Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not Right, Not Left, Not Libertarian

My last article here was a very angry response to an alleged moderate Democrat's misrepresentations about who it is exactly that is against the health care bill. I'd like to clear up some things for anyone who might care.

I was a right-wing conservative for years - since the early 1980s. I sat back and watched as the GOP spent us into near-bankruptcy, but on their pet projects, not on those of the Democrats. Several years ago, after watching the Bush Administration spit in the face of every American, I finally embraced a full-fledged Libertarian view. I now belong to the Libertarian Party.

As with any political party, there are disagreements. I have them with my party, just as I did with the GOP. Granted, not to the same extent, but they exist nonetheless. I'd like to clarify, for anyone who cares, my economic and political positions as of today.

I'd like to take a paragraph on each issue and do my best to establish a basic understanding of my positions. Later, I might try to expand on my views in order to better clarify them, and maybe to learn them better myself.

Because my first article here was on immigration, I'll just say that I am not for open borders per se I think that for the sake of national security, there needs to be strong border security. That is not the same thing, however, as having a illiberal immigration policy, which I oppose. I believe that we should liberalize our immigration policies so that anyone who wants to be here, should be able to come. As long as they aren't another nation's criminals, there's no reason that they cannot be here.

Regarding charity and welfare. I support voluntary charity; however, I think many Christians who embrace libertarian and free market ideas fail to see that the bible specifically commanded farmers not to "maximize profits," but instead to allow the poor to "glean" in the fields. Landowners were commanded, and it was enforced in Israel, to not harvest the crops growing in the corners of the fields, nor to go over the field a second time. This left behind an ample supply of crops for the less fortunate to gather for their sustenance. So, while I believe in a free market, I also believe in biblical charity, which was not just "giving it away," but empowering the less fortunate to "work with their hands that they might have bread to eat."

Regarding war and peace. War should be a last resort and should only be done in self-defense. While it is true that we have not taken over any countries (other than the one upon which our nation sits) with our imperialism, we have taken over markets, which by definition is property. Our nation needs to stop this immediately. We need to bring troops home to defend our borders, not our "interests" in other parts of the globe.

Regarding free trade. I oppose government trade agreements, mainly because someone always get favored out of the deal - and it's rarely the American worker. I do, however, favor an individual, or a company, having the right to freely trade with other individuals or companies in other countries, without having to pay bribes to the government in the form of tariffs or taxes for the right to do so.

Regarding health care. I do not want "a public option" as understood by the Democrats. I also do not want the status quo of the insurance companies, as supported by the GOP. I favor a plan that would maximize the benefits of the markets, while providing incentives to those who are working to be healthy. One example, that would be a government run system might look like this: provide every American with a basic catastrophic plan, to pay for the long-term illnesses and hospitalizations that eventually come to all of us. Then set up a "Medical Savings Account" (MSA) of several hundred dollars each quarter. Everyone would have to see the doctor every quarter (3 months). If the doctor gives them a clean bill of health, they get a check from their MSA equal to the 3 months of deposits, minus the cost of the doctor visit and any other medical needs they may have had (like prescriptions). This would give the individual the incentive to eat healthy and exercise. The money saved from this would go into the pockets of the individual rather than in the pockets of the insurance companies.

Regarding the military industrial complex. Dismantle it. To quote Burton Cummings of the Guess Who, "American Woman...we don't need your war machines." Our society does not benefit from "creating wealth" by manufacturing bigger and better weapons. We create wealth by encouraging entrepreneurship. Small business is what is needed in this country, not more heavy-handed corporations.

Corporations are a fact of life, however. We rely on them for things like automobiles and the fuel to power them. We should do, as a nation, whatever we can to encourage these corporations to remain in America (cut taxes to zero would help) so that American workers, even Union workers if they so choose, will produce those automobiles, dishwashers, etc. that we need for a higher standard of living.

And still speaking of corporations, pollution should be taxed. If a corporation pollutes the environment, it should pay handsomely for it. That pollution should then be cleaned up with their money. It is government's responsibility to protect its citizens, and there is no reason that that government should sit idly by while large corporate interests lobby both parties (so get off your high horse you Democrats) so they can destroy our environment and our future.

And speaking of the environment. Give incentives for small business to create a market for recycled goods. I often think of an entrepreneur here in Michigan who started a company that took recycled newspapers and created insulation for houses with it. If memory serves me, he has about 6 manufacturing plants making this blown-in insulation. He's a millionaire and he has a large number of employees. That's American ingenuity. We could do that with plastic and every other non-biodegradable substance we use in this country.

Regarding alternative energy. Karl Hess, the radical left libertarian of bygone days, showed how efficient small scale wind and solar farms could be. Rather than subsidizing the Corporate interests called "public utilities" (that's a joke), encourage entrepreneurs to build local power facilities that would buy energy from small producers (many people with solar panels and windmills report having excess power), and sell it, for a profit, to those who decide not to have their own energy source. If the cost got too high for their liking, they could choose, based on economic benefit, to install their own. This is the basic free market. We only produce for ourselves what we cannot buy at a reasonable cost. In our current Big Corporate Public Utilities model, we don't really have that option. We are slaves to those corporations.

