Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Examples

Quite often on this blog, recently anyway, I have discussed how different people choose to voice their problems with the candidates. I feel there is a right way and a wrong way.

Before now, I have cited examples of what I consider the incorrect way to denounce/support a candidate, but today I'd like to toss out two relatively good examples of voicing an opinion without throwing "He's a Muslim!" or "He's a warmonger!"

And yes, I'm going to present examples from both sides of the argument. To make matters worse for you, both of these are written from a Libertarian perspective... the third party who gets to vote for anyone we gosh darn please. So with no further ado, and no more gilding of the lilies,

Example one:
I believe that risking new mistakes is better than repeating old ones. On that basis, I feel obliged to look on the bright side of an Obama presidency. After all, I voted for George W. Bush twice, and I supported the Iraq war.

Iraq today is a complicated mess, and how best to extricate ourselves is a tough problem. I don't know how well Barack Obama would handle that problem, but at least he sees it clearly: His goal is to get us out of there. John McCain's goal, on the other hand, is to keep us there as long as possible. That fundamental difference is reason enough in my mind to root for Obama.

The Iraq fiasco was just one consequence of a deeper misjudgment: a panicky overreaction to 9/11 that inflated the real and serious threat of terrorism into an apocalyptic fantasy of World War IV. Delusions of "existential" danger lay behind the Bush administration's resort to torture and its mad claims of absolute executive power as well as its blundering botch job in Iraq. I myself suffered from such delusions in the first years after 9/11, but the accumulation of countervailing evidence eventually freed me from them. Bush, of course, has proved incurable. And McCain's case of 1938-itis is, if possible, even worse.

Obama, to his great credit, resisted the urge to panic all along. After eight years of George W. Bush and all the damage he has done to American interests and influence in the world, it is vitally important for the next occupant of the White House to be able to face a messy and dangerous world with a clear head. Only Barack Obama is equipped to do that.

Alas, when it comes to domestic policy, Obama's inclinations on spending and regulatory issues are almost uniformly wrongheaded. My hope is that circumstances will constrain him from following those inclinations very far. But in foreign affairs, where the president has a much freer hand, he is the clearly superior alternative.

Brink Lindsey is vice president for research at Cato and author of The Age of Abundance (Collins Business).
Example two:

The Obama campaign is rich in contradictions for those who approach politics as defenders of strong property rights and limited government. On the positive side, I applaud Obama for showing a willingness to improve the procedural protections afforded to persons detained at Guantanamo Bay, and to cut back on the hostility toward immigration into the United States. And I hope that on key matters of race relations, he would be able to defuse many lingering historical resentments.

Unfortunately, on the full range of economic issues, both large and small, I fear that his policies, earnestly advanced, are a throwback to the worst of the Depression-era, big-government policies. Libertarians in general favor flat and low taxes, free trade, and unregulated labor markets. Obama is on the wrong side of all these issues. He adopts a warmed-over vision of the New Deal corporatist state with high taxation, major trade barriers, and massive interference in labor markets. He is also unrepentant in his support of farm subsidies and a vast expansion of the government role in health care. Each of these reforms, taken separately, expands the power of government over our lives. Their cumulative impact could be devastating.

My friends at the University of Chicago pooh-pooh my anxieties. They insist Obama will be a "pragmatic" president whose intelligent economic advisers will steer him far from the brink of this regulatory folly. His liberal Senate voting record leaves me no confidence in their cheery view. I wish he would back off publicly from these unwise policies. I would be thrilled if he supported dismantling even one government regulatory program. But he is, unfortunately, a prisoner of our times. The large back story of this campaign is that both parties have abandoned any consistent defense of limited government.

Richard A. Epstein is a professor of law at the University of Chicago. His books include Takings (Harvard University Press) and Simple Rules for a Complex World (Harvard University Press).

So there you have it. Two templates. What's your pick? 1 or 2? Let me know.

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