Author Archives: Clint Townsend

What Trump Reveals to us About the State

This piece was originally published at the Texas Millennial Institute blog, where I serve as chairman of the board of directors.

Cato Institute Vice President David Boaz recently posed a question asking who libertarians would prefer in a Trump and Hillary contest. Will Wilkinson, Vice President for Policy at the Niskanen Center, made the point that “Trump has PROMISED to send armed government stormtroopers to round up MILLIONS of innocent people and throw them out of the country at enormous expense. That’s not simply disqualifying? He’s more or less promising mercantilist trade war.”

Hillary Clinton’s policy agenda would likely degrade liberty less than Trump’s. There’s not much solace to be found there, though. The political process routinely yields this scenario where we may pick our poison. Therein lies the more important takeaway from Boaz’s thought-experiment: While Donald Trump should be viewed as repugnant by all well-adjusted, morally upright people, he is not an aberration of the political system. Instead, Trump personifies – raw and naked – the essence of state power.

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The State was defined by Max Weber, the preeminent 19th century social theorist, as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” The cliché is that government is what we choose to do together. That’s, of course, demonstrably false; I don’t, nor do many of you, choose together with others to unjustly go to war, cage drug users, tax unduly, and forcefully uproot innocent homeowners for purposes of private development. The market, on the other hand, is that institution where we interact with others, buying and selling, on a mutual, consensual basis. We don’t vote to maintain operations of Apple or IKEA; we exchange with them voluntarily, if they meet our needs. Markets compel us to help others in order to help ourselves. That’s why we get up everyday to exchange our labor for wages. The political system turns these incentives on its head, where we enter into a dog-eat-dog, zero sum game in which we can pursue our own interest only at the expense of others. In politics, when one policy prescription wins, we must all accept it, without recourse to other options.

The 19th century sociologist Franz Oppenheimer identified the principal difference between political and market institutions in his preeminent book The State: “There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man…is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others…I propose…to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’…while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means.’”

Oppenheimer goes on to describe the distinctions between the state and society: “[A]lways, in its essence, is the ‘State’ the same. Its purpose…the political means…its form…dominion. Wherever opportunity offers, and man possesses the power, he prefers political to economic means…By the ‘State,’ I do not mean the human aggregation…as it properly should be. I mean…that summation of privileges and dominating positions which are brought in to being by extra economic power.”

Society, according to Oppenheimer, is “all purely natural relations and institutions between man and man.” Whereas the state “is the fully developed political means, society the fully developed economic means…in the ‘freemen’s citizenship,’ there will be no ‘state’ but only ‘society.’ The ‘state’ of the future will be ‘society’ guided by self-government.”

In Albert Jay Nock’s Our Enemy the State, these arguments are carried further: “There are two methods…whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth…the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others…the political means. The State…is the organization of the political means…[which] stands as primarily a distributor of economic advantage, an arbiter of exploitation…an irresponsible and all‑powerful agency standing always ready to be put into use for the service of one set of economic interests as against another. The State is not…a social institution administered in an anti‑social way. It is an anti‑social institution…State power has an unbroken record of inability to do anything efficiently, economically, disinterestedly or honestly; yet when the slightest dissatisfaction arises over any exercise of social power, the aid of the agent least qualified to give aid is immediately called for. Under a regime of actual individualism, actually free competition, actual laissez‑faire–a regime which, as we have seen, cannot possibly coexist with the State–a serious or continuous misuse of social power would be virtually impracticable.”

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The State propels its worst actors into power concomitant to how few limitations of power there are. Friedrich Hayek wrote a chapter in The Road to Serfdom titled Why the Worst Get on Top where he explains that “It is then the man or the party who seems strong and resolute enough to ‘get things done’ who exercises the greatest appeal.” Enter Trump on the right. On the left, Matt Yglesias lauds Hillary Clinton for her willingness to act as an elected monarch, praising her for “profligate use of executive authority” and often “operating in legal gray areas.”

Neither Trump nor Clinton nor any other politician would be of concern to us were they not seeking elected office. If they were businesspeople, then we could decide whether or not to associate with them. We cannot ignore politicians who wield political authority. The anti-social State foists itself upon us, empowering bad people to do great evil. The market, on the other hand, limits the reach of bad people with bad ideas.

