Obama Proposes Summit on Entrepreneurship With Muslim Nations

I wonder how right wingers will spin this one to attack Obama:

The White House on Friday announced a “summit on entrepreneurship” to build economic ties with the Islamic world, part of President Barack Obama’s outreach to Muslims.

The White House said it has invited participants from more than 40 countries over five continents for the April 26-27 conference in Washington.

“The summit will highlight the role entrepreneurship can play in addressing common challenges while building partnerships that will lead to greater opportunity abroad and at home,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said…

He said that the meeting would “identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.”

Closer economic ties could go a long way to decrease tensions.

I’m sure that any outreach to the Muslims will cause a few conservative heads to explode, and result in some more knee jerk claims that Obama is secretly a Muslim terrorist born outside of the United States. How will they respond to a “summit on entrepreneurship” as proposed? This  just doesn’t fit in well with their idea that Obama is a socialist. Of course Obama’s  actual economic policies contradict that meme as well, but this certainly has never stopped many on the right from claiming this.

Initial reaction from conservative blogs is, as expected, negative. Deep down they prefer war over trade.

Several conservative blogs, such as here and here, are distorting Obama’s criticism of the insurance industry to suggest a hostility towards American business. Stepping in when an industry is engaging in the types of abusive activities seen by the insurance industry is not an act of opposition to American industry–it is necessary to preserve our free market system. Adam Smith would role over in his grave if he could see how capitalism is perverted by the right wing to rationalize the absence of regulation needed for a market system to operate.

Obama Speaks The Truth, Shocking Ideologues Of Both Left and Right

It looks like once again long-time Obama-hate Paul Krugman is really the clueless one as he attacks Obama while twisting what he actually said. He dwells on a few words taken out of context from an interview while totally missing Obama’s actual point. It’s bad enough we constantly have to put up with conservatives doing this. Some Clinton backers really need to realize the primary battle was over a long time ago.

Those who have read Obama’s actual words are far less shocked than Krugman. Steve Benen writes, “Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see why the president’s comments this morning about the bonuses awarded to the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Chase were so controversial. The wording was a little awkward, but that’s about it.”

Greg Sargent has posted the actual transcript with Obama’s remarks, noting that “the comments seem a bit more nuanced than the headlines suggest.” Here is the transcript (emphasis mine on the key parts that people such as Paul Krugman have ignored):

QUESTION: Let’s talk bonuses for a minute: Lloyd Blankfein, $9 million; Jamie Dimon, $17 million. Now, granted, those were in stock and less than what some had expected. But are those numbers okay?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, first of all, I know both those guys. They’re very savvy businessmen. And I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That’s part of the free market system. I do think that the compensation packages that we’ve seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance. I think that shareholders oftentimes have not had any significant say in the pay structures for CEOs.

QUESTION: Seventeen million dollars is a lot for Main Street to stomach.

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, $17 million is an extraordinary amount of money. Of course, there are some baseball players who are making more than that who don’t get to the World Series either. So I’m shocked by that as well. I guess the main principle we want to promote is a simple principle of “say on pay,” that shareholders have a chance to actually scrutinize what CEOs are getting paid. And I think that serves as a restraint and helps align performance with pay.

The other thing we do think is the more that pay comes in the form of stock that requires proven performance over a certain period of time as opposed to quarterly earnings is a fairer way of measuring CEOs’ success and ultimately will make the performance of American businesses better.

Greg Sargent also points out:

It seems like there’s a bit more of an emphasis here than the initial story suggested on his support for specific measures to check the long-term trend of inflated bonuses, and the thrust of his comments seem aimed at combating the perception that such policies are anti-business.

Steve M. argues that Obama is not going to be successful in speaking in the middle on economic issues such as this:

Look, obviously Obama is trying to thread the needle here. But why bother? No one the right is going to give him credit for this — they’re all too invested in the Obama-as-socialist meme. (Without that, what would Glenn Beck have to talk about every day on radio and TV?) Here’s National Review, in response to the original Bloomberg report, accusing him of making the statement because his party is losing Wall Street donations, and calling the “praise of the free market … about as bland and uncontroversial as it gets” — then slamming him for releasing the full transcript (“the White House is already starting to walk [the remarks] back”). No love there.

