One Man's Libertarian Whitepaper
Although I understand that no one speaks for the Libertarian Party, it is fair to say that, unlike the Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians are not special-interest driven. It is a grass roots movement that relies upon individuals who believe in the principles of freedom and who expect no favors from government in return. As such, the Libertarian Party works for the people and their rights, property, safety and well-being which, as a result, benefits virtually everyone in the country and, in many cases, the world. Accordingly, the libertarian movement today furnishes a much-needed beacon of hope for America. This approach also takes into account the not-famous-enough comment from economist writer Thomas Sowell, who said: “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. (But) the first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” Of course, goods and services in the real world are not free, so someone must pay for them. That is why in a libertarian government no programs, acquisitions or other spending would be authorized unless that same authorization also designates where the money would come from to pay for it. So those are at least partial reasons for the failure of many libertarians to be elected: because they address the first lesson of economics, and most voters are enchanted by the first lesson of politics. But this is not a system of “anything goes": far from it! Why? Because a libertarian society where contracts and warranties are enforced provides for accountability and personal responsibility at all levels of society—individual, corporate and governmental. For example, the Libertarian agenda of transforming today’s government-controlled health care industry back to one that is market-driven and market-regulated will result in an explosion in medical innovation, treatments and cures, as well as reduced costs. And since we all are at risk of potentially any human disease, these innovations will result in greater chances for longer and healthier lives for all of us. And the same results will be seen in almost all other aspects of our lives as well. Accordingly, under a libertarian approach, people in general would come out ahead, and special interests and bloated governments would lose much of their power and control. Of course, life is complicated and changes always affect lots of people in many ways. So we should always be thoughtful. But the following are statements of some libertarian principles, as well as examples of who in general would be the winners and the losers in a libertarian world: Principles: Generally, libertarians would categorize themselves as being financially responsible and socially accepting. Thus the statement: “You are free to live your life the way you choose as long as you don’t wrongly hurt other people or take their stuff” is frequently used to explain our views. In addition, the following statements also elaborate upon the libertarian Principles that guide us:
Thomas Jefferson (a prototypical libertarian): “I don’t care if you worship one God, twenty Gods or no god: It doesn’t pick my pocket and it doesn’t break my leg.” In other words, “Live and let live."
Milton Friedman: “Incentives Matter.” Liberty is to be stressed, but where government is involved it should strive for a world in which people are held responsible for their own behavior and are able to profit from their own industry. Why? Dr. Friedman taught us that “We get more of what we subsidize and less of what we tax.” So what are we subsidizing today in large part? Victimization, excuses and lack of productivity. And what are we taxing? Success. And what are we getting more of? That answer is obvious.
Although not my favorite person socially because he basically was anti-Semitic, Henry Ford said: “Any people who feel they can prosper by relying on the government should talk to the American Indian.” That is self-explanatory.
And Milton Friedman again: “We should judge our programs by their results, not their good intentions.” This approach also would counteract the multiple times that, when something goes wrong in society, politicians have almost a universal tendency simply to pass another law to address it. It doesn’t particularly matter if the law works, but only that politicians are seen as “doing something.” If placed into effect, Dr. Friedman’s change in approach would cause a positive revolution in government.
Accountability at all levels of government: A libertarian government would provide for regular public audits of all government agencies, as well as “Sunset Laws” which would require every government agency individually and publicly on a scheduled basis to get a vote from Congress to justify its budget and even its existence by demonstrating its past accomplishments, money spent in that process and future goals and the proposed budget therefor. At the very least, this would result in leaner and more cost-effective and transparent governments.
Winners under libertarian governments:
Students and good teachers. It is no secret that too many public schools today are failing our students, and most of them are in the lower economic areas which, regrettably, are often disproportionately made up of people of color. This result is frequently not for lack of funding because many of them, such as those in the District of Columbia, are among the highest funded public schools in the nation. Instead the failures result from a lack of competition. And what is the solution? Empower parents to choose where and how the government money will be spent for the education of their children! So if a school is not teaching its students well, their parents will have the ability to transfer them to a school that would. And the result? Parents would choose excellence and, if Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they have had school choice for about fifteen years is an example, excellence is what they will receive. This will result in students coming out ahead, as well as good teachers, because they will be in greater demand – and paid accordingly.
