02 February 2010

New York: A New Candidate for Governor

Warren Redlich is a Libertarian seeking the Republican nomination for Governor of New York. According to the most recent reports, Redlich has vowed to run on the Libertarian ticket whether he wins the Republican nod or not. Within the GOP he'll certainly be an underdog against Rick Lazio, but Redlich is hoping to get the local Tea Partiers on his side. Here is his campaign website.

Predictably, Redlich preaches fiscal responsibility. He intends to restore it by eliminating several government departments and eliminating fat elsewhere. Some of these proposals look reasonable, such as his plan to impose a $100,000 pay cap on public officials -- though it should be noted that there is no good reason why the people of New York should not demand or enact a pay cap for private officials. Since Redlich dismisses the argument that high salaries are needed to attract qualified people to the public posts in question, he should be expected not to make the same argument when similar caps are suggested for CEOs.

Redlich also supports submitting pay raises for elected officials and political appointees to public votes. He offers this suggestion on analogy with proposals to submit CEO pay raises to shareholder votes, so we can assume that he supports that idea as well. If so, how great a leap would it be, in a democracy, to close the circle and submit CEO pay to public votes as well. I'm just asking.

The new candidate would get rid of the New York State Lottery ("the state should not be in the lottery business"), Thruway tolls, and many agencies that seem to have purely advisory or coordinative mandates, on the supposition that the latter don't really do anything but devour taxes.

On cultural issues he's more obviously Libertarian than Republican. While he should win gun-nut support with his advocacy of concealed-weapon rights for New Yorkers, he might lose those with right-wing cultural leanings by supporting further liberalization of the state's drug laws. Redlich believes that the answer to drug crime is to "take the profit out of the market for illegal drugs." While he doesn't explicitly endorse legalization, his association with reform groups implies some sympathy toward that end. As for guns, he cites Vermont's peaceful record as proof of the effectiveness of concealed-weapon permits -- as if that were the only decisive factor in that state.

I've offered a quick sampler of Redlich's opinions. As a candidate with an inevitable funding disadvantage, this Libertarian is not above playing a little populist politics, as he does here by listing some of Democratic front-runner Andrew Cuomo's wealthy donors. It may be fair for someone of Redlich's ideology to expose a seeming hypocrisy on the part of self-described champions of the little people, but I doubt that he can object to soliciting funds from the rich as a practice on any principle he has.

It's easy for candidates to run against wasteful government. The existence of waste is too obvious to ignore, especially in hard times, but Redlich may be too quick to assume that bureaucracy itself is always waste, given his obvious bias in favor of the private sector and The Market as the answer to all human needs. The emergence of political society in all places, however, is proof of the private sector's limited efficacy in all periods of human history. Redlich's own aspiration to office is an acknowledgment of the state's necessity; otherwise he might just as well hoard his gold or his guns, hunker down and wait for everything to break down. What I want to hear from a libertarian sometime is an acknowledgment that in a political society all the people share an obligation to the material welfare of all the people. Absent that obligation, government becomes nothing more than a police state inevitably dedicated to protecting one class of people from another. But if libertarians always think that political society is less than the sum of its parts, then governing that society is always going to be a waste of their and our time.

Here's a local news report on Redlich's announcement, including comments below from the candidate himself in response to website readers.


Albany Lawyer said...

Thanks for mentioning me. Some comments in response:

I do support Say On Pay for shareholders. Corporations are a creation of the state, so I see no reason why the state shouldn't give shareholders more voice.

But I would not impose a cap on CEO pay. Let the shareholders do it. And I would also allow public officials to go over the cap, but only with voter approval.

Yes, I would certainly take big contributions if they were offered. But they won't be. Because the contributors who give that kind of money expect something in return. And they know they won't get it from me. It doesn't bother you at all that Cuomo got $55K from a parking garage?

