So the simple question to ask of a politician is this: Is that person in favor of government for special interests, or government for all the people? What it means to be in favor of government for special interests is to embrace subsidies for special groups, and hidden forced transfers in the form of protections from competition, for the benefit of special groups. What it means to be in favor of government for the public interest is to embrace a competitive economy of free exchange, with regulations to protect health and safety and to protect third parties against negative effects of those transactions, such as pollution. The former requires unequal protection of laws, and different rules for different people — in other words, progressive government. The latter requires equal protection of the laws, and the same rules for everyone — in other words, conservative government.
The ethanol issue is a perfect illustration of the proper way to view this question. In Iowa there are ethanol subsidies and ethanol mandates. Both are examples of government for the benefit of special interests, but subsidies are better than mandates because in the case of on-budget subsidies at least you know how much working families are paying out the nose to pad profits of agribusiness in Iowa. With mandates and other protections from competition, the massive losses that society suffers are almost impossible to calculate — in fact they are hidden from public view, often for the very purpose of protecting the politicians who sell out to special interests from the fury that should fall on them for defrauding the public.
The bottom line is this: If you are angry at the establishment, and you embrace a candidate who openly champions ethanol mandates, I have to tell you with all respect that you’re missing something, and you’ve wound up on the opposite end of where you should be.