13 June 2008

My Politics

I am in DC, and a number of people here are interested in politics. In the interest of full disclosure, here is my best attempt to define mine.

The place I work (The Mercatus Center) is associated with libertarian ideas, but the place I am going (UC Berkeley) is associated with "left" ideas. (I hate the vagueness of "liberal" and think "progressive" to be too self-congratulatory.) OTOH, I am conservative in my defense of the constitution, but many republican ideas (big government policy or pro-business legislation) drive me nuts. Here is how I introduced myself on Freedom Democrats:
I am basically a free-market libertarian, but I am no fan of "unbridled" capitalism. (I've been to China.) I think that the State does have a role to play wrt public goods -- either in their provision (laws, standards) or their financing (education, health care). I think that government charity can crowd out private charity, the 10th amendment has been abused too much, the drug war (and illegal prostitution) is a destructive waste of time, money and people, and that taxes should be reformed to reduce distortions (i.e., higher property taxes; zero taxes on corportations). OTOH, I think that corporations deserve no special treatment, and I would like all laws (including free trade agreements) to be one page long.

My number one goal for political reform is neutral redistricting (no gerrymandering). On top of that, I am in favor of gender quotas in the legislature, i.e., merge pairs of districts, then have women compete for the woman's seat and men for the man's seat.

The State should guarantee basic rights and security for people and then get out of the way. Often people claim that the State is "helping" but the State is really being manipulated by the powerful. See Baptists and Bootleggers.

All of this kinda sounds mish-mashy, but life is complicated and simple labels (e.g., democrat, libertarian, white, american, male, etc.) do not capture anyone accurately.
I took the political quiz here, and this is where I fall in the Economic Left/Right--Social Libertarian/Authoritarian space (little red dot at 2.38, -5.38):

Bottom Line: I reserve the right to have an opinion independent from any "movement" and change that opinion. Question Authority? Sure! Speak Truth to Power? You bet!

16 comments:

  1. I'm in almost the exact same position. It's good to know that there are more free market but willing to consider the role of public goods and the commons.

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  2. Fun exercise David! Guess my coordinates!...I'll tell you afterwards.


    I think the survey though, suffered from a design flaw, by not permitting neutral stands.

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  3. @gormk -- take a stand, fer chrissakes!

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  4. David - I did! I was forced to. But if you read social science research on valid survey design, you would know that "opting out" or "neutral" should be an option. In fact, for many of the question in the survey, neutrality seems very pertinent.

    ...Be that as it may, FYI, I ended up in the lower-left quadrant:
    -2.88/-3.08, finding myself more "liberitarian" and less "free market-oriented" than I view myself. Though, it is ALL about baseline.

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  5. David, Could you elaborate on why you think that men and women should be equally represented in the legislature? What if people do not want women (or men) to represent them?

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  6. Ben -- I think that men and women are different on a fundamental level (e.g., reproduction) and that political power (over ALL people) should reflect the distribution of gender.

    "What if people do not want women (or men) to represent them?" Well then, we have to have direct democracy. Fine with me :)

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  7. David,

    Do you think the number of seats for each gender should relate to the proportions in the populations? E.g. if there is a city for some reason that has a 75/25 split, is that the way the legislature should be divided too?

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  8. If the city is making city policy. I am talking about the House, and the States are close to 50/50.

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  9. David, how can you with a straight face refer to China as an example of "unbridled" capitalism? Most of their problems are due to a state that is too large, fuzzy property rights and only limited abilities to take private action when damaged, so private markets (that would fight pollution and provide consumer protection ervices, for example) remain hampered and underdeveloped.

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  10. TT, Here's how (reposting a comment I made (to you?) elsewhere):

    By unbridled capitalism, I mean money is more important than laws.

    I am not sure how you want to define "pure capitalism". If you are including a rigorous adherence to laws that are based on human liberty (i.e., a libertarian/anarchistic POV), then China would not fit that model.

    If you (like me) think of pure capitalism as "anything goes in the quest for profits, as long as you can get away with it," then we will agree that China fits.

    Given your definition "a state that is too large, fuzzy property rights and only limited abilities to take private action when damaged," perhaps you prefere crony capitalism?

    The idea of private markets to "fight pollution and provide consumer protection services" remains laughable while money rules. Heck -- give me a better word :)

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  11. The idea of private markets to "fight pollution and provide consumer protection services" remains laughable while money rules.

    David, I`m sure you agree that China would have less pollution if it had few state-owned industries and injured persons/communities had a serious chance of suing and winning against those who damage their property or person.

    By unbridled capitalism, I mean money is more important than laws

    Hasn`t it generally been true that increasing wealth leads to increasing desire for environmental goods, including protection via law?

    While there is a scramble for wealth in China, I`m not sure it can yet be called a capitalist country, even by your definition. Crony capitalism? That`s more Russia. China is still closer to socialism.

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  12. TT,

    "I`m sure you agree that China would have less pollution if it had few state-owned industries and injured persons/communities had a serious chance of suing and winning against those who damage their property or person."

    No -- it is not state vs. private ownership that is the problem, but the rule of law/property rights. Since it is weak wrt the environment, both private and state firms can pollute.

    "Hasn`t it generally been true that increasing wealth leads to increasing desire for environmental goods, including protection via law?"

    I am one of those "freedom before democracy" people, i.e., freedom is necessary for democracy to function. I think the same about property rights and pollution -- no matter the level of wealth.

    "China is still closer to socialism."

    Not in my book, but perhaps we have different definitions.

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  13. Kevin, an interesting and honest statement of your political stances, as well as a call for dialogue.

    In my day job, I'm the editor of a suburban Dallas community newspaper, and unafraid to take unpopular stances on the editorial page. (I was against the war in Iraq, in print, in Dallas, well before it even started, in fall 2002.)

    I tell people that I'm not (too) disturbed if you disagree with an op-ed stance of mine as long as you actually read what I wrote, and actually read and not just skimmed. As long as I have stimulated thought, that's a step forward.

    Per the quadrant survey, Wiki has a number of articles on different political groupings. I rate as a "libertarian socialist." Look it up on Wiki.

    And, per some other posters, capitalism has nothing to do with democracy.

    To the degree you back use the word "capitalism" 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire was very capitalistic, with the notable exception of government controlled grain ships/shipments from Egypt to Rome, and the "bread and circuses."

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  14. Gadfly -- I assume that you mean me (David) when you say "Kevin".

    I agree that democracy and capitalism can exist independently, but they are a good combination :)

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  15. Yes, David, I meant you... must have had Kevin Drum still on my mind.

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