Will Wilkinson’s liberaltarian case for Bernie Sanders

by on February 20, 2016 at 12:21 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Political Science, Television | Permalink

A number of you have written in and asked for direct commentary on his recent piece and its sequel companion.  And here is Vernon Smith on Bernie.

I agree with Megan McArdle that the argument doesn’t work.  I would second all or most of Megan’s points about Bernie’s less positive proclivities, including the bone-crunching marginal tax rates and the foreign policy inexperience, while adding another perspective.

One approach is to ask “which of the current slate of candidates should I prefer?”

A second approach, and the one I would suggest here, is “I have a good idea — in this case liberaltarianism — how long should I wait before attaching that idea to a particular candidate?”  I say wait!

A Bernie Sanders presidency, if it somehow did manage to connect up to liberaltarianism, probably would do those ideas more harm than good.  In my view he is not up to being an effective President.  I don’t have the interest in outlining that case at any length, but suffice to say Paul Krugman — admittedly from a different framework — seems to agree.

I enjoyed Megan’s line: “And I have a sneaking fondness for Sanders, who reminds me of any number of folks from my Upper West Side childhood.”

Did it work out for the neoconservatives to attach themselves to Bush 43?  I say no.  Did it work out for mainstream liberals to attach themselves to Obama?  I say mostly yes.  So it can go either way.  How did the Varoufakis flirtation work out for the anti-austerity movement?   In the comments you can debate whether latching on to Ron Paul was good for libertarian ideas, but I don’t think the answer is an obvious yes, to say the least.

It’s not that I want you to support some other candidate in Bernie’s stead, rather I would challenge the view that a candidate needs to be preferred in each and every election cycle.  And as I’ve once argued, analysts, pundits, and others might do better in their commentary, and keep a more analytically detached perspective, if at least some they avoid attaching themselves to any candidate at all.  We are programmed to be loyal to individual people, and perhaps causes too.  While that is often admirable as a personal trait, it also can skew our judgment of policies and platforms.

1 Observer February 20, 2016 at 12:41 am

Nobody has any solutions still for the great mass of un-credentialed white men still. For instance, Carrier is about to lay off a crapload of people in Indiana. You would think their governor, given his political inclination, would tell the workers that their salaries simply were too high for their productivity, and that they should find gainful employment as third-shift line cooks.

It is truly a shame that the electorate of this country has more preference to blowing up other people’s infrastructure (i.e. military as a fiscal bailout for the white underclass) versus building up our own (a national public works construction bureau).

2 Cliff February 20, 2016 at 1:10 am

The “great mass” of uncredentialed white men is the least of our problems. Your “solution” would probably be worse all by itself, depending on what you actually mean.

3 So Much For Subtlety February 20, 2016 at 1:52 am

(a national public works construction bureau).

I can’t be the only one who is old enough to remember Obama’s stimulus package. Which specifically rejected spending money on projected that might disproportionately benefit White males. You know, construction workers. Not only does the thickets of Democrat-imposed regulation make any “shovel-ready” projects incredibly rare, but the Obama administration was not willing to spend money on pale males.

So you had your chance. The Left decided to spend all that money on their more favored clients. No construction was done.

4 Ricardo February 20, 2016 at 3:15 am

Except for the more than $100 billion that did, in fact, go to construction and infrastructure. Most of the stimulus money did go to tax credits and cuts (including a routine AMT adjustment that would have happened anyway but was wrapped into the stimulus bill and accounted for about 10% of its price tag) and to merely preventing cuts to state and local spending. A larger bill would have had more room to fund more infrastructure and construction projects but it is very well documented that Obama and his political advisers thought such a bill had no chance of passing Congress. You can criticize Obama for not pushing hard enough for a larger stimulus bill (which his CEA chief Christina Romer advocated) or you can criticize the entire idea of stimulus. But your racial conspiracy theory has no evidence supporting it.

5 So Much For Subtlety February 20, 2016 at 3:40 am

So in a package of $831 billion Obama’s administration claimed $100 billion went to “construction and infrastructure”. In other words, it was not a priority. Tax give-aways to the Democrat’s favored clients was $288 billion. Health Care got $155 billion.

Nor was all the money in “Construction and Infrastructure” actually spent on construction. Money was simply handed out to government agencies like the EPA and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A lot of it went to the usual Dem causes like light rail. Not that much got built.

But they did get a new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security so I guess it is unfair to say none of the money was spent on construction.

Still, when Obama gives vastly more money to education – which does nothing but keep people looking like they are not unemployed for a few years – than construction you can see where his priorities lie.

As for a larger bill, it passed with such significant support in both Houses there is no way a larger one would not have passed. The Republicans have done nothing to restrain Obama’s spending. Bush gave America a trillion dollars of new debt. Obama has added another $18 trillion. If America’s infrastructure isn’t spanking brand new it hasn’t been from a lack of spending or obstruction. It is just a matter of priorities.

6 Jan February 20, 2016 at 7:41 am

Obama added $18 trillion new debt? No. The debt was $10.63 trillion when Bush left and it was about $18 trillion last April. Look at what Obama spent it on, mostly cyclical spending that kicked in due to Bush’s financial catastrophe, along with a huge drop in tax revenues for the same reason. Basically, you couldn’t be more wrong.

7 Jan February 20, 2016 at 7:43 am

Also, Bush gave us way more than a trillion dollars in new debt. He almost doubled it from $5.7 trillion when he took office.

8 TMC February 20, 2016 at 10:48 am

How does the debt math work? Bush’s last year was bad because he had TARP, almost a billion dollars.
But this got paid back during th Obama administration, so O gets credit for it.

So Bush adds 4.2 – 1 billion in 8 yrs and Obama has added 8 +1 billion in 7 yrs. About 30% as much per year.

9 Ricardo February 20, 2016 at 10:57 am

This is a laughably superficial understanding of the issues. Again, things like the fairly routine $70 billion AMT adjustment were included in the bill for procedural and technical reasons — according to you, people who earn in the upper five figures are “favored clients” of the Democratic Party and are unlikely to be white males. It also increased the child tax credit — something that Republicans like Rick Santorum and Marco Rubio support.

10 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 7:26 am

I think part of the issue was that they wanted stuff that would have IMMEDIATE effects, and construction projects are rarely shovel ready. I think this was somewhat of a mistake though. They could have stuffed some money in the pockets of consumers to meet the short term (few months) demand situation and many many projects could have come online thereafter.

It would be nice if various municipalities and states were to keep a running tab on desirable long-term infrastructure investments, ordered in terms of expected total social returns, to whip out for Keynesian aggregate demand stimulus which targets long term productivity (e.g. roads) and production (e.g. energy generation).

While you blame the left, I do not recall hearing particularly better ideas from the right at that time (corrections?). Also, I think it did not become obvious that this 2008-2009 was primarily a white male recession until things had already proceeded quite disastrously, so painting it as an intentional effort to shaft white males is, I think, inappropriate. Obama is a politician, politicians like to win elections, and America has an awful lot of white male uncredentialed voters. Obama is not so dumb (unbelievable to some) as to intentionally shaft the largest pool of potential new supporters with no obvious ability to earn votes from existing supporters in so doing.

