Here we observe one of the dangers of academic tenure…

The short version, if you don’t have time to watch the video, is like this: evidently having nothing better to do, Roberto Unger, a former professor of President Obama’s, has concluded that same President Obama must be defeated. This defeat will, so he says, “allow the voice of democratic prophecy to speak once again in American life.”

Obviously, the good professor knows this will not happen under President Romney.  But the defeat of Obama is necessary to allow for true progressivism to return, he believes.

Let us look at history, shall we?  From 1968 until 1992, the Republicans won every Presidential election but one.  The Democrats finally got Clinton in ’92, but this was largely through the “New Democrat” strategy of adopting many laissez-faire Republican economic policies.  In other words, the Democrats accomplished their victory only by becoming much more like the Republicans on economic issues.  Not exactly what Prof. Unger is looking for.

Cast back a bit further, and we find the shoe on the other foot: From 1932 until 1952, the Republicans did not win a Presidential election. When they finally did win, it was with Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero and a man so friendly to the New Deal that Republican extremists suspected him of communism.  Clearly, the Republicans had to capitulate a good deal to the Democrats on economic policy.

In recent times, there are two instances where a party lost an election and four years later returned with a more extreme candidate: 1964 and 1980.  Goldwater was more extreme than Nixon, and he was crushed.  Reagan was more extreme than Ford, and he won handily.  So, it’s kind of a mixed bag.  (Not, of course, if you factor in charisma; then it is all quite explicable.)

The record is pretty clear: parties rarely favor their more radical economic policies in the wake of sound defeats.  They do just the opposite, trying to emulate and subsume elements of the winning party’s policies.  This is especially true for Democrats.  I therefore judge Prof. Unger’s plan a bad one.

(Video via Huffington Post.  Also check out this post about Prof. Unger at The Reaction.)

The Republican Party

Cut tax and spend less.

And Heed the Word of the Lord.

But mostly, cut tax.

The Democratic Party

We must tax the rich.

Unless they’re in Hollywood.

Then we’re conflicted.


Cut Government Waste!

Like useless departments that

Monitor spending.

The Tea Party

We hate government

Unless it does what we want.

So… basically… yeah.

Moderate Democrats

We can disagree

On Reagan’s policies, but

His hair was perfect!*


Globalism good.

If there’s more to it than that,

We don’t want to know.

Liberal Progressivism

We’re disappointed.

We won’t vote for Obama.

Kucinich ’16!

Moderate Republicans

We’re not Democrats.

No, really, we promise you!

Not the same at all!

The Alt-Right/”Manosphere”

We strongly believe

We’re slaves to biology.

Go build some robots.


We are all selfish.

It worked great in the novel.

Check your premises.


Why do we have to adhere to this stupid form? We will use however many freakin’ syllables we damn well please!

*Apologies to the late, great Warren Zevon for stealing this line.

Michael Tomasky has a pretty amazing article in The Daily Beast, and not in a good way:

What this country needs… is a large and well-funded and well-run organization to advance moderate Republicanism and elect moderate Republicans… Republicans behave the way they behave because every incentive they have rewards it. They are loony-right obstructionists because it pays to be that in terms of contributions and votes….

The presence of more truly moderate Republicans would, completely by itself, fix most of our government’s problems. Imagine, for example, that there were 12 or 15 actual Republican moderates in the Senate, instead of the three who are in fact there..

You know, you almost never hear the same concept uttered by Republicans, even though they believe almost all Democrats to be crazed radicals.  They don’t say “we need more moderate Democrats”, they say “we must defeat the Democrats in the election.”   This is probably how they got to hold the power they currently do.

Tomasky is over-thinking things.  If you want to make the Republicans change, you don’t need more moderate Republicans, you need more Democrats of almost any kind.  Imagine if there were three more Democrats instead of three moderate Republicans.  Imagine that, since it’s far more likely to happen than nine moderate Republicans showing up from somewhere.

And this hypothetical “large and well-funded and well-run organization to advance moderate Republicanism” Tomasky proposes?  Where is it supposed to come from?  And who would be fool enough to go along with it?  It’s a needless uphill battle.  If you were a young politician starting out, why would you squander your career trying to fit a square peg into a round hole?  Tomasky wants an organization to put together a band of mavericks to go on a mission that will almost certainly fail. That’s not a political strategy; it’s a “B” action-movie plot.

If the Republican party consistently lost to the Democratic party, they might feel a need to change strategies.  Right now, as Tomasky correctly notes, there is no reason to do that, because they have been maintaining a respectable enough winning percentage.