I don't see the market as the answer to all human needs. Economics recognizes "market failures." Pollution and mass transit are great examples where the government does have to step in. My trigger for that intervention is probably a lot higher than yours, and my methods would be more market-oriented, but I agree government has that role.

Your "material welfare of all the people" is awfully vague and somewhat scary. But we can probably both agree that paying $688K to the head of a library seems a bit much.

Anonymous said...

You right-wingers are always up in arms about "waste". Don't you think that it's a "waste" that there are people in this society that make more money in 1 year than most people will make in a lifetime? Don't you think it's a "waste" that some people have more money than they can make any use of, so it just sits in a bank, creating more wealth for that person, but the money, which in a healthy economy would continue to circulate, doesn't, because the person who holds it has no use for it.

The fact is, some people just don't understand the concept of "enough". Something you and people like you need to accept, understand, and start thinking about. You belief that "wealth is infinite" is false. If wealth were, in fact, infinite, then by all practical standards, everyone would be infinitely wealthy. The thing it, right-wingers use wealth as a measuring stick to justify their own belief system by feeling superior to those with less than they have. It's a dangerous attitude to hold towards the masses.

Samuel Wilson said...

Warren: You flatter me by condescending to respond to my mere blog post. You bring up an interesting point about who gets donations. As a Libertarian, a champion of free enterprise par excellence, you should be rolling in corporate donations, yet you are almost certainly right that you won't be unless you get the GOP nomination. You have your own idea of the reason, but wouldn't dismantling the state's regulatory apparatus, as people like you would presumably attempt to do, be incentive enough as the prospective "something in return" to motivate businesses to give you money? If not, why not? If you think it's because corporate donors expect elected officials to give them privileges, shouldn't that suggest to you that "big government" is to a great extent a creature of "big business" rather than its adversary? But to answer your question: it bothers me to see parking garages give that kind of money to any candidate. I reject the Buckley v. Valeo equation of spending money with political speech because it dooms us to a class system of political competition that prices out even free-enterprise champions like you.

I also have to say that I find it somewhat scary that you find the "material welfare of all the people" a scary concept to any extent. Would you prefer that we acquiesce in the misery of people who somehow don't live up to someone else's standard of competitiveness or productivity?

As for a librarian's salary, some will certainly argue that, depending on the library, the job is of more cultural value than the work of many people besides CEOs who receive much more compensation. Your problem doesn't seem to be with the money but with the job, but if you want to argue for an inherent pay cap for one job, we should be able to assert one for any job, regardless of abstract notions of what certain people deserve. Since we are a democratic republic and not a market-ocracy, there's no good reason to exclude anyone from the debate.

All this aside, I wish you luck in your campaign. You'll need it if you hope to infiltrate the GOP, but if you stick to your independent stand this fall you'll deserve our moral support, if not our votes.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree. As much as I dislike the notion of the bipolarchy, if the only alternative is right-wing free-market gun nuts, then I'd rather stick with things as they are. But then, how much "moral support" can you offer a group whose morals are dictated by $$$?

Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself, I hope you get your butt handed to you in the election in a most humiliating defeat.

Samuel Wilson said...

By whom? Any recommendations?

d.eris said...

I'm not aware of any other third party or indy candidates for governor in NY. btw, great post Sam. I linked it at TPID.

Anonymous said...

To answer your query, Sam: By anyone who isn't a free-market, right-wing gun nut.

ESun67 said...

"What I want to hear from a libertarian sometime is an acknowledgment that in a political society all the people share an obligation to the material welfare of all the people."

Why does it follow that a 'political society' has an obligation to the material welfare of all ? Isn't the premise of the polity based on common interests that cannot be achieved in a private manner. There were over 400 private turnpikes in colonial America before Clay's American System distorted the marketplace with an English like mercantilism, the precursor to corporatism.

My guess is that this is a rumination based on social contract theory or perhaps something as esoteric as John Rawls veil of ignorance premise. Excellent refutation of this in Crispin Sartwell's Against the State address this quite well.

