Glenn Reynolds has kept adding updates to his “seize the oilfields” post, including a response to my post that managed to entirely miss my point. (Invading Iraq has reduced its oil production.) The resulting post is rather confused. Fortunately Jim Henley has decoded it and connected it to the collapse of belief in small government in the American Right. Tom Hilton has some more apt comments on Reynolds’ post.

Comments

  1. #1 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 4, 2006

    …the collapse of belief in small government in the American Right.

    If by the “American Right” you mean the Republican party, then when did they ever believe in small government, except in campaign rhetoric?

    Ever since the time of Lincoln (the first Republican president) the Republicans have pushed for bigger government, protections for big business, subsidies, big taxes, etc… More:

    The Origins of the GOP
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo84.html

  2. #2 Dano
    May 4, 2006

    They are, simply, like an old jalopy that is careening down the street, shedding parts as it goes, and the owner barking out the praises of his gleaming machine.

    I certainly am enjoying the show. I would, of course, enjoy it more if they weren’t dragging our country down their crooked path with them.

    Heh. Indeed.

    Best,

    D

  3. #3 Chris
    May 4, 2006

    Ummm… wow, I don’t read Reynold’s very often, but there’s a level of stupidity in that post of his that makes me wonder how the man ever got a job, much less one in academia.

    What in your statement (quoted in Yglesias’ post) says, “We invaded Iraq for the oil?”

  4. Just astounding that he would link to Scott Adams, who really does a good job as a satirist. Adams is as much skewering the Instapundits of the world as anything else. But Instapundit is too stupid to figure that out.

  5. #5 Graculus
    May 4, 2006

    Just astounding that he would link to Scott Adams, who really does a good job as a satirist.

    Scott Adams is a Wally.

  6. #6 Eli Rabett
    May 6, 2006

    The Republicans believe in small government and large companies. Until now they have been able to keep a hold on both of those wings of the party.

  7. #7 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 6, 2006

    The Republicans believe in small government

    LOL!

  8. #8 Eli Rabett
    May 6, 2006

    Can we then agree on incompetent government? If results talk that appears to be clear.

  9. #9 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 6, 2006

    Can we then agree on incompetent government?

    Is there any other kind?

  10. #10 Eli Rabett
    May 6, 2006

    Why yes, but the first rule is not to elect folk who think like you.

  11. #11 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 6, 2006

    What is that supposed to mean?

  12. #12 Ian Gould
    May 7, 2006

    It means that people who have a pathological fear of government aren’t the most appropriate people to run it – anymore than an acute agrophobe is an appropriate person to fly an aircraft or a member of temperance organsiation is the best person to run a bar.

  13. #13 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 7, 2006

    It’s a rational fear, not pathological.

    “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence – it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master” – George Washington

    Would you consider Washington to be one of these “inappropriate” leaders?

  14. #14 Jack Strocchi
    May 7, 2006

    Posted by: Eli Rabett | May 6, 2006 04:47 PM

    Why yes, but the first rule is not to elect folk who think like you.

    Yes, those libertarian founding fathers were really pathological incompetents, werent they? Thomas “government is best which governs least” Jefferson was not fit to run a tuck shop, was he?

    Of course the current Republican administration are not “libertarians” in any proper sense of the word. They are warfare and “lawfare” statists with a strong bias towards “wealthfare” capitalism. They also have a pathologically Machiavellian political bent.

    The short-lived era of “The End of Big Governement” is over. Politics is reverting to its classic format of division of the spoils between warring factions.

  15. #15 Graculus
    May 7, 2006

    Having a healthy respect for something that is dangerous, and talking precautions, is not anywhere near the same thing as a “pathalogical fear”.

  16. #16 Eli Rabett
    May 7, 2006

    Well for one thing Jack, they were not libertarian. Don’t believe anything your nanny tells you.

  17. #17 Ian Gould
    May 7, 2006

    Jack, you are smart enough and informed enough to know that Washington spent most of his administration fighting to expand the power of the federal government and that Jefferson’s maritime trade policy was probably the greatest single imposition on the private sector introduced by any American administration.

    They did though share a libertarian respect for the property rights of their fellow slaveowners.

