Notes from the Welch-Goldberg Show
By Arnold Kling
The event was billed as a debate Are Libertarians Part of the Conservative Movement? And, yes, both speakers talked about reversing the question.
The format consisted of 4-minute opening statements followed by one-minute responses to questions. It makes for lively entertainment, but not so much for serious discussion. Welch and Goldberg mostly played it mostly for laughs, which is all that the silly format really allowed.
1. Welch was optimistic that Republicans were willing to compromise with libertarians (he cited Jim DeMint’s recent outreach efforts, not all of which are on the record.)
2. Both assumed that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee, thereby ducking the question of how libertarians might respond to a Santorum candidacy. Is there daylight between Santorum’s brand of conservatism and W’s? I would like to have gotten an informed answer, but no one asked the question.
3. Welch said that the demographics of Republican primary voters and caucus-goers is skewing very old. I am wondering if 2012 will be the swan song for voters born before 1960. I still think that the future of the Republican Party looks very dim. The last time a Republican establishment candidate suffered a meltdown during the nomination campaign, it did not turn out well for the GOP.
4. Welch and Goldberg took the view that the cascading U.S. debt will drive libertarians and conservatives into one another’s arms, just as the Cold War battle with Communism did. I wonder how they would react to the conversation with Garett Jones, who believes that the debt problem will only be solved by a Democratic victory.
5. Both agreed that immigration is an issue where some libertarians (e.g., Ron Paul) and many conservatives take a stance that is more hostile to immigration than is morally or politically wise overall. But I would say they are overlooking the stridency of the Republican base on the issue. They make it sound as though it is an accident that the Republican candidates are not playing up the benefits of immigration. But I would say that this is where the influence of the Tea Party is decidedly not libertarian.
6. Welch tried to say that the Occupy movement has a healthy opposition to bailouts, but Goldberg was having none of it. His line was that the Occupiers are not opposed to bailouts; they just want to get their own bailouts, rather than have the money go to Wall Street. I tend to agree with Goldberg–I think you are kidding yourself as a libertarian if you think that shared opposition to bailing out Wall Street is the basis for some sort of alliance. [UPDATE: As he points out in the comments on this post, Welch is not so far from Goldberg on this. See Welch’s Bailouts for Me, but not for Thee.]
7. Goldberg made at least two other points that I appreciated. The first one is that “the libertarian in the room asks the right question: Why is this a job for government?” Without the libertarian in the room, I would say that the question does not get asked.* The second one is that politicians always are a disappointment to their supporters. If nothing else, the pressure to win votes limits their ability to stick to principles.
*What I would say (Goldberg put it differently) is that without the libertarian in the room to question the role of government, the conversation proceeds more along the lines of the joke, “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, it must be done.”
[update: Glenn Reynolds has two related links.]