Cojones

Rand Paul said this, in a speech at Howard University, by way of explanation for how the party of “The Great Emancipator” lost the black vote to the party of Jeff Davis:

I think what happened during the Great Depression was that African Americans understood that Republicans championed citizenship and voting rights but they became impatient for economic emancipation.

African Americans languished below white Americans in every measure of economic success and the Depression was especially harsh for those at the lowest rung of poverty.

The Democrats promised equalizing outcomes through unlimited federal assistance while Republicans offered something that seemed less tangible–the promise of equalizing opportunity through free markets.

You see, it wasn’t our racial politics, from our fierce (and persistent!) opposition to civil rights, to our southern strategy, to all those welfare queen/Willie Horton ads, to the 47% comments. Nor was it the so-called political work begun by FDR and sustained through the generations by Democratic leaders and policy makers. No, it wasn’t anything we did wrong, or anything they did right. You see, folks, it was you. It was you who missed our genius, it was you who made the mistake of abandoning your loyal friends, it was you who fell for all the undeserved free shit and socialistic nonsense and easy solutions that they sold you. It’s not us, it’s you.

Still, you can change. I swear to God, you can still change. Just give yourself another chance, and you’ll see that doing the right thing is still within your capacity.

California Dreaming

Californians will have a chance to vote the death penalty out of existence this November. As of right now, there are more people on death row in California than in any other state–all of them for murder. A referendum against the death penalty in the nation’s largest state would be an enormous victory for anti-death penalty activists, as well as for all people, if you think about it.  So why is this happening now? Because, according to the LA Times, the left-leaning movement is finding support in the unlikeliest of places:

Growing numbers of conservatives in California have joined the effort to repeal the state’s capital punishment law, expressing frustration with its price tag and the rarity of executions… Backing the new measure are Ron Briggs, who ran the 1978 campaign for a successful ballot initiative that expanded the reach of California’s death penalty; Donald J. Heller, an ex-prosecutor who wrote the 1978 initiative; Jeanne Woodford, a former warden of San Quentin State Prison who oversaw four executions; and former L.A. County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, who said his experience as D.A. helped change his mind about the fairness of the system.

Criminal justice reform and fiscal conservatism should go hand-in-hand, to be honest. But for too many years conservatives have actually been the ones to advocate broadening the penal code, widening the state’s reach, and expanding the prison industrial complex. In 1968, Richard Nixon famously argued that doubling the nation’s penal population would do far more to keep Americans safe than would Hubert Humphrey’s War on Poverty. And during the 1970s and 1980s, his vision was born out. Only the hypothesis underlying that vision failed to bear fruit.

Various conservatives–perhaps because they really have returned to libertarian roots; perhaps because state governors, many of whom happen to be conservative, have to find ways to save money–are beginning to rethink their priorities on the matter. As NPR reported (a year ago), California’s spending on prisons has risen 25 times faster than spending on higher education over the past three decades. The state meanwhile houses 170,000 people in a system designed originally to house 83,000. Its spending on corrections will approach $10 billion in the next fiscal year, and that doesn’t even include the several billions of dollars needed to fund penal infrastructure. Before dealing the humanitarian and civil questions surrounding our criminal justice system–the U.S. regularly executes innocent people; blacks are for more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites, even for the same crime; imprisonment serves far more as an enduring social stigma than as a “penitent” and “reformative” experience–states like California have to face up to the fact that they literally cannot afford to keep doing what they have been doing.

So let them come. Whatever their motivations, I applaud conservatives who are moving to the front lines of criminal justice reform. If there grew a consensus during the past few decades over “tough on crime,” perhaps we can see a new consensus grow, one more realistic about what “toughness” entails in practice. I’m not naive, and understand that this also happens to be a moment of draconian anti-immigration laws and self-defense statutes, but let’s not ignore progress when it happens. Hopefully Californians–liberals and conservatives alike–make the right choice this November.

George Zimmerman, Bill Lee, and the Meaning of Liberty

Please, sit down. Take a deep breath. I give to you… Megan McArdle:

Based on what I’ve read, so far, if I were on the jury, I’d have to acquit. Is Zimmerman a racist idiot? Almost certainly (though do remember that the media accounts are not always 100% of the story; they tend to mostly consist of leaks from one side or another).

