Obama Disses Rand?

A deliberate comment on the Rand philosophy, or just a coincidence?

“The point is, though, that — and it’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class — it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.

“John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic,” Obama continued. “You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”

In the same speech, Obama goes on to suggest that he’ll be criticised as communistic for sharing his toys as a child, or for splitting his “peanut butter and jelly” sandwiches at school.  Of course, this is nonsense.  It would have been a different case, however, had he taken lunches from other students to spread the food around.

65 thoughts on “Obama Disses Rand?

  1. To think in many countries, some people would be happy to be called socialists. I also think you are taking what he is saying too literally — it seems to me more like a response to the gutter which the Republican campaign seems to have fallen to.

  2. Pingback: John McCain On Best Political Blogs » Blog Archive » Obama Disses Rand?

  3. Pingback: Sarah Palin On Best Political Blogs » Blog Archive » Obama Disses Rand?

  4. I’m sure Obama is smart enough for it to be deliberate. But what sort of liberal would he be admiring Rand?

  5. It’s a very rational statement. Capitalism doesn’t work without consumers, it doesn’t work without the middle class. I’m curious where does he diss, reason, purpose or self-esteem.

  6. I’ll explain why selfishness is a virtue and why what Obama wants is taking away from our freedoms. When you are the one who decides who to give your money to, it’s a virtue. It’s you who are doing the giving to whom you want: your relatives, your friends, the charity of your choice. Nobody is forcing your hand.

    Where is your virtue when the govt takes your money through taxes and gives it to someone it deems needs it more than you? Do you feel virtuous when a thief steals your money to buy a pair of shoes just because he has less money than you?

    THAT is the virtue of selfishness. We act good of our own accord. THAT is why Obama’s socialist ideas take away our freedoms. The individual loses his freedom of choice and is subservient to this entity called “society”. And who is to say what “society” needs, the individual or the govt?

  7. Fleeced it is interesting that you note the link to Rand. Did you note the reference to JFK. “All boats rise” was a term used by Kennedy. Although I’m pretty sure that Obama isn’t the first to borrow it.

    The following speech makes JFK my favourite democrat. 😉


    Kennedy never saw his tax cuts. Congress blocked them in 1963. They were eventually passed by Congress in 1964 however by then JFK was dead.

  8. Charles, capitalism works without there being much of a middle class. Redistribution is a given anyway seeing no politician is ever going to preside on the disbanding of the distributive state. The real question is the location of the line beyond which the cost of redistribution gets too high because the taxes used to support it substantially harm the production of the wealth to be distributed.

  9. The left has little to no concept of Rand or what she was about. Their ideas are basically picked up from the inferred disapproval of their peers. Most lefties probably would not risk reading Rand for two reasons; (1) Someone might see them doing it, and (2) They might start to agree with her.

    The left, (I think Kos, its a while ago now), proved this by accusing McCain of being a dangerously radical, Ayn Randian, free market extremist. I support McCain, but even I don’t have that high an opinion of him.

    I just viewed a speech by Yaron Brook at the opening of the Ayn Rand Centre. This guy really gets it. One of his ideas for solving the current economic crisis is, “Buy a house, get a green card.”

    Rational self interest is often confused for selfishness which he sees at the heart of the criticism of capitalism.

    One great demonstration of capitalist thought was when he held up his Iphone with the words,”I phone It takes an enormous amount of thought to produce one of these, now what motivated the thought, the desire to produce a beautiful product? Steve Jobs is very proud of this, its beautiful its functional and so on, but if this thing lost a lot of money for Apple, would Steve Jobs be proud of it?”

  10. I think my current issue with the concept of rational self interest (and the principles of right-libertarianism in general), is that the power to act within your self interest usually requires that you have the means and time to make such choices. If your a single mother working two jobs which pay next to nothing to support your kids I don’t think your going to be very empowered to exercise your freedoms.

    That is why I support a certain degree of welfare provision by the government, possibly through some sort of negative income tax or basic income scheme which gives people a basic start in which to exercise their liberties.

    Also although I agree that there should be as little tax as possible placed upon everyone, I don’t have an issue with this “robin hood-ing” by Obama with higher taxes for the most wealthy within society. This is because coming from a utilitarian perspective the harm caused by such tax “theft” is greater for those who barely have the capital to survive as opposed to individuals who’s wealth is so grand the tax is comparatively negligible. I don’t accept the belief that “all tax is theft” in the sense that stealing from the poor is morally equivalent to stealing from the rich. It is not.

    Also, you have all been quick to show off your economically libertarian credentials in criticizing the Democrats and yet you have yet to mention any criticisms of the Republican Party in its pursuit to curb civil liberties and the social freedoms of American citizens. Perhaps when its not hitting the hip pocket it doesn’t matter?

