Category Archives: Strategies For Advancing Liberty

Why Trump’s Message Resonates With Working-Class Voters

working class Trump supporters

This is the tl;dr version of my contribution to the TLP Round Table on Donald Trump’s rise to the status of presumptive Republican nominee.

Various motivations for Trump’s popularity have been posited over the course of the election cycle. Tribalism and xenophobia. Social order authoritarianism. Anger at the establishment. Anti-PC backlash. A yen for creative destruction.

I even have some sympathy for that last one. What is the point of preserving a GOP that has failed so resoundingly to deliver on the promise of limited government? Why not blow on the tiny orange flame of a Trump-match and see if it catches fire? Some wildfires make the ecosystem stronger.

But that is not my point here. There is another faction of Trump support, which has been overlooked amid all the self-righteous indictment of his surprising success. That faction consists of working class voters who spend their lives on the financial brink, who could not come up with $400 to face an emergency, but who, as a result of the statist, two-party-dominated system, cannot escape the inevitability of big government.

We advocates of free markets too often fail to explain, cogently, why free trade and voluntary exchanges deliver the best outcomes for the most people. We fail to explain why it is not just big corporations, businesses and entrepreneurs that get hurt by government interventions into the free market—but also the workers. And when those workers complain about the various ways in which they struggle to make ends meet, we too often dismiss it as a deficiency of effort, rather than a legitimate complaint against the system.

This makes no sense. We know better. We know that over-regulation, barriers to entry, excessive government spending, crony capitalism, and welfare for the rich are all bad for the economy and particularly bad for workers. We know these policies cause work to be less remunerative and hit poor people the hardest.

Why then, when they complain, do so many of us respond by dismissing them as lazy, unmotivated, unproductive and entitled? We should be capitalizing on their complaints. They are incontrovertibly legitimate.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University recently published a study estimating that regulatory drag has stunted the size of the U.S. economy and made Americans significantly poorer than they would otherwise be. Their numbers, while shocking, seem woefully inadequate to reflect the true costs working people pay for intrusive government.

Through “subsidies,” regulations and entitlements, government intervention into the market drives up prices-relative-to-incomes on most of the things consumers need most. Housing, education, and healthcare all far outpace inflation. Meanwhile, government consumes 36% of GDP, and on everything from contact lenses to gasoline to occupational licensing, Americans must pay more while struggling to participate in a system that is rigged against their efforts.

It is simply not possible to sell people on the wealth potential of a free market while castigating them for failing to succeed in a system that requires hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to get the mandatory license for a job washing hair.

In that regard, the Democrats have a point (incomplete and poorly made, to be sure) when they say, “you didn’t build that” or, “you’ve also been lucky.” Would-be business owners pay their extorted dues to the government-backed bureaucracy. In return, they are protected from competition by various barriers to entry, government-enforced monopolies, tax-payer funded subsidies, and other massive transfers of wealth from taxpayers to the favored recipients of government largesse. It makes a certain twisted sense to demand more compensation in proportion to their success.

One of these men understands how money and economies function. He led a grassroots movement that motivated millions of young voters. In response, the GOP changed its rules to keep him from gaining traction. The other one is the new face of the Republican Party.

One of these men understands how money and economies function. He led a grassroots movement that motivated millions of young voters. In response, the GOP changed its rules to keep him from gaining traction. The other one is the new face of the Republican Party.

Don’t like it? Great. I don’t either. Let’s repeal the barriers to entry, the legal monopolies, the government grants and below-market loans. Let’s get rid of the regulations and the occupational licensing, the mandated dues and the bureaucratic red tape and all the other bullshit.

This is, in fact, what we put Republicans in the House and Senate to do.

Yet over and over and over again, with a few principled exceptions (e.g., Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and, yes, Ted Cruz), Republicans have broken their word, expanded government, and asked us to be patient while they focus on getting reelected.

