Tag Archives: politics

Conventions Cost Taxpayers Up to $136 Million

Neither party has much to offer, but they do have a lot to take. And so it appears that their nominating conventions this week and next will cost taxpayers as much as $136 million.

Voters have known for a while who the candidates will be, and most have already made up their minds, defeating two of the three reasons to have a convention in the first place.

The third, party solidarity, is important. A party with low morale and little enthusiasm isn’t going to do well in the polls. But independents like this writer shouldn’t be on the hook for the political equivalent of trust fall exercises. Nor should Democrats be paying for the GOP’s convention, and vice versa.


Why Does Santorum Oppose Cross-Party Voting?

I don’t often play political analyst. I’m more interested in actual policy issues, and I don’t prefer one party over the other. But it’s fun to do now and then. So here’s why I think Rick Santorum is wrong to oppose open primaries that states like Michigan have.

In an open primary, people don’t have to be Republicans to vote in a Republican primary. Independents and Democrats can vote, too. Closed primaries exclude non-party members from voting in a given party’s primary.

Rick Santorum’s goal is to win the GOP’s presidential nomination. He will not be getting this blog’s endorsement, to understate the case. But I’ll give him some free advice anyway.

Santorum’s social issue stances are, to be polite, polarizing. That makes him an easy general election kill; he doesn’t appeal to independents or Democrats. That gives independents, and especially Democrats, an incentive to vote for Santorum in the primaries, at least in open-primary states where the rules allow it. A Santorum-Obama contest will probably end in Obama’s favor.

So if Santorum wants the nomination, and at least a small shot at the White House, he should court hostile voters in open-primary states like Michigan.

Romney, for his many faults, probably has the best shot of winning a general election of anyone in the GOP field. That means Democrats want him to lose, and someone polarizing like Santorum to win. They’ll turn out for Santorum, if only he’d ask them to. That’s probably his best shot at winning something most people would rather he wouldn’t.

It’s a cynical strategy. Then again, politics is nothing if not applied cynicism.

UPDATE: Looks like the Santorum campaign didn’t need any prompting from me. Turns out they’ve been doing robocalls.

State of the Union Wrap-Up

I’ll post the full text of tonight’s live-blog sometime tomorrow.

Until then, here’s my one-sentence reaction: Bush’s third term continues.

Mises on Political Parties

With a fiercely partisan election just over a month away, the concluding paragraph of Ludwig von Mises’ Liberalism is a refreshing rejection of party politics. Mises, of course, uses liberalism in the original sense of the word:

No sect and no political party has believed that it could afford to forgo advancing its cause by appealing to men’s senses. Rhetorical bombast, music and song resound, banners wave, flowers and colors serve as symbols, and the leaders seek to attach their followers to their own person. Liberalism has nothing to do with all this. It has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory.

-Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism: The Classical Tradtion, p. 151.

Bill to Regulate Political Speech Fails

The Hill:”Senate fails to advance campaign finance bill

The First Amendment: “Congress shall pass no law… abridging the freedom of speech.”

Good news for anyone who wants to engage in political speech. But how sad that this happened because of politics, not principle.

It was mostly Democrats who favored the DISCLOSE Act. And according to today’s Senate vote, it was only Democrats who favored the bill. But Republicans are no heroes on this issue. Don’t believe their posturing. If the political winds were currently favoring Democrats, Republicans would be working their tails off to pass similar legislation.

The primary effect of campaign finance regulation is to stack the rules of the game in favor of incumbents. Both parties know this. And both parties will seek to use campaign finance regulation to their advantage however they can.

Political Wisdom

“The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”

-Adlai Stevenson

Regulation of the Day 134: Not Voting

The lede to this Denver Post article says it all:

RIDGWAY — Residents of this Old West- meets-New Age town can be fined if their fences are too high, they have too many chickens, their dogs aren’t on leashes or their weeds are out of control.

Tom Hennessy would like to add not voting to that list.

There are three things wrong with Mr. Hennessy’s proposed regulation. One is that mandatory voting is a violation of personal freedom. To vote or not is an important choice that people make for themselves. It is not Mr. Hennessy’s place to make that decision for others. Many countries have tried mandatory voting over the years, most notably the Soviet Union.

The second thing wrong with mandatory voting is that it violates freedom of speech. Mr. Hennessy is aware that compelled speech is just as unconstitutional as censored speech. That’s why he proposes a “none of the above” option on ballots. But some people are sending a deliberate message when they choose not to vote. Mr. Hennessy would fine them for sending that message.

The third point is that, maybe, some people shouldn’t vote. If I step into a voting booth not knowing a thing about the candidates or the issues, I am essentially choosing at random. And choosing wrong means voting against everything I stand for.

Even worse, human beings have built-in cognitive biases that affect their voting habits. Economist Bryan Caplan’s book The Myth of the Rational Voter identifies anti-foreign bias, anti-market bias, make-work bias, and pessimistic bias, for starters.

Even relatively informed voters fall prey to these biases. They vote accordingly. The difference of opinion between economists and the general public on economic issues is startling. Nobody argues relativity with a physicist thinking they’ll win. But voters from both parties argue against the laws of economics every election, often in error but never in doubt.

Despite its flaws, democracy has worked tolerably well in this country for a long time. Perhaps the best part of our particular democracy is that people are free to choose their level of engagement with it. That should be your choice. Not Tom Hennessy’s.

(Full disclosure: CEI takes no stance on whether to vote, or for whom. Neither do I. I personally have not voted since 2002, but seriously consider it every year.)