The US elections: good, bad, and ugly

Good

Media will finally start doing its job after 8 years of hanging all over Obama’s nuts.

Bad

The GOP has control of the executive branch and both houses of Congress.

Ugly

The ugly part is over. Trump won’t be as bad as the Left wants him to be (the Left might even like his protectionism), but he’ll still be plenty bad by libertarian standards. We’ve got a lot of work to do, if we’re to make his job as president as hard as possible.

Have a good day!

Republican Tax Plans are Misguided

Predictably, Republican candidates are showcasing tax plans offering goodies for everybody. When some spoilsport has the nerve to point out the worsening deficit that would result, the most common retort is that the tax cut will spur economic growth enough to overcome the higher deficit. Some day. Somehow.

Of course lower tax rates will spur growth so that the loss in tax revenue will be less than proportional to the cut in tax rates. But it is foolish to think that we’re ensconced on the far side of the Laffer curve, for those who know that phrase, which simply means that tax rates are so high that cuts will produce higher revenue.

What about the claim that a flat tax is fairer than the graduated rates we have now? Perhaps, but how does one judge the fairness of any tax? The usual answer is that taxes should be based on the taxpayer’s ability to pay. But that is a nebulous concept at best. It means that somehow we figure out how much income is necessary and how much is up for grabs by politicians  Do we need a cell phone, cable TV, air conditioning? Who’s to say?

At least a flat tax would treat everybody alike. Or would it? Under a flat tax, where everybody hands over the same percentage of their income, those who earn a lot pay more money than those who don’t. Why? Do the high earners consume more government services? Are high earners bad people who deserve punishment?

I concede that some tax schemes could be fairer than others. For example, much as I might like the idea of complete tax exemption for septuagenarian European-American males, I’ll grant that would be a bit unfair. But in the end no tax can be entirely fair because taxation is coercive activity: stealing if you like.

Don’t get me wrong: I like tax cuts, preferably across the board, but targeted cuts are fine with me too. But the focus on the tax code is misplaced. The root problem is the amounts of real goods and services that are consumed by politicians and bureaucrats. Whether they are financed by taxation or borrowing is a secondary issue.

Republicans should be drawing up lists of programs to reduce or eliminate. “Defense” spending should be at the top of the list. The list should be broad enough that everybody’s ox is gored. Who knows, this approach might actually gain some traction with the fed-up electorate.

The GOP as a Homosexual Cabal

Reading the capital letters between the stately lines of today’s Wall Street Journal, I conclude that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert paid 3.5 million dollars in hush money to a blackmailer with whom he had homosexual relations before he joined Congress. (They may also have been pedophilic relations.) As the WSJ relates, Hastert’s elevation to the Speakership was followed by a period when he was reproached for his limp handling of  the case of Mark Foley, a Florida Republican (GOP) who admitted to sending sexually charged messages to a House page (un page, en Francais). The page was a handsome young man.

All this leads me to wonder whether the GOP – for which I normally vote –  was not for a while simply a homosexual conspiracy. I might not mind but I would have liked to know. And I don’t like this closet business (I don’t mind simple discretion.)

All this wondering leads me to wonder whether gay activists will claim Hastert as one of their own. Of course, it’s disturbing that the politically active element of the gay movement did not claim Foley, as they have failed largely to claim thousands of pedophile priests. Yes, of course, gays are not necessarily pedophile but male pedophiles who specialize entirely in boys are homosexuals, it seems to me. I think a male homosexual is a man or boy who is sexually stimulated by other men or boys. Shoot me!

Fifty Years of Voting

I cast my first vote in 1964, shortly after turning 21, the legal voting age in those days. I voted for Barry Goldwater who, although he described himself as a conservative, didn’t fit that category by today’s standards. He was for free markets but he was not particularly religious and he held a laissez-faire attitude toward alternate lifestyles. He was, unfortunately, a war hawk, so he wouldn’t fit very well into today’s libertarian category, either.

Four years later I voted for Richard Nixon, sad to say. I somehow thought he was for free markets, being a Republican. I was cured of that delusion by a wakeup call at 8:15 AM on Monday, August 16, 1971. That was the moment I saw the headline in the L.A. Times announcing Nixon’s dastardly Sunday evening perfidy: price controls, closing the gold window, and an import tariff surcharge. All of these statist actions very quickly played out disastrously. Their personal import was to cure me of any notion that Republicans were necessarily friends of liberty. I became a libertarian that Monday morning and never looked back.

Of course that decision meant never again voting for a winner.  I voted for John Hospers in 1972, and he actually got one electoral vote from a renegade Republican elector, Roger MacBride, who was the LP candidate in 1976. Ed Clark’s 1980 campaign on the Libertarian ticket, generously funded by the Koch brothers, gave me brief hope for the new party, which we all know has come to naught. I’ve “wasted” my vote on Libertarian candidates ever since. Thanks to Proposition 14 in California, I can only vote for Libertarians in the primary elections; minor parties are shut out of the general election. In many races the general election is a contest between two Democrats. I resist any urge to vote for the lesser evil of the two so now I just leave most of my ballot blank and vote against all tax measures.