  11. Jarryd,

    The ALS and LDP usually gets someone whinging that we don’t criticise the left or right enough, ergo, we are the other one.

    It’s simply rubbish. The Democrat and Republican candidates (and worthiness of the parties) are simply pathetic. Barr and Root hands down are the best candidates. Furthermore, there has been widespread bipartisan support of the curtailment of civil liberties and creeping economic planning.

  12. Jarryd – there are not many fans of George Bush anti-terror laws here. And it does get a run. Personally I think the Iraq war was stupid.

  13. Jarryd. Normally I tend more towards the left. I find social freedoms every bit as important as economic freedom (and more personally relevant). And I do like Obama- he’s the kind of person I’d enjoy as a friend.

    But his politics? I really can’t see many areas that Obama is better than McCain on- even if you only look at social policy. He’s a charismatic leader, he talks about “change” he talks about giving Americans freedom but his policies? He supports the PATRIOT Act, his Iraq plan is mildly better, he’s the same as McCain on gay marriage and like McCain he’s anti torture…

    I dunno where Obama is actually better. McCain wins hands down on free trade, though. I agree with the sentiment of Obama’s tax plan- that a tax cut for the middle class is more worthy than a tax cut for the wealthy- but I’m yet to see any details that appeal to me.

    I dunno, Obama isn’t the kind of Democrat that gets me excited. I thought he might be, but he really isn’t. He talks the civil liberty talk, but he’s no different to McCain.

    Were I American I’d definitely be voting libertarian for two reasons. 1) Their policies are best and 2) it would send a message to the Republicans that voting reform is needed. Third parties need to be a big enough threat to the Republirats that they reform the farce that is plurality voting.

  14. I don’t think third party voting will encourage either of the major parties to abandon the US system of plurality voting. The Republicans and Democrats have nothing to gain from reform.

  15. I don’t know if Obama is better than McCain… but I think he is certainly better for America than McCain. Under Obama America will regain some level of international respect… which is important if you believe in the ideas of America.

    The best things for the anti-Americans now would be the election of McCain. That would allow the global trend away from America (and her ideas) to continue.

    Jarryd, the saying “tax is theft” does not imply that stealing from the rich is morally equivalent to stealing from the poor. Both are involuntary, but they have different impacts.

    When you say “right-libertarian” I think the more correct term would be “radical libertarian” or “minarchist”… while your position would be called “moderate libertarian”. None of those positions are particularly “right” or “left” in the convention sense of those words.

  16. Under Obama America will regain some level of international respect… which is important if you believe in the ideas of America.

    As long as you think respect is worth the price. Most countries that don’t respect America are looking for it to become more like them. I can’t think of many that would be a significant improvement in my terms.

    America’s ideas are of a land of opportunity, where anyone can overcome poor origins, ethnicity etc. From log cabin to President. If you compare Obama’s policies with McCain’s, they are not consistent with that idea.

    If Obama wins the best chance is there will be massive disillusionment about lack of change (inevitable given the silly expectations) which will cause a swing back to the Republicans in the mid term elections in two years. During that time the Republicans will go through a cathartic process and regain their liberty and small government roots.

    If Obama actually gets to implement his policies, it will be a seriously bad. Protectionism will be rampant and a global depression is not out of the question.

  17. Under Obama America will regain some level of international respect… which is important if you believe in the ideas of America.

    Surely you can see some sort of contradiction here……..?

    Obama will increase respect for America because he stands for everything America is not….i.e. socialism, nanny state, protectionism, public health care, gun control, political correctness……………and this will help sell the American ideal to the world?

  18. I don’t think third party voting will encourage either of the major parties to abandon the US system of plurality voting. The Republicans and Democrats have nothing to gain from reform.

    I disagree Terje. The major parties will only have something to gain from reform if third parties become threatening. Spoilers are only annoying at the moment, but if spoilers continually ruin a party’s chance at getting elected, eventually that might settle on a system that allows them to capture the spoiler’s vote.

    The only reason Australia has preferential voting is because we’ve always had two “non-Labor” parties. The reason Victoria recently adopted a proportional upper house is because the Labor government had to previously deal with single member electorates that were dominated by the Coalition (the Greens screwed with the Labor vote, too).

    I think I would even vote for Nader over either major party. Simply because that country needs electoral reform so badly.

  19. David raised a good point there in that Obama is clearly protectionist, opposing free trade agreements and wanting huge tariffs on imported Brazilian ethanol to appease the American producers of less efficient Grain ethanol.

    Lets not forget the impact of the Smoot Hawley act to protect American industry and its role in causing the great depression.

    McCain is for free trade and ending subsidies, a stand he will probably suffer for in some states.

