Friday, April 17, 2009

Protester Envy

What happens when a political class ceases to have the monopoly of starting protests?

They sputter with rage, denigrate the protesters, and claim that the protest is a product of astroturfing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me present you world-class comedienne and left-wing pundit, Jeanine Garofalo:

OLBERMANN: Congratulations, Pensacola teabaggers. You got spunked. And despite the hatred on display, a few of you actually violated the penal code. But teabagging is now petered out, taint what it used to be. And when you co-opt the next holiday, Fourth of July, try to adopt a holiday food that does not invite the double entendres like, you know, franks and beans. On a more serious note, we're now joined by actor, activist Janeane Garofalo. Good to see you.

JANEANE GAROFALO: Thank you. You know, there's nothing more interesting than seeing a bunch of racists become confused and angry at a speech they're not quite certain what he's saying. It sounds right and then it doesn't make sense. Which, let's be very honest about what this is about. It's not about bashing Democrats, it's not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don't know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of teabagging rednecks. And there is no way around that. And you know, you can tell these type of right wingers anything and they'll believe it, except the truth. You tell them the truth and they become -- it's like showing Frankenstein's monster fire. They become confused, and angry and highly volatile. That guy, causing them feelings they don't know, because their limbic brain, we've discussed this before, the limbic brain inside a right-winger or Republican or conservative or your average white power activist, the limbic brain is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person, and it's pushing against the frontal lobe. So their synapses are misfiring. Is Bernie Goldberg listening?

OLBERMANN: Russ.

GAROFALO: Because Bernie might not have heard this when I said this the first time. So, Bernie, this is for you. It is a neurological problem we're dealing with.

OLBERMAN: Well, what do we do about it, though? I mean, our friend in Pensacola there who played them like a $3 fiddle and led them right down the garden path with nothing but facts and then they went, wait a minute, that doesn't sound like Rush Limbaugh. If you can't get them to make that last leap to what are we all doing here, Howard Johnson is wrong, how do you break through that?

GAROFALO: I don't think you do, for most of them. This is a -- it's almost pathological or elevated to a philosophy or lifestyle. And again, this is about racism. It could be any issue, any port in the storm. These guys hate that a black guy is in the White House. But they immigrant bash, they pretend taxes and tea bags, and like I said, most of them probably couldn't tell you thing one about taxation without representation, the Boston tea party, the British imperialism, whatever the history lesson has to be. But these people, all white for the most part, unless there's some people with Stockholm syndrome there.

OLBERMANN: And, I didn't see them, the fact that they weren't near the cameras which is bad strategy on the part of the people that were staging this at Fox.

GAROFALO: True, and Fox News loves to foment this anti-intellectualism because that's their bread and butter. If you have a cerebral electorate, Fox news goes down the toilet, very, very fast. But it is sick and sad to see Neil Cavuto doing that. They've been doing it for years, that's why Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch started this venture, is to disinform and to coarsen and dumb down a certain segment of the electorate. But what is really, I didn't know there were so many racists left. I didn't know that. I -- you know, because as I've said, the Republican hype and the conservative movement has now crystallized into the white power movement.

OLBERMANN: Is that not a bad, long-term political strategy because even though your point is terrifying that there are that many racists left, the flip side of it is there aren't that many racists left.

GAROFALO: They're the minority, but literally tens of people showed up to this thing across the country.

OLBERMANN: But if you spear your television network or your political party towards a bunch of guys looking who are just looking for a reason to yell at the black president, eventually you will marginalize yourself out of business, won't you?

GAROFALO: Here's what the right-wing has in, there's no shortage of the natural resources of ignorance, apathy, hate, fear. As long as those things are in the collective conscious and unconscious, the Republicans will have some votes. Fox News will have some viewers. But what else have they got? If they didn't do that, who is going to watch -- you know what I mean? They have tackled that elusive clam -- you know, the clam, the 18 to 35 clam -- klan. Klan. With a k demo. But, you know, who else is Fox talking to? I mean, what is it urban older white guys? And the girlfriend, and, you know, the women who suffer from Stockholm syndrome gain. There's a lot of Stockholm syndrome, is what I'm saying ultimately. What else do you want to know?

OLBERMANN: What happens if somebody who's at one of these things hurt somebody?

GAROFALO: That is an unfortunate byproduct since the dawn of time of a volatile group like this of the limbic brain. Violence unfortunately may or may not ensue. It always, it's like a, the Republican Party now depends upon immigrant bashing and hating the black guy in the White House. Will people act on that? It's not new. But, you know, Fox doesn't mind fomenting it. Michelle Bachmann doesn't mine fomenting it. Glenn Beck doesn't mind fomenting it.

