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Pete, does Elkin review Hayek's proposed institutional reforms in Volume 3 of LLL? I'd think that book contains enough information to challenge the critique you mention.

As for the general concern, I can't see how democratization is supposed to help. All regimes require social trust and a commitment to respect institutional rules. How is classical liberalism set apart?

"Hayek, Elkin argues, has no viable institutional theory of constitutional restraint on self-interested action, but instead simply relies on telling people to restrain themselves."

Isn't this ultimately what it all boils down to? I mean this is no different from Mises' point that rulers can ultimately only rule by consent of the ruled.

All you can do with a constitution or any political order is to facilitate that people can restrain themselves. And the way to do is, is to actively discourage coordination in the political sphere, whilst encouraging or facilitating coordination in the economic or private sphere.

Is that also what you're saying Pete?

Constitutional contraints are largely a kludge for something deeper: making a democratic republic serve the needs of society as a whole vs. the current faction in power.

Perhaps a more robust means to serve this end is to alter the voting system so that the minorities are adequately represented. For example, replace majority rule (or worse, plurality rule) with some form of Range Voting. Given how it worked for the Vikings, I suspect it is rather more robust than what we have today.

And it is rather more critical for getting a republic launched in the first place. The United States has over a century of experience with republican government under the watch of Britain before declaring independence. Then it had the government under the Articles of Confederation before finally setting up a solid constitution. Most developing world nations trying to set up a republic lack these advantages.

Range Voting is quick to set up and understandable by any people who can understand the Olympics. (It's used for gymnastics, high diving, etc.)

"In short, Elkin sees the entire classical liberal project as non-robust."

From the historical evidence, it is hard to disagree with that. But I would ask, in relative terms what is more robust? Having not read his book, what does he put forth?

I agree with Martin. What have we found that can withstand eventual tyranny other than having the people restrain themselves? I see no historical examples.

A Jefferson quote comes to mind: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

I think it largely depends on what we're calling "liberal government" here. Liberal government in the United States has been tremendously robust because of all the principles that we know helps guarantee robustness: decentralization of power, democratic feedback, a limiting constitution, division of powers.

If what you expected was what Peter calls (in his last paragraph) "radical libertarianism", then no I don't think that is necessarily robust because it does require that the society that constructs and maintains the constitutional order sign on to a much narrower set of radical libertarian ideas.

I think the confusion here is over blending liberalism and radical libertarianism too closely. If we ever had a radical libertarian set of institutions, we certainly don't now. We do have a liberal set of institutions and they seem to be fine as far as I can tell.

That suggests to me that a broader set of liberal institutions (the ones I listed earlier) are more robust than a more specific set of radical libertarian constitutional specs.

@Daniel:

If you call "liberal" the political institutions that exist today, and explicitly allow for wiggle room (which I see your second paragraph as endorsing; please correct me if I'm mistaken), then it's not clear what exactly qualifies as illiberal. Even if Prof. Boettke's definition is flawed, I'm not sure yours is much better.

I see Prof. Boettke's post not directed at the current form of political institutions per se, but the underlying constitutional order to which those political institutions are supposed to adhere. If we view the U.S. Constitution as an attempt to solidify the kind of "radical" classical liberalism that was characteristic of English enlightenment thought (and I think the primary sources suggest this is in fact the case), then it must be concluded that the constitutional order we have is not robust. Take the commerce clause for example. We know it was inserted for the explicit purpose of preventing the several states from enacting protectionist policies against each other. It was supposed to be a check on power. Instead, for good or ill, it's been an extraordinary enabler of Federal control over commercial relationships.

We can quibble over definitions all day, but that won't be very productive, and it certainly won't make the problems Prof. Boettke mentioned go away.

Partisans of competing and conflicting religions were able to agree on a US Constitution that ruled out laws respecting an establishment of religion, which seems to have held up fairly well. As I understand it, they reached this agreement from an appreciation of how destructive the competition for the coercive power of government over religion was likely to be. Similarly, it seems possible to me that people who would not be immune from scrambling for power in other spheres (economic?) might nevertheless be capable of agreeing on universal constraints up-front in order to avoid inevitable and costly political conflict, or in order to avoid seeing others get power against their interests.