    Under Obama America will regain some level of international respect… which is important if you believe in the ideas of America. reminds me of when Wayne Goss made the statement that people down south liked us since he got elected. It was a revelation as it hadn’t occurred to me before that anybody cared what southerners thought.

    I really fail to see what benefit America will gain from being respected as another European socialist type country.

  20. Obama will increase respect for America because he stands for everything America is not….i.e. socialism, nanny state, protectionism, public health care, gun control, political correctness……………and this will help sell the American ideal to the world?

    What Mick said…

  21. Charles, poor people buy stuff too. There are plenty of countries where people have gotten richer without substantially redistribution. The higher productivity of labour leads to higher wages.

    I’m not sure the kind of respect you get from joining a club is necessarily worth it.

  22. Temujin, what ideas are you talking about?
    Democracy? Whilst better than Tyranny, Libertarians aren’t into number-counting as validation of ideas or ideals. And Democracy as majoritarianism is already practiced in the world.
    Individual rights? The idea that a black man can become President is a good idea, and Obama would be a visible symbol of equality, but he would be taking charge of a centralising system, and he is in charge of a party that thinks big government is the solution, not the problem!
    Please explain?

  23. As Fleeced points out, saying that communism is akin to sharing toys as a kid is total BS. Sharing is voluntary not forced.

    This is the problem with Jarryd’s comment too.
    While it’s true we live in a division of labour society, just because we don’t have time to fully evaluate everything doesn’t mean the government should use force. If we have a voluntary contract with a specialist, then this should be enforced by law. But it’s a massive leap to then say that government’s should forcefully dictate to the masses “for their own good”.

    The reason Obama is very dangerous is because his ideology is consistently socialist and altruist. This makes him more appealing to the masses and more dangerous in his approach to legislation.
    However note that the Christian Republicans cannot defend against these types of arguments.

    Obama is happy to promote popular altruistic ethics. Most people aren’t even aware there is an alternative.
    In addition, he’s happy to dishonestly blur the lines of force and actual benevolence. Ironically force obsoletes benevolence – something I argued previously in my post on K. Krudd’s “compassion” argument.

    I’d get used to dishonesty with Obama – he’s already shown how quickly he is to drop life long affiliates that are controversial or unpopular.

  24. There’s an obvious world wide pattern:
    Kevin Krudd’s talks of the need for welfare based on “compassion”. He then blames the US financial meltdown on “greed” and “extreme capitalism”. I still can’t believe he could be so dishonest when I write down those words.

    Obama and McCain have blamed “greedy” capitalists.

    And now Obama is having a dig at “self interest”.

    It’s clear that the world is getting exactly what they continually ask for in our modern day governments.
    Ethics and ideology drives politics. And people believe humans are inherently evil and that self sacrifice is a virtue. In addition, pragmatist/rationalistic ideology means people cannot think in principles and integrate data in their minds.

    Socialism and force is the inevitable result of self sacrifice.

    Judeo-Christian ideology invented altruism with stories such as Abraham’s sacrificing his own son Issac for God on the mountain as a test of his faith.

  25. I think calling Obama a “socialist” is probably too strong a word, yes he has some big government policies but that is kind of the nature of politics these days. He is supporting universal health care, however its my understanding that the current half-private/half-government support system is very inefficient and is costing a great deal. Standing from my ideological crises, this doesn’t bother me that much, if the newer socialized system is simply a better use of government money then the old.

    In fact McCain’s stance isn’t much better his plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 1 million by 2009 and 5 million by 2013, while raising the national debt by $1.3 trillion over 10 years, according to one estimate.

    Barracks “socialist” plan will raise the debt to $1.6 trillion but insures about 34 million people by 2018.

    *The choice is between efficient socialism or inefficient socialism.

    Also I don’t think Obama is as anti-trade as you all keep thinking, I’ve heard he wanted to institute environmental and labor standards under certain “free trade agreements”. However I have never heard of anything outright protectionist in regard to tariffs ect.

    Also in regard to tax (from wiki so not that reliable, however I do remember hearing McCain didn’t really think his plan through):

    “According to the Tax Policy Center, McCain’s tax plans (by extending the Bush tax cuts and cutting corporate tax rates from 35% to 25% to increase investment, among other measures), would increase the national debt by nearly $5 trillion over 10 years, a nearly 50% increase.[35]”


    “Obama proposes extending the Bush tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, while letting taxes go back up for individuals earning over $200,000 or couples earning over $250,000. According to the Tax Policy Center this plan would increase the national debt by $3.5 trillion over 10 years, a nearly 35% increase.[35]”

    I think its safer overall for the country to get its deficit under control then worry about the tax cuts to higher income earners.