Young people. We of the older generation are mostly doing pretty well financially. Most of our houses are paid for, we have investments, often good 401Ks or other retirement plans, and our Medicare and Social Security are paid for – mostly by younger workers. But the way things are financially today, Medicare and Social Security will simply not be available when younger workers are anywhere close to our ages. In addition, with the situation surrounding retirement pensions for federal, state and local government workers, almost all of our governments literally will be bankrupt by the time our children are even close to middle age! But guess who will be forced to shoulder the burden of bailing our country out from this financial irresponsibility? Our children and grandchildren! What a legacy! The financial responsibility provided by libertarians is the only hope in sight to protect the future solvency of our young people!
People on a fixed income. Many elderly and many baby boomers who are poor or live on a meager fixed income will be financially stronger because the dollar will not continue to be devalued in a Libertarian government. The totally irresponsible almost trillion-dollar budget deficits per year overseen by both Republicans and Democrats that will inevitably result in ruinous inflation will be addressed and controlled only by Libertarians. And this will avoid the massive poverty that would otherwise result.
Healthcare professionals and their patients. As we have traveled more deeply into socialized medicine, we see that it is the administrators instead of the healthcare professionals who have received greater financial benefits. If we want our healthcare to be run by the equivalent of the departments of motor vehicles instead of a coalition between us and our healthcare professionals, we are well on our way toward that end. For example, in the United Kingdom, where the government runs the healthcare system, some officials are now proposing that, since obesity is a health problem, the government should start restricting the number of calories that people would be allowed to ingest each day. Imagine the costs and intrusions into our lives of monitoring and enforcing such a scheme. But this, of course, would be a logical result, because when governments have a financial interest in our health, they have an economic incentive to micromanage our lives. In addition, if we were to implement programs of “Medicare for All,” which would “guarantee” health insurance as a “right” for all, libertarians understand that private health insurance would soon vanish and taxes would soon be severely increased. Furthermore, what people really want and need is not medical insurance, it is medical coverage! What good is medical insurance if no competent healthcare professionals will accept it because their compensation is being continually reduced? In addition, with a healthcare system based upon government control instead of competition, medical care would become more restricted in the form of delayed testing and treatment – which is the result of the present Canadian system. Why is that? Because if there is no economic incentive for healthcare professionals to profit from providing increased services, not only will they cut back on those services, fewer people will want to go through all of the schooling and training required to enter the profession. Accordingly, under the libertarian system of competition, which could include government vouchers issued on a sliding scale that could be used to pay for healthcare insurance and co-pays, both healthcare professionals and their patients will come out much farther ahead. And, overriding all of this, it simply is the right thing to do.
The lower economic classes, including the homeless. Milton Friedman proposed a system in which our nation would convert away from an income tax and over to a graduated flat tax along with, on a sliding scale, a government stipend for every citizen or green card holder who is 18 years of age or older. With these numbers only being used for illustrative purposes, no one would pay any income taxes on their first $30,000, but would pay 10 cents in federal taxes for every dollar earned between $30,001 and $100,000, 18 cents for every dollar earned between $100,001 and $500,000, and 23 cents for every dollar earned above $500,000. But what about the poor? Regardless of whether they just lost their jobs to a robot, want to go back to school, or are just plain lazy, all citizens and people here on valid green cards who are 18 years of age or older who earn no money would be paid a stipend of $15,000 per year by the federal government, probably broken down into 12 monthly payments of $1,250. But for every dollar they earned, the recipients would lose 50 cents of their stipend. Accordingly, everyone would have an incentive to earn the extra dollar, with the cutoff being $30,000, at which people would neither pay any taxes nor receive any stipend. However, all other welfare would be abolished, except for people with truly special needs. (Imagine the reductions of bureaucratic expenses, as well as the present gamesmanship and unfairness!) And what about the homeless? Well, if homeless people had the equivalent of an ATM card with $1,250 in it each month, the private sector would quickly establish a competitive program to provide them with a modest room and board system for about $1,000 per month, which would also leave them additional funds for personal needs. Of course if they were mentally ill, drug addicts, etc. they would need a conservatorship. But that is a separate problem.
