Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jimmy Carter: A fine libertarian president?

Jim Henley's claim that President Jimmy Carter could be termed a good "libertarian president" seems too interesting to be buried in a comment thread, so I'm pointing to it here.

Henley, who blogs at Unqualified Offerings, claimed in a Reason Hit and Run comment thread that Carter was "the greatest libertarian president in living memory."

Challenged on that assertion, Henley wrote, "I'm at least half serious. Carter deregulated trucking and air travel, two moves which have had more lasting economic benefit than just about anything else that happened in the last quarter of the 20th Century - except possibly allowing Paul Volcker, at enormous political cost to the incumbent president, to tighten money enough to kill core inflation until Dubya began his LBJ imitation (running phony wars on phony money). Of course, that was Carter too. Plus, to coin a phrase, He Kept Us Out of War. Not a bad record for a guy who had the bad fortune to become President when the bills for Johnsonism and Nixonism couldn't be stretched out any longer.

"On the other hand, Carter made a speech once wearing a sweater, and Nick Gillespie vaguely remembers hating him, so it totally makes sense to discount the massive good he did the country in trying circumstances."

I take it that under this formulation, Carter gave the country the Paul Volcker medicine, and Reagan reaped the reward. Reagan was not a libertarian in many ways, but he did cut taxes and help created Individual Retirement Accounts.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Walton reacts to her Prometheus

Author Jo Walton, author of the Prometheus Award winning novel "Ha'Penny," has reacted to the victory on her blog.

"I'm delighted, amused and honoured to announce that Ha'Penny has won the Prometheus Award -- actually, it's better than that, because it's co-won with Harry Turtledove's The Gladiator and you can't imagine how lovely it is to co-win something with a splendid book by an author you've loved for years," she writes.

She adds, "I'm amused because of all my online arguments with Libertarians. I am so not a Libertarian. Ask [info]zsero. But I am anti-authoritarian and I suppose I have written a book about the moral corruption of an authoritarian society, and if they think that's good enough to give me an ounce of gold (an ounce of gold, how cool is that?) then good for them. As they've given it to Ken MacLeod and Charlie Stross before, they're obviously looking at the book, not the author."

The insistence that she's not a Libertarian (she also noted that when she was nominated) seems odd; as she herself notes, the award lately has gone to other non-Libertarians such as MacLeod and Stross.

Perhaps people haven't noticed yet that the nature of the award has changed a bit over the years. If you look at the list of winners posted by the Libertarian Futurist Society, the earlier awards tended to go to doctrinaire libertarian writers such as L. Neil Smith, J. Neil Schulman and Victor Milan. That seems to occur less often in the last few years. I can't comment on whether there has been shift in the quality of the award-winners, as I haven't read enough of them; one of my reading projects this year will be to read as many past Prometheus Award winners as possible.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Walton, Turtledove win Prometheus

For the first time since the award was created, the Prometheus Award for best novel is a tie. Jo Walton's "Ha'Penny" and Harry Turtledove's "The Gladiator" will share the award at the Worldcon in Denver. Members of the Libertarian Futurist Society just got the announcement via e-mail, so this is breaking news.

"A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess won the Hall of Fame Awards.

I'm really pleased by the news. I voted Walton to win, MacLeod in second place and Turtledove in third. (See this posting.) I thought "Ha'Penny" was brilliant. My review of it will appear soon in the Prometheus Society's fanzine.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama: The Libertarian case weakens

Back on March 10, I noted that more than one Libertarian had been arguing that Sen. Obama is worth supporting this fall. More specifically, I paraphrased four points made by Scott Flanders, the CEO for Freedom Newspapers (a libertarian newspaper chain.) As quoted by Reason magazine from a dispatch in the Orange County Register, Flanders said Obama supports four key libertarian reforms (1) getting out of Iraq, (2) restoring the separation of church and state , (3) easing enforcement of victimless crime laws, such as the laws against illegal drugs and (4) curtailing the Patriot Act.

Two of the four points Flanders cited aren't looking so good these days. Obama's support for civil liberties doesn't seem very firm after he promised to filbuster against telecom immunity and then reversed course to support the FISA bill.

Church and state separation doesn't look like such a firm plank in the libertarians-for-Obama program, either. Obama has announced he supports actually expanding the practice of giving tax money to "faith-based" organizations. Given that the Democrats have a more diverse religious base than the Republicans, look for an Obama administration to shovel out tax money to a mosque and Scientology center near you, as well as to churches.

As the weeks pass, a vote for Bob Barr is looking better and better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

An argument for Bob Barr

Over at Unqualified Offerings, the fellow who posts as "Thoreau" has been doing a series of fine,
angry rants over Obama's sellout on the FISA bill. (If you haven't kept up, Obama promised to filibuster the bill if it included amnesty for the telecoms that broke the law, then broke his promise by supporting a bill that does include amnesty.)

In his latest post, Thoreau asks, referring to Obama "So, can somebody make a case for him, on his merits, that doesn’t involve “Look! Over there! John McCain!”? I’m not looking for libertarian or civil libertarian purity tests here. I’m looking for basic stuff: Evidence that he will support habeas corpus, oppose torture, oppose warrantless wiretaps, and end the war. You can say that these are unrealistically high hurdles to cross, but that’s f**king pathetic. If we are in a situation where even those very basic items are too much to ask for then I’m sitting it out. You can tell me that I’m only making it worse by doing so, but I maintain that once you reach that point the thing is basically on autopilot. It might not be at the bottom yet, but it’s heading there, and there’s no way to apply the brakes."

Isn't this an argument to support Bob Barr? I know there's a lot not to like about Barr: His immigration stance, his grab for Southern conservative votes by issuing a statement praising Jesse Helms, his claim that global warming is just a "hoax." But on the two issues that matter to me — civil liberties and the war — he seems to be solid.

Monday, July 07, 2008

RIP Tom Disch

I seem to be losing a lot of my favorite writers this year -- first Arthur C. Clark, now Tom Disch, who died, as a suicide, on July 4. A good blog entry by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, with comments from various SF writers, is available here.

I only read a couple of Disch's novels (I liked ON WINGS OF SONG, didn't care for 334 very much), but I read a couple of his short story collections and also had some of his books of poetry.

I only met Disch once, at a SF convention in Norman, Oklahoma. (Disch was the toastmaster, and Gene Wolfe was the guest of honor. How's that for a small convention in Oklahoma in the 1980s?) I told him that I liked his poems, referring to several by name. He seemed to be pleased to hear about his poetry being read (probably not a common experience at SF conventions) and invited my friends and I up to his room for a drink. I remember that he had a partially-read paperback copy of NEUROMANCER laying by his bed.