Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Armentano vs. Wenzel on Hillary Clinton

The following exchange is between Dr. Dominick T. Armentano and Robert Wenzel.

Dominick writes in the comments to my post, COMING: Major HIt Book on Hillary

Bob you know how I love you and regard you as "plum line" in almost all matters libertarian. BUT this "hate the state" theory that you have been promoting with respect to that sick puppy Hillary does not convince. Why is it obvious that a Clinton agenda of continued wars and more economic fascism (witness her "new" drug proposal yesterday) will somehow translate into good news for libertarianism. First, the fanatic Dems and welfare under-class will love whatever Hillary tries to do...and any failure of her policies will be attributed to what's left of the free market. In short, they are not about to hate the state. Lyndon Johnson was a beast and his policies of War and Welfare a disaster...but did any of that lead to intense hatred of the State...or to more libertarian policies? Ditto for the journalistic class which has zero understanding of economic theory and policy. Higher minimum wages! Yes! Yes! Hate the state? Never in a million years. Hate income inequality but never hate the almight State. And finally a Clinton presidency will give us 2 additional interventionists on the SC which will just about end any economic liberty that remains in the system. Now I know of all of your objections to the SC and even the Constitution (from a libertarian perspective) yet the fact remains that when libertarian leaning jurists ruled the SC between 1875 and 1935, the struck down dozens of State laws and rulings that would have limited economic liberty. In short, I don't see the logic of arguing that a Hillary Presidency gets us any closer to a libertarian tipping point.
My response:

Dear Dominick,

I agree with you almost fully. Hillary is terrible on almost everything, But I don't think there is a Republican in the group that would be much different.The country is just full of people that think the state is the answer to their prayers and all the current presidential candidates will promise anything to them to gain their votes in hopes of being able to sit on the 8 year throne. They all, also, answer to the warmongers. I point to Paul Craig Roberts on foreign policy, who wrote after the last debate:
There is not a peaceful person among the Republican candidates....If any of the Republicans are elected, or for that matter any of the Democrats, war will be the result. 
And on domestic policy, we have everything from Rand Paul proposing a value added tax to Donald Trump calling for a tax on Wall Street.

There is no good choice. That said, I don't expect any miracle conversions of the masses  to a hate of the state. If Hillary is elected just a marginal increase in hate might occur that probably wouldn't develop to the same degree with the other candidates. I believe the march toward liberty is a very long march and a difficult march. I am reminded of what Murray Rothbard wrote in Conceived in Liberty:
No revolution ever sprung forth, fully blown and fully armed like Athena, from the brow of existing society; no revolution has ever emerged from a vacuum. No revolution has ever been born out of preparation, ideological and institutional. And no revolution, even the most radical, from the English Revolution of the seventeenth century to the many Third World revolutions of the twentieth, has ever come into being except in reaction to increased oppression by the existing State apparatus. All revolution is in that sense a reaction against worsening oppression...It takes a long train of abuses to persuade the mass of people to throw off their habitual customs and loyalties and to make revolution...
This is so, I believe, even if we are talking about just political revolution where people demand freedom peacefully through the voting booth.

I must point out,  I have no desire to call for more oppression now, so that at the other end of a very long tunnel, someday, freedom may emerge. But, as I say, I just don't see that much difference between Hillary and the rest of the candidates--nothing significant for sure. So I view the fall back position for libertarians is to advocate that the most hated of the scoundrels be put in power. Maybe some of this Hillary hate may be transferred into broader hate, Again I don't expect a miracle. I get Rothbard's point that it takes "a long train of abuses." But still, because there would be hate of Hillary by some, it would give us libertarians an opportunity to provide those who are inarticulate in explaining their Hillary hate with an explanation in terms of hate for oppressive government.

I hasten to add that if I saw a current candidate who seemed to be reducing the state by a significant amount, I would be cheering that person on. I'm thinking of across the board cutbacks on domestic and foreign government interventions of 25% or more. And, I note Rand is on record calling for a defense budget increase of 16%.

So, if there is a difference between us it is only on a tactical level of who we are cheering on (I am not going to vote for any of them). I know that regardless of who is elected we will both be spending our time pointing out and attacking deviations from freedom, be they deviations of a Rand Paul, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton Administration. And we are going to have our hands full.


  1. Expecting the average voter to connect the dots is asking a lot. Rothbard thought you needed the academy to facilitate real change in the direction of liberty. Right now the academy is traveling away from liberty at light speed.

  2. Liberty will not rise until the people get the schools back. They condition as children to think within certain bounds or limits. They condition us to how society should be run. Want to see how government will treat us tomorrow? See how government schools treat children today.

    When mainstream people 'hate the state' they hate the present state but they only seek to replace it with one they find more to their liking or reform the state. Create one that manages us like the schools managed them as children. Most will only hate Hillary Clinton and then replace her with someone worse. They don't have the ability to go beyond that because it was never developed.

    The only thing an unlikable president offers a libertarian is the possibility of temporary deadlock on personality grounds.

  3. The commenters above are on the right track and so is Ron Paul in this respect. As an anecdote, I read a lot of "ideological" books that I could never, in a short period of time, convince statist oriented friends and acquaintances to read. It's just too esoteric in the minds of busy people raising kids. Ron Paul's "School Revolution" on the other hand, people get interested and it has made the rounds to 10+ families in my local area where homeschooling is just exploding. The non-ideological tone of the book is accessible and the focus on kids achievement vs. gov't schools really resonates. This is one of the few bright spots in my daily observance of any trends towards liberty.