In Canada, the stimulus (implemented by a right wing party) included things like lots of curling rinks in small towns and loads of money to advertise what a good job the government was doing. Good for certain groups, but I’m not sure how this benefits long-term economic potential. I privately suspect that firmly held ideological disbelief of the potential for Keneysian aggregate demand stimulus (which yes, will fail sometimes and can have poor allocations) led them to prefer strategies which would prove it useless for long-term potential, and that politics, not economics, drove most of the decisions. (I can look it up if you don’t believe me, but I’ve read that stimulus funds were highly disproportionately targeted to Conservative ridings – when asked about this in a non-Conservative riding in New Brunswick in the last election, the former prime minister basically inferred “well, if you want benefits, vote Conservative”, practically the definition of electoral corruption).

11 Bill February 20, 2016 at 8:10 am

So Much,

Baloney to your statement that the stimulus spending rejected spending that might disproportionately benefit white males. That’s BS. If you claim otherwise, support it with evidence. Here is the Council of Economic Advisors breakdown on the spending: Public Construction (37%) Individual Tax Cuts (25%) Business Tax Incentives (4%) State Fiscal Assistance (19%) Aid to Directly Impacted Individuals and Unemployment Insurance (15%). https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/cea_arra_report.pdf

12 A Definite Beta Guy February 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I mean, there is this:

If you look further down to the full list of “recovery measures” on page 13, you’ll see less than 20% of the full funds were spent on the Infrastructure Category.

If you look down to page 34, you’ll see the heavy commitments were “Clean Energy” at $74 billion, Transportation at $30 billion ($10 billion being this stupid high speed rail project), $32 billion on Health and Health IT, and $24 billion on buildings.

This was clearly a Democratic wish-list bonanza. Actually using my federal dollars to fix my highways was less important than shoving money into the Solar Energy Scam.

13 Bill February 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Oh gimme a break. This is the stuff that is that So Much claims disproportionately did not benefit white guys.

Now you get your facts from YouTube. Did you ever look at the total figures of the stimulus package when you made your claim.

As Trump would say,


14 So Much For Subtlety February 20, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Throwing money at the EPA and calling it construction is not actually construction.

Again, I can’t be the only one with a memory that goes back eight years. Obama’s stimulus package was criticized by the Usual Suspects for being aimed and working class males and the Administration came out and defended it by pointing out that was not their intent. Here for instance:


Which simply comes back to my original point which is being ignored – you cannot do a massive program to rebuild anyone’s infrastructure because all such programs are just ways of shoveling pork to favored constituencies. And working class men, burly men, are not favored by the Democrats. Perhaps if Trump wins.

15 So Much For Subtlety February 20, 2016 at 6:22 pm

There are things that I say that are controversial and I don’t expect everyone to agree with them. This is not one of them. Even Obama’s friends and allies agree with this. The Stimulus was deliberately not aimed at construction that might help “burly” men. That is, working class construction workers.


Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, says in a new video that investments in education and health care, along with direct state aid and tax cuts, will help spread the benefits of the stimulus beyond merely road and bridge projects.

“All of those kinds of pieces are creating jobs in some of the sectors like health care and education and retail trade, where women are sort of a disproportionally large fraction,” Romer says.

In the video, Romer says the first e-mail she got when she was announced for the job came from a women’s group saying, “‘We don’t want this stimulus package to just create jobs for burly men,’ and you know, that’s been in the back of my mind as I looked at this and thought about this. Certainly I’ve been one of those strong proponents of, you know, the balance of the program.”

So to return to the point again, no one can do a massive upgrade to America’s infrastructure because working class jobs are not the sort of jobs a Democratic Congress and White House supports.

16 Dan Lavatan February 20, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Well, if that is the only problem, they should do the same work for slightly less salary.

17 Texan for Liberty February 20, 2016 at 12:49 am

I support Rubio on the right & Clinton on the left but I see your point. However if every election is billed as extremely important to the future of America(and this one does seem important!), can we just sit them out if no one on either side matches our principles/values? Isn’t democracy all about compromise, and not waiting for the perfect candidate to come along who never will?

“The oldest profession in the world is prostitution, and the second oldest is politics, which closely resembles the oldest.”

18 carlolspln February 20, 2016 at 12:58 am

‘…& Clinton on the left’

I laughed.

19 Anon February 20, 2016 at 1:21 am

When “right” is wrong , the “left” is all that is left.

20 Ray Lopez February 20, 2016 at 12:53 am

Tyler Cowen, thinking like a grandmaster! Predicting the consequences of your opponents moves in response to your move, recursively x5

21 tokarev February 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Tyler is probably one of the smartest libertarian bloggers; I say this as someone who hates libertarianism. I still like Robin Hanson more though.

22 Jim February 20, 2016 at 12:53 am

Your dismissive attitude of Ron has always perplexed me. Jealousy? The old man did more for libertarianism than u, Will, Cato, bloggers, Ayn Rand, Rothbard all combined. To get in the debate ring, grab the state by throat and smash it into the ground while cloaking the anarchic thought in a moderate right wing persona was amazing.

23 Observer February 20, 2016 at 12:59 am

Donald Trump has won more primaries than Ron and Rand Paul combined. You’re talking about the most high-profile libertarian-related candidates in quite some time (ever), and all it takes is one reality TV star to outdo them by orders of magnitude.

Please, do tell me what you have seen in this election cycle that reflects the supposed influence of the libertarian movement. Do they have anything to show for it?

24 Cliff February 20, 2016 at 1:12 am

Libertarianism is not as popular as populism.

25 Ray Lopez February 20, 2016 at 1:13 am

I think Jim is saying Ron Paul did more of libertarianism than others, while you are discussing Trump’s populist appeal. Remember, Ronald Reagan got elected on a populist theme as well. I can see Trump being president, as well as Sanders, as in a way they are cut from the same cloth (populist). Jeb Bush and H. Clinton are more ‘elitist’ and status quo preserving. Ultimately, the Solow equation tells us government is only important in that, short term, it can screw things up so growth does not reach its long term potential. The few things that government can do to promote long-term growth (better patent laws, R&D spending) it does not do anyway, even with moderate candidates.

26 Observer February 20, 2016 at 1:14 am

My point was that even successes for libertarians simply aren’t going to register on a national level, to any significant degree.

27 Sophia February 20, 2016 at 5:28 am

That’s actually quite accurate, Ray.

28 Dan Lavatan February 20, 2016 at 9:59 pm

This isn’t at all true. Rand won only his Senate primary. Ron, however, won house primaries in 78-82 (3), and 96-12 (9). It is hard to get an exact number, but he also won a number of primaries and caucuses in his ’88 Presidential campaign and took a plurality of delegates in several states during his ’12 campaign, although only Louisiana was a primary state.

Trump has a talent for outdoing people, but not by that standard and not by orders of magnitude. Trump may make a spectacle of himself, but will never hold elected office at any level.

Its true that it takes time to build a movement and most people won’t have that much to show for it. However, I see positive signs in that Cruz was able to win Iowa while opposing ethanol subsidies, attacking sugar subsidies, and even taking time to oppose firework bans (a position only a libertarian would normally have time for). Even within the Trump campaign, we can see there is support for outsider candidates who only play lip service to social conservatism while correctly attacking Bush and McCain. This implies a pro-choice libertarian candidate could win evangelical voters in future cycles.

