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There's Some Hope in Howard Dean

...but only hope, not faith.

by James Leroy Wilson
December 18, 2003

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There's some hope in Howard Dean_James Leroy Wilson-... but only hope, not faith. My column last week argued that it might be acceptable to vote for a major party political candidate, even though both major parties are indifferent to the Constitution and just seek larger and larger government. There were three inspirations for what I wrote:

-Becoming aware of a “Libertarians for Dean” movement, which I haven’t actually explored just yet;
-R.W. Bradford’s reportage of the California gubernatorial election results in the January 2004 Liberty magazine. Finally, third party candidates were given open ballot access in a major race. Yet 96% of the vote went to major party candidates.
-Greg Newburn’s harangue in the same issue that libertarians would be better off joining the major parties. For example, if a libertarian-leaning candidate ran for President for a major party, he’d get a platform and greater media coverage than any Libertarian Party candidate can get.

This is not to say that the Libertarian Party is itself a futile endeavor. Its party platform is worth maintaining for the very reason that it doesn’t compromise. It continues to survive, even though it doesn’t flourish, because it continues to be right on the issues. The Party platform is the sun that shines on all liberty-friendly movements, magazines, and think tanks. Some of these libertarian “planets” maintain a healthy distance from it. But if the Party platform is not the center of the libertarian movement - if a person is not in substantial agreement with most of it - then the word “libertarian” will be lost. Further, without the party, several of these other, now-influential conduits of information like Reason magazine and the Cato Institute wouldn’t have survived, thrived, and impacted public policy. The Party provided, if nothing else, a market for their literature, and a contrast between soft and hard-core libertarianism, making the former respectable and influential.

Look at the conservative movement by contrast, or the liberals, or the progressives. They don’t have statements or platforms. They don’t have political parties. How can Pat Buchanan and Bill Kristol both be “conservative?” William F. Buckley’s iron grip on what is and isn’t conservative is losing influence, and the movement has shifted further and further left. Conservatism isn’t what it was fifty, or even just fifteen, years ago.

So I think the Libertarian Party must be sustained, and hopefully one day it will thrive. But there remains the problem of their candidate standing no chance, when a candidate that may do at least something right does stand a chance. That was the context for last week’s article.

Not unexpectedly, after my column was posted I was then asked my thoughts about Howard Dean in 2004, and was asked to read “Common Sense for a New Century.” I read it through once, two days ago. I started again, and was reminded of the errors and fallacies, of which there are many, and which I don’t have the time to refute.

What struck me at first was the typical tactic of the modern politician, to use and abuse the Founders for there own purposes. He invokes Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Thomas Jefferson but then misrepresents them and the rest of our Founders into people committed the ideals of “justice and equality.” Dean forgot a very important word: liberty.

Liberty is the central idea from which both equality and justice can be understood. In the Bible - and I will appease our non-religious readers in this example - the main character of the book, named God, sought to establish the principles of justice and equality based on a system of free markets and a decentralized and de-militarized form of government. When a person lost property, was personally violated, or was otherwise oppressed, he could cry out for justice. Justice and equality, as understood by God, went like this: the rich man would not get preferential treatment in a court just because he was rich, and the poor man also wouldn’t get preferential treatment because he was poor.

That is, justice and equality demand that all individuals are equally free, that no one has the right to use force against or steal from another person, for any reason except self-defense. Yes, Dean, and the Founders, were concerned about economic power taking over political power. But the mission of economic power taking over political power was exactly the founding principle of the Republican Party, and why Big Railroad’s top lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, was its man for President in 1860. Does Dean seriously think that the slaves were freed because in our precious “Democracy,” northern whites wanted blacks to be free, move north, and take their jobs? History reveals quite the opposite.

And history also reveals that Dean’s grand vision of public works like the railroads is also misbegotten. For the amount of money Congress robbed the taxpayer and gave the Union Pacific railroad, Union Pacific could have built four inter-continental railroads and a merchant fleet of ships.

And this led to the demagoguery typical of the last 110 years. The government gave the railroads so much money, and now the railroads are charging unfair freight rates! In other words, the guilty party is not government which deliberately took money from the many through taxes to give to private corporations, but rather those corporations themselves for acting in what they see as their best interests.

