Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So Kos is a Libertarian Democrat, Is He?

Kos wrote an essay which I initially saw pointed out on Reasons H&R. Initially, I hadn't read the entire thing and was taken to task for pre-judging what I didn't know. Now I've read it, and I see his whole essay deserves a complete and utter smackdown, old school libertarian style.

The most obvious thing I can point out is that he refutes his own argument while trying to make it:

As hekebolos further noted, defense contractors now have greater say in what weapons systems get built (via their lobbyists, blackmailing elected officials by claiming that jobs will be lost in their states and districts if weapons system X gets axed). The energy industry dominates the executive branch and has reaped record windfall profits. Our public debt is now held increasingly by private hedge funds.

Exactly, corporations have this ever increasing power with the direct help and support of government. When a corporation only has the simple tool which attempts to appeal to the self interest of potential customers, the above can't happen. But, as P.J. O'Rourke once brilliantly noted, when politicians control buying and selling, politicians are the first thing to be bought and sold.

More precisely, when government creates and controls the onerous and heavily regulated environment for business to navigate, the first target of corporate largesse becomes the branches of government. One of the greatest blunders of his article is this:

In the non-virtual sphere, cities use eminent domain to strip property owners of their rights on behalf of private developers.

Damn those private developers! Except once again, it's not the private developer I fear, it's the government which has the vested power to strip property rights. The corporation and profit is the motive, government the tool, increased tax revenue the excuse.

Safeway may be eyeing my property for an expansion, but without the runaway powers of government eminent domain, Safeway has no other option to gain my property beyond that of appealing to my self-interest. When a private developer yearns for my property, it's not the developer I fear, it's the institution with legislative and police powers that I fear. I wonder who that might be? Hmmm?

One of the biggest jokes regarding the above mention of Eminent Domain was that it was his own website which trumpeted success over the infamous Kelo decision where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the wanton abuse of Eminent Domain and property was subsequently handed over to... wait for it... private developers. Kos fans were delighted with the decision, even though it might *gasp* benefit WalMart:

Still, I'd have bet on it going the other way, given the way the Court has been ruling on takings in recent years. And while I hate the very idea of doing anything to improve Mall*Wart's position, I hate the idea of the conservatives' position on takings getting enshrined in our law any more than it already is.

The state must have the ability to take land for public goods (though I would be more inclined to say that such takings could only be used for construction of roads, parks, hospitals, and other public facilities, and not just for "economic development"). If they can afford to, let them buy the property outright. But if the owners won't sell, then they must be subject to eminent domain, always assuming they are given fair compensation for the property they lose.

Hooray for the Libertarian "Kos" Democrat! Let them work it out on their own, but if they can't, bring in da cavalry boys! The owners won't sell! Well, isn't that nice to know. You're free to work out your own deal, but if the deal's not sweet enough for the current owner, then fuck you, hand it over. After all, we're Democrats, and we're always for the little guy. If this is Kos' Libertarian Democrat, who needs Republicans to attack our freedoms?

I also believe that the term 'corporation' is often too broadly used. A corporation might consist of three people working in a garage, trying to scratch out a living on some idea in its infancy. Most never survive the first couple of years. Are these the people I fear? Are these the people that Kos and his fans fear? Hardly. They fear the biggest corporations-- the ones which have the pockets deep enough to affect and influence a willing and receptive government.

This is certainly no reason to love or defend those corporations who so cavalierly use government for their ends. However, it is only with a willing and receptive government that their ethical deficiencies can result in damage to the liberties and freedoms about which Markos writes.

A corporation, working on its own can not damage my liberties and freedoms, period. It can only do so when enjoined in the great institution revered by so many Democrats, and reviled by so many libertarians: A public/private partnership.

Markos eventually takes a complete about-face, and attacks the justice department for going after a corporation that receives much anti-corporate ire: Microsoft:

In the waning years of the Clinton Administration, the Justice Department waged a massive anti-trust battle against Microsoft. At the time, Microsoft seemed unstoppable, a monopolistic behemoth who would either swallow or crush anyone that posed even the most minute threat to its business. I cheered the Justice Department on, thinking its efforts would be the only thing to dent the prospects of a Microsoft-dominated world. I was despondent when Microsoft emerged victorious. Innovation seemed dead. But I was dead wrong.

Glad to hear the admission. Which in turn means that I was dead right. Being a Democrat, Markos is preturnaturally disposed to cheer on any ham-fisted government intrusion into a corporation- especially a successful one. Guess what, I'm the libertarian here, so if 'Kos' is joining my club, I'm going to have to lay down some ground rules.

I would like to first note, however that before the JD's assault, Microsoft was well known to have a hands off approach to D.C. politics. They preferred doing business, not hob-nobbing with politicians. Post Justice Department? They're now very involved in Beltway politics. Microsoft learned the hard way when it comes to doing business in America. You either pay your protection money, or something bad happens to you. Do you think any of this irony has really sunk in with Markos? I fear not.

Innovation always seems dead to the Democrat, because they see everything in a one dimensional world where the top company will always be the top company- they're seemingly incapable of seeing (or understanding) that without government interference (or support) the top company will never remain the top company forever. It may remain on top longer than a Democrat is comfortable with, but the top company will never innovate as quickly let alone even see where the next revolution will come from. A Democrat never seems to be able to conceive of change, and then when they do perceive it, they're predisposed to fight it. If it moves, tax it, if it keeps moving, regulate it, if it stops moving, subsidize it.

