Searching for a Solution’s Problem

John Cole writes about the direction of health care in America (in response to an entry by Andrew Sullivan).

… Only a fool can not see the writing on the wall- we are going to have to move to single-payer at some point, because businesses can not compete and the largest problem for Detroit is… their health care obligations and other retiree benefits. Likewise, we spend an enormous amount of our GDP on health care yet have rankings that look third world on issues like infant mortality. Something has to give.

I don’t want to play the fool here, because I see that we’re moving to single-payer at some point. That’s the obvious political outcome driven by our unthinking, economically-illiterate public debate. This is a Bad Idea because of the problems everyone is glossing over, particularly those involving rationing.

But that’s not my quibble here. We do not have to move to single-payer. If part of the problem for American business is the cost of health care, the proper step is to separate health care from employment. Single-payer is one route to attempt that, but it is not the only route.

Do we have a national automobile insurance crisis because our employers do not provide subsidized auto insurance? The comparison is weak, as I’m happy to admit. The absurdity is intentional. But it points out that options exist beyond Employer or Government. The incentive system involved in employer-provided health insurance is flawed. We need to move beyond our limited mindset that if someone doesn’t take care of us, we’re all going to die a horrible, uninsured death.

Mr. Cole is more cautious about the possibility of success from that outcome than most, but he uses emotional justifications to support the national undertaking. For example, infant mortality is more complex than just reciting statistics. As the link shows, there are ways to look at the complexities that don’t prove that U.S. infant mortality rates are meaningless as a comparison. But this issue is too big and the outcomes too loaded with consequences to disregard the nuances and uncertainty in favor of a pre-determined solution.

I didn’t like President Obama’s speech.

I’m a bit behind on this, but I didn’t read the transcript of President Obama’s Tuesday speech to Congress until last night. The people who see little starbursts every time the President speaks scare me. Because they’ll listen to that speech and see change. They argue that we finally have an adult in the White House. Probably, but he’s still a politician. That speech was not change. It wasn’t even well written. It was political theater, a giant lie masquerading as the maturity of a statesman. It was drivel.

I pulled many bits out of the speech to highlight, but that review would be too long and too detailed. The general theme is the same from every point, anyway. I narrowed my focus to three passages that I think capture the essence of the charade. First:

In other words, we have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity, where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election.

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by Presidents Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets, not because I believe in bigger government — I don’t — not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited — I am.

What was the deficit spending bill, if not the pursuit of short-term gains? President Obama made a case that he’s investing in the future, but the fear he used to quickly sell it suggests otherwise. Only productive activity puts new money in people’s pockets. The money the government seeks to put into people’s pockets today is money extracted from future productivity. It is borrowed, as our ballooned deficit proves. That is a short-term gain prized over long-term prosperity.

Packed in there is also the lie that President Obama does not believe in bigger government. If he believed that, his speech would’ve been very different. He wouldn’t have asked Congress to join him “in doing whatever proves necessary”. He wouldn’t have promised new ways that government would “rebuild” America. “Remake” would’ve been the accurate word choice. His call is for more government. For example, how else can he square this paragraph with his small government claim?

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we’ve fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

President Obama argues that “the largest effort in history” is how to measure what a country is doing. Forget benchmarks that would clearly show the Chinese much further behind us in modern energy technology. Forget future results from the efforts. It’s the largest effort in history. They must be doing it correctly. He’s shifted the debate to big actions that he will tell us only the government can undertake.

The real clue is the last line. If we make plug-in hybrids, that’s not enough because Koreans are making the batteries. A global economy involves exports and imports. President Obama is making a moral argument that we We should make batteries without making the argument that they They make the batteries less productively than We would make them. Nor does He he make the case that overall production is worse off. If we have a comparative advantage in making batteries, that’s interesting but incomplete. What else would we make if the Koreans freed us from making batteries? Or are the Koreans just supposed to wait for us to make everything and then they can buy our cars with… If we take over the world’s production, what exactly would they pay us with?