As Nock said, the State is an anti-social institution. It requires that the most important decisions of our lives be made on a collective basis. Imagine for a moment that we go to the grocery store, and rather than having the option to peruse the store according to our whim, we are instead given the option to choose basket A with three apples, a bag of potatoes, and ground beef with basket B which has five microwave dinners, a carton of eggs, and a candy bar. This is the difference between markets and politics.

In practice, we hear two proposals from the Democratic and Republican candidates. We may have policy bundle A or B. In a market, there are many choices from which individuals may choose. The market’s freedom of choice is undermined in proportion to the degree of government policy in a given area whether that is in education, healthcare, banking, etc.

For example, were education markets free, conflict about various curricula and other decisions would be minimized as parents could choose a school that meets their priorities. There would be no overarching curriculum centrally imposed. There would be no national arguments about common core or traditional math, creationism or real science, etc. Conflict arises when education is subject to political decision-making, where the majority dictates outcomes for the minority. If education were privately administered, parents could simply choose which school and which curriculum they preferred most.

Likewise, were health care markets free (which requires a little imagination given the highly constricted and distorted market that currently exists) we would have a multitude of options from which to choose, not just the government approved versions today. A little economic theory and historic example suggests that prices would decrease as firms would move to undercut others where there are expectations of lucrative gains (see all recent technological innovation where this rings true today). Instead, today, we have Obamacare, a single policy which limits options and has caused a great deal of social strife.

Peter Jaworski recently framed the matter rather succinctly: “Markets empirically make us more fair, trusting, and trustworthy. Markets improve our character. Politics makes us more anti-social and unfair. Politics undermines trust. Politics corrupts. It makes us hate one another, and lump one another into ‘us’ vs. ‘them.’ When we go to an actual market, we learn about win-win relationships. We discover that we are inclined to say “thank you,” while the proprietor of the business also says, ‘thank you.’ We learn gratitude and empathy. We enlarge the scope of those whose interests matter to us. We turn strangers into friends, and we wish them well. We discover that we can get along with people who don’t share our religious views, who don’t agree with us when it comes to political philosophy, who live with a different set of values from our own. When we engage in politics, we learn about zero-sum relationships. We discover that we hate people who disagree with us about politics, and that they hate us. No one learns gratitude. Instead, we learn that people with a different opinion are a threat to us. We learn to think of the other side as idiots and evil scoundrels. Partisan politics is social poison. Instead of participating in partisan politics, consider going to the mall instead. Instead of reading about Bernie Sanders and Tom Mulcair and Elizabeth May, read some reviews of XBox, the latest robotic vacuum, or just go to the local Wal-Mart with $100 and spend it all on gizmos and wazoos. Go sell your blood or sperm. Or go get the latest Apple toy. Whatever. You’ll be doing the world a whole lot more good than carrying about a placard for some douche or some turd. It’s true, you won’t get credit for it. People think politics is good, and markets are icky. But people are often wrong. And they’re wrong about this. Be moved by what is in fact good. Don’t be moved by what merely symbolizes the good.”

Donald Trump is grotesque and abominable, and that’s especially problematic now that he is entering the political arena. Bad people and their bad ideas, if given political power, have far greater potential to metastasize. When Trump is bad as a private actor in the market, we can disengage from him. As president, we are beholden to his whim, and this should give everyone – left and right – pause. That is why we should fight to limit the power of government, and support those with the fewest plans, with the least bravado, and with a promise to empower you as a private individual. Those with promises for more government are promising more conflict. The common theme between Trump and Hillary is that they’re both vying to control the levers of power to impose their own visions, rather than attempting to return power to the people. With his crude campaign, Trump exposes the state for what it truly is, a vicious, anti-social institution that undermines social cooperation, making enemies of groups who would otherwise be friendly or at least indifferent towards each other. So, in this election cycle, as each politician continues to tout their plans, let us choose consent over coercion, liberty rather than power, and market choice instead of state compulsion.

Recommended further reading: Politics Makes Us Worse, By: Aaron Powell and Trevor Burrus

Futility of Borders

Borders are futile! So, let’s just allow these people escape dire poverty and war. I mean, look at the desperation. And while we’re at it, can we please just let everybody move where they wanna move? Ohh, they’ll take advantage of the system, you say? They’ll overwhelm it? First, exactly the opposite is true. But even if immigrants did overwhelm the system, the answer is to reform the system. The welfare state is bad on principle, not just when immigrants use it.