As for how to get people to abide by the constraints, especially generations down the road, well that's another question.

It is ideas far more than interests which have wrecked the Founder's system ....

The work of the New Institutionalists makes it clear that the only robust form of government is the traditional king with nobility. It has been the dominant form of government throughout history and probably is dominant today. The king gets support from the nobility by letting them steal from the masses.

Alex -
I'm not sure what you mean by "wiggle room". The list I provided for a set of liberal institutions is pretty clear, and illiberalism would be departure from that list I would think: decentralization of power, democratic feedback, a limiting constitution, division of powers. If you want a definition with a slightly different list, I'm sure we can work with that. I don't understand what the confusion is... this is a pretty standard way of talking about liberal government, isn't it?

I think you are marveling at my post the same way Peter was marveling at Elkin's book: radical libertarianism and liberalism are not the same things and radical libertarianism is probably not so robust. I obviously don't know Elkin's full case, but it's something I've been arguing for quite a while.

"decentralization of power, democratic feedback, a limiting constitution, division of powers."

I agree, it would be awesome if we had a system with those things. Instead we have increasing centralization of power, the simulacrum of democratic feedback, a constitution whose content is ignored, and two houses of Congress that work together because they represent the same interests rather than differing interests, as they originally did.

If we had those institutions, we would be much better off. There should be a power law distribution of political power, with a federal government having almost no power whatsoever. Then it would be robust -- and natural.

Again Troy - you're confusing the presence of clearly liberal institutions with not having those institutions work out with exactly the result you want. We do have decentralization of power. We do have democratic feedback. We do have a limiting constitution. We do have a division of powers. We do not have radical libertarianism, it's true.

I am not sure political power has to conform strictly to a power law distribution to be considered decentralized.

I'm not even sure how you would measure political power to assess such a distribution.

Daniel,

And you are confusing having actual institutions with having simulacra of those institutions. We may have once had those institutions, but what we have now are mere appearances, Potemkin village-versions of liberal institutions to lull people like you into having a good night's rest. Things are as you like them, so you defend them.

Troy, I think you're exaggerating.

"Things are as you like them, so you defend them."

Is that necessary?

With Daniel, yes it is necessary. One day he's going to be shocked out of his acceptance of the status quo as ideal.

And I wish I were exaggerating. Rather than accepting the status quo as ideal yourself, perhaps consider why someone might say such things.

I agree with Daniel here. Too often we judge the success of political institutions simply by own own wish-list of results rather than a larger appreciation of the wish-lists of people across the entire population.

The United States may not be a Libertarian paradise, but its constitutional constraints have maintained an order which certainly deserves the adjective "Liberal." Compared with the rest of the world, Americans have an enviable level of civil liberty and compared with much of the world we have a strong level of economic freedom. Americans have criticize their government openly, can own firearms, can open a business with relative ease in most states, and are free to pursue their own desires in life. Radical Libertarians will complain about things like the high level of regulation, the fact that the government takes so much of our income, the foreign empire and the lack of free trade as places where our liberal institutions have failed us. That certainly may be true. However, what about the end of racial discrimination, the expansion of the franchise to all adult citizens, and other instances of what can be called social progress?

In addition, when we look at what most people want from their government, the institutional evolution of American government over the last two hundred years has largely been in the direction of where the votes lie. Special interests have certainly had a strong effect, but they have also succeeded by ensuring voters value their agendas.

Also, the Liberal order established by the Founding Fathers and 18th century politicians has also frankly been robust. The United States weathered the Progressive era and the middle of the 20th rather well. Would American citizens be free to own firearms if it weren't for the Second Amendment? I doubt it. Also, when compared to the United Kingdom, the constraints on American institutions of governance prevented it from being as swayed by the Progressive tide as the British ones.

