Why this country needs a viable third party

My sister got married yesterday (and, as a Maine Notary Public, I was the officiant!) and I was chatting with a few of my relatives when the inevitable political discussion arose.  Luckily we’re a big (huge) happy family regardless of politics.  But anyway, in this one particular discussion there was one Ron Paul supporter (me), one Ralph Nader supporter, one Obama supporter, and one McCain supporter (soon to marry the Obama supporter).  But as the conversation was winding down the McCain supporter said that she was socially liberal but fiscally conservative.  Suddenly, the other three of us all jumped in and agreed that we were the same and virtually none of us (except me, perhaps) was entirely happy with our choice of who to support.  The Nader supporter even admitted that being in the aerospace industry he relies on defense contracts for his livelihood which, while not always purely fiscally conservative, was generally reliant on Republican administrations (the McCain supporter is ex-NSA and her grandfather was CIA which explains a lot).

So, in short, you had four people supporting four very different candidates (who essentially represent the four non-centrist portions of the diamond on the World’s Shortest/Smallest Political Quiz) all basically saying they supported the same thing: social liberalism and fiscal conservativism – that is essentially a moderated version of libertarianism.  Unfortunately the Libertarian Party is probably viewed as a little too libertarian for most of these peoples’ tastes and hence, while they seem to philosophically agree, they splinter based on the options left to them.  If the aforementioned political party does not recognize this enormous opportunity to reach out and grab a few of these folks (and I’m not sure Bob Barr is the way to do it since I personally view his hypocritical Clinton-bashing from the ’90’s as big government intrusion) then I think we need a third party.  Unfortunately I don’t see it coming about.  But if there ever was a time for a third party this is it.

On a related note, it turns out I really am a moderate Libertarian as I claim.  I scored a 38 on this particular quiz.  Answer honestly, please, if you take it.  If you score a 160 the aliens are spying on you through your dental fillings.


9 Responses to “Why this country needs a viable third party”

  1. It is kind of odd to see McCain as the voice of fiscal conservatism, since he isn’t one. He consistently supported borrowing money to pay for the Iraq war, for example. Bill Clinton was much more of a fiscal conservative than McCain.

    My own view is that fiscal policies are out of the control of the President, so I will vote on social issues (which, via the Supreme Court, are within control of the President).

  2. quantummoxie Says:

    I am not entirely sure I agree that fiscal policies are out of control of the President. The size of the federal government has grown more under Bush than under any president since FDR. Certainly the federal budget must pass votes in Congress and Bush had a Republican Congress willing to support his spending policies, but Reagan also increased the size of the federal government and he had a Democratic Congress for most of his eight years. What irked me about Clinton was that, with the enormous surplus he had, he didn’t propose tax cuts. Bush’s tax cuts, on the other hand, were absurdly timed. How can you simultaneously cut taxes and increase spending?

  3. Not to defend Bush II too much, but the spending increase under his administration has been almost entirely due to (1) defense spending, and (2) Medicare and Medicaid. Besides that federal spending as a percentage of GDP is flat. But yeah, cutting taxes while increasing spending 2 percent of GDP isn’t what I’d call fiscally conservative. Amazing to see a change of around 5 percent of GDP from surplus to deficit.

    Personally I’m socially liberal (crazy Berkelite!), and a mixed bag fiscally. One thing is that I am very strongly opposed to spending 4 percent of GDP on defense, though the fact that this is down from 7 percent of the Reagan years (due mostly to the end of the cold war) is good (and yes this would bite my own foot.) On the other hand I would like to see some form of solution in this country for the uninsured, which isn’t going to be cheap.

  4. quantummoxie Says:

    You make a good point Dave, but I think there are hidden costs associated with this war in Iraq that show up elsewhere. In fact I seem to recall having a similar discussion about this topic with someone on your blog awhile back, but can’t remember which post it was in regard to.

