Thursday, February 02, 2006


What are your thoughts on earmarking? (This question arises from a discussion we had in my Political Institutions class today regarding John McCain.)

And why does every single prof that I have this semester put every subject up against the Libertarian ideal? Seriously, I have heard "If you're a Libertarian..." so many times this semester. It's bizarre. And no, they're not saying it about Democrats or Republicans.


Addie said...

define ear marking so I know what Im talking about

-totally off topic, but just thought that you would like to know that my husband is now a Firefly convert...

Dave-o-ramA said...

Congrats on the convert.

I think the reason you get so much discussion of libertarianism is that rather than being a party, it's an ideology, and a clearly defined one. It is easy to talk about the libertarian ideal. There is no clear 'Republican ideal' or 'Democratic ideal'. Both of those movements are coalition movements. Even 'progressive' and 'conservative' are coalitions of movements. Progressives are made up of greens, who care most about environmentalism, and 'blues' who are most concerned wtih labor concerns, and civil libertarians. There are times when those various viewpoints may be competing. Conservatism can have similar internal tension.

The libertarian philosophy is also fairly simple. Government's sole job is to protect basic rights, civil and property, and should use the minimum compulsive force to acheive those goals. The government may also take some steps to mitigate externalities, but should be wary of imposing solutions unless absolutely necessary.

Central to this is that individuals can often make decisions better for themselves than a central planner. Free markets are usually better than bureaucratic edicts. Earmarks are congresscritter's biggest method for garnering favor from their constituents through bribery. Usually the projects are not the best use of money, or they wouldn't need to be earmarked. So libertarians, who think money taken by compulsion (taxes) should be spent with the greatest of care, and not on unnecessary projects, oppose earmarks in general.

SerenitySprings said...

Seriously, David, when did you type this??

Addie: Earmarking = The designation of a specific amount of funds in an appropriations bill or a direct revenue source for a particular project or entity.

(Haha...I got that from doing a Google search.)

Basically it's just designating money for a certain use and then ensuring that the money is actually used on that. Kind of like if you budget $5000 to take your family to Disney World and then you only use that money for Disney World. You have "earmarked" that money for that particular trip.

Do you remember hearing about the Red Cross a few years ago when they supposedly took in donations for a certain purpose and then used the money for something else? I only vaguely remember that story and it might not even be true but I think that's the first time I actually heard about the misuse of earmarked funds.

SerenitySprings said...

Oh, and Addie, double w00t!! for your husband's new found love o' Firefly!

JustZizGuyYouKnow? said...

They react to libertarian ideals because [snark]we're the only ones left with ideals[/snark].

Seriously, the domestic legislation of the Nineties was driven by or in reaction to libertarian ideas. During the Carter and Reagan administrations, legislative proposals would come out of Brookings and Heritage. For those ten years they came out of Cato or out of some coalition in response to a proposal by Cato. NAFTA, welfare reform, medical savings accounts, those are all libertarian ideas.

Recently, they seem to have come from Jack Abramoff and the ghost of Tip O'Neill. Foreign policy seems to be developed by the people whose ideas were too dumb to be implemented by the Nixon administration. But that's just a power grab, not a coherent ideology. Socialism as an ideology is dead, and progressivism is a rebranding of the liberal grab-bag of issues. Their ideology died before the Soviet Union did, and what ideology the conservatives had died with that.

Except the evangelicals, who near as I can tell just spout whatever and then whistle innocently and claim God did it.

Karl Gallagher said...

They pick on libertarians because we're the group too weak to hit back . . .

I'm opposed to earmarks, but it's going to be tough getting rid of them as long as voters say "Thanks for the loot!" instead of "Don't give me that, you thief!"