The American Political Conversation

Often times people are too quick to say others hate freedom but in the American political discussion everyone thinks they are for freedom and just believe certain conditions are necessary for freedom to survive.

A good summary of the American political discussion as I see it goes like this…

The left believes that a free society to exist and thrive needs the basics (healthcare, housing, education) so expects government to ensure the provision of these things.

The right believes that a free society to exist and thrive needs security and order which is done by aggressive proactive protection from everywhere else and strictly enforced laws which they expect government to ensure the provision of.

Libertarians believe that a free society to exist and thrive needs liberty and that people in a decentralized, voluntary and distributed manner can provide and improve the provision over time of education, healthcare, order, security and everything else.

What makes libertarians different is we see freedom and the knowledge creation of free exchange as the necessary condition for a sustainably free society.

I elaborate on this on the next episode of ”Nice Guys Finish Free”, my podcast on The Launchpad Media Network (subscribe to their podcast feed).

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Libertarian Unity, Not Division

A lot of people confuse the views of those who are for a minimal state or those who want no state and are quick to label them naive. (This Post is not about what the right size of a state is just understanding different perspectives)

Those who want a minimal state (minarchist) believe smaller and limited government is better. They generally believe there are a few areas to which government provision is necessary (primarily defense and a legal system). Some believe limiting this state requires a fairly rigid and unchangeable contract to bind the government (a constitution), others believe it just takes constant engagement and vigilance with or without a constitution. Some moderates may extend government’s role to light environmental involvement and anti-trust (these would be the most moderate classical liberals). Regardless, they all agree less government, largely free markets and civil liberties make a better society. These people do understand the state has a propensity to grow but believe with the right checks it can be managed.

Those who want no state (ancaps/voluntaryists) believe there is no good or service that requires state provision so even defense and a legal system can be provided by one or many non-states actors. Since the state has a propensity to grow and use it’s unique aspects to prevent competition (a monopoly on the legitimate use of force which is used to tax and regulate) they think that the state should be eliminated as soon as practical. To do this a mix of using politics to dismantle the state and creating market alternatives to the state to reduce demand for the state existence . These people don’t believe no order should exist merely that it can be provided by a decentralized network of institutions like everything else in a market economy. There is a great varying of difference in the time frame in which they believe this can occur and whether certain institutions and cultural norms are required for it to work.

Point is, both groups largely in good faith support free markets, peace, and less government than we have now, so I believe they should be able to work together to those ends without quibbling about their differences.

I personally have views that depart from both of these in different ways but once again have a high conviction in free markets, peace and more individual power in society so let’s all get along.

My Perspective on Culture Wars and Culture Changes

I see culture as a good like everything else. How it works, how it evolves is based on market dynamics which are shaped by changing realities and individual action.

When people talk about any culture I often don’t find myself saying “that’s enlightened” or “that’s barbaric” but asking myself what is this a response to. Often many things result in cultural changes…

– Economic realities, many trends reflect economic realities of that moment of time. Traditions that may revolve around growingly scarce resources may change to deal with them.

– Institutional realities, as institutions in society become obsolete or dysfunctional new ones begin to form and can create a market for its replacement. Think of the current deterioration of the political establishment and the growing market share for ideas that were marginalized in the past like libertarianism and socialism as American society seeks to replace the prior status quo that has failed to meet societal demands.

– Technological realities, new technology sometimes creates changes out the ability to do things you couldn’t before. Think of the changing in how we shop and the brutal death of retail stores to online shopping which brings all sorts of cultural and economic changes. Another example is electronic instruments and how music is produced and the complexity of production methods used to take a song from a rough recording to a hit song.

– deradicalization or deotherization, every generation some group that is seen as “outside” or practices that seem as “radical” becomes normalized into the cultural fabric mainly because the visibility of the consequences of that oppression becomesso wide spread or visible the next generation grows up with differing views towards these things. For example the LGBT community and Cannabis consumption were were drastically shifted in the cultural space this last generation. Prior generations it was racial integration, and many generations ago was between different Christian sects learning to coexist. Pluralism is great but it is a multi-generational process for its benefits to play out.