    And just a final note:
    Speech by Obama in September:
    “I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it’s there… We will fire government managers who aren’t getting results, we will cut funding for programs that are wasting your money and we will use technology and lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government… The only way we can do all this without leaving our children with an even larger debt is if Washington starts taking responsibility for every dime that it spends.”

    .. Ok clearly I’m a fan, but I think you are all a bit too quick to judge Obama in comparison to McCain. And lets face it since they both supported a bail out and have a major government deficit whilst also promised tax cuts privatization is going to be the solution for either president.

  26. You should go back through some of the debates I had with Trinifar.

    (I pointed out time and time again that nationalisation was a bad idea, and provided evidence trinifar demanded, which was never good enough – a truly frustrating troll).

    Bascially the uninsured are mostly young affluent males. You can’t justify giving them expensive, poor quality services by taxpayer funds. It would be a travesty to increase taxes to fund this.

    US healthcare is expensive because of restrcitive practicies. US insurance is actually quite efficient and cheap, on any reliable measurement.

    Simply from a utilitarian view, Obama’s plan stinks.

  27. I am not a Democrat who believes that we can or should defend every government program just because it’s there… We will fire government managers who aren’t getting results, we will cut funding for programs that are wasting your money and we will use technology and lessons from the private sector to improve efficiency across every level of government…

    This is just code for fucked up policies like this:


    Jarad, can you give me three Greens policies you don’t agree with?

  28. Jarryd, personally I think you are in for a shock when you see life get worse in the US under Obama.
    But at least you probably know what you’re voting for. Many voting for Obama wouldn’t have a clue about his voting record or his signature policies. Hopefully their shock will be bigger.

    And I wouldn’t say Bush and tax cuts in the same sentence – same goes for Obama of course. Under Bush, the federal budget grew an incredible 68%. When Bill Clinton left office in 2000, federal spending was 18.5% of GDP, but by the end of the first Bush administration, this increased to 20.3% of GDP. – And Bill Clinton was an economic idiot who’s administration set up the sub-prime mortgage disaster.
    So let’s look at the overall picture.

    I saw a cartoon recently:
    Obama = national SOCIALISM
    McCain = NATIONAL socialism.
    Personally there’s no way I could give my vote to either evil.

  29. I read an article in the last year or so in which the author argued that a signifcant portion of the US health spending was discretionary spending by people who could afford it. So that 14% of GDP that has everyone gasping includes all those white white american teeth, plus boob jobs and god knows what else. I’m not vouching for the story, but it does illustrate that there is often something more at work.

    I also wonder what would happen to drug research once the US goes nationalised.

  30. Actually Tim the origins of the Sub prime thing go back to Carter, whose administration set up the original legislation. Clinton was restrained by the fiscal conservatives who were voted in en mass as a reaction to his first couple of years.

    A hell of a lot of the Obama ‘tax cuts’ are actually a welfare payment, depending on who you listen to anywhere up to 40% of low income earners do not pay tax and would be getting a refund on it. In return for these the higher earners who invest in industry providing jobs will be hit hard. I have noted that one of Obama’s tactics during the campaign is to criticize McCain as a hypocrite on taxes who opposed the Bush tax cuts. The fact is that the reason he voted against them was that there were no corresponding spending cuts.

    A clear idea of both candidates policies on income tax is here at WaPo.

    Of course there are lots of other taxes, here is a comparison Mc Ob
    Capital Gains Rate 15 20
    Dividends Rate 15 39.6
    Death Tax 15 over $10m 55%/ $1m
    Marriage Penalty 0 under $150000 Full from $1.00
    alternative minimum tax rate Repeal 28
    Self-Employment Rate 37.9 54.9
    Corporate Income Tax 25 35

  31. International respect for America is obviously important if you want to promote ideas associated with America. The decrease in respect for America over the last 8 years has made it more and more difficult to get people to consider the arguments for capitalism and small government.

    While Jim & DavidL might not care what other people think, I am very interested in trying to win the battle of ideas… and that means directly concerning myself with what other people think. When people instinctively hate America then it’s not a step in the right direction.

    Jim & DavidL would likely respond that anti-Americans are idiots and that’s the end. But I don’t think anti-Americans will find such an argument convincing. Neither will other people who are undecided about politics. In the battle of ideas, saying “I’m right and you’re all idiots” may warm your heart, but it doesn’t change minds.

    As for Obama being a socialist, that’s absurd rhetoric. Just like previous elections and just like the rest of the developed world… it will make little difference who is elected. Neither party will seriously stand up to big government. Neither will deregulate or reduce the nanny state. Obama may spend an extra dollar on health and McCain may spend an extra dollar on defence, but the role of government will remain about the same. Gun laws will remain about the same. Abortion laws will remain about the same. Trade policies will remain about the same. Yawn.