The counter to this of course is that if coercive force is legitimized by a sense of obligation to all, we do not in fact own anything, including ourselves. See Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty.

Samuel Wilson said...

ESun67: Thanks for writing. I happen to think the burden is on libertarians to explain why the obligation I assert is undesirable. My own view is that civilization is the rightful alternative to competition for survival, so that civilization is by my definition cooperative rather than competitive. Libertarians' preference for competition (or for a so-called cooperation that is euphemistic at best) seems to be grounded in their concern for self-ownership. This sense of self-ownership is so jealously guarded that it seems willing to see others suffer or die lest that sense be compromised in some indistinct manner. Can you correct my impression without trying to launch another battle of the books? I'd welcome the attempt.

ESun67 said...

Mr. Wilson . . .

It certainly is tougher to disentangle your thoughts without mutual reference points.

It's about voluntary transactions, not your perception of a civilization premised on the authority of force. Equating free enterprise with corporatist blather is not sufficient.

One can certainly assert self ownership without a malicious indifference to human suffering. Once said ownership is compromised the collectivist roil seems to have no bounds and we're all suddenly subject to a social contract which was never submitted for mutual benefit.

Let's face it, you would save the world by the point of a gun, not I.

Samuel Wilson said...

ESun67: I didn't accuse libertarians of malicious indifference, simply indifference. If I have to add an adjective, I'd infer it to be "necessary." You believe in an ethical obligation to let Paul starve if Peter can't be persuaded to aid him. Peter's freedom has priority over Paul's life. Do I pose a false choice? Please explain why.

ESun67 said...

"This sense of self-ownership is so jealously guarded that it seems willing to see others suffer or die lest that sense be compromised in some indistinct manner."

This seems like malicious indifference to me. I place great value on charity and helping to reduce human suffering.

While I might try to persuade Peter to help Paul, I don't feel obligated to point a gun at him and tell him civilization says you must help.

ESun67 said...

I's further add that the manner that it is compromised is no less distinct than an utter sacrifice of it at the hands of a few who derive their authority on the notion of sovereignty, inherited from kings. The guise of democracy not withstanding. I'm happy to cite further scholarly efforts in such thoughts, but fear the slur of being a pedantic again. SO I'm stuck with the Rand stereotype type despite my hatred for shallow characters and horray for us speeches for 20 pages.

Samuel Wilson said...

I'm not averse to scholarly thinking but I grow concerned when people cite authorities in defense of an ideology that seems to be shaped by its own jargon rather than by experience of the world of real people. To save further confusion, let's cut to the chase: is it your view that people who are not criminals but somehow don't live up to your standard of productivity or competitiveness deserve to suffer or die if no one can be persuaded to aid them?

Anonymous said...

Simply put:
Civilization is an agreement between all members of that civilization - a "social contract" if you must call it that. You are voluntarily a member of the society. If you choose not to be a member of society, you ought not have access to the rights and benefits of being a member of that society. In other words, go live in the woods. If you choose to be a member of society, then you have certain responsibilities towards that society, defined by that society. Again, simply put, you are either voluntarily a member of the human race, and therefore obliged to treat other human beings as you wish to be treated, or (again) go live in the woods like an animal.

You can quote any book you want at me, but there is no compelling reason that I should assume that just because you agree with the author, that author is somehow infallible. Books mean nothing when compared to reality. In reality, millions of people live in abject poverty and starve to death each year around this planet. Tens of thousands of people parish in wars they have nothing to do with. Your precious books haven't solved one single problem.

There are problems on this planet - most of which are caused by stupid and/or selfish human beings. As long as such "human beings" are allowed any power, the problems will persist. Ergo - yes I would save the world at the barrel of a gun. A gun with which I would eliminate all stupid and selfish people. Starting with the right wing of the USA and gradually spreading out to the rest of the planet.

ESun67 said...