Also, do you know what would happen if there were such a “moderate Republican” advocating-organization?  Why, the Republicans would immediately denounce it as a Liberal or R.I.N.O. espionage plot. They’d laugh them off the stage.

In summary: don’t make life harder than it has to be.  The way to get the Republicans to change is to vote for Democrats.  I can see why we can’t have a third party in this country; apparently, even two are too many for some people to deal with.

Say this for Thomas Friedman: he was right that Michael Bloomberg could unite moderate Republicans and Democrats. I think that they, along with all the libertarians, agree that his soft drink ban is rather absurd.

The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited…“–The New York Times.

I know Republicans–particularly those in the “Tea Party” faction–will say otherwise, but in my experience there are precious few Democrats who will draw a line in the sand and fight to the bitter end to prevent the sale of medium-sized soft drinks. Yes, liberals want to regulate big business, but it’s Kochs, not Cokes, that they are concerned with.

No matter how hard Friedman wishes upon stars, (specifically, these stars)* Bloomberg isn’t going to be President, because banning soft drinks is not the sort of thing that the average voter takes kindly to. It is saying not merely “I know what is best for you,” but “I cannot permit you to even have the chance to act otherwise.”

Is there anyone who doesn’t already know that drinking carbonated corn syrup is worse for you than drinking a bottle of water? I very much doubt it. It can be inferred from the scientific principle that everything that tastes good is bad for you.

It would be different if the ban was on selling the stuff to kids. That would be something people could understand. But if a consenting adult wants to drink a gallon of sugar water, who can say that person hasn’t the right to do so?

Are there any other instances in history of unhealthy beverages being prohibited? Any famous ones that didn’t work at all? Someone should investigate that.  In the meantime, you have to wonder just how much this can possibly change obesity in New York City. Maybe Bloomberg should eliminate all forms of public transportation in the city instead, thus forcing people to exercise. (True, they could try driving. But this is New York City we’re talking about.)

Of course, this isn’t in any way a massive infringement on New Yorkers’ rights. They’re not even banning all sodas; just certain sizes. What could be wrong with that? The mayor himself commented upon the sheer banality of his plan:

“Your argument, I guess, could be that it’s a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away.”

He’s right, you know. It doesn’t even make a difference! A trifle, nothing more!

Hey, wait, why do it then? And why tell the portly partakers of Pepsi the loophole that they just have to buy more drinks? I mean, is he serious about matters of public health or not? This is where trying to be a centrist gets you into trouble: you end up doing just enough to annoy the Republicans without solving the problem the Democrats want solved.

I rag on the libertarians a lot on this blog, mostly because I used to be one and I can see so many of their errors. We need government regulation to protect the public health. We need it for big things that private industry might cut corners on, such as making sure that the sewer system and the drinking water system are two distinct things.

But not this sort of thing. This stuff makes the libertarians feel justified. I realize that the government feels like it ought to do something, just to make sure it still can, but in this case it really would be better to just put up some posters telling people to eat and drink healthy stuff, silly as that may seem.

*This is what I am alluding to regarding Mr. Friedman

Newt Gingrich has written an article in NewsMax about what he calls “NOT Obama Democrats”. (I am not sure why the “not” is capitalized.):

The first big signal was the 41 percent of the vote Keith Judd won in the West Virginia Democratic primary. Here was a convicted felon sitting in a Texas federal prison with a 17 1/2-year sentence for extortion. When West Virginia Democrats prefer a convicted felon to the president, they are showing they are “NOT Obama Democrats.”

This week the depth of the NOT Obama Democrats was further revealed when John Wolfe got 41 percent of the vote in the Arkansas primary. Wolfe, an attorney whose platform includes repealing Obamacare, actually won 36 counties against Obama’s 39 counties.

The same day, “uncommitted” got 42 percent in Kentucky and actually carried a majority of the counties (66 counties to 54 Obama counties).

This 42 percent is the same percentage Eugene McCarthy got against President Lyndon Johnson in New Hampshire in 1968, and at that time it was considered an earthquake to have that many Democrats repudiate their own president.

Putting that History degree to use, eh? It might be worth mentioning that McCarthy was an actual guy, and therefore somewhat more capable of sustaining his support than “uncommitted”. Obama presumably intends to continue to argue for himself, and no other Democrat is going to argue for him or her self.

I mock Gingrich, but the truth is he’s on to something here; it is an interesting development. He writes: “If the campaign continues in this direction, we may discover that the NOT Obama Democrats will evolve into Romney Democrats by Election Day.”

