Will Wilkinson’s liberaltarian case for Bernie Sanders

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.


Comments for this post are closed