    (Temujin = John Humphreys… I’m going back to my name)

  32. I also think that respect for America helps in internatinal diplomacy. When the average person in a country hates America it makes cooperation with America a political liability for the leaders of that country. When the average person in a country likes America it makes cooperation with America a political asset. I would prefer a dynamic where other countries have an incentive to deal with America as a friend… not a threat.

    I want a world where people are happy to look to America as the world leader. I do not want a world that is desperately looking for a new challenger. A world threatened by America, distrustful of America, antagonised by America and generally hoping for America to fail. I want a world that thinks “America is the best world power for us… better than Russia, EU or China”.

    World opinion does matter for the future direction of international politics. If you like America, you should want America to be winning the battle for hearts & minds. If you want America to fail, then you should hope that the attitude of Jim, Michael & DavidL continues.

    Obama will significant improve the standing of America in teh world and make it easier for America to be accepted (and liked) as the world leader. He will do this while not really changing America. Indeed, I expect he will be more libertarian than George Bush.

  33. John
    You mean America needs to do its best to curry favor with the international left?

    American has been hated here is Australian since I was a kid under presidents of all stripes and colors. Trying to be loved is an impossible task.

    Not when you have people that think all GOP supporters are racist or ” white trash”.

  34. JC… it’s not just the left that hates America. And America certainly should do it’s best not to be universally hated by everybody. Over the last 8 years there has certainly been an increase in anti-American sentiment.

    Do you think there is no consequence of having people hate America? Do you think it’s the same to have (1) people respect America and accept their world leadership; and (2) people NOT respect American and NOT accept their world leadership. If you agree that these situations are different, then which do you think is better?

    Bush has significantly damanged the American brand. That brand needs fixing (if you care about the product). Obama would help fix the brand. That’s a good thing.

  35. John; The election is not between Bush and Obama. Get current.

    Your choices for JC to pick from are irrelevant as whether or not people respect America they are the world leader, the choice is not respect, it is whether America remains world leader. An inexperienced junior senator with a 100% liberal voting record is not the best choice to keep it that way.

    The person to lead America from a logical point of view, has to consider American interests first, thats his job. It is not a world populists position. Your argument is something like the populist boss, they fail. A leader can be popular and still lead as long as he maintains control and is efficient and fair, in Obamas case we can see the populism, but there is so far no sign of leadership.

    Your belief that Obama is not socialist is touching, the fact is that very little has been revealed about him and a lot buried by the press. The Youtube interview that Fleeced mentioned (c24) has been found to be part of a wide ranging interview published the next day, but with the section about bankrupting the coal industry omitted. (See bottom of post.)

  36. John

    the US was also hated when Reagan was in power and the international left tried all they could to undermine him and his actions to win the cold war without firing a shot. Meanwhile Helen Coldicott and the rest of those debased trogs were calling for unilateral disarmament. There was a direct attempt to undermine Western resolve and confidence in the case of that brutal regime. We won. the good side won that conflict and we’re ll better for it.

    The hate American crowd for the most part hate American for it’s success as it’s the most successful big nation in the world. The international left hates the US because it shows up their beliefs to be bullshit and hogwash… every single one of their religious beliefs about socialism.

    But lets be honest, what they really hate is the republican Party.

    to give you an example:

    Two commentors at a very respectable blog think nothing and the readers think even less when GOP supporters are described as both racist and white trash. Those are the terms used to describe 50% of the American adult public.

    The US should carry a big stick but speak softly, however that is no substitute for kicking arse when it needs to be kicked.

    there are two things that rile the international left about the US. Israel protection and its adherence to free enterprise structures (in the past).

    If they don’t like it, fuck them.

  37. From Thomas Sowell of the National Black republican Association:

    After the big gamble on subprime mortgages that led to the current financial crisis, is there going to be an even bigger gamble, by putting the fate of a nation in the hands of a man whose only qualifications are ego and mouth?

    Barack Obama has the kind of cocksure confidence that can only be achieved by not achieving anything else.

    Anyone who has actually had to take responsibility for consequences by running any kind of enterprise– whether economic or academic, or even just managing a sports team– is likely at some point to be chastened by either the setbacks brought on by his own mistakes or by seeing his successes followed by negative consequences that he never anticipated.

    The kind of self-righteous self-confidence that has become Obama’s trademark is usually found in sophomores in Ivy League colleges– very bright and articulate students, utterly untempered by experience in real world.

    The signs of Barack Obama’s self-centered immaturity are painfully obvious, though ignored by true believers who have poured their hopes into him, and by the media who just want the symbolism and the ideology that Obama represents.