Revealing the true direction of their priorities, the GOP establishment acted to keep Ron Paul supporters from gaining traction in their ranks. The liberty movement has not died as a result, but it may have left the party. Inside the GOP, it has been replaced by an orange-faced baboon leading an army of alt-righters shouting “cuck” repetitively as they rock back and forth in fear of outside stimulation.

I will not deny a certain satisfying schadenfreude at that turn of events. And there is value in knowing such a cancer festers on the right. But there is equal value in understanding that Trump would not be succeeding on their support alone. He is also propelled by a significant faction of working-class voters desperate for better jobs, a stronger economy, and higher purchasing power.

Sanders is right about a lot of problems, wrong about the solutions. Sanders supporters who can understand the distinction may be an untapped area of future liberty votes.

Sanders supporters may be an untapped area of future liberty votes.

In that regard, Trump’s message resonates with voters on the right for some of the same reasons Bernie Sanders’ message resonates on the left. If big government, high taxes, and crony capitalism are inevitable – because neither of the viable parties intends to do much about them – why not use one’s vote to fight for a bigger piece of the stunted pie? Trump at least pays lip service to the struggle. He promises jobs and protectionism, a reprieve from debt and stagnation.

Of course I know he will not deliver. Trump’s “solutions” will further hurt working class people, by driving up prices and contracting the size of the economy.

Trump is Sanders in orange-face.

The point is, if a liberty-movement aims to rise from the ashes of the Trump-fire, it must speak to the struggles motivating voter support for these two surprise candidates. It must explain why no amount of further tinkering will alleviate the real pain that government intrusions into the economy cause to real people, why the only solution is to unwind those intrusions in the first instance.

Then it needs to actually deliver.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.

It’s Time To Double Tap The Republican Party And Build Its Replacement

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The Republican Party primary voters did it. They nominated Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

I predicted as far back as August 2015 that Donald Trump would destroy the Republican Party and it appears he has. Trump is the choice of it seems Republican voters. His numerous racist and xenophobic statements and positions and his hostility to the Constitutional limits of his power weren’t a problem in the end.

There is no home in a Republican Party ruled by Donald Trump for those who hold classical liberal views and/or traditional conservative values. Those libertarians, conservatives, conservatarians, Constitutionalists, classical liberals, and the rest who believe in the principles of the American founding are now politically homeless. The day after Trump knocked Ted Cruz out of the race, I left the Republican Party.

The Republican Party is a dead political party. It’s a zombie just shuffling forward in search of human flesh. The #NeverTrump movement should double tap the Republican Party. It is little more than a Grand Zombie Party now and start building its replacement.

The #NeverTrump movement is beginning to realize that the Republican Party is beyond saving. A couple of Iowans, Joel Kurtinitis at The Blaze and Steve Deace at Conservative Review, want the movement to think bigger than just defeating Donald Trump. They’re both on board the “we need a new party train.” I completely agree with both men.

We need a party that argues in favor of the classical liberal principles of America’s founding. We need a party that recognizes that populism is just another form of statism.

Why Not The Libertarian Party?

The Libertarian Party is America’s third largest political party. It will likely have ballot access in alll 50 states plus the District of Columbia this year. It is running some pretty good candidates for president. I hope they get the 5% of the vote necessary to receive Federal campaign matching funds. This would be good for American politics.

However, as a long-term solution, the LP is not what I’m looking for. The Libertarian Party’s primary purpose is an educational tool for libertarian ideas and that’s great. But a new home is needed for the broad classical liberal spectrum for winning and governing.

What Should This New Party Look Like?

Some thoughtful pieces have come out recently about the direction this new party would take. The first one is a two-part series run on The Federalist by Paul D. Miller about bringing back The Federalist Party. The second part outlined a platform suggestion.

Decentralizing power is the best way—perhaps the only way—for an increasingly pluralistic people to govern themselves: a pluralistic people calls for plural governments. Americans are increasingly divided not merely by race, class, and gender—which has always been true—but by differing sets of values, by religious and sectarian identities, by basic understandings of justice and democracy that have drifted apart in recent generations.