The claims that the Tea Party protests were somehow orchestrated by corporations went unchallenged and without fact-checking. I've actually been to political protests, and it's typically made very obvious who runs them. In the case of the afore-linked Iraq War Protest I went to, it was made clear that the show was run by communists--literal, self-identified communists.

The Tea Party protests were different. They were spontaneous, and weren't linked by any single political party, PAC, or corporation. Glenn Beck wasn't in the shadows orchestrating the whole thing. I would love to claim that the Champaign-Urbana Tea Party was organized by the Libertarian Party, but the truth is that it just appeared out of nowhere, and aggregated supporters on its own. Most signs were hand-made. Nobody was turned away or made unwelcome. Given, nationally speaking, Glenn Beck, and a few Republican Politicians hopped onto the bandwagon pretty early, mugging for the camera, but why is this considered to be somehow surprising or underhanded? Leftist celibrities show up at political rallies all the time.

Then there's the accusation that the protesters had "no right" to complain on tax day, since Bush started the bailouts. Yes it's true that Bush started them, but it caught many conservatives by surprise--those that I've talked to were very upset by it. There was a sense of betrayal and of helplessness. I think it took the second round of stimulus to get them agitated enough to protest--I believe the word "trillion" was the tipping point. Culturally, since it's mostly the left who protest, some on the right view it with disdain. I think also leave-me-alone limited-government types typically would rather not draw attention to themselves.

I'm not sure where the accusation of racism came from, but it's easy to refute by simply looking at pictures of the protesters' signs--they seem uniformly of the anti-government variety. I thought dissent was patriotic?

I think it's really jealousy, and maybe fear of competition, that drives the former champions of protest to such lengths to smear the opposition.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Public Entrepreneurship

Just recently the Champaign County Libertarian Party had the opportunity to have a discussion with Joseph T. Mahoney on his collaborative paper (written with Peter Klein, Anita McGahan, Christos Pitelis) about “The Economic Organization of Public Entreprenership”.

I created a podcast of the discussion in AAC format that is available here (6.2 megs, one and a half hours), as well as a google video version which is viewable below:

Among topics discussed were Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, Coase's Theorem, and how the government's role can be to enhance the wealth of nations as opposed to destroying it through the harnessing of entrepreneurship in the public sphere. Some specific examples are thrown in, as well as how the topic related to local politics in Champaign-Urbana.

Some of the arguments were new to me, some of them being more from a utilitarian-libertarian point of view than a deontological-libertarian view. Also, the paper is based upon a minarchist view of the world--that is to say, it assumes that a government will exist. It is a pragmatist idea of how to improve government that could appeal to both conservatives and liberals I think.

For instance, the typical small-government view is that government inaction is better than government action. However, imagine the following hypothetical. A community is under imminent danger from an objectively demonstrable threat (a natural disaster, the collapse of a bridge, etc.). The private parties that make up this community cannot all agree on a plan to remedy the situation. In this case, the government stepping in doing something would be preferable to doing nothing, as a haphazard solution would be better than total disaster. If the government solution is unpleasant enough, or would take too long to implement, this would stimulate entrepreneurs to come together with a plan for the public good. More often then not this plan is more effective, faster, and more efficient than the government plan, and more appreciated by the public as it doesn't involve increased taxes or regulation.

There are surprisingly many instances of this happening, in light of the bungling done with the bridge collapse in Minnesota and Hurricane Katrina at the hands of the government. Just recently I was forwarded an email on how citizens and businesses built a bridge in Hawaii because the government was unable or unwilling to do it. Not only did it get done faster, but much cheaper than the projected cost. Not only that, the cost did not result in increased taxes or government debt--it was absorbed by the businesses who would benefit from the repaired bridge. The "free rider problem" in this case was averted. There are other examples of course, such as citizens volunteering to sandbag an overflowing river. Their efforts not only save their own property, but help save the property of their neighbors as well.

The only downside I can think of, is that while public entrepreneurship is better than a government solution due to government's use of force, is that it sometimes requires the threat of force. In other words, action is only taken because the government bureaucracy's solution is more feared. This of course is tied into legitimacy of the government's force (see: Arrow's Impossibility Theorem), which may be called into question if the democratic process is absent or easy to manipulate--the paper discusses this issue in some detail.

Overall it was a fascinating topic that I think will gain more traction as people realize that the government isn't very good at creating value or solving things--and we may have to rely on ourselves and our neighbors.