the national interest

Confused Libertarian Demands Obama Become Strongman

miling broadly, newly-elected President of Argentina Juan Peron stands in the presidential car to wave to the crowds gathered on the Buenos Aires streets to witness the inaugural parade of Argentina's new president. President Peron, who wears the uniform of an Argentine Brigadier General, took the oath of office for a six year term in ceremonies before a Joint Session of the new Argentine Congress on June 4.
Under libertarian rule, the president would know how to deal with recalictrant opposition party leaders. Photo: Bettmann/Corbis

The day is young, but the least intelligent thing said about the shutdown — and we’re including man-on-the-street interviews — has to be this column by Reason’s Nick Gillespie blaming President Obama. Gillespie’s argument, to the extent that it is possible to detect one amid the poseur hand-waving, runs as follows:

  1. The House and Senate didn’t meet to negotiate the differences between their budgets. (Gillespie: “that didn’t happen for all sorts of reason.”)
  2. Obama is to blame for this because he “compounded legislative issues by failing to kick the asses of sorry little functionaries like John Boehner and Harry Reid to pass budgets on a regular basis.”
  3. Ergo, Obama is to blame. (“You lost total control of the federal government and thus the ability to not offer anything. Get over it.”)

A couple of points. First, the lack of a conference to negotiate the House and Senate budgets didn’t happen for “all sorts of reasons.” It happened for one reason: Democrats pleaded to hold one and Republicans refused. Senate Democrats have spammed my e-mail in-box pleading for a budget conference on a near-daily basis. House Republicans refused because their strategy is not to negotiate through regular order but to use the threat of a shutdown and debt default to leverage unilateral concessions. This isn’t my partisan accusation. They said this themselves, repeatedly!

Second, blaming the president for failing to “kick the asses” of leaders of the opposing party is a really dumb way to think about government, and especially so for a libertarian. Your analysis is that the president needs to compel the opposing party to accept policies it doesn’t like? That’s a libertarian analysis?

Third, Gillespie’s entire rant is beside the point, because the lack of a negotiated budget is not the cause of a shutdown. Budget conferences are designed to set long-term federal budget policy. Keeping the government open doesn’t require that. You just need to pass a “continuing resolution.” That’s it. Pass the CR, and the government stays open, and then you can either negotiate or not negotiate the federal budget.

It’s continually amazing to me that this publication publishes commentary on public policy by a writer who lacks even a rudimentary understanding of the policy process.

Confused Libertarian Demands Strongman