The progressive left and quasi-fascist right believe the increasing fragmentation of American life is a malady which must be cured by the strong hand of government. In fact, those very movements are both cause and consequence of the fragmentation of American society, and their agendas can never create the imagined unity of the romantic past or utopian future.

The Federalist accepts the pluralism of American life as a reality to be accommodated, not a disease to be cured. The way to safeguard human dignity and self-government in a culturally pluralistic nation is to revive the institutions of plural government; that is, to devolve power to the several governments closer to the people they govern.

A more decentralized Federal government must be a major part of the platform. After all, we are a nation of 50 different states, each with their unique values and cultures. A “one-size fits all” approach to government fails. But decentralization alone is not enough. The Federal government has some roles.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom had some thoughts of his own on a possible new party platform. I recommend reading the entire piece but I wanted to highlight his 6 main planks.

1) Individual liberty
2) Federalism and representative republicanism
3) Constitutionalism
4) Judicial originalism
5) National sovereignty
6) Free-market capitalism

These are a good start. The only minor quibble I would have is I’m more of a Randy Barnett “judicial engagement” type than a judicial originalist. I can get on board with the rest easily though.

I think we need to add a few planks though and call the whole thing “Nine For Freedom” or something. Here are my suggestions:

7) Growth and opportunity: The old economy is dead. The idea of having a job right out of college and staying with the same company until you retire doesn’t happen anymore. We’re shifting towards a “gig economy” where many people are freelancers. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Fiverr, Ebay, and many other innovations make it easy for almost anyone to be in business for themselves. The economy itself has an anemic growth rate that shows signs of getting worse. We need to unleash the American people by getting government out of the way. We need to lower the world’s highest corporate tax rate, reduce regulations, and attack crony capitalism that delivers privileges to a well connected few. We need to reform our outdated Industrial Era education system, promote school choice, and fix higher education so that you don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree to wait tables. Finally, we need to have a free market approach to fix or replace Obamacare.

8) Welfare and Entitlement Reform: We have a major problem with our welfare state. It still traps people in dependence and discourages work. Social Security Disability fraud is bleeding the system dry. We can’t have this as a nation. At the same time, we shouldn’t hold people who do need a temporary hand up in disdain. Most people don’t make welfare a lifestyle. You can hit this many ways. The guys over at the Foundation for Government Accountability have great ideas to reform welfare. If we want to go bolder, we may want to consider scrapping the alphabet soup of welfare programs and replace it with some kind of basic income program. If you want to undermine the sources of support for the Trumpist right and the progressive left, you have to attack the welfare state.

9) A Strong, Secure, And Free America: We will aggressively confront the enemies of this country. We will stand for liberty and freedom allaround the world. We will have a military and intelligence capability that is second to none. However, we will not engage in military crusades for democracy, seek dragons to slay, and engage in dubious neocon nation building schemes. We believe in the power of diplomacy and we believe in free trade. America will be involved in the world but we will not police the world alone. We will ask our allies to do more to protect themselves not because they’re not important but because we cannot and will not do it alone. Finally, while we will be vigilant about detectingthreats from abroad, we will not listen to your phone calls, read your emails, track your online browsing, or otherwise spy on you without a warrant. America should not throw away its founding principles even in wartime.

We have an opportunity to reshape the political landscape. The Republican Party is little more than a home for racists, kooks, reactionary populists, demagogues, con artists, and political opportunists. It no longer serves the purposes of liberty.

Let’s build something that does.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Libertarians Debate on Stossel (Part 1 of 2)

Watch-Part-One-Of-The-Libertarian-Party-Debate-On-Stossel-702x336In case you missed it, the first half of the Libertarian Party Presidential Debate aired on Stossel on April 1st (the second half will air on Friday, April 8, 2016). The three participants were 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, software developer John McAfee, and the founder of the blog The Libertarian Republic Austin Petersen.

