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Richard Epstein on Obama:

Libertarian University of Chicago law Professor Richard Epstein has some interesting thoughts about Barack Obama in this column:

My Obama number is one. I know him through our association at the University of Chicago Law School and through mutual friends in the neighborhood. We have had one or two serious substantive discussions, and when I sent him e-mails from time to time in the early days of his Senate term, he always answered in a sensible and thoughtful fashion. And yet, for assessing the course of his likely presidency, I don't know him at all....

The dominant trope is that he will be a pragmatic president who will move in small increments toward the center, not in bold steps toward the left.

But is it all true? The short answer is that nobody knows. Virtually everyone who knows him recognizes that he plays his cards close to the vest, so that you can make your case to him without knowing whether it has registered. At this point, my fear is that the change in office will not lead to a change in his liberal voting record, as reinforced by a hyperactive Democratic platform. My great fear is that a landslide victory will give him solid majorities in both Houses of Congress, so that no stalling tactics by Republicans can slow down his legislative victory procession. At that point his innate pragmatism will line up with his strong left-of-center beliefs on issues that have thus far been muted during the campaign.

Put otherwise, Obama's vague calls for change that "you can believe in" are, to my thinking, wholly retrograde in their implications. At heart, he is an unreconstructed New Dealer who can see, and articulate, both sides on every question--but only as a prelude to championing the old corporatist agenda with a vengeance.

Unlike Epstein, I don't know Obama personally. But his fears are similar to mine. I don't believe that Obama is some kind of ogre, socialist, or terrorist sympathizer. He seems like a skillfull leader and a thoughtful person. And he has repeatedly shown that he is willing to prioritize his own political success over any ideological or personal agenda; in that respect, he's not much different from most successful politicians. I do, however, fear that the combined impact of Obama's left-wing policy views, decisive Democratic control of Congress, and a crisis atmosphere will lead to a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government. If Obama were checked by a Republican Congress, as Bill Clinton was, I would be less concerned. But such is not likely to be the case. The danger of an Obama presidency is not so much the man himself as the political environment he is likely to have around him.

Duncan C. Coffee (mail):
"I don't believe that Obama is some kind of ... socialist.... I do, however, fear that the combined impact of Obama's left-wing policy views, decisive Democratic control of Congress, and a crisis atmosphere will lead to a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government."

So we know what you don't think the definition of "socialist" is - someone's whose left-wing policy views, if enacted, would lead to a large expansion of government.


What do you think the definition of "socialist" is? (Not "Socialist", which is a term irrelevant to this discussion, since that party nominated someone else.) If someone who doesn't think Obama is a socialist could please answer this question, I would be truly grateful.
10.21.2008 6:14pm
John D (mail):
Do you prefer a sort of "reverse parliamentary" system in which the second most powerful party gets the Presidency?

And you you be so kind as to link to the posts where you worried about the lack of divided government under the Bush administration?
10.21.2008 6:15pm
Ugh (mail):

a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government.


Thank goodness the four years of Republican control of the Presidency and the Congress from 2003-2007 resulted in no such thing.
10.21.2008 6:16pm
Steve:
I can't believe you guys are seriously afraid that a Democrat who characterizes Ronald Reagan's election as a reaction to the excesses of liberalism has learned nothing from history.

I mean, if you find the modern liberal agenda to be scary, that's your right. But "unreconstructed New Dealer"? Come on...
10.21.2008 6:18pm
gab:
"... through mutual friends in the neighborhood..."

Uh-oh, we know what that means!


On a more serious note, I just don't get this mindset. We've already had the largest expansion of government in 30 years, and it happened on a Republican watch. Let me list what I mean:

1. Medicare prescription drug benefit
2. Doubling (at least) the national debt
3. Nationalizing the largest mortgage lenders in the country (Fannie and Freddie) and the largest insurance company in the country (AIG).
4. Gov't ownership stakes in the nine largest banks in the country, with more banks to follow.
5. Guaranteeing the debt (for 3 years) of various corporations.
6. Guaranteeing money market funds.
7. Buying commercial paper.

And these are the things I can remember off the top of my head.

What the hell else is there?
10.21.2008 6:20pm
Houston Lawyer:
Those of you lamenting the expansion of government through the Bush years are really going to be jazzed by the coming tsunami of government expanstion from Obama and friends.
10.21.2008 6:22pm
Ilya Somin:
What do you think the definition of "socialist" is? (Not "Socialist", which is a term irrelevant to this discussion, since that party nominated someone else.) If someone who doesn't think Obama is a socialist could please answer this question, I would be truly grateful.

A socialist is a person who favors government ownership of the means of production, and government control of all or most important economic activity.
10.21.2008 6:23pm
Ilya Somin:
a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government.



Thank goodness the four years of Republican control of the Presidency and the Congress from 2003-2007 resulted in no such thing.



I have criticized the Republican record during that period on many occasions. Their shortcomings in no way diminish the likely impact of an Obama victory. Indeed, they exacerbate it by making it more difficult for the Republicans to resist Obama's efforts in a nonhypocritical way.
10.21.2008 6:25pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Unspecified 'change' is the political equivalent of a blank check. Sorry, not gonna write one. And yes, the 'pubbies have been awful. That doesn't mean the Dems might not be worse.
10.21.2008 6:27pm
Observer:
"A socialist is a person who favors government ownership of the means of production, and government control of all or most important economic activity."

I thought that was a communist/Marxist.
10.21.2008 6:27pm
Ilya Somin:
I can't believe you guys are seriously afraid that a Democrat who characterizes Ronald Reagan's election as a reaction to the excesses of liberalism has learned nothing from history.

Obama said that Reagan was a successful president in the sense that he changed the country and was a skillfull politician. He has never said that he thought that Reagan's policy positions were right in any significant way. Nor has he said taht those "excesses of liberalism" involved growing government too much, as opposed to mere tactical errors of implementation.
10.21.2008 6:28pm
wm13:
Everyone but me seems to have forgotten: left/liberal ideas don't work very well and aren't very popular. If Obama has a strong liberal Democratic majority, the likely outcome is a bunch of liberal measures (e.g., amnesty for illegal aliens, precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, tax increases and trade restrictions), two years of economic stagnation and growing popular discontent, followed by the election of a Republican congress. At which point Obama will either, like Carter, pout for two years because the American people haven't recognized his sacred holiness, or, like Clinton, give up any agenda other than the promotion of small, politically popular, feel good nostrums. In all events, the American people are unlikely to tolerate a weakening of our liberties, increases in our taxes, or damage to our economy.
10.21.2008 6:29pm
Ilya Somin:
"A socialist is a person who favors government ownership of the means of production, and government control of all or most important economic activity."