29 Careless February 21, 2016 at 3:51 pm

he rather obviously meant presidential primaries. Bush, Dole, and Robertson won all 50 states. Paul didn’t win a single state in 2012. He got 6% of the vote in Louisiana. No, he never won a primary.

30 Millian February 20, 2016 at 6:07 am

The state has not been smashed into the ground. It is thriving. And Paul pere is a punchline among the people who might change that.

31 Dots February 20, 2016 at 1:20 am

more regulation = bad

less nuclear war threat = good

anti-militarism seems important, given the Kashmir-style standoff over the Baltics and Poland. I’m voting for Ted Cruz until the general, after which I don’t know what I’ll do

32 Anon February 20, 2016 at 1:25 am

….for Ted Cruz until the general, after which I don’t know what I’ll do – …

Join him on the flight to Canada?

33 Dots February 20, 2016 at 2:32 am

lol +1

my plans aren’t so well designed. I will choose between Hillary and Trump. on climate I think I prefer Hillary, on war I prefer Trump

34 Anon February 20, 2016 at 3:19 am

Congrats on your sense of humor.
My guess is it will be between Hillary and Rubio, unless Trump comes good on his threat to run as an independent.
It would be ideal to have a cool and peaceful climate , the best of all possible words.

35 Dots February 20, 2016 at 4:27 am

sense of humor is easy on this issue, for me, because I’m wrong more often than I’m right (thought Hillary would b pres already from 2008, thought Rubio/Kasich and Clinton/Warren would dominate the US) and because it’s easy to refresh the impression that I am above it all, despite my being wrong so often that I really ought to account for whether I’m correct about anything else

36 mulp February 20, 2016 at 4:18 am

The worst regulation is “property ownership”

In China and India and Africa, property ownership is not an obstacle to anyone with money who wants to build things.

The Keystone XL pipeline was delayed entirely because Trans-Canada did not own the land that it wanted to lay the pipe over.

McKibben only got involved after a year of legal fights by landowners fighting Trans-Canada land men threatening eminent domain taking of their land if they didn’t sign over rights.

Note how Trump is attacked for trying to take land from its owner by the same people who want land taken quickly by a Canadian corporation to profit Canadian corporations. I live in NH represented by Kelly Ayotte who wants land in the plains States taken for a pipeline, but opposes a power line in NH on land owned or leased by the electric utility for all but 30-50 miles depending on route. She agrees with the power line opponents that the HVDC line will totally destroy NH scenery while the high voltage AC lines that already exist somehow don’t.

On a Kinder Morgan gas pipeline crossing part of NH: “Unless and until these questions are sufficiently answered and the concerns of local residents are meaningfully addressed, I oppose this project going forward,” Ayotte said. “Because these are questions that should be answered, and the people who are affected should have an outlet to know that their concerns are going to be meaningfully addressed.”

At least the NH Democrats oppose both pipelines in and out of NH, but Republicans are happy to ram them on people far away but oppose them locally.

(Personally, I say build it all because it pays people, and then when too much productive assets are built, the Federal wealth redistribution will make the wasteful investments “profitable” – bankruptcy by government technocrats picking winners who get assets way below labor costs, and losers who lose their savings.)

37 prior_test February 20, 2016 at 1:45 am

‘I agree with Megan McArdle’

A wise career move, Prof. Cowen, a wise career move.

38 sapien February 20, 2016 at 1:46 am

Ted Cruz is clearly the most libertarian of the bunch. He puts on a preacher’s mask, but underneath, he’s an Ayn Rand.

It seems important to pick a coalition. I suspect the Republican party is the natural home for Libertarians, and I think Libertarians can do quite a bit to reverse the image of conservatives being dumb by defending conservatives/republican party in elite circles. I am pretty pro-abortion, but I will often provide arguments against abortion just because 1. my environment is a liberal echo chamber 2. I think the victory of the republican party is more important to personal liberty than being ideologically consistent or pure.

That being said, how can anybody who identifies as a libertarian choose the democratic party? Unless you’re transgender, in what way is the democratic party expanding your freedoms? I just can’t wrap my mind around such people.

39 Sam the Sham February 20, 2016 at 5:40 am

“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people” – right wing hack Eleanor Roosevelt

It bothers me that ideas and people have to be so tightly bound together in elections. I do not want any of Sanders’ policies (ideas), but I feel like he’s a man of integrity (personal), and absolutely nothing would happen* legislatively on his watch (…events?). That does put him ahead of any of the mainstream candidates in my book, where I want none of their policies, afraid they WILL get stuff done, and I feel to be untrustworthy as far as public good.

I will also say that tying ideas to people is handily misleading. Obama has been good for leftism because he’s had the benefit of a generous media climate, fractured political bases, and embarrassingly inept and tone-deaf opposition. Obama has some strengths – very savvy with pop culture for example – but largely I don’t feel he’s helped the left on his own merits. Yes, Fox News has been constantly hostile to him, but that’s preaching to the choir, and that choir needs to hear about the good that Obama has done. Even W Bush did some good stuff.

I’ll end up voting 3rd party again this year for presidency because I try to vote FOR my ideas. I think America could and should take steps toward direct democracy, and get rid of the pesky middleman. This is hypothetical: If the powers of the Presidency were curbed, and each presidential candidate had An Issue that would get turned into a national election at the next midterm, I could actually see myself voting for Trump. His Issue would probably be Immigration: Should we expand it or reduce it? and in 2018 the citizens could decide that directly, after the elected official had time to draft the law. Yes, this is currently unconstitutional.

Barring a radical shift like direct democracy, any election style other than the Plurality/First Past the Post would be welcome. As a libertarian, I do not like nor trust my republican coalition. I just happen to dislike and distrust the democratic coalition more in general… How effective are coalitions in other countries? I hear about them in Canada and New Zealand, but nothing more than in a “Yes, they exist” sort of way.

*Bear in mind, Absolutely Nothing Happening and Gridlock are pleasant words to my ears. It seems that whenever Congress does something, we get things I have no interest in, such as No Child Left Behind, War in (Iraq, Iraq2.0, Iraq 3.0, Libya, Syria), bailouts, the F-35, and the Patriot Act. Whenever congress doesn’t work, we get the government shutdown, which… meh, does not affect me, so I guess I approve.

40 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 7:48 am

On direct democracy:

I fear direct democracy where a substantial portion of the population believes outright lies about all manner of things, for example that 99-100% of Muslims are borderline terrorists and desperately hate America and want to destroy it.

While I understand that this is essentially impossible due to the first amendment, I would not support direct democracy in America unless there were stronger legal protections against misinformation and misleading propaganda on the part of the media. For example, Fox never said “Obama is Muslim and here’s the proof”, but any thinking person can observe numerous numerous pieces, and see that the objective is for the audience to think “Hmmm… maybe Obama’s a Muslim” until they believe it. The belief that Trump is some species of poisonous lizard might not fall under this category, as it is clearly a spoof, and no one could realistically believe such a “lie” to be true.