Every teabagger is going to ignore the positive words about capitalism — and yet every liberal and every moderate swing voter is going to hear just what Krugman heard: a clueless president saying nice words about the enemy

Steve is correct that teabaggers will ignore the positive comments on capitalism which do not match their absurd belief that Obama is a socialist, but they were never going to vote for him. The point is not whether Obama is clueless in playing politics here but that he is not playing politics at all.

As he has done from the start, Obama is trying to talk to voters as intelligent adults. He is saying what he really believes, not what he thinks is the politically safest thing to do. Doing so he loses the support from ideologues of both the far right and left. He also retains the respect of independents such as myself who generally do support the free market system, but also agree with Obama’s remarks that CEO pay has exceeded what is deserved based upon their performance.

Update: More on the White House response.

Right Wing Extremism & Pat Buchanan’s Confused View of Traditional American Values

I’ve often noted the tendency of many on the right to portray themselves as victims. This includes the protests of the tea baggers over the imaginary injustices and our delusional decline into socialism which they were warned about by watching Fox. (And notice that my use here of Fox, and not “Fox News, ” predates the arguments from the Obama administration that Fox is an arm of the Republican Party and not a legitimate news organization.) The shock of having a black man in the White House, added to all the other imaginary injustices felt by the far right, has led to increased signs of extremism. The Secret Service reports an unprecedented number of death threats against Obama and a rise in racist wing hate groups. Expressions of violence from the right have become commonplace–including from mainstream conservatives in the Republican Party.

In this atmosphere, right wing pundit and Nazi-sympathizer  Pat Buchanan feels comfortable being even explicit about his views. He showed his sympathies towards Nazi Germany in a column last month. Now he writes about the persecution that he sees white working-class voters being subjected to.  The column is full of absurdities which other bloggers have already discussed at length, so I will limit this to one particularly ridiculous line. Buchanan writes: “In their lifetimes, they have seen their Christian faith purged from schools their taxes paid for…”

Yes, and this is a good thing. The schools are not the place to spread the Christian, or any other faith. Even Mike Huckabee has expressed some support for the idea that prayer does not belong in the schools. (If only he extended this to also opposing the teaching of creationism). Such separation of church and state was a fundamental principle of the founding fathers, who realized that this was necessary to preserve freedom of religion. While I would strongly object, it is logically possible to argue for having a state religion which is supported in the public schools.  It makes no sense to argue for this in a column which claims to support traditional American values.

If you support the inclusion of religion in the public schools you are directly opposing traditional American values.  With their growing cheering against America and opposition to the values we were founded upon, the word conservative has taken on an Orwellian meaning as we wonder what it is that conservatives want to conserve. This should come as no surprise when we have those on the right who claim to support a strong defense while supporting policies which undermine our national security. The right speaks of freedom while supporting an increasingly authoritarian society, ignoring true violations of civil liberties but see attempts to provide people with affordable health care as an intrusion on our liberties. The right speaks of supporting capitalism while backing a form of crony capitalism which would make Adam Smith roll over in his grave. While Pat Buchanan’s views are contrary to traditional American values, they do fit in will with the contemporary conservative movement.

In Their Usual Corners

I’ve expressed reservations about Michael Moore’s upcoming movie on capitalism. My bet is that Moore will have come correct points about failures of capitalism as practiced which led to the financial crisis but he will also stick to his usual political views and fail to appreciate the many benefits of capitalism. The movie will also be attacked from the right–often by people who will stick to their longstanding views that treat capitalism more as a religion and fail to acknowledge any problems.

John Stossel argues that Michael Moore Gets It Wrong.  He falls back on quoting Reason which can be counted on to always cherry pick the facts to show that any problem is always caused by government intervention.

I have little use for those on the left or right who have a knee jerk reaction of defending their long-standing beliefs in such manners while ignoring any facts which show a need to revise their views. Rather than listening to either Moore or Stossel there are some other people I’d recommend here–all conservative or libertarian writers. I’m not saying they are always right, but I respect them for showing a willingness to revise their beliefs based upon the evidence. Such willingness to consider revise one’s views based upon the facts and changing situations also displays an essential component of true liberal thought.