President Obama is a politician engaging in populist rhetoric. He shows this again when he gets to taxes.

We will root out — we will root out the waste and fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier. We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

There’s more that follows, and much of it reads as though he’s tacking fantastical lie after fantastical lie to his speech as he thinks of them. But these two paragraphs provide enough insight into his political goal.

First, it’s nonsense to think of jobs as “our jobs”. There’s more to economic success than Us Doing Something. Something has to be more than anything. What are we good at? What are others good at? These are economic questions to be sorted, not political questions to be dictated.

Second, President Obama is surely aware of how the income tax burden is overwhelmingly shouldered by the highest income earners in America. (There is a difference between wealth and income that President Obama ignores.) We have lost our sense of fairness and balance, but taxing the more productive members of society more will further distort the unfair imbalance, not rectify the problem. President Obama is a politician engaging in populist rhetoric.

KipEsquire provides a concise summary of why progressive taxation is inherently unfair, in the context of President Obama’s newly-proposed budget. Matt Welch explains how President Obama contradicted his statemen’s pose with his own words. Cato @ Liberty’s Daniel Ikenson explores a different explanation (e.g. the high tax burden faced by American corporations) for why American companies outsource “our” jobs.

Did you know you’d bought this?

Do you want to want to pay for another man’s circumcision? Too bad:

Top on the Ministry of Health’s five-year strategy is the free circumcision, to be made available in all public health centres.

Sh960 million from the US government has been injected into the project to buy surgical materials, mobilise communities and provide counselling. With a budget of Sh2,000 for each volunteer, the campaign targets 500,000 uncircumcised men in Kenya.

I’m not naive enough to think that men means males who’ve reached an age of consent. But I’ll assume that’s what it means for this story. Given that 500,000 is a very large sample, how many men do you think we’ll pay to develop this attitude?

The Kenyan government launched a campaign to promote male circumcision in 2008, but it has not yet reached most parts of the country. In the northwestern district of Turkana, where the practice is not part of the culture and few have even heard of it, IRIN/PlusNews spoke to Isaac Ikone, 22.

“The government has not yet come here to talk about male circumcision, but I have heard about it from friends. They say it prevents HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. If that’s true, I would definitely go for it so I can remain healthy.

“A while ago a friend and I found out we had the same sexually transmitted disease, and when I began to wonder how that happened, he told me he had slept with a girl I had also slept with in town. He is the one who told me that if we were circumcised, we would not have got sick.

“My girlfriend is still in secondary school and when she is not around I try to abstain from sex, but I’m not always successful. I don’t like condoms; if there is a better way to prevent HIV so that I can enjoy sex skin-to-skin, I will do it.

Yes, it’s anecdotal. It’s also where we end up when we push circumcision as a panacea for genital diseases. Responsible behavior gets lost. And I’m being forced to pay for this, which will ultimately further entrench a human rights violation when it leads to more infant circumcisions.

As it will, because the push for infant circumcision is purposeful. This is from Uganda, but the sentiment is universal:

Most men and women in Uganda support medical male circumcision as a way of lowering HIV risk, and up to 62 percent of uncircumcised men would consider being circumcised, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by Uganda’s Makerere University and Family Health International, which works to promote reproductive health, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development, surveyed 1,675 men and women in four districts; the results were released in the capital, Kampala, in December 2008.

Support for circumcising sons was even greater: almost 100 percent of circumcised men supported the circumcision of their male children, while 59 percent to 77 percent of uncircumcised men were in favour of having their sons circumcised, and between 49 percent and 95 percent of women wanted the procedure performed on their male children. [emphasis added]

I don’t think this is a conspiracy. Those public health officials who ignore what the individuals want probably have good intentions. They’re pursuing it because they know it works. Our government is happily joining the ride.

And what about those children who will be circumcised as a result?

