Posts tagged Bob Barr

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I noticed this recently in an ad on reason‘s website.

Here's an image of the cover of Bob Barr's campaign book, called 'Patriot Nation', featuring Bob Barr in front of a background completely filled with the U.S. government's flag.

If you want a brief illustration of just about everything that was wrong about the late, unlamented miserable failure of the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential ticket, well, here’s a start.

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Contrarium sequitur

In logic, a non sequitur is the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which does not logically follow from the premises.

Usually when somebody commits a non sequitur, it happens because the conclusion somehow seemed to follow from the premises even though it does not — for example, if it follows only when some controversial but not-yet-mentioned auxiliary premises are added to the premises already on the table, or if the conclusion follows from a distinct claim which has been confused with the claims that the premises actually made.

But life and politics being what they are, sometimes a label like non sequitur just isn’t enough. For example, there’s an extremely common argument, supposedly a refutation of anarchism, which holds that anarchism may be ideal for a society of angels, but that, in the real world, people are nasty and untrustworthy and will relentlessly exploit and violate each other given half the chance. The conclusion the statist then expects us to draw from these premises is that we should all agree to give a small handful of these admittedly nasty and untrustworthy creeps monopoly power to force their will on other people without any significant outside constraints from the rest of the populace (!). Or consider Naomi Klein’s repeated recent efforts to point to the failures and massive government violence against free association and peaceable assembly that attend government outsourcing, government transfers of forcibly expropriated resources to legally-privileged monopolists, and other forms of government-backed privateering — and then to use these as evidence for an indictment of those who argue that the government should keep out of people’s peaceful economic arrangements (!).

In cases like these, just pointing out that the conclusion fails to follow from the premises is not really enough here. I’d like to suggest a new name for a certain sub-set: the contrarium sequitur, or perhaps contra-sequitur for short. It’s the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which is exactly the opposite of the conclusion you ought to draw from the given premises.

Examples aren’t hard to find in this modern world. Consider, for another example, the recent miserable failure of the Barr/W.A.R. ticket.

The Libertarian Party leadership hamhandedly foisted Bob Barr and his crew on the party because, as they saw it, the things holding the Libertarian Party back are the fact that many libertarians don’t have much practical experience in electoral politics, and the common perception that libertarians are weird, kooky, or extremist in their positions. So instead they decided to try a new tack of nominating non-libertarians. Their favorite, ex-Congressman Bob Barr, promised that, what with the benefit of his political experience, and with his attempt to repackage watered-down libertarian and smaller-government conservative views as mainstream, he’d be able to deliver millions of votes and tens of millions of dollars in fundraising. Of course, even if he had gotten that, his Presidential campaign still would have been a miserable failure, but a bit less miserable than the past several miserable failures by LP Presidential candidates, which in the world of LP internal politics counts as something like success. But, be that as it may, when it came down to it, Barr made no significant fundraising inroads and picked up just over 500,000 votes out of about 126,000,000 votes cast, coming in at 0.40% of the popular vote. That makes his miserable failure even more miserable than the miserable failures of Ed Clark in 1980 (1.06%), Ron Paul in 1988 (0.47%), and Harry Browne in 1996 (0.51%).

Thus, Barr, the mainstream libertarian and professional conservative politician, failed even more miserably than a gold-bug politician who ran on abolishing the Federal Reserve and unilaterally withdrawing the U.S. from the Cold War, and who took time out of his campaign to give long interviews about the Trilateral Commission and the secret manipulations of the international bankers. And both of them failed even more miserably than an investment consultant whose main campaign planks were to completely abolish the IRS and to use the presidential pardon to immediately release nonviolent heroin and crack users from prison, and who spent the 1970s publishing self-help books about tax evasion, his unconventional sex life, and defending against invasion under libertarian anarchism.

When this miserable failure is pointed out, the response from the political realists and the Barrbarians has been to insist that libertarians need to do even more to sacrifice radical appeals in favor of making mainstream pitches and attracting professional politicians:

We can (and will, undoubtedly) yammer endlessly on about how and why Barr failed, but what did (and always will) infuriate me was that a pragmatic approach was asked for one friggin’ time, once!, and we couldn’t get the Church Members to stop howling long enough to give it a shot.

The Angry Optimist, comment on Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 3:40pm

The LP needs to start marketing and building the party. Part of this means they have to stop with their purity litmus tests. Stop scaring off voters by insisting on the right to own nukes. Sheesh. While I myself may be a radical minarchist, I am not so naive as to believe that anarchists/minarchists will ever be a sizable minority. But we can get significant buy-in on smaller less intrusive government. Let’s aim for that goalpost for a while…

Brandybuck, comment on Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 3:57pm

The Libertarian Party is a joke, and libertines are its jesters. It’s fun to navel gaze from the comfort of the parents basement, but out in the real world politics are the art of compromise.

ellipsis, comment on Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 3:58pm

The Libertarian Party insists on doctrinal purity and has no plans to open its tent. Given that reality, people who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal will continue to stick with the major parties. The LP doesn’t really represent them anyway. Until the LP becomes practical and realistic, it will remain a protest party. Having seen the last convention, it looks like a reasonable LP ticket is impossible, and as such, a strategy focusing on a few Congressional seats also seems unlikely.