Doubtful. Romney is unlikely to appeal to these rural voters much more than Obama does. Yes, yes, I know my fellow Liberals are thinking it’s all motivated by “racism!”, but the fact of the matter is that Romney seems like a rich corporate elitist to these voters.I don’t think they’ll like him any more than they do Obama.

Jennifer Rubin looked at these same facts and concluded: “The reason for this, as you might imagine, is that in burnishing his credentials with the left, Obama has hurt himself in the center, even within the Democratic Party.” Yes, of course, the legendary “center”! How could I forget? She next quotes Josh Kraushaar, who gets it even more wrong:

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail. . . .

Yeah, I’m sure the farmers and rural folks in West Virginia and Arkansas are really torqued off that he didn’t do the Simpson-Bowles plan. Rural people hate populism, isn’t that so?

But, to her credit, Rubin does also make one useful observation in that same post. That is that “Romney is the least conservative candidate the GOP had to choose from.”

Is this true? Well, it’s hard to say, what with the flip-flopping and all. But he is certainly not as bombastic and bellicose as Newt Gingrich. And he was Governor of Massachusetts, a very liberal state, which demonstrates he possesses some ability to compromise; something Gingrich would never do.

Was he more liberal than Ron Paul? Difficult question. Ron Paul is extremely liberal on some issues–drugs, for example–but in step with the most reactionary of conservatives on others. It is almost an “apples to oranges” comparison, but I think on the whole, it is fair to say Romney is at least more “mainstream” and “safer” than Paul, whose supporters are often of a more radical bent, whatever their political leanings.

Romney was more liberal than Bachmann, but more conservative than Huntsman. But Huntsman barely even counts, because everyone, including him, knew he didn’t have a chance. So, that leaves only one other candidate for Romney’s “liberal Republican” credentials to be compared with: Santorum. This should be easy enough to prove. We all know Santorum was the conservative wing’s alternative to Romney. Surely, this fact alone proves Romney to be the most liberal of the possible nominees?

As a Congressman, Santorum, economically speaking, could pass for a caricature Democrat. He was for all sorts of government spending programs. As conservatives and liberals alike will attest, he may have been very conservative socially, but his fiscal behavior was entirely that of a Big-Government man.

I have often thought that Santorum would have been quite happy as a Democrat in the 1930s, ’40s or ’50s. He would have had massive government spending programs going, and social issues being more or less unacknowledged. He is, in other words, a Conservative Democrat from the pre-sexual revolution era.

So, Mitt Romney is more liberal on social issues than Santorum–not a difficult task–but more conservative on economic issues. Romney is far more likely to cut spending than Santorum was. So, which guy is more liberal? Well, that’s hard to say, isn’t it?

And we come round to where we started: what is the deal with all these Democrats not voting for the President from their own party? I suspect a lot of them are like Santorum; they want government spending programs, but don’t like Democratic policies on social issues.

“Reck·on·ing: an itemized bill or statement of a sum due.”

That is the second definition at The Free Dictionary for the word “reckoning”. A dark bit of irony, given the fate of the game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning 

I’d been seeing ads for it on game sites and in stores for awhile, but I never paid any attention to them, because the whole fantasy/medieval setting has never done much for me. I’m still recovering from forcing myself through Neverwinter Nights 2.

But today, I saw that 38 Studios, the company that made it, is folding. It’s getting a lot of publicity because it was founded by Curt Schilling, a baseball player so famous that even I have heard of him. I’ll have more on the business aspects of this in a minute, but first a little more about the game itself.

Also of note to me was that the game’s lore was created by R.A. Salvatore. I’ve only read one book by him, the novelization of Attack of the Clones. I thought it was pretty bad, to be honest, but I know he’s a very widely-acclaimed fantasy author.

The plot of Kingdoms of Amalur sounded…. Well, let me show, not tell. From the Wikipedia page for Kingdoms:

“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” follows the story of a mortal known as the “Fateless One”, who having died before the game’s outset, is revived in the experimental Well of Souls by the gnomish scientist Fomorous Hugues. The first and only success of the experiment, the Fateless One must escape the facility when it comes under attack… Having escaped the facility, the Fateless One – having no memory of his life before his death – learns of the intriacies [sic] of the world he has returned to by the Fateweaver Agarth…

For comparison, here’s a bit of the plot summary for Planescape: Torment a famous and almost universally beloved RPG from 1999:

“Planescape: Torment”‘s protagonist is “The Nameless One,” an immortal being who, if killed, will wake up later, sometimes with complete amnesia…

The game’s story begins when The Nameless One wakes up in a mortuary. He is immediately approached by a floating skull, Morte, who offers advice on how to escape…

Well, I guess it’s a nice tip of the hat to Torment… that’s good, I suppose. Not breaking a lot of new ground, though. Regardless, the general reception of the game was good, but not great.