When we take a historical view of things and when we step away from our own politics to see the political preferences of the population at large, I don't think that we can say the American program of constitutional government has failed. It is not a road map to Radical Libertarianism. However, it has maintained peace, it has maintained basic liberties and it has resulted in the institutions of government being changed according to the desires of voters. If that is not success, then I don't know what it is.

It's a leaky boat -- leaky from abuse. Better than no boat at all, which would mean you drown immediately. But, in the absence of repairs and better maintenance, sinking.

This is why I am most inclined to Wilhelm Ropke (and perhaps the other ordoliberals, though I have never read them) among the Austrians.

Modern libertarians, to caricature a bit, usually think that so long as there are 'correct' laws in place, society will work out fine and enjoy maximum freedom. Security comes due to the various incentives and penalties embedded within the system.

Whereas Ropke et al. believed that liberty is the "fragile fruit of a mature civilization" (quoting Lord Acton), and is dependent on institutions (family, church, community, moral code) which have evolved over centuries. Removing those institutions would be tantamount to removing a tree from its root - one cannot expect to enjoy the same fruits of liberty.

Who do you think is correct?

To relate the discussion to the real world, I thought this speech by Lee Kuan Yew could be appropriate:

http://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/mfa/overseasmission/london/press_statements_speeches/2002/200210/press_200210_03.html

It's a speech he gave at Imperial College in London ten years ago, on the dramatic changes in British society over 60 years... from his perspective, of course.

Libertarians are against coercion, John. That surely does not mean "removing" family, church, community, or moral values. It does mean that you don't get to force people to live in what you think is the right sort of family or go to what you think is the right church (or any church), etc. Evolved informal institutions can be very valuable, and freedom cannot be sustained in the face of popular hostility (toward freedom), so the evolution of a moral code that demands respect for liberty and private property is indeed essential.

The division of labor between economics and democracy is so straightforward though. For example...whether or not drugs should be illegal is the realm of direct democracy. If enough voters decide that they should be illegal...then the amount of money that should be spent on the war against drugs is the realm of economics. In other words...taxpayers should choose how much of their own taxes they give to the DEA.

It's pretty much the same thing with wars against other countries. Whether or not we should go to war should be the realm of representative democracy. If our elected leaders decide that we should go to war...then taxpayers should determine...via their opportunity cost decisions...exactly how much of their taxes they would be willing to give to the DoD.

What happens when we allow democracy to invade the realm of economics? What else could happen but economic problems? So where's the confusion? Well...yeah...there's a "minor" detail involving the double standard in my argument. But so far no anarcho-capitalist has offered a half way decent argument explaining why tax choice wouldn't eventually lead to anarcho-capitalism.

Hayek and Friedman were both advocates of voting with your feet. In fact, I added both their perspectives to the Wikipedia entry on foot voting... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_voting

Do any of you...besides Boettke...know that the idea of Wikipedia was inspired by Hayek's partial knowledge concept? I love that. There was the Wikipedia entry on foot voting...and it didn't contain a single reference to Friedman or Hayek... http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Foot_voting&diff=469862546&oldid=423443796

So as easy as pie...I added my partial knowledge to the article. Bam! Imagine how noisy the world would be if there was an audible sound effect every time somebody contributed their partial knowledge. It would be like that olde time Batman and Robin TV show.

LOL...I just imagined following Daniel Kuehn around and clashing cymbals every time he contributed his partial knowledge to something. I would look just like this monkey... http://www.jwstruggle.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/clashing-cymbal1.png

That awesome nugget (or two...) aside...foot voting doesn't even hold a candle to tax choice. And please don't try and disprove this. That would be the worst thing ever.

Very well said, Harrison.

Troy - I don't accept the status quo as ideal. I'm not sure where you get that.

Daniel,

Because I find you defenidng the status quo at every turn. You defend the current institutions and dominant political ideology. Perhaps you should wonder why it is that almost everybody "misinterprets" you and your ideolgocial heroes. It like someone who is a serial dater and cannot figure out why you only seem to get with people who are no good: perhaps one should look to the common denominator -- you.

