Thursday, August 07, 2003

Arnie vs. Jesse: the cage match 

Ben at Infinite Monkeys has called for a coordinated NA blogging attempt. Mitch Berg and Lileks have chimed in already regarding the statement of whether Arnold Schwartznegger is the new Jesse Ventura (or whether he's the second coming riffing off Jesse's John the Baptist schtick, as Lileks puts it.) There's a serious side to this that bears listening. When Jesse ran and people tried to figure out his politics, he wanted to distinguish himself and once called himself libertarian. And some in the libertarian movement believed it, including Reason's Jonathan Rauch. Of course, it turns out he's not, as Jim Rongstad of the Minnesota Libertarian Party has pointed out several times. Jesse was a supporter of the Profiles of Learning, smart growth and affordable housing plans, and was not at all against taking the tobacco settlement money. As Mitch puts it,
Ventura was elected in 1998. Minnesota was riding high in the dotcom boom - we were no San Francisco, but the economy was thriving. We had had continuous state budget surpluses for most of the nineties, and there was no hint of leaner times ahead. Politics was a fairly trivial business at the time; the biggest problem the legislature had was whether to spend the gajillion dollar surpluses on new programs, or return half a gajillion dollars to the taxpayers.
Jesse was for making the pot bigger, so that he could return less than half the gajillion and still call himself a taxcutter.

So what does this have to do with Arnold? Lots. He is seen as a libertarian as well by Reason's Nick Gillespie (though I suppose we should be careful since they picked Jesse as one too) and the Wall Street Journal's John Fund calls him a compassionate libertarian. I show Milton Friedman's Free to Choose series in some of my classes, and John Stossel's Greed. In both cases, Arnold shows up as an introducer. From Free to Choose:
"I come from Austria, a socialistic country. There you can hear 18-year-olds talking about their pension. But me, I wanted more. I wanted to be the best... Individualism like that is incompatible with socialism. I felt I had to come to America, where the government wasn't always breathing down your neck or standing on your shoes."
This from the interview of Jesse in Tikkun in 2000:
TIKKUN: Do you think that individualism in America is really a thing of the past?

VENTURA: I think in regular, everyday life there's still a lot of room for individualism. In politics it's more difficult. I face it everyday in the fact that I don't have this big piece of political machinery to hack me up. I'm now the most veto-overridden governor in Minnesota history; I wear that as a badge of honor, because it shows that I didn't have the political machinery over there to automatically rubber stamp a veto of mine and save me the supposed "embarrassment" of being overridden. But being overridden on a veto doesn't embarrass me. To me, that's the way the system's set up. I did my job; if they need to override it, that's their prerogative.

So maybe he would have been libertarian but the legislature wouldn't let him.

What a weenie.

So if we're going to compare Arnold to Jesse, we have to hope the comparison stops the day after the election should Arnold win.