David R. Henderson  

Highlights of George W. Bush Speech

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Note: In my haste to post, I forgot to note that it wasn't a speech. It was a Q&A, with Condi Rice asking questions.

I've just returned from the Hoover Institution retreat that started Sunday night and went to noon today.

I'll post later on other aspects of the conference, hitting mainly the points I liked, but here I simply want to focus on the kickoff speech by former President George W. Bush. I got to sit in the cheap seats, the seats in another room where we watched a live feed. As a result, I had zero chance to ask a question.

These are highlights, with only occasional comments:
1. GWB: "The two biggest dangers in the Middle East are (i) ISIS and (ii) Iran."
DRH: I don't see the Iran part. Bush pointed out that Saudi Arabia and Israel are agreed on their opposition to Iran, and he's right, but that hardly makes the case.
2. GWB: "Houston's not going to get rebuilt without Mexican labor."
3. GWB: Advocated scholarships for North Korean refugees.
DRH: I like the idea of letting in North Korean refugees. Let a million of them in. But don't burden taxpayers. Go out there with Clinton, Obama, Carter, and your dad and raise $100 million. It wouldn't be hard. And a million North Koreans won't come. If 5,000 get across the North Korean border and get here, that's $20K each. And don't tie the scholarships to school. Give them money so they can get a start.
4. GWB: "Libertarianism undermines the notion [nation?--I wasn't sure--I was writing on a tiny piece of paper] of democracy."
DRH: Huh?
5. GWB (talking about economies, not military): "How can the U.S. compete with China?"
DRH: Here's where Krugman had a lot of valuable things to say. Read his Pop Internationalism and see if you're still worried. But here's the short version: nations don't compete economically in the sense that businesses compete. If China's productivity rises faster than ours--and it's likely to--then as long as our productivity per person rises by, say, 1.5% or higher per year, we will do great.
6. GWB: "The first principle of being commander in chief is to be in awe of the people who volunteer."
Words to the effect: "I remember when I was 22 and Lyndon Johnson was conducting the Vietnam war and we had the draft."
DRH: I loved the way he said "the draft." He said it as if he thought it was just a horrible thing, which it was.
7. GWB: He decried the "nativism" that has become so prominent in the American culture. Words to the effect: This is not who we are or should be.
He also compared nativism to attacks on free speech on campus.
8. GWB: NAFTA has big benefits on both sides of the border.
9. GWB: "Protectionism is zero sum."
DRH: It's worse; it's negative sum.




COMMENTS (6 to date)
Lliam writes:

4. GWB: "Libertarianism undermines the notion [nation?--I wasn't sure--I was writing on a tiny piece of paper] of democracy."
DRH: Huh?

He misspoke. What he obviously meant to say was that democracy undermines the notion of liberty.

Weir writes:

Maybe the notion of democracy is that your side isn't always in power, all of the time.

Socialism undermines that notion of democracy. Nationalism too. Libertarianism looks like a set of principles to a libertarian, but to a socialist or a nationalist it just looks like another party or ideology. And no single party is supposed to be in power all of the time, regardless of the election results.

Personally I like the idea of a libertarian constitution. If politicians were properly handcuffed, it wouldn't matter if they stuck around forever.

David R Henderson writes:

@Lliam,
He misspoke. What he obviously meant to say was that democracy undermines the notion of liberty.
No; he heaped praise on democracy throughout the talk.

James writes:

Of course libertarianism undermines democracy. With democracy, the government does whatever a majority will vote for. Libertarianism says a lot of potential policies are off limits no matter what the public will vote for.

Thomas Boyle writes:

James (8:23 am)

I agree. What libertarians often - usually - fail to grasp is that libertarianism is an outline for government policy, not an argument against government (that's anarchism, a different thing). It's a good way to run a country, but not likely to be what the public will vote for. An enlightened government can do much better than implement what's popular (as too many populist movements have inadvertently shown).

I propose taking a leaf from the so-called "progressive" movement, that we change the name from "libertarianism" to "enlightened movement", thus both indicating that an enlightened government would follow our policy recommendations, and tying our movement back to its origins in the Enlightenment.

The noun for a follower of Enlightenment would, of course, be Enlightened One...

And, for the corresponding political party (for when libertarian Republicans can't stand it anymore), I propose The American Party. After all, America was the first country to apply the insights of the enlightenment to government, from its roots.

Jarrod writes:

Do you happen to know if this was recorded or if a transcript is available anywhere?

Thanks,
JS

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