Libertarians are Screwed

There are those of a libertarian bent who want to believe that the current bitch-slapping that Congressional Republicans are being handed right at this moment portends well for libertarians:  I beg to differ.  Don't get me wrong, the Republicans deserve what they get.  But this election should not be taken as a sign that the electorate is going all libertarian.  Forget exit polls and what the news says about why people are voting the way they are -- that stuff is always garbage.  Look past the people races and look to the ballot initiatives.

All over America, I don't think voters are punishing Congress for wielding too much power over their lives.  Because when the voters themselves are being offered legislative power via propositions to use the full coercive power of government to compel their neighbors to do the majority's bidding, they are jumping on the statist bandwagon gleefully.  Minimum wage hikes, smoking bans, new regulations, bans on gay marriage, restrictions on immigrants; heck, we even have ballot initiatives with micro-regulations for animal cage sizes.   They are all passing in Arizona and across the country. 

Currently 77% of Arizonans have voted to make Arizona prisons mini-Gitmo's for illegal immigrants, denying them bail for any crime.  75% want to make sure no Spanish is spoken in the statehouse.  66% want to interfere in employer/employee wage negotiations.  55% want to give bar owners no choice in whether they allow smoking in their own private establishment.

Note that there is no consistent theme of conservatism or liberalism in these issues.   The first two might be seen as "conservative" issues and the second two as "liberal" issues.  But the same 2/3 are voting for each.  This is not a victory for the left or the right, but for big government populism.  The voters are getting a taste of bending their fellow citizens to their whims via the government, and they seem to like it.

Update: I am trying not to get mad, but 75% - 3/4 of the people in this state - are voting to not allow illegal immigrants to collect punitive damage awards.  I'm sorry, I understand that people are frustrated with the immigration topic, but there are certain things that strike me as basic under any notion of equal protection, that should apply irregardless of citizenship status.  Protections we should offer to any human being that happens to be in our borders.  And the ability to seek redress for damages in court should be one of them.

In addition, 57% are currently supporting the initiative to ban probation for meth users, so that even minor meth possession charges will lead to a jail term.  This means that the hugely enlightened and highly successful policy of filling up jails with marijuana users is going to be emulated and applied to meth use.

On the positive side, so far the gay marriage amendment is not passing, and the proposition to put limits on Kelo-type eminent domain takings looks like it will pass.

There just seems to be a huge philosophical muddle behind the voting here.  The electorate votes to limit kelo-type government takings and to require compensation in zoning cases where private land values are reduced, but at the same time votes strongly to ban smoking in bars and to raise the minimum wage, both of which are effectively government actions that takes value away arbitrarily from certain private individuals and businesses.

For years I have lamented tthat the average American has no philosophy -- he or she only has a hodge-podge of inconsistent political views stitched together from his/her parents, from peer pressure of their social group, and from random encounters with the media.  Never have I felt this as strongly as I do tonight.

  • MesaEconoGuy

    This election drew out 2 voters en masse:

    1)Those who think “the current course of the country is wrong” (even though most can’t define the issues, much less find Iraq on a map), and

    2)Those who believe in confiscatory theft, via further taxation of personal property, and increasing regulations.

    It really is that simple. The economic ignoramii won.

    Republicans are partially to blame for inexcusable inarticulation of free-market views, but the Democrats will (as they always have) screw us all.

    Which will be fun to watch, except for the taxes.

  • MesaEconoGuy

    Sorry, Coyote, gotta call you on this one, too:

    “I'm sorry, I understand that people are frustrated with the immigration topic, but there are certain things that strike me as basic under any notion of equal protection, that should apply irregardless of citizenship status. Protections we should offer to any human being that happens to be in our borders. And the ability to seek redress for damages in court should be one of them.”

    Wrong. Here’s why: I’m Employer A in Mexico, and my worker B comes to work for you in America, subject to your laws. He gets injured, on the job for me, his Mexican employer (this does happen).

    Instead of seeking compensation under Mexican “law” (ahem!), worker B chooses to sue under considerably more generous American statutes. But he’s a Mexican citizen, employed by a Mexican corporation, and therefore not subject to US employment law. That’s illegal.

    If he were, our legal system offers far more generous litigation avenues and payouts than does the Mexican counterpart.

    This is the same mistake Professor Roberts makes on Café Hayek (I’m one of his students). You cannot make the argument, given different asymmetric legal systems/awards, that equal parties should be subject to equal processes in different countries – that’s equivalent to having no political borders, and those borders exist for a reason, as do the differing economic conditions on respective sides. Their ideas of legal recourse and award are far different than ours, as is purchasing power parity.

    Free trade is the best mechanism for change, especially covertly against isolated economies. Free legal advice and representation is not.

    PS, “Irregardless” is not a word. It’s “regardless.”

  • Cam

    I'm a huge fan of your blog and have really enjoyed your analysis of the political positions of mainstream americans. Being from Canada, the same applies up here. I especially like your previous arguments that sees the left not as progressive, but as conservative (in an economic sense). Add in the social conservatives on the right, and where did all the liberals go?

    Modern politics reeks of reaction. From the conservatives we hear the usual whining about the declining morality of society (in religious and nationalistic terms of course) and the need for the government to step in. From the "progressives" we are told about how the government must address the evils of the private sector and their constant pursuit of (gasp!)the "bottom line."