  38. Jim — did you support Bush in 2000 and 2004? Did you support Bob Dole in 1996 and Bush Snr in 1992?

    I never said Bush was running in this election. But if you think the last 8 years of Bush administration is irrelevant to the standing of America then you’re living in a parallel universe. As I’ve said, Bush has harmed the American brand. Obama will help to fix the American brand.

    The choice I gave JC is very relevant, and your dismissal of the options is scary. Do you really think it makes no difference whether the world broadly supports or opposes America? Do you really think it doesn’t matter if there’s a growing belief that the world would be better without America? If it becomes America v the world (which you seem to be happy with) then America will lose. In conrast, I don’t want American to lose.

    Saying Obama is a socialist is absurd. His policy includes tax cuts. He is supported by some of the best economists (including free-market economists) in the world, and many other good moderates, including Powell. By clinging to that silly slander you undermine your credibility.

    In contrast, McCain wants the government to buy everybody’s house from them and sell it back to them. He supported all the variuos bailouts, as well as a trillion dollar plus needless war. You say that a leader should first protect America… which is ironic given the only defence left for the Iraq war is a massive foreign aid project. One of his famous issues is campaign finance reform. And he picked an absolute moron for a running mate, showing contempt for all thinking Americans.

    I don’t actually think Obama is better than McCain. I think they’re both the same old tried and tired populist compromising politicians. Both will be a disapointment to their supporters within a few years. Bob Barr would be better.

    But (1) the GOP must be punished for the last 8 years. There needs to be a proper working set of incentives in politics which means that terrible leadership is punished… and (2) Obama will help to fix the “american brand”, which is important if (and only if, so perhaps it doesn’t apply to you) you want to see American ideas prosper around the world.

  39. John, I agree that neither Obama nor McCain is worth voting for.

    But at the same time one of the reasons Bush has lost respect is because he has been perceived as capitalist. His sheer stupidity, the Iraq War and his love of cronyism are more of a reason for him having lost respect, but his perceived “capitalism” is a reason, too.

    It isn’t worth pandering to socialist opinions just to garner respect. Of course Bush wasn’t really a capitalist so much as a socialist to the rich, but in the opinions of most people capitalism includes handouts to the rich.

  40. John; You keep comparing Obama with Bush to the point that I felt the point had to be made.

    His policy includes tax cuts mainly to people who already pay no tax (38%) so it is primarily a welfare measure. It also massively penalizes the wealth and employment generating sections of the population.

    Add to this a dividends rate increase to 39% from the current 15%, Death Tax of 55%, Self-Employment Rate of 54.9%, – just who were all those free market economists? Are you sure he is listening to them?

    Trusting this man to push the free market after he has blamed it for every flaw in America is a bit like getting a ride home with Ted Kennedy.

    Leading the free world is not a popularity contest.

  41. …………before Mr. Obama took the stage yesterday telling them that America needed a Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing all Americans a job, health care, homes, an education, and a fair playing field for business and farmers.

    Is this socialism or not? If a presidential candidate says this, should we treat it as just another economic policy a little off the rails and reflect on his tax cuts? Or is there something more in a comment like this?

    America is largely hated for all the right reasons – it’s successful, it’s people have freedoms other countries don’t, it’s rich and largely happy, it’s New World and doesn’t have the baggage other countries do, it’s economy is still multiples of it’s nearest competitor despite being smashed, fuck with it and you might just find the world’s most powerful military in your lounge room, it’s culture might be overpowering and commercial but it’s so good you just can’t look away etc

    Because of this people lots of people are looking for a reason to hate it and issues like Iraq, the economic meltdown, or the fact that some Americans can’t find France on a map just give them something to hang their hate on. It’s rarely got anything to do with a valid moral judgement against the American way as a whole.

  42. Shem — you miss the point. First, this constant talk of socialism is just stupid. Second, if you want to change people’s minds you do not do that by calling them idiots and telling them to shut up or you’ll bomb them.

    America is always perceived as capitalist — Clinton or Bush or Gore or McCain or Obama. Bush has allowed people to associate capitalism with war, incompetence and stupidity. Obama will partly fix that incorrect perception.

    If you agree that Obama & McCain are about as good as each other, and you agree that Obama would improve the American profile on the international stage, then what is the problem?

    Jim — I’m not comparing Obama with Bush. I’m pointing out that Bush has harmed the American brand and Obama can help to mend it. Those were my exact words.

    There is no “massive” penalties in Obama’s tax plan. Your letting your love of the GOP cloud your thinking. Anyway, it’s the spending that determines the cost of government… not the tax. The GOP is not your friend. It has betrayed you… and for some reason you’re scared to leave it. Battered voter syndrome.

    I’m not trusting Obama to promote the free-market. I’m not the starry eyed one here. I know that neither candidate will promote the free-market. But I also know that it’s important for the principles behind America to win the battle of ideas in the world.