Richard Posner, a long time supporter of the Chicago School, responded to the economic crisis by writing an excellent book, Capitalism in Crisis, which argues that the deregulation of the financial sector he previously supported did contribute to the crisis.

Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan, has written The Next Economics which argues that:

economic theories that may be perfectly valid at one moment in time under one set of circumstances tend to lose validity over time because they are misapplied under different circumstances. Bartlett makes a compelling, historically-based case for large tax increases, once anathema to him and his economic allies.

Stossel argues about this quotation:

The wealthy, at some point, decided they didn’t have enough wealth. They wanted more — a lot more. So they systematically set about to fleece the American people out of their hard-earned money.

On one level Stossel is right that this sounds ridiculous. Most people strive do obtain more wealth and you cannot fault the wealthy on this alone. Ultimately Stossel is the one who is ridiculous in stressing the wrong points and instead I would suggest the works of former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips. His books in recent years have shown where the Republicans have gone wrong, including how they have used government to transfer the wealth (and fleece the American people out of their hard-earned money).

The transfer of wealth which Phillips writes about is from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy. Such actions by Republicans  could be used as an example by libertarians of a problem caused by government, but in this case many libertarians back the Republicans on economics and are blind to this. Of course there are exceptions, such as Will Wilkinson who has written, “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.”

Michael Moore’s Next Movie

Variety has reported on Michael Moore’s next documentary:

Michael Moore’s opting to spoof romantic conventions in titling his upcoming documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story,” which addresses the causes of the global economic meltdown.

“It will be the perfect date movie,” Moore said in an announcement Wednesday. “It’s got it all — lust, passion, romance and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day. It’s a forbidden love, one that dare not speak its name. Heck, let’s just say it: It’s capitalism.”

Moore and Overture Films had announced previously that the film would be released domestically on Oct. 2 — a year and a day after the U.S. Senate voted to approve a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. Paramount Vantage will handle international distribution.

The film is described as focusing on “the disastrous impact that corporate dominance and out-of-control profit motives have on the lives of Americans and citizens of the world.”

I’ll have to wait and see what I think of this one. While there are certainly problems with the capitalist system which are responsible for the economic collapse (as even conservatives such as Richard Posner have argued) my suspicion is that Moore will over-emphasize the bad while failing to appreciate all the benefits of capitalism.

I’ve found Moore’s work to be quite mixed in the past. Fahrenheit 9/11 was an easy one as the case against Bush was so strong. Sicko showed both the good and the bad sides of Moore. He did an excellent job of showing the problems faced by many in hour health care system (as long as you realize that millions of other people are also satisfied with the system). On the other hand he white-washed problems in foreign systems. For example, he showed Americans receiving health care at a clinic in Cuba suggesting that this is the type of free health care which is available in Cuba. Actually he went to a clinic which treats foreigners only and which is not representative of Cuban health care. He showed the positive aspects while ignoring problems in countries such as Great Britain. While France does have an excellent system, Moore even exaggerated the benefits available there. I fear that a documentary on capitalism will emphasize the worst of Michael Moore’s views.

Palinomics and Other Conservative Fantasies

To even consider taking Sarah Palin seriously on, well anything, is laughable. When she was first picked to be John McCain’s running mate my guess was that she was inexperienced but an up and coming conservative who was at least well versed in conservative ideas and had some basic competence in government. It turned out I was wrong and that she is clearly a politician of the George Bush model who knows how to schmooze people to get ahead but is remarkably ignorant when it comes to policy matters. In a recent speech, which I didn’t bother with commenting on at the time because of more important matters to attend to that day (which included happy hour with $2 glasses of Sangria and crab cake sliders) Palin said, “Some in Washington would approach our economic woes in ways that absolutely defy Economics 101, and they fly in the face of principles, providing opportunity for industrious Americans to succeed or to fail on their own accord.” Palin hardly seems to have any understanding of Economics 101, or any other, topic.