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In a world without borders, welfare states would probably grow substantially once world GDP doubled. I don’t think politicians could resist doing something with all that wealth. Actually, we know that.

It’s at least somewhat consoling that the Republican Party has a history of reasonable positions on immigration as you can see herehere, and here. It’s one of few areas where politicians are better than voters consistently, unless we’re talking about Bernie Sanders who dismisses open borders as a “Koch Brothers proposal.” It certainly is.

Surprise – It’s Not Always Worth It to Go to College

The NYT exposes that earnings data are starting to bubble to the surface, and it’s bad news for the educational-industrial complex. There are too many universities and students in the US. But who could blame them when the Department of Education gives loans to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who walks up to the counter? Education is a valuable thing, but (here comes my refrain) can we please analyze this value judgement through economic thinking? Education is valuable insofar as the cost of acquiring it is less than its expected future returns. The existing policy to massively subsidize students enables universities to exploit (this is real exploitation) inexperienced 18 year old kids who unwittingly mortgage their future without having analyzed their future prospects.

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Again though, who would choose vocational school or enter the workforce when the government waves easy money in your face? Who would decide to offer alternatives and compete with Big Education when the government supports it to the tune of billions of dollars? Praxis is brave enough to try, thankfully. When the price system works freely it signals how resources ought to be allocated. In this case, the price system would suggest to many potential students that their time may be better spent outside of the traditional college route. We go to college to learn skills that are needed for various highly skilled careers. The current system perversely encourages kids to go to college because of some nebulas idea that it’s good for you, but we are starting to see that this is clearly not the case.

Laws Don’t Increase Wages

If I were asked to explain why I oppose legislative efforts to increase wages (President Obama’s new proposal in this case) to my grandmother, I would say the following. This is the most level-headed, even-keel, dispassionate, objective analysis that I can muster:

If wages rose as a result of government decree, then we could simply legislate our way to a wealthier society. However, that is not the case. Instead, wages only rise when a society becomes wealthier. That is to say that wages rise whenever we become more productive. The notion of marginal productivity means that we can achieve the same output with less work or more output with equal work. This happens when an entrepreneur innovates. For example, if a landscaping firm may hire one mower to cut the grass with a John Deer tractor rather than employing five workers to use reel mowers, then they may increase the wages of the aforementioned mower. The other four mowers’ labor will be reorganized towards more productive uses, the possibilities of which are endless.

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So, if we want entrepreneurs to innovate in order that workers’ wages may rise, then it is necessary to reflect on the incentives that increase the likelihood of innovation and entrepreneurship. Economic freedom is the policy set that best encourages innovation. It is simple to see that entrepreneurs prefer to work in an economy in which they are free to exchange and free to retain the fruits of their labor. That suggests that low taxes, spending, and regulations are the conditions that encourage innovation, thus increasing the productivity of each worker. Low inflation and secure property rights are two more critical measures of economic freedom, and it is by no accident that industrialized countries do relatively well in these two regards.

The rather clear implication from this is that President Obama’s forthcoming plan to raise the salary threshold at which employers must pay time-and-half for overtime hours will have no long term consequences for wages. Employers will merely adjust by cutting hours or cutting wages. The way to help workers realistically is to support policies that will encourage entrepreneurship and therefore support gains in marginal productivity. Economies do not grow just because a politician signs a new law. Economies grow, and wages rise, when we are free to create wealth.

Recommended Reading: F. A. Harper’s Why Wages Rise

Young Voters Are Not Buying What Ted Cruz Is Selling

I was published at Rare today:

Ted Cruz kicked off his presidential run on Monday with a speech at Liberty University. And while the Texas senator hailed liberty as the goal of his campaign, his view of liberty doesn’t comport with that of most Millennials.

Thomas Jefferson defined liberty as “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” That is a timeless sentiment with which most young people largely agree. Today’s youth increasingly support economic freedom, individual liberty, and a peaceful foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Cruz only embraces the same limited view of liberty as failed Republican candidates of the past.

Were Cruz truly a principled champion of free markets, he would seek to advance a more open immigration process, thus allowing worthy immigrant workers to freely trade their labor with American businesses. Instead Cruz makes Latinos the scapegoats of his attack on illegal immigration and grandstands about building a wall along the southern border.

Moreover, Cruz isn’t friendly to personal liberties, as are most forward-looking Millennials. The Texas senator wants to restore the Justice Department’s prosecution of non-violent marijuana users in states where it is legal, despite the fact that more than 60 percent of young Republicans support marijuana legalization.