    At the moment, the American brand is such a bad brand around the world it’s making it harder to sell the ideas of freedom. People are increasingly sympathetic to a European model, or Chinese model, or Russian model. That’s not a good trend.

    You didn’t answer which major candidates you’ve preferred for the last four elections. I think we know the answers.

  43. The moderation level on this blog is too severe… just had to approve another three comments: JC at #40, Mick Sutcliffe at #45 and #47.

    Is it possible to make the moderation not so severe?

  44. I don’t much care for either candidate and I don’t have much to invest in the debate. I do find it interesting to see what the rest of you think and why. I don’t buy the idea that Obama is some terrible socialist menace much worse than most US presidents over the last 100 years. However neither do I see him as doing much to change respect for the US. Time will tell. And Jim, world leadership is basically a popularity contest for better or for worse.

    John – I don’t agree with your summation that spending is the real cost of government. The real cost of government is taxation. Spending may be fruitful. A new road may reduce domestic trade barriers. Spending may be done with debt that is rolled over or which the government defaults on. Tax is the cost of government, spending is merely an activity of government. The obsession with cutting spending (and deficits) is a traditionally GOP obsession and I think you should ditch that logic.

    A prosperous society requires low taxes and hard money. A government can defaults on it’s debts or squander it’s revenue and society will be fine so long as tax are low and the currency is hard. When governments jack up taxes or devalue their currency to deal with deficits then society gets screwed. However just because a government is going down the plug hole does not mean it must screw society in the process. And very few governments that maintain low taxes and keep their currencies hard ever have significant difficulty paying their bills.

  45. Terje, spending is definitely important in the presence of a central bank that can monetise debt; it ultimately equals future taxation in the form of inflation.

    Yes, the two candidates are of course awful. It’s a shame (but not surprising) that Barr/Root haven’t been able to get a little more exposure and/or capitalise on Ron Paul’s momentum. I wish he had have ditched Chuck Baldwin completely and come out and officially endorsed them. It’s a wasted opportunity.

  46. Just to clear up a few points- Abraham did NOT kill his son Isaac, contrary to TimR’s thread above. God told him not to, and provided a substitute goat.
    “Eye for an eye”, “Tooth for tooth”, “treat others as you would want them to treat you”. Aren’t these ideas and ideals which libertarians could support?
    Altruism is wrongly mixed with Christianity. Indeed, even Judeaism is innocent of this charge. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour AS thyself”. Not greater than, not less than, but AS, ie equal to.

  47. Terje, spending is the true measure of the size of government because all spending must be paid for at some stage in some way.

    Either spending is paid for by current tax, future tax or the inflation tax. If we just look at current tax then it’s easy to underestimate the size of government.

    Michael — you just confirm that you don’t care if there is a growing anti-American tide and the American brand is tarnished. I think that’s a very dangerous approach to global politics. Ultimately, it’s the battle of ideas which shapes the world.

    In most minds, America is linked with capitalism, free-markets, freedom, free-speech, gun-rights, individualism, etc. Even Obama supports all of these things more than anybody in the Australian Liberal party.

    When the American brand is undermined, it hurts the above ideas. If you care about those ideas (and I do) then the only solution is (1) agree America sucks, but separate America from those ideas; or (2) try to improve the American brand.

    I fear that some people here like America more than the American ideas. That makes no sense.

    I’m not suggesting Obama is going to promote the American ideas better than McCain. I think they’ll both ending up being a disapointment. But Obama can help to mend relations, allowing a future America to act with greater moral authority.

  48. Unfortunately, John, Obama belongs to the Democrazies, who are more pro-government than the Republicanters. And as for being pro-guns, didn’t Obama make some disparaging remarks about gun-owners? I wouldn’t think he was pro-gun. And ‘Joe the plumber’ got Mr. O. (must read ‘The story of O’ again!) to wax eloquently about how Obama wants to share the wealth.
    The Europeans might be happy if O won, but I won’t be!

  49. “agree America sucks, but separate America from those ideas”

    I think that’s the best strategy. The America brand is already ruined. The problem is that the average person’s memory and/or understanding of history is so poor that they’ll just see this as an 8-year failure of Republican government. We need to show that big government is and will always be the problem, regardless of who’s at the helm; which is going to be extremely difficult considering the magnitude of Dubya’s failure.

  50. John – given two governments that spend the same on services except one is running with high rates of tax to reduce debt at the same time, then your definition might lead one to conclude that the high tax government is lower cost or at least no more expensive. However macro economics is not like micro economics because government finance creates externalities that we should care about if we take a macro view. If the government is paying off debt but killing the economy in doing so (due to high taxes) then from the vantage point of society it is a more expensive government.