Apparently, though, it needed to be great, because 38 Studios ran out of money and laid off all their employees. That’s sad. It’s always a shame when people lose their jobs.

And this is where the story gets really bad. Back in 2010, Rhode Island loaned the company $75 million dollars to move there, on the idea that it would generate “jobs” and “tax revenues”. The Governor of Rhode island is not at all happy about the situation, and Schilling has apparently run out of money to put into the company.

Another aspect to the whole thing is that Schilling is known for his support of Republican politicians. It seems, as Brian McGrory notes, rather hypocritical that a Republican should be taking money from the government to support his business. Doesn’t quite square with the whole “free market” thing, and all that. But then, I don’t know what kind of Republican Schilling is. Perhaps he has no deep philosophical or ideological ties to them; he merely recognizes–correctly–that as a wealthy person it is to his financial advantage for them to win.

What concerns me more is the black eye it gives to video gaming companies as business ventures–people will think twice before investing in a game company with the specter of it being “the next 38 Studios” hanging over it. I mean, if one that is backed by a wealthy celebrity and produces a reasonably well-liked game can’t succeed; that’s going to give everyone pause.

eviljwinter at Edged in Blue has a good post about how the two-party system is bad for political discourse in this country. I can’t argue with that, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve posted much the same thing.

Where I have some disagreement with him is his support for the multi-party system. The problem is that eventually the two-party system will effectively be reborn through “coalition building”. eviljwinter is right to say that it’s odd that libertarians and social conservatives should find themselves in the same party, but he neglects to consider how this came about. The libertarians and the social conservatives both consciously chose to join the Republican party, after all. Nobody forced them.

Suppose that all the libertarians went and formed a real, honest-to-God Libertarian party, and not just the shade of one that exists now. Suppose also that the social conservatives went and formed their own party, as well. This sounds very well, but eventually some of the parties would begin to chat with each other. And then they would soon begin to make alliances against other parties. Eventually, it is quite likely that the Social Conservatives and Libertarians would rebuild the old Republican  voting coalition under a new name, and then we would be back where we started.

I’m no expert, but I think “coalition government” of this sort is how politics works in Europe. Actually, it’s the way almost all Democracies end up working out of necessity. It is only a curious anomaly that in the United States, these coalitions are but rarely granted the status of “party”, and are instead known as the “right-wing” or “the Reagan Democrats” or whatever.

Still, while I feel that the multi-party system would be of limited help to our political system, it’s still a very good post; and I’m wholeheartedly supportive of attempts to consider such alternatives.

According to a Pew Research Center report:

Female eligible voters participated in the 2008 election at a higher rate than male eligible voters—65.7% versus 61.5%. Nearly 10 million more women voted than men.

As this report from the Center for American Women and Politics shows, this isn’t new, either.

Given this, how incredibly, amazingly, stupendously boneheadedly stupid would the Republican strategists have to be to wage a “war on women”, as they are accused of doing? Surely, no party with many well-paid strategists could fail to notice how the math works out here.

I mean, if they’re really planning to be the party of misogyny and want to have a chance of ever winning an election again, they’ll have to repeal the 19th amendment. And the Democrats would never let that happen.

Personally, though I’m no supporter of the Republican party in general, or their policies on abortion, contraception etc. in particular, I cannot bring myself to believe they are so abysmally dense as all this. Why, some women are quite in favor of their policies. This New York Times article notes:

The battles over access to contraception and other women’s health issues that have sprung to life on the Republican campaign trail in recent weeks have had the effect of disenchanting some moderate Republican women. But for conservative women, the opposite may be true.

“[Rick Santorum’s] ideas don’t infringe upon my rights at all,” said Lauren Deppe, 21, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “As far as birth control, my mom and I say you’ve got birth control right with you. It’s called abstinence.”

Conservative women support the conservative candidate, and non-conservative women don’t. Think of that!

Presumably, Santorum and his crew don’t intend to wage war on women like Ms. Deppe, who will apparently vote for him. No, “there is no war here,” as Tion Medon told Obi-Wan Kenobi, “unless you’ve brought it with you.”

