Tag Archives: Mitt Romney

I’m a libertarian. Which is why I’m voting for Mitt Romney.

5 Nov

Randy Barnett is one of the most brilliant legal theorists on the right today. He’s also a libertarian. Ever since I came across his work in the course of my research on Justice Scalia, I’ve been fascinated by him. No matter what you think of his politics, he’s always worth reading.

“I am as libertarian today as I was” in 1975, writes Barnett in today’s Wall Street Journal [pdf of entire article here], when he attended his first Libertarian Party convention. And that is why he’s voting tomorrow for Mitt Romney. And urging other libertarians to do the same. Because a vote for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is, well, I’ll just let Barnett explain it in his own words.

The Libertarian Party’s effort will, if effective, attract more libertarian voters away from the candidate who is marginally less hostile to liberty [Romney], and help hand the election to the candidate who is more hostile to liberty [Obama].

We often hear that libertarians care about much more than the rights of property and freedom of contract. They loathe the drug war, imperialism, and social conservatism, and are as far away from the Republicans as they are from the Democrats. They stand for a government of limited, federated, and separated powers because that is how personal liberty is best secured. Here’s how one of their most influential and important advocates thinks about these things.

Some libertarians continue to insist that, because the Republican and Democrats are equally bad for liberty, it makes no difference who gets elected. However true this once was, in recent years Republicans have been better for liberty and Democrats have been worse.

It was a Democratic Congress and president who gave us the federal takeover of the health-care industry that will bring us closer to a Western European-style social democracy. All four Democratic-appointed Supreme Court justices voted to uphold ObamaCare as constitutional, with four Republican-appointed dissenters.

Are Democrats better than Republicans on personal liberty? Neither has been great on that score, but Democrats have been the bigger disappointment. When I took the medical-marijuana case to the Supreme Court in 2004, I got zero votes from the left side of the court while garnering the votes of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor. And President Obama’s Justice Department has reneged on his campaign promise to refrain from going after medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Neither party wants to question the futile and destructive “war on drugs.” But Republicans have been much better on free speech in recent years. With respect to economic liberty, the Environmental Protection Agency has restricted land use throughout the nation and would do more if not stopped. Dodd-Frank has amped up restrictions on financial services.

Libertarians need to adjust their tactics to the current context. This year, their highest priority should be saving the country from fiscal ruin, arresting and reversing the enormous growth in federal power—beginning with repealing ObamaCare—and pursuing a judiciary who will actually enforce the Constitution. Which party is most likely to do these things in 2013?

Citing the Republican Congress under George W. Bush, some libertarians contend that divided government is best for liberty. Yes, divided government is good for stopping things (until some grand deal is made). But divided government won’t repeal ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank or give us better judges.

h/t Alex Gourevitch

Update (November 6, 7:45 am)

Mike Konczal writes on my FB page:

It’s hidden in the Barnett piece, but I read it as there’s been so much organizational effort and success in getting the GOP to adhere to far-right Supreme Court justices, that the best libertarian play is to try and Lochner-ize the Court (which it could do with two more votes). I think he’s right that that is their best play.

Coal Miners Forced to Attend Romney Rally: “Attendance at the event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.”

28 Aug

From Ryan Cooper at the Washington Monthly comes this especially pointed tale of workplace coercion (h/t Douglas Edwards).

So the Romney campaign visited a coal mine on August 14th, for a speech with a bunch of suitably dirty miners standing behind him, with his podium bearing a placard that read “Coal Country Stands with Mitt.” But apparently it should have said “or else” at the end:

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.

A group of employees who feared they’d be fired if they didn’t attend the campaign rally in Beallsville, Ohio, complained about it to WWVA radio station talk show host David Blomquist. Blomquist discussed their beefs on the air Monday with Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore.

Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said the company did not penalize no-shows.

Because the company’s mine had to be shut down for “safety and security” reasons during Romney’s visit, Moore confirmed workers were not paid that day.

Apparently they’re even keeping lists of people who are politically active:

“Yes, we were in fact told that the Romney event was mandatory and would be without pay, that the hours spent there would need to be made up my non-salaried employees outside of regular working hours, with the only other option being to take a pay cut for the equivalent time,” the employees told Blomquist. “Yes, letters have gone around with lists of names of employees who have not attended or donated to political events.”

What Katha Said

19 Apr

Katha Pollitt writing in the Nation about the Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney fracas:

But the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself. When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants. But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself.

So there it is: the difference between a stay-home mother and a welfare mother is money and a wedding ring. Unlike any other kind of labor I can think of, domestic labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it.