But could there be a scenario where he–wildly inappropriately–followed this guy, and brandished his gun, and then much to his surprise, the teenager tried to wrestle the gun away, and in the ensuing struggle, he got shot?

Does that seem the most likely explanation to me? No. Could I rule it out? Also no. And that’s reasonable doubt.

Let’s see if I have this correct. Megan McArdle, who fashions herself to be an intellectual of sorts, believes that if someone follows a teenager, brandishes a gun at said teenager, and then “much to his surprise” is forced to kill the teenager after the latter attempted to take the gun away, that man–or as we call him in America, “that murderer”–is un-convictable in a court of law. Do I have this right? Ok, good. Let us now cry over the demise of The Atlantic, and possibly for the future of our children.

All jokes aside, what’s most notable here is the extent to which some people are willing to go to defend “self defense” these days. Continue reading

The Good Folks At The Cato Institute.

How do you make the Cato Institute look good? By comparing it to David and Charles Koch and Mitt Romney.

There appears to be a little family squabble on the Right. I completely believe Crane on this one. The Cato Institute may be a bunch of loony libertarians, but they’re the genuine article – they are sincere in their lunacy. Cato’s is not a libertarianism-of-convenience, used simply to avoid paying taxes or to weasel out of government regulations; they really believe this stuff, lock, stock, and barrel. The Kochs, on the other hand, believe it with a fervency in direct proportion to how much it increases their millions and billions.

And then there’s Willard Romney.

You get that last part of Crane’s statement? The part where he claims Cato stands for “individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace”? He means that, with all the conviction and crazy of a floating-island libertarian. Mitt, on the other hand, less so:

Liberty and Patriarchy

The libertarians seem to have a woman-problem. Blogger Tyler Cowen yesterday tweeted this in response to liberal outrage over the Virginia ultrasound law:

All of a sudden requiring consumers to be informed is extremely unpopular on the “pro-regulation side.

Ok. First thing’s first: Cowen is ignorant of female biology, if not also just plain ignorant. What the fuck would a woman be doing in an abortion clinic, asking for an abortion, if she was “uninformed” about what was going on inside her uterus? Even if his “joke” was meant to illustrate the problems of regulation, it’s a ridiculously bad argument. It also ignores that more than just liberals hate this law.

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Megan McArdle Betrays Herself

Scott Lemieux:

If there’s anything holding the contemporary Republican coalition together, besides a shared fondness for anything perceived as pissing off liberals, it would seem to be an utter inability to grasp the concept of “consent.” Hint: nobody says that doctors shouldn’t be allowed to perform transvaginal ultrasounds in cases where they’re medically necessary, or if patients request them. The question is whether women should be forced to have their bodies invaded for no medical reason because they make reproductive choices some reactionary moralizers don’t like. The answer, according to McArdle, is yes. But as long as we’re not providing women with access to medical care — that would be nanny statism!

I’d actually go further. What’s holding the modern Republican coalition together is a shared contempt for “consent.” McArdle lets her guard down for a moment and allows us see her real views through the looking glass. She just likes telling people–specifically poor people–what to do. I don’t know what that has to do with libertarianism. I don’t even know what that has to do with conservatism. But there it is.

Now, we all know Megan McArdle is a hack. I’m willing to bet, or perhaps am merely hoping, that even other libertarians recognize that she is an unserious thinker. Yet her inability to grasp why some of us might be more offended by a forced trans-vaginal ultrasound than a consented-to abortion, and her insistence that state-protected medical care is statism all the while the aforementioned state-coerced ultrasound is not, illuminates a central contradiction within the modern libertarian ethos. As I have noted elsewhere, one person’s liberty often leads to another person’s coercion; conversely, one person’s liberty might well depend upon state police power–and, in some cases, the violation of some property rights. There is no easy solution–there is no simple “I’m for liberty!” position–and in moments like these, we can see that libertarians understand that too. The McArdles of the world merely have a preference for whose liberty matters more.