Caplan’s idea on “prove-me-wrong” prizes could be an interesting solution to this. Today, at EconLong:

The idea is simple. Suppose I claim “Joe Blow cheats on his wife, and I won’t pay you a penny if I’m proven wrong.” If you have an ounce of common sense, you’re dismiss my lame accusation. If however I announce, “Joe Blow cheats on his wife, and if I’m proven wrong according to well-known Arbitrator X, I will pay you $10,000.” Now you have a good reason to take me seriously, right?

… In such a society, vicious lies would primarily discredit the speaker rather than his target.

Without formal or informal protections against the spreading of outrageous lies, or even inneundo designed to accomplish the same (often the outright lie is ineffective until people start to believe it, because initially, the claim is too outrageous), direct democracy could be a huge problem.

41 Sam the Sham February 20, 2016 at 9:45 am

Well, much like we’re being asked to compare Sanders to the other candidates out there (and please let’s not forget Green/Libertarian party candidates, when they become nominated), compare direct democracy to what we have now. I hesitate to call it representative, because as childish, ignorant, corrupt , and partisan as Washington is, I feel like US citizens are basically good people who get angry and reactionary when their interests are neglected too long.

There are multiple ways of doing both direct and representative, and I feel we have the worst possible way. I guess the intention was, as Sapien said, to create coalitions between two parties… but I don’t feel welcomed at either party as a libertarian. I feel like blacks have been neglected by both parties as well. Same for pro-life and gun-control crowds. If both parties felt a need to court, say, the black vote, then competition would work its magic. As it is, the blacks being loyal to the Democrats have led both the Ds and Rs to offer only token consideration, to the detriment of the black community. This election cycle, we are going to end up with a Condorcet loser, like we did in 2004 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condorcet_loser_criterion). When that happens, even the winners lose.

I feel like we either need better candidates, or more faith in our population. Despite misinformation (on both sides! Fox is a market reaction of biased news, not just the source of it! I would be ok with better standards for news agencies, but I’m not sure how to do that top-down), I trust Cleetus Jones and Shawniqua Formica more than Hillary. On foreign policy. And that is very sad. And even then, I feel like the populace would care more about domestic policy, and be somewhat isolationist otherwise. As far as better candidates… transferable vote would allow people to vote their conscience and not be penalized for it. Or Borda. Or Proportional Representation. I’m sure the KKK party would get some representation, but… if you really want democracy, there will be some ugly. We can control what sort of ugly happens, but I think that ugly is better than Trump/Clinton representing all of America.

What would you say if, during a debate, Candidate A had to argue Candidate B’s position for the first half, and then explain what the other person got wrong for the second? That might be a way of getting better candidates… thinking aloud here.

BTW, you are one of the more prolific posters, but I haven’t had an issue with you, other than sometimes seeing a wall of text and glazing over it.

42 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 10:04 am

I agree that it is not representative in any meaningful sense, although it is not clear to me whether this is a failure of design or the long-term forces of political power to bend any system to its will (in which case the possibility to due so may itself imply faulty systemic design).

I think that introducing an element of proportional representation, for example to have half of Congress seats allocated proportionally by popular support with a barrier of 2-3%, would accomplish similar goals to what you might wish to achieve by incorporating elements of direct democracy. Also, the ability to introduce ballot initiatives, almost unique to the USA, provides an element of direct democracy, and the barriers serve to ensure that ballot initiatives are not on issues which are broadly irrelevant or poorly understood by the population.

Canada is about to enact a new electoral system, and the debate is just getting started, so these sorts of questions are a big deal right now where I’m from.

NP about glazing over the walls. If it’s not interesting to you in the first sentence or two, it’s probably not worth it to you to read the rest. I often do the same.

43 asdf February 20, 2016 at 10:10 am

People don’t believe most Muslims are terrorists. They do believe, at the unconscious level, that most Muslims (which is just a way of saying most Arabs) are low IQ clannish members of the future underclass. That their own countries are a mess because they are full of Arabs, and that those Arabs that have made it to the west already have spent the last few decades living in dysfunctional underclass ghettos in a kind of parallel society supported entirely by the welfare state. When they interact with the host culture it is to riot and rape. And they consistently vote for leftist candidates and sharia law within their own community/courts.

The worry isn’t that your average Arab is a terrorist. The worry is he’s a low level piece of underclass human garbage that makes everything around him shittier just by existing. People say they are afraid of terrorism because that’s the acceptable way of saying they don’t want more un-assimiliable NAM trash around.

44 Art Deco February 20, 2016 at 11:42 am

You’re projecting. Not everyone is an alt-right crank.

45 Floccina February 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

I do not want any of Sanders’ policies (ideas), but I feel like he’s a man of integrity (personal)

He is either ignorant or a liar. I would bet a lair.

46 Art Deco February 20, 2016 at 11:47 am

He puts on a preacher’s mask, but underneath, he’s an Ayn Rand.

Rand was a vitriolic atheist. Ted Cruz’ father is an evangelical minister.

47 Art Deco February 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

While we’re at it, Mrs. Ted Cruz is the daughter of missionaries.

48 carlolspln February 20, 2016 at 5:31 pm

“Ted Cruz’ father is an evangelical minister”

So was Jim Bakker: http://www.charlottemagazine.com/Charlotte-Magazine/August-2010/Where-are-They-Now/Jim-Bakker/

Another one for the ‘Christian’ rubes..

49 TangoMan February 20, 2016 at 1:52 am

Megan has a gift for the gab:

In our larger urban agglomerations, where most Americans live, we’re also stuck with a relatively low-trust culture that makes it hard to have the kind of collaborative, principles-based regulation that Scandinavia enjoys, even if we could somehow overcome the legal and institutional hurdles.

Translation – How are we going to effectively implement a mass ethnic cleansing in America to transform our demographics so that we match those of Denmark?

50 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 7:51 am

Ethnic homogeneity in China is higher than just about anywhere. But no one realistically trusts people unless you are connected to their circle and can screw their reputation if they ever screw you. But people are nice and stuff …

Meanwhile, consider Singapore, which has very high ethnic diversity and where contracts are strongly enforced.

I propose that strong legal institutions and not ethnic homogeneity explain low/high trust.

51 asdf February 20, 2016 at 10:19 am

Singapore is mostly Chinese, it has some leftover Malays and some guest workers but most of them aren’t citizens and LKY actually made his guest workers go home after their visa’s are up (no Amnesty or turning them into voters). It’s diversity is mostly wealthy and intelligent businessmen from all over the world, most of them with the demographic profile you’ve expect from wealthy businessmen. What Megan is referring to above is obviously blacks in America. How many blacks does Singapore have? If it had the same black % as your average American city of that size what would it look like? Especially if it was a democracy that allowed them to vote. I have a feeling Singapore would look like Baltimore if it had Baltimore’s % of blacks rather then a Chinese majority and a Chinese dictator.

They were run for decades by a eugenics promoting Chinese dictator who you’d call the next Hitler if he existed in America.

Chinese are a bit more clannish then whites and even other Asians (see Japanese). What we can attribute to communist legacy and what is attributable to genetics we continue to sort out. However, Chinese success around the world shows that whatever their deficiencies, they have what it takes to make it work.

52 Ricardo February 20, 2016 at 11:15 am

“Singapore is mostly Chinese”

It’s about three-fourths Chinese — that’s comparable to the non-Hispanic white share of the U.S. population in 1990. Hardly homogenous.