Worse is the senator’s demagogic opposition to same-sex marriage. Almost 70 percent of Millennials support marriage equality.

The Millennial spirit is decidedly cosmopolitan and forward-looking; the principles of liberty happen to be so as well. But Cruz’s campaign seems to prefer a cloaked agenda of freedom for me but not for thee.

Read the rest at Rare…

Socializing Myself

It’s the first time in my life that I’ve had roommates. Last June, I moved in with four very close friends. Allow me to reflect on it tonight.

I’m an only child. My mother grew up as one, while my father had a couple brothers. My family is very small. It’s ultimately my mother, father, uncle, and me. If you’re very astute, you may recognize that I have the distinction as the last male Townsend of child-bearing capacity. I like to darkly joke that evolution has a built-in mechanism to stall blood lines that perhaps need not carry on.

Growing up, I didn’t attend summer camps, participate in youth  groups, or join boy scouts. Football was perhaps the only thing I did that required explicit cooperation. My other sports — baseball, wrestling, and pole vault — were decidedly more individualistic. Ohh, that’s why I’m a selfish libertarian now. Does this substantiate historical materialism?

As a kid, I never had siblings to contend with, never had to share my parents’ attention, resources, nor — most importantly for our purposes here — a room. So when I grew up, I left the land of bibles, boots, and buffalo to go five hours east to a place of beanies, down beats…and hipsters. You’ll find this strange, but amongst the most important considerations for choosing a college were 1) in-state tuition, 2) acceptance to an honors program, and 3) a single occupancy dorm room where I could continue to seek isolation from scary crowds of people.

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This trend continued once I moved to Washington where I had a private room and bath in Silver Spring, followed by a single bedroom apartment in Hyattsville. This worked well and allowed me to get deeply in my own head on the weekends, but I was so eager to free myself from the red and green line metro commutes that it compelled me to move closer into Washington-proper.

Ok, so that wasn’t really the reason. Actually, I spent a lot of time crossing two polities and a river to get to Crystal City every weekend and visit Ankur, Abhi, and Hannah. We decided that it’d be better if I could replace that commute with merely opening my bedroom door.

The dishes aren’t often clean. That’s my only complaint.

That’s because they cook exotic cuisine and serve me frequently. And I’ll trade dirty dishes in exchange for their indulgence in my neuroses, which has peaked this summer for reasons unrelated to my living arrangements. I don’t know how I’d have made it without some witnesses to my saga.

More than a support mechanism, I’m confident that they’re making me smarter. It’s pretty intuitive, but when you live with driven and intellectually endowed people, then you can only follow suit. It doesn’t really require a study to prove it. They’ve got me studying for the GRE, writing on this blog, and thinking about the best way to leverage my skills. More than just comic relief, I think my impact on Ankur, Kelly, Abhi, and Hannah has been to bring a bit of social cohesion to the group dynamic. Moreover, they’re certainly learning better cleaning habits, and with a gay friend they’ve got a Get Out of Right Wing Accusations Free card.

About myself, I’m slowly finding ways to be more patient and not slam the door in Ankur’s face.  “When angry, count to ten before you speak…”, Thomas Jefferson said.

Most excitingly is that I’ve changed my self-perception as an introvert. It’s hard for me to stay in on the weekends now. I crave friends and fun these days as if I’m reclaiming my 21st birthday. I find myself listening to Now That’s What I Call Music 90s hits more than Mozart’s piano concertos, and I can’t even tell if I’m being ironic or not.

Suffice it to say that it has been a pleasure to socialize myself to this new dynamic. There has been laughter, meaningful conversations, and great movies. And thank God that now I won’t have to drive myself to the hospital for vertigo attacks, abdominal pains, or the next thing.

Have More Sex, Read Beautiful Literature, Ignore Politics

That is what Matthew La Corte and Monica Lucas recommended today, and I just love it. There’s a lot to be said for eschewing politics, especially if you’re not in the business of actually affecting political change. God knows I wish that morning C-SPAN callers would take this advice. Watch a segment of Washington Journal to learn all you need to know about rational ignorance and broader concepts of public choice theory.