Somehow, this will lead you to a discussion of Warren Harding’s Presidency

At some point soon, I’m going to write a much bigger post on the relationship between slavery and liberal individualism, something that I think, in a different way, will get at the “Ron Paul and U.S. history” question that Ryan and I have been engaging.  But before I do, I want to note that Austrian School acolytes don’t merely misuse/misinterpret the history of U.S. race relations.  They also get the history of economics wrong too.

The New Abolitionists, Ctd.

Just a quick follow-up to my earlier post about libertarians and their peculiar relationship to history.

This morning, Steve Benen flagged an interesting nugget from last night’s GOP debate in South Carolina.  Even by his own lofty standards, Ron Paul apparently said something utterly crazy:

After World War II, we had 10 million came home all at once. But what did we do then? There were some of the liberals back then that said, oh, we have to have more work programs and do this and that. And they thought they would have to do everything conceivable for those 10 million. They never got around to it because they came home so quickly.

And you know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent. They cut taxes by 30 percent. By that time, the debt had been liquidated. And everybody went back to work again, you didn’t need any special programs.

I honestly can’t speculate at this point about what is going on inside that man’s head.  What I can do is point out that, uh, there was a “special program” for the millions of WWII veterans who returned home during the 1940s.  In fact, the GI Bill is perhaps the most famously-successful piece of “Big Government” legislation in U.S. history.  It is, I dare say, especially odd that Paul selected this moment, of all other possible moments, for his example of small government success.

Of course, as I wrote in the first piece, I’m undoubtedly wasting my breath.  Paul and his followers are not interested in the facts.  They’re not really interested in history at all.  Folks like Ron Paul are only interested in deploying “history” to confirm their ideological agenda, which they believe with an evangelical fervor to be singularly correct.  And that ultimately leads them to distort the historical record.  Ron Paul is fundamentally ahistorical in his beliefs:  in his mind, the GI Bill never happened.

The New Abolitionists

Jonathan Chait, as is his wont, recently pissed off the libertarians.  In a well-reasoned piece, Chait argued that Ron Paul’s underlying ethos–his broader anti-federal government worldview–was less anti-racist than Paul or his acolytes claimed.  If anything, Chait argued, that worldview was racially problematic.  For as anyone with even a passing knowledge of history knows, many of the nation’s most fevered racists, from pro-slavery fireaters during the 1850s to anti-integrationists during the 1960s, framed their arguments in terms not unfamiliar to modern libertarians:

They stood for the rights of the individual, or the rights of the states, against the federal Goliath. I am sure Paul’s motives derive from ideological fervor rather than a conscious desire to oppress minorities. But the relationship between the abstract principles of his worldview and the ugly racism with which it has so frequently been expressed is hardly coincidental.”

In other words, that which lies in Paul’s heart is and remains irrelevant; he may be racist, he may be pure of racialist thinking, but whatever the case, his federalist views bear a striking resemblance to those that have been articulated historically by secessionists and segregationists alike.  And that’s telling, if nothing else.

To those of us who spend our time studying the history of U.S. race relations, thought, and practice, there is not much new to this argument.  Of course Ron Paul’s federalism weds him to some deeply problematic historical figures and movements.  Of course the man’s policies are racially problematic.  Almost the entirety of our legislation promoting racial egalitarianism rests on a bedrock of federal power.  The stories of both Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, to name the two most famous ones, are in large part stories of the federal government’s attempt to ensure black rights and local southern resistance to that government’s encroachment upon individual white male (property) rights.  And it’s not like Paul has run from the association with confederates and segregationists, either.  Not only has the man argued that Lincoln overreached in 1861, and not only has he objected to the 1964 Civil Rights Act:  he has repeatedly shown himself to be comfortable standing alongside neo-Confederates, Lost Cause apologists, and, yes, modern-day racists.

But nothing stokes the fire of libertarians quite like an argument which points out that their entire worldview facilitates white male supremacy.  And it’s the response to Chait that I want to highlight.  For it indicates quite a bit about why Ron Paul’s racist newsletters haven’t scared off most of his followers; why such followers seem so impervious to empirical reasoning; and why, ultimately, folks like Ta-Nehisi Coates, for all of his beautiful, incisive prose, are wasting their breath trying to convince Paul’s acolytes that their savior is the wrong man for the job.

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