Harrison is doing the same thing. We do have institutions that are still somewhat liberal -- but they have been infected by illiberalism to a considerable degree. Just because there is voting, that does not mean one has liberalism. And an illiberal voting populace can vote in illiberal policies, makng one have an illiberal democracy. And this is beside the fact that politicians lie constantly.

Cronyism is also not liberalism. But that is what Keynesian policies support. You cannot save liberalism with illiberal policies any more than you can save capitalism by anti-capitalist policies.

And please, neither of you should mistake your particular interpretations as being necessarily the right ones.

re: "Just because there is voting, that does not mean one has liberalism."

Right, but please don't put misinterpretation on me when you so blatantly twist the argument. Of course voting does not make liberalism.

You need the other things we've been talking about: constitutional limitation, decentralization of power, division of powers within a government, etc. Add a few more - that's certainly not exhaustive.

Don't change the argument and then complain when I point out I'm not saying what you claim I'm saying.

It is not just "constitutional limitation," but certain kinds of limitation. And they must be enforceable.

And the presence of a hierarchy such as we find in the U.S. does not imply decentralization. To have decentralization, there must also be a power law distribution. The U.S. is very top-heavy.

There are few real divisions of power. The federal government tells the states what to do. The legislature makes guidelines the executive-- which borders on being all-powerful -- interprets however they want. And SCOTUS rubber stamps practically everything.

I haven't changed the subject. I have pointed out your illiberalism.

My illiberalism?

Alright, if we're going to descend into ad hominems forget it. It never takes you that long...

How is that an ad hominem? It is a description of a particular position.

Don't throw around terms you don't understand. That in no way, not even remotely, was ad hominem.

Illiberal thinkers:

Rousseau
Marx
Keynes
Nietzsche
Heidegger
Sartre

Some have some mixture of liberal thinking in their illiberal thinking, but they are all illiberal thinkers.

And just because there are liberal institutions such as X and Y, that does not mean all institutions we call "X" and "Y" are necessarily liberal institutions. It may be possible that there are illiberal versions of those institutions, or that they have been transformed by illiberal ideas.

Insofar as you are a Keynesian, you are illberal. Insofar as I am a Nietzschean, so am I, so some degree. So now I accused us both of having illiberal elements in our world views. Was I engaging in ad hominem against myself? Sheesh! Make an argument and don't engage in these kinds of attempts at derailing.

This has devolved into a definitions battle. Daniel is using one definition of liberalism, and I and Troy, etc. are using another. This isn't helpful.

Daniel, I know you spelled out your ideas of what makes institutions liberal in an earlier post, but would you mind specifying things a bit more? We know blatantly illiberal institutions when we see them, but for you, where exactly is the line?

Troy -
If one attaches moral significance to liberal values, of course it's an ad hominem. And now Keynes is apparently illiberal?! It's better just not to engage you at this point I think.

Alex -
I thought I discussed what would be illiberal earlier - and I'd think it's pretty well laid out by the definition of "liberal"! If voting is regularly gamed, even though a voting structure is in place (as in Putin's Russia), that is illiberal. If a government is not limited - if it can define the length of its own leash and does not have a set of specified roles that leave people to their own business except in pre-specified cases where there is a public interest, then it is illiberal. Decentralization is an interesting one. I wouldn't require a liberal state to be federal (although I think it's a good idea), so in a unitary state decentralization really has more to do with the limitations placed on a government. Separation of powers should be straightforward. If the same guy makes, enforces, and interprets the laws that is highly problematic.

I'm really not sure what you think is so hazy Alex.

I think you and Troy know these points perfectly well. You would just like to live in not just a liberal society, but a libertarian society: you have very specific expectations for what limitations ought to be placed on government. That seems like an entirely different assertion to me. I'm happy to concede we don't live in a libertarian society, and we never did.

