Friday, August 08, 2003

You don't tug on Superman's cape 

It appears NA Wordsmith James Lileks is most displeased in today's Bleat. His annihilation of the Rush lovefest has been splattered all over the blogosphere with kudos around. But he also nips at some others with this comment before dueling with El Rushbo.
Listened to much radio commentary today on the Arnie candidacy, and as usual there was much lamenting and rending of garments on the ironclad right; he�s not this, he�s not that, he said this, he sleeps with a Shriver, etc. I am always mystified by people who would rather die pure than live with imperfections. Every candidate will always disappoint, somehow. Any candidate with whom you agree 100% is probably unelectable. If your bumpersticker says DON�T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR AYN RAND I'm not particularly impressed. �Cause she�s dead and none of that stuff is going to happen. Doesn�t mean we can�t keep the ideas in play, but if you don�t vote because no candidate vows to privatize the sewage systems and disband the Food and Drug Administration, don�t come crying to me when your marginal tax rate hits 71 percent.
Given my savaging yesterday of Ventura as a centrist Democrat in libertarian clothing (which is pretty much my view of the entire Reform Party in Minnesota that Jesse split with in 2002, btw -- are you listening Mr. Grimes?), that hits a little close. I self-identify as libertarian, and while I'm not a Randroid (the atheism thing gets in the way, for one thing) I do find myself moved by the heroes of Rand's novels. Moved not in the sense that I want to be John Galt, no more than my love of Star Trek leads me to want pointy ears, but moved in the sense that dogged pursuit of the perfect world that Galt or Roark saw is a noble pursuit.

On my short list of great books (not that Hawkins ever asked me) is Leonard Read's Anything That's Peaceful, a much closer libertarianism to my own than Rand's. Here's what he says about choosing candidates that trim their platforms in order to attract votes.

Does responsible citizenship require voting for irresponsible candidates? To ballot in favor of irresponsible candidates as though it were one's duty is to misconstrue the meaning of duty. To cast a ballot for a trimmer, because no man of integrity is offering himself, does as much as one can with a ballot to encourage other trimmers to run for office. Can anyone conceive of any element of protest in such balloting? To vote for a trimmer goes further: it would seem to urge, as strongly as one can at the polls, that men of integrity not offer themselves as candidates.
I'd ask Superman to think about that: There is a paucity of good people in office -- how do we increase the supply of people with integrity when we are told we need to vote for people without it because there are others running who will do worse?
What would happen if we adopted as a criterion: Never vote for a trimmer! Conceding a generous liberality in defining trimmers, millions of us would not cast ballots. Would the end result of this substantial, nonviolent protest, this large-scale demonstration of "voting by turning our backs," compound our problem? It is difficult to imagine how it could. For a while we would continue to get what we now have: a high percentage of trimmers and plunderers in public office, men who promise privileges in exchange for ballots and freedom. In time, however, this silent but eloquent refusal to participate might conceivably improve the situation. Men of integrity and high moral quality-statesmen-might show forth and, if so, we could add their numbers to the few now in evidence.
Again, James says above that the person you agree with 100% of the time is unelectable. Why? Because we keep thinking we have to vote for the lesser of two evils. All that does is increase the supply of trimmers in the candidate pool.
Would a return to integrity by itself solve our problem? No, for many men of integrity do not understand freedom; or, if they do, are not devoted to it. But it is only among men of integrity that any solution can begin to take shape. Such men, at least, will do the right as they see the right; they tend to be teachable.
It is with some dread that I tug on Superman's cape, for messing around with James is not something I ever want to do. But maybe we need to change how we think about voting so that we can encourage better people to run.

And I'm not saying that Ahnuld cannot be a great candidate -- in fact, I think he can because he seems to genuinely believe the principles of Milton Friedman. MSNBC played a tape of him from 1987 saying he wouldn't run ever for politics -- he was asked this by Bryant Gumbel because AS was already known for reading politics and economics. I'm thinking, maybe, Schwarzenegger is not a trimmer.