    This may be partly semantics but your position seems to defend the austerity half of IMF logic. Routinely they encourage nations near default to jack up their tax rates (austerity) to pay down debt whilst encouraging them to devalue their currency (inflation) to improve their exports. The net effect usually is that the cost of servicing debt increases (as interest rates on the unstable currency rise) and the economy tanks (due to taxes). I know you don’t support inflation or buy the IMF logic on devaluation but your view on spending seems to concede somewhat to IMF logic regarding deficits.

    To be precise we would need to consider cost relative to income (ie tax rates) as opposed to absolute cost (tax revenue) over the long term. But as a rule this isn’t as simple as spending because spending can increase capacity.

    I don’t buy the view that you attack spending so you can cut tax rates. I think you should cut tax rates regardless (at least until the are very low). You should then cut spending independently based on whether the spending provides a good return or not and on opportunity cost. Public spending on roads, education and transport does typically offer a good return even if the private sector may be able to do these things better.

    The mistake of fiscal conservatives is to defer all tax cuts until the day of spending discipline arrives. Or in John Howards case it was even worse in that he piled up surpluses (savings instead of spending) instead of cutting tax rates. This is why I don’t cheer when Rudd proclaims he is also a fiscal conservative. Government deficits are over rated as a problem. The only people that should care excessively about deficits are those that are governed by fiscal conservatives (who may jack up taxes) and bond holders.

    The tax base is the governments biggest asset. I’d advocate a deficit if necessary to fund a cut in tax rates because expanding the tax base is a worthy investment. And because government is not society and I care more about the later than the former.

  51. I think the reality of the situation should be exposed. If naming reality hurts certain people’s sensibilities, then they are probably closed to reason anyway. You don’t want to waste time with these people. If the reality being named is controversial then it creates publicity ie: a good result.
    If people think America is a model of pure capitalism and not an entagled mess of ever increasing socialism with capitalism (mixed economy) then they should learn what capitalism is.

    The US hasn’t been capitalist for a long time.

  52. TimR,
    I think we need some new labels. Pure Capitalism (building up your capital resources) is still possible- plenty of people are still getting very rich in America. Bill Gates is the classic RTR (Rags to Riches) story. If that is what people think when they hear the word ‘Capitalsim’, it is still viable.
    However, Enterprize is not free. We no longer have free enterprize. Perhaps law-burdened enterprize could just be called enterprize, and free enterprize stays as the ideal to aim for.

  53. Terje, spending done via debt is going to require larger taxes in the future. A tax rate of 10% today and 30% tomorrow will create more deadweight loss (economic cost) than a consistent tax rate of 20%. (And actually, you’d need 10% today and 35% tomorrow to be equivalent to a consistent 20%.)

    I agree that the tax today determines the costs today. But it is the spending today that determines the total costs of government decisions. We cannot say that the Iraq war was free just because it was all financed by debt (from china). Indeed, it is more expensive because it was financed by debt… because it now costs the money * interest * (1 + deadweight loss).

    Government spending is the best indicator of the size of government. If one government tax and spends 10% of GDP, while another government taxes at 5% but spends at 30% then the later economy is the more socialist. The former economy will do better in the long run.

    The IMF is irrelevant to this discussion. While I don’t put much faith in activist fiscal policy, I also don’t think you should be running pro-cyclical fiscal policy. Deficits during a recession don’t worry me, therefore I don’t share the IMF fiscal advice.

    I’m also sympathetic to the political arguments for immediate tax cuts leading to deficits, and then using the deficits as an argument for cutting spending. But that strategy doesn’t change the definitional issue of spending being the true measure of the size of government.

  54. nicholas — McCain also believes in redistribution. And Obama and the Democrats believe in more liberal gun laws than anybody in the Liberals, Nationals or Labor in Australia. By far.

  55. I actually leaned towards Obama earlier in the cycle because I figured they’d both suck economically, and that he might be better on social issues. I also figured it would force the Republicans to refocus.

    Obama has frankly scared me over to the McCain camp in the last few months.

    Do I think there would be positives with an Obama presidency? Sure… and to be honest, I think it makes only minor difference to us as Australians. I think he would be worse for America though, and I already like the US – regardless of who they elect.

  56. John – maybe the ALS should create our own index – the sum of the full costs of net spending, inflation and regulatory cots, and the associated deadweight losses of each.

    True Australian Real Tax Index – TARTI

    I think this is the real cost of Government…

  57. And Obama and the Democrats believe in more liberal gun laws than anybody in the Liberals, Nationals or Labor in Australia. By far.

    If Obama was transplanted into the ALP or Greens in Australia do you think he would still believe in liberal gun laws? Do you think he would even support private firearms ownership?

    If McCain was transplanted into the Libs do you think he would still support private firearms ownership in this country?

Comments are closed.