In Dean’s praise of what “used to be,” he’s actually praising the principles of corporate welfare.

Let’s think about this rationally. Do the railroads, or the interstate highways, or any “public works” benefit the yeoman farmer, who grows different crops on a small amount of land for food, and sells the surplus at market for manufactured supplies? Not at all. They benefit only Big Business, and those who try to operate like big businesses, such as cash-crop farmers.

Big business, literally, does not want to pay the freight. They want “the people” to pay for it. Manufacturers, the transportation industries, and insurance companies could have worked all of this out. Instead, the government paid for it all, made life that much easier for private companies, and then accused those companies of being “greedy.” In other words, if private businessmen receive government subsidies, they are greedy for profits. But what about politicians themselves, who are greedy for power?

Dean’s vision for America is delusional and reprehensible. If he thinks the minimum wage, for example, is an achievement, he’s an idiot. Did it ever occur to him that it is necessary because prices keep getting higher, and prices keep getting higher because the Federal Reserve banking monopoly makes dollars cheaper and cheaper? That if, say, the dollar was worth a certain weight in gold, there’d be no inflation, but rather cheaper and cheaper products for the poor?

So I don’t like Dean. I think he might be honest, he might be well-intentioned, he might actually believe the ridiculous myths of our history and have faith in the virtues of “the people” - but like many others who have the intelligence to become an M.D., he’s probably arrogant enough to think that people as smart as he is can fix America’s problems - as if astuteness in biology or even bedside manner gives one an understanding of the laws of human action. And it is that , which I find laughable. But here’s the rub...

Howard Dean’s vision of America, which I find distasteful, is likely no worse than that of any of his Democratic rivals or of George W. Bush. So the question for me is, is he not only substantially better on a few key Constitutional and liberty issues, but will he actually likely achieve some reforms?

I see three areas where Dean provides some hope. I stress, this is only “hope” in Dean; if it turns out I have no “faith” in him at least on these issues, he won’t get my vote. Longtime readers of the Partial Observer may note that in late 2000 and through much of 2001, I had “hope” in George W. Bush, but no faith in him. He failed to earn my vote. But there are three issues in which I have hope:
  1. Not only did Dean disagree with the Iraqi invasion, his “Common Sense for a New Century” indicated support for restoring to Congress the power to declare war. Does he actually believe this, or does he believe that a “UN mandate” to use force trumps the Constitution? If he believes, as President, to have cause to initiate military force against another nation, does he pledge to ask Congress, not for the “authorization to use force” but rather a Declaration of War? As Commander-in-chief, the President still controls the timetable of military engagement. Would Dean make such a pledge?

  2. Will Dean, in his campaign, explicitly define the parts of the Patriot Act he finds as unconstitutional, pledge to seek repeal of those sections, and pledge to order all federal agents to abide by the Bill of Rights in their investigations of terrorism and other crimes?

  3. Since Dean is apparently seeking to be responsive to “the People”, will he pledge to respect the people’s First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of grievances? This portion of the Constitution has been virtually gutted out the Constitution since the 1830’s. Will Dean pledge to respect and respond to such petitions and in due time redress - answer - their grievances?
If Dean signs on to these three proposals, then I just might give him the benefit of the doubt and just might vote for him. I probably wouldn’t do the same for a candidate for Congress who shared Dean’s ideology, because Dean still worships at the altar of “public good” and Democracy. But I have pin-pointed three specific areas regarding the Constitutional powers of the President that Dean could reform and make America a more open, freer, and better place.

Of course, if I vote for Dean, I will have to vote for Republicans to oppose his legislative agenda. Just because Dean as President may want rationed health care, will not make it a reality. Whereas, if the President refuses to intervene unilaterally in a foreign conflict, he isn’t forced into doing so by Congress. I would vote for Dean if he would reign in the powers of the President to Constitutional standards, not because I’d agree with his legislative policies.

Right now, I have no reason to do anything but hope this is true. There’s still a long time for Dean to convince me to have faith in him on these issues.

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