“some leftover Malays and some guest workers but most of them aren’t citizens and LKY actually made his guest workers go home after their visa’s are up”

There is, of course, an old and significant Malay minority in Singapore and Malaysians who may have marketable skills or family ties are free to move to Singapore on the same terms that other foreigners are. Singapore’s permanent resident population — not work-permit holders but people who have the right to live and work in Singapore long-term in a manner comparable to American green card holders and eventually apply for citizenship — is over 16% of the population excluding temporary visa holders. You seem to be trying to minimize how diverse and relatively open to immigration Singapore is — all one has to do is look at the numbers that are freely available to see this characterization is not correct.

53 A Definite Beta Guy February 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Immigrants count for 3 million of NYC’s 9 million people. Of the remaining American population, gently put, not all are part of the white gentry.

Singapore looks like Iowa by comparison.

54 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 2:26 pm

I’m not sure at which point you call it “high ethnic diversity”, but Singapore is certainly not homogeneous.

If she wants to talk about trust and homogeneity as a general principle, then she should be clear in doing so (I think she is clear claiming that this is what she is up to). If she’s talking about “we don’t trust black people”, or “black people just can’t be trusted” then she should also be clear about this (that’s not what she says).

Would it be outlandish to suppose that racism might basically explain the link between low trust and high homogeneity in some studies? It’s a pretty good alternative to the theory that “black people just can’t be trusted”, a theory which basically ignores historical factors and existing racism as being relevant.

55 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Correction: link between low trust and high heterogeneity

56 So Much For Subtlety February 20, 2016 at 1:57 am

the foreign policy inexperience

Bernie is not inexperienced in foreign policy. He is simply pro-Soviet. He doesn’t say stupid things because he doesn’t know better. He does. He says them because he really does believe the Sandanistas are better people than the Republicans.

Did it work out for mainstream liberals to attach themselves to Obama? I say mostly yes.

What did they get out of it? The people who supported Obama got to rub the noses of their enemies into the ground, but they got very little. What has Obama actually accomplished? The only people who have really benefited are in the Politburo of the Cuban Communist Party.

57 Anon February 20, 2016 at 3:28 am

If you were in my position and had your wife’s health insurance application rejected time and again on my losing a job ( ofcourse COBRA is there for 18 months, but after that what?) , for no really significant health reasons, you would say hats off for Obamacare.

David Brooks is no great fan of the President , but read what he had to say


……”remembering how in so strange a time
common integrity could look like courage.”
(Yevtushenko: “Talk”.)

58 Dan Weber February 20, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Did you seek HIPAA coverage?

59 Dan Lavatan February 20, 2016 at 10:06 pm

I had coverage rescinded before and I’m not sure why you would want to be forced to do business with (let alone basically give unlimited money to) the firms that basically insulted your wife. Particularly if she is healthy, insurance would be a major money looser anyway.

Also, as a matter of law under HIPAA an insurer would be required to provide in insurance if your wife had continuous prior coverage (which takes no more than 18 months) and since there are no records of this required for small business, it would be impossible for them to prove she didn’t. Admittedly, only the HHS secretary can choose to enforce the rules, but this is still true under the ACA.

If you aren’t a shill for the insurance company, I encourage you to use your reason.

60 prior_test1 February 20, 2016 at 6:52 am

‘he really does believe the Sandanistas are better people than the Republicans’

Bizarrely enough, the same is true of the Nicaraguans, who re-elected a Sandinista president in 2011 –

But if it makes you feel better, it is quitely likely that most Nicaraguans believe the Sandanistas are better people than any member of the U.S. government, regardless of party.

61 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 8:00 am

I was in Nicaragua somewhat before the last election, and found it interesting to observe a campaign strategy of driving around in a small bus which pumped out some pretty decent music which was essentially political propaganda. Get the people singing and dancing for your cause was the goal.

62 Roy LC February 21, 2016 at 12:00 am

Yes Sandinistas who are basically everything the Democraric Party hates.

Since the Sandinistas returned to power they completely outlawed abortion, and reformed the law to make rape and sexual harassment charges harder to file. While gay sex is now legal last year the government banned gay adoption. This is a country where it is not illegal nor all that uncommon to exclude people from businesses on the basis of race. Where about 1 in 8 Nicaraguans mostly afro Nicaraguans can not access basic services, let alone vote because they cannot afford identity papers, etc…

63 prior_test February 20, 2016 at 2:08 am

‘Did it work out for the neoconservatives to attach themselves to Bush 43?’

Well, just to make this point obvious – the neoconservatives used Bush. What did not work out was neoconservatism – and Bush is quite blameless for neoconservatism’s abiding flaws. Doesn’t anybody remember Palin being picked by a leading neoconservative (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kristol )? Just another example of how this works in practice – Palin is no more responsible for her neoconservative anointing than Bush, after all.

64 Art Deco February 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm

– the neoconservatives used Bush.

Come again? William Kristol is a failed-academic / opinion journalist whose most responsible job to date has been to run a small-circulation magazine with Rupert Murdoch financing the deficits. Who is he going to ‘use’? That George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld could be snookered by a bloody newspaper columnist is a stupid fantasy.

65 prior_test1 February 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Well, true, the Weekly Standard doesn’t compare to this list of neocon luminaries – ‘Prominent neoconservatives in the Bush administration included Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan and Paul Bremer. Senior officials Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, while not identifying themselves as neoconservatives, listened closely to neoconservative advisers regarding foreign policy, especially the defense of Israel, the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, and the buildup of American military forces to achieve these goals.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoconservatism

And not us never forget that Cheney anointed himself as the best candidate for VP, after being in charge of that search. (Oddly enough, the same style of situation occurred with the man that became Pope Benedikt – must have been something in the oil and water of the times.)

66 Been Banned February 20, 2016 at 5:25 pm


Cheney anointed himself as the best candidate for VP

He did nothing of the kind. Putting him in the slot was Bush’s idea. It required he re-establish a notional residency in Wyoming. As for your other fictions:

Richard Perle and Robert Kagan have not held any public office in nearly 30 years, and Kagan was never a line administrator of any kind, just a 20-something staff officer.

John Bolton’s most consequential positions were in the Bush I administration, wherein he was a subcabinet officer in the State department; in the Bush II position, he held a 3d echelon position in the State department (concerned with arms control) and a position whose business is public diplomacy. Elliot Abrams was a subcabinet officer in the Reagan Administration. In the Bush ii Administration, he was a 2d echelon aide working for the National Security Adviser. If they’re so influential, why are they professionally downwardly mobile?

Paul Bremer was a Foreign Service professional who’d retired into a slot at Henry Kissenger‘s consulting business. Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney each did a tour as Gerald Ford‘s chief of staff, the one having been a member of Congress from Illinois and the other on the staff of a member of Congress from Wisconsin. They were both career Republicans who cut their teeth when the Capitol Hill nexus was run by Chamber-of-Commerce temporizers. Rumsfeld was Ford’s Secretary of Defense and Cheney was later Secretary of Defense to Bush I, a man for whom issues were fungible. If the term ‘neo-conservative’ means any Republican who pops into your addled head, the term’s pretty useless.

So you’re down to claiming everyone is Paul Wolfowitz’ bitch. Hey, the guy took a couple of courses from Leo Strauss, so you have your smoking gun.

