Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Classical Liberalism vs. Libertarianism

Liberal is a word which has its roots in Latin, and roughly means "free." In many countries in the world, the term liberal is used to denote the parties which tend to be conservative in the sense of opposing interference with the market economy.

In the U.S., obviously the word has lost that connotation and generally means something akin to progressive. Hence, we see the use of the term "classical liberal " to denote someone in the U.S. who still believes in the ideas of freedom, equality, democracy and lack of coercion embodied in the work of John Stuart Mill and others.

I have usually in the past used the term libertarian to describe myself, but that term itself is beginning to lack precise meaning. I think maybe it is time for people like myself to start using the term liberal again, while dropping the pedantic modifier.

I say this because in my viewpoint there are different kinds of people who are freedom-oriented. Some are results-oriented, while others are process-oriented and some of us progress along that spectrum due to personal blindness and cognitive dissonance, but I am committed to at least trying to apply and follow the logic of my beliefs, even in those areas where I do not care for the results.

Thus, we can have two freedom-oriented people who might have the same or very similar ultimate vision of what society should be, but they can differ radically on any given issue.

For example, libertarians generally oppose government provided or subsidized health care. As a student of economics, I cannot be unaware of the vast inefficiencies which often result from government interference in the economy.

On the other hand, as a (classical) liberal, I am dedicated to the proposition that it is reasonable to delay full rights for minors until they reach the age of majority. Together with this lack of full rights, comes an obligation by the government to act in loco parentis when necessary. Hence we have child welfare workers who make sure that children have a reasonable minimum of education, sustenance, clothing, shelther and health care. Given that virtually no one disagrees with this proposition, Republican, Democratic, Progressive or Libertarian, it seems strange to see the demagoguery on the issue from the U.S. right.

I have been called that worst insult of all, "a squish" by libertarian friends for not opposing subsidized health care for children, all the while that they go about merrily touting education vouchers for children as the solution to all the problems of the public schools.

The difference here is process. Some of my libertarian friends take the position that any increase in government is illegitimate, or at least to be opposed, even if it means treating similarly situated people unfairly.

Another example: in the past, only widows were eligible to receive social security benefits from a deceased spouse. Now, even though I oppose compulsive Social Security payroll taxes, I certainly can see no reason for treating husbands differently than wives in this situation and I doubt anyone else would now either, but it was formerly the Congressionally-approved policy.

In the field of antitrust, I generally believe that government does much more harm than good and that it is actually government that often causes the alleged monopolistic situations.

Many conservatives and most libertarians believe this also and on this basis opposed the anti-trust prosecution against Microsoft, regardless of what the facts indicated with respect to the illegality of Microsoft's actions. Whatever happened to "don't do the crime, if you can't do the time?" Their viewpoint is that since the law was harmful, it shouldn't be enforced, an attitude that at least Libertarians are consistent about, unlike their conservative counterparts.

So, once again, in this case, results were more important to these libertarians than process. I feel the opposite.

In the field of economic policy, many libertarians tend to like targeted tax cuts, while abhoring subsidies. While there may be some slight basis for this preference, in reality, there is little difference. Both result in the government either picking winners or helping losers, in a manner in which governments generally lack sufficient market knowledge to make proper decisions.

Thus, I oppose both targeted tax cuts and subsidies, based upon their inefficieny, while libertarians tend to support targeted tax cuts because they believe it starves the government and makes it smaller. The clear unfairness to those not lucky enough to get the tax cut does not seem to trouble such libertarians.

I am a lawyer and I criticize the legal profession as much as anyone. But one thing that is drummed into most of us is the critical importance of process in determining the rightness of actions and outcomes.

Until recently, people with beliefs like mine have generally felt most at home in the Republican Party. However, lately the GOP has appeared to deride and disparge those of us who feel that process is important.

A constant theme is that we have too many lawyers. While we may have too many laws, that doesn't seem to bother them as much.

The Bill of Rights is decidely not results-oriented. The Founders knew that these amendments were going to hamper government action. That was the point. They knew what fewer and fewer people in the Republican Party know.

Process matters. So, I guess that makes me a liberal.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hillary and Vampires

People are gleefully dancing all over Hillary's political grave, but let's not count our chickens before they hatch. Remember those great Christopher Lee vampire flicks from the late 50's through the early 70's? Lee's Dracula got staked, frozen, impaled on a cross, etc., but he kept rising from the "dead" and coming back.