I thought that was a communist/Marxist. A Marxist is just one type of socialist (one who believes in Marx's theories of history and class conflict, which many non-Marxist socialists reject). A communist is a socialist who believes that socialism requires a repressive one party state, as advocated by Lenin and others.
10.21.2008 6:29pm
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
That's a pretty specific definition of socialism. I'm not sure everyone (or even most people) uses it that way. It seems to me that a lot of people today use it as a synonym for redistribution. Am I offbase?
10.21.2008 6:30pm
smitty1e:
@Ugh
Props to the Most Ethical Congress In History for keepin' W on a leash.
Truly 'unfair' of you to shortchange Sentor Reid and Representative Pelosi's important recent contributions.
10.21.2008 6:31pm
steve lubet (mail):
Ilya Somin: "I have criticized the Republican record during that period on many occasions."

True enough, but did you ever call for divided government as an antidote to Republican control?
10.21.2008 6:37pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"It seems to me that a lot of people today use it as a synonym for redistribution."


Right, like having the government mail checks for $600 to everyone who makes less than $75,000.

Oh wait...
10.21.2008 6:39pm
LN (mail):
If "socialist" is synonymous with "redistributionist," America has been quite a socialist country for decades if not longer, and every Presidential candidate in recent memory has been a socialist.
10.21.2008 6:40pm
PLR:
True enough, but did you ever call for divided government as an antidote to Republican control?

Or more to the point, "Did you vote for Kerry in 2004 in order to further your professed goal of divided government?"

Such an impolite question, that.
10.21.2008 6:41pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
What if we had the government spend $300 billion to buy up all the bad mortgages from the borrowers who took them?

Would that be socialist?
10.21.2008 6:41pm
john w. (mail):
"Socialist," "Marxist," whatever; those are all just words. The bottom line is that the guy is a hard-core, ultra-left-wing, Big Government Statist; and Nikita Khrushchev is laughing in his grave along about now.

See { http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_will_bury_you } if you are too young to remember back to 1956.
10.21.2008 6:43pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Steve... divided government during that period would not have been an antidote to increased growth of government. The Democrats fought the Bush prescription drug plan, yes, but only because it wasn't generous enough. Divided government limits government growth only when at least one of the parties is actually opposed to such growth. The Democrats have no opposition at all to government growth. The Republicans have some, but have been insufficiently devoted to it.
10.21.2008 6:44pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Mahan... it sure wouldn't be good. McCain's advantage on the economy is only that he's slightly less enamored of government running the economy than Obama is, not that he's a staunch, all-weather supporter of the free market.
10.21.2008 6:46pm
nyu law libertarian (www):
Had Professor Epstein for Contracts last year. I have to say he is the most upstanding law professor I've had yet. The reason for this is his seemingly indescribable lack of care for what anyone thinks about his ideas. He just calls em like he sees em. Sometimes his lack of care grew to a distraction however - the three times he came to class and lectured for two hours with his fly wide open for instance. A second example being his mathematic formula detailing how men gain value over time after matrimony and women lose value - describing why prenuptial agreements can be disastrous for certain parties.

Probably the reason he has broken with the Hyde park ideology he describes in the article.
10.21.2008 6:48pm
Steve:
Nor has he said taht those "excesses of liberalism" involved growing government too much, as opposed to mere tactical errors of implementation.

Well, sure, but that's because he's a pragmatist and not an ideologue. If a particular liberal "big government" solution didn't work, he can recognize that and avoid making the same mistake twice, but that doesn't mean he's going to conclude that government is the problem in all cases. Sometimes experiments with privatization don't work so well either.

I wouldn't call Obama a centrist, but I certainly expect him to disappoint both people who reflexively favor more government and those who reflexively favor less government. The world is too complex to expect a one-size-fits-all solution.
10.21.2008 6:48pm
Steve:
The Democrats fought the Bush prescription drug plan, yes, but only because it wasn't generous enough.

Really? Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices like any other market participant is an issue of "generosity"? Seems to me the Democrats wanted Bush's plan to be less generous to the drug companies.
10.21.2008 6:50pm
Sarcastro (www):
john w.'s unsubstantiated assertion is right. We've got to keep a close eye on Obama's shoes and JFK.

The second one should be easy.

[I'm totally using Illya's Socialism-Marxism-Communism distinction.]
10.21.2008 6:50pm
Anderson (mail):
If Obama has a strong liberal Democratic majority

Which he won't.

The post &its comments seem to exaggerate the degree of unity in the Democratic Party. Quite a few Democrats are moderates.

There are not enough *liberal* Democrats to do anything drastic, even leaving aside the issue of whether Obama is unusually liberal.
10.21.2008 6:51pm
Lucius Cornelius:
The type of unified government that a President Obama is likely to lead, with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and a large majority in the House, will be a world apart from the narrow, ineffective Republican majorities that President Bush faced.

Furthermore, Bush was not opposed to increasing the size of government...something that increasingly demoralized conservatives. There will not be any brakes on the Obama presidency. Just read Michael Medved's column today. We will have a rash of new programs and new benefits that will never go away.
10.21.2008 6:53pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Striving for libertarian purity ignores the shriekingly obvious: We can't afford four more years of a Republican in the White House. As demonstrated time and again, Democrats are much better for the economy. Not least because, Reagan and the Bushes are responsible for 70% of the national debt.

Besides, any expansion of the government will depend on the kindness of strangers willing to lend us money, which just ain't gonna happen. After eight years of mismanagement of the economy, how much longer will the Chinese be willing to lend us money to buy oil from the middle east? Or we could just print money, adding hyperinflation to the rest of our economic woes.
10.21.2008 6:54pm
LN (mail):
<i>Furthermore, Bush was not opposed to increasing the size of government...something that increasingly demoralized conservatives.</i>

Check out government spending under Saint Ronald Reagan. Why wasn't that demoralizing?
10.21.2008 6:55pm
Sarcastro (www):
Carter had 61 Dems in the Senate, and look how much he could accomplish! We barely survived the storm of laws he passed!

USSA here we come!
10.21.2008 6:58pm
Jim Miller (mail) (www):
wm13 says "Everyone but me seems to have forgotten: left/liberal ideas don't work very well and aren't very popular."

Which is why FDR was thrown out after a single term. Ideas can fail -- visibly -- and still be popular.

And why the corrupt Chicago machine was tossed out long ago. Their (mostly) left/liberal ideas failed, visibly. (Obama has learned a few lessons from them.)

And, if you don't think that "mainstream" media will do everything they can to protect Obama, you haven't been paying attention.
10.21.2008 7:02pm
Anderson (mail):
with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate

Fantasy. The odds of this are quite low.

Striving for libertarian purity ignores the shriekingly obvious: We can't afford four more years of a Republican in the White House.

Torture and war are libertarian values that only the Republicans can be reliably expected to defend and advance. I learned this over the past 8 years.
10.21.2008 7:03pm
Tom in Houston (mail):
Let's put it in context. Compare concerns about Obama to concerns about a McCain/Palin administration. M/P's foreign policy? Guided by reflexive bellicosity, nostalgia for the Cold War, and the instinct to run toward the sound of gun fire. Domestic policy? Apart from a few, narrow targeted smackdowns of Wall Street, what will they change from Bush/Cheney? Nothing. And we all know how well that's gone. And how about that answer Palin just gave on the role of the veep? The Veep as SuperSenator(TM). Hey, and let's have a bunch more 30-year old, rabid partisan, new lawyers as Article III judges!