After watching some of the GOP debates and the first Democrat debate, watching the Libertarians debate was refreshing. No name calling or commenting on the appearance of the other candidates. No scolding the debate moderator for asking questions the candidates didn’t like. To the extent that one candidate challenged or disagreed with another they were on the substance of the issue at hand (more on that in a moment). There seemed to be more areas of agreement than disagreement (and even a kiss on the cheek) among them. This debate was more about presenting to a national cable audience the case for Libertartian policy alternatives to those of the Republicrats.

Did any candidate “win” Part 1 of the debate or help/hurt his chances with the LP faithful or viewers who are open to supporting a third party candidate?

I can only answer for myself. I enthusiastically supported Gary Johnson in 2012 all the way back from when he was running for the GOP nomination to election day as the LP’s nominee. Of the three, he’s the only one I was all that familiar with. I took the Isidewith.com survey on the issues (mentioned in the debate) several weeks ago and found that I sided with Austin Petersen 97%, Gary Johnson 92%, and Ted Cruz 77%. I’m not sure why John McAfee wasn’t among those I sided with because I found myself in agreement with much of what he said in the debate. Due to these results, though Gov. Johnson is sort of my default favorite I watched with an open mind.

To my surprise, indeed I did find myself agreeing more with the thirty-five year old Austin Petersen than the other two. For libertarians looking for “purity” of libertarian principles, Petersen is your guy it seems (based solely on one half of one debate). When asked about whether a cake decorator should be forced to make a cake for someone based on personal or religious reasons, Johnson (to my profound disappointment) said they should while Petersen said the market should decide making the freedom of association argument (an argument every good libertarian should have down pat).

The second strike against Johnson and for Petersen was the question of the so-called gender pay gap. Johnson sounded like a progressive echoing the “equal pay for equal” work line but said he would be hesitant to sign any equal pay legislation because “the devil is in the details.” Petersen on the other hand skillfully explained why the gender pay gap is a progressive myth. McAfee, for his part argued that if a person doesn’t like how much they are being paid they are free to look elsewhere.

There’s certainly more in the debate that I didn’t get into here. My conclusion as far as my opinion goes: Petersen helped himself, Johnson hurt himself, and McAfee is intriguing. In a world where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are looking to be their party’s nominee any of the three would be hands down a better choice.

What Is The Best Way To Advance Liberty?

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In the wake of Rand Paul’s departure from the presidential race, the question being asked is what is the best path to advance liberty? Should libertarians work within GOP, the Libertarian Party, or even the Democratic Party? Should libertarians be anti-establishment or should they try to become the mainstream? Should libertarians focus on politics, policy, or reject both altogether in favor of free market solutions?

The answer is all of the above. There is no one path to advance the ideas of liberty. Nor will there ever be a utopian society that is 100% libertarian, nor should there be in a pluralistic society. Liberal ideas and ideals advance and change over time.

There are some ideas we need to dismiss off hand.

  1. Building a libertarian safe space. Congratulations to the Free State Project on getting enough people willing to move to New Hampshire to trigger the move. However, I still question its usefulness. What is the point of trying to move libertarians into a state and take it over as a utopian example to the rest of the world? Wouldn’t it best to have libertarians spread out all over to try and influence change everywhere? Besides, isn’t a mass migration to take over an argument against open borders?
  2. Reject coalition building. Libertarians need to build coalitions with everyone. There are libertarian conservatives, libertarian centrists, libertarian progressives, and classical liberals (such as myself). Many Americans and others around the world have some kind of libertarian leanings and there are very, very few actual libertarians. Unless libertarians just want to yell in the wilderness, you have to work with others.
  3. Lose the savior complex. The United States, or any country for that matter, will likely never elect a libertarian president, ever. The majority of voters are not libertarians and never will be. That’s fine, in a free and pluralistic society we need voters with all sorts of views. That’s what debate is for. Even if a libertarian did get elected president, libertarians would be disappointed because a president is not all powerful. Process matters as much as results do.