  4. I disagree with this comment, " Lyndon Johnson was a beast and his policies of War and Welfare a disaster...but did any of that lead to intense hatred of the State...or to more libertarian policies?"

    Is he viewing history through a 15min lens? One could argue that LBJ's actions helped contribute to the Ron Paul revolution and the massive spreading of libertarian philosophy to many people, including myself.

  5. Shouldn't concerns about NAP violations for the duration of any candidate's Presidency outweigh the strategic goal of getting people to hate the state?

    I guess I could argue it both ways, getting people to hate the state might lead to to less NAP violating in the future...but I'm with others in that I don't see the average Joe's connecting the dots and establishing their hatred for a President as really hatred of government.

    In fact, we always seem to hear about if this guy or that girl gets elected they will "fix" everything from the general public & media. (which we all know is bullshit)

    For a while there I threw my hands up and said, "Let them pass Obamacare, bring it'll speed up the fiscal implosion of the state."

    I was clearly wrong.

    I'm not really sure right now strategically what furthers the NAP...but I am very sure that Ron Paul brought huge numbers of people over to the NAP via his campaign, which really was an education campaign more than anything else.

    Rand Paul wants power, unlike his father, and doesn't hold his Dad's views substantially(enough IMO), so it's obvious why he's failing.

    In retrospect, the only thing I've seen and experienced personally as "successful" was watching Ron Paul make his arguments even though they weren't received well by 85% of the population at the time.

    The thing is, before he used the political process(which is rotten & corrupt) to further libertarianism, I'll bet there was less than 5% of those hearing his views back in the first GOP primary debate's in 06/07(like me) that had heard them before.

    So in that regard, Ron Paul was an incredible success. As others have pointed out, Ayn Rand(who I read after hearing about her from Ron Paul back in 06') has made many people aware of SOME libertarian constructs even if she didn't hold some of the more hardcore views.

    So in summary, I have to believe that long term success is based on education and persuasion-and there are many vehicles for that.

    The only thing up to this point I've seen the political process is good for is spreading these arguments to a larger public- I don't see hate for Hillary(or anyone else), or anything other than the airing of libertarian views in discourse/debate via the political process itself that would be remotely helpful in our aims.

    Once enough people really understand and agree with the NAP, there will be a tipping point in some way, shape, or form- we don't even have to figure out what that will be, it will just happen.(free markets!)

    1. I should have made this more clear. I don't see Hillary's policies as driving more hate for the state. I think they all have just as terrible policies, but rather that there is more hatred of Hillary on a personal level.

      The masses have no clue as to why the system is so screwed up, but right out of the gate more people will hate Hillary, then say Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina or Jeb Bush. They, in my view are equally terrible, but, certainly a Carson or Fiorina administration would be looked at more favorably out of the gate. It's not about policy. It;s that more people think Hillary is shady and a crook. They won't think that about the others, though they are all just as bad.

    2. I appreciate the clarification.

      I think it was Lime-Lemon the other day that asked me about your "support" for Hillary, just so I understand, you don't "support" her, you're just saying you think she'll be the best outcome of a crappy overall scenario, right?(among all those running for Pres)

      In other words, you'd never go "Block" and suggest that anyone should send her money or anything, right? (my apologies to Block for the "cheap shot", but he left his kidney's open)

    3. I think in hindsight that Block was right to support Obama over McCain (I would stop short of endorsing a vote or monetary gift). Obama has been a damn warmonger but there's a good chance McCain would have been worse. Considering how close Obama and McCain were (and Obama and Romney), I don't see how you can take an honest look at this field of 22 or 23 candidates and say they're equally bad on NAP. I would understand if you, as a libertarian, don't care enough about electoral politics to distinguish between them, but this is clearly not the case with you, Mr. Wenzel, who watches the theatre pretty closely.

      It doesn't matter which is better than the next, but it's a copout to, when you're as knowledgeable as you are about their positions, say it doesn't matter at all which one wins from an NAP standpoint. My personal believe is that you could make a good case that Rand, Bernie or Trump are the best because they're the most antiwar (followed by Carson and the other Democrats maybe), but again it doesn't really matter which one. I think a libertarian, if he's going to have an opinion about which candidate is best, can easily pick among this crowd depending on his priorities - much more easily than in 2012.

      That's a long-winded way of saying Nick is right about choosing immediate NAP over gradually getting people to hate the state. You are not voting, so you're not violating the NAP, but it's a little disingenuous to just lump them all together - yes, they're all bad, but they're probably not equally bad. Then again, I acknowledge that we don't *really* know until the bastard is in office.

  6. Man I just spent 15 minutes writing a comment and it disappeared. Blogger is a truly horrible platform for commenting.

    Anyway my comment was to the effect that Nick is right to prioritize NAP over hoping voters will hate the state, and it's a bit disingenuous to claim they're all equally bad on NAP violations, even if they are all really bad. More people easily could have died in a McCain administration than did in the Obama administration, for example.

  7. Prof. Armentano is correct, it makes no difference who is elected president. One of the problems with RW's point is he apparently believes that changing the government "peacefully through the voting booth" is actually a peaceful action. It is not. Don't vote. It only enables the criminal class.