“The purpose of the research was to find out what is on the ground regarding the capacity to conduct medical male circumcision, and its acceptability among the public,” said Dr Alex Opio, assistant commissioner for national disease control. “It was also done to pave the way for developing a policy, because all policies need evidence.”

An opinion poll somehow qualifies as evidence. What the individual wants is irrelevant, subjugated to the opinion of his parents. This is what it looks like to start with an outcome and create the necessary support.

Legislating for All Based on the Extremes

Oklahoma lawmakers think eyeball tattoos are a dangerous menace:

Senate Republican Whip Cliff Branan said, “Kind of a counter culture trend, the same folks may chose to pierce certain body parts, it’s kind of the next level up.”

Senate Bill 844 has unanimously passed through the Health and Human Services Committee. Oklahoma City Senator Cliff Branan says it was brought to him by the Oklahoma Academy of Opthamology. He says it’s becoming more trendy to tattoo eye liner or eye brows, but this goes too far.

“It is completely patently disgusting and crazy to do it. We as a good public health policy we felt it was important to stop that trend before it goes any farther here in the state of Oklahoma,” Sen. Branan described.

In 2006 Oklahoma’s infant male circumcision rate was 72%. Parents in Oklahoma may freely surgically alter their child’s son’s healthy genitals for any reason, and a majority do. That’s acceptable in Oklahoma. But an adult willingly choosing to tattoo his (or her) own eyeball is unacceptable because it is “patently disgusting and crazy”.

Our society is not sane.

Via Nobody’s Business.

Put on Your Editor’s Cap

Imagine you work for Reuters and this study crosses your desk.

Conclusion.The key factor associated with acquisition of HPV was lifetime number of sex partners, whereas circumcision was the most significant determinant for clearance of any HPV infection and oncogenic HPV infection.

You deem that worthy of a write-up. How do you write that up? If you highlighted the greatest risk factor the study identified, you’d be thinking like a responsible journalist. You’d also be unqualified to work at Reuters, apparently, as the story (run by Fox News) shows:

Men who are circumcised may be more protected against persistent infection with the virus that causes genital warts, a new study suggests.

The study, which followed 285 men ages 18 to 44, found that among those who became infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), circumcised men were more likely to have their immune systems “clear” the virus by the end of the 18-month study.

When it came to the risk of acquiring the virus in the first place, the biggest risk factor was having a large number of lifetime sex partners, the researchers report in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The story waits until the third paragraph to present the largest finding, and then it’s only as an afterthought. The key lesson we’re supposed to take is that circumcision appeared to protect men. That’s bias, a conclusion seeking support.

Yet, notice how the article must clarify. The risk is identified “among those who became infected”. Isn’t that a useful key? We know how men (and women) can protect themselves. Don’t sleep with lots of people. Wear a condom. Actions have consequences.

If adult men want to use this study to justify circumcising themselves, I don’t care. I think it’s unnecessary because there are better ways to protect themselves. Someone else might think differently. But that’s not the point of headlines like this. It seeks to push infant circumcision. “See, it has medical benefits,” proponents claim. It’s propaganda wrapped in the appearance of good intentions.

Fiscal Irresponsibility (D-US) replaced Fiscal Irresponsibility (R-US)

And the government-as-parent continues:

President Obama warned the nation’s mayors yesterday that he will hold officials at all levels of government accountable for how they spend federal stimulus money, pledging to “call them out” if the funding is wasted on projects that do not generate jobs for the struggling economy.

Politicians are incapable of being shamed, so this is pointless. There’s also real money involved, so I’m not comforted knowing that waste will be dealt with through stern words. More to the point, this:

“If you’re seeking to simply fund a personal agenda at the expense of creating jobs and using taxpayer money to do it, the president will call that out and stop it,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday. “That’s true for agencies and members of this administration. That’s true for governors. That’s true for mayors. That’s true for anybody that might take part in any amount of this funding.”