67 mulp February 20, 2016 at 4:26 am

The problem with Bernie is he either thinks members of Congress will be influenced by constituents petitioning their representatives, the ultimate in idealism that not even the founders expected, thus the reason for the Constitution.

Or he thinks he can order the Democratic Party to commit political suicide by rubber-stamping his proposals, a party he has refused to join and has criticized often more than he criticizes the Republican party.

68 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 8:05 am

I’m pretty sure that members of Congress only pay serious attention to petitioners who are also known major campaign contributors. Some people consider that to be synonymous with corruption, but others prefer the $1, 1 vote sort of democracy to the 1 person, 1 vote sort of democracy.

69 Donald Pretari February 20, 2016 at 6:59 am

I agree with the Vernon Smith comment. Well put.

70 CMOT February 20, 2016 at 7:37 am

WW is an incredibly cheap date. Sanders’ ‘criminal justice reform’, for example, wouldn’t be based on the idea of using the State’s punative power sparingly as ppssible, but would be to wholly politisized the justice process. Outcomes would depend entirely on the state’s opinions about the race and status of the accused, making things even more arbitrary and unfair than now. This isn’t supposition, it’s what we are seeing everywhere where Sanders type socialist hold power, such as colleges and big blue cities.

But apparently a feteshized call for reform, with no thoughts of what that reform would actually entail, is enough for WW.

71 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 8:11 am

The idea is to DEpoliticize the process, not to politicize it.

The problem is that for-profit prisons are lobbying for longer sentences. That’s a politicized process. And anyways, since when would it be ideal to take politics out of criminal justice? Who, then, should determine such things? Should we give judges 100% autonomy in sentencing, with zero guidelines? While I support strong autonomy of judges in sentencing, guidelines must be given (min/max penalties) and these will be determined by represented selected by a political process.

72 Careless February 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Yeah, those $1.7 million a year the for-profit prisons spend on lobbying really makes all the difference.

73 Tyler's black son February 20, 2016 at 7:50 am

The answer to america’s problems is a third rate heeb communist from vermont or a cankled wall street hoe.

i miss ron paul and his negro haired son. it was fun watching these typical libertarians screaming about the gold standard and hayek. “b-but FDR made the depression worse”.

tyler – instead of this fourth rate econ blog, why not update your textbook. its poorly written and overpriced. stick to what you know. cheap oriental restaurants.

74 The Anti-Gnostic February 20, 2016 at 9:39 am

What is “liberaltarianism?” Is it like, just enough State to fine Christian bakers?

75 Anon. February 20, 2016 at 9:50 am

Here’s a question for ya: I see masses of people who laugh at “great man”-style history obsess over the presidential election, as if it matters. Why?

76 libert February 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Because there’s also “awful man”-style history.

77 Jim February 20, 2016 at 7:59 pm

This great man question is a great one. Maybe it leads to more booksales and page clicks on blogs.

The awful man theory is also BS. I wasn’t Hitler (or lesser like Bush or O) who hypnotized the Germans, it was the insecure masses who elevated him.

78 StrayCat February 20, 2016 at 9:58 am

Of course it doesn’t work.

Argument made by Jerry Taylor group. Jerry using label libertarian as advertising or out of habit – he’s moved hard left.

Jerry, show us where the libertarian touched you…

79 Economist February 20, 2016 at 10:00 am

Sanders is running on a very simple platform. His main point is that the government is not working for the non-elite. All the rest is secondary. So yes, of course libertarians should support him. At least there is more common ground than with the other candidates. The two issues are :
i) What can he do to change the status quo ?
ii) Strong disagreement regarding higher taxes.

Regarding i, I think just having someone elected president with such a strong message will change the system. Gradually others will question the status quo and realize that there is a strong electoral base of support for doing it. President Sanders will try to execute on changes to campaign finance that will be stymied by congress. There will be pressure on individual congressmen and senators. This will put pressure on the existing system.
Regarding ii, the left and right both want a simpler and more transparent tax code. This will lead to both lower taxes for the middle class and higher revenues because of the fewer loop holes for the rich. No one disputes that lobbyists and special interests stand in the way of tax code reform.

On another note, I don’t understand HRC’s criticism that Sanders is running a one dimensional campaign. If you are running to lead the executive branch of a government in order to stop it from being controlled by special interests, then that becomes a multidimensional issue – arguably the most important issue for both the left and right during this period in American history.

80 TMC February 20, 2016 at 11:11 am

Bernie still wants the country run by the elite, he’s just not happy he’s not in the elite now.

Who the elite is, is what he’s trying to change.

81 Batty February 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Libertarians should support socialism because he raves in shallow I’ll-informed talking points about “elites.”

Yeah that makes sense.


82 Art Deco February 20, 2016 at 11:39 am

Did it work out for the neoconservatives to attach themselves to Bush 43? I say no. Did it work out for mainstream liberals to attach themselves to Obama? I say mostly yes.

Do you have an aversion to making sense? “Neoconservatism” ceased to constitute a distinct strand of opinion journalism nearly 25 years ago. The residuum of that circle (none of whom are under the age of 55 and some of whom are approching 90) are mainstream Republicans. It’s perfectly non sequitur to say it ‘didn’t work out’ for mainstream Republicans to attach themselves to a mainstream Republican. Ditto speaking of mainstream liberals attaching themselves to Obama. As for their wagers on distinct persons, the principal alternatives at the points in time in question were John McCain (the preferred choice of the Kristol-Podhoretz circle), Alan Keyes, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards. McCain and Keyes differ from George W. Bush in that they had less executive experience and tend to be somewhat more intemperate; Keyes religiosity is also more consistent and intellectual. Clinton differs from Obama in her pervasive and overt criminality and in Brobingnagian level of her cupidity. Edwards differs in that he fell for Lisa Jo / Allison / Rielle Druck / Poole / Hunter (while his wife was under treatment for cancer), something the vast majority of 53 year old men would have the sense not to do; I suppose partisan Democrats benefited from not having to confront that particular embarrassment. They still lost 60 seats in the House of Representatives, seats they don’t seem to be able to win back.

83 John Thacker February 20, 2016 at 12:16 pm

He’s got kind of a sophisticated “force the contradictions” argument, which has long been popular with other libertarians and revolutionaries, just with a different twist. Essentially he argues that the redistribution parts are popular and will be long lasting, and that all the parts he doesn’t like will be failures and forced to be abandoned. In other words, if Bernie achieves the results of postwar Scandinavia or the UK, eventually the US will hit ’70s sclerosis of the UK and Scandinavia, and the end result after reform will finally be what those countries have.

It may take a thirty or four year period to achieve this, but it’s all part of Will’s long range plan. Personally, I’m a bit dubious.

84 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 2:35 pm

While perhaps labour markets were too rigid in the US and Scandinavia at the time, I thought the oil price shocks were the main story the 1970s.

85 Careless February 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm

And let’s not forget him celebrating the effects immigration were bringing to his hometown http://www.cato.org/blog/marshalltown-plan-immigration

How’s that working out for them, anyway? “The median income for a household in the city was $35,688, and the median income for a family was $45,315. Males had a median income of $32,800 versus $23,835 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,113” That was 2000. 14 years later, the males are making $800 more (nominal) and females $200 less. Nice school system they’ve got there. Greatschools gives ’em a 2/10

Bravo, Will.

