Peter Klein
October 29, 2012

My old friend Bob Prasch urges his fellow progressives to dump Obama. Good for him. Libertarians and libertarian conservatives can certainly recognize this song:

The fact is that the Obama Administration, like the Clinton Administration before it, knowingly engaged in a cynical wager.  They bet that they could pursue a host of policies fundamentally odious to their core supporters and yet be reelected.  The calculation depended on the premise that rank-and-file Democrats would have no other option.  Unsurprisingly, the Obama Administration and its surrogates have invested considerable time and energy convincing its former supporters that there is no option.

Anyone who has ever gone shopping knows that their bargaining power depends ultimately upon his/her willingness to walk away.  The ability to walk away explains why the service we get from our local dry cleaner is significantly better than what most of us get from our local cable provider.  When you have a choice, and demonstrate a willing to take that choice, you become empowered as consumer. . . . Right now, a deeply cynical reelection campaign is betting that progressives will be too afraid of Romney to seek to empower themselves.  This, let us remember, has been the strategy pursued by an increasingly right-wing Democratic National Committee for close to thirty years.  Every four years we are asked to vote for the lesser evil.  In a couple of weeks we will all learn if this plea will pay off again.  The question is, will we learn?  Will we learn to bargain with a faithless leadership of the Democratic Party?  If not this election, then when?

In contrast, some libertarians continue to insist that libertarians should support Romney. Consider this piece from Bradley Smith, who sees Romney not as the lesser of evils, but as a pretty good choice. Smith often privileges Romney’s tone and style over the substance of his policies; e.g., despite his enthusiastic China bashing, Romney “seems to clearly have the soul of a free trader.” Reminds me of Woody Allen’s line that he got a zero on his philosophy test for “peering into the soul of the boy next to me.” I’ll take reality, please! Smith doesn’t mention what I see as the only possible advantage of Romney, namely the small chance that he might replace Bernanke with John Taylor. And he glosses over the fact that Romney’s foreign-policy team is dominated by the messianic necons who brought us the Iraq war (although Smith, who cites Romney’s “better understanding of the nature of radical Islam,” may see this is a plus).

The most worrisome aspect of a Romney presidency, in my view, is that he will be like Reagan, using libertarian-sounding rhetoric to mask fundamentally anti-libertarian policies, thus discrediting libertarian ideas in the public mind. At least Obama uses the rhetoric of socialism and interventionism so people can understand more clearly what they’re getting.

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