety of flavors and factions and opposing views. Just as do "left-wingers." Writing as if it were otherwise is pretty much an analysis worthy of someone in 6th grade. You might wish to aim higher and deeper.

Mona: "Liberals shrink from her defiant pro-capitalist stance...."

Nah. We shrink from the fact that she's a flaming KOOK. Or was, anyway.

However, I like Reason, far more than not. I agree with a lot of opinions it publishes, and disagree with many others. But it's often spritely writing, and, as I said, there are plenty of points I'm just fine with.

I'm all for loads of libertarian notions, as it happens. But as I've written innumerable times, I'm simply not for libertarian values uber alles, as absolute stances and principles that over-rule all other values. I believe in balancing libertarian values against other values I also hold dear, such as the usual sort of liberal do-gooder values, just as I balance the need to fulfill those liberal goals (feed and shelter the poor, see that they get justice; look for justice for all in the world; look to see that all have access to decent medical care, etc.) without desiring to see those goals reached with no care for how we get there, and thus taking some care for libertarian values, as well (I want to feed the hungry and cure the sick, but not if it means a dictatorship, or stripping away everyone's civil liberties, to do it).

But since libertarians seem to generally clearly feel that being a libertarian means Libertarianism Uber Alles, I don't define myself as a libertarian, but merely someone who holds many of the same values, but at a different level of priority.

"But my point isn't to justify the votes one way or another, but rather to talk about Gary's idea that Bush has dragged to the country 'to the right'. A massive drug entitlement program isn't an idea of the right."

Sebastian, you keep fixating on the Medicare D bill as if it's all Bush has ever done. This is too kooky to even bother discussing.

Tell me, would you argue that JFK and particularly LBJ moved the politics of this country to the left, or not? Would you argue that McGovern moved the politics of the Democrats further to the left, or not?

Bruce Baugh's comment at 12:21 PM is as wise as always. Bruce is, I think, the only somewhat frequent commenter here who overlaps with my old days from Usenet, where I believe he may have been posting before I was; certainly I grew to greatly respect Bruce almost immediately back in the mid-Nineties.

But, Bruce, would it be fair or unfair to describe you as a "recovering libertarian"? Or would you prefer another term. Does it seem fair for me to note that you, back a decade or so ago, seemed to be quite the libertarian in those days, but have evolved (I don't mean that with the false implication that "evolving" means "moving to a better way") your views since then? I ask this only because it seems to me worth noting that your insights into libertarianism are the product of insight from the inside out, to some degree.

hilzoy giggles at me:

"Rand gave the intellectual respectability to..."

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You may now resume your regularly scheduled conversation...

But she just did, hilzoy. Her novels climbed to the best-seller lists, and were made into popular films. As a consequence, tons of people started considering ideas that have evolved beyond Rand to be considered "libertarian." In fact, Pitt and Jolie are about to make a Rand-novel movie.

But certainly contemporary libertarians like the Reason crowd would not predominanatly thrill to the Rand ouevre. Further, we (lower-case "L" libertarians) just are far more realistic about how much we can achieve in the name of preserving liberty. Rand was totally and utterly unyielding, uncompromising and dogmatic.

Mona: she may have popularized them, but I do not think that intellectual respectability was hers to give. I mean: last time I checked she thought that most of her philosophy could be derived from the principle of identity ("X=X; that is, Man = Man...")

There are not many people I am really snarky about, at least without provocation. But Rand is one of them.

Oh well. Ymmv.

"Her novels climbed to the best-seller lists, and were made into popular films."

I would contend that "intellectual respectability" is not derived from best-seller lists (which I have some knowledge of) and popular films.

Unless we consider that Garfield is also a major intellectual of our times.

"In fact, Pitt and Jolie are about to make a Rand-novel movie."

Clearly a clinching argument in what conveys intellectual respectability.

Some, however, favor the great intellectual, Rob Schneider, for having proven the thesis that we know who has intellectual respectability from making popular films.

Others favor Bugs Bunny.

Gary: yeah, I more or less formally gave up on libertarianism a couple years ago, while contemplating the 2004 primaries, finding it inadequate as a guide to understanding or responding to the challenges of the Bush/Cheney administration in particular and this generation of plutocrats in general. This after a period of drifting away from it ever since late 2001 or so. I reamain sympathetic to the desire for personal freedom against a background of security in making one's choices and having them respected, but my understanding of what that background takes keeps leading me further and further away the more I work it over.

I think that libertarian outlooks are basically luxuries underwritten by a whole lot of other people's hard work in maintaining a peaceful and prosperous society. Personally I'd be happy to once again live in a society that has the margin for it, because the whole point of civilization is to get free lunches. But it's going to take a lot of work to get back to that kind of situation from where we are now.

we (lower-case "L" libertarians) just are far more realistic about how much we can achieve in the name of preserving liberty. Rand was totally and utterly unyielding, uncompromising and dogmatic.

So you are saying that libertarians generally agree with Rand's ideas, but are just more prepared, as a tactical matter, to compromise.

First, y’all can ridicule Rand’s influence all you like, but she was in fact an intellectual, and her highly (annoyingly so) polemical books and films generated a great deal of influence. In her time, other intellectuals took her seriously, even when they detested her. For example, Whittaker Chambers http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback200501050715.asp>savaged her novel Atlas Shrugs, even as he acknowledged her heavy influence.

Rand held a virtual salon in her NYC, apartment which attracted and created acolytes of such nobodies as http://www.answers.com/topic/alan-greenspan> Alan Greenspan

Second, as to the extent libertarians agree with Rand: she held some very extreme ideas, such as the notion that a woman could never be president without doing psychological harm to herself. It has been years since I’ve familiarized myself extensively with her specific political proscriptions, but I would say that broadly speaking, libertarians share her political orientation, if not all of her specifics, and certainly not her epistemology. Libertarians split off from her, and have evolved into several branches, including mainstream pragmatists, such as those at http://www.reason.com/>Reason and the http://www.cato.org/> Cato Institute, the latter of which is entering into a “greet and meet and let’s see what we can work out” fest w/ Kos.

I'd argue that Rand tends to branch off from traditonal liberalism (i.e. modern libertarianism) in forming her own more extreme views. Modern libertarians are more likely to agree with her than not in general, but the devil is in the details. I think Objectivism (her philosophy) has some very good points to make, but I have quite a few differences with her on the specifics of where an objective assessment of the world leads. (Objective morality, for example, is a tough circle to square.)

Andrew, what is the cut-off point for "traditional liberalism" moving away from modern liberalism toward modern libertarianism?

Mona (and Andrew),

Thank you.

I will say you haven't much changed my perception that on relevant political and economic issues libertarians and Randians are generally in agreement.

I guess libertarians don't think that being president would psychologically damage a woman (except to the extent it damages a man also) but that's a slim reed.

My uncomplimentary conclusion is that many libertarians find Rand unattractive for a number of reasons and try to distance themselves from her, but really can't bring it off. Is that unfair?

"traditonal liberalism (i.e. modern libertarianism)"

Wanna try unpacking that, please?

Mona: I wasn't denying influence; just intellectual respectability.

Gary: think JS Mill's On Liberty.

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