Conor Clarke, blaming his RSS reader as opposed to Sangria during happy hour, also didn’t get around to commenting on Palin’s speech until recently. He saw the absurdity in taking Palin seriously as a fiscal conservative, writing “In particular, that line about “industrious Americans” succeeding and failing of their own accord made we want to take a look at the federal dollars Alaska receives per resident relative to its federal tax burden.”

Conor made a chart of the data which is worth glancing at and concluded:

Alaska gets $13,950 per resident from the federal government, more than any other state in the nation. It ranks number one in taxes per resident and number one in spending per resident. It’s also number one in pork-barrel spending. Each Alaska resident receives a check for $3,200 a year from state oil revenues — which Palin bumped up from $2,000 last year. Palin once justified this by saying that the state of Alaska was “set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” (Sounds socialist!) Industrious indeed.

Paliin sure sounds more like a socialist than those she attacks as socialists, as I noted last October. Rather than having a state where people “succeed or fail on their own” Palin brought in more earmarks per capita than any other state (with John McCain having opposed many of these earmarks).

Clarke only hit on one of the absurdities of Palin’s speech but there were more. She warned of big government that will “control the people,” failing to understand both that the current economic crisis is a partially the result of insufficient government regulation of the banking industry and that pragmatic government action rather than blind adherence to ideology is needed to reverse the slide. While Economics 101 is well beyond Sarah Palin, she might check out a book by an economic conservative (assuming she wouldn’t agree to touch a book by a liberal) who has realized the danger in treating conservative dogma as a religion. While it is probably well beyond her, she should read A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 And The Descent Into Depression by Richard Posner.

In worrying about whether government will “control the people” Palin makes a mistake common among many conservatives and libertarians of confusing the need to limit the power of government with limiting the size of government and taking a knee-jerk opposition to any government economic action. What is important is how much control government has over the lives of individuals. While conservatives dwell on the size of government, liberals are more concerned with limiting the power of government in areas where they do not belong. While the faux libertarian rhetoric of Sarah Palin concentrates on her Voodoo Economic beliefs, she backs increased an increased influence of government in private matters, ranging from her opposition to abortion rights to her support for banning books which offended her supporters who oppose toleration of homosexuals. While liberals have been concerned with restoring the limitations on the power of the executive branch as advocated by the Founding Fathers, Palin has been a supporter of increased government secrecy and wanted to grab even more power than Dick Cheney.

For someone who expresses such concern over whether the government will “control the people,” Palin also displays a rather Orwellian view of First Amendment rights. She believes that the First Amendment was intended to prevent the media from criticizing her, not to protect freedom of the press.

For someone who claims to oppose big government, she supports the two major threats to freedom in America today, the social agenda of the religious right and the “war on terror.” The “war on terror,” along with its associated restrictions on civil liberties, capitalizes on the threat of terrorism to promote a massive increase in the power of the state. Rather than supporting legitimate defense against terrorism (which conservatives have a poor record on), Palin repeated the conservative lines that the Iraq war was about fighting terrorism and their ridiculous mantra that we must fight them there or we will have to fight them at home. In her speech she even said, “It is war over there, so it will not be war over here.” Sarah Palin’s understanding of foreign policy is no better than her understanding of economics–and don’t even get me started on her ridiculous views on scientific research and creationism.

Liberty University Bans Democratic Club

The Republican Party might becoming a distant second to the Democratic Party in most of the country, but there are still islands where the authoritarian right continues to dominate. The right frequently engages in Orwellian use of words to give the illusion of supporting idea opposite to those they promote. They speak of freedom, liberty, capitalism, and limited government while acting to oppose these views. One example of this is  comes from Liberty University and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

The Liberty University has shown its disdain for liberty, along with perhaps showing the only way left for the disgraced Republican Party to survive, by banning the campus Democratic Party club:

Liberty University has revoked its recognition of the campus Democratic Party club, saying “we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by” the university.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” said Brian Diaz, president of LU’s student Democratic Party organization, which LU formally recognized in October.

Diaz said he was notified of the school’s decision May 15 in an e-mail from Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs.

According to the e-mail, the club must stop using the university’s name, holding meetings on campus, or advertising events. Violators could incur one or more reprimands under the school’s Liberty Way conduct code, and anyone who accumulates 30 reprimands is subject to expulsion.