How is this an option? The government will spend $800 billion. If we’re to believe that it’s money well spent, then there should already be a plan for every penny. I don’t believe that, of course, but we’re still supposed to trust what is clearly a plan based on the belief that money spent is money well spent. That’s the Keynesianism we’re stupidly embracing. And the Obama administration is saying that we have to spend the money without extended consideration, but if it’s not spent well, he’ll call out those responsible. The one person out of his line of ire is himself. An accident, I’m sure.


This popped up today, tying uncomfortably to the previous story:

Less than a week after signing the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history, President Obama is turning his attention to the nation’s long-term financial condition with an unprecedented effort to rein in government spending.

To kick off the effort, the new president has invited about 130 people to the White House State Dining Room on Monday for a “fiscal responsibility” summit, a marathon session on long-term budget-busters such as Social Security, Medicare, federal purchasing and tax policy.

Perhaps the time to do that was before shoving $800 billion out of the Treasury as quickly as possible. But it’s okay, a room full of partisans should be able to hammer out their differences in a marathon session. We’ll be saved!


On a less comforting note, I’m starting to sense that press secretary Robert Gibbs, at least, views President Obama as an economic dictator. I am not reassured.

The Bully With the Guns Always Wins

CNBC reporter Rick Santelli gave an inspired rant in response to the Obama housing plan I criticized here. It was a masterpiece, as you can see in the video at the end of this entry. The Obama administration disagrees:

Apparently someone in the White House was. In response, Gibbs attacked Santelli by name repeatedly at a news briefing, accusing him of not reading the president’s housing plan and mocking the former derivatives trader as an ineffective spokesman for the little guy.

“I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives,” Gibbs told reporters in a derisive tone. “Mr. Santelli has argued — I think quite wrongly — that this plan won’t help everyone. This plan will help . . . drive down mortgage rates for millions of Americans.”

Later, Gibbs added: “I would encourage him to read the president’s plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows. I’d be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee, decaf.”

I have two responses. First, Gibbs should not be engaging in this type of rhetoric. Obama is President of the United States, not just President of the United States’ Economically Illiterate. He – and his representatives – should refrain from behaving in this manner. It’s possible to disagree without mockery.

Second, if the President’s plan insists on the 1.05 mortgage-to-market-value ratio requirement, he’s right that it will not help most speculators. However, as I wrote earlier this week, it won’t help anyone other than those not in distress. I don’t concede that we should help those in distress, but if we should, the people who qualify for the President’s plan offer the least bang for the national buck. Forget politics, that’s bad policy.


Video link via Kip’s tweet.

Clarifying Circumcision Facts, Part 1

I’ve been in an on-and-off circumcision debate on Twitter recently with an individual named NotStyro. (My Twitter link.) I find the debate useful because I find his responses inadequate. However, 140 characters isn’t enough to debunk the flaws in the link he typically provides. I have a different qualm, but first, a representative tweet from NotStyro on the subject.

just to inform, not debate… [link redacted] …let me know if you would like more information

I find this understandable within the limitations of Twitter, but unsatisfactory overall because the site he links makes this offer:

Why should you consider circumcision ?

With the anti-circumcision propaganda on the net, consider the following facts:

If parents will make a choice (that isn’t ethically theirs), I want more than a list of seven facts of questionable legitimacy. To the extent these facts are facts, they still do not support what NotStyro recently promised a father questioning his son’s pending circumcision to go forward with the surgery:

… he’ll appreciate your decision later in life.

As he’s been in our debate, NotStyro is indifferent to the reality that men, including me, do not appreciate that decision by our parents. This is our fundamental disagreement. I demand only that each individual retain the choice to decide about his body. NotStyro argues differently. But we can’t get to it until we agree on facts.