  18. #18 Jack Strocchi
    May 7, 2006

    Posted by: Eli Rabett | May 7, 2006 08:40 AM

    Well for one thing Jack, they were not libertarian. Don’t believe anything your nanny tells you.

    No. The US founding fathers were libertarians alright – at least by the standards of the day. These are the only standards that count for men of action.

    Their philosophical mentor was John Locke, the great libertarian political theorist. Their political tactician was Tom Paine, a revolutionary libertarian.

    They supported majority rule and minority rights against Big Government (the British Empire) and Church Establishment (Roman or Anglican). Their system of government actually worked to increase personal liberty for the masses of mankind who wanted to exercise it.

    “These things happened even though [my nanny] said they happened.”

  19. #19 Jack Strocchi
    May 7, 2006

    Posted by: Ian Gould | May 7, 2006 09:35 AM

    …Washington spent most of his administration fighting to expand the power of the federal government and that Jefferson’s maritime trade policy was probably the greatest single imposition on the private sector introduced by any American administration.

    Thats true. Hamilton was, if anything, even more mercantilist and statist.

    But this only goes to show that libertarian civil society needs a strong nation state. An institutional connection that modern libertarians seem to “not get”.

    They did though share a libertarian respect for the property rights of their fellow slaveowners.

    Washington freed his slaves. The Emancipation regime change that came about during the US civil war loosed a slaughter comparable with the Holocaust amongst able bodied American males. I am not surprised at the waryness with which the Founding Fathers treated the politics of this question.

  20. #20 Ian Gould
    May 8, 2006

    Jack, again I’m surprised. you are usally better-informed than this.

    Salvery was actually a much less contentious issue in the late 18th century than it became in the mid-19th when it became a touchstone for wider resentment towards the north.

    In around 1800, the virginia legislature came within one vote of passing a bill to free all children of slaves born after that date when they reached adulthood.

    Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson coudl have cast the deciding vote to pass the law but abstained.

  21. #21 Tim Curtin
    May 8, 2006

    Ian Gould: Noting your abstention from commenting on my correction of your claims re Warwick McKibbin in regard to Kyoto (see the thread Matt McIntosh is too kind to Colby Cash), I hope you continue to stick to Jefferson in future.

  22. #22 Ian Gould
    May 8, 2006

    My Gosh, have I been “abstaining” from commenting on your latest missive for a whole day?

    I thought it was called “working”

    Don’t worry Tim, I’ll give you the attention you so desperately crave at some future point.

  23. #23 Eli Rabett
    May 8, 2006

    Washington freed his slaves in his will. His attitude toward them while living, is, like Jefferson’s, equivocal. BTW, the Jefferson quote is bogus as was the Washington one. http://tinyurl.com/r7h43

  24. #24 z
    May 8, 2006

    “They supported majority rule and minority rights against Big Government (the British Empire) and Church Establishment (Roman or Anglican). Their system of government actually worked to increase personal liberty for the masses of mankind who wanted to exercise it.”

    They were also wary of the tyranny and susceptibility to demagogery of the “common man”, and therefore eschewed “democracy” as mob rule, and instead instituted such things as a College of Electors, whereby enlightened men could protect the masses from themselves.

  25. #25 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 9, 2006

    OK, I’ll admit I don’t know the origins of the quote attributed to Washington, but let’s not lose the forest for the nits living in the trees…

    If the founding fathers did not have a healthy fear of government, then why did they bind it down with the chains of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights with the words “Congress SHALL MAKE NO LAW …”, and “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” [my emphasis], etc.. ?

    Ever read the preamble to the Bill of Rights? I hope you don’t mind my posting it here:

    “The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to PREVENT MISCONSTRUCTION OR ABUSE of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added, and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution;” [my emphasis]

    Why include these words if they had no fear of misconstruction or abuse of the powers of government?

  26. #26 Eli Rabett
    May 9, 2006

    Maybe because they preferred the laws in their states which were often quite restrictive. Extension of the first ten ammendments to the states is relatively recent (and good) thing.

    Then again, why were these principles NOT in the original document?

  27. #27 Ian Gould
    May 10, 2006

    “If the founding fathers did not have a healthy fear of government, then why did they bind it down with the chains of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights…”

    George Washington (and Alexander Hamilton) were primarily responsible for replacign the first attemtp at a US constitution – the Article of confederation – with the current document.

