I figured I’d start the new site off with my “greatest hit”, so to speak; this is the post I’ve done that got the most hits, anyway. Originally posted March 15.
Stephen Green thinks I might be becoming a [gasp] conservative:
No, I Am Your Father
Mac Thomason, War Liberal, is slowly coming over to the Dark Side.
Love your work, Mac, but when you’re supporting free markets, recognizing the value of the US Navy in protecting free trade, admiring free trade, and the talking about the value of a Western education… well, it might be time to drop the word “liberal.”
There is something to this: I am, I know, more hawkish than I was last year at this time. But then, I supported the Gulf War — or what I guess we’ll be calling Gulf War I pretty soon — at the time. My first reaction when I heard about the invasion of Kuwait was, “We should do something to protect an ally, but of course we won’t.” And I was 20 years old at the time, so a war could have had some profound effects on me. I think I underestimated the impact the end of the Cold War would have on our willingness to intervene. Anyway, about a year later, I took to saying that the US Marine Corps was the greatest force for good in the world.
The worst thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party was the Vietnam War. Of course, the D’s were the least of the victims of the war, but from the 1968 convention to the 1992 primaries (when Clinton and Tsongas laid a smackdown on the left) the party was essentially captured by its lunatic fringe, and that fringe hated the military. Even those (the majority) who weren’t out-and-out pacifists couldn’t understand that the military was not only necessary, but a necessary good.
My mother (the Ginpundit) tried to raise me a pacifist, but it didn’t take. When I was young — about ten, I’d guess — one of the hot topics was the nuclear freeze/nuclear disarmament. Continental Europeans, I remember, were really big on that. My reaction was basically: “Wait, if we disarmed, wouldn’t the Russians just take over, or kill us all?” I was told it was more complicated than that, and I was young, so I believed. A few years later, I realized that it wasn’t more complicated than that, and that the Russians would have either taken over or killed us all.
Free trade… Stephen probably doesn’t want to hear this, but a major influence on me in that (overcoming the biases of a profoundly unionist family) was Paul Krugman. Really, read his books and his Slate columns sometime. I know he’s been way off, especially since September, but I think the shorter format is bad for him. Anyway, I think free trade is wonderful. And I’ll point out that it wasn’t Clinton who threw up (pun intended) the steel tariff, or the Democrats who produced Pat Buchanan. I’ve more or less decided that free trade is a battle of the sensible center against the lunatic fringe of both sides.
Similarly, I think Western education — even more specifically, Anglospheric education — is wonderful as well. I’ve never understood how anyone could stand on the campus of, oh, let’s say, the University of California at Berkeley (or Oxford or Cambridge!), and not think that. I’ve spent most of my adult life either attending or working at colleges. Heaven, to me, is a good academic library; the one I work at isn’t heaven, but it’s probably more than I deserve.
However… I don’t consider any of this contrary to “liberalism” as I understand it, to the slightly left-of-center politics of the New Republic or the Democratic Leadership Council, or Bill Clinton for that matter. President Clinton is, of course, a repugnant human being. But I probably agreed with his policies about eighty percent of the time, and I’d guess that if you took out the times when he was clearly pandering and going against his best political judgment (and there was never anything wrong with his political judgment) it would be more like 95%. “Liberal” was used as a smear word by Republicans in the eighties, who used it to mean, basically, “Socialist”. I’ve never felt that way. Glenn Kinen today said that he thinks he’s a (John) Kennedy Democrat, and I feel I’m in that tradition, and that of Truman, and FDR.
There are a number of things I don’t normally talk about here, because they haven’t been part of the national debate lately, but where I’m far out of step with the Republican Party, and more or less in agreement with the Democratic. I’m an environmentalist, though whenever possible I prefer the carrot of tax credits to the stick of regulation. And I favor our current progressive income tax. I think the current Federal income tax structure is more or less right; not perfect, but at least in the top 5 percentile. (I also think that taxes were ridiculously high before Reagan’s cut, but most Democrats these days would agree with that.) I wish the State of Alabama would raise the income tax and lower sales taxes. I’m biased (in that my father and my communist sister are trial lawyers and my brother is in training to join the crowd) but I think “tort reform” is mostly a scam corporations are trying to pull to get away with selling defective products and services. (I’m not saying that there aren’t times when juries go too far, but that’s what judges are for.) I think Ralph Nader’s politics range from stupid to abhorrent, but I also think he did a lot to make this country a better place to live, back in the sixties and seventies. I just think it’s long past time for him to go. And though I may be a hawk, I think that National Missile Defense is a huge boondoggle and liable to be a waste of time even if it worked, though we should probably keep researching. I’m theoretically pro-union, though I think the AFL-CIO’s trade positions are immensely stupid and counterproductive; the American union movement is living in the past and needs to catch up with the postindustrial world.
There’s also a slew of things that I favor that most of the blogosphere would, and where the Democrats are on the side of the angels as well. I think that gay marriage should be legal. I’m pro-choice. Try winning a Republican primary with those stands. In a lot of ways, I’m a small-l libertarian, though I think that big-L party is full of shit. I think that prostitution should be decriminalized. Pot too, and we should pull way back on the drug war all around. I think we have to figure out a way to reform the prison system; certainly people need to be punished for committing crimes, but I see too much human capital being wasted.
The name “War Liberal” came about because that’s a good short way to describe my view of things. If I’d started a week later, I probably would have gone with “McPundit”; maybe it’s just as well. But labels are tricky things, and I’m not just a “liberal”. Let’s see, I’m a liberal/libertarian/hawk/zionist/free trader/tax justice enthusiast/pragmatist/feminist/anti-vegetarian/environmentalist/corporate watchdog/space nut/Star Trek fan/technophile/librarian. (Maybe it should have been “War Librarian”.) Find me someone whose politics really can be sewn up in one or two words, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t really think about things.