Context, people, context.
10.21.2008 7:04pm
Randomness:
Even assuming that the Dems get a fillibuster proof majority, there are just too many Dems In Name Only to go too far to the left. Indeed, there seem to be a number of Southern &Western Dems that would be committing political suicide to jump on board an agenda that swings to far to the left.

This "divided government" argument really puts a lot of faith in the voters recognizing the value of a divided government.

I also wonder how many of the conservatives here were thinking the same thing in 1996 or 2000 or 2004. This just smacks of some weird rationalization for why you're not voting for the good candidate, but instead picking the other guy.
10.21.2008 7:06pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

Carter had 61 Dems in the Senate

Note that like McCain, Carter, the least effective President before W., was an Annapolis grad. Note further that neither McCain nor Carter were lawyers. Now, unlike Carter when he was running, McCain is much more irascible, much older, and much less humanitarian. Will these traits make a positive difference?
10.21.2008 7:07pm
Anderson (mail):
I also wonder how many of the conservatives here were thinking the same thing in 1996 or 2000 or 2004.

Oh, the VC was rabidly in favor of a Democratic Congress in 2004 and 2006 ... I can't seem to find the posts, but I'm sure they're on the internet somewhere ...
10.21.2008 7:08pm
Cornellian (mail):
And he has repeatedly shown that he is willing to prioritize his own political success over any ideological or personal agenda; in that respect, he's not much different from most successful politicians. I do, however, fear that the combined impact of Obama's left-wing policy views, decisive Democratic control of Congress, and a crisis atmosphere will lead to a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government.

As opposed to the large, difficult to reverse expansion of government we've seen under the Bush administration, with a horrendously expensive and entirely unnecessary war thrown in for good measure?
10.21.2008 7:10pm
Duncan C. Coffee (mail):
"A socialist is a person who favors government ownership of the means of production, and government control of all or most important economic activity."

Okay, so with that we pretty much abandon the definition which is used in the region where most socialists win elections (I mean against other parties): Europe. After Francois Mitterand and his Parti Socialiste won power in 1981 (and included a few Communists in their coalition cabinet), they left the means to produce several important economic commodities in private hands when they could have expropriated them. Also, shopkeepers and small proprietors retained controlled of their businesses. It wasn't opposition activity that prevented them from doing that, either. They just didn't want to.

So I guess, here we have shown that Mitterand and the PS were not socialists at all? Ilya Somin, I like your writing a lot, but you've got to free yourself from this weird notion that if American feelings get hurt by the word "socialist", it must be an unfair slur. If what you mean to say is, "Obama is no further left than another prominent non-socialist like Mitterand, founder of France's Socialist Party", well then I have no dispute with you.
10.21.2008 7:10pm
geokstr:
wm13:

In all events, the American people are unlikely to tolerate a weakening of our liberties, increases in our taxes, or damage to our economy.

Pelosi and Reid and most of the democratic leaders have already said that one of the first orders of business is passing the Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine" to shut down talk radio. I doubt Obama will veto it. Obama's campaign and surrogates have already threatened and initimidated conservative blogs and non-profits who have dared to be highly critical of Obama or put out ads against him. This can only get worse when they actually have the full force of the DOJ, the IRS, and the rest of government to play with.

These are pretty much the only effective means for conservatives to organize, communicate and get information that the media won't provide.

Obama has already fired the opening broadside at Fox, in both the last debate and an interview on one of the big networks.

The left already controls the other opinion making machinery in this country - the schools, universities, media and entertainment.

Under the weight of all that, even if the 60% of this country that self-identifies themselves as moderately conservative or conservative gets totally pissed at what the Obama administration does, how precisely would we even know that? There will be an effective news blackout of all conservative opinion.

The Obama administration will be as a result of the American voters punishing George Bush, a clueless moderate, not a ringing endorsement of the Obama worldview. But a supermajority will give them the perceived mandate to impose it anyway and shut conservative voices off completely.

With all due respect to Mr. Somin, this has all the earmarks of a potential disaster for personal freedom that it will take a long time to recover from, whether you want to call it "socialism" or something else.
10.21.2008 7:10pm
Anderson (mail):
Note that like McCain, Carter, the least effective President before W., was an Annapolis grad.

One of Carter's signal weaknesses was his difficulty working with his own party in Congress -- there was the Carter way or the highway, and the Dems in Congress increasingly came to prefer the highway.

One would expect that McCain would be more flexible given his years in the Senate, but he's never actually been much of a legislator (making his "experience" argument vs. Obama more risible).

I'm curious myself how well Obama would work with the Congress -- on the one hand, he may be a bit idealistic and in for some hard lessons, on the other, he doesn't seem likely to stick out his neck without having counted the votes first.
10.21.2008 7:12pm
Anderson (mail):
Geokstr, I see your point. The thought police are likely to drag you away from your keyboard and haul you off to Gitmo in a matter of months.

I rather doubt that any "Fairness Doctrine" would survive the present Court, especially given the changed nature of media. Anyone really see Roberts, Scalia, and Kennedy buying onto that? I wouldn't even count on Breyer not to join them.

When there were basically 3 networks on TV, the rule made an arguable kind of sense (and probably would've benefited conservatives). Nowadays, that rationale fails the smell test.

Leaving aside the obvious political points, that the Dems would be committing suicide by pushing anything so unpopular, and that the recently stifled voters would have little trouble figuring whether to vote "R" or "D" in 2010.
10.21.2008 7:17pm
Malthus:
Epstein refers to a "difficult to reverse expansion of government." What I'd like to know is what it would take to get rid of Social Security or Medicare.

Have there been any real-world examples of the build-down of socialism without the misery and revolution of the failed 70-year Russian socialist experiment or the assassination of Allende in Chile?

I suppose New Zealand comes the closest, having tossed out most of the socialist policies and freed up their market substantially. Is Ireland another example? It's funny that China may well transition from socialism to freedom without passing through revolution.

Should those of us who want to rid the USSA of socialism study economics, politics or nuclear physics?
10.21.2008 7:18pm
Lior:
Unless Prof. Epstein has co-authored a publication with Obama, he should not claim to have an "Obama number of 1".
10.21.2008 7:20pm
A.S.:
We've already had the largest expansion of government in 30 years, and it happened on a Republican watch.

Could be. Spending as a percentage of GDP was 18.4% in 2000, Clinton's last year. It was 20.0% in 2007, but I suspect it will be larger in 2008. I think the largest previous increase in the size of government over the last 30 years was between 1979 and 1983, when the size of government increase from 20.2% of GDP to 23.5% of GDP.
10.21.2008 7:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I can't believe you guys are seriously afraid that a Democrat who characterizes Ronald Reagan's election as a reaction to the excesses of liberalism has learned nothing from history."

