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September 25, 2009

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Both sides of the political spectrum have done their best in recent years to create more libertarians.

This Joe Klein piece taking down Broder (via Balloon Juice) might be related.

David Broder has a very strange column today, praising a paper by the conservative scholar William Schambra in which the author criticizes Barack Obama for being interested in...policy. This is something I've noticed over the past twenty years: the Republicans--some of whom used to give a good faith effort to figuring out how best to govern--have lost all interest in policy. They care about power, and are willing to do just about anything to retain or gain it.

"And then came the financial crash last September and the ensuing depression. These unanticipated and shocking events have exposed significant analytical weaknesses in core beliefs of conservative economists concerning the business cycle and the macroeconomy generally."

"Unanticipated"? "Shocking"?? What a crock! The Crash of "08 was scarcely a bolt-from-the-blue, it had been predicted by a whole passel of economists from about a year previously. At least. The main problem being that the elected politicians to whom, for whatever reason, we have delegated the responsibility to manage our nation's economy decided to dismiss, negate and/or try to happy-talk the problems away. With the "predictable" results.

The real thing that has proved "shocking" to conservative economists is that they are no longer able to b*;;sh*t the flaws in their theories away, as they have had real-life (negative) consequences to have to deal with. Not that it won't stop them from trying: Reaganomics cannot fail, it can only be failed ....

Publius,

I have to respectfully disagree with you for the same reason I disagreed with your last post. The central assumption you make is that everyone in the world can be divided into two "teams." Posner seemed to be on the red team, but recently wrote something sympathetic to the blue team, so he must have switched teams. I think this is extremely oversimplified.

Posner has, of course, written about law and econ, which definitely has a rightward tilt. But to my knowledge he has never published anything on macroeconomics or Keynes, so I don't know why you insist on portraying this article as a reversal of longstanding convictions.

Also, Posner has never been an orthodox "movement" conservative. He's taken a variety of sometimes idiosyncratic positions on a wide variety of issues. I think the fact that he works at Chicago is causing you to reduce him to a stereotype.

Fair enough -- but he's considered a Republican, and a founding father of the law and economics movement, which had a strongly political element to it (read Steve Teles' book).

Keynes is a guy who not only is associated with Democratic policies, but is being held up today as the justification for a wide-ranging set of Democratic policies.

Posner is not just writing an intellectual piece -- I think he's well-aware of the political implications of his essay. And that's what makes it so remarkable, imho anyway.

I can't help but wonder how much that gut-level revulsion at the modern GOP played a role in persuading him to write something like this.

Oh come now, publius. Posner, clearly, is always perfectly rational, and never influenced by 'gut-level' feelings. Pithlord too. How can one be influenced by feelings one is impervious to? In fact, it's contradictory to say that a true conservative intellectual is capable of any kind of such bias. It's social democrats like you - who are at once rigidly dogmatic (as Pith teaches us) but nonetheless incapable of forming a potent, durable political coalition - who deal in things like 'gut-level'. Please.

It should come as no surprise that the intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party is so painfully obvious as to not be subsumable to any amount of posturing. If anything, the kind of posturing it's indulging now in reinforces this bankruptcy.

The odd thing is that not so long ago, the Democrats were the ones being taken to task for not being interested in policy, because they were either too afraid to broach it or too stuck up to care. It was the GOP that took care of business in that regard, giving us the spectacle of tax breaks for people who didn't need them, meaningless contracts with America, and so on. But at least they appeared to pull a few all-nighters, at least on occasion.

So if the criticism of Obama is over an interest in policy, well, it might be for two reasons: first, the GOP isn't doing it so it's been left up to him anyway, and second...gosh, I just might be on to something here...but I had the kooky notion that the President of the United States was elected to, well, do stuff like policy. And as I think about it, jeez, it occurred to me that this is what all presidents are supposed to do. That we hired them because they're nice guys we'd want to have a beer with now and then would be nice to imagine as a general requirement for any kind of job I'd like to go for; hell, if I were lowballed like that in every job interview I'd ever had, I would been hired every time out. Why bother with expertise when what should get you hired is how many Budweisers can you go on and still put the tips of two fingers together for the traffic cop?

I guess after eight years of non-policy, or dysfunctional policy at best, for Obama to appear to care about it enough to risk looking like he's too preoccupied with it must be pretty novel.

It's social democrats like you - who are at once rigidly dogmatic (as Pith teaches us) but nonetheless incapable of forming a potent, durable political coalition - who deal in things like 'gut-level'.

Kindly see my reply to Pithlord in the other Posner thread.

