I guess my original comment was too long or something because typepad wouldn’t accept it. I am going to host it here. It will not make much sense if you haven’t been reading the thread, so regular readers might want to skip this one.

I think recent Republican presidents have all presided over increases in the size of government, but the rate of growth just wasn’t as fast as under Democrats. Bush Jr was an exception who was more like LBJ. Obama is projected to similarly increase the size of government, but Bruce Bartlett has argued that Bush is still to blame for much of the growth Obama will preside over. Although many libertarians were not fans of it, Bush’s plan for private accounts for social security was associated more with libertarians than any other group. It crashed and burned, but that he was willing to touch the third-rail signified something. Immigration is another area where Bush & McCain took political risks (here at the hands of their socially conservative base) for a policy libertarians are among the most fond of. Steven Teles’ “Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement” distinguishes between the “business wing” of the Republican party (which often favors government intervention in its favor) and ideological libertarians. Where the GOP throws a bone to the libertarians, they are probably blowing dog whistles for a more important group than libertarians.

Speaking of Haidt, he and Wilkinson were at a talk where they discussed Arthur Brooks work on happiness and Haidt mentioned that one group had been left out of the analysis so far: authoritarians. His suspicion is that they would be less happy than conservatives (the happiest group) and liberals or libertarians (who are like a more extreme version of liberals). The Audacious Epigone has some demographic data here on self-described conservative Democrats, which he thinks might be considered “anti-libertarians” ideologically.

I think people tend to lump national security/foreign policy in with social policy. Mitt Romney explicitly discussed the “three legs of the stool” of conservatism. It might be the odd man out in that it is really elites who are most concerned with it, while the general public focuses more on domestic policy. If we disaggregate social and economic views (even though a one-dimensional view of politics does quite a good job in predicting views) than I think the third leg can also be considered orthogonal. Many righties who are not socially conservative favored the Iraq war (Brink Lindsey, Glenn Reynolds, Megan McArdle, Andrew Sullivan & Daniel Drezner have all applied the libertarian moniker to themselves and that’s not even including the rather cosmopolitan neoconservatives). Paleoconservative isolationist opponents are often quite socially conservative (enough so that they are alienated from the rest of society). The proponents of “national greatness conservatism” (with John McCain as their emblem) wanted to explicitly repudiate small government in favor of a more selfless and nationalistic communitarianism. Then there are the “liberal hawks” (though I think most of them are on the economic right wing of the left). The radicals among lefties and libertarians tended to oppose the war. I suppose I might be focusing too much on one incident, but I’m only 22 and so it occupies a large chunk of my mind-share where Vietnam might for my elders.

While it’s probably off-topic, I’d like to reply to Wiblin. In my view it’s a mistake to ask about “being oneself” or “authentic” as oppose to molded by society. Marxists used to claim that the proletariat had developed false consciousness under capitalism in order to explain why they had not developed class consciousness and thrown off their chains. Because they believed everyone outside of communism was oppressed (odd as that sounds to us) they regarded communist takeovers as “liberation”. My take is that “false consciousness” proves too much: no one can ever establish that their preferences are correct and emanating from their real essence untainted by contamination. To let my Szasz flag fly, it is sometimes said that the actions of a person with mental illness are not the “real them”, but the only thing to distinguish the real and ill person is that the commentator does not approve of the actions of the latter. Galbraith & Hayek once argued over advertising. Galbraith claimed that it merely created wants which were not authentic to the individual. Hayek responded that for a social creature like man all of our preferences other than the most basic and rooted in biology (like hunger being unpleasant, though preferences in food are still cultural) are influenced by others. The complaint about marketing & consumerism is similar to that about “religion, traditional family relations, established ideas and ways of living”. It signals that one is a nonconformist trend-setter rather than follower. I endorse an extremely “thin” conception of libertarianism. I regard others lives as none of my business provided they don’t harm me. If you want remain in the small town you were born in and go to church to recite Latin you can’t understand with your wife that your extended family picked out for you, that’s fine by me. If you want to found a Seastead on which you make astral voyages to receive Satanic enlightenment through large quantities of drug use and orgies with surgically altered fellow travelers, that’s fine by me as well. To prefer one over the other requires some conception of the good which I don’t think is possible to arrive at objectively and don’t want politics to be concerned with.

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