I haven’t posted one of these in some time and, based on some of the stray comments I’ve been getting both here and elsewhere, it looks as though I should. I am a registered Democrat and always have been. 99% of the candidates I vote for are Democrats. However, I always vote for the better candidate as I see it regardless of the party affiliation of that candidate.
Here in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois the better candidate is generally a Democrat. When I voted for Barack Obama for the U. S. Senate I did so not because he was a Democrat but because he was running against Alan Keyes, a manifest nutcase who had no attachment or commitment to Illinois. I agonized over whom to vote for for president in 2008 because I thought both candidates were weak. I finally voted for Obama because I was concerned about Sen. McCain’s rashness.
I am a centrist and a moderate. I have written fairly extensively here about moderation in politics, something I believe is necessary for democratic republican government. Moderation is difficult; it is manifest both in the policies one advocates and in the attitude of the advocacy.
I genuinely appreciate President Obama’s temperate approach to discourse although I will admit to some concern over some of the positions he has taken or failed to take. For example, although I believe I understand his position on Afghanistan and, since that’s what he campaigned on, I’m not surprised that he’s decided to escalate our efforts there, I will admit to being disappointed. I had hoped that he might see better outside the heat of the campaign.
I think that giving the Congress its head was not only a tactical mistake, it was intemperate. How can it be otherwise when the Congressional committee system promotes the least temperate members of Congress? BTW, where are those who were predicting that President Obama was going to sweep in with his own healthcare reform plan and pass it?
I believe in ordinary people; I believe that government can be a valuable tool for coping with human problems; I believe in the principle of subsidiarity.
I opposed the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq, largely for reasons that should be obvious now but apparently were less obvious to other people at the time. I opposed withdrawing from Iraq from 2004 through 2008, largely on moral grounds, a view that I believe has been fully vindicated by events. I think that we should be withdrawing from Iraq at a much more rapid pace than we are. The Iraqis are now in as much control of their country as they are likely to be and our forces no longer serve any real purpose there.
I simultaneously believe that we would be imprudent to withdraw completely from Afghanistan and that escalating our efforts there is imprudent. My views in this regard most closely resemble those of Rory Stewart.
I’m not worried about China. China will have enough on its plate dealing with its own domestic problems without getting in our face. We’re going to be stuck with superpowerhood for a long, long time.
Although I believe in defending U. S. interests abroad, I believe in a significantly less interventionist foreign policy than we’ve had over the period of the last forty years.
I believe that the grand strategy of the United States should be targeted at maintaining the free flows of trade, capital, and information rather than at the objectives of spreading democratic government and American culture. To that end we need a strong navy. We should be taking the challenges of global data and telecommunications network security more seriously. Among public intellectuals my views on grand strategy most closely resemble those of Walter Russell Mead.
Defense and Homeland Security
Although I believe in a strong defense I don’t believe that the present size and makeup of our defense establishment promotes that objective. I’ve already mentioned that I would withdraw from Iraq and have a substantially smaller military presence (with different objectives) in Afghanistan. I believe that we should be spending less on our military than we do (even without the appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan) and that, while preserving our naval strength, we should reduce the sizes of our army and air force. Most of our overseas missions should be reduced or eliminated, especially in Korea, Japan, and Europe.
I think the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was feckless. We don’t need greater centralization but less.
I think we should be deriving a lot more energy from nuclear power than we are. I would prefer small scale thorium reactors over large scale uranium or plutonium reactors for a host of reasons including security concerns.
I’m skeptical of the practicality of electric or hybrid automobiles, largely because of concerns about the scaleability of battery production. Basically, I think that if anybody could make a profit by producing them in mass quantity, they would be. That there is a waiting list for Priuses should make anybody wonder about their practicality except at the margins.
I don’t think that you can separate energy policy from transportation policy. I’d like to see fewer interstate highways and more local sourcing and production of most things including energy. In most weeks I drive about 20 miles. How about you?
I honestly don’t know what to think about anthropogenic climate change. Climate change per se is inevitable, I’m not sure that in the final analysis it makes any difference whether we’re causing climate change, it’s the result of things other than human action, or some combination. It’s a political problem rather than a technological or economic one. I don’t think that spewing as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as we are is a good idea.
I think that geo-engineering is the only game in town.
I am strongly opposed to centralized planning. I think it’s foolish and counter-productive. It will always have its advocates because too many people see themselves in the role of central planners.
I don’t believe in federal subsidies for basic research. I do believe in federal subsidies for certain mass engineering projects.
I believe that through a combination of our own policy choices over the period of the thirty or forty years, the policy choices made in other countries, and technology, advantages have been conveyed to economic sectors that have been able to impose barriers to entry over those that haven’t. To counter that we have a choice of either raising the bridge or lowering the water and neither is particularly appealing.
I believe that we need to grow, make, and export a little more and consume a little less. I’m not talking about a major re-orientation of our economy, just five or ten percentage points. It will be very, very difficult.
I’m afraid we’ve been getting ourselves into the economic mess we’re in now for a long, long time and there is no easy, pleasant short term solution to it.
As long as most income growth is in the upper deciles and wealth is increasing concentrated in the upper income brackets, we’re going to have to accept that the rich will pay the overwhelming preponderance of taxes.
It is simply not true that a decrease in marginal tax rates always results in an increase in revenues. That’s only true at certain (high) levels of taxation.
If incomes in the three lowest quintiles had grown just a little more over the period of the last thirty years, no one would be talking about solvency problems down the road with Social Security. If most income growth is in the highest quintile, we’re going to need to raise FICA max substantially, reduce benefits, or both. My preferred solution would be higher income growth in the lowest quintiles but I honestly don’t know how to get there from here.
I believe in government programs to provide assistance to those who are truly needy. Crafting programs that accomplish that without producing moral hazard, e.g. encouraging behaviors we need to discourage, is a daunting task and it’s one we’re failing at. I believe in means testing all transfer programs.
I believe in maintaining Social Security and Medicare since I don’t believe that it’s possible for most people to avoid penury in their old age without such programs. As noted above, I would means test them.
That’s a start. Not particularly well organized but it gives you some idea of where I stand on a variety of issues all in one place.