Posner is reacting to the culmination of events that began in the 1970s. I'm surprised he didn't see this coming. You can't try to form a party, or a movement related to government, on the contradictory principle of (a) wanting a government office while (b) not believing that government has any use. This is what happened, in part, when free market/lassaiz faire principles were utilized. If elected on the contradictory principle I noted, everything you do while in office is antithetical to your core belief (war, Christian activism, etc.). It was only a matter of time before the chickens came home to roost. - TL

bob, (and anyone else)
I'm curious who (as sort of a public intellectual) you think would count as a real indicator of a change along these lines that would be realistic to imagine. I'm coming up with a blank.

Publius,

I agree with you that Posner has been a Republican and Keynes is favored by Democrats. But, other than simply dividing the world into teams, I don't understand what the actual conflict is supposed to be between Keynes and Posner's earlier work. (I haven't read Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement, which is what I think you're referring to, but it's on my list.)

The problem I have is that people here are using Posner as a generic conservative and projecting all sorts of things onto him as a result. Tim Lacy's post is the perfect example of this: he's just rehashing every grievance he has against the conservative movement over the last thirty years and pinning it on Posner. It's kind of disturbing that no one is discussing Posner's actual views. You have all this vitriol but none of it's connected to the man himself. It's just my-team's-better-than-your-team.


Liberal Japonicus,

Someone like Bill Kristol comes to mind. It's hard to see him being intellectually honest enough to do so, but if he were that would be a big deal. If Kristol wrote that Publius' astonishment would be entirely justified. I think Publius is treating Posner like a Kristol, but Posner's not that sort of guy.

thanks bob, that example helps. Aside from Kristol's intellectual (dis)honesty, it's hard to imagine someone who has such an easily accessible output flipping like this, though it occurs to me that the judiciary would be where we might be seeing these sorts of changes.

Both sides of the political spectrum have done their best in recent years to create more libertarians.

Hence the LP's strong showing in elections.

This is somewhat related to the conversation at hand. I just got this month's University of Chicago magazine, and it had an article discussing whether or not the Chicago School can be blamed for the economic crisis. It's a mixture of mea culpa and defensive.
http://magazine.uchicago.edu/0910/features/chicago_schooled.shtml

It's a mixture of mea culpa and defensive.

As long as there is some mea culpa in it, that's a good start. Friedman was not an idiot, but many of the supposed policies that his acolytes claim he or subsequent Chicago School economists wanted were not necessarily derived from any of their economic analysis. Of course, those folks who were making up claims about the best policy also ignored the inconvenient bits of The Wealth of Nations.

"Hence the LP's strong showing in elections."

Don't confuse the Libertarian Party with libertarians in general. The LP tends to accumulate more than its share of rakes, snakes and flakes because they have few alternatives. Unfortunately, neither do libertarians. I suspect that more than a few people like myself vote for libertarian candidates while having little use for the LP. Also there's a growing libertarian point of view among people who don't self-identify as libertarians.

Why do we need to speculate about Palin? Posner's article is VERY clear isn't it? Is there something about the article that makes you disbelieve him?

Kindly see my reply to Pithlord in the other Posner thread.

Your mistake there is not seeing that it is *his* job to decide if we are being quite circumspect enough 'around here'. Your 'objective evidence' means nothing.

Friedman was not an idiot,

He certainly *wasn't* an idiot, and neither is Posner a crass ideologue like Kristol. But being a real intellectual doesn't obviate your essential biases, nor does it mean you have none. Compare Friedman's brilliant intellectual work in economics with his politicking: you might *predict* the latter if you know the former, but you're making a leap there - the one is not strictly, logically compatible with the other; your prediction might be wrong.

The Posner Fallacy (if I may) is shared by many a Judge: pretending to have, essentially, no point of view. A grotesque version of this is our American 'originalist' or 'Federalist' movement. The conceit that all POV and philosophical bias are absent, has turned out to be the perfect disguise for a very rigid ideology indeed. Biases un-admitted to can never be examined.

As publius says, Posner is a political person, explicitly so. He might be the exemplary conservative liberal japonicus is looking for (upthread). It's unlikely to be a hack like Kristol, but rather a real intellectual.

there's a growing libertarian point of view among people who don't self-identify as libertarians.

I don't know that it's necessarily 'growing', CharlesWT; it's always been there, kind of ;hiding in plain sight;. The LP is a deservedly minority party which just happens to be called 'libertarian'. Strong strains of libertarianism are woven into the very fabric of the US (sorry for the cliche, but - appropriate in this case).

thanks bob, that example helps.