There’s too much information in his link for one post, so I’m going to break this up into its logical parts. The list NotStyro links to has seven items. Each item will get an entry. Once I’ve posted an entry, feel free to debate (i.e. defend) a position. No e-mail or web address is necessary to comment. I’m establishing only one rule beyond normal etiquette: inappropriate links will be deleted. Most links will stay if they’re defended. (No canned answers, please; address the items from the list.) But I will not allow a direct link to the list of seven items under any circumstance. The site is a pro-circumcision fetish site, complete with circumcision fiction. I will not promote it. If you must visit it (NSFW), follow the link through NotStyro’s tweet above. Anyone may participate, of course. To NotStyro directly, I’m asking for more information.

On to item #1:

1. The foreskin increases the risk of male and female infections.

  • ‘Current new-born circumcision may be considered a preventative health measure analogous to immunisation in that side effects and complications are immediate and usually minor, but benefits accrue for a lifetime’

“May be considered” is a claim, not a fact. Nor is infant male circumcision analogous to immunization. The threats are distinct. Unvaccinated, I could catch measles by simply going out in public. I am not going to become HIV-positive without specific sexual behavior I can control, regardless of whether or not I have my foreskin.

There is a further complication to the comparison. The recent, actively-touted studies looked only at female-to-male HIV transmission. This is the least common transmission among those involving men. For example:

Female-to-male HIV infection was not observed in long term stable monogamous relationships. These results emphasize the relative uni-directionality of heterosexual transmission in non-promiscuous couples.

That suggests what we already know. HIV is transmitted through promiscuous, unprotected sex. Pretending that circumcision is a significant benefit when neither of those conditions exists is wishful thinking. Circumcised or not, if an individual behaves recklessly, there are consequences. That is the lesson. Parents will be more successful at keeping their sons (and daughters) safe from HIV if they teach them about responsible sexual behavior. No medical expert proposes that circumcised men may now ignore condoms. Circumcision is superfluous and unnecessary. This is particularly true in the United States, where HIV infections result primarily from IV drug use and male-to-male transmission. Circumcision is irrelevant to the former and ineffective to the latter.

The rest of the claim is questionable, as well. Minor complication is subjective, as determined by the victim. You may think a skin tag is “minor”; I would not. I prefer to think of complications as treatable and not treatable. In this case, yes, most complications are treatable. That raises the obvious ethical question of imposing surgical risk on a non-consenting, healthy individual, which I will save for another post in this series.

But what about those complications that are not treatable? These can be lesser problems such as tight, painful erections. If we move up the spectrum, we can discuss males who lose portions or all of their glans. Are we still in the territory of “minor”? What if we go to the extreme, death. It happens. I won’t pretend it happens often, but how many times may it happen before we suggest that maybe healthy boys dying from by-definition unnecessary surgery is unacceptable? The lack of medical need demands the answer be 0. It isn’t, which demonstrates that we do not rely on facts when circumcising healthy infant males.

Continuing from the list:

  • Circumcision reduces the risk of vaginal infections.

Probably, based on some of the studies I reviewed. If, of course, the results were properly controlled and the results are transferrable to industrialized nations. Maybe, maybe not, but I’ll concede the point for argument’s sake. This is a factual claim. So what?

The underlying issue here is the ethical flaw. It is unethical to alter a non-consenting individual’s body to reduce the risk that his future partners – if he is heterosexual – will suffer vaginal infections. That is a decision for him to make. He may include his female partners in the decision-making process. But that is within only his discretion. All else is a speculative guess. A speculative guess involving another’s healthy body is indefensible, even if his parents make the speculative guess.

To put it in perspective, a male can’t cause vaginal infections if we prohibit him from having sex with women. He can’t cause vaginal infections if we remove his entire penis. These are extreme, ridiculous hypotheticals. But they demonstrate that just because we can do something does not mean we should. There is more involved in permitting parental proxy decisions than just the fact that Action X generates Result Y.

Whether or not this generates a debate, and how long that debate transpires, will determine when part 2 appears. I will continue the series, regardless.

Laissez-Faire Capitalism can’t fail before we try it.