Hine said late Thursday that the university could not sanction an official club that supported Democratic candidates.

“We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.”

Yes, in their mind they can be supporting free speech while banning organizations which say things they do not agree with. Freedom means supporting the right of free speech, even from those you disagree with. P.Z Myers responds:

Well, I’m at a secular university, where our traditional values are built on the Enlightenment, open-mindedness, free inquiry, reason, and secular humanism. I guess I need to go down to the administration building on Tuesday and point out that we have a few organizations — the Young Republicans, Campus Crusade for Christ, etc. — that do not support our mission, and have them shut down.

Oh, dang, I forgot! We’re also committed to free speech (FOR REALZ), so we have to allow our students to express even weird ideas that are the antithesis of rational thought. Rats. I guess I just need to encourage all of our students to speak out on their own personal views in public and private argument.

Breaking Down Conservative Fundamentalism–On Economics

I have often discussed the problems faced by the Republican Party due to their social conservative beliefs, their hostility towards  science and reason,  their poor record on civil liberties, and their national security policies which place the country at greater danger. They are also  increasingly losing support due to their economic views.

Their are two different problems which the Republicans face because of their economic views–the discrepancy between their theories and their policies and the problems with their actual economic theories. The discrepancy between their rhetoric and their policies has been losing them support for years. For example former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips, author of The Emerging Republican Majority, has gone on to write several books showing how Republican economic policies have turned into schemes to use government to transfer greater wealth to the ultra-wealthy. I’ve frequently quoted libertarian Will Wilkinson as saying that “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.”

A more serious problem is that a growing number of economic conservatives have followed the route I have in questioning the validity of many conservative economic views when testing them against the real world. I’ve recently noted that Richard Posner of  has been criticizing the Republicans for essentially the same reasons I noted at the start of this post as well as questioning some aspects of his former economic beliefs in his recent book Capitalism in Crisis.

Bruce Bartlett in the past has criticized the Bush administration in Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the American Legacy. His criticism was based upon failing to follow conservative economic policies. In his latest book he is now questioning these views:

As a domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, Bruce Bartlett was one of the originators of Reaganomics, the supply-side economic theory that conservatives have clung to for decades. In The Next Economics, Bartlett goes back to the economic roots that made Impostor a bestseller and abandons the conservative dogma in favor of a policy strongly based on what’s worked in the past. Marshalling compelling history and economics, he explains how economic theories that may be perfectly valid at one moment in time under one set of circumstances tend to lose validity over time because they are misapplied under different circumstances. Bartlett makes a compelling, historically-based case for large tax increases, once anathema to him and his economic allies. In The Next Economics, Bartlett seeks to clarify a compelling and way forward for the American economy.

One problem is separating what we want from reality. Many of us who lean libertarian find the concept that everything would be better if the government also stayed out of the economy to be intellectually appealing. To adapt a saying from Special Agent Fox Mulder, “I want to believe.” Unfortunately reality doesn’t give a damn about what any of us want to believe.

This brief summary of Bartlett’s book also suggests another problem. Economic theories might be more valid at one time or under one set of circumstances, but those who religiously follow the views of economists of the past do not have the benefit of seeing how their gurus would respond to the problems of today. The pro-capitalism classical economics were very bright people and had many important things to say about the free market. If they had the benefit of seeing the modern world and could interpret the data which became available long after they died it is likely many would adjust their theories based upon this information. In contrast, many conservatives treat economic works of the past as other conservatives treat the Bible, feeling that their views must be taken literally without taking into account any additional information.

Ludwig von Mises has some important lessons about the failings of Bureaucracy which liberals as well as conservatives should consider. Conservatives use his views to argue that the free market is always superior to government. If he were alive to rewrite this 1944  classic he might see how giant corporations can develop the same bureaucratic problems as big government, and that business does not always use the signals from the market to make rational decisions. Friedrich von Hayek, whose work is often cited by conservatives, also wrote Why I Am Not a Conservative which criticized conservatives for failing to adapt their views to changing times.