He didn't understand Roosevelt's and Truman's dealings with Stalin, nor did he know the history of the relationship between Kennedy and Khrushchev. He also didn't know the history of capital gains tax reductions on total treasury revenue.

The captal gains history is not some arcane detail, since Obama was proposing a significant change in that tax. This stuff isn't hard. So, it is quite reasonable to question if Obama has learned about liberal excess from history.
10.21.2008 7:23pm
Dick King:
A lot of that "the DJIA does better under democrats than under republicans" statistic goes away if you charge Clinton with the bursting of the Clinton bubble that happened a few weeks after W took office rather than charging it to W.

-dk
10.21.2008 7:24pm
Duncan C. Coffee (mail):
There seem to be a lot of posts here implying that someone who considers Obama a socialist necessarily considers Bush a non-socialist, and is wrong to do so. Care to explain? Is there a magical law limiting us to considering only a single national figure to be a socialist? Everyone I've seen criticize Obama's socialism also criticizes Bush's socialism.
10.21.2008 7:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I wouldn't call Obama a centrist, but I certainly expect him to disappoint both people who reflexively favor more government and those who reflexively favor less government.
Yes, but this represents the fetishization of the president. He's going to have a heavily Democratic Congress. Even if he is a centrist Democrat, they're not going to hold back just because he is. They're going to pass their entire agenda. Is Obama going to veto their bills because they're more liberal than his view?
10.21.2008 7:27pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
i read the comments on another post and thought maybe sanity was returning and it was safe to read the comments again. apparently not.

i hate to be left out of a party, so let me throw my two cents in:

no, your guy is evil - look at this inconsistency i've found by twisting your words! my thoughts, which are entirely consistent when we look at them in a forgiving way which i won't grant you, are vastly superior to yours. do i even need to link to this incontrovertible fact!? in closing, you are an idiot bc i said so and i like my guy!

how can you tell someone is insane? they aren't tired of this election.
10.21.2008 7:29pm
Sarcastro (www):
I love statistics with like 15 data points! There are just so many correlations and generalizations to be made!

Presidents whose names contain all the letters in the word "Criminal" tend to resign from office, so watch out for that!!
10.21.2008 7:31pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
An end to "divided government"? Seems to me the Supreme Court is 7-2 Republican and the court system generally is dominated by Republican appointees. It will take 2 terms of Obama significantly to reverse that.
10.21.2008 7:31pm
Sarcastro (www):
Yeah Bill Harshaw! I can't wait till they get rid of that fascist Souter!
10.21.2008 7:37pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
There seem to be a lot of posts here implying that someone who considers Obama a socialist necessarily considers Bush a non-socialist, and is wrong to do so. Care to explain? Is there a magical law limiting us to considering only a single national figure to be a socialist? Everyone I've seen criticize Obama's socialism also criticizes Bush's socialism.

I think the point is that the post implies we should not vote for Obama because he will expand the government and implement socialist policies. People who are pointing out Bush's socialist policies are saying that voting for McCain will not necessarily stop expansion of government and implementation of socialist policies. If voting for Obama and voting for McCain produce similar likelihoods of expansion of government and implementation of socialist policies, then Obama's alleged inclination towards those two goals ceases to be a factor that should be considered in deciding whom to vote for.
10.21.2008 7:41pm
Jonathan Howell:
I understand your reasoning but I disagree with your conclusion. You fear an Obama presidency because some past Democrats have advocated for an expansion of government. On the other hand, Obama has demonstrated he is intelligent, calm, and capable of listening and providing a thoughtful response. He has presented thoughtful centrist proposals for his presidency.

On the contrary, McCain has proposed bloating the government with plans to purchase (and manage?) mortgages. He has also proposed half baked ideas to let returning soldiers teach in schools without any credentials. Finally, he rashly chose a vice-president who cannot name a single periodical she reads. She also advocates for a right of privacy but not for abortion.

It is not McCain's unknown policies that I fear. It is the known. For this reason, I am voting for Obama.
10.21.2008 7:41pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

A lot of that "the DJIA does better under democrats than under republicans" statistic goes away if you charge Clinton with the bursting of the Clinton bubble that happened a few weeks after W took office rather than charging it to W.

Not so much. This NYT article links to a study cut off in 1998, below which the DJIA never fell during W.'s administration.

For at least 72 years (1927-1998), the stock market did far better under Democratic presidents than under Republicans, according to an article written by two finance professors at the University of California at Los Angeles, Pedro Santa-Clara and Rossen Valkanov, titled ''Political Cycles and the Stock Market,'' published in the October 2003 issue of The Journal of Finance.

Professors Santa-Clara and Valkanov look at the excess market return -- the difference between a broad index of stock prices (similar to the Standard &Poor's 500-stock index) and the three-month Treasury bill rate -- between 1927 and 1998. The excess return measures how attractive stock investments are compared with completely safe investments like short-term T-bills.
10.21.2008 7:43pm
Anderson (mail):
He's going to have a heavily Democratic Congress.

Sigh. When short on facts, repeat, repeat, repeat!

how can you tell someone is insane? they aren't tired of this election.

Stranger, you have a point.
10.21.2008 7:46pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

he rashly chose a vice-president who cannot name a single periodical she reads.

Well, we do know she once read a copy of the John Birch Society magazine, American Opinion. Maybe that was the only one she could think of.
10.21.2008 7:51pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
We need to consider what the situation will be during the next 4-8 years, and how that will affect all these scenarios. The meltdown has paused, but it is likely to resume and accelerate, as the measures thus far adopted prove to be inadequate.

The change promised by Obama is himself, the election of a black role model for the next generation of young blacks. That is a good reason to vote for him, and a reason why many people are voting for him, but this may not be the best time to elect someone like him. It is likely that the next president will be unable to satisfy the people, no matter what he does or how well he does it, and will be judged a miserable failure, mostly for reasons that he can do nothing about. Whatever the next president comes to represent in the public mind is likely to be discredited for a generation or two.

If things get as bad as some expect, other countries will stop lending us money, inflation will climb to more than 400%, programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will just have to be cancalled totally and abruptly. We will have to bring the troops home from all over the world, then discharge all but a few needed to keep order, and cancel all veterans benefits. We will threaten the use of nuclear weapons to do what we formerly used troops to do, and proliferation will run wild. Public works will be cancelled. Utilities will revert to blackouts. Gas stations will close, and people will have to revert to walking or using bicycles. Death by starvation and disease will become rampant, especially among the young and the elderly.

Given our present predicament, a wise presidential candidate may want to run to lose.
10.21.2008 7:52pm
Anderson (mail):
The change promised by Obama is himself, the election of a black role model for the next generation of young blacks.

Y'know, I would be all over the stupidity of this, if I hadn't actually heard similar justifications offered by some "commentators of color."

But is that really the change that *Obama* is promising? In his own words? That's it? No changes in tax policy, diplomacy, war?
10.21.2008 7:53pm
ys:

Lior:
Unless Prof. Epstein has co-authored a publication with Obama, he should not claim to have an "Obama number of 1".