I’ve never felt inferior because I earned my MBA from a school ranked lower than 13th. This Forbes essay by Nouriel Roubini, a professor of economics at NYU’s Stern Business School, reminds me to continue that confidence. After a rundown of recent economic facts, Professor Roubini states:

This severe economic and financial crisis is now also leading to a severe backlash against financial globalization, free trade and the free-market economic model.

I’ll interrupt here to say that I agree with this statement, although those lashing out are ignorant of what they rebuke. That includes Professor Roubini, who next states:

To paraphrase Churchill, capitalist market economies open to trade and financial flows may be the worst economic regime–apart from the alternatives. However, while this crisis does not imply the end of market-economy capitalism, it has shown the failure of a particular model of capitalism. Namely, the laissez-faire, unregulated (or aggressively deregulated), Wild West model of free market capitalism with lack of prudential regulation, supervision of financial markets and proper provision of public goods by governments.

I have two words for Professor Roubini: Sarbanes-Oxley.

Having Enron and WorldCom go bankrupt, with the accompanying loss of shareholder investment, is the free market. Having executives go to jail is regulation. As a libertarian I am not reflexively against regulations that make the market more transparent. Regulations have unintended, often negative consequences, as Professor Roubini quickly glosses over, yet I don’t consider the idea of the SEC an abomination. But to pretend that we are in some Wild West model of capitalism suggests two conclusions: Either Professor Roubini is incompetent, or he’s engaging in hyperbolic nonsense bordering on propaganda.

I’m betting on the latter:

It is clear that the Anglo-Saxon model of supervision and regulation of the financial system has failed. It relied on several factors: self-regulation that, in effect, meant no regulation; market discipline that does not exist when there is euphoria and irrational exuberance; and internal risk-management models that fail because, as a former chief executive of Citigroup put it, when the music is playing, you’ve got to stand up and dance.

The “Anglo-Saxon” model of supervision and regulation is hardly self-regulation. If the free market has failed, how can we explain the massive unwinding of the complex, poorly designed mortgage securitization market? People who invested unwisely and often ignorantly are being punished through the loss of their wealth. Does Professor Roubini believe the mortgage securitization will reappear anytime soon without new regulations to control it? Pain is a powerful motivator. The market is working exactly as it should be, except Congress and the President are determined to reduce the pain of those who made mistakes, intentional and unintentional. Incentives matter. Regulation skews incentives. We ignore that at our own peril.

Going back to Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), I deal with it as a financial software consultant. It drives me insane with the ridiculousness it requires. It is a burden with very little obvious benefit. Every decision we make must run through the SOX team. Every mistake must be documented in detail to verify that it was an honest mistake rather than an attempt at deception. Something as trivial as having extra, unintended access to the financial system must be documented in detail beyond the logs clearly showing the user ID never accessed the system. It’s a Chicken Little response that makes politicians feel proud for Doing Something, but the regulation actively diminishes productivity. And it assumes every accountant is a criminal.

Our modern day Wild West exists only in the halls of Congress.

The Promise and Spectre of Liberaltarianism

In a comment to yesterday’s post on liberaltarianism, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen’s Mark suggests that I may not grasp the full purpose of the proposed alliance. This is possible, since there’s much dialogue right now about it that I haven’t read. But I don’t think so, as I’ll try to explain.

He’s right to challenge me, though, because I should delve deeper into the topic. This is the only possible alliance in the near-term political future for libertarians. I’d accept it as a practical step to something better than we have now, if I thought it would be successful. I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, which is part of the reason I’m not an anarcho-capitalist. But I don’t think it would be successful. Maybe I’ve let my natural skepticism slide too far into cynicism?

I think Mark and I agree that libertarianism is distinct from both liberalism and conservatism as we know it today, and that modern liberalism is closer to libertarianism than modern conservatism. This point seems obvious, although I wonder whether liberals would agree if they thought about it. And I don’t think liberals will treat a potential alliance the way libertarians would. I don’t mean to imply that libertarians are more noble, but in an alliance, liberals have political power and libertarians mostly don’t. Liberals would have to cede some power to libertarians. I don’t see that happening.

