“The McCain Gamble”

Robert Bidinotto makes a thoughtful case for McCain from a libertarian perspective. This is the best reasoned and most concise argument for McCain that I have read so far:

The gamble we now face is that in voting for a ticket that professes hopelessly confused moral, political, and economic premises, we will not be doing greater damage to our nation’s future than by simply allowing the ascendancy of the overtly collectivist, anti-American left, represented by Barack Obama.
However, the operative word in the preceding sentence is “confused.” The Republican Party and its standard bearer are a mixed bag of clashing ideas. Inside that bag are not just anti-individualist and progressive ideas, but individualist and capitalist ideas, as well. It’s an incoherent hodge-podge. But it’s not all toxic; there is a lot of good in the mix.
This still makes the Republican Party infinitely better than the consistently anti-individualist, anti-capitalist, and ultimately anti-American Democratic left. The very fact that, in order to have a prayer of holding and inspiring his party core, McCain had to bring aboard a running mate who was much more consistently pro-free-market, speaks volumes about the priorities of the Republican base, and also their animosity toward McCain’s more statist inclinations. And in order to retain their support in governance, McCain will be forced to abandon or at least water down his worst initiatives, and also to promote a lot of pro-capitalist measures. He already has come around on the need for more offshore oil drilling, and you heard no mention of the terms “global warming” or “climate change” in his acceptance speech.
On individualist philosophical grounds, then, we are left with the choice of supporting either a profoundly flawed representative of America’s founding premises, or of supporting a candidate whose philosophy and every policy proposal are profoundly at odds with those premises. For me, that is no choice at all. (I leave aside the Libertarian candidacy of Bob Barr, who has zero chance of being elected; the only meaningful choice is between McCain and Obama.)
John McCain loves America and has its best interests at heart, even when his “heart” leads him to mistaken conclusions. I have no doubt that if persuaded that his ideas are contrary to America’s best interests, he would abandon them without hesitation. But can anyone say that about a candidate whose long-time minister damns America and whose long-time Chicago political associate bombed its institutions?
On the most gravely important policy issues of our day — national defense and energy development — the choice is clear. No, I will not expect much from a McCain-Palin administration; in fact, I will expect policies as incoherent as its premises. But I will never expect McCain and Palin to intentionally undermine the nation they love.

It’s worth reading the whole thing.

(Via Johnathan Pearce.)

UPDATE: Another thoughtful pro-McCain argument, this one by libertarian columnist Vin Suprynowicz.

9 thoughts on ““The McCain Gamble””

  1. That is a great piece. Thanks for the link.

    People like us do not love John McCain. Or, even if we do it is because we respect him as a warrior and a person who at least tries to live by his principles. On substance he is at best a mixed bag, since he lives by his gut not by his brain. He means well, he will not intentionally do any harm, and he may get some important things right.

    But that is all nothing compared to threat presented by his opponent.

    McCain as a MEANS to stop Obama is absolutely critical.

    For people with principles, most elections are votes AGAINST the worse
    of two choices, and this one is classically that.

  2. I think that McCain’s acceptance speech deserves a more nuanced reading than Bidinotto gave it. I do not think that McCain is rejecting the individual pursuit of happiness. I think the following is the key graf:

    “If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.”

    The psychology McCaim proposes, (“nothing brings greater happiness … than to serve a cause greater than yourself”) can be argued. I think that there is a lot of truth in it, because I believe that the self that pursues only itself must in the end be depressed and overwhelmed by its own finitude.

    I do not think that he is saying that self-interest is ignoble, but that the individual pursuit of higher ends makes individuals happier, and that is, therefore, the true pursuit of happiness.

    I do not think that he is proposing using the state’s compulsion to make us happy. I think he is calling us to make ourselves happy, by fighting for what is right, and that call is entirely in keeping with American and classical liberal values.

  3. Agree with Robert. Libertarian’s are too quick to think that anyone who says do anything other than go out and make money is a collectivist. The true classical, Anglo-American liberalism was civic and voluntarist, not narrowly self-interested. The government did not have to do everything because people were willing to carry their family and communal burdens by spontaneously assisting each other and organizing themselves to do it. McCain’s appreciation of this is founded in Christianity, but at least as much in the psychological insight as the spiritual one, that people who do not belong to some larger community, whether family or something voluntarily joined, are missing out. The notion of happiness through service to others is not a commonplace in our society anymore, but Tocqueville would recognize it. And it is absolutley orthodox Christian doctrine, which McCain has cast in practical rather than religious terms.

  4. Franklin was big on self-reliance and making a buck but saw the greatest felicity in life as being useful to others. They are not opposed, but often need to be prioritized.

    I don’t want a president who thinks the highest calling is pursuing the buck – though it is not an unattractive motivator in business. I would prefer such honesty, however, from those who see the U.S. budget as a big honey pot.

    Sure, it is possible to love something and spoil it, still, in the end, I’d prefer a president who loves this country. That means loving our history, its premises, its reality and its promise. “But I will never expect McCain and Palin to intentionally undermine the nation they love” is quite sufficient reason to vote for them. Neither Republican seems to feel that love as conditional; their opponents do.

  5. I to did not read any idea of compulsion into McCain’s speech. I read it as being one of advocating that people voluntarily commit themselves to higher purpose whether they did so in the public or private sector.

    Personally, I think McCain an atavism, a through back to a british victorian military aristocrat. I think he does strongly value the collective good over his own. It is central to his view of himself. On the the other hand, just like a victorian aristocrat he views martial values of self sacrifice as ultimately more worthy than being a mere economic creative. To this end, he often evinces a thinly veiled contempt of the business world and the people in it. I think it makes him prone to think that those who “serve” in the public sectors should ultimately have oversight on those who work in the private.

    Compared to Obama, however, McCain looks like a libertarian anarchist. Obama does not appear to see any part of life that should not be placed under state control.

  6. I read this thread and then googled “mccain national service.” He does seem to be associated with that idea, so I feared finding him promoting some Rangel-esque youth conscription plan. But this is not like that at all.

    I’d still say I’m voting more against the socialist hordes than for McCain, but this helps.

  7. after reading part of the first paragraph, and fighting off the urge to fall asleep, i found this article “worth skipping the whole thing”.

    Obama supporters are foolish to think that he will never betray them.
    Obama was a close friend of Pastor Wright for TWENTY YEARS.
    Obama threw Wright under the bus for personal ambition.
    McCain would not betray his country even after 5 years of torture.
    You can put lipstick on a traitor, but he’s still a traitor.

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