Yes, Keynes is illiberal. His economics is pre-liberal by his own admission. And he argued that it would be easier to implement his ideas in the post-liberal societies he saw emerging around him. He happened to think that his illiberal prescriptions were what would save liberalism. In this sense he remained a "liberal," but only in the same way that George W. Bush was pro-free markets in the Fall of 2008. I do not believe you have to destroy the free market to save free market, to paraphrase Bush. And I do not think Keynes' illiberal prescriptions would help save liberalism.

You need to understand that there are two kinds of illiberalisms -- pre- and post- -- and these are "right" and "left." There is also postmodern illiberalism, which combines the two. Keynes leans in that direction in many ways, which is why both right and left in this country like to use his ideas.

In any case, if you have a voting system in which the elections are rigged so that you are essentially left with two choices that are in fact one choice, that's not real democratic liberalism. And that's not a libertarian statement. That's a liberal statement.

It is also not liberal democracy if the people can vote themselves into slavery. That is illiberal democracy.

It is the rules that matter on whether you have liberalism or illiberalism. I am willing to include a lot of things into "liberalism," including non-libertarian positions, but not things that have historically been illiberal.

Just because you like it, that doesn't make it liberal. You have a lot of illiberal ideas. And quite frankly, not all libertarian ideas are liberal, either. "Libertarian" and "liberal" are two different things. And in the U.S., there are elements of liberalism in both our left and right -- but both also have a bit of (especially postmodern) illiberalism as well.

Daniel,

Thanks for the elaboration, but I'm still not sure as to where you'd draw the line. Let me pose a question, again using the commerce clause. The commerce clause has been used to allow the Federal government to, among other things, regulate the terms on which growers of corn may offer their product for trade, and also what kinds of food may be sold on school grounds. Can we really call this level of control consistent with liberalism? What, exactly, must the government do, citing the commerce clause as justification, before you classify it as illiberal?

Political order, just like economic order, is defined in the process of its emergence. Almost all of the discussion above is divorced from the history by which modern order has emerged. Instead, it is largely just people wanting their Radical Libertarian order and angry that the process leading up to now hasn't lead to it.

Looking simply at what we have now with a rationalistic vision of the perfect society will never advance our knowledge of liberal institutions. Instead, any judgement of them must take into account their entire history and how those institutions have guided historical evolution. It is my contention that when judged that way, the liberal institutions of the American government aren't half bad.

I also don't see at all how Keynes got into this discussion other than the desire to always bring in one's favored opponent. (If anything, my own arguments come from Friedrich Hayek and Edmund Burke.)

Alex -
So I follow Buchanan, and I think there's a difference between constitutional and policy issues. Some of these are going to be illiberal policy decisions, but the point is that if they are made in a robust liberal polity there are corrections to that. These are contestable questions (otherwise the policies wouldn't have passed in the first place!), so letting liberal institutions sort them out is much safer than having a big libertarian rule book that instructs people what is and isn't forbidden from the outset.

I genuinely don't know the details of the cases you cite. I think it's reasonable to think about school children as being incapable of making all decisions for themselves. Just like parents make food decisions at home, it seems like a group of parents can decide what food is served to their children in a public setting. I'm not sure what the big concern here is. This seems very different from, say, Bloomberg's excesses in NYC.

Your point about corn is also very vague. What are we talking about here? Is it price regulation or is it a general welfare/public health concern? I just don't know much about the regulation of corn markets.

I hope this attempt is clearer. I'm not sure what's so controversial/confusing about what I'm trying to say. I don't think we're getting hung up on the identification of libertarianism with liberalism, but I'm not sure what else it is.

Harrison -
I completely agree. It's the emergent properties of the U.S. constitutional order that are really central. In our case they seem to guarantee a robust order that is quite livable and quite liberal (although as you say, not exactly libertarian).

I think immediately of Hayek when talking about American constitutionalism too. I am constantly amazed that people who claim to be Hayekians are so quick to wreck this particularly successful emergent order and substitute in their own blueprints that have never been tried out and have not evolved in an actual human society. Not that emergent orders are always nice, but in this case especially it seems a heck of a lot better than a planned order.