So, what are the Republicans really up to? Perhaps you have heard that a recent poll discovered that most Conservatives do not trust the scientific establishment. Perhaps you have heard, also, about Rick Santorum calling universities “indoctrination mills”.

You see, this is not a war on women; this is a war–metaphorically speaking–on intellectualism. Anybody, male or female, who goes about worrying about anything sophisticated or intellectual, in addition to the tasks of day-to-day life, is the true target of their policies. What the Republicans oppose is anything that deviates from their very rigid and traditional vision of society.

Charlotte Allen has a rather baffling piece in the Los Angeles Times. She begins like this:

A few years ago Ann Coulter published a book titled “How to Talk to Liberal (If You Must).” With all due respect, Coulter, one of my favorite conservative eye-pokers, was wrong. There is no “how” in talking to a liberal. You can’t talk to a liberal, period.

She then goes on to cite numerous cases in which she attempted to. This one is my favorite:

[A]s I was defending my doctoral dissertation on a medieval topic, I mentioned that wealthy women of that time often functioned as patrons of the arts, commissioning beautifully decorated religious books. “Women like pretty things,” I said. OMG! I looked around at the three learned but liberal female professors on the committee, their smiles suddenly frozen into rictuses, groans issuing from their lips. How was I going to tell my husband, who had already made the reservations for a celebratory dinner, that I’d failed the defense? (Fortunately, I didn’t, but it was a scary moment.)

I mean, that’s just nit-picking, in my opinion. If they had failed her over it, that would be another matter, but as it stands I don’t see why she should whine about a minor incident like the expression of someone’s face. Or at least don’t go using “these people looked at me funny once” to support a generalization about the adherents of an entire ideology.

(As an aside, I have had very interesting conversations about gender differences with liberal friends of mine–liberal female friends, at that! So, I can match Ms. Allen’s anecdotal evidence with some of my own.)

It’s not really a very ambitious article. It seems like its primary point amounts to “liberals suck”, and it never moves beyond that.

But wait! The L.A. Times, being a fair publication, also has a liberal, Diana Wagman, submit her views on the issue of “liberals vs. conservatives”.  The point of it, essentially, is that she is a liberal and she and her conservative neighbor got along fine until they found about one another’s politics, at which a point they yelled at one another a lot. And now she feels bad because they hate each other.

The two articles conform almost humorously to stereotypes–the conservative says that liberals suck, and the liberal remarks how sad it is that there’s so much hate in the world.

So, I guess another anecdote of mine is in order. Two of my friends in college were conservative, and I don’t think either of them knew I was a liberal. Whenever they’d say something like “those liberals are a bunch of idiots”, I’d say something like “Oh, yeah? What have they done now?” Then they would tell me, and I would smile and nod. I generally was able to ask them their opinions of things without them ever asking me for mine. And that suited us all just fine.

Should I have spoken up? Am I a traitor to the cause for not doing so? Maybe. But I didn’t think it was likely I would change their minds, and so I made a calculation that it was better to have friends I could rely on in matters not political than not have them at all.

On this blog, of course, I take a different tack: I tell people my views, and if they express different ones, then I am happy to debate with them. Mostly, this is because it will leave a written record, and it’s possible–unlikely, but possible–that someday I may write something interesting in the course of debating that might be useful either to the person I’m debating or else to some third-party who happens by and reads it. But this was very unlikely to happen in conversation.

Most people are not  good at spoken debate. I know I’m not. The closest thing we have to professional debaters are lawyers, and there’s a reason it takes so much training to be one of them. It’s a very difficult skill. Moreover, it’s even worse in political matters, because the two parties actively try to teach their techniques that are designed to benefit the Party, not further discussion or aid in arriving at something like the truth.

That’s what “talking points”, slogans and similar things that political parties put out are for; to keep people from having honest debates. Despite my reluctance to do so, I have been involved in a few spoken debates with Republicans. And I have witnessed many more between friends and family members. They can be quite amusing to watch because the participants on both sides very quickly fall into saying remembered phrases and slogans that they have learned from somewhere. It’s not really a debate; it’s like two synchronized recordings. This is true even for debates between actual politicians–the only difference is that they are usually better at hiding what they are doing.

Most people support their party fairly instinctively, and only learn the reasons and arguments they are putting out as a way of having something to say on their behalf. Personally, I try to always state my reasons for why I support them, and not their reasons for why I ought to support them. It’s very surprising how tough that can be.

