The Silver Lining

TJIC has the silver lining nailed for libertarians:

Let us not forget the good news from the election: one statist, speech limiting, freedom-agnostic candidate lost.

I'm kind of ambivalent this morning -  I knew in advance that freedom was going to lose again in this election, no matter what the outcome.

If I am depressed this morning, it is more about propositions and side issues than about the President and Congress.  Had this been a leftward shift in the county, I could have been satisfied that at least losses in freedom in one area might be substituted by gains in others  (though for me personally, changes in economic freedom tend to have far more direct and immediate impact than changes in social freedoms).

But the only pattern I could see yesterday was not leftward but government-ward.  In the same states where Democratic candidates won with economic interventionist messages, Constitutional bans on gay marriage also won by sizable majorities.   In Arizona, gay marriage was banned, an initiative to limit future tax increases was defeated, an initiative to protect health care choice was defeated, an initiative to soften last year's anti-immigrant legislation was defeated, and a payday loan ban was confirmed.  The voting in some way defies a traditional left-right explanation and is only consistent in that it was almost all the reverse of the libertarian position.  And to make the results even more irrational, nearly the biggest defeat of any ballot initiative in Arizona was for a pay increase for state legislators -- the voters seem to like government but don't trust or respect the individuals employed there.

After the last Bush election, a number of leftish folks claimed they were moving to Canada or France or wherever.  But that's the problem for libertarians in this country -- there is not place to run.  Those who want to run away to a country with a more controlling government have 180 or so choices.  Those of us who seek more freedom have approximately none.

Update: This slight paraphrase from the movie Zoolander encapsulates my thought on this election:

They're the same! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

I am actually less frightened by the candidates than by people who seem to get so excited by one or the other of them.


  1. Esox Lucius:

    It's a sad day for freedom. In my local elections for the county a guy that lives 3 houses away from me won a seat. The last time we had a public meeting in my town, he showed up drunk and claimed that our town train station was a terrorist target. I am 27 miles straight west of Chicago in the smallest town in DuPage county but my county is in the top 10 for wealth in the nation. He won because he had "Democrat" next to his name in a county where republicans usually run unopposed.

    God help us.

  2. Mike:

    I'm still waiting for the people that said they were going to move when Bush was elected president, to make good on their pledge.

  3. Methinks:

    You have to pick your freedoms in an imperfect world, Coyote. For me, economic freedom is much more important. The fact that gum is illegal in Singapore bothers me less than the fact that it has a free market economy and won't despise me for being successful.

  4. Josh:

    Personally, I voted for Barr, but I disagree with your assessment.

    Obama is for all of the same restrictions on freedom and liberty that McCain wanted. Even rules like the fairness doctrine are on the table. And then when it comes to economic freedoms, Obama was the worse candidate.

    IMHO, neither was great, but I do think McCain was far better.

  5. Captain Obviousness:

    I too am more depressed about the state propositions than Obama. California looks to have passed both a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and a high speed train bond for $10 billion to build a pie in the sky train from SF to San Diego. It is ridiculous that bond measures are allowed to say "and without any new taxes." I really think people don't understand that bonds=taxes (eventually). As Coyote has posted here, these high speed train projects always go over budget and are never cost-effective. Seriously, with all the eminent domain that would be involved, it has got to cost at least $100 billion to build a high speed train from SF to SD, passing through populous areas. What a boondoggle this will be.

    At least the stupid clean energy scam propositions failed - prop 7 and prop 10 (or the "let's give $1 billion of taxpayer money to Boone Pickens" plan)

  6. Shamus:

    What depressed me was the sheer enthusiasm for Obama. After promising to take from some people, and telling all of us that we're going to have to "tighten our belts" and be "ready to work", people came out in record numbers to vote for him and wept with joy when he won. Those would be fighting words in a free society. I'm less troubled by Obama himself than by the fact that people are lining up for government like never before. Candidates come and go, but there is no cure for a people uninterested in freedom.

    One small victory for freedom was the legalization of marijuana in MA, of all places. Not exactly on the top of my list of rights I'd like to get back (or ever use), but it was sort of interesting to see this small concession amidst the rest.

  7. Franco:

    "I am actually less frightened by the candidates than by people who seem to get so excited by one or the other of them."

    This is the actual silver lining, if there is one. I hope Obama is reasonable. It is obvious Reid and Pelosi are nuts. I know a fair number of people close to the campaign including a delegate and his tax adviser. They are smart people (not Robert Reich types). I think there may be hope if he listens to some of these people. However, if he listens to Pelosi & Reid we're in trouble. A combination of Card Check and protectionism could cripple our economy and Obama has promised those in his speeches - these will be a litmus test as to whether he's a moderate or a wolf in sheep's clothing.

  8. Tim Fowler:

    Calling a vote against gay marriage a vote against freedom is rather questionable in my opinion. A vote against equality? Perhaps. But not freedom.

    Look at what is being requested. Not the freedom to have homosexual relationships, to live with the people you have the relationship with, to have a ceremony proclaiming the relationship etc. No, none of that is illegal (if it was removing it would be a move towards freedom, and a vote to keep the laws in place would be a vote against freedom).

    No what is being asked for is government action. Specifically government recognition of and benefits for homosexual couples who want to formally recognize and register their relationships.

    The vote didn't ban the actions of individuals, only a form of government action.

