Dynamist Blog


Randy Barnett has been wondering whether he should continue to capitalize Libertarian when he refers to the political philosophy, as opposed to the political party. He should not. Political parties and religions get capital letters. Political philosophies do not (unless they are named for people or places). Libertarianism, as Randy explicitly understands it, is neither a religion nor a party but a strand of liberalism, a philosophical tradition that isn't capitalized either.

It has always infuriated me that the newspaper like the LAT, which are staffed with copy editors who know these rules, insist on capitalizing Libertarian--the better to marginalize a broad political philosophy by treating it as a party or sect. Being a libertarian is like being a republican or a democrat.

Follow the link above, or just go to Volokh Conspiracy, to read the thoughtful discussion Randy has sparked on libertarianism and foreign policy. I wholeheartedly agree that you cannot derive much about foreign policy from libertarian first principles. As John Locke observed, kings live in the state of nature. (I'm much more of a consequentialist, empiricist classical liberal than Randy. But he demonstrates that even what I call deductive libertarianism can't tell you much about how a libertarian state should behave toward other states.)


You have to be good looking, and have good-looking kids (and stepkids). Just look at the contrast between the speakers on the stage and the delegates in the audience. It's not fair, of course, but voters wouldn't go for a short, fat, bald guy.


Roger Simon sounds suprised to hear John Kerry repudiate the idea of preemptive military action.

But more importantly, when I heard Kerry utter the following words, I became genuinely depressed and more than a little angry:

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required. Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response. I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security. And I will build a stronger American military.

Any attack? That's it? No preemptive action? Where would Kerry have stood on American intervention in Europe during World War II? The Nazis had not attacked us. Maybe I don't want to know...

But I'll tell you anyway: On foreign policy, attitudes toward preemption represent the central difference between Kerry Democrats and Bush Republicans. To the the Democrats, preemption is a lawless doctrine tantamount to going to war "because we want to." To the Republicans, it's an essential form of defense in the age of al Qaeda.

Kerry, I'm sure, would note that after Pearl Harbor, the Nazis declared war on us--a German attack wasn't required to justify war. They asked for it.


Professor Postrel notes that John Kerry's promise to double the number of special forces is nonsensical. How easy does he think it should be to qualify? Will we be better protected if the special forces are just specialish?


Pundits sometimes lose their common sense late at night. Historian Alan Lightman is on CNN Headline News right now (1:07 a.m. ET) suggesting that Kerry's speech would have been more compelling if he had included a long, detailed discussion of how to transform the economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Yeah, that'll do it.


What did John Kerry mean when he said, "Let's never misuse for political purposes the most precious document in American history, the Constitution of the United States."

Andrew Sullivan thinks this line is about a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. That's what I thought at first, but I then decided, partly from the crowd's reaction, that it was about the Florida recount. For all I know, it's actually about suggesting that a Bush-appointed Supreme Court would have ruled differently in Brown v. Board of Education or bragging that you voted for a balanced budget amendment (OK, probably not that). It all depends on what "misuse" means. If you're for it, it's not misuse.


Well, that speech certainly reminded me why I'm not voting for John Kerry. Contrary to much of the rest of the convention, it was a red-meat speech, complete with "Bush lied" rhetoric, pharmaceutical-company bashing, xenophobic talk about outsourcing, and a promise to make health care "a right." Aside from the much-remarked-upon flag-waving-veteran talk, the speech was mostly made up of (in Kerry's anti-GOP words) "narrow appeals masquerading as values." Better a tongue-tied president than a demagogue.


On Volokh Conspiracy, Jacob Levy spots an interesting distinction in Democratic speakers' rhetoric:

First, and most importantly, this portion of Obama's speech was symmetrical with respect to partisan, cultural, and religious divides. It's "pundits" who seek to describe us as divided. But in fact, we're all red and we're all blue. Supporting the war, worshipping God, and playing Little League are symmetrical with not liking the Patriot Act, opposing the war, and having gay friends. That's very different from the "Those nasty conservatives are divisive, unlike us nice inclusive liberals" theme that's kept popping up.

Relatedly, there's something offensive in the "Take America back"/ "Let America be America again" stuff. It's something I fully expect to keep hearing; it's something I remember loathing about the first Clinton inauguration. It's the necessary implication that Republicans, and Republican government, aren't really American, that Democratic rule is not only preferable (of course Democrats think that) but the natural order of things, an order that must be restored (notice the restoration theme in both "take back" and "be America again"). Obama didn't imply any of that, either.

Finally, unlike Edwards, Obama's not imagining one America as some future state of affairs to be accomplished with a Democratic victory. It's a present state of affairs-- we are, already, genuinely united.

Come to think of it, the Republicans' cultural insanity in the mid-'90s had a "Take America back" quality to it. But America was feeling pretty happy and didn't want to go back.


The Democrats are doing a great job selling themselves as the party of hope, growth, and opportunity--the optimistic people who believe in American greatness and the American future. If they're lucky, George W. Bush will replay Bob "Bridge to the Past" Dole's 1996 message. I doubt that he's that dumb, but his opponents have certainly put him in a box. It's hard to go negative, or even talk about tough issues like war and terrorism, without sounding scary, mean, or gloomy.

Unlike the challengers, who can speak in generalities, the incumbent needs to lay out specific vision that gives the public a picture of the future, and his future policies, that goes beyond "more of the same." That's especially true at the moment. If people want vague promises that things will be better, they'll go with Kerry.

One plus, or at least the absence of a minus, for Bush is that the Republican base has mostly recovered from the insane cultural pessimism that seized it in the mid-90s (pricelessly portrayed in Rich Karlgaard's Reason report from Dark Ages Weekend). Now it's the hard-core Democrats who think the country is going to hell--but at least they blame the administration, not the general public.

ArchivedDeep Glamour Blog ›

Blog Feed

Articles Feed