Here we see that the Clintons are already plotting their resurrection from New Hampshire, complete with old time dirty tricks nasty enough to make your head spin like the girl from the Exorcist.

You know what the problem is? Speaking metaphorically, of course, to permanently disable a vampire, you need to cut off its head. It may be time for Obama to study up on his Van Helsing and make sure this opponent is disabled once and for all.

Evangelicals, Southerners and Anti-Semitism

I was asked by a close friend who is Jewish whether or not I believe that most evangelicals would vote for a Jew. He figured if they wouldn't support a Mormon like George Romney, then that theory would apply even more so towards a Jew.

While I don't claim to speak for evangelicals, I did grow up in the South surrounded by friends and family who were evangelicals and from everything that I know evangelicals would have no problem voting for a Jew. They would almost certainly perceive Judaism as being closer to their faith than is Mormonism. The idea that humans can one day become a "G-d" is as blasphemous to evangelicals, as Christ being G_d is to many Jews.

Anti-semitism among evangelicals disappeared about the same time that Hal Lindsey wrote his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, in the early 1970's. Jews are rather seen as, at the least, having residual grace from G_d due to being his chosen people. Some or even most, may believe that unsaved Jews go to Hell, but they believe that about all unsaved groups.

I was taught over and over that anyone who mistreated the Jews in general, would face terrible punishment based upon G-d's promise to Abraham and that this was why the Roman and Nazi empires fell. I went to a Christian junior high and I never heard a single person ever say anything negative about Jews or Judaism.

Now at the ritzy private middle school that I went to before that, it was a different story. Believe it or not, our English teacher actually called our lone Jewish classmate, out of about 100 students, "Jew boy" when he called on him in class. As unbelievable as that sounds, it actually happened over and over with no repercussions. And I should make clear, this teacher definitely liked my classmate. He saw it as friendly banter, somehow.

I will always remember that fellow, whose last name was Newman, because he just let it roll off his back and never complained and was actually one of the most popular kids in the class.

Maybe those were different times. I have heard that many college coaches in the fifties would do similar things with respect to Jewish players and have seen quotes by the Jewish athletes saying it really didn't bother them, because the coach was like a father to them and if he had really meant it as a slur, the coach never would have even recruited him.

The other thing you have to remember is that for evangelicals outside the Northeast, they usually have no idea who is Jewish and who isn't. We don't generally grow up with the experience of associating certain names with the religion, because there were so few Jews in the South back then. I had no idea that so many of the sportswriters and comic book writers that I admired were Jewish and I had never heard the semi-offensive term "jap" until my junior year in college. When most evangelicals complain about Hollywood, they have no idea that many perceive this to be grounded in anti-semitism; they honestly are just complaining about the content and not its origin.

I think that this is important because so often many of us are talking at cross-purposes without really understanding what they other individual is saying. I think that Jews from big cities often assume that everyone can tell whether or not they are Jewish by their names or perhaps some other attribute, but it really is not true.

When Homer Simpson exclaims with shock in an episode of the Simpsons when told by daughter, Lisa, that there are many Jews in the entertainment field: "You mean there are Jewish entertainers?", I find this to be hilarious and absolutely true about how clueless some of us Gentiles are, but that is a good thing, I think. It means we are making progress.

As a boy growing up in the 70's I had no idea that such favorites as the Three Stooges, Billy Joel, Pat Benatar, and Henry Winkler--the Fonz!-- were Jewish, but I know it wouldn't have mattered to me one way or the other.

Equality of the Sexes and Hillary

I know it is always easy to claim that one had a certain idea, before seeing it somewhere else, but I have come to the same conclusions as Michael Barone makes in his article below.

The post-boomer generation has simply not engaged in the same battle of the sexes that the previous generation had. From the time, we started school and onward perhaps to university and then graduate study, women generally made up 50% or more of our classmates and often, if anything were seen as being smarter and more studious.

These women had a full spectrum of choices and indeed, many of them may have resented the tone and spoiled disposition of their mothers' generation.

But perhaps, the final chink in the armor of boomer feminism fell due to the cyber-revolution. People who complained about glass ceilings no longer received the same sympathy that had been extended before. Instead, post-boomer women either put up or shut up. Due to the vast decrease in the costs of going into business for oneself, post-boomer women often start their own businesses and prove that someone was undervaluing their efforts.

