Conservatives and a Lone Libertarian Take on Donald Trump

National Review cover Today I join some 20 other writers in making the case against Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. The venerable National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr., assembled a group of diverse critics to argue that Trump is not a conservative, not an advocate of limited government, but rather (as the editorial asserts) “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”

The symposium is understandably being described in the media as “conservative thought leaders take on Trump.” I of course consider myself a libertarian, as my book The Libertarian Mind would indicate, and not a conservative. But part of the impact of this symposium is that people of such widely varying views – I have a lot of disagreements with religious rightist Cal Thomas and neoconservative Bill Kristol – nevertheless regard Trump as dangerous. 

In my own contribution I emphasize two points:

From a libertarian point of view — and I think serious conservatives and liberals would share this view—Trump’s greatest offenses against American tradition and our founding principles are his nativism and his promise of one-man rule.

Not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign. Trump launched his campaign talking about Mexican rapists and has gone on to rant about mass deportation, bans on Muslim immigration, shutting down mosques, and building a wall around America. America is an exceptional nation in large part because we’ve aspired to rise above such prejudices and guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone. Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency—his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat. It’s a vision to make the last 16 years of executive abuse of power seem modest.

This isn’t my first sally against Trump. After hearing him in person at FreedomFest in July, I wrote about his nationalism, protectionism, and megalomania in the Washington Times. And in August I reviewed his support for and use of eminent domain at the Guardian.

The National Review symposium was posted last night at 10 p.m., and I took note of it on Facebook and Twitter. It drew a lot of reaction. And I must say, I was surprised by how many of the responses, especially on Twitter, were openly racist and anti-Semitic. That did nothing to make me reconsider my deep concerns about the damage Trump is doing, and could do, to America’s libertarian heritage.

Posted on January 22, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz discusses his article “Conservatives against Trump” on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt

Posted on January 22, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

David Boaz’s article “Conservatives against Trump” is cited on ABC World News with David Muir

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David Boaz’s article “Conservatives against Trump” is cited on CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley

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David Boaz discusses his article “Conservatives against Trump” on KABC’s The Drive Home with John Phillips and Jillian Barberie

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David Boaz’s article “Conservatives against Trump” is cited on KUT Radio’s Texas Standard

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David Boaz’s article “Conservatives against Trump” is cited on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show

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David Boaz’s article “Conservatives against Trump” is cited on WGMD Radio’s The Mike Bradley Show

Posted on January 22, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

What Socialism Requires

We’ve heard a lot about democratic socialism lately, as the self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders poses an ever-bigger threat to Hillary Clinton. But what is democratic socialism?

Wikipedia defines it as “a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production.” The Democratic Socialists of America explain that “democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically.” That doesn’t sound so bad — running things “democratically.” But what it means is that the government would run the entire economy and society, and all decisions would be made by the political process.

Now, Sanders dances around just how far his own socialism goes. At a recent speech he said,”I don’t believe government should own the grocery store down the street or control the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.” But he has spoken at numerous DSA events, and in the past he has written about putting television under “democratic control.”

I doubt that the 26 percent of young people who tell pollsters that they have a favorable view of socialism actually want television put under the direct control of politicians. But be careful what you wish for.

Robert Heilbroner, perhaps the best-selling socialist writer of the 20th century, was more honest than many socialists. He wrote in Dissent magazine:

Socialism…must depend for its economic direction on some form of planning, and for its culture on some form of commitment to the idea of a morally conscious collectivity….

If tradition cannot, and the market system should not, underpin the socialist order, we are left with some form of command as the necessary means for securing its continuance and adaptation. Indeed, that is what planning means…

The factories and stores and farms and shops of a socialist socioeconomic formation must be coordinated…and this coordination must entail obedience to a central plan…

The rights of individuals to their Millian liberties [are] directly opposed to the basic social commitment to a deliberately embraced collective moral goal… Under socialism, every dissenting voice raises a threat similar to that raised under a democracy by those who preach antidemocracy.

Not only does a socialist economy require a central plan, he said, but a plan will require us to subordinate our personal liberties — liberties of choice and free speech, associated with John Stuart Mill — to the plan of the government. That hardly seems like a future today’s millennials — or any other American — would want to live in.

Voters should be very skeptical of any candidate who speaks warmly of socialism or can’t explain how his or her own political views differ from socialism.

By the way, Dissent republished this article this past November under the heading “What Is Democratic Socialism?”

Heilbroner also noted that “democratic liberties have not yet appeared, except fleetingly, in any nation that has declared itself to be fundamentally anticapitalist.”

Heilbroner understood socialism. Sanders is evasive about just what he means by socialism. And recently, both Hillary Clinton and Democratic national chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz refused to answer the question, “What’s the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?”

Real socialism has been a disaster in countries from the Soviet Union to Tanzania. Attempts to move sharply toward socialism have produced results such as today’s Venezuela, with shortages of toilet paper and soap. And even the European countries that Bernie Sanders praises, such as Sweden and France, have higher unemployment rates and lower overall incomes than the somewhat more capitalist United States.

Voters should take note of socialism’s failures and of Heilbroner’s warning about what socialism requires. And they should be very skeptical of any candidate who speaks warmly of socialism or can’t explain how his or her own political views differ from socialism.

Posted on January 22, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Enlightenment Values and the Anglicans

Leaders of the worldwide Anglican church are meeting at Canterbury Cathedral this week, with some observers predicting an open schism over homosexuality. There is fear that archbishops from six African countries – Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – may walk out if the archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, won’t sanction the U.S. Episcopal Church for consecrating gay bishops. Since about 60 percent of the world’s Anglicans are in Africa, that would be a major break.

I am neither an Anglican nor a theologian, but I did reflect on the non-religious values that shape some of these disputes in the Guardian a few years ago:

The Anglican Archbishop of South Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, says his church should abandon its “practices of discrimination” and accept the gay Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. That makes him unusual in Africa, where other Anglican bishops have strongly objected to the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

The Nigerian primate, for instance, Archbishop Peter Akinola, condemned the consecration of Robinson as bishop, calling it a “satanic attack on the church of God.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “He even issued a statement on behalf of the ‘Primates of the Global South’ - a group of 20 Anglican primates from Africa, the West Indies, South America, India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia - deploring the action and, along with Uganda and Kenya, formally severed relations with Robinson’s New Hampshire diocese.”

So what makes Ndungane different? He’s the successor to Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, one might recall. And they both grew up in South Africa, where enlightenment values always had a foothold, even during the era of apartheid. Ndungane studied at the liberal English-speaking University of Cape Town, where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy gave a famous speech in 1966.

Ndungane didn’t hear that speech, alas, because he was then imprisoned on Robben Island. But after he was released he decided to enter the church and took two degrees at King’s College, London. The arguments of the struggle against apartheid came from western liberalism - the dignity of the individual, equal and inalienable rights, political liberty, moral autonomy, the rule of law, the pursuit of happiness.

So it’s no surprise that a man steeped in that struggle and educated in the historic home of those ideas would see how they apply in a new struggle, the struggle of gay people for equal rights, dignity, and the pursuit of happiness as they choose.

The South African Anglicans remain in favor of gay marriage. And of course, such church schisms are not new. The Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches in the United States split over slavery. The Methodists and Presbyterians reunited a century later, but the Baptists remain separate bodies.

Posted on January 14, 2016  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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