Saturday, April 28, 2012

Libertarian Party Identity

Thomas Knapp makes an interesting argument, pointing out that the Libertarian Party is having identity problems. He points out how the "pragmatic" libertarians nominated conservative former Republican Bob Barr, selling out what the Libertarian Party for a vote bonus that never arrived.

And he is right. The watered down platform of the 2006 convention, the nomination of Bob Barr (who subsequently endorsed Newt Gingrich) and Wayne Root (who subsequently endorsed Mitt Romney), and the 2010 election of Wayne Root to the Libertarian National Committee and appointment to chair the Libertarian National Congressional Committee have all contributed to a very severe confusion of the libertarian message.

Now, in 2012, the same people who supported those previous actions are the strongest proponents of Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party nomination for president. Although far better than Bob Barr or Wayne Root, he has people nervous because of his foreign policy positions and his position on the fair tax.

But there is no need for the Libertarian Party to have such an identity problem. There is a ready-made identity for the Libertarian Party - it can embrace and endorse libertarian positions. Why is this hard?

It is hard because libertarianism is, for some people, too consistent. If one wishes to be libertarian only in economics, that person is an unusually enlightened conservative. If one wishes to be libertarian only in civil matters, that person is an unusually enlightened liberal. And if one wishes to be libertarian only in foreign policy, that person would actually not be libertarian in foreign policy but would be an actual isolationist.

That last of the three is the greatest problem because many of those who are causing an identity problem for the Libertarian Party have great reservations with being libertarian on foreign policy. Peaceful trade with all, entangling alliances with none, and the military (if one exists at all) is only to be used defensively - and defense does NOT include "pre-emptive counter-attacks." Nor does it include wars of liberation, which always manage to accomplish the exact opposite of the stated goal.

If the Libertarian Party is to return to having a core established identity that sets it apart from other political parties, it is in foreign policy where people must start. The Libertarian Party must make it explicit that the Zero Aggression Principle also applies to foreign policy and that the Membership Oath about not advocating violence to achieve political aims also applies to foreign policy.

Perhaps that is why the Reformers want to do away with the oath as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tax Increase Theater

In order to score rhetorical points, the Democrats are proposing raising taxes on the rich back up to Clinton-era levels. That means that the top tax rate will rise from 35% to 39.6%. That is an increase on one tax bracket of about 11%, and it shows not only that the Democrats are not interested in balancing the budget it shows that they believe the voters are idiots for thinking that 8% increase is what is needed to balance the budget.

Currently, approximately 66% of the government spending is paid for by taxation and 33% is paid for by borrowing. If the Democratic Party wants to balance the budget through tax increases, it would require approximately a 50% tax hike across the board, on all taxes and tax brackets. The top tax bracket would have to go from 35% to 52.5% which would not be displeasing to Democrats if they feel the voters wouldn’t react negatively. But that involves only taxing the rich, and a serious attempt to balance the budget through taxation will involve more than just taxing the rich.

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That doesn’t include the other taxes, which must also be raised by a similar amount. The 7% employee contribution and 7% employer contribution to Social Security must go to 10.5%, and similar increases are needed to all other federal taxes. This includes, by the way, the very unrealistic assumption that this massive across-the-board tax increase will not result in a severe and nearly immediate economic downturn.

Some Democrats will protest that tax increases on the wealthy would be enough if they were high enough, but that argument is absurd. There aren’t enough people in the top two brackets and their combined incomes are not enough to cover the 33% of the budget that is in deficit. Only by taxing the rest of the population as well, including the 42% of the public that doesn’t pay taxes at all, can the budget be balanced. The taxes have to be on everyone, which is a proposal the Democrats are not courageous enough to make.

There are two ways to balance the budget, and they are through either tax increases or spending cuts. The Democrats clearly prefer the idea of using tax increases, but if their proposal is only a mild tax increase on the top brackets, their proposal is as much about balancing the budget as the Ryan Plan is about spending cuts – theater designed to give the illusion and appearance of doing something without any of the hard work of doing something.

If the Democrats in office are serious about using tax increases to balance the budget, and do without any spending cuts, then there is only one proposal that shows they are serious. It would be the Democratic Party equivalent of the Randall Paul budget proposal which cut the budget by $500 billion and even Senator Paul admitted didn’t go far enough. The real point of the current tax increase proposal isn’t to raise revenue or balance the budget, it is to encourage class jealousy in order to increase votes this coming November.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Who wants a race war?