— Lamar,Where the Libertarian Party Went Wrong, 17 November 2008, 4:26pm

Or, for another example of the contra-sequitur, consider this recent exchange at The Distributed Republic, where Kyle Eliason objects to some common feminist claims about male dominance in conventional heterosexual relationships, and insists that forcable [sic] rape is the only time women don’t control sex. When challenged, the evidence he uses to defend his claim that women, not men, control sex is that in his experience lots more women than men complain that they’ve been pressured into having sex when they don’t want to:

[How Many Men] Have you heard complain that a woman was pressuring them into having sex too soon or that a woman was just using them for sex?

— Kyle Eliason, comment on Where Do I Join the Women Approach Men At Bars Feminist Coalition?, 29 October 2008, 9:24

What does it say about the state of our society, and public debate, that you really need a name with which to pick out contra-sequiturs? Well. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

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Strategery for the post-Bush era #2


First, (re-)read Shawn Wilbur’s excellent post from September, Time to free ALL the political prisoners. Also, the discussion on part Strategery for the post-Bush era part 1, and The Empire is Not American, But Washingtonian, and Beyond Blockades. Now, let’s brainstorm.

By the day after tomorrow, we will know something about what regime we’ll be facing for the next four years. Electoral politics are weird, and anything could still happen. But the chances are very good at this point that, a few months from now, (1) the Bush administration will be gone, (2) the Democratic Party will hold even larger majorities in the House and the Senate, and (3) it’s likely, although by no means certain, that there will be Democratic President and administration headed by Barack Obama. This after 6 years of trying to get by under a Republican-dominated government, and 2 years of divided government, which has largely maintained the status quo without any challenge or change. Or, less likely but certainly possible, that there will be a divided government, with both houses held by large Democratic majorities, and with the Presidency in the hands of John McCain. Whatever the case may be, the process of transition and of setting the tone will begin the day after tomorrow when the election results are finalized.

Meanwhile, among movement libertarians, there have been some significant shifts as the Bush era draws to a close. Chairman Ron’s Great Libertarian Electoral Revolution has dissolved, but there are remnant groups remaining. Most of those who have not simply dropped out of electoral politics or returned to their favorite evil of two lessers, seem to have either (re-)joined the LP or launched into an almost certainly futile crusades to take over their local Republican Party aparat. Meanwhile, in the Libertarian Party, the Barr/W.A.R. ticket has successfully marked the take-over and rebranding of the Party, with the express invitation and encouragement of an opportunistic and easily-awed leadership, by small-government conservative exiles from the fracturing Republican party. The election results (i.e., whether the LP’s inevitable miserable failure at the polls turns out to be a little less miserable or a little more miserable than its usual 0.25%-0.5% performance) will probably play some role in determining whether or not this rebranding is consolidated or not over the next few years. On the other hand, alleged political pragmatists are in leadership positions and are, as a rule, immunized against any empirical falsification of their views (if the LP does better, it’ll be taken as proof that the strategy worked; if it does worse, it’ll be taken as proof that they needed even more of the same). So, depending on the breaks, the LP may be stuck with more ridiculous conservative tools at the top of the ticket for some time to come. But if it is not, then the LP’s future may well be marked by left-sympathetic radicals like Mary Ruwart. A lot will turn on the usual weirdness of LP internal politics, and on what happens in the immediate aftermath of the election, starting, again, the day after tomorrow.

The most important point to make about the upcoming electoral coup is that, even if there is a massive change-over in the balance of power in Washington, D.C., it won’t change much of anything fundamental. There will be shifts on the margins — some for good, some for ill, and most of them neutral shifts of patronage and privileges from one set of power-brokers to another set of power-brokers. Whatever may be the case, radicals will have to go on organizing and go on fighting uphill against the warfare State, paramilitary policing, plutocratic state capitalism, government managerialism, the forced-pregnancy brigade, the War on Drugs, the border Stasi, and all the rest of it.

But also, presumably, the changing of the guard in the State citadel will mean that some of the facts on the ground are going to change, as is some of the rhetoric and some of the constituencies of Power. Presumably that means that we are going to have to make some shifts in tactics and strategy for outreach, organizing, education, evasion, resistance, etc. in the coming months. The time to start talking about this, and to start laying the groundwork for what we will be doing in the coming years, is now, if not six months ago. We need to start thinking about where should we go, who should we talk to, and what should we do from here on out.