When I cite scholarly pieces it is usually a result of a long read that I think would be helpful with a particular discussion. I have a curious theory about 'ideology' and being a libertarian, but that would be completely out of context.

"is it your view that people who are not criminals but somehow don't live up to your standard of productivity or competitiveness deserve to suffer or die if no one can be persuaded to aid them?"

Have I outlined a standard of productivity or competitiveness ? This is a curious notion to me. To say that someone deserves to die because of a lack of productivity does seem harsh and cruel, indeed. If you labor under this premise as being 'libertarian' I can assure you, it's quite wrong.

If I asked, are you in favor of enforcing the public good on reluctant participants ? A similar reaction might occur in your own head.

ESun67 said...

@Crhy - So the only alternative to not agreeing to the contract is to live in the woods ? Which ones ? Owned by the state or private, taxed by the state ?

If anything, the nation state has provided more war and misery to humans than any other institution. Some sixty plus million in the 20th Century alone.

I find the libertarian principle of not initiating force as a political means most like the Golden Rule as any principle out there.

I agree that I've never met an infallible author, but to summarily resist reading it or referring to it because humans have foibles, seems unabashedly ignorant.

Poverty is usually not a result of true free markets, which really do meet the needs of people far better than any enlightened central planning. That is reality.

Business and banking that depends on the heavy hand of government to survive as they do is inherently corporatist and wrong.

And the solution is that stupid selfish people who assume power should be summarily removed and replaced once again by stupid selfish people.

Samuel Wilson said...

ESun67: In your scenario, who are the unwilling participants, and what are they doing in the scenario? For all I know, you could be describing majority rule. Do you find that oppressive? Are you a libertarian or an anarchist? Do you even believe in such a thing as the public good, or even the public?

As for the question of whether suffering is deserved, since you reserve to yourself the right to choose to aid someone or not, I'll assume that you base the choice on something besides a whim. Since the premise that all human beings should enjoy a minimally civilized standard of living doesn't seem (dare I say) compelling to you, I'm curious about the standards you apply when deciding whether to intervene when the market throws more people out on the street.

Please don't try to tell me that true free markets won't do such a thing. The only reason why I might believe such a statement is because there are no such things as free markets, since the successful are always tempted to abuse their power in order to suppress competition. You might want to consider that that's where "big government" comes from in our time, not from some conspiracy of bureaucrats or intellectuals. You might well need a very big government to check that tendency and ensure that everybody plays by free-market rules.

ESun67 said...

Samuel -

I think free markets provide a minimum standard of living far better than any government. That creates and benefits civilization.
Perhaps dropping the term civilization and maintaining the term social contract would suit your argument better.

That being said, I appreciate your candor and attempt to reach out to a libertarian. I've tried on KOS and only get the vitriol and bile that stale partisanship has fouled for too long.

A libertarian seeks to reduce, if not eliminate coercive aggression in human interaction. Unfortunately the state provides about 99% of that aggression. It follows that one who would eliminate that aggression might be fine with a 'stateless' society. ie one based on voluntary interaction.

I always stop on help people on a whim. Whether they are bleeding, being attacked or in some material need. That's a positive human nature that doesn't require compulsion. We've become so dependent on the state to provide these services as a public good, that we forget or deny that alternatives are possible.

I've worked as a private contractor in NY's Albany bureaucracy and have seen the fraud, waste and corruption that I don't believe exists as severely in a private operation. Why do we surrender our hard earned money (which is controlled by a cartelized beast know as the Fed)to dysfunctional operations that only perpetuate poverty ? This baffles me.

The idea that an SEC or other agency can check the market is obviously a failure on so many different levels. They are toothless beasts subject to the same masters.

I appreciate the efforts here and follow the responses, but my time is being sliced on so many different ways and can't begin to describe.

Remember, a 'political' libertarian seeks to end foreign occupations, supports gay rights and wishes to stop the ugly and nasty drug war. I hope Democrats get on board with the war parts.