Libertarians for Values!

Will Baude says:

Matthew Yglesias makes the best bet yet for voting for the nuttier-than-usual libertarian. On the one hand, one could counter that it's important to teach the libertarians a lesson too; what other people view as a more or less indistinguishable mess of nuttiness actually has much different levels, and the party really needs to learn that you can't just slap the libertarian label on an otherwise unacceptable candidate. On the other hand, there's a decent case that the LP is particularly resistant to incentives.

I think the way to teach the Libertarians (capital 'L' please) a lesson is mercilessly to mock Badnarik and the laughably poor judgment of the LP while simultaneously imploring those who might otherwise vote for Bush (why? WHY?) to throw their vote away (which, after all, is about as costly as throwing a used Kleenex away) for a good cause. For the futile purpose of sending a message to the GOP, Badnarik isn't a candidate so much as a value of a variable. I'm voting for the variable. The LP certainly does need to know that if they want genuine intellectual and moral support from the non-black helicopter set, then they need to saturate their variable with less embarrasing values, if you get my drift.
Now, it is true that LP true believers are quite accustomed to being mocked relentlessly, and so the incentive effect of endless verbal pummeling may feel to them like nothing wrose than home. Yet it is possible that some may be persuaded that if one is going to nominate a candidate for President of the United States of America, one might want to have more in mind than the narcissistic expression of one's imagined purist virtue, which is good for little more than reinforcing one's own sense of ideological matrydom.
In an election like this one, a strong LP candidate could very well have a Nader effect and throw the election to Kerry, which, considering the happy consequences of divided government, is what we ought to be hoping for anyway. The choice of a dork like Badnarik may well have botched a historic chance for the LP to actually matter.
Vote Badnarik!

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

9 thoughts

  1. How does this square with loads of survey data that show support for social security, etc?
    When Herbert Gintis et al. conducted their research for the book Moral Sentiments and Material Interests (MIT, 2006), they found the kind of dislike for “pure, non-contextualized” redistribution referred to above. However, Social Security (most certainly redistribution!) was favored because it was perceived to be “helping those who help themselves”. If the welfare state debate can be defined as just this, it isn’t suprising that Americans would support it.
    Public Opinion continues to be very elusive, but this survey notwithstanding, the public, from what I’ve read, is far more sympathetic to the welfare state than some libertarians let on, albeit with an undertone of “deserving” or “non-deserving” relatively absent in Europe.

  2. Social Security supports Will’s point, though, because it’s not clear it reduces inequality significantly, if at all. It’s funded by a regressive tax that does nothing to the highest incomes, it gives higher benefits to those who need them less, and rich people die later than poor people so they get benefits for longer. Note the thesis here is *not* the obviously false “the public is not sympathetic to the welfare state” (I wish!) but rather “the public is not sympathetic to policies designed to reduce inequality”.

  3. I find the two questions kinda poorly worded. Mostly because most steps to improve the economy will also decrease inequality. In other words its not a choice of either or…. the governement needs to do both as they are complimentary in most cases.
    So for instance George W Bush made most of his money by seizing private property using eminant domain and via a tax increase on local citizens used to build and run a stadium for the Texas Rangers. One could argue that such government policies transfer wealth from one group to another. And further most people do NOT support the government from doing so.
    So if the government pased laws preventing using eminant domain for personal profit and if they passed laws against taxing citizen to subsidize private businesses I think such actions would both distribute wealth more evenly and improve the economy.
    So the answer to the questions is that the government should do BOTH.
    The other answer is that most Americans DON’T want handouts they just want a level playing field. Likewise, most Americans want universal health care not because it will be a handout, they fully expect to pay for it through their taxes, they just want it because it will be more efficient and reliable and will increase their freedom to move from one job to another or to return to more training.

  4. Likewise, most Americans want universal health care not because it will be a handout, they fully expect to pay for it through their taxes…
    You sure about that? Americans are notoriously conflicted about what they want and what they are willing to pay for.
    True, I think UH would make it easier to switch jobs, but that’s only because currently the law favors employee provided care.
    More efficient and reliable? Don’t know about that. Are all forms of nominal “streamlining” necessarily efficient? And rationing and reliability don’t often go hand in hand.
    We should be breaking down cartels, not solidifying them further.

  5. “Americans love jobs and improving economic conditions” would be a more accurate (though less sexy) post title. Wealth redistribution couldn’t top that in a head-to-head forced choice, but I doubt that other relatively narrow economic agendas (like something related to taxes or trade, from either side of the issue) would poll much better if you pitted it against a good economy with good jobs. And it’s not like policymakers actually have to choose between the two alternatives.

  6. WaltFrench – Oakland, CA. Most of the time. – Jazz & opera lover; East Bayesian and frequent flyer. Math/quant nerd, a bit. Student of Disruptive Innovation.
    Walt French says:

    I believe it was Robt Schiller who has made a great case for looking at health insurance (among many others) not as income redistribution but rather as risk management.
    At birth, an individual has no idea what possible serious illnesses s/he might be especially prone to; many of those diseases shorten one’s working life which can make getting insured care impossible and create obvious pre-existing conditions that prohibit individual insurance, too.
    Many people voluntarily buy insurance for losses on cars and their homes, but it is not possible to buy lifetime health insurance which would allow us to predictably pay a bit (a fair bit, actually) out of our income as opposed to risking that your life will be shortened from the lack of good care.
    Many of us would also wish that for our children, too. There’s no way all but the wealthiest could set aside enough money to provide lifetime treatment for an unlikely but fabulously expensive illness. So right now, we all take some chance and the various local hospitals provide whatever emergency services out of the pockets of others.
    Again, you can frame this as socialized medicine or a societal risk management choice that individuals, given the chance, make all the time to best provide for their family’s well being.

  7. This may sound like a silly question, but has it been determined that incomes are more equal in Europe (if they are) because of government actions (by which I mean the social welfare state)? As I understand it, income figures in the US are almost always stated pre-tax, and almost always pre-redistribution payments from the government. If it’s the same for European statistics, can what government policies are making pre-government influenced income more equal in Europe than in the US?

  8. I think Isaac Chotiner put it best at TNR’s The Plank:
    See below for some real polling analysis from Nate, but this Gallup poll, which is being cited by Andrew and others on the web, is so ridiculously worded that people should ignore it completely (after reading this post, of course). The question is as follows:
    Which approach should government focus on to fix the economy?
    Here are the two possible answers:
    1. Take steps to distribute wealth more evenly among Americans.
    2. Take steps to improve overall economic conditions and the job situation.
    In other words, should the government fix the economy by:
    1. Distributing wealth more evenly
    2. Fixing the economy
    The results were, not surprisingly, 84%-13%, with option #2 coming out ahead.
    –Isaac Chotiner

  9. I really like the article in this site. To the topic, many people voluntarily apply insurance for losses on cars and their homes, but it is not possible to buy lifetime health insurance which would allow us to predictably pay a bit out of our income as opposed to risking that your life will be shortened from the lack of good care.

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