So, with all that in mind, what changes are there likely to be in the challenges we’ll face during the post-Bush era, and under a consolidated Democratic Party-dominated regime in D.C.? What about under a McCain Presidency with a consolidated Democratic Party-dominated Congress? What changes in strategy, tactics, outreach, education, propaganda, and institutional infrastructure do you think that anti-statist liberation movements need to make, and what should they start doing now in order to be able to make those changes?

Let’s reason together and talk about it in the comments. (Or on your own blog, if you want the extra space; if so, leave a comment here with a link back to your post.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Libertarian Party candidate for the President of the United States of America

Here are some samples excerpted from David Weigel’s interview with Bob Barr in the most recent issue of reason.

reason: Some of what you’re talking about, though, you supported in Congress. You voted for the Iraq war.

Bob Barr: The Iraq war was presented as something that was based on sound intelligence: a clear and present danger, an immediate threat targeting the United States by the Saddam Hussein regime. We now know [sic] that the intelligence was not there to support those arguments. Many of us, including myself, gave the administration the benefit of the doubt, presumed that this would be an operation that was well founded, well thought-out, well strategized, when in fact it wasn’t. There was no clear strategy, and we’ve paid a very, very heavy price for that.

. . .

reason: What about the PATRIOT Act?

Bob Barr: This was presented to us immediately after 9/11. I took what might be called sort of a leadership role in Congress in marshaling a lot of different groups in opposition both to the PATRIOT Act generally and to specific onerous provisions in it. Several factors caused me to sort of go against my gut reaction and vote for the PATRIOT Act.

The administration did in fact work with us and agree to several pre-vote changes to the PATRIOT Act that did mitigate some of the more problematic provisions in it. The administration also, from the attorney general on down, gave us personal assurances that the provisions in the PATRIOT Act, if they were passed and signed into law, would be used judiciously, hat they would not be used to push the envelope of executive power, that they would not be used in non-terrorism-related cases. They gave us assurances that they would work with us on those provisions that we were able to get sunsetted, work with us to modify those and to look at those very carefully when those provisions came up for reauthorization. The administration also gave us absolute assurances that it would work openly and thoroughly report to the Congress, and by extrapolation to the American people [sic!], on how it was using the provisions in the PATRIOT Act. In everyone of those areas, the administration has gone back on what it told us.

— Bob Barr Talks, interview with David Weigel in reason (November 2008), p. 29.

In other words, Bob Barr is either an incredible sucker or a willfully ignorant fool, who supported two of the most infamous acts of a miserable and disastrous Presidency, because he spent years blindly trusting in absurd claims and ridiculous promises made by salivating Republicans in the executing branch of the government, which most people outside of the government, including almost all libertarians, already knew to be lies. He trusted in administration flunkies’ assurances over the warnings of civil libertarians, even though the assurances were empty gestures that would not hold back power grabs even for a second as soon as anyone in the DOJ or DOD or DHS decided that a power-grab is what they wanted. And he trusted in the government spooks’ and government flunkies’ claims of intelligence even though these claims were obviously absurd, and widely exposed as such at the time by anti-war writers, because in spite of all that Bob Barr would rather give his colleagues, the government spooks and administration flunkies, the benefit of the doubt.

In other news, Movement of the Libertarian Left veteran and Southern California ALLy Wally Conger has recently posted an online edition of the MLL’s Issue Pamphlet #5, Our Enemy, the Party, originally published in 1980 and reissued by Sam Konkin in 1987.

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Send in the clowns

Quote thanks to Roderick Long (2008-07-05).

Does the history of politics teach us nothing? What have we ever gained by such means? The Republican party has robbed us by taxes. It has robbed us still worse by its financial legislation, its national bank laws and its depreciated greenbacks. It has given our lands to its servants and sold our birthright to corporations. Yet this was the reform party of half a century ago. As soon as it gained power, it kicked the men — and deservedly, too — who were fools enough to support it. Nor is the record of the Democratic party — which but a few years since claimed to be the only true reform party in the country — one whit better. For two years it had full control of every branch of the Federal government, and what did it do? It violated every pledge made before gaining power. It turned its back on those it promised to help. … As soon as a new party springs up and begins to show signs of success, a lot of political tramps are immediately attracted to its ranks. These men possess a certain amount of influence. They are trained politicians, well versed in the art of packing conventions and proficient at counting the ballots. When they come to the new party with crocodile tears of repentance coursing down their cheeks, it is too weak to refuse their aid. It opens its arms and kissing away their repentant tears, places them in the front rank where glory awaits them. The result of this is a large gain in votes and sometimes success at the polls. But this victory is only gained at the expense of principle, and the last state of that party is worse than the first.

— Francis Tandy (1896), Voluntary Socialism, Chapter 13 ¶¶ 14–15

I add only that making your living through itinerant begging and scavenging is certainly not for everyone, but it is an honorable sort of life and an honest sort of living; calling political hucksters and electioneering con men a bunch of tramps is decidedly unfair to the tramps.

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