There are different definitions of degrees of connection, besides coauthoring something written: playing a game of Go, receiving email, even the well known FOB's. The implication here is apparently AOB (Acquaintances of Barak), which is what's relevant in this context.

ys (Erdős 3)
10.21.2008 8:12pm
sbron:
Let's just take one issue -- education. Senator Obama has made clear his support for racial preferences (opposing Wards Connerly's initiatives), multiculturalist education (see proposals funded by the Annenberg Challenge) and bilingual education (we should make sure our children learn Spanish.)

We have been trying preferences, multiculturalism and bilingualism in education for roughly 40 years. But only 25% of Black students graduate from high school in places like Detroit, and more recently 50% of Latinos are dropping out of school in Los Angeles. President Obama will certainly appoint multiculturalist types to key positions such as Secretary of Education, but even more importantly, the tone set by his administration will make reform of Schools of Education much less likely. Assimilation and patriotism will continue to be four-letter words in K-12 curricula. Far from improving education for Blacks and Latinos, Obama will only perpetuate disastrous policies dating back to the late 60s.
10.21.2008 8:12pm
Obvious (mail):
"Spending as a percentage of GDP was 18.4% in 2000, Clinton's last year. It was 20.0% in 2007, but I suspect it will be larger in 2008. I think the largest previous increase in the size of government over the last 30 years was between 1979 and 1983, when the size of government increase from 20.2% of GDP to 23.5% of GDP."

My guess is by the end of an Obama Presidency, looking up the % GDP spent by government will be like reading the menu at a very expensive restaurant. Just a little note at the bottom of the page saying "If you have to ask, you shouldn't have come in here..."
10.21.2008 8:15pm
How to Defeat Barack Obama (mail) (www):
If all we were dealing with is a "New Dealer" that would be one thing. However, BHO is so much more. He's also someone leading a movement that's akin to a cult. And, almost the entire MSM is on his side and is willing to lie to get him elected. They'll continue that after the election. And, BHO will still have his cronies around, including the ChicagoMachine with their highly questionable ties. And, just as he's promised, BHO will move to get "hate" (according to his definition) off the airwaves. And, just as we now learn that "socialist" is a code word for black, all opposition against him will meet the race card.

Now, eventually, that might backfire. But, not before he's damaged the U.S. beyond even the wildest nightmares of those who simply worry about the size of government.

If anyone wants to prevent him from being elected, send emails to major bloggers and anti-BHO pundits urging them to promote the plan at my name's link.
10.21.2008 8:38pm
Eli:
Somin et al.,

I keep hearing from "thoughtful people" that Obama is a "skillful leader"? Really? Besides the campaign, that David Axelrod has run (and is drastically different from running anything else), what other evidence is there that Obama is a "skillful leader" or even skillful at getting anything "grand" accomplished?

My guess is that he will be a lackey of Pelosi, Reid, Dodd...and a variety of liberal interest groups.

I am genuinely intrested.

Thanks.


P.S. Unless I am ignorant running the Harvard law review is an extremly complex affair and his leadership is especially notable.
10.21.2008 8:40pm
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
@LN

"If "socialist" is synonymous with "redistributionist," America has been quite a socialist country for decades if not longer, and every Presidential candidate in recent memory has been a socialist."

Sure. Do you have a suggestion for a better word? Redistributionist, at six syllables, is quite a mouthful, and welfarist is not in anyone's vocabulary so far as I know.
10.21.2008 9:05pm
wm13:
"[For at least 72 years,] the stock market did far better under Democratic presidents than under Republicans, according to an article written by two finance professors at the University of California at Los Angeles, Pedro Santa-Clara and Rossen Valkanov, titled ''Political Cycles and the Stock Market,'' published in the October 2003 issue of The Journal of Finance.

Professors Santa-Clara and Valkanov look at the excess market return -- the difference between a broad index of stock prices (similar to the Standard &Poor's 500-stock index) and the three-month Treasury bill rate -- between 1927 and 1998. The excess return measures how attractive stock investments are compared with completely safe investments like short-term T-bills."

Easy money will generally have the effect of helping owners of real assets and harming owners of financial assets, but it's a little crazed to suggest that helping shareholders and real estate owners at the expense of bondholders and lenders is somehow good for the country as a whole. It just redistributes wealth from one group of rich people to another.
10.21.2008 9:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The change promised by Obama is himself, the election of a black role model for the next generation of young blacks."

I wonder how the young Asians and Indians manage to do so well without a presidential role model?
10.21.2008 9:40pm
Shertaugh:
Epstein wrote:

My great fear is that a landslide victory will give him solid majorities in both Houses of Congress, so that no stalling tactics by Republicans can slow down his legislative victory procession.


I seem to recall that Bush was declared the victor in '00 by SCOTUS w/ less than 50% of the vote -- but he commenced executing an agenda like a "landslide winner" and operated on the 50+1 principal.

Then in 2004, right after he beat Kerry with less than 51% of the popular vote, he strutted around taking about "mandates" and "political capital."

And here we find ourselves as a nation.

So I find it remarkable that Epstein is worried that a president elected (let's assume) with an electoral and popular-vote landslide should be disqualified from applying the principles he's operated since first securing elected office.

Where was these concerns the past 8 years?

Oh yeah. And as I remember reading repeatedly from commenters on this blog manny times in the past few years -- "elections have consequences."
10.21.2008 9:42pm
therut (mail):
The USA has had a semi-socialist government since our ancestors were stupid enough to amend the Constitution to allow income taxes. Politicians can NOT stop buying votes. Most people will do anything for what they see as free money or something they have been told they are entitled too. They have had all sense of honor educated out of their souls.
10.21.2008 9:57pm
gab:
Man, this place is getting kooky. I'm heading for fark.com - those people are normal compared to this...
10.21.2008 10:08pm
sputnik (mail):
the landslide will be great.
who gives a sh* about divided government with obstructionist GOP, which already put our country in the dire situation.

Liberals/democrats need total control of the government to implement necessary rescue measures.

the reformed GOP( if such a thing is possible at all) will have quite a few years to reassess the divisiveness and brainwashed propaganda of Rovianism and Rushism and join the humanity .
10.21.2008 10:11pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Along the lines of Shertaugh's post, I recall a number of people posting here, from say 2002-06, that "elections have consequences." And this one will.

But let's be clear: Obama is not a "socialist" in any meaningful use of that word (if favoring progressive taxation is "socialist" then the U.S. has been socialist for quite some time -- not really a meaningful use of the term). He's not a radical. He's a liberal.

I would guess that many of the posters upset by the prospect of a liberal president are, or at least usually vote, Republican. Perhaps you could spend some time trying to figure out how you got into this situation -- a mere four years after Rove was promising the "permanent Republican majority."
10.21.2008 10:17pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The check on Obama becoming too liberal is the next election. Does he want his party to get crushed in the midterm election? Does he want to be a one-termer? I don't think so.