    I agree that there needs to be a solution to the uninsured problem. My point is that we should be able to actually do these things like insure our citizens (without too much government intervention – see the Dirigo program in Maine, which isn’t perfect but is a reasonably good start) and lower taxes if the government were only more efficient. Having worked for various branches and agencies of the government, I can attest to the fact that it is not.

    Take, for example, this nation’s penchant for creating cabinet level departments as a way to respond to a crisis. Homeland Security (which I think ought to be abolished – it only added more layers to an existing system) was a response to 9/11, DoE was a response to the energy crisis of the 1970’s (remember, the individual labs already existed in most cases – it merely added layers of management), NASA was a response to Sputnik (don’t even get me started…), etc.

    In short, I think government, particularly in this country but perhaps in all large countries, is an entity that not only self-perpetuates but “self-grows” for lack of a better term.

  5. I have to say that I completely agree with the sentiment that the US needs at least one more party. Countries seem to work best when there are several large parties. In a two party system, each party is locked into a position of opposing the other. This seems a really unhealthy state of affairs. With three or more parties, its unlikely that all parties will agree on anything, but several will agree on some points.

    I can’t say I entirely agree with you’re political position. Socially I am very liberal, so I suspect we would agree on many points. On the other hand, we would probably disagree substantially over fiscal policy. I’m European, and inevitably I would advocate spending heavily on health care, education and social welfare.

    But aren’t we forgetting something? In order to cover all the bases, shouldn’t there be a fourth party (socially conservative who would spend money like there was no tomorrow)? I’ve certainly met a few people who would fit into that category.

  6. One interesting question which your point brings up, Ian, is how inefficient the government is compared to, say, the business world. Is there a way to quantify this? Someone must have tried? While I suspect your right, whenever I see the government to big and inefficient, I always ask “compared to what?” Do we do well on an international comparison (I think we do)? Do we do well compared to big business? Should the later be our standard, or is a certain bloat necessary for stability?

    I want numbers! 🙂

  7. quantummoxie Says:

    Good point Dave and I would be willing to bet you that someone has actually done such an analysis. Government is a horrible business model. The irony is that American politicians are always pushing the positive aspects of big business. There’s something about the way government is run that seems to breed inefficiency.

    Joe, ideally (at least based on the David Nolan’s chart that serves as the core of the World’s Shortest Political Quiz) there ought to be five: Libertarian, Left (liberal), Centrist, Right (conservative), and Statist (big government).

    What has always annoyed the tar out of me is the neocon notion that business, particularly big business, should be unregulated but people’s personal lives should be regulated, e.g. no gay marriage. I never understood that stance. It seems so counter-intuitive to me.

  8. I don’t think neocons believe big business should be unregulated, but that they should be regulated less.

    How is the “state” regulating people’s lives by not recognizing gay marriage? You’re comparing apples to oranges. One’s (for the most part) an economic issue, while the other is a moral issue.

  9. quantummoxie Says:


    Let’s clarify a few things here.

    (1) Marriage is an extremely personal thing. By dictating who may marry whom, the state is regulating people’s lives. The state should either allow anyone to get married or just get the hell out of the marriage business altogether and leave it up to churches. I favor the latter, personally, replacing the legal notion of a “spouse” with something more broad – like executor or power-of-attorney or something.

    (2) I will admit that “unregulated” was an exaggeration. But they (the neocons) are generally in favor of less regulation of business and more regulation of social behavior and that always struck me hypocritical (see point (3)).

    (3) You’re deluding yourself if you think economic and moral issues are not intertwined. If you really do think that, then let me ask you this: where does one cross the line from economic issue to moral issue? If you have an answer, my next question is: why is that line there? Who chose to put it there and not somewhere else?

    Actually, that seems to be one of the problems with the neocons. By not seeing economic and moral issues as intertwined, they don’t see the immorality inherent in some of the behavior of big business.

    The world is not black and white. It is many shades of gray. The neocons want it to be black and white but no amount of rhetoric on their part will make it any less gray.

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