I genuinely don't understand the sort of libertarian social engineering that (some) people can embrace.

btw - following your blog now. It looks like you have some very interesting discussions. Where are you in the MA program?

Daniel,

After reading your reply, I wonder if perhaps we're not just disagreeing over the definition of liberalism, but also disagreeing over what "robustness" means. You wrote:

"So I follow Buchanan, and I think there's a difference between constitutional and policy issues. Some of these are going to be illiberal policy decisions, but the point is that if they are made in a robust liberal polity there are corrections to that."

I also am a student of Buchanan, and I am fairly certain he would be puzzled by this claim. Due to Buchanan and the influence of other political economists, I always thought of robust liberal constitutional orders as those which would prevent illiberal policy outcomes. If the day-to-day legislation is in conflict with the meta-rules, then the meta-rules aren't doing their job.

Of course, I understand that it's silly to indict the ideal type just because it does not yield the desired results 100% of the time. An illiberal policy or two every now and then wouldn't by itself mean the underlying order was not robust. However, I think we currently are seeing far too many illiberal policies, and I do not see any tendency for self-correction, other than changing the preferences of the median voter.

"...so letting liberal institutions sort them out is much safer than having a big libertarian rule book that instructs people what is and isn't forbidden from the outset."

I'll take the libertarian rule book any day, but that's hardly a surprise. Among other things, it would be way more obvious when politicians tried to circumvent the meta-rules. The Constitution (nor any constitution in my opinion) has no binding force beyond what current parties' preferences ascribe to it. If all it can be is a Schelling point, best spell out as explicitly as possible what is and what isn't allowed.

I am also very skeptical that there is any self-correcting tendency of political processes, other than reversion to the preferences of the median voter (Vince Ostrom was a big influence on me here).

"Your point about corn is also very vague."

The argument was that a farmer's corn could potentially be sold on the national market, which could potentially impact national prices, meaning it fell within the bounds of the commerce clause to dictate to the farmer how much corn he could sell, and at what price, in a much more local market.

re: " Due to Buchanan and the influence of other political economists, I always thought of robust liberal constitutional orders as those which would prevent illiberal policy outcomes. If the day-to-day legislation is in conflict with the meta-rules, then the meta-rules aren't doing their job."

I think it depends on time frame. Surely one of the more robust features of our system is the division of powers, for example.

Well, sometimes it takes a little time for the division of powers to work its magic, right? These questions are almost always contestable. That's the whole beauty of liberalism: in a society of diverse opinions, pluralism and liberalism help to sort it out. But that can take a little time.

Well over the course of 200 years society has been pretty consistently free here.

If we are arguing about school lunches and it takes time for the institutions to sort that out, that doesn't seem like a big challenge of the robustness of the system to me. Of course you'll always manage to turn up someone who thinks there's been a violation.

Liberalism doesn't guarantee perfect consensus, right?

re: "I'll take the libertarian rule book any day, but that's hardly a surprise"

See now I wonder how you define liberalism. This sort of reaction seems to contradict liberal principles to me and really highlight the distinction between liberalism and libertarianism (I consider libertarianism a subset of the liberal tradition, but it jettisons some important liberal ideas).

I don't think a reasonable person could justify that with the commerce clause. I do think it's fine that the Constitution allows Congress to regulate commerce. If there is a regulatory imperative in the corn market, that's fine. I guess it seems to me there's a difference between regulating commerce for the general welfare (say, public health regulations about the storage of corn for sale) and dictating commerce by determining quantities and prices.

If all the rules/laws/legislation do not apply to all people equally all the time, you do not have a liberal order. Every instance of cronyism is a violation of liberalism. Every bailout is a violation of liberalism.

However, a flat income tax or guaranteed minimum income would both be liberal policies, as they apply to everyone, but would not be particularly libertarian. A libertarian might not agree with having labeling laws, but if everyone was required to have clear labels on anything sold, that would be a liberal policy.