Liberals sometimes question why the American right has been characterized by a union of two seemingly different viewpoints–religious conservatives and free market conservatives. Perhaps this is because at heart both are fundamentalists. Many economic conservatives have turned their views into a fundamentalist religion which ignores economic facts  just as religious conservatives ignore evolution and other aspects of science which contradict their fundamentalist views.

Richard Posner On The Decline Of The Conservative Movement

I briefly mentioned Richard Posner abandoning conservative economic dogma in a post a few days ago.  Posner is attracting more attention in the liberal blogosphere today with posts from Mathew Yglesias and Jonathan Singer. Posner, author of Capitalism in Crisis, has actually said plenty of things recently which liberal bloggers might find worthy of quoting. It is a recent post on the failings of the conservative movement which is attracting this attention today:

My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings. That the policies are weak in conception, have largely failed in execution, and are political flops is therefore unsurprising. The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.

By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.

And then came the financial crash last September and the ensuing depression. These unanticipated and shocking events have exposed significant analytical weaknesses in core beliefs of conservative economists concerning the business cycle and the macroeconomy generally. Friedmanite monetarism and the efficient-market theory of finance have taken some sharp hits, and there is renewed respect for the macroeconomic thought of John Maynard Kenyes, a conservatives’ bête noire.

Reasons For Optimism For Libertarianism

Libertarian views of Barack Obama have varied widely, largely because the wide variety of people who use this label. I noted during the election that many libertarians were backing Obama, while other libertarians echo the view of him from the far right. David Boez takes a pretty optimistic view of the direction we are heading. He see a positive trend for civil liberties, and discusses issues such as legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage in depth. He concludes:

The “shift to the left” that we seem to observe on economic policy is depressing to libertarians. But that’s mostly crisis-driven. When the results of more spending, more taxes, more regulation, and more money creation begin to be visible, we may see the kind of reaction that led to Proposition 13 and the election of Ronald Reagan at the end of the 1970s. Meanwhile, this cultural “shift to the left” is far more encouraging. And don’t forget, at 90 days into the Obama administration, Americans preferred smaller government to “more active government” by 66 to 25 percent.

Boez is also taking a far more realistic viewpoint than is coming from many economic conservatives in realizing that current economic policy is in response to a crisis and does not reflect the overall direction the country is heading in. On the other hand, the crisis has ensured that opposing all regulation will not be taken very seriously as it was during the Reagan years. We now even have supporters of the Chicago School such as Richard Posner (author of Capitalism in Crisis) arguing that deregulation of the banking industry went too far.

The apparent contradiction between supporting smaller government and supporting the actions of the Obama administration has other possible explanations beyond response to a crisis. This is partially due to the difference between small government and limited government. When many libertarians and conservatives talk of small government they are literally talking of the size of government. They are looking at how much money the government spends, how many people it employees, how many rules are on the books, and how many government agencies we have.

For many other people the important issue is not the actual size but how government impacts upon their lives. To many voters a liberal version of limited government is far preferable to conservative small government which is more intrusive in our lives. Many people do not see a government, regardless of size, which restricts civil liberties, interferes with reproductive rights, criminalizes marijuana, intervenes in marriage decisions, intervenes in end of life decisions, and embraces the social policies of the religious right as being small at all.

Even when considering the types of issues conservatives are more likely to consider when speaking of small government, the views of many voters are not entirely clear. People will say in general they want small government, but are also unwilling to give up many of the services provided by government. Most voters do not want to give up Medicare or Social Security and most voters recognize a need for changes in our health care system, even if it results in higher taxes.

Some of the statements of support for small government come from listening to the rhetoric of the right. We constantly hear that there are government programs which spend lots of money, employ lots of people, and do nothing for us in return. Naturally everyone will agree that we should get rid of such government programs. Now we just have to find them. While there is certainly some waste which can be eliminated, it is doubtful that any truly wasteful programs which can be identified will amount to a very large percentage of the actual size of government.

Libertarians need to decide what really matters. If the actual number of government employees and government agencies is the key issue in their lives they are not going to be happy with the direction the country is going in. However, if they look at the fundamental questions of whether people are becoming more or less free in running their own lives, and free from interference from government, then Boez is right that there are real reasons for optimism.