    I guess you nailed it when you said that mainstream politics are really just opinions grounded in statist populism.

  • Josh

    I find MesaEconGuy's reasoning confusing. If someone gets hurt on US soil, they are subject to US laws, period. I mean, would you suggest cutting off a shoplifter's hands because he was visiting from Iran?

    Another thing, these initiatives screw everone. They are just more frustrating for libertarians to watch.

  • markm

    Things are better in Michigan; the initiatives in this election were incremental libertarian wins, where they involve libertarian issues at all, and some won by huge margins. (The Democratic wins in state and federal offices aren't good news, but Republican wins wouldn't be much better...)

    Eminent domain reform: 80% for. Unlike some other "reforms" I've heard of, this one has teeth; it doesn't eliminate the "blight/urban renewal" workaround entirely, but it requires blight be proved parcel by parcel, and it increases compensation to 125% of fair market value.

    Mandatory school funding levels: 62% against.

    Ban affirmative action in public colleges, employment, and contracting: 58% for.

    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061108/NEWS05/311080005/-1/NEWS15

    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061108/NEWS05/311080005/-1/NEWS15

  • JoshK

    I think it really comes down to the fact that a lot of people will be sold on the idea that they can have something for nothing.

    It is sad to see a hard working person making minimum wage; that sucks. It feels so good to be able to pretend to yourself that a law will fix their situation. Passing a law to make "big corporations" do things is a lot easier than an individual themselves giving to a charity that helps the working poor.

    Same thing with drugs. Drugs do cause people a lot of harm in their lives. So why not just pass a law telling them to stop. It's just so easy...

    Healthcare - again, so sad when someone has none. Recently on ER, one of the characters quipped how someone's life would have been saved if we just had national insurance. All he needed was a $10/mo prescription and he had no insurance. If only there was free healthcare. Just pass a law...

  • faultolerant

    Coyote,

    Some of the initiatives you discuss, and take issue with, don't make sense to me.

    "Currently 77% of Arizonans have voted to make Arizona prisons mini-Gitmo's for illegal immigrants, denying them bail for any crime."

    OK - so you're taking issue with a criminal being held for additional criminal activity? Oh, I keep forgetting, in YOUR world, all illegals are brave, noble people and the US laws are simply repressive and wrong.

    "75% want to make sure no Spanish is spoken in the statehouse."

    Why is it a problem for English to be the language of the State of Arizona? You want Spanish, too? OK, then I insist on the 7th dialect of Mandarin chinese on all government forms as well. Heck, applying for a driver's license will now involve a form as thick as the Manhattan A-to-M yellow pages with every known language, dialect and subdialect on the planet.

    "66% want to interfere in employer/employee wage negotiations."

    Agreed - minimum wage laws suck.

    "55% want to give bar owners no choice in whether they allow smoking in their own private establishment."

    I've always believed there's a better way to promote non-smoking: Don't eat in a place that allows it, and tell them why. If enough restaurant owners lose your business (and know WHY they're losing it) they'll make the decision they think best.

    "Update: I am trying not to get mad, but 75% - 3/4 of the people in this state - are voting to not allow illegal immigrants to collect punitive damage awards."

    This goes back to that "ILLEGAL" stuff again. You want to actually promote the concept that people who are here in this country ILLEGALLY are entitled to punitive damages? OK, then the reverse must be true: If an illegal commits a crime in the US, we (or rather the victims of the crime) deserve the right to take their possessions from Mexico. Think THAT'LL ever happen? I don't either. So, why does an illegal deserve the right to the same?

    "I'm sorry, I understand that people are frustrated with the immigration topic, but there are certain things that strike me as basic under any notion of equal protection, that should apply irregardless of citizenship status."

    Unfortunately, far too many "protections" are already extended to illegals. Like how many BILLIONS of tax dollars are spent on their healthcare (gotta take care of those indigents, don't we?), on educating their offspring (don't want no stupid illegals, do we?)....the list goes on and on.

    "Protections we should offer to any human being that happens to be in our borders."

    If they're here LEGALLY, I totally agree. Otherwise, NOT.

    "And the ability to seek redress for damages in court should be one of them."

    Funny that you advocate FOR illegals to seek redress but not for their victims to be able to do so when the tables are turned. Can you spell "hypocritical perspective"?

    "In addition, 57% are currently supporting the initiative to ban probation for meth users, so that even minor meth possession charges will lead to a jail term."

    This is one item that galls me, too. Let's just decriminalize ALL drugs....it'll save us a LOT of time, a LOT of money and, in the end, make the world a much better place.

    Of course, like you, this is just my OPINION.

  • Rob

    Then there is Charlotte, NC. The city is spending money on pork projects such as Nascar Hall of Fame, Arts Center, Basketball Arena, Cable company customers, etc... Grand total over 300 million.

    We have 3 ballot initiatives which passed with 60%+. Each requests money for schools, roads, neighborhood improvement. On the surface those sound like legitimate functions of gov't (except neighborhood and possibly schools). The grand total of about $130 million.

    The sad part is that gov't is spending all our tax dollars on side projects, then complaining when they don't have enough for the necessities. It's sad that my fellow Charlotteans are like lemmings, we've just re-elected the same boobs who weren't good stewards of the tax revenue, and we gave them permission to spend more.../cry