The ridiculous decision, based on the interstate commerce clause, that a corn farmer cannot grow corn for his own consumption because if he did not grow the corn, he would have to consume corn that might have crosses state lines is an illiberal policy. It is designed to protect some people at the expense of others. Thus all subsidies are illiberal, as are any laws that are structurally designed to benefit one group over another.

"This sort of reaction seems to contradict liberal principles to me..."

To me, the generality norm is a necessary but not sufficient condition for liberalism. Any legislation that affects individuals or groups of individuals differently cannot be liberal. As Troy pointed out, this does not rule out a guaranteed minimum income or a flat tax, but it does seem to rule out the corn farmer case.

"Well, sometimes it takes a little time for the division of powers to work its magic, right? These questions are almost always contestable. That's the whole beauty of liberalism: in a society of diverse opinions, pluralism and liberalism help to sort it out. But that can take a little time."

Right, I said that you oughtn't indict the ideal type for failing to secure 100% favorable outcomes in the real world. But I see many policies today that deviate significantly from the generality norm. (It appears that these are occurring at an increasing rate, but this might be availability bias on my part.) Also, I don't see any tendency for self-correction, if by self-correction we mean reversion back to liberal outcomes rather than reversion to median voter-preferred outcomes. This worries me greatly.

Pete, I like your question and you know that my answer to your question is "Yes": http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1744364

What Christian principles do you sueggst she is speaking out for? I am not sure I understand: I agree that the promotion of homosexuality or positive discrimination in respect of gay people are not acceptable to most people, but I am entirely in favour of equal rights and equal treatment for gay people, including priests and all minority groups. The shouters and screechers who attacked Melanie Phillips are alien to most gay people who quietly get on with the business of life just like the rest of us. Come to think of it, you are a bit of a shouter yourself, Mr T although not in the same category as Melanie's attackers.

Melanie is Jewish. Why does that preclude her from trmenutipg faith positions? I know plenty of non-believers who are nevertheless pro-Christianity. She recognises, as do most others, that it is Christianity which defends our freedoms and protects us from intolerance, valuing true equality. The reason the left hates her so much is that she is a poacher-turned-gamekeeper, having previously been a rabid leftie but then she grew up.

Melanie Phillips is pointing out that not only has the the emrpeor got no clothes but that there is also an elephant in the room. I am sure that almost everyone in the establishment' know/strongly suspect that all this stuff is true, they just daren't admit it. As do the commentators here, but it is easier to call people idiots or fascists than construct a counter argument her point confirmed.

I just can't see what Jimmy Lai can possibly get in rerutn for his money. The DP and CP are not going to become the ruling party in the foreseeable future. And what can the government do to help Lai sell more newspaper? By creating more scandals?If this really is a case of corruption, it seems that Mr Lai has bribed the wrong persons.

B) fiscal cstvervanioe social liberalE) fiscal cstvervanioe social moderate smaller less intrusive government better abolish IRS implement " tax" ( consumption tax ) a flat tax don't enough common sense vote a tax. progressive tax scheme now nothing short criminal allows government much control ( hence reluctance abolish ) tax dollars pay IRS 6 billion a year steal money form .. insane!

Deege - I am a liberal mlesyf and I don't ever use the word progressive ESPECIALLY when preferring to the two political parties (I am disenfranchised from both). There's nothing progressive about either of them their ideas of getting something done are if the other side loses, we win and absolutely zero gets accomplished, good or bad.And overall, those are stereotypes of course. I'm pro-gun. Some liberals I know own tons of guns. I really don't understand how someone can say liberals hate old people it was the conservative bill in 2003 that made the cost of all of their medication go up.As far as liberals hating religious people I don't hate religious people. Though I do hate it when people think that their religion is the only one in existence and think that the country should cater to only their own religion. A lot of conservaties the same people that shout about freedom from the hilltops are the same people who refuse to acknowledge the religious freedom of others.I kind-of assumed that the independance of women was spawned from the hippie values, thus, a liberal thing.

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