Where We Can Work with Trump

You’d think we’d be used to sleeping with the enemy by now, but even though there are several issues that can bring us on board the Trump Train, many of us feel a natural revulsion to racist, misogynistic, and nationalistic rhetoric. But let me make an argument to you: we can work with this guy.

As a good friend pointed out to me recently, we libertarians have to really take what we can get when it comes to federal politics. Gary Johnson’s lack luster performance during the last election means that over the next four years at least, we libertarians are going to have to make some strange ideological bedfellows. You’d think we’d be used to sleeping with the enemy by now, but even though there are several issues that can bring us on board the Trump Train, many of us feel a natural revulsion to racist, misogynistic, and nationalistic rhetoric. But let me make an argument to you: we can work with this guy.

Yesterday the President met with 12 of the nation’s most powerful CEO’s (including Elon Musk and Marillyn Hewson) to discuss his vision for the American economy. The whole opening speech he gives is worth a listen, but I’d like to zero in a several key points. First, I think it should be mentioned that meeting with corporations in this way smacks of corporate Fascism, but perhaps it’s not such a maniacal move. Many of these companies are more powerful than some nations, and so it makes sense in that context to meet with these CEO’s as the President might meet with foreign dignitaries.

There are two things the President said that really stroke my Capitalism boner. First he said that we are going to “cut taxes massively”. Of course libertarians jump at the opportunity to cut taxes but the obvious question that leaps to mind is “cut taxes for whom?” As long as he’s cutting taxes, I’m happy. But he stipulated that he wanted to cut taxes for the middle class as well as for business. If he can get the House to go along with him on this (and why wouldn’t they?), then I wholeheartedly welcome a major tax cut. Sure it will balloon the debt, but it’s unlikely that we were going anywhere on that front anyway.

Secondly, the President said that we were going to reduce the number of regulations “by 75%, maybe more.” And went on to say that if companies had their choice, they’d choose lower regulations over lower taxes every-time. He’s probably right on that account. We’ve seen a massive reduction in economic regulation before, during the Reagan administration, and it produced what is sometimes derisively called the “Reagan-Thatcher Economic Miracle”. I’m not saying that these policies were perfect then or will be perfect now, but what I am saying is that cutting regulations and taxes by as much as the President is promising is something that gives libertarians wet-dreams.

Of course, none of this is going to make me go out and buy a bunch of MAGA gear, and it’s also not going to soften my attitude towards the White Nationalist movement, but I’m personally reserving a lot of my criticisms of the administration until I’m convinced none of the above is actually going to happen. We’ll see. But I’m hopeful.

Gonzo Libertarianism

Despite our differences, we Libertarians managed to get along quite well with everyone- even the “March for $15” people who were taking up the whole gosh-darned street. I wanted to share some of my observations and thoughts with you.

Last night I went to my very first protest. It was exciting. There were so many people! Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Greens, and, of course, the Gary Johnson crew. Libertarians from as far away as Florida came together to help draw attention to a debate system that is rigged in favor of the two major parties. Despite our differences, we Libertarians managed to get along quite well with everyone- even the “March for $15” people who were taking up the whole gosh-darned street. I wanted to share some of my observations and thoughts with you.

Admittedly there weren’t very many Gary Johnson people there, but there were fewer Greens, and our side seemed the most energized. As the night wore on, the ratio of Libertarians to everyone else increased dramatically, and eventually ended with a friend of mine in prime position to hold up “Johnson/Weld” signs behind Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Despite our lack of manpower, our demonstrations was organized, clean, respectful, we didn’t litter (I’m looking at you Green party), and our slogans were choice. My favorite of the night was, “Vote Johnson. The most consistent anti-sexual assault candidate”.

I got to hear Cisse Spragins, libertarian candidate for Missouri governor, give a speech on the state of her campaign and on libertarian identity and  values. She was tremendous. The applause line of the night was when she observed that our Republic must be in a bad state if the party that advocates non-violence and voluntary interaction is labeled “fringe” or “crazy”. She had a good point. But Dr. Spragins’s speech was confined to the “free speech area”, a section of the softball fields fenced off and far away from Brookings Hall where the debate took place. Metal detectors, dogs, and 20 or so police made sure the Libertarians didn’t do anything crazy like reduce taxes or suspend unconstitutional regulations. “The whole damn country is a free speech zone” I reminded them, but the police were as helpless as I to change the situation.

What struck me most was the police presence. The entire campus was closed to anyone without a student or faculty ID and VIPs. Hundreds of police officers from various jurisdictions blocked off residential streets (for miles in some cases) while the candidates were present. Most were cordial and helpful with directions, but some were obviously there getting their rocks off on authority. They were more interested in making sure we didn’t try to get on campus than they were with the heaps of trash left by Hillary and Stein supporters, and those same supporter’s blatant disregard for private property.

I have to admit, I wish I had become more politically active much younger. I felt a real rush and sense of patriotic duty last night at Wash U, and I think, had I felt that earlier in my life, I would have made very different choices. A deep sense of camaraderie kept me warm in that chilly air, and I’m very much looking forward to the next time.


