August 24, 2008
Presidential Campaign Miscellania

OK, OK, presidential campaigns are no place to try to find economic wisdom, but this year's campaign seems more devoid of economic knowledge, and full of economic idiocy, than any I can remember in my lifetime -- a lifetime that remembers campaigns by Richard (wage & price controls) Nixon and Gerald ("Whip Inflation Now" buttons) Ford, not to mention a campaign by Walter Mondale.

Here we have Barack Obama, whose proposed solution to rising energy prices is to take steps to a) decrease supply (with new taxes and regulation of "big oil") and b) increase demand (by using the tax revenue so raised from suppliers to fund cash payments to consumers), up against John McCain, to whom "economics" is sort of like "the vision thing" was to the senior George Bush - it's something he knows is important, but he just can't quite get a handle on it, and often it appears that he's not even quite sure why it's important.

Now Senator Obama has decided to supplement his economic illiteracy by selecting Senator Joe Biden as a running mate. Biden is known for many things, but economic policy is not one of them.

Meanwhile, if Senator McCain picks a Senator as a vice presidential candidate, he'll complete an unprecedented sweep - all four members of the major party tickets will be sitting U.S. Senators. I'm pretty sure this is a sign of the apocalypse, but hold on while I check my references.


Yes, it is.

Meanwhile, poor old Bob Barr continues to make his pitch for voters to vote capital "L" Libertarian. Is he having success? John Zogby's latest interactive polls continue to include Barr, who makes some surprisingly strong showings. To wit:

Colorado: 8%
Florida: 5%
Michigan: 5%
Nevada 10%
New Hampshire: 11%
New Mexico: 5%
Ohio: 8%
Pennsylvania: 5%
Virginia: 5%

This is remarkable, really. Note that in none of these polls does Ralph Nader (also included by Zogby) top 3%. Of course, "interactive" polling remains highly controversial among pollsters. Even assuming these numbers are accurate, the norm is for third party support to fall off sharply close to election day, especially if the race between major party candidates is close. Nevertheless, these are surprisingly strong showings, especially given that Barr's fund-raising has been so-so and, like any third party candidate, he struggles to find any media oxygen (though he certainly is outdoing any previous Libertarian candidate). Could Barr really poll double digits, even in relatively libertarian Nevada or New Hampshire? And remember that Zogby's polling in early July showed Barr at 8% in Georgia (which he represented in Congress for four terms), six and seven percent in neighboring South Carolina and Tennessee, respectively, six percent in giant Texas, seven percent in McCain's home state of Arizona, and 5% in Obama's home state of Illinois, among other showings.

Common wisdom is that Barr's support comes primarily from Republicans, but it may be wrong to assume that Barr's candidacy helps Obama. It strikes me that at least as likely is that Barr gives libertarian leaning Republicans upset by the GOP's spending binge, corruption, and conservative positions on "social issues" a place to park their support short of pulling the Obama lever (or, for you conspiracy theorists, pushing the Obama button on their Diebold-rigged machine that will record their votes for McCain anyway). If that's the case, then Barr's candidacy helps McCain.

If I can find a bit of time, I hope to look at the Barr campaign's pronouncements on the economy to see if they actually do make more sense than the nonsense coming from the Obama camp and the bewilderment released by Senator McCain. I'll share the results here.

Posted by Brad Smith at 01:06 AM in Politics

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. -Adam Smith

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