This concludes my initial thoughts. I'm sure I'll have more in the near future. Stay tuned and let me know if you like any of my ideas. I'll expand on them at a later date.


Steve Douglas said...


Like you, I am neither left, right, nor libertarian. I am a classical liberal and a minarchist (someone who wants to minimize government).

I can't help but take issue with your stance on the possibility of "government run health care". As a classical liberal, I have a low tolerance for giving the government a role beyond protecting life, liberty, and property. Moreoever, I am adamantly opposed to giving the federal government a role not given it by the Constitution. In instituting the Constitution, the States did not authorize the federal government to have anything whatsoever to do with health care -- MSA's, incentives, nothing.

As to practical concerns, we have less than zero cause for believing that government intervention into the market, even the health care market (because health care is simply a good to be brokered on the market), is going to do anything but exacerbate the problems. The reason medical costs are so expensive is because of all the regulatory red tape put up by (guess who?) government. The big, bad insurance companies can only be big and bad if they continue to have the cover of government protection that their lobbying has given them. If health care were on a free market, there would be much cheaper cafeteria style insurance plans (choose what you want coverage for and pay only for that), stimulating competitive pricing for what's not commonly insured; look at laser and cosmetic surgery. Do you realize that your doctor has a minimum that he must charge for procedures? It's things like this that have been putting charity hospitals (health care for those who can't afford it) out of business. The costs of the medical industry would be much lower because the artificial government-mandated minimums would be removed so that competition could actually occur. Here again, the government is not the solution: it is the problem.

You probably agree with most of this. But what you don't seem to be taking into consideration is that the government's "encouragement" through MSA's and such will also keep costs higher. If the choice is between customers buying and not buying, costs will be certainly be lower than in a situation in which everyone has government-guaranteed money on hand. There is just no conceivable scenario in which the government's involvement in the free market will ultimately be beneficial except perhaps for punishing fraud.

I was much more in line with your other viewpoints, however. :)

Freedom from Tyranny said...

yeah Steve, I think that my thoughts were that, if you are going to have government health insurance (and I'm not sure that we are going to avoid it), at least look at something that at least takes some market approach.

Personally, as I've maintained in the past, ridding the world of the insurance companies AND the government involvement in health care would both go a long way in bettering the system.

I think that at times we need to look at what can be done rather than what should be done. Realistic goals rather than the idealistic ones. Another example might be tax-credits for home and private educators rather than a full eradication of government funding of education. The latter is the preferred but given the public sentiment, the former might be all we can expect. Either one is an improvement over what we have now. I think the same can be said for just about any idea concerning health care, as opposed to the single payer system. Even leaving the current system in place, as is, is better than what Obamacare will bring.

Steve Douglas said...

To me, the pragmatic, realistic compromise is settling for government at all. We've been settling for pragmatic compromises for far too long, and gotten the short end of the stick. It's much like the Founders who initially yelled for "no taxation without representation" rather than "no taxation", but eventually decided that they must take the "unrealistic" course of standing up to tyranny. The liberty movement is growing too dramatically lately for me to despair of a revolution of ideas and begin giving quarter to the statists' rhetoric. Our mantra should be consistent: "The government is not authorized to do that stuff, and is incompetent at it anyway." If they do it over our protests, it'll fan the flame of liberty you're seeing in these town hall meetings. In many ways, the Obama presidency (like George III's belligerence to the colonists) will probably prove to be just what we need.

That said, I do recognize the necessity of taking strategic steps toward our lofty goals. But I think it's all too easy for compromise to masquerade as strategy. One thing we can't compromise on is the Constitution: even your modest health care solution is, as far as I can tell, unconstitutional. Repealing unconstitutional laws that cause the problem by instituting government intervention into the health care market is perfectly within bounds, but I just don't think that providing/mandating/incentivizing health care is.

Freedom from Tyranny said...

okay my friend. I hope you are correct that this country is ready for a change. Truthfully, I think that the change this country is ready for is going to happen in "the highways and byways" of America when people like us take back our independence in working with our liberty-minded neighbors to establish small, self-sufficient communities.

I only hope that I can find enough people in the highways and byways that I live in to do such things. I have one such family, and they have 10 acres, and have invited us to live on their property. We'll see how that goes.

Steve Douglas said...

Truthfully, I think that the change this country is ready for is going to happen in "the highways and byways" of America when people like us take back our independence in working with our liberty-minded neighbors to establish small, self-sufficient communities.

Wow - this is an epiphany moment for me. You're right -- this is how the colonies' love of self-government began and was cultivated. England's rule was too far removed and too self interested; the colonists found they could get by just fine by themselves. Sounds like what you're talking about here. It's a long-term investment strategy, and one that can be coordinated with the shorter-but-still-long-term goals fostered by the liberty movement of loosening the fetters of centralist authority. I like it, Ed. Thanks :)

Freedom from Tyranny said...

Another way I look at it Steve is that the early Christians rejected that Caesar was lord, and instead proclaimed, under threat of persecution, that Jesus was Lord.

In spite of this, they traveled on the Roman Roads, participated in society, etc.

I think that we are at that point. Christians should be rejecting (actually should have BEEN) our government's ever increasing attempt at Deification. We will still be participating in aspects of society, but for the most part, we should learn to be self-sufficient as possible within small communities.