This is the Vision of the Night

How bad is Trump’s economic plan? Very.

In yesterday’s post I talked about the necessity of freeing the market place in order to spur innovation in the energy sector. I wrote that the great expansion in human prosperity came as a result of the implementation of a set of ideas- ideas that were first enunciated by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations. Broadly speaking, these principles are free markets, free trade, and free immigration. Trump’s economic “Vision”,  released August 8th, and subsequently revised, rejects those principles in favor of a bureaucratic, corporate management of the economy. Hillary’s plan isn’t much better, but more on that some other time.

I should first admit that his tax plan doesn’t look half bad. Reducing taxes, simplifying the tax code, and offering a cocktail of credits is in the right direction. I have my doubts on how serious Trump is on this, though. His tax plan has already undergone several revisions, and he criticized Gov. Scott Walker for not caving to the Unions and raising taxes in Wisconsin. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt here. If his current plan is the one he pursues, America will be better off for it (providing his other positions don’t do more harm than his tax plan does good).

Trump’s position on trade, however, is frustratingly wrong. Flatly wrong. Lunacy. Trump favors economic protectionism, which is the idea that domestic firms should get preferential treatment in trade negotiations by establishing tariffs and other trade restrictions.  Economists argue among themselves a lot, but there are a few things that they almost always agree upon. One of those things is the benefits of free trade. At this stage in the game, with hundreds of years of economic study behind us, making a case for protectionism is madness. It’s a lot like when some quack tries to prove that vaccines cause autism. Utter nonsense. There’s no evidence to suggest that protectionism is economically beneficial. Therefore, I don’t have to demonstrate to you (even though I can) that free trade is the more beneficial policy, because, as Hitchen’s razor points out, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

It’s easy for me to get fired up about trade policy, but it’s hard to put name and faces with those who are hurt but the injustice of protectionism. Immigration is a different story. Not only is Trump’s plan to deport millions of people economically and politically unfeasible, it’s also morally abhorrent. These people are coming here because there is work for them to do. They are coming here because they are desperate. We need them, and they need us. What’s often forgotten in thinking about economic issues is the way in which policy affects real people in their everyday lives. I hope that by examining the moral tragedy of deportation, you will come to a deeper conclusion about the great harm of many of Trump’s other economic policies. Our economy is fragile. It may not survive President Trump.

Driving Through the Middle

Snopes carried an interesting piece today. Kim LaCapria sat down with Libertarian presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and his running-mate Gov. Bill Weld. It isn’t unusual that presidential candidates, especially 3rd party candidates, talk to reporters (unless you’re Hillary Clinton), but it is unusual that Snopes, the internet’s favorite meme busters, would be invited for a sit down. Johnson said that he hoped to dispel some of the “libertarian myths” surrounding himself and the party, and that Snopes was the right outlet for that.

In response to those [myths], Johnson opined that “some of the baggage the Libertarian Party carries is that it’s ‘survival of the fittest’ [and] a ‘Darwinian party,'” firmly adding that “we’re not in that camp.” He continued by explaining that the 2016 Libertarian ticket didn’t espouse any fully laissez-faire ideas and voiced support for social programs:

We do believe in a health/safety net, for example … we’re for supporting social security, but that [earlier referenced misconception is part of] the baggage the Libertarian Party carries. And you know what? In theory, a lot of that at some [prior] point might actually [have ‘flown’.] But in my lifetime, I don’t think so. We’d like to actually like to hold off [on major fiscal cuts] and push the country in a direction of fiscal solvency … [it’s] where you’ve got to start.

I get criticized by my fellow libertarians for being No True Scott because Gary and I agree on this point (as does F.A. Hayek for that matter). As an active member of the Libertarian Party both at the national and state level, I can attest that I hear criticism for Gov. Johnson on this point (and middling points like it) a lot. Johnson has made a lot of enemies within the party partly because of statements like the one above. He only won his candidacy by ~51% and the other 49% often find themselves biting their tongues harder than any Republican did for Mitt. There’s even the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus,a  group formed in opposition to Gary Johnson and his evil plan to “make Libertarian ideas “non-threatening” in order to placate the enemies of liberty.”

Johnson continues:

You know, if there’s a criticism I don’t particularly embrace at all it’s that we’re somehow Republican-lite. And look, we’re running as Libertarians for a reason. We think the Republican party has really lost touch, but we think the Democrat party has lost touch also, and that the vast majority of Americans are fiscally responsible and socially inclusive … and we’re the voice for that mix … which is, like I say, most Americans.

I don’t know if I would characterize “the vast majority of Americans” as “fiscally responsible and socially inclusive”, but I do hope to see that changing. Already there are positive signs on the social toleration front.

The piece is very good, and the embedded video of Johnson’s well attended New York  rally shows the strength of a campaign that seems to have gotten out of Aleppo unscathed.