So when people scream “I can’t believe this is unacceptable” or “what is the world coming to” I just sit back reflect on the direction and momentum of cultural change from the perspective of an avid observer.

Borders, Property Rights and Normative Values

Too many people get wrapped in the wrong question when it comes to the discussion of borders. That question is “does the Nation State have the right or duty to enforce and protect its borders”. While it’s fun to discuss whether Nation States have legitimate claims to government land, it really comes down to a difference of whether you believe the autonomy and property of future generations can be bound by agreements and pacts over the autonomy and property of prior generations. Most people aren’t going to be on the absolute end of either side resulting in such a diverse discussion that it serves no purpose in resolving the policy question that is on the table.

“To the extent that Nation States exist whether you like them or not, what should border policy be?”

So my personal sentiment is that a more permissive policy with minimal barriers is better economically and in the long run creates a grander peace as cultures learn to coexist over generations (it’s not quick and it’s not pretty but does happen). Although this is the result of my more classically liberal and pluralistic values. It is totally rational and reasonable for someone to value the short run certainty cultural uniformity and limited labor competition can provide them at the expense of the grander but more distributed benefits of liberalism. (Basically some may prefer more for them at the expense of more for everyone).

So to the extent whether I or someone else believes a Nation State should exist, they do. They will employ some sort of border policy but should it be generous and welcoming or punishing, strict and limited. Depends on your values, but let’s have an actual conversation instead of shutting down conversation with words like Fascist, Communist, Racist, etc.

I will try to convince you to think my way and you are free to do you best to get me to think your way.

Cultural Appropriation Alarmism

Cultural appropriation alarmism is based on the idea we can’t fully appreciate the experience of another so we shouldn’t perform, celebrate or consume it. Problem is, the only experience we can truly appreciate is our own individual experience, why should that preclude me from taking/giving what I can from/to everyone else?

At the end of the day the heart of this is truly economic protectionism, limiting the competition to satisfy consumers. This time instead of consumers of goods or services, consumers of culture. Like when guilds/unions would decry non guild members performing the service they perform. Like all protectionism it is sold as everything but.

Be courteous, respectful and decent. Also, feel free to celebrate and embrace each other’s differences and mix and match them into something new, unique and beautiful.

Populism, Personal Responsibilty and Politics

Populist is a word people use to describe many of the candidates running for office in recent times. While it’s clear the message of a Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders can be quite different, they are both clearly populist messengers.

A populist message is signaled by two characteristics:

⁃ A scapegoat for all the problems people feel.

⁃ The answer being politically punishing the scapegoat as a magical bullet solution.

Here is the prototype of different populist messages…

Right-wing populism: The reason your life is so hard is that poor minorities and immigrants are taking advantage of your tax dollars while trade deals with other nations result in jobs leaving. The answer is to keep the immigrants out, end welfare and strong arm trade with other nations in our favor. Vote for me, you don’t need to do anything.

Left-wing populism: The reason your life is hard is that rich white corporate executives have lobbied for trade deals that let them exploit cheap labor overseas taking your jobs cutting your welfare to cut taxes for those corporations, fund wars for those corporations and deport immigrants back to lower wage countries for further exploitation by those corporations. We need to tax these corporations to restore your welfare and regulate them so they have to give you a high paying job. Vote for me, you don’t need to do anything.

Libertarian Populism: The Government is inherently corrupted by all sorts of special interests has been interests to serve those interests resulting in taxes, regulations and other policies that make it too expensive to start businesses, employ labor, and pursue all levels of opportunity. We need to reduce the size and scope of government so those opportunities can be available again. Vote for me, you don’t need to do anything.

The problem with a purely populist message, even a libertarian one is that it puts all the necessary change solely on government policy. This takes away any sense of personal responsibility for one’s life outcomes leaving them to believe there is nothing they should be doing to improve their lives beyond voting for their favorite populist.

This is why populism sells, because it’s appealing to believe that the only thing you need to do to change your life is Vote. While voting can have a very real impact on the world around us, at the end of the day our own lives are still very much within our own control despite very real challenges created by policy. Also any change in any direction cannot sustainably work without each of us taking responsibility over what is within our control.

Populism sells, but populism sucks.