The prospects for liberty are great, regardless of the struggles of one particular presidential candidate. In fact, liberty means many things to many people and that’s good. While authoritarianism is rearing its ugly head in both political parties this year, I’m confident we can defeat it.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Revisiting Rand Paul’s Campaign Again

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Friday, I wrote a piece about Rand Paul’s presidential campaign and why it is failing. Some people disagreed with it saying I left out a few things. Some of the things they I said I left out was the poor polling numbers of guys like Rick Santorum this time in 2011. Another thing, they said I left out was the fact the campaign was “turning things around.” Finally, some people said I left out a recent poll that showed Paul at 7% nationally.

Guess what, these people were right. I didn’t have all of my facts lined up for that post. I did my readers a disservice. I’m sorry. I’m going to try to make it right by looking at those facts.

The Santorum 2011 comparisons

One of the things some critics said was that I wasn’t looking at the big picture. After all, it is early October. Here’s where the race stood nationally four years ago today.

RCP1

Ignore the top numbers and look at the numbers highlighted on the chart. Perry was beginning his decline after his awful debates. Romney was holding steady as he had all year. Gingrich more or less held steady as did Paul. Bachmann was heading towards her collapse after the victory at the Ames Straw Poll. Finally, Santorum was at the bottom at 3%.

Where Santorum ultimately shined was in Iowa. Here’s what polling looked like 4 years ago today:

RCP2

Again, Perry on top with Bachmann in 2nd. Cain was about to begin his surge which ended after sexual harrassment allegations surfaced. Santorum was at 4.3% and second to last. The top 3 in Iowa wound up being Romney (who was 3rd in this poll), Santorum, and then Paul (who was 4th). To add insult to injury, Santorum only raised a little over $682,000 in the previous quarter.

Here’s how Santorum turned it around, he made this a one-state race for him. He visited every county in Iowa and he tapped his base of evangelicals. He was also helped by Perry’s poor debate performances, the collapse of Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann’s collapse over her anti-vaxxer comments.

Here’s where the Santorum comparison fails, it’s a much more crowded field than 2011-12. Paul is currently tied for 8th in Iowa. Plus, Paul has a negative X-factor in play, the indictments of his political allies related to the Kent Sorenson vote bying scandal. Caucus states though are a pain in the ass to poll because of the limited number of people who actually attend them.

Is the campaigning turning things around?

That’s a line I keep getting from Paul supporters. The best example of this thinking is an article on Buzzfeed from Friday.

Here’s the thing, they may be doing it. However, there is no way we can know if this is true until a few weeks from now. If the polls start moving upwards, more money starts coming in, and the campaign settles on a strategy; they can say he’s turning things around. This one is wait and see.

What about that new Reuters poll?

I was too dismissive of a new poll from Reuters/Ipsos that came out on Friday. It showed Paul at 6.2% which is an increase from 2.6% from last week. Before I wrote the first piece, I did not know about it. I was initially dismissive of it because it was a poll of all adults. However, Reuters/Ipsos lets you put filters on the poll by limiting it to likely Republican voters. With that filter, Paul’s numbers are 5.6% which is an increase from 2.5%.

I dismissed the poll too rashly. However, the polls from Pew, Gravis, and IBD/Tipp all continue to show Paul in the 2-3% range.

Long story short, I messed up in the first post because I was too dismissive of evidence from the other side. Part of that is due to my own personal prejudice against hardcore Paul supporters from my many online battles with them since 2007. That is 100% on me and I owe my readers an apology.

Now is Rand Paul going to drop out of the race? He has $2 million left, he has no need to at least before the next debate on October 28th. He has plenty of time to turn his campaign around. Whether or not he does is another matter entirely.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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