The comment at 12:00 was not by the "bob mcmanus" y'all know and tolerate. I guess ObsWi does not link email in signatures. I will always use "bob mcmanus" on most sites

I don't even know if it was intended to be a mild spoofing, the tone and substance are not objectionable, and there are tens of thousands of "mcmanuses" in the US

But just wanted to let you knowut

BOB McManus,

Sorry, I didn't know a member of the McManus clan had already staked a claim here. My name's Chris, and we're probably like 43rd cousins or something.

Your mistake there is not seeing that it is *his* job to decide if we are being quite circumspect enough 'around here'.

Sorry, my bad.

Your 'objective evidence' means nothing.

Yeah, I get that a lot. :)

The Posner Fallacy (if I may) is shared by many a Judge: pretending to have, essentially, no point of view.

I disagree with Posner in a number of areas, but this seems a little absurd. I thought the whole point of this book was that Posner doesn't think that. Am I missing something?

You can't try to form a party, or a movement related to government, on the contradictory principle of (a) wanting a government office while (b) not believing that government has any use.

So for example, if you believe that the federal government has no role in education, and that the federal Dept of Education should be abolished, there's a way to do that without putting people in Congress? At the state level in California or Colorado you don't need the office because of the citizen initiative processes (which have not turned out particularly well of late), but at the federal level you have no option.

I disagree with Posner in a number of areas, but this seems a little absurd. I thought the whole point of this book was that Posner doesn't think that. Am I missing something?

You're missing the context of his opinions, where Posner invariably holds an unshakeable confidence that he Has It All Figured Out. On the rare occasions that he expresses his fallibility, it's always in service of an argument that we shouldn't mess with the market.

Posner is quite literally the preeminent advocate of this line of thinking in the legal world. That's why this article is quite significant -- it's a pretty stunning reversal.

Sorry, I didn't know a member of the McManus clan had already staked a claim here. My name's Chris, and we're probably like 43rd cousins or something.

Just out of curiosity I have to ask, Chris, what you were thinking of LJ's addressing you as "Bob." Did you think it was his version of "Fella" or "Dude" or "Pal?"

This is waaaayyy off topic, so I apologize, but I had an apparent doppelganger in my hometown who got around to the local bars a bit. People would mistake me for him, but I didn't catch on at first because he went by "Buddy." Strangers would be inexplicably happy to see me and greet me with "Hi, Buddy!" I would weakly respond with a confused "hi...." They would then look confused and just kind of end it. Finally some guy told me he thought I was this guy, Buddy (not Buddy Guy). After that, I would tell my happy strangers right away that I wasn't Buddy. I'd still like to get a look at this Buddy character, given how often I was confused with him at very close range, but it stopped happening a few years ago. He may have moved, or it may be that I don't hit the local bars like I used to. (God, I'm interesting.)

"I don't know that it's necessarily 'growing', ..."

Libertarians are hopeful that "Ron Paul 2008 will read in the future like Barry Goldwater 1960" though it may turn out to be wishful thinking.

" But it might also be that he has grown increasingly disillusioned -- on a gut level -- with a movement that generally doesn't care about ideas anymore. A movement that, more precisely, actively spurns real policy."
Hm. Cant say in my observations the "ideas" were much more than fig leafs behind which to grab power/wealth. how they did tat was "policy". By which I mean- the high sounding theories & principles- "chicago school", "supply side"
"supporting Democracy abroad"- ie, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan- was just fluff for the rubes. It was straight up theft & murder. Much profit to be found in chaos.
thats what it looks like to me. So this Posner chap cranked out theoretical papers? And he now finds....what? the people waving them around are just using them to fan smoke? How smart does that make him? This has been going on quite a while....

johnnybutter,

Posner sometimes puts forward a "everything depends on your gut feelings" brand of pragmatism, so you should like him.

I'm sure it's true that we all have gut reactions and this drives a lot of what we say. This includes scientists and it certainly includes people arguing about public policy.

I have a love/hate relationship with Posner myself, but I think it's fair to say he's never really been a team player.

One story is from his confirmation hearings when Reagan appointed him a federal judge.

Some Southern former-Dixiecrat-now-GOP senator asks him if he will apply the law instead of making the law.

Posner gives some big professorial speech about how the issues that come before the federal appellate judiciary rarely have clear legal answers and it is inevitable that judges apply their views of policy.

He reviews the Congressional Register and some aide to the aforementioned Senator had replaced his lecture on legal realism with the one word answer "Yes."

Keynes wasn't much of a team player either, and it is pretty easy to see why Posner would identify with him.