The Republican Debate: 5 Theses

8 Sep

Thesis 1: When the libertarian rubber hits the political road

Going after Mitt Romney in the first ten minutes of the debate, Rick Perry claimed that Romney had a good record of creating jobs when he was in the private sector but a terrible record as governor of Massachusetts.  Conversely, said Perry, he had a terrific record as governor of Texas.  “We created more jobs in the last three months in Texas” than Romney did during his entire term in Massachusetts.  Even Michael Dukakis, Perry added, had a better record than Romney, to which Romney replied: “George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did.” In all the back and forth, no one noted the obvious irony: according to conservative orthodoxy, it’s not the government that creates jobs; it’s the free market.

Thesis 2: Mitt Romney is a mad man.

Listen to the video of that exchange between Romney and Perry in the link above.  Shut your eyes, and tell me if Romney doesn’t sound like this man:


Thesis 3: Beware facile comparisons.

Pointing out that Reagan raised taxes at least five times during his presidency, Ezra Klein concludes that unlike the current crop of GOP candidates Reagan was a “pragmatist,” a “conservative who was willing to compromise with reality. And that’s not something I heard a lot of on the stage last night.”

You hear this kind of comparison all the time, but it makes little sense. The reality that Reagan confronted was very different from the reality confronting today’s GOP.  Reagan had to deal with a Democratic Party that was, to some degree, still a liberal party. While the New Deal and the Great Society were under siege, they still had institutional and ideological legs, which Reagan had to contend with—a point historians Julian Zelizer and Bruce Schulman ably make in their introduction to Rightward Bound. It’s not that Reagan was willing to compromise; it’s that he had to compromise.

Today’s GOP operates in a veritable free-fire zone cleared of liberals; the kinds of free-market assumptions that were revolutionary in Reagan’s time are now orthodoxy. Though none of us can truly know what was in Reagan’s heart then or in Perry’s heart (assuming he has one) now, they were/are confronting radically different environments.

More generally, I wish we could stop making these kinds of comparisons across time. You know, the Obama is more conservative than Nixon comparison, the George W. Bush is way to the right of Lincoln claim, that kind of thing. (Full disclosure: I’m sure at some point or another I’ve made the same kind of move.) They’re facile and useless. They ignore historical context and what Yale political scientist Steve Skowronek calls the place of the presidency in political time.

Every president comes into office opposed to or allied with the dominant regime of his time. FDR was opposed to the Republican regime that had dominated American politics since the nineteenth century and overthrew it; Nixon was opposed to the New Deal/Great Society regime and accommodated it; George W. Bush was allied with the Reagan regime and extended it.Bush was able to do things Reagan and Nixon never did because the liberal Democratic regime they had to contend with was dead by the time Bush was inaugurated (Reagan helped kill it, Clinton buried it).

The long and the short of it is: before we make ahistorical comparisons about who is more liberal or conservative in relationship to whom, let’s situate the president in political time. Assess how strong or weak is the dominant regime, place the president in relation to that regime (allied or opposed), and take it from there.

Thesis 4: Sent a bolt of lightning, very very frightening me. (Galileo) Galileo!! (Galileo) Galileo!! (Galileo) Figaro!!


The most arresting moment of the debate was when Rick Perry invoked Galileo in defense of his skepticism about climate change.  Here’s what he said:

The science is not settled on this.  The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense.  Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

That line has got everyone spinning; google Rick Perry and Galileo, and you get 471,000 results. But while everyone churns out their pet theories, let’s  remember that Galileo has long held a special place in the mind of the Old South. Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, famously invoked Galileo in defense of the slaveholders’ conviction that “the negro is not equal to the white man” and “subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

The comparison between Galileo and the slaveholder was as far-fetched as Perry’s, but like Perry, Stephens defended it on the ground that his position was a fugitive knowledge, a heresy that would one day become orthodoxy.  “This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.”

Other slaveholders (Josiah Nott, John C. Calhoun) made the same comparison; Calhoun also invoked Francis Bacon, Stephens also invoked William Harvey. Their point was that like those great heresies of early modern science, the southern science of race would one day triumph and be recognized the world over. It’s the way the white southerner has always negotiated his contradictory self-understanding of being both victim and victimizer. Again, Stephens:

As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced by Galileo it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests?”

And so, I assume, says Rick Perry to himself and his followers about their equally dubious science of climate non-change.

Thesis Five: Andy Borowitz is funny.

Comedian Andy Borowitz had the best tweet of the night: “”For a guy who doesn’t believe in science, Rick Perry is sure happy about the invention of the electric chair.”



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