86 Jason Bayz February 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm

He says that Sanders wants to make America more like Sweden and Denmark, which are “freer” than America in his libertarian “freedom index.” I took a look at that index and was surprised at one thing they consider:

Whether perpetrated by ordinary criminals, governments, organized gangs, political groups, or individuals following tradition, crime and physical transgressions reduce personal freedom in any society. The first component [1Bi] measures the homicide rate.(…)

That freedom is reduced by crime is not something that ordinarily occurs to libertarians, but it’s included in the index. But what is Sanders going to do to reduce crime to Swedish levels? Nothing. Wilkinson, in fact, wants more criminals on the streets. He says:

For example, I think criminal sentences are way too long for both violent and non-violent offenses. Captivity is the antithesis of liberty. If people are kept in cages for longer than they ought to be kept, as a matter of proportional retributive justice, then that’s obviously egregiously anti-liberty. If it’s happening on a massive scale, to many millions of people, then that’s an enormous, outrageous travesty of liberty. In that case, even modest sentencing reform could be a massively pro-liberty development, saving thousands of lifetimes worth of years from theft by the state.

87 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 2:48 pm

“what is Sanders going to do to reduce crime to Swedish levels? Nothing.”

He wants to legalize marijuana. That means less networking between criminals in prison. Fewer people with criminal record who are excluded from parts of the labour market and as a result of this situation turn to crime for a living.

Also, reducing excessively harsh sentencing (you call this “wanting more criminals on the streets”) could positively impact criminality reduction, because people who get 20 years for something that many reasonable people think should be a 5-year sentence might lose all faith in society and decide that they have the right to do any thing any time to any member of that society. I mean, how much would you feel you owe society if it tolerated imprisoning you for 5 years for a joint (not common anymore)? Heck, I might even think it’s OK to shoot a cop after something like that.

For consistency with your arguments (never “release criminals onto the streets”), would you propose a life sentence for the most minor infringement? Or should the punishment fit the crime?

88 Tom February 20, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Sweden has a comparatively harsh policy against drugs, by the way, including marijuana. Though generally toothless compared to the US, of course.

89 Tom February 20, 2016 at 6:01 pm

“how much would you feel you owe society if it tolerated imprisoning you for 5 years for a joint (not common anymore)? Heck, I might even think it’s OK to shoot a cop after something like that.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the centre-left.

90 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Let’s see how you feel after spending 20 years in prison for a joint. Trying to put myself in other people’s shoes. I don’t think it’s ever OK to shoot cops.

91 Careless February 21, 2016 at 4:36 pm

No, Nate, let’s see you find someone spending 20 years in jail for a joint, you lying sack

92 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 3:50 am

(too many years) for (insignificant thing) is the idea. Painting that as lying just reeks of desperation.

And anyways, in some places, you could get life in prison for three joint instances under Three Strikes You’re Out policy.

You know what I mean … anyways, things are not quite so full retard as they used to be about this stuff. But there are people who legitimately faced sentences as crazy or crazier than that for some pretty insignificant stuff.

93 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Perhaps the idea would be easier to understand if imaging spending multiple years in prison for owning a Confederate flag, a cross, or driving a highly pollutive vehicle?

The point isn’t about the joint, the point is about excessively harsh sentencing for relatively trivial things. I’m not sure what’s particularly left wing about suggesting that people lose faith in a system for receiving harsh penalties for trivial offenses, or the notion that people might act out violently against people they (incorrectly) hold responsible for it.

94 Jason Bayz February 20, 2016 at 11:03 pm

“The point isn’t about the joint, the point is about excessively harsh sentencing for relatively trivial things. I’m not sure what’s particularly left wing about suggesting that people lose faith in a system for receiving harsh penalties for trivial offenses, or the notion that people might act out violently against people they (incorrectly) hold responsible for it.”

It’s Left wing because if they ever truly had “faith in the system” they would never have wound up in prison.

95 Nathan W February 21, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Many people smoke weed for various forms of pain, in addition to an astonishing array of other medical conditions. It should cost pennies a day, but instead people in such situations could end up in prison, and are offered by their doctor addictive and potentially lethal alternatives which are provided under patent or other “market” protections by pharmaceuticals.

Also, people make all manner of mistakes which formally cross the line into criminality, and removal of judge discretion in sentencing therefore often implies excessively harsh punishments. The existence of private prison lobbies who lobby for ever-longer sentences practically forms a (non-insurmountable) systematic barrier against addressing these issues

No, I don’t have “faith in the system” when it comes to criminal justice and sentencing.

96 Jason Bayz February 20, 2016 at 10:59 pm

What percentage of people in prison are there for marijuana? It’s a rhetorical question, I don’t expect you to answer.

97 Careless February 21, 2016 at 4:37 pm

It must take a lot of work to be reasonably intelligent while remaining a total fool like Nathan

98 Nathan W February 23, 2016 at 4:03 am

0.7% https://learnaboutsam.org/the-issues/marijuana-and-whos-in-prison/ – With a prison population of over 2 million people, that’s an awful lot of permanent records for something that is no danger to anyone.

If it was one person, it would be one too many and a grave injustice.

99 Tom February 20, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Perhaps Sanders is counting on Swedish crime to rise to more achievable levels. It’s hardly impossible, yes we can, allah be willing.

100 Sanjay February 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm

I’ve spent some time in national security circles, and I have to say the assumption that both Wilkinson and McArdle (and I guess Cowen by extension) make about Sen. Sanders’ foreign policy choices, is nonsense. Sanders has no foreign policy staff. He is notorious for not reaching out much to such people nor showing interest in them. Meanwhile he has endorsed in broad terms the President’s staying involved in the Middle east and trying to hold back ISIS.

That is a formula for capture by your generals and lots of stupid little Libya-style interventions. I like the President but his, “I don’t want to deal with this,” attitude — “don’t do stupid shit” — has led to new ways in Pakistan, Yemen, Mali and Libya, a massive escalation in Afghanistan, and whatever the hell it is we’re doing in Syria, and massive military budgets. It doesn’t mean anything for the Chief Executive to say he disfavors military action and militarism; if he doesn’t have the tools and awareness to control and to direct the foreign policy and military establishments then the default setting will get you more intervention. I am no libertarian by a long sight, but I am completely flabbergasted that libertarians of all people don’t understand that point.

101 Art Deco February 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm

then the default setting will get you more intervention.

That’s not an opinion characteristic of those familiar with military professionals.

102 Sanjay February 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

It is in this instance the opinion _of_ a military professional.

103 Been Banned February 20, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Not buying it.

104 Sanjay February 20, 2016 at 8:18 pm


105 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Generals don’t make more money if there’s a war on. Why would they want more war than “necessary”?

I don’t think it is correct to blame the generals for getting involved in unnecessary and/or poorly advised offensives. From what little I’ve read, top brass have a lot more sensible things to say than the foreign policy establishment with regard to ongoing conflicts. But they also know that their job is to take orders, not to make decisions (except for operational ones, in order to follow through on orders).

106 JWatts February 20, 2016 at 4:14 pm

“Generals don’t make more money if there’s a war on. Why would they want more war than “necessary”?”