It's been said by a number of savvy observers that the biggest companies will hire people to tell them what the 'next big thing' is, and these same companies almost never believe or listen to those people. It's funny how libertarians knew that the justice department's efforts were not only a waste of time, but an incredibly dangerous application of force. At the behest of several other big companies, the justice department went after Microsoft, showing that as your success rises, so does your chance of an attack from the zillion-pound hammer of government. So the message is: Be successful, but not too successful. However, I must note that the good news for the biggest companies is that if your success begins to wane, Uncle Sam will be just as likely to prop you up through corporate welfare, especially once you've reached the "too big to fail" category. A concept which often counts on the direct support of Democrats.

Kos is absolutely flat wrong about a number of other things.

There is also no individual freedom if corporations arenÂ’t forced to provide the kind of accountability necessary to ensure we make proper purchasing or investment decisions. For example, public corporations are regulated to ensure that investors have accurate data upon which to base their trading decisions. If investors canÂ’t trust the information given by corporations, the stock markets couldnÂ’t function. If the stock markets couldnÂ’t function, our current market system would collapse.
One minor point of economics that's been lost on Kos is that the stock markets are not the economy. Most libertarians don't have trouble with rules and laws which prevent fraud. Again, I might only find issues with the details of Kos' message. But he's taken the oft misunderstood notion that the stock markets are the economy and somehow vaguely suggests that more government involvement is good. What are the limits of that involvement? He doesn't really say.

Now, none of this is to suggest a defense (even partial ) of the GOP. Certainly not the current GOP. Markos notes early in his article that "Libertarians, while not exactly perfect allies of the GOP, were likely to get more of what they sought by making common cause with conservatives than liberals." I would say that this statement is largely correct. The primary reason for this lack of connection with liberals is that Democrats have refused to even pay lip service to smaller government where at least a libertarian could get the occasional Republican to sing the tune.

Alas, those days are over, and I think I can rightly agree with his larger point that Republicans have waged a war on freedom. Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats have, in their own unique ways waged wars on freedom, usually coinciding with a respective majority status. I'm not sure if 'Kos' is really trying to convince real libertarians to crossover to the Democrat camp. Given the fact that there are a lot of close races around the country as the Repubican support begins to erode, it's possible that Democrats see an opportunity in a new constituency.

What seems to be lost on "Kos" is that the problem is government power. The American people have repeatedly handed over a blank cheque of power to our leaders, hoping that they'll use it wisely and ethically. Basically, it'll all be ok as long as "our guy" is at the controls. Well surprise! "Your man" will not always be in control-- it's kind of a quirk of this here democracy. But luckily, Democrats have made big inroads into fixing that as well. Campaign finance reform is possibly one of the most onerous assaults on free speech. A system of 'reforms', largely led and supported by Democrats and progressives, it flys directly in the face of the first amendment, making a mockery of "congress shall make no law..." Guess what? Democratic congressmen "made a law" and it was signed by George W. Bush. A real bipartisan effort! Thanks!

Democrats have historically claimed ownership on first amendment protection issues. However, they seemed to be only indignant about protecting 'artistic' or 'entertainment based' speech being attacked by right-wing moralists. All fair and good. But then they go and directly tear down what is arguably the most important speech of all: political speech. So cool, I can now go watch a 2 Live Crew concert without fear of censors getting in the way, but I can't say anything about a political candidate within sixty days of a general election. What kind of shit is that, Democrats? As many critics have rightly noted, it all really comes down to protecting speech with which they agree.

Democrats rightly complain about GOP intrusions into the bedrooms or areas of sexual morality. Great, then stay the hell out my kitchen, my healthcare, my supermarket, my favorite fast-food joints, my choices of video games, television or fifteen dozen other areas which Democrats feel the need to address.

Finally, a few words of advice: You want my vote? Start talking about cutting budgets, cutting government, slowing down regulation, stopping real corporate welfare, come out against eminent domain transfers to private entities, cut spending, get out of my kitchen, simplify the tax code, slow down on the public/private partnership abberations, filibuster terrorism legislation such as the Patriot Act and repeal campaign finance reform. When I see real progress on these issues, then we'll talk. Until then, bugger off.


The Truffle said...

You know, here in NYC, it's a REPUBLICAN mayor who's trying to ban smoking in bars and trans fats in foods. Both things that would make any libertarian cringe. It's a REPUBLICAN government that has let the government balloon in size, given away lots of corporate subsidies, and passed legislation that no civil libertarian would ever condone.

Meanwhile, many fiscally responsible and efficient state governors are Democrats. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas is one good example. President Clinton, whatever his flaws, balanced the budget, reduced government, and left a budget surplus. Kos is a big supporter of Jon Tester, a Democrat who believes in smaller government and hates the Patriot Act. Certainly things that a libertarian can respect, yes?

That Daily Kos link you provide re eminent domain was NOT writen by Kos himself. It was written by a DailyKos regular named Hoyapaul. And as you read the comment section, you'll see that a lot of other Kossacks disagree with the ruling. Either way, a DailyKos diary does not and cannot represent the views of Mr. Moulitsas.

Intrusiveness is NOT unique to Democrats OR Republicans, of course. But it seems to me that if you are a libertarian, the GOP is NOT your friend.

As it turns out, libertarians can find common ground with people in both parties. Why are some libertarians so afraid to accept this fact?

Paul said...


I have no quarrel whatsoever with your assertions about modern republicans. If you read the short essay in the broader theme, you'll see that I'm taking both major parties to task. My focus, however, is on Moulitsas' view of Democratic politics.

Regarding my link on Kos and the Kelo decision, I don't claim that Kos made the comments. I note "kos fans" were delighted with the decision.

I stand by that. If you can link me to an article or post by Kos where he clearly rebukes the Kelo decision, I'll note it in an update and give you credit.