WC is unsure that the Iowa caucuses have any real political meaning, but based on the latest polling, Ron Paul, the latest Not-Mitt, has sagged back in to a tie with Romney. The historical chart is interesting:
The peaks by Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and Paul – the Not-Mitts – paint an interesting picture of a Republican party in serious disarray. Ron Paul appears to have peaked and started to sag as the Not-Mitt de jour, although commentators predict a dead heat among Romney, Paul and Santorum.
But while Iowans do whatever their highly changeable minds decide to do, WC thinks it is more interesting to review the appeal of Ron Paul. Libertarians, and Ron Paul is a proud Libertarian pretending to be a Replublican, don’t fit the traditional Republican/Democrat duality of American politics. Libertarians opposition to big government appeals to the right; their opposition to drug laws appeals to the left. Respected conservative blogger Matt Stoller thinks the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism is exposed by Libertarianism. In a recent essay, he takes an incredibly selective and distorted tour of the from Lincoln to Roosevelt to spin an anti-government fantasy.
But progressives don’t have to look further than December 16’s headlines to see that central government does have an important role, and that Libertarian fantasies of a weak federal government aren’t just unlikely but dangerous. After more than 20 years of studies, drafts and abject collapses in the face of industry pressure: the Environmental Protection Agency finally issued regulations limiting the amounts of mercury, other metallics, dioxin and particulates from coal-fired power plants.
Power plant emissions have no regard for state boundaries; emissions in Delaware wreak havoc in West Virginia and Tennessee. The power plants are owned my multi state – multi-national – corporations. A single state is nearly powerless to regulate the hazard. The existence of the hazard is really beyond dispute. The regulations will save an estimated $150‐$380 billion and prevent 18,000 – 46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks, 13,000 emergency room visits and 2 million missed work or school days each year. For each dollar of expense in retrofitting emission controls, there’s a savings of $3 to $5 in expenses associated with the emissions. The amendments to the Clean Air Act that made these regulations possible were enacted by a bipartisan Congress, just to prove that it used to be possible. Big government? Yes, WC admits it. Necessary big government? Yes, WC asserts it.
Libertarians seem to reject the reality of a modern economy. Libertarians seem to ignore the necessity multi-state regulation, and multi-state corporations. Libertarians seem to deny the reality of corporate greed, short-sightedness and corruption. Ask the 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch coal mine who were killed through the outrageous negligence of the owner. Self-policing doesn’t work. Big corporations can buy state legislatures – and state inspectors – even more easily and inexpensively than they can buy a Congress and federal inspectors.
This progressive, at least, isn’t confused by the Ron Pauls of the world. Libertarianism is a doctrine for a world that hasn’t existed since industrialization. It’s premised on fantasies and backed by folks with serious denial issues.