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There’s a sardonic line in one of my talks where I discuss the two different types of politically inclined people. There are those of us who are interested in politics so that we can reduce the scope of it in our lives in hopes of eventually pursuing true values. This is best captured in Ayn Rand’s statement, “I am interested in politics so that one day I won’t have to be…” In contrast, there is a decidedly larger and more influential group of people who we all remember as the student body president with no actual skills who never stood a fighting chance in the value-creating private sector.

If you enjoy politics recreationally, then fine. That’s weird, and I prefer to watch actual horse races, but whatever. You do you. But frankly, I wish we’d all follow the example of Craig from Clovis and flatly tell Vice President Meyer that “I don’t follow politics.”

To shift a bit, there’s a different and rather compelling story which this piece brings up. If you are in that line of work of advancing liberty (as I am), it’s incumbent upon you to learn what’s got to be done to change policy here and now. Hint: we ain’t doin’ it yet, which is what I’m most eager to address.

The M&M’s kind of put it to those of us who have long overstated the role of public opinion:

Political scientists have found that if public opinion determined policy, then trade would be heavily protectionist, abortion and immigration laws would be more restrictive, corporations would see more regulation, and the rich would see higher levels of taxation. This suggests that public policy is guided by political insiders rather than the average citizen.

Don’t freak out, but it does seem that there’s some tension between the most commonly accepted Hayekian interpretation of social change and the actual academic output on the subject. Hayek (and John Blundell) told us  that twentieth century socialism came to its ascendancy because of the power that intellectuals held over public opinion which in turn affected political outcomes. I think that’s clearly right.  On the other hand, all the cutting edge literature on the role of public opinion in influencing public policy tells us that it’s almost wholly negligible. For a little more context, I highly recommend the conspectus of the newly established Niskanen Institute.

I recognize, of course, that Hayek thought on the level of long-run institutional shifts, rather than more immediate, marginal policy adjustments, which seems to be the focus here. That means that the work libertarians have been doing for decades hasn’t been in vain; we still need strategic diversity to help establish the boundaries of what is possible. At the same time, it’s crucial that we start to learn from our more successful adversaries on the left and right how to engage the political class appropriately. We need DC insiders, clear and simple.

I recall a moment a few years ago when strategy was the big debate. Let’s be honest though that it’s always been a highly argued topic, and I suspect that we’ll see even more of it with the emergence of yet another libertarian institution.

 

We Can’t Forget Roy Childs

It occurs to me that Roy Childs is an increasingly forgotten and under-appreciated figure in modern libertarian history. I’ve always been wholly fascinated by his written works and perhaps more importantly the well-documented spirit of his approach to advancing liberty. My first encounter with Roy Childs’ works, as is the case with most young libertarian intellectuals, was his eminently charitable Open Letter to Ayn Rand, which was submitted in 1969 (when Childs was only 19) to The Rational  Individualist. The letter forcefully refuted Rand’s notion of limited government, arguing that any state, even if premised upon retaliatory force alone, ultimately devolves into coercive statism. Interestingly, Joan Kennedy Taylor claimed in her remembrance that Childs’ subscription to Rand’s magazine The Objectivist was subsequently discontinued in retaliation.

To digress, I do find it compelling to argue that trading force contradicts the fundamental market premises of peaceful, voluntary interaction. Of course, the question then becomes whether or not the state is the superior institution to defend rights and administer justice.

One of the most impressive aspects of Roy Childs’ career is his sheer breadth and depth, intellectually and professionally. Childs was at the same time a preeminent libertarian theoretician, journalist, editor, activist, speaker, teacher, and strategist. His work was simultaneously theoretical and empirical, and he masterfully integrated libertarian theory with subjects as far ranging as history, foreign policy, drug policy, and party politics.

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As a speaker, Childs was one of of the best to ever be. His speech on The Radical Libertarian Vision sets the standard as the most powerful libertarian speech I have ever seen, and it exemplifies his intellectual agility. Others would probably point to Childs’ address at the 1979 LP nominating convention as his best.

Unfortunately, Childs never published a book, however we do have a collection of many of his works in Liberty Against Power edited by the late Joan Kennedy Taylor. You’ll find in the book that in addition to his weighty and thoroughly researched essays on politics, Childs reviewed contemporary music and literature as well.

I clearly never knew Roy Childs, but I do sense his greatness and lament that he wasn’t in better health to give much more to the cause of human liberation. Childs is a hero of mine, and serves as a model for what I hope to achieve in my own career. I hope his works can inspire others as well.