Sure, it makes sense for liberals in the long-term if we’re correct that libertarians are a powerful voting bloc with good ideas. I want to leave aside the question of whether or not we are a powerful voting bloc for this; I’ll assume we are and that liberals agree. I don’t think they’ll conclude we’re right in ideas because there are legitimate philosophical differences. Do libertarians give up the individual or do liberals give up the collective? Who concedes? That’s a dead-end to me.

In the short term, I think the prospects are worse. Liberals have the White House and Congress. They don’t need us. Just as Republicans demonstrated during the middle (and latter) part of the Bush years, partisanship almost guarantees arrogance when one’s party has control of both. Liberals are already showing signs of this. It takes a principled statesman to overcome that. I don’t need to question principles to suggest that our politicians aren’t statesmen in that way. Partisanship corrupts principle, so until we have a more diverse party system, liberals have a party identity and we don’t. (We mostly don’t want one, of course, which exacerbates the problem.)

I don’t think liberals want to go back to their classical liberal roots. And, although we have more in common with today’s liberals, libertarians should’ve learned from the ongoing death spiral of the Republican Party that being a pawn will not advance our position to any worthwhile degree.

That is not to say that Mark’s purpose is flawed. In this recent post he states:

Simply put, the promise of liberaltarianism is that it can help to build a libertarianism that is more true to its classically liberal roots. …

If the call is for ways to shed some of the modern Right’s infection into libertarian thinking, yes, I’m behind that. Primarily I’m thinking of the paleolibertarian and the false promise of Ron Paul. That needs to go, and quickly. Liberty is more than just being able to buy an unregistered gun.

But, again, I don’t think looking to liberals will be successful. Mark offers an example:

So where are some of the areas where libertarianism has been corrupted by its affiliation with the political Right? One area is in what tends to be our reflexive opposition to labor unions; there is a false assumption that labor unions exist virtually entirely because of government intervention and that they are therefore inherently coercive. …

To an extent I am guilty of this. But when I think about my opposition, it’s not to unionization. That process is structurally unsound in the 21st century, but the ability of people to freely organize is within my concept of liberty. Voluntary associations I don’t like shouldn’t be a problem if they don’t harm me. The idea of a union fits that.

The reality, however, is different. My problem with looking to liberals as we reevaluate our reflexive opposition starts and ends with card check. It’s want thing to encourage free association and another to legislate the form. Modern liberals do not seem to want unions to be voluntary associations. Am I going to find common economic ground with someone who supports the Employee Free Choice Act?

Mark seems to agree, because he writes:

The trouble with all of these blind spots is that they largely leave libertarians on the sidelines when it comes to debate on relevant issues, reduced to more or less relaying the plays called by the political Right. So, instead of arguing for at least a partial repeal of Taft-Hartley, which would actually advance libertarian ends, as an alternative to EFCA (which really is a terrible law from a libertarian standpoint), we are reduced to union-bashing, resisting EFCA (and thereby neither advancing nor hurting the cause of individual liberty) without offering any kind of alternative.

This is where I think the issue rests. How do we as libertarians stop hindering our chances for eventual success? Project management isn’t Step 1, start, Step 2, finish. Right now, we’re behaving more like Underpants Gnomes than political tacticians. So, yeah, we have work to do. Whatever we propose as Step 2, will liberals agree to negotiate? Again, why should they?

In short, we need to scrub the anti-liberty nonsense from libertarianism by challenging those who spew it. While we accomplish that, if it can be accomplished, we need better marketing ideas. We need to offer constructive solutions, as Mark did with Taft-Hartley and EFCA. We need to sell our vision. That’s Step 2, not an alliance with people who don’t share that vision. This makes our task harder, but it has a chance of success.