If we must have voting, I offer a couple of common-sense reforms:

  • Raise the voting age to 30. People under that age are clueless.
  • Require voters to pass a stiff qualification exam, something far more rigorous than the simple literacy tests of yore.
  • Institute a stiff poll tax, at least enough to cover election costs. Why force non-voters to pay?

I’m tempted to throw in land ownership as another criterion, but the foregoing should suffice. Of course this reform would leave many people feeling disenfranchised, but so what? Most people are far too ignorant to judge issues and candidates rationally and should be kept away from voting booths at all costs. Anyway, the system would leave a path open for people to earn enfranchisement by working hard to satisfy the above criteria.

Would I apply for enfranchisement under my proposed system?  No way; I have better things to do.  Will I vote this year?  I suppose so. I have no idea what will be on the ballot, but there will doubtless be some lame-brain propositions to vote against.

The Most Embarrassing Factions of the US-Cuba detente

I can only list, in order of magnitude, three: 1) Republican hawks, 2) condescending Leftists, and 3) anti-Americans abroad.

In some ways none of this is surprising. All three of these factions hate each other, mostly because they are the least libertarian factions in the world (familiarity breeds contempt, it is often said).

Republican hawks are first on my list because they are the most dangerous. This is a deeply reactionary faction that does not care one iota about the national interest. It is a vulgar mob that has no need for nuance or depth. One of the state of Florida’s Senators, Marco Rubio, exemplifies this isolationist faction. This is demagoguery at its finest. It also goes a long way toward explaining why I will never, ever be a Republican, despite the honest efforts of courageous statesmen like Ron and Rand Paul.

Condescending Leftists are second because of their reactions to the beginnings of the end of a vicious, self-defeating embargo: Decrying the fact that Starbucks and McDonald’s will soon be forcing poor, naive Cubans into becoming customers with actual choices in an actual marketplace. According to the worldview of these Leftists: the lives of Cubans have been better than those of Westerners because of its simplicity (this simplicity was brought about, of course, by the heavy-handed tactics of the Castro dictatorship, but somehow this always fails to make the final cut of the condescending Leftist’s narrative). Capitalism will put an end to the simple lives of the Cuban people, and this is a bad thing for both the world and the Cubans themselves.

Embarrassing and disgusting.

The last faction on my list, anti-Americans abroad, have taken the Obama administration’s decision to reach out to Cuba as an excuse to lie to domestic factions everywhere. They have seized upon the fact that the US sometimes pursues bad policies, and have turned it into a soapbox preaching session for all of the gullible schoolboys and girls in the world who instinctively hate the world’s liberal hegemon. What is lost (or, more likely, ignored) in these preachers’ message is the fact that the US is changing its bad policy. The same cannot be said for the tired tropes wielded by aging anti-Americans in the name of some variant of socialist (whether national or international) revolution.

Some notes in the margins:

  • Cuba will not become free or (or) democratic overnight.
  • It will not become wealthy overnight, either. In fact, there is bound to be a whole lot of cronyism in the near future, as Castro’s butchers and henchmen gobble up much of the wealth that will inevitably flood Cuba’s markets. Remittances will likely increase as well, which means that the cronysim of Castro’s henchmen will be offset by the influx of cash from the US. This, in turn, means that the Castro dictatorship is likely to be around for a lot longer than anticipated.

Peggy Noonan’s piece in the Wall Street Journal is well-worth reading. Observe:

A closing note: I always thought, life often being unfair, that Fidel Castro would die the death of a happy monster, old, in bed, a cigar jutting out from the pillows, a brandy on the bedside table. My dream the past few years was that this tranquil end would be disturbed by this scene: American tourists jumping up and down outside his window, snapping pictures on their smartphones. American tourists flooding the island, befriending his people, doing business with them, showing in their attitude and through a million conversations which system is, actually, preferable. Castro sees them through the window. He grits his teeth so hard the cigar snaps off. Money and sentiment defeat his life’s work. He leaves the world knowing that in history’s great game, he lost.

Open the doors, let America flood the zone and snap those pictures. “Fidel! Look this way!” Snap. Flash. Gone.

“A foreign policy with a price”

Re: “Obama’s empty West Point speech,” May 30 Charles Krauthammer.

So Charles Krauthammer thinks we should be providing military assistance to Libya, Syria and the Ukraine. Who’s going to pay for it? Or are we just going to whip out the plastic like usual? Krauthammer says our allies are complaining, fearing their own security. What are they doing about it? Not much. Of course they are complaining; they are used to having the U.S. protect them without paying for it. I thought the Republicans were big on personal responsibility. Get your nanny-state big government out of other people’s business.