These women have no need of a woman in the White House to somehow validate their efforts or the choices that they have made in their lives, nor do they feel that they somehow "owe" a female candidate their support. This is refreshing and is a real mark of progress in an American society all too often marked by regress.

Monday, January 7, 2008


After last night's somewhat lucky escape over Clemson, some UNC fans are already wondering if an undefeated season is possible. As a passionate alumnus, I kind of doubt it.

The 1957 Carolina team and the 1976 Indiana squad hold the record for most wins in a season when winning a national championship without a loss, both 32-0.

The amount of good fortune that Carolina had in 1958 to achieve that mark was clearly phenomenal, so maybe last night' s lucky win is a good sign.

With 2:30 on the clock, Carolina lost control of the ball and it bounced right into Danny Green’s hands and he hit a 3-pointer to cut the margin to four. If Clemson had come up with that ball, Carolina probably would have been toast.

With respect to going undefeated, my freshman year in 1984, we had a great chance to do that until Kenny Smith got hurt. We did go undefeated in conference, but strangely enough it got a little boring, because even if we had lost, it would have been to an inferior team, not one on par with us, a bit like the situation, Duke had in the ACC several years ago. You always need a foil. Someone who can take you to hell and back. Dean Smith’s successful struggles to best K again in the 90’s really got me back into things, as did the 8-20 debacle. It is no fun if it is too easy, but it would not have been a gimme in 1984 even if Kenny had not gotten hurt.. Georgetown was basically our equal that year by the time of the tournament.

The ‘82 team had that foil with UVa, playing them three times and barely eeking out two wins and needing a big comeback to win in Chapel Hill.

UVa was the only squad to beat Carolina in a game that year in which all of our starters were available–Sam Perkins missed the Wake defeat. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers beat the daylights out of us in Charlottesville. So, if Sam had not gotten sick for Wake, that team probably would have been 33-1, given no other changes in the space-time continuum.

And for all you younger Carolina fans, UVa might have been our chief rival from 1980-1984, and maybe back to 1976, with both teams going to the Final Four multiple times.

Boy, did we despise Tom Sheehy and Terry Holland, and there seemed to be bad blood between Dean and Holland and Marc Iavaroni. UVa killed our hopes for a national title in 1976 and Carolina paid them back the next year, winning a thriller at the end, even without most of our starters. And of course, UVa and UNC are the only two ACC teams to ever meet in the Final Four and we smoked them after they had beaten us twice that year.

Clemens Redux

Regardless of whether or not Roger Clemens might have used steroids, which I have discussed below,,
the following quote from his 60 Minutes interview gives us a hint of just how self-absorbed a person Mr. Clemens may be:

""I'm angry. What i've done for baseball, I don't get the benefit of the doubt," Roger Clemens said.""

I guess the hundreds of millions of dollars wasn't recompense enough for all Roger did for baseball.

Roy Williams Does it Again

Roy Williams and his Tar Heels somehow found a way to win a game that was seemingly lost, yesterday at Clemson, 90-88 in over-time. I won't go into specifics because that can be found elsewhere, but will include a post I did on another blog at halftime:

"At the half perhaps the most apt description thus far would be, in he words of the immortal Charlie Bown, “aaaarrrrgggghhhh!”

Deon and Quinin and Marcus have got to step up with Brendan and Bobby gone this year. They clearly can all do better. The outside shooting has got to improve. If Wayne and Danny and Ty cannot consistently hit the 3, we are right back in the hell of last year’s Georgetown game.

Almost all of the great UNC teams have had excellent wing men or three point shooters: Charlie Scott, Walter Davis, MJ, Donald Williams, Vince Carter and Rashad McCants.

Rashad McCants (34 points in 31 minutes yesterday by the way, good going!) was so fundamental to the 2005 team. You could not pack the zone with him in there. If you look at the losses in 2005, except for Santa Clara, without Felton, all the losses involved bad games or games with foul trouble by Rashad.

Wayne has similar skills but has not yet had the same amount of seasoning as Rashad, who was the team star along with Felton and May from day one. Mark my words: If this team is to win it all, Mr. Ellington must start to resemble Vince Carter and Rashad McCants and be able to take control of a game the way that they could. But then again, what do I know? I could be wrong. Let’s hope for a big second half by Mr. Ellington.”

As most BB fans know by know, Ellington ended up hitting a career high 36 points including the game winning 3-pointer with less than a second left in the game. Kudos to Mr. Ellington.