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« Discussing development | Main | The Prox »

Oct 28, 2007

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Coturnix

Mike Munger is the only Libertarian who makes sense to me. So, is he really a Libertarian?

anglico

I have the same reaction to Munger. He's a good guy - and smarter by a mile than most people in politics today. From watching some early exchanges, I sense there's some testiness between him and the hard-core Libertarian anarchists. That said, they all appear to be working together to get him on the ballot.

Have you signed his petition? I'll be getting another dozen signatures tonight.

Coturnix

I have signed it - I think twice so far ;-) - and so did my wife. More parties, the better.

Paul Elledge

"Let's cancel the government tomorrow."

That's a gross mischaracterization, Ed. The Libertarian Party calls for abolition of a great many government programs, but not tomorrow. Were they to gain majorities in the legislatures, they would phase out most programs gradually with the exception of the wars, which would be ended posthaste. And of course, the LP does not call for total abolition of the state at any point.

Rusty Sheridan

Ah, Ed. Still hard at work perpetuating the myth that the LP is nothing but anarchy. Also glad to see you throwing in the obligatory "of course he has no chance of winning" line a few times. Some things never change. I miss Greensboro.

Ed Cone

I think I was accurate in my assessment of the LP's near-term electoral chances.

My shorthand version of the libertopianism does not seem overly reductive when compared to actual conversations with LP officials and candidates.

anglico

We actually got 16 signatures for the good professor last night . . . how's that for over-delivering!

The forms are in the mail.

Paul Elledge

Ed,

In the post you reference, I was talking about the philosophy and end goals of libertarianism, not the practical, gradualist manner in which I would try to steer society in that direction should I ever hold office. There's a striking difference between my long-term goals and how I think we should get there. I believe that if Libertarians were to gain office and pass their entire agenda in a single bill, there would be a devastating backlash from which we would never recover, and society would likely end up worse off than the Libertarian revolution began. Case in point:


Obscure county education agency hangs in there
Harris County office thrives after surviving abolition
attempt

By MIKE TOLSON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

A SHORT HISTORY
• In the beginning: County school districts were
created by state law in 1911 to pick up the slack left
by poor rural schools that often could not offer
classes past eighth grade.

• After a while: Most of them were abandoned or
abolished after the rise of modern school districts.

• And now: The only other functioning county school
district is in Dallas, and its main function is to
provide bus service for many of the county's schools.

A quarter-century ago, when Houston politics was a
full contact sport, members of the local Libertarian
Party hatched a takeover plot that would really put it
on the map: Seven of its members ran for the Harris
County School Board for the purpose of putting its
little and little-known Department of Education out of
business.

The idea almost worked; three gained office in a
nonpartisan election.

"This is groundbreaking," Michael Angwin, the party's
county chairman, said at the time. "We didn't get the
four seats we wanted, but this is a start. It will put
us in a good position in two years when two more seats
are vacant."

Fearing that, the remaining board members of what was
then a $4.7 million agency successfully pushed for a
change to partisan status. A dirty trick, the
Libertarians called it. That, as they say, was that.

Though occasional noise was heard in subsequent years
about doing away with this anachronism from the early
1900s — the Chronicle editorial board suggested as
much more than once — the department steadily went
about the business of reinventing itself and finding
ways to grow.

That's not easy to do when your tax rates are less
than one cent per $100 evaluation, so the department
began chasing government grants.

$80 million budget
The result? Today's department still is little known,
but it is no longer little. It boasts an annual budget
in excess of $80 million and more than 1,200
employees. Nobody is really talking much about
abolishing it anymore.

One recently elected board member, Michael Wolfe, made
some comments about downsizing the department as a
candidate last year.

But he later settled for pushing through a measure to
rename the headquarters after Ronald Reagan, which
brought a bit of unwelcome controversy and attention
last week to an agency that doesn't mind working below
the radar.

"I don't believe there is a more efficient
governmental entity in the U.S.," said John Sawyer,
the department's $181,773-per-year superintendent.

"We operate by pulling money from other places. That
money is going to get spent. I can make sure it gets
to Harris County," he said.

Only 17 percent of the Harris County Department of
Education's budget comes from its local tax levy. Most
of the rest arrives via the department's prowess in
securing grants.

It gets $15.6 million to operate Head Start centers
for poor 3- and 4-year-olds in the eastern half of the
county, for example, and $10.7 million to administer
after-school programs in a number of county school
districts.

"Organizations want to survive and grow by nature, and
it has found niches in the market and developed
those," said Don McAdams, an education consultant and
former president of the Houston Independent School
District board of trustees.

The Harris County DOE has developed a larger mission
as a multi-purpose service agency for school
districts. It changes focus and adds or drops programs
in response to their requests and needs, Sawyer said.

Harris County DOE, for example, runs purchasing and
food service co-ops as well as a record management
service. It also operates five schools for children
with special needs and students with disciplinary
problems.

Looking for new jobs
Some of DOE's programs actually started with other
service providers but were taken over at the request
of those giving the grants or end users who were not
happy, Sawyer said.

Had the department not stepped in, another provider
likely would have, as happens in every other urban
Texas county.

One effect of the brief assault by the Libertarians
was to keep it ever on the lookout for new jobs and
reasons to exist.

How much savings there would be if the department had
been dispatched is perhaps unknowable.

Certainly there would be several million dollars a
year that now goes to salaries and benefits, and
several million more devoted to debt service and
physical overhead on buildings such as the one now
named for Reagan.

Jim Capo

Sigh. Even though the 8 comments above out does the zero on his own blog post, it doesn't look like Mad Mike is going to chip in here for Mungermanical faithful. I'm not sure I buy his cortorted point that the airport is unfortunately a government run entity: It a good deal because taxpayers loose less money.

Since you dredge up the old comments thread on your behalf though, here is my own recap:

Libertarians argue against "incentives" for business because 1) they represent a welfare payment to stockholders in private companies and 2) they invite more corruption into an already corrupted political process...a process rooted in human nature.

You argue (and supposedly so does Mike) that as a practical matter incentives are simply part and parcel of living a a "complex" society. When Rusty and I argue on principle that there is nothing complex about bribery and theft, you tisk-tisk our position as the ravings of "libertopian" idealists, who need to get with the program if they ever hope to be elected.

Sadly, all data indicates that such pragmatism is a pre-requisite for electoral victory in our current society. However, since you are such a realist, I can't believe you would argue that these incentive packages are not fraught with patronage and corruption. Please, who would be the raving idealist then?

Sidebar: You missed, or dodged, why I threw Che into the mix. It was an example of how someone making wild and impractical statements (and acting on them) was able to become a legitimate conversation topic at major news outlets and universities, not to mention a pop icon.

Smaller (not NO as you like to broad brush it) government types may yet have their day in the sun. We can't be far off now from having Ron Paul paraphernalia supplant Che t-shirts, coffee mugs and bongs.

Jim Capo

And now to prove I know whereof I speak.

Fred Gregory

Drats. Deja vu 1992.

Another crazy guy from Texas with money and a bad haircut who is trying to be a spoiler and turn the White House over to a Clinton again

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