    A vote against recognition of gay marriage might be called "conservative", or "pro-traditional values" if you look at it positively, or "anti-equality", or "unfair" or "prejudiced" if you look at it negatively, but either way its not exactly "anti-freedom", or "anti-libertarian"

  9. DKH:

    I don't seem to see things all that similarly to you (maybe this is because I'm not so purely libertarian). I'm extremely disappointed by the failure of the medical choice proposition to pass. I already gave my comments on the payday loan bill previously. Beyond that, I see the gay marriage issue along the same lines as Tim Fowler above, and I do believe that at the state level, those sorts of choices are allowed (under the Constitution).

    The illegal immigration and majority rule/taxes propositions had me ambivalent. Same for legislators' salaries: you're not going to attract high-quality analytical thinkers, who probably already have full-time jobs, with $24,000 or $30,000, so I don't see much difference between the two amounts.

  10. Dr. T:

    Years ago I reached the undesirable conclusion that most adults don't want freedom, because the flip side of freedom is individual responsibility. I believe that explains most of the anti-libertarian votes in this election. It also partly explains why two markedly anti-libertarian politicians won their respective party primaries.

    I just cannot understand why people will transfer responsiblities to bureaucratic, inefficient, and capricious agencies such as governments and unions. The only excuse I can think of is laziness: responsibilities require one to exert oneself, and it's easier to give up some freedoms to get rid of the responsibilities.

    Does anyone know where John Galt is?

  11. Fay:

    I would put forth that the enthusiasm for Obama is almost solely based on his opposition to the unprovoked war in Iraq, and the sheer wrongness of the prognosticators who said it would be over in a matter of weeks, and we'd be greeted as liberators. Add to that the total sham of Republican "fiscal responsibility" and Obama's ability to form a coherent sentence, and you have at least a perception that his administration surely can't do MORE damage than what has already been done.

  12. Daublin:

    "I am actually less frightened by the candidates than by people who seem to get so excited by one or the other of them."

    Here here. There were people crying with joy over the result. There were fireworks all around my town. I find this enthusiasm far scarier than the particular jerk who won.

  13. Mr. Mercy Vetsel:

    Josh wrote:
    > Personally, I voted for Barr, but I disagree with your assessment.

    > Obama is for all of the same restrictions on freedom and liberty that
    > McCain wanted. Even rules like the fairness doctrine are on the table.
    > And then when it comes to economic freedoms, Obama was the worse
    > candidate.

    > IMHO, neither was great, but I do think McCain was far better.

    This is the stuff that makes me want to cry. At least Coyote seems to harbor some vague superstition that Obama is in favor of some important personal freedom that McCain opposes. That's irrational, but internally consistent with his actions.

    Josh actually understands that the Democrats are at best equal to Republicans on non-economic liberty (actually worse when you consider the 2nd amendment) and much worse overall, but he *still chose to sit out the election* by voting for Barr.

    What is it about libertarians that makes us so stupid when it comes to political tactics? Why do we consistently take actions that help the very worst candidate? Why do we believe this insane superstition that the two parties are equally tyrannical?

    Sometime I have to conclude that Coyote and the other libertarian refusniks who won't join the Republican Party don't really want more freedom. Maybe they secretly enjoy being in a position to sit on the outside and watch society become increasing dysfunction, content in their aloof status.

    Perhaps actually getting involved in the fight would expose our fragile egos to the prospect of defeat and ridicule. Statists hate Republicans because they are a threat. Non-Republican libertarians? Ha, a joke and therefore no threat. I think Libertarians are like the kids who can't read and don't practice out of fear their handicap would be exposed.

    I fought tool and nail against McCain in the primaries and I fought tooth and nail to get him elected. I fought and lost, but unlike the Barr voters at least I fought in the real arena rather than just indulging in some self-pleasure fantasy.


  14. Fay:

    Mercy: The Republican party has, as two planks of its platform, amendments to the Constitution that are specifically designed to DENY freedom to two groups of individuals.

    The Republican party has also been in charge of the largest government expansion in history and the largest government spending spree in history... not to mention the denial of habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping, torture, signing statements, and an unprovoked war.

    I'm sorry, but that is just not "pro-freedom" by any stretch of the imagination. Pro-war, pro-death, pro-government power, and dominated by Christian Dominionist wackos. That's today's Republican party.

  15. Tim Fowler:


    A war that helped free over 25 million people from a horrible tyrant.


    To general to be that meaningful, but probably better associated with the part of abortion on demand.

    pro-government power

    Here you have something, but no more so, and maybe less so than the democrats.

    dominated by Christian Dominionist wackos

    Not exactly. If you define wackos fairly normally than they play a small part. If you define it broadly (and IMO unreasonably) to mean something like "the religious right", well they are an important constituency but really they have gotten very little from the Republican party.

  16. Mr. Mercy Vetsel:


    Your fear of Christians in government is highly irrational. I'm not religious, but for the life of me, I can't think of single thing the religious right has done to substantially interfere with my freedom.

    Meanwhile, your bigotry towards Christians allows you to accept a government that takes 50% of your wages, threatens your right to free speech and your right to keep and bear arms, and regulates ever minute detail of your life down to your toilet and light bulbs.

    If you actually look at the spending records of Republicans and Democrats as done by non-partisan organizations like the National Taxpayers Union, you will see that Democrats have been much worse than Republicans.

    In fact the difference is so dramatic is that the 10% of Republicans in Congress who vote for the most spending is about equal to the 10% of Democrats who spend the least.

    You are just repeating left-wing talking points. If you want to decrease the size and scope of the government, taxes are the choke point. Even Krugman recognizes this and the real reason that Bush is hated and despised is because he cut takes. All of the other stuff is just fluff designed to trick naive fools into voting for even more socialism.