On the Nature and Causes of the Success of Hair

There’s a lot I want to say. I just need to hold back a little. Experience tells me that if I come on too strong, it’ll end in disaster. Fellow hopeless romantics will understand. So, allow me to pontificate about men’s haircuts.

My buddy Ross took my advice about haircuts to heart today (even though I never reciprocally accept his literary recommendations), and now he’s a new man. Well, he’s still the same philosophical, unassuming, worldly guy I’ve always known, but he now comes in soccer-cut edition. After my own trim last Sunday, I went on at length about my idea that men in their twenties should thoroughly alter their hair once a year (balding men excepted). The theory is that we should explore different sides of who we are and who we can be. More practically, this approach gives us an opportunity to try everything and by our thirties we can walk in to the salon once a month with confidence in a specific style. What makes you feel the most self-assured? What does your partner like best? Or which style helped you get the job, etc?

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Your hair style is important, and there’s science to back it up. Recent studies mount an impressive body of evidence to suggest that it matters which way you part your hair, if at all. Apparently, hair parts influence subconscious associations, which ultimately affects other’s behavior towards us and subsequently our personality. I have to wonder if my uncompromising right-sided hair part predicted my politics, sexuality, etc. No joke! Men with right parts are thought by others to be atypical, open, and radical. And while it often leads to social shunning, right parts can work if the man is very confident, attractive, or striving to be respected in a non-traditional male role. Well, there you have it.

No wonder men experience such anxiety in finding the right style, stylist, etc. It’s a difficult process. So, here are a few recommendations from somebody who has tried countless products, read enough About.com articles to fill a bookshelf, and mastered the art of the open relationship (at least with my hairdressers).

  • Learn how to talk to your stylist. You can’t just go in and tell them to take a little off the top. You gotta do a little research. Find a picture of a preferred style to show your barber and learn what works for your face shape.
  • Don’t try to copy most celebrities. They can get away with anything. And frankly so many celebrities look other-human anyways. Look for your next style on Tumblr instead.
  • Treat your haircut as a Giffen good. Yeah, that’s right —squarely defy the Law of Demand. I refuse to purchase a cut if it costs less than $20, and frankly I pay $40.
  • Do whatever they’re doing in Europe. You’ll be ahead of the curve.
  • Schedule your appointment at mid-day. Your stylist will be tired and unfocused in the early morning and late evening. Most of my friends will understand it better if I say to apply economic thinking to your haircut.
  • Learn which product works for your hair type, and don’t use too much product. It can weigh down your hair too much, especially if you have fine hair like me.

I wish I could say more about shampoo and conditioner. I once knew a guy who claimed that conditioner works best when worked into towel dried hair, then rinsed after a few minutes. And Head and Shoulders is apparently a great shampoo, even for those without dandruff. That’s all I know to say about that.

Alright, that’s it folks. I’m starting to feel self-conscious about telling you what to  do with your hair.

Because Isaac Dared Me

There was a time when I was younger that I felt so deeply about an issue that I was compelled to write about it. Since graduating college, I’m embarrassed to say that that hasn’t been the case. One redeeming fact is that I’ve at least had a two year window to explore literature more seriously without the burden of school. So, my kitschy college dorm room posters of Thomas Jefferson, Ron Paul, von Mises, and Ayn Rand (God Bless her) are happily replaced with framed prints of Capote’s Holly Golightly, Oscar Wilde, and a silly ad for absinthe bourgeois, a drink I wouldn’t even know about had I not encountered Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. These french poets so impressed me that I now find myself driving thirty minutes to Bethesda for French practice every Saturday afternoon. Je m’appelle Clint.

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Reading great authors makes writing an intimidating process. And when there is so much I haven’t read, what right do I have to write a single word? Increasingly, though, I feel compelled to write. Clear-headedness is on the horizon if I can commit to putting more thoughts to print. So, that’s what Clint and Co. will be up to for the next 90 days.

I don’t know what I’ll write about yet; it doesn’t really matter. I have the notion that campaign finance regulations may have a libertarian defense. I’m still fascinated by the role of public opinion in shaping political institutions, and my views of this subject are evolving. These days, I think a lot about fashion, art, literature, music, fitness, and gay culture as well. And I’m excited to reflect on living with roommates, which I, an only child and recovering introvert, never fathomed before moving in with some of my best friends last June.

Excuse me as I use this space  to, forgive the trite expression, learn more about myself — it’s necessary after the tragic death of my early twenties.