Posner sometimes puts forward a "everything depends on your gut feelings" brand of pragmatism, so you should like him.


I didn't make myself very clear earlier, dangit. It's a mistake to dash things off like that...

I wasn't preferring 'gut feelings' over cool analysis. I was saying that people's assumptions or biases are *there*, and it's disingenuous at best to pretend they aren't. Sometimes public intellectuals' political opinions are subject to a sort of implicit 'appeal to authority' fallacy - since Posner's a brilliant jurist and fine writer, his political views *must* have some sort of benefit of the doubt. He must be perfectly rational and how dare anyone wonder about his basic assumptions about anything.

I'm sure the same type of thing bugged conservatives at the high tide of liberal technocracy in the 60s (45 years ago). The same thing bugs me now about the conservative establishment.

It's odd to see a statement that libertarian sentiments are rising. As an ideology libertarianism has been deeply discredited. On an intellectual level I think that climate changes is a perfect example. It's deeply uncomfortable for libertarian philosophy, so many adherents simply reject it as false - despite the strong evidence that is not only occurring but accelerating. The collapse of the market; the corruption and excess of rule by the wealthy and large corporations; these are pretty obvious too.

The Republican party may be more discredited than libertarianism, but not by much.

"It's odd to see a statement that libertarian sentiments are rising."

Columbia, MO - May 31, 2009 - Three highly-regarded national polls have confirmed a growing Libertarian trend in U.S. politics. The Pew Research Center, the Washington Post with ABC News, and Rasmussen Reports have published their findings on American political attitudes in 2009.

"Across the board, these polls tell us that most Americans believe in the free market economy, are skeptical of big government, and take a moral stand against government intolerance and bigotry," said Glenn Nielsen, chair of the Missouri Libertarian Party. "This is the essence of Libertarian thought, and we welcome the results of these national polls."

The Pew Research Center published its annual report on political values and trends last week entitled Independents Take Center Stage in Obama Era. This report concludes that "the proportion of independents now equals its highest level in 70 years" and that these independents are more likey to be economically conservative and socially tolerant.
[...]

National Polls Confirm Growing Libertarian Trend

Publius asks how to encourage others to reexamine their Republicanism. Perhaps one way would be to call the 1-800 number and get their names of the mailing list for this (via TPM). Maybe if they got the raw effluent, they might reconsider

From that report:

"The public continues to be of two minds in its opinions about both government and business. Business generally, as well as Wall Street specifically, is viewed as playing a vital role in American society, but both are viewed as excessively concerned with amassing profits. In addition, although support for government assistance to the poor has declined, opinions about the government itself – whether it is wasteful and inefficient, whether it is run for the benefit of all – have moved in a positive direction."

If you can't see the backlash against market fundamentalism you're not paying close attention.

I can only conclude that "the growing libertarian trend" that's supposedly been polled assumes that anyone who is pro-market/anti-government is a libertarian, and that libertarianism is a catch-all for a smorgasbord of contradictory ideas and principles that somehow is held together by people who like this idea and that, and dislike this other idea and that, and can hold it all together in one mind at the same time.

It's odd that libertarianism is silent on all this, because if there were ever a moment for something from outside either the Democrats or Republicans to take its place at the trough, and that wouldn't be fromt he liberal end, I would think it'd be the Libs given their longevity. But intolerance and bigotry as a government-sponsored antagonism? For this Missouri Libertarian party person to say as such...it's no wonder ideological libertarianism has no standing - not for people not coming to grasp its core ideals and beliefs, but because it fails to correct what people perceive to be its contradictions. It's no wonder that a whole host of people who otherwise had core values that the Libs have espoused over the decades, from Ayn Rand to Frank Zappa, rejected the party when they came calling.

I'm not a libertarian, but I think, in all fairness, that they need to aim for better than this if they want credibility, and I'd be willing to at least give them a hearing if they were to do so. But I can only assume that they don't, and until they do so, they're going to sound like Republicans who are even more screwy and soured than Republicans themselves.

I'm not a libertarian, but I think, in all fairness, that they need to aim for better than this if they want credibility, and I'd be willing to at least give them a hearing if they were to do so.

There is a very big difference between a libertarian and someone belonging to a fringe party *called* 'The LP'. It's grossly inaccurate to use the two interchangeably. The Corpro-Libertarianism of the LP is highly idiosyncratic, and makes about as much sense as Violent Pacifism.

Alan Greenspan, about as Randian as you can get, has turned around and is now advocating for more governance of the market. He had his whole worldview shattered. Watching anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together change their mind when things fail as badly as they have is not shocking. It is intelligent.

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