Friday, November 14, 2008

Half-baked reasoning

I'm often impressed by the ability of Reason magazine these days to express ideas that I largely agree with--and make me think maybe I was wrong, since so much of the magazine is so facile and lame. A case in point is this piece by Anthony Randazzo on "The Third Way":
A new conservative movement that takes libertarian ideas seriously could use the inertia created by the nation's new progressivism to slingshot itself into the future on a platform of reduced government, lower taxes, and limited interventionism, while also respecting climate change (adjusting the tax code to encourage green reform without any expense to taxpayers) and reforming the immigration system (opening the borders as the market demands labor without sacrificing security).
Some problems with the article (not an exhaustive list):

1. Randazzo praises "the small government, Goldwater-style GOP of old" and also states that the GOP has never been "a party of small government based on classical liberal principles," without clarifying what if any distinction he has in mind to reconcile these divergent descriptions.
2. He writes that "If the Ron Paul movement tells us anything, it's that the Republican Party can be more than a party of old white guys with bad hair cuts," but fails to note any difference between Ron Paul's anti-immigration fear-mongering and Randazzo's pro-immigration stance.
3. Randazzo presents his ideas as an electoral winner for the GOP without showing the slightest awareness that many of these ideas are deeply unpopular; e.g. a carbon tax. To wit, point 4:
4. He suggests having a carbon tax "without any expense to taxpayers." But even a revenue-neutral carbon tax will shift burdens from some taxpayers to others, exacerbating its deep unpopularity regardless of its plausible merits on environmental and security grounds.
5. His "limited interventionism," if it's anything like Ron Paul's, would damage remaining Republican credibility on national security, and blur distinctions between Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy. Isn't his whole thrust that Republicans shouldn't be a watered-down version of Democrats, or is that OK if we're talking about foreign policy?
6. Randazzo argues against "moving toward the political center" without noting that many of his positions (a carbon tax, open the borders) are not associated with an unyielding conservatism.

I too think the Republican Party should become more libertarian. But libertarianism, like other ideologies, is not immune to wishful thinking and mediocre arguments.

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