There’s a scene in the video game Jade Empire when the character Sagacious Zu is warning the protagonist about the ruthless tactics of the evil Lotus Assassins, and after he’s done describing them, he concludes, in shame and anguish:  “I should know. I… I was one”. I have always loved the way Robin Atkin Downes says that line, and it’s been running through my head as I’ve been thinking about libertarians lately.  I don’t mean to imply that libertarians are evil. They have a lot of good ideas. But they aren’t as brilliant as they think.

What set me thinking about this was reading this article at Fox News by Wayne Allyn Root about the “Ron Paul phenomenon”. It’s a rather weird article, but Root is pretty much right when he describes what the young people like about Congressman Paul, writing: “Like Ron Paul, young people want government out of their bedroom and wallet. They crave economic and personal freedom.”

True, but it deserves a little elaboration. Having been one, I am pretty sure I know what’s going through the minds of those young people who are supporting Ron Paul. It’s something like this:

Well, the Democrats and Republicans are both corrupt. I’m not gullible, so I’m not going to buy into either side of this false dichotomy. I am more sophisticated than that. I am going to choose a different way, a way that is like neither of the parties, but new and different. I am a rebel! 

Yes, I remember it well. I thought I was a genius for figuring out that the Democrats and Republicans were not perfect, and that blind allegiance to either would not do.

Of course, it doesn’t do have blind allegiance to the trendy thing that everyone who’s too cool for the two party system is doing, either. It took me only four or five years to figure out that it was suspicious how mainstream we supposedly radical libertarians were. And also how little impact we had.

My first thought on considering this was a predictable conspiracy theory about the libertarians being used on an ad hoc basis to give whichever party was out of power a credible group to ally with, without actually giving that group anything in the way of a share of power.

I think many a cynical libertarian would agree with me wholeheartedly about this. And I still believe it to be true. However, my real break with the libertarians came next, when it occurred to me that the reason this happened was not because we libertarians were pure martyrs, cruelly tricked by the denizens of a fallen world, but rather because we really were just a bunch of people who thought we were much cleverer than we actually were for combining the Republican economic policy with the Democratic social policy, and worrying about the government’s power all the time.

I admit it took me awhile to get here. Like most libertarians, I read Ayn Rand early on in my college career. Unlike most libertarians, who are usually quite impressed with her at first, and only later qualify their admiration, I knew from the beginning something was amiss with her philosophy. Lest I sound like I’m bragging, I don’t think it was because I was smarter than anybody else; I think it was more that I have an instinctive rebelliousness that tells me to say “not X” to anyone who forcefully tells me “X”. And what Ayn Rand forcefully told me was “$”.

But, that was just the beginning. Not all libertarians believed in the “almighty dollar”. Most of them did not, actually, and were much more reasonable and accommodating than the strident Rand.

Unfortunately, it gradually became apparent to me that, in their present form, most libertarian policies did lead to the tyranny of the almighty dollar, even if they didn’t quite see it that way, or even mean for it to happen. Or as Oscar Wilde said:

“For the recognition of private property has really harmed Individualism, and obscured it, by confusing a man with what he possesses. It has led Individualism entirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is. Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up an Individualism that is false.” 

A beautiful sentiment–ultimately wrong, of course, but beautiful. Wilde misdiagnosed the problem in his society almost as badly as we libertarians did in ours, but in completely the opposite way. Private property is not the problem, as Wilde thought. And it’s not the solution, as libertarians think.

This is the heart of the matter. The libertarian policy is implicitly that private property–particularly money belonging to corporations–is the most important thing there is. However, experience will show that while it is an important thing, it is possible to construct a scenario in which private property rights are never violated and yet have a dysfunctional society. Which suggests that there are other things that are also important. (A good example of this is the debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act.)

Of course, the reason we all got into this private property craze was that if private property rights could be violated by the government, it gave the government a lot of power. And the government, we reasoned, could abuse that power. Well, well, it’s been known to happen, so it’s not a bad thing to fear.

Unfortunately, the libertarian policies seemed to me to lead into situations where private-property is overvalued. (This phenomenon is closely related to the way the “neoliberal project has embraced the commodification of literally all human interaction”, as Freddie DeBoer so brilliantly put it.)

It is true that, if I were forced to choose a President from the current GOP field, I’d still probably vote for Ron Paul, even though I think those newsletters released under his name are quite disgraceful and his economic policy is insane. This tells you something about my opinion of the rest of the field. But the fact is, I’m not forced to choose from among the GOP field, and thus there’s not much reason to consider it further.