If nothing else, his ambition will keep him from going off the deep end. He's too pragmatic to get too stupid.
10.21.2008 10:47pm
markm (mail):
Did someone else post this as "Ilya Somin"?

A socialist is a person who favors government ownership of the means of production, and government control of all or most important economic activity.
10.21.2008 5:23pm

By the first part of that definition, Sweden isn't socialist, and neither are most of the Socialist parties in the world.

OTOH, by the second clause alone, most American elections are about varieties of socialism.
10.21.2008 10:51pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
elliot:

I wonder how the young Asians and Indians manage to do so well without a presidential role model?


I suppose to make for more of a scientific comparison we could try enslaving them for a few hundred years, and then see how long it takes their descendants to bounce back. Let me know when the results are in.
10.21.2008 10:51pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Besides the campaign, that David Axelrod has run (and is drastically different from running anything else), what other evidence is there that Obama is a "skillful leader""


For starters, he knows how to surround himself with smart people.
10.21.2008 10:52pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"I wonder how the young Asians and Indians manage to do so well without a presidential role model?"


Yeah, it's not like that Gandhi guy knew anything about leadership.
10.21.2008 10:53pm
Duncan C. Coffee (mail):
Okay, so Francois Mitterand wasn't a "socialist" in any meaningful sense of the world. Maybe he was a "liberal" and not a "radical" (and people consider his poor Socialist Party to be the right of the Left Radical Party ... for shame!)

My parting comment will be to assert yet again that it is okay and makes ideological sense for libertarians who don't love Bush to criticize Obama for wanting to redistribute wealth more, regulate the economy more, and expand the scope of government more than certain other candidates. McCain may or may not be among them, depending on your opinion, but he definitely did have a point when he mentioned that Bush isn't running this year.

Bush is indeed the worst thing that could have happened to the less-statist party. Doing what he did he simultaneously alienated the anti-statists and made it okay for the more-statist party to do what they do. No more Carter-style deregulation (can you imagine how much a plane ticket would cost with pre-1977 style regulation and 2008-style fuel prices?)

It is also perfectly okay to note that the Republican nominees of 2000, 2004, and 2008 were statists who were essentially handed to us by a media which loves statists and generally leans away from Republicans. Bush and McCain were can't-lose propositions to the MSM.

And there's not a thing in the world to prevent someone from taking that as a statement of wholehearted support for Bush and McCain. Do you think anyone cares any more? Go ahead and tell everyone you know that anyone who opposes Obama supports McCain and supported Bush.

Who really cares?
10.21.2008 10:59pm
Duncan C. Coffee (mail):
... Ack the sarcasm in the first paragraph was supposed to read "and people consider his Socialist Party to be left of the Left Radical Party...". Over and out.
10.21.2008 11:01pm
Anderson (mail):
I suppose to make for more of a scientific comparison we could try enslaving them for a few hundred years, and then see how long it takes their descendants to bounce back. Let me know when the results are in.

Beat me to it, JBG. And what's up with those Jews and their crazy persecution complex, while we're asking these questions?
10.21.2008 11:04pm
Harvey Mosley (mail):

The change promised by Obama is himself, the election of a black role model for the next generation of young blacks.

Y'know, I would be all over the stupidity of this, if I hadn't actually heard similar justifications offered by some "commentators of color."


So...
Since "commentators of color" say it, it isn't stupid? Or do those commentators get a pass?
10.21.2008 11:07pm
Duncan D. Coffee:
During approximately the same period European preyed upon West Africans in the slave trade, North Africans preyed on Europeans in an analogous slave trade. The period is approximately 1500 - 1850. Rapes of white women were common in this period. The trade was perpertrated by people of Muslim faith against people of Christian faith. [Do you think I am kidding, or have you never heard this fact?]

I just think it is over and done with. I am sick of those Europeans constantly blaming their failures on what the North Africans did to them. There is nothing inherently North African about being pro-slavery, and Europeans aren't the only people to have been victimized in history. Darn those Europeans.
10.21.2008 11:12pm
Oren:

But is it all true? The short answer is that nobody knows.

Thank god there is at least one honest person.
10.21.2008 11:16pm
Public_Defender (mail):

Besides the campaign, that David Axelrod has run (and is drastically different from running anything else), what other evidence is there that Obama is a "skillful leader" . . . ."


What large organization has McCain run? He acts like a junior officer--concentrating on the tactics of the moment with no clue as to how to set or achieve an over-arching strategy.
10.21.2008 11:18pm
Oren:

Do you think I am kidding, or have you never heard this fact?

Let's see, there were ~ 10 million black Africans captured in Africa and sent to the US. Now, nobody claims that not a single white woman was ever enslaved in Africa, but I will eat my hat if that number even approaches 10,000.

The two evils compared here are simply not of the same magnitude.
10.21.2008 11:26pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

I do, however, fear that the combined impact of Obama's left-wing policy views, decisive Democratic control of Congress, and a crisis atmosphere will lead to a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government.


I'm not sure how it's possible to write these words without acknowledging that we've already witnessed something similar, only from the opposite side of the political spectrum. If you fear this now, surely it is because the last eight years have made you aware of the possibility? Truly, it seems odd to fear a "difficult to reverse, expansion of government" at this stage of the game.
10.21.2008 11:41pm
markm (mail):
Oren: The numbers of Europeans taken as slaves by North African (that is, Muslim and usually Arab or Berber) corsairs was limited because the corsairs could only attack shipping and occasionally coastal villages. Even at their strongest, they could not penetrate very far inland in western Europe and expect to make it back to their ships alive.

Similarly, European slave raiders rarely got more than a few miles from their ships, and could directly abduct only thousands. But they soon found a way to obtain slaves from regions far from the coast - they found that there were many established slave traders, who would buy or kidnap black Africans and bring them to coastal trading posts established by the Europeans, to sell for a higher price than their original markets. That was how European and later the American slave ships obtained millions of slaves.

And those slave traders who were plying their trade long before Europeans started buying were Muslims, and their original markets were other Africans, both sub-Saharan and North African. I doubt anyone has any idea how many blacks were carried across the Sahara into slavery...
10.22.2008 12:24am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
anderson:

Beat me to it


It's about time. Usually the reverse is true.
10.22.2008 12:25am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
public:

What large organization has McCain run?


McCain does have 13 months of executive experience, 30 years ago, but he oddly omitted it from his campaign bio. And I can't find any instance of anyone noticing this, which I also think is odd.
10.22.2008 12:25am
OC.Bill (mail):
The answer to the question of how he would govern might possibly be found in the reason he gave when he quit "community organizing". I don't recall the exact quote, but it boiled down to his opinion that to really effect change, he would have to get into government because that's where the power was.

If he becomes President and has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a clear majority in the House, wouldn't his pragmatic side tell him to strike while the iron is hot and in such a way that the iron would take a long time to cool, if ever?
10.22.2008 12:31am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

If he becomes President and has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a clear majority in the House, wouldn't his pragmatic side tell him to strike while the iron is hot and in such a way that the iron would take a long time to cool, if ever?