    In the process, they vastly increased the powers of the federal government.

    The process by which the draft was adopted was constitutional questionable – the Federalist candidates to the constitutional assembly convened the assembly before all the delegates had arrived. passed the new draft with minimal debate and then adjourned the assembly.

    The bill of rights was a later, reluctant addition made by Washington and Hamilton to prevent the real prospct of civil war or secession and even so it took severla years and considerable arm-twisting before sufficient states accepted the current constitution.

    Jefferson was a leading Anti-Federalist, you mgiht find his comments on Washington and Hamilton during that period instructive.

  28. #28 Jack Strocchi
    May 13, 2006

    Posted by: Ian Gould | May 8, 2006 03:38 AM

    Jack, again I’m surprised. you are usally better-informed than this.

    Salvery was actually a much less contentious issue in the late 18th century than it became in the mid-19th when it became a touchstone for wider resentment towards the north.

    Don’t be too surprised byill-informed-ness. Most of the time I am winging it.

    Yes, the 19thC invention of the cotton gin make slavery more economicly attractive than it had been in the 18thC. No doubt this encouraged slaveholders to hold onto the “peculiar institution”. So perhaps the Founding Fathers erred too much on the side of political caution in deferring or dodging this issue.

    I am concerned mainly to refute a chronic fallacy of “Wet” libertarian ideology: that strong/big government is identical with despotic government.

    It is blindingly obvious to this (non-ideological) conservative that institutional authority is quite often a complement, rather than a constraint, to individual autonomy. A weak state more often encourages local anarchy “managed” by the interventions of a global tyranny.

    The FF’s were certainly in favour of a strongish US polity and a nationalistic American society. This made them more authoritarian than some of their revolutionary cohorts. But this strategy, slavery issue apart, proved the best long term foster of personal liberty both at home and abroad. They were realistic, rather than ritualistic, libertarians.

    The subsequent emancipation of slaves and empowerment of African-American citizens required a stronger, not weaker, US federal government. This is proven by the statist measures that Lincoln, Eisenhower and Johnson took to increase liberty for black people.

    Likewise during the 20thC the civilised bits of the RoW relied on a strong US state to resist the monstrous invasions of imperial totalitarian dictatorships such as Nazi Germany, Nippon Japan and Soviet Russia. A massive increase in US military power therefore increased the global space for liberal democracy.

    Of course this is a contingent, not necessary, truth about a certain phase of history. The current US administration has a policy of invading the Arabian world and inviting the American world. The relationship between these acts and its oft expressed desire to expand US liberty is not obvious to my eye.

  29. #29 Jack Strocchi
    May 13, 2006

    Posted by: Eli Rabett | May 8, 2006 10:08 AM

    Washington freed his slaves in his will. His attitude toward them while living, is, like Jefferson’s, equivocal. BTW, the Jefferson quote is bogus as was the Washington one.

    Thanks for the concession and correction. Washington’s posthumous act was as real an expression of his will as any humous one. He was, by the standards of the day, fairly liberal on the slavery question.

    The “least government is best” quote may have been misattributed to Jefferson but it certainly expresses his feelings on the scope of government fairly well. The phrase “Jeffersonian Democracy” refers to a society which is largely self-governed by small proprietors with the state’s federal power quite limited. This is certainly an unrealistic libertarian view, but it is not an unlibertarian one.

    Jefferson was also the strongest proponent of the Bill of Rights. Most libertarians, whether realistic or ritualistic, regard this document as the constitutional foundation for individual liberty.

    So it is false and a bit absurd to suggest that Jefferson was “not a libertarian”.

  30. #30 Ian Gould
    May 13, 2006

    I shoudl clarify my own positon a little too: I have a great deal of respect for the American Founding Fathers but I believe that it is next to impossible for us living in the 21st century to really grasp their mindset.

    Attempting to enlist them as partisans of ANY contemporary ideology is probably a mistake.

    The Washington who toyed with the idea of an American monarchy (with himself as King)is the same man who gave one of the earliest and most forthright speeches acknowledging and welcoming Jews as fully equal American citizens.