One thing to take away from the Trayvon Martin case is that someone apparently wants there to be more racial tension in the United States, possibly up to a race war. It is difficult to determine who or why at this time, but that there is a pattern showing that the tensions are being increased is undeniable. The most ironic thing about this pattern is who is supposed to be fighting. A Hispanic man shoots a Black man, and now people are supposed to be angry at White racism.

The coverage started by referring to George Zimmerman as "White". Eventually it broke through the news cycle that he was actually Hispanic so the media started referring to him as "White Hispanic." Sometimes Hispanic is referred to as an ethnicity, sometimes it is referred to as a race. There are areas in the country where people would be deeply offended to be called "White" because they consider themselves otherwise.

Another item of evidence is the edited NBC recording. In the era before the internet, NBC could have probably gotten away with releasing the edited tape that has George Zimmerman saying what race Trayvon Martin is during the description of suspicion instead of after being asked to give a physical description.

Then there are the photographs that competing sides of the debate use, although it should be noted that both sets of photographs show George Zimmerman looking Hispanic. One set of photographs included a younger Trayvon Martin and a photograph of George Zimmerman that made him look fairly disreputable. The other set showed a more grown Trayvon Martin looking more "gangster" and George Zimmerman smiling and wearing a suit.

The part that is the least circumstantial in terms of evidence though is having Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson go to Florida to discuss racial matters. Following this was a rumor-story about White Supremacists who wanted to patrol streets, but failed to materialize.

Who would benefit from greater racial tension, and who would benefit if the perceived racial tension is White versus minority instead of Hispanic versus Black?

If the issue can continue to be framed as White versus Black, it may be a way of assisting President Obama during what could be a very difficult election. The continued failure of the economy to improve will be a burden, and the dislike many Americans have over Obamacare (even those that approve of travesties like Universal Health Care) will be an even bigger burden. Moreover, if the Supreme Court overturns the act that will also rob President Obama of one of his few triumphs during his time in office, leaving just the pull-out from Iraq that he opposed but went through with as his big accomplishment.

It is probably not President Obama fanning the flames of racial tension, but it may very well be supporters of President Obama.

On the other hand, if this is recast as Hispanic versus Black, that will divide the minority communities against each other when President Obama desperately needs to collect every vote he can get. The Hispanic vote is much less firmly committed to the Democratic Party than is the Black vote, and an internal schism might remind the Feminist vote of their harsh treatment during the 2008 campaign.

There are several who could benefit from heightening racial tensions in one direction, and several different who could benefit from heightening racial tensions in a different direction. So far there is nothing concrete as to who or why, but it is undeniable that it is being done.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Omniscience Fallacy

Austrian economics views people as rational actors when making decisions in the market, which is one of the many reasons government intervention is frowned upon. If a person wants to make one decision, and the government forces a different decision, then by definition that person is doing something they would normally consider irrational if not for the threat of government force.

Ayn Rand calls man the "rational animal" saying that reason is the tool of survival for man. She decried the use of government to intervene on the basis that since reason is the tool of survival, forcing a person to act differently is to force the person to act against their own survival.

Both of them would have that a person acting within the confines of their knowledge and desires will attempt to make the decisions that are best for themselves.

This runs into an interesting claim sometimes made by Progressives and Keynesians, that there is no way to consider a person to be a rational decision maker based on not having enough facts with which to make a decision. Supposing a person wants to buy a computer, and he compares several brands at several stores before coming to a conclusion based on cost, capability, and his needs. Well, the progressive will claim, if there is another model out there that still even more closely fits his needs then he didn't make the most rational decision.

By their unfairly high standard, it is impossible for anyone to make a rational decision. This clearly calls for the decision maker to know everything in order to make a decision. It is an attempt to deny that decisions are made rationally in the first place.

Accusing the progressive of demanding omniscience will only result in denials of that charge and a clarification that the person only need to know all the relevant information. But the problem is, that is omniscience. Suppose that same computer goes on sale the next day? Buying it that day will result in what is, from the progressive point of view, an irrational decision.

The irony here is that while creating a strawman in order to "prove" that an individual lacks sufficient facts, the progressive is undermining their own belief system. It is progressivism that believes that central planners can indeed have enough information to make plans, not only for themselves, but for others as well and for the economy as a whole.

The "rational" definition used by both Austrians and Objectivists clearly states that people are rational within the confines of their knowledge. Claims to the contrary are fallacies.