That sounds more like zealotry. Pragmatism would lead one to understand that only solutions that most Americans can get behind, and that are reasonable and efficient, are the best way to go. Obama does not strike me, or most of the American public it would seem, as a zealot.
10.22.2008 12:58am
David Warner:
OC. Bill,

"If he becomes President and has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a clear majority in the House, wouldn't his pragmatic side tell him to strike while the iron is hot and in such a way that the iron would take a long time to cool, if ever?"

Of course. The question is what he has in mind to forge. I believe that to be a Re-United States. I aim to support him in that endeavor, as it will require much more than a government to achieve.
10.22.2008 1:17am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Yeah, it's not like that Gandhi guy knew anything about leadership."

So, they waited thousands of years for Gandhi before they could accomplish anything?
10.22.2008 1:24am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Let's see, there were ~ 10 million black Africans captured in Africa and sent to the US. Now, nobody claims that not a single white woman was ever enslaved in Africa, but I will eat my hat if that number even approaches 10,000.
Not disputing your numerical comparison, but the 10 million relates to the entire Atlantic slave trade, not the slave trade to the U.S., which was only a tiny percentage of the total.
10.22.2008 1:26am
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
@ Joseph Slater

"Obama is not a "socialist" in any meaningful use of that word (if favoring progressive taxation is "socialist" then the U.S. has been socialist for quite some time -- not really a meaningful use of the term)."

I'm not sure how the latter would prove that the former is not a meaningful definition. Obama wants taxation to be more progressive (and is campaigning against some one who wants it to be less so)- so why wouldn't it be meaningful to describe him as socialist under the definition you are rejecting?
10.22.2008 1:28am
paul lukasiak (mail):
Far more important than the question of how Obama will cover is the fact that nobody has any idea what the guy really thinks...

and that wouldn't be all that bad if the guy had any executive experience, or at least had dealt with a crisis at some point. I'm far less concerned about how he will act than how he will react...
10.22.2008 6:05am
Lucius Cornelius:
Democrats in name only will not stop the changes. They will vote to end debate but then vote against the final bill so they can claim that they did not support it (and save their electoral hides).
10.22.2008 6:37am
LM (mail):
Do those who reject Ilya's standard dictionary definition of socialism, in favor apparently of "anyone who supports progressive taxation" consider Teddy Roosevelt a socialist? Because we can certainly define words any way we like, but you define yourself into a pretty lonely fringe if you make that claim.
10.22.2008 6:41am
JosephSlater (mail):
@Pyrrus:

LM beat me to it, but I to underscore the point, defining "socialism" to mean "favors progressive taxation" means that the U.S. -- all its presidents, pretty much all its major political leaders for the last century or so -- has been socialist. And that entirely robs the word of its meaning. It's like calling Bush fascist.

Socialism means worker or some other public control of the means of production. Liberalism, and hell, mainstream U.S. conservatism has included backing progressive taxation.
10.22.2008 9:19am
Anderson (mail):
So...
Since "commentators of color" say it, it isn't stupid? Or do those commentators get a pass?


I was unclear. I meant that the "Obama's promised change is a black prez" notion sounded dumb -- since Obama actually has, you know, policy proposals, just like a white candidate? -- but the commentators I'd heard made me think that, yes, someone listening to them could indeed form the valid but mistaken opinion that it's all about the race thang.

I'm not immune myself to appreciating the symbolic value of a former slaveholding nation's electing a black president, but that symbolic value never led me to lift a finger for Jesse Jackson, e.g. If Obama were, say, a Republican conservative, I wouldn't be supporting him just to inspire future generations of black Americans.
10.22.2008 10:27am
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
@LM and JosephSlater: Again, I don't know why you guys think that is some sort of slam dunk argument.

Sure you could call a lot of American law socialist under the definition you are rejecting. But unless I'm misunderstanding the word "meaningful" also, it would still be meaningful to say, under that definition, that Obama wants to enact socialist policies.

Because I have no good way of gauging what 300 million people think, I can't prove my linguistic suspicions. I suspect many (non economist, academic) people call redistributive policies socialism, for lack of a better word.

I understand that you guys don't think the above is a meaningful definition. Ok cool, now do people use the word that way, or not? That to my mind is a better indication of a contemporary meaning that your personal (not to my mind convincing) arguments that such a meaning wouldn't be useful.
10.22.2008 11:08am
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
Oh, and one thing from the link you gave, JosephSlater:

"The word, however, is used with a great variety of meaning, . . . even by economists and learned critics. The general tendency is to regard as socialistic any interference undertaken by society on behalf of the poor, . . ."
10.22.2008 11:09am
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
Oops, LM, not JosephSlater
10.22.2008 11:09am
Ben P:

Because I have no good way of gauging what 300 million people think, I can't prove my linguistic suspicions. I suspect many (non economist, academic) people call redistributive policies socialism, for lack of a better word.



And the point is that a great many people who use the word are misusing it. It just doesn't mean what they think it means.

Now, I suppose if you get enough people to start calling a duck a chicken, eventually a lot of people might start deciding that it's totally correct to say a duck is a kind of chicken because everyone says it is, but that's not really a systematic way to go about defining things.


The fact that a lot of people throw out the word "socialist" without having any clear idea of what it means doesn't make the claim that McCain meant "black" any less silly. But it does illuminate the truth behind what McCain said in that he only used "socialist" as a boogie-man word. It's only intent was to scare people and convey a negative cannotation with very little actual meaning behind it.

Because it's just an empty shell, those predisposed to see racism in everything will see race in the use of the word. Others will see something else.
10.22.2008 11:35am
David Warner:
LM,

"Do those who reject Ilya's standard dictionary definition of socialism, in favor apparently of "anyone who supports progressive taxation" consider Teddy Roosevelt a socialist? Because we can certainly define words any way we like, but you define yourself into a pretty lonely fringe if you make that claim."

One Roosevelt on the taking end, the other on the giving (breaking the precedent of what I'd call the inverse of the Bill of Attainder prohibition, thus allowing the government to cut checks directly to individuals without goods or services rendered in return). The result?

From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. I agree with the ideal, not the Lenny state muscle behind it.
10.22.2008 12:22pm
MarkField (mail):

Not disputing your numerical comparison, but the 10 million relates to the entire Atlantic slave trade, not the slave trade to the U.S., which was only a tiny percentage of the total.


I suppose 5-6% is "tiny" in one sense of the word, but it still amounted to 650000 people. And in any case, I don't believe the original post meant to compare just to slaves brought to the US.
10.22.2008 12:28pm
c.gray (mail):

I do, however, fear that the combined impact of Obama's left-wing policy views, decisive Democratic control of Congress, and a crisis atmosphere will lead to a large, difficult to reverse, expansion of government.


The expansion is already in progress, with lots more of the same promised by both McCain and Obama.

