Wild Comment Thread

Over at Catallarchy, there’s an interesting comment thread. It started from a perfectly reasonable question from Jonathan Wilde:

The blogosphere has been abuzz about Steven Landsburg’s article that claims that studies show that the minimum wage does not really affect unemployment.

My question is this: how would you design a study to determine whether or not the minimum wage affects unemployment?

But, the comment thread has spun into a long discussion that shows some interesting differences among libertarians (about political action, moral theory, and more). Here’s part of a comment of mine:

I think that ideas matter.

Even if most individuals don’t actively investigate issues (rationally), better ideas tend to dominate worse ones in the long run and eventually spread throughout the culture.

If we disengage from the battle of ideas because we think the moral case is the only one that matters and what other people care about is “beside the point”, then seductive, bad, ideas will gain support and dominate policy.

I don’t just want to be right. I want things to get better, too.

Check it out!

Federal Marriage Amendment

I’ve blogged about this before.

I’m happy that this failed so dramatically today.

I have no idea whether or not Karl Rove’s calculations are correct about whether this stupid, symbolic, waste of time will help Bush and other Republicans more than it will hurt them; but it’s depressing to think that it might help them more. I’ve learned to expect very little wisdom or principle from politicians, but it’s a shame that so many of my fellow citizens motivate them to act this way.

On the bright side, I join Jacob Levy in saying “Yay John Sununu!”

I wish we had more senators who were reasonable on both economic issues and issues like this one.

Voting Clarification

While responding to a comment in the Why Not Vote Libertarian? post, I realized that I probably didn’t make my reasoning clear enough in that post and thought I’d clarify by posting Daryl’s comment and my response here:

Count me as another (small “L”) libertarian who is going to vote for Kerry. My rationale? Divided government. Gridlock seems to work best by working least. And, since it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the GOP will retain one or both houses in Congress, the only hope for divided government is Kerry.


I agree that gridlock is a valid reason to prefer Kerry. With a Republican congress he, like Clinton, will probably get little of his preferred economic agenda passed; and the actual outcome won’t be too bad.

However, I think there are other, more compelling, reasons to prefer Bush (War on Terror, tax policy, Court nominations, etc.).

But, my main point is that it isn’t a logical or ethical necessity to vote for the outcome you prefer. Wanting an outcome and voting are different things. You might want to express your preferred outcome with your vote, but you don’t have to. I don’t feel a need to do that.

You shouldn’t really expect your vote to determine the election, so you should think hard about what you do want your vote to do. What kind of expression do you think justifies the effort of casting a vote? I think expressing my preference for libertarianism is a better use of my vote than expressing which of the major candidates I hope will win.

My preferred outcome of the election is that Bush barely wins, but loses (and wins) several states by a smaller margin than the number of libertarian votes. That might encourage both parties to take libertarian positions more seriously. I think that libertarians splitting their votes between Bush and Kerry will do nothing to help move this country toward libertarianism.

Your Mileage May Vary.

Michael Muqtada al-Moore?

Steven Den Beste has an interesting post comparing the influences of Muqtada al-Sadr, and Michael Moore.

One amusing speculation (which I’ve heard a few times recently) is this:

If one was particularly cynical, one might entertain the suspicion that Moore secretly hates the left, and is laughing twice as hard. Not only is he getting filthy rich off them, and laughing all the way to his bank, he’s also helping to engineer their marginalization, and laughing all the way to their political destruction.

I don’t think that Moore is that clever. But, if he were, that’s just the impression he’d want me to have of him…

Why Not Vote Libertarian?

Jacob Levy has posted on the Volokh Conspiracy about why he intends to vote for John Kerry, rather than following his former custom of voting Libertarian.

Levy is a sharp guy and I respect his opinions very much. I also agree with him about the shortcomings of Bush and the looniness of Badnarik (the Libertarian candidate).

However, I think he’s overreacting to his distate for Bush’s failings by imagining that a Kerry administration would do better on either domestic or foreign issues. I’m incredibly skeptical of that.

I also don’t accept his rationale for not voting Libertarian. As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t vote because we expect to decide the election. We should vote to express what we’re for. And, despite Badnarik’s confusion about the war (and many other things), I think that it’s generally the case that Levy would prefer that policies move more toward the libertarian position; and that’s what I think a Libertarian vote expresses more than anything else.

The Kantian position that he expresses about willing the universalization of his vote just doesn’t make sense to me. But, if he enjoys expressing that idea, then I suppose it makes sense for him to vote that way.

I’m still voting Libertarian.