  31. #31 Eli Rabett
    May 13, 2006

    Hi Jack, I am not sure I was conceding anything. I was merely describing reality. In many respects the attitude of Washington and Jefferson towards slavery was very similar to most peoples attitude towards SUVs today, it would be a good thing for others to give up. You also have the problem that both men lived a long time and their attitudes changed over time as is normal. However, as to the quotes, that one was simple, they were not the source.

    The “government governs best which governs least” is most closely associated with Henry David Thoreau, who in his return to nature and Luddite views was close to a Theodore Kaczynski as you get in polite Boston circles.

  32. #32 Jack Strocchi
    May 14, 2006

    Posted by: Eli Rabett | May 13, 2006 06:34 PM

    I am not sure I was conceding anything. I was merely describing reality.

    Not really. I said that “Washington freed his slaves”. This is correct, and this fact was elaborated by you with reference to Washington’s will. Perhaps “acknowledgement” is a better word than “concession”. Thanks.

    It is not “reality” to describe the founding fathers as “not libertarian”. On this point you can wiggle and quibble all day but you are just digging yourself in deeper.

    The “government governs best which governs least” is most closely associated with Henry David Thoreau,… However, as to the quotes, that one was simple, they were not the source.

    A few minutes googling and I am now not so sure that your correction is correct. The following quote from Wikipedia throws some light on the attribution of the “least government is best” quote. I thought it orinally came from Paine. Hence my reference to him here.

    That government is best which governs least.

    Attributed to Jefferson by Thoreau, this statement is used in his essay on civil disobedience, but the quote has not been found in Jefferson’s own writing and the statement may well have originated with Thoreau himself.
    It is also commonly attributed to Paine, perhaps because of its similarity in theme to many of his well-documented expressions,

    Whatever. The small government quote certainly expresses the gist of Jefferson’s political worldview, which was obviously libertarian and egalitarian. It is plain silly to suggest Jefferson was not of these opinions, whatever literally is attributed to him.

    who in his return to nature and Luddite views was close to a Theodore Kaczynski as you get in polite Boston circles.

    I dont know much about Thoreau. Jefferson and Paine were both ardently pro-technology and believed in government by civilised “natural law”. It is silly to mention the anti-government politics of Theodore Kaczynski in the context of discussing the small government politics of the founding fathers.

  33. #33 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 14, 2006

    Attitudes towards slavery similar to attitudes towards SUVs?

    Thoreau compared to the unabomber?

    I think I’m going to be sick!

  34. #34 Eli Rabett
    May 14, 2006

    Dear folks, forgive me for this. Washington’s heirs freed his slaves in accord with the wishes of his will. Washington was dead and buried when his slaves were freed. Unless you believe that zombies reach out from the grave……

    But actually, to be serious, Nanny would do well to read Thoreau. His attitudes were not so far from Ted K’s, but he was more polite about it. They both descend from Rousseau’s return to nature/noble savage constructs which have done a lot of damage both politically and socially.

    While I am not a technocrat, I am with Hobbes that the life of a savage is nasty, brutal and short, and that plumbing is cool stuff.

  35. #35 Jack Strocchi
    May 15, 2006

    Posted by: Eli Rabett | May 14, 2006 09:05 AM

    Washington’s heirs freed his slaves in accord with the wishes of his will. Washington was dead and buried when his slaves were freed. Unless you believe that zombies reach out from the grave…..

    “Washington’s will” is equivalent to a premeditated Washington act – in legal theory and effective fact. Thats why a will is called a “will” – where there is one, there is a way. I don’t think executors appreciate being called “zombies”.

    Washington’s posthumous freeing his slaves harmed the interests of his (presumably near and dear) heirs. This moral stance is somewhat elevated from the hypocrisy of ostentatiously green SUV drivers.

    Nanny would do well to read Thoreau. His attitudes were not so far from Ted K’s, but he was more polite about it. They both descend from Rousseau’s return to nature/noble savage constructs which have done a lot of damage both politically and socially.

    Rabet has spent part of this thread linking a controversially attributed quote on the merits of small government to the ravings of lone, crazed assassin. This silliness is on a par with his theory that the Founding Father’s were “not libertarian”.

    I am starting to see why Levitt wanted to, and could, get away with his rubbish for so long. Smart people will do anything rather than admit they make the odd dumb mistake.

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