Joe GregoryCastle Pines

This is a letter to the editors of the Denver Post (I’m hanging out with my grandparents in Denver right now) and I thought I’d pass it along. Is libertarianism truly entering the mainstream or or is this guy just a hardcore, longtime libertarian? He might just be a Democrat with above-average intelligence and knows when to point out logical discrepancies in the Republican message.

I’ll never know, but I can only hope he’s new and that writes more letters to the editors that point out the irrational nature of US foreign policy.

The Republican Proposal on Illegal Immigrants and, the French Are Coming

I am responding to a Republican radio and TV ad about illegal immigration. It’s presented as the Republican counter-proposal or response to Pres. Obama demand for “comprehensive immigration legislation.” It displays involuntarily some of the main fallacies Republicans commonly entertain in connection with illegal immigration and other topics. It demonstrates disturbing collective ignorance in my camp. (I am a registered Republican.) Here are four major fallacies in that short ad:

1 The ad continues to be based on the false notion that there exists an alternative to illegal immigration in the form of some orderly visa queue. In this perspective, illegal immigrants are rude, unprincipled line jumpers. Everyone hates such people.

In fact, there is no such queue. The average unmarried Mexican has no way (zero) way to come live in the US legally. (An unmarried Mexican can try to marry a US national or legal immigrant to gain a quick visa. Some do. This is hardly a more principled way to immigrate into this country than overstaying a tourist visa, for instance.)

2 The Republican proposal demands “no amnesty.” The Republican proposal contains an amnesty: amnesty for those who entered the country illegally. It rewards those who took the matter into their own hands against other foreigners who would like to move to the US but do not wish to violate laws to do so. Again, illegal immigration is the only way to enter the US and stay for almost everyone in the world.

There is no way to regularize the status of current illegals living in this country without an amnesty of some kind. I predict that neither the federal government nor the individual states will ever engage in the massive police action that would be required to hunt down illegal aliens in their homes, places of work, churches, and schools (including kindergartens). Everyone else also knows this to be true. Republican leaders have yet to acknowledge this simple fact of life.

3 The Republican proposal would require illegal aliens to “learn English” as a condition of their legalization. This is ill-informed as well as downright stupid.

First, illegal aliens are very busy learning English. They are all aware of the fact that knowing the main local language is a condition of real economic success in this country. To say otherwise is to make a tremendously xenophobic statement by implicitly calling immigrants stupid. That’s in addition to ignoring the facts on the ground.

Second: What are we going to do with Juan if he flunks his English midterm? Throw him over the border? How about Mr Lee, who has been here (illegally) for fifteen year and who owns a restaurant employing six people? Do we ship him back to Canton if he gets two C- in a row on his English grammar test?

Plus, what is the federal government going to do when some ill-intentioned academic reveals that a significant percentage of American-born US citizens also flunked the midterm, the same midterm?

Is this “obligation” to learn English, specifically, even constitutional? The last time I checked, the US had no official language. Why not Navajo?

This all smacks of the insane dreams of comfortably monolingual individuals who believe they would master Spanish if they could only clear a dozen Saturday mornings. Do these people take advice from anyone? Do they read anything?

“Securing the border” has become a mindless Republican incantation. It’s increasingly irrelevant for the purpose of immigration control, at least closing the southern border is. Several relevant points. At them same time as we were having our endless economic crisis killing thousands of jobs, the Mexican economy was doing better than before. And, Mexican population growth has almost ceased. The huge hordes of hungry Mexicans massed at the border to jump in and take over everything American have evaporated. Mexicans have almost stopped coming. Those who do use a student visa or a tourist visa and just don’t go home until they are good and ready.

Securing the border may serve a purpose in the context of a drug war. If that’s the issue, Republicans should have the coraje (same as “cojones” but more polite) to tell the truth.

And now, what the Republican leadership is not doing or not doing enough: Shout to the rooftops that legalizing illegals and awarding them citizenship are only artificially linked (by artful Democrats seeking free votes for generation). European countries have established successfully for many years the fact that citizens of another country can live in forever without acquiring political rights at all. (A recent well publicized Swiss vote on immigration does not deal with this matter.) Fellow immigrant Nikiforov and I explored this idea in depth in connection with the US and Mexico in our article “If Mexicans and Americans Could Cross the Border Freely” featured in the libertarian journal Independent Review.

Here is a real immigration issue the Republican leadership is not attending to: Tens of thousands of younger French people want to move to this country. The issue is so serious that there is a brand new French cabinet post dedicated to stemming the flow. Many of the would-be French migrants possess to a high degree the kind of training Silicon Valley companies say they can’t find. Many of the same well-educated French citizens who wouldn’t dream of opening a lollipop stand under French conditions discover that they possess a big entrepreneurial gene a couple of years after landing here. Let me also point out that the quality of food improves automatically after a surge of knowledgeable and demanding French customers. (Yes, some stereotypes are well founded.)

At this point, there is no legal way to bring in these high quality immigrants. Our immigration system is forcing into illegal immigration the most determined and least law-abiding segment among exactly the kind of immigrants we want.