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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The libertarian case for Obama?

Thoughts from David Friedman:

"Perhaps I am too optimistic about Obama, but I do not think he is going to turn out to be an orthodox liberal. There is a group of intellectuals connected with the University of Chicago who have accepted a good deal of the Chicago school analysis but still want to think of themselves as leftists. They are, as I see it, trying to construct a new version of what "left" means. Examples would be Cass Sunstein and Austan Goolsby, both at Chicago, and Larry Lessig, who used to be there."

and from Nick Bradley:

"After I read the great review of "Nudge" at LvMI this morning, I started doing a little reading on the subject and I stumbled upon this upcoming NYT review of the book.

According to the article, Obama and his economic team oppose outright bans and strict regulations, but instead prefer the "nudging" approach. After reading the article, I've came to the conclusion that Obama is to the right of Clinton on economic issues (opposed to the narrative that he's to the left of her) and pretty close to McCain, with McCain possibly favoring more outright bans and restrictions on economic activity than Obama would -- and I include the environment in that category."

Three assertions underlying these libertarian arguments for Obama are that Obama is actually influenced by and will act upon the insights of the Goolsby school of economics, that this "libertarian paternalistic" state is something preferable to the traditional forms of liberal social democracy, and finally that Obama's foreign policy would be wiser than John McCain's because he would not only act on his commitment to remove most troops from Iraq but he would also not blunder into another intervention in Iran, Darfur, or elsewhere.

I wouldn't recommend that Americans vote for Obama, but he's not the worst of the candidates.

Posted by Kalim Kassam on May 21, 2008 | Permalink


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Libertarian Paternalism sounds like an oxymoron to me. Explain the concept and tell me why I should even approach it.

Posted by: DML | 2008-05-21 9:50:55 PM

It is an oxymoron and you should not approach it, DML.

As for good old fashion paternalism, it's clear Obama and McCain have similar instincts, if dissimilar priorities.

The choices are not good, but hopefully there are still some free market thinkers in the Republican Party who will keep McCain on track. If Obama wins, let's hope Friedman's optimism is well founded, but I doubt it.

Interesting post, though.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-21 10:02:09 PM

I think you're being wildly overoptimistic here.

There are a lot of libertarians who have become so dovish in their thinking that they'll excuse anyone on the left so long as he'll pull out of Iraq.

For the record, Barack was also the guy who said Americans shouldn't be allowed to control their own thermostats anymore.

Nudge, my foot; he's all push and shove.

Posted by: D.J. McGuire | 2008-05-22 5:30:27 AM

Is there some evidence to suggest this "orthodox liberal" won't be a tax and spender? Legislative voting records perhaps? "Perhaps I am too optimistic about Obama", while the left "redefining" itself is nothing new, this is ridiculous.

Posted by: Conrad | 2008-05-22 7:31:06 AM

Obama's campaign rhetoric so far has taken the term "vacuous slogan" to a whole new plateau, so it's difficult to know what the guy actually intends to do. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, when asked about policy positions, he told the interviewer to have a look at his website. Now, either he doesn't really care about policy, or thinks it's too boring a subject to discuss at length.

Then there's his statement about renegotiating NAFTA, which he later backpedaled on.

I think that many people are so enthralled by his commitment to pull the troops out of Iraq that they pretty much ignore and/or sugarcoat everything else about Obama.

Posted by: Dennis | 2008-05-22 8:24:23 AM

they aren't interested in boring whitey sh#@ like "facts" and "policy".

Posted by: Conrad | 2008-05-22 8:31:18 AM

An important quote from David Gordon's article at the Mises Institute:
"Those who wish to preserve liberty must take people’s actions as they find them, not substitute for them “better” or more “rational” actions, based on an assessment of what people “really” want. To return to the transplant case, if the state says to people that their organs will be taken from them unless they explicitly direct otherwise, it is claiming to set forward the terms under which people can retain control of their own bodies. This is hardly libertarian. Instead, the state needs to step away entirely and allow people to dispose of their organs as they wish. Why not rely on a free market in organs, rather than concoct schemes to restrict liberty in the guise of preserving it?"

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-05-22 7:06:03 PM

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