Well first, they do make more money if they’ve fought in a war. First, there’s combat pay, but secondly, people buy a lot of memoirs from famous Generals and Generals become famous by successfully prosecuting wars.

“From what little I’ve read, top brass have a lot more sensible things to say than the foreign policy establishment with regard to ongoing conflicts.”

Sure but Obama famously disdains the advice of the military:
“I worked as an Obama appointee from the spring of 2009 until mid-2011, … I recall asking one general, recently back from Afghanistan, if he’d shared his experiences and insights with the president. Rolling his eyes, he told me grimly that the White House preferred the military to be seen but not heard.

Regarding Syria:
“According to most of those I interviewed, Gates’s scathing words reflect an unhappiness with the commander in chief that is widely shared in the military. “The military does not take kindly to people asking them to do things without thinking them through,” Eaton observes.”


107 The Original D February 20, 2016 at 5:16 pm

In his memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Gates alternately criticized and praised Obama’s military leadership, writing, “I never doubted [his] support for the troops, only his support for their mission [in Afghanistan]”, and “I was very proud to work for a president who had made one of the most courageous decisions I had ever witnessed in the White House [by authorizing the raid against Osama bin Laden].”


108 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 9:40 pm

“they do make more money” – silly me. I have family in the army. I know that 🙂 Thanks for the correction.

109 TMC February 20, 2016 at 9:45 pm

“without thinking them through” Is this not the quote on the Obama Administration’s tombstone?

Everything has been Lybia or Cash for clunkers.

110 The Original D February 20, 2016 at 5:13 pm

You don’t become a four star general in peace time.

And war is an excellent justification for more spending.

111 Sanjay February 20, 2016 at 8:17 pm

To some extent the answer is, well, we aren’t reading the same stuff, and I both read it copiously and professionally, and occasionally work with and brief generals.

But firstly, I should broaden my comment to talk about having the kind of experience and contacts to leash the whole foreign policy establishment, e.g. the forces that pushed Obama into an oddly-motivated and poorly defined intervention in Libya. But secondly I think the comment is just wrong. Yes, senior military officers are in many — not all, by any means! — cases, very aware of the human costs of wars and wish to avoid putting troops in harm’s way. But that observation misses everything. Look, fortunately or unfortunately a whole _lot_ of our interaction with the world — especially in troubled regions — is through the military. We make a lot of — sometimes almost all of — the on the ground contacts, know the key players, have access to all the intelligence, So the military is in the loop, and should be, for these kinds of decisions.

Do generals advocate huge wars exposing lots of soldiers? Not typically — although, yes, war is awfully awfully good for an officer’s career, as a casual look at promotion rates over the past two decades can show, and to that extent the comment was strikingly uninformed. But we really only have a limited set of tools — which is why when Obama asks for options in say Afghanistan he gets one group of people advocating a HUGE deployment and one group advocating a smaller deployment and so he splits the difference. So a general _is_ likely to advocate, say, more military tools for intel and surveillance, more military involvement in say joint exercises with regional armies, more special forces missions, more guys on the ground training handpicked rebel forces, and so on. And we look at mounds of intel for stuff that is all by its nature ambiguous or dual use, but our job forces us to put nefarious options on the table. It requires considerable sophistication and information to realize those biases and limitations and to correct for them and as you say it is not the generals’ responsibility, but the policymakers’, to be able to do that, and Sanders seems maybe the least capable person in the whole field (which, looking at the Republicans, is really saying something) to do that.

Again, it was my understanding that libertarians took at the very least this picture of the military (and indeed probably a much darker one) as a prior, and I am amazed how little Wilkinson and McArdle seem to grasp it.

112 hamilton February 20, 2016 at 9:07 pm

Mistaking Wilkinson (certainly) and McArdle (mostly) for libertarians was probably where you went wrong.

113 Nathan W February 20, 2016 at 9:44 pm

+1. Thank you. I learned a lot from that, I think.

114 Been Banned February 20, 2016 at 10:50 pm

If you’re trying to present yourself as an authority by way of biography (and in contradiction to the common wisdom in national security studies), you need to sign your name to it.

115 Sanjay February 21, 2016 at 6:15 am

Been Banned,

There’s a reason military comment sites like Tom Ricks’ don’t generally have us do that. But I’m not trying to present an authority by way of biography; the stuff I’m saying is pretty well accepted and if you want to tell me the “common wisdom in national security studies” is NOT (1) that military officers tend to respond to “what should we do?” questions by recommending ways to engage military assets and indeed that they have incentives to do so, and (2) that it requires engagement with the national security apparatus (something, as I point out, that Sanders doesn’t have) to understand and to gauge that bias, then you are simply incorrect.

116 Nathan W February 21, 2016 at 12:55 pm

I understand the perspective, but I think it would be better to feel free to speak clearly in anonymity, since a more frank opinion may be obtained, even though we run the risk of running into a fraud who just SEEMS like he knows what he`s talking about.

117 Brian February 20, 2016 at 2:47 pm

“A second approach, and the one I would suggest here, is “I have a good idea — in this case liberaltarianism — how long should I wait before attaching that idea to a particular candidate?” I say wait!”

Well, the Virginia primary is a only week away, so we Virginians can’t wait too long. What is the best way to vote against Trump/Clinton (neither of which are remotely liberaltarian)? I say Sanders. It seems likely Clinton can beat anyone the Republicans put up, so the only way to stop her is Sanders.

118 tokarev February 20, 2016 at 4:24 pm

>In the comments you can debate whether latching on to Ron Paul was good for libertarian ideas, but I don’t think the answer is an obvious yes, to say the least.

Ironically I think Ron Paul’s failure drove a lot of young libertarians out of the movement. Looking at my college friends who were Ron Paul supporters in 2008, a surprisingly large number of them are now Sanders or Trump supporters, suggesting they gave up and moved to the democratic-socialist left or extreme right, depending on their disposition.

119 cowboydroid February 20, 2016 at 5:24 pm

I don’t think it drove them out of the movement, I think it convinced them how worthless their vote is and that that voting isn’t going to change anything. I think most of them are still convinced by the ideas of liberty and limited state, they are just no longer involved in electoral politics.

Sanders supporters are loud and obnoxious, but they are nowhere close to significant.

120 Tom February 20, 2016 at 6:02 pm

I think semi-legalization of marijuana drove a lot of young libertarians out of the movement.

121 Floccina February 20, 2016 at 11:16 pm

What is Gary Johnson? Chopped liver? He was a very successful Governor clearly one of the most qualified candidates along with Kasich. Hillary, Sanders, Rubio, Cruz, Carson have little or no executive experience and Bush should be disqualified by his name.Johnson looks the best.

122 Floccina February 20, 2016 at 11:39 pm

BTW Hillary was part of an administration so bad at foreign policy that even after seeing what happened in Iraq after the idiot Bush went in there, still supported rebellions in Libya and Syria. Now that is bad.

123 chris purnell February 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm

“In my view he (Sanders) is not up to being an effective President.”

So you have a working definition of ‘effective’ do you? Or, is this code for not rocking the Goldman Sachs boat?

124 stan February 23, 2016 at 2:20 pm

The idea that liberals benefited from Obama is short term thinking.

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