A victorious McCain might manage to slow things down a tiny bit...but I suspect it would be like trying to block the incoming tide by throwing up a mound of sand in front of it. OTOH, I'm not sure McCain wouldn't be even worse. His mortgage buyout plan is especially appalling, for example.
10.22.2008 12:31pm
Yankee Southerner (mail) (www):
At the risk of getting straw in my mouth, let me says I don't think I would sell by BNSF stock, Warren, if Obama is elected. Communists were for various progressive things like, ultimately, making black people 6/5 of a person. Also getting French rule out of Indochina. They also were very willing to break traditional rules and kill, wholesale, enemies of the people. So communism was at the edge a fight for justice and as you got drawn into the vortex a pact with the devil. I think the question is 'how far into the vortex will Obama go?' It appears that he really wants this job; maybe he'll listen to his recent friends Goolsbee and Buffet and Volcker.
10.22.2008 1:44pm
La Riva is the TRUE Messiah (www):
All right you Kapitalist Klowns, I'm tired of you people SUGGESTING that the Party for Socialism and Liberation is a "socialist" party. That is a put-down. Under Ilya Somin's unquestionably correct definition, we are not:

"A socialist is a person who favors government ownership of the means of production, and government control of all or most important economic activity."

If you'd just take a few minutes to look at our website you'd see how wrong you are.

"We are fighting for socialism, a system where the wealth of society belongs to those who produce it, the working class, and is used in a planned and sustainable way for the benefit of all."

Nothing about "government ownership" or "government control" in there. Thus the PSL, and anyone else who is not openly for government ownership, is not socialist in any useful sense of the term.
10.22.2008 2:06pm
Pyrrhus (mail) (www):
"Now, I suppose if you get enough people to start calling a duck a chicken, eventually a lot of people might start deciding that it's totally correct to say a duck is a kind of chicken because everyone says it is, but that's not really a systematic way to go about defining things."

Why wouldn't that be systematic? I can think of two systems for defining words - use defines meaning, and the guy who makes the dictionary defines the meaning. Since the meanings seem to predate the dictionaries, I'm guessing we generally use the former.

Ok, unless some one has something interesting to say besides "it just wouldn't be right" without explaining why, I'll let it go at this point. I understand the definition Ilya uses for socialism, but I don't agree with some other commenters assertion that only one definition could possibly be "meaningful" or "systematic".
10.22.2008 2:15pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Pyrrus:

Then there is no distinction between liberalism, in the 20th century sense, and socialism. Heck, if you use the definition in the link you note I didn't provide, "helping the poor," then all religions (among other institutions) are socialist.

Progressive taxation is something socialists favor, but it's also something that liberals and even many-most conservatives (of the 20th century democratic nations type) favor. So calling Obama a socialist because he favors progressive taxation is meaningless.

I agree that how words are actually used can ultimately influence the meaning of a word. Here, however, the fact that some right-wingers use the term "socialist" to describe this policy as a concious political tactic to link Obama, or, anyone to the left of the far-right, as "socialist" and thus semi-equivalent to Stalinism, is not useful in helping us figure out what the word and concept means.
10.22.2008 2:37pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad:

elliot:

I wonder how the young Asians and Indians manage to do so well without a presidential role model?

I suppose to make for more of a scientific comparison we could try enslaving them for a few hundred years, and then see how long it takes their descendants to bounce back. Let me know when the results are in.

The evidence does not support slavery as the primary cause of the present culture of underachievement among young blacks, something that has been complained about by such black leaders as Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, and Obama himself. I am old enough to remember a time, back in the 1950s, when black families were intact and held essentially middle-class values and aspirations for the education and advancement of their children. With the end of legal discrimination, they were then well on their way to joining whites in every field and level of achievement. Some of them did, but then along came too many black role models in the entertainment field and the streets who maintained it was cool to be dumb or even criminal. The result was a divide between blacks who rose and the rest that remained behind and rejected the values of achievement. The challenge for the black community today is to salvage that segment, and for that good black role models that are more prominent than gangstas are important.

But it will not be sufficient. In the past the only solution to this kind of problem has been to get youth in a culture of underachievement out of their environments, separate them from one another, and have them be influenced only by adults with high-achievement values. It may take something like military boarding schools. I have watched the military successfully bring underachieving youth, black and white, into a culture of high achievement. If military discipline is not imparted to children by their families, then it will have to be provided by other means.

Obama's idea for mandatory community service might be intended to do this. The details are sketchy. Under the economic circumstances that now seem likely to develop during the next 4-8 years, it may be the only program he may actually be able to carry out.

But a liberal/socialist federal government in difficult economic times, after all the New Deal programs are already in place and failing to be sufficient, is likely to threaten civil liberties in ways that are far, far worse than suppressing talk radio with a new "fairness" regime. I foresee a resurrection of all the worst excesses we have seen in our history, and threats to every right in the Constitution (or implied by the Ninth Amendment). There is nothing like hard times to make government go crazy.
10.22.2008 2:49pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Oren:
Now, nobody claims that not a single white woman was ever enslaved in Africa, but I will eat my hat if that number even approaches 10,000.

Get out the Tabasco sauce.

North African pirates raided the coast of Europe for slaves and loot for about a thousand years. One ambitious band even attacked Iceland and carried off hundreds of slaves. (This is well documented in Icelandic history and confirmed recently by DNA testing in Morocco.) The total number of Europeans enslaved in this activity is estimated at well over a million. (Bear in mind that that is only about 1,000 per year.) Young women were of course the most prized slaves.
10.23.2008 1:36pm
John D (mail):
There's an article in today's (10/26) Washington Post, "GOP Candidates Warn Voters About Perils of One-Party Rule," so this has apparently become the Republican talking point.

As with my earlier comment on this thread, we did not see the Republicans warning us about this when they were the one party taking control of the government.

I'd like to make my own feelings clear: it's not a disdain for Republicans in this case, since I'm sure they actually feel the same way I do. I hate it when the Democrats get shut out of the executive branch and Congress at the same time. I'd much prefer to see my party control at least one of the houses of Congress. I'm not going to pretend that this is motivated by any such principle as a preference for divided government. I just hate being shut out.
10.26.2008 11:49am
WY'69:
"Now, nobody claims that not a single white woman was ever enslaved in Africa, but I will eat my hat if that number even approaches 10,000."

I doubt that nobody claims that, but it doesn't really matter. In touchy ethnic/violence matters like this, constantly leaving out violence that befell a certain ethnic group leads to bigotry (though it may be evidence of bigotry or simple ignorance). If someone constantly said "the Ustachi killed Communists, Partisans, and members of the Allied armies" without ever mentioning that they killed Serbs, my guess is that many of the latter would be pretty irked. If Vikings were said to have "plundered continental Europe" a dozen times in a book that never mentioned their little adventures in Britain, the British should probably object (though I doubt that they would). So I'm wondering where is the outrage, and where is the hat-eating, over massive lacunae like that on the subject of the Africans kidnapping, enslaving, and raping so many Europeans.
10.26.2008 5:51pm