Members of the armed forces, and their families. When the heroes in our armed forces receive orders, they salute and follow them without question. Of course, as we have seen, this all too often results in death or serious injuries, both physical and mental, to those who serve. As a result, they have--or should have--an absolute right to know that the risks they are being ordered to undertake arise from true threats either to our national security or to our national interests. That means that before our military men and women are sent off into battle zones, there will have been a specific Declaration of War voted upon by Congress, as set forth in Article I Section 8 of our Constitution. If this were done, Congress would be forced publicly to analyze the threats, specify and debate who the enemy was, and state how we would know when we had reached our objectives before sending our military men and women into battle. Transparently, this would decrease the occasions in which we are militarily engaged, and also keep them shorter and more manageable. But if we publicly decided to send our troops into battle, the public would be much more supportive to that cause, because much of the unrest has come from people feeling, in large part accurately, that they have been deceived. To a major degree, Libertarians are the only political party that would require all of this to be done. So, at least in this important matter, Libertarians are the only ones who speak for and protect the members of our armed forces, and their families.
Immigrants pursuing the American Dream. Immigrants who wish to come to this country and pursue better lives for themselves and their families would be welcome to do so. That means that, after a background check for such things as criminality, medical and mental health problems and possible terrorist sympathies, if immigrants could support themselves, they could come to this country and work. And if they could support their families, they could bring them as well. But no welfare would be involved, except for K through 12 educational opportunities for their children and truly emergency medical care. These workers would be issued a special card that could not be counterfeited which could then be used to get a job and go back and forth across the border. And, since they would be here legally, they could also get drivers licenses, obtain car insurance, pay their taxes and live normal lives. But any employer who hired someone who was not a citizen or in possession of either a green card or this worker’s card would be subject to prosecution. This would also mean that, since no welfare would be provided, if people could not support themselves they would probably be forced to move elsewhere. In addition, proper procedures should be established for worthy people, after being here for an appropriate amount of time, to apply for and receive citizenship in this great country.
People who are incarcerated or otherwise led astray by our laws of drug prohibition, a vast percentage of whom are teenagers or people of color, or both. If marijuana would be strictly regulated and controlled the same way we treat wine, and other presently illicit drugs were to be placed under the care of healthcare professionals, we would strongly reduce the incentives for people to sell these drugs on the illegal market. Presently many juvenile street gangs use the sale of illicit drugs as a recruiting tool to lure other young people into that practice. And who do juveniles sell illicit drugs to? Other juveniles, thus recruiting more young people into a lifestyle of drug usage and drug selling! This is an unnecessary tragedy. Think of it this way: today it is easier for our young people to obtain marijuana, or any other illicit drugs, if they want to, than it is alcohol. Why is that? Because illicit drug dealers don’t ask for ID.
The emerging working class. In the 1950s, just 5 percent of American workers were required to obtain a government permit to pursue their occupations. Today it is closer to 20 percent. And a growing amount of research shows that occupational licensing does not particularly result in a better quality of service. But it always raises prices by restricting the numbers of competitors that can work in those occupations. In addition, frequently those people who have a criminal record almost automatically are disqualified from even applying for these licenses. But does someone really need a government license to cut or braid hair? Or trim trees? Or be a plumber or even open child care facilities in their homes? Require these workers to be bonded, and the private bonding company will make sure they are qualified and act safely. And then let their customers decide if the workers are providing reasonable services for a reasonable cost. Cutting back these licensing requirements will spur more competition, fuller employment, better service and lower prices all around.
The individual states. Libertarians believe in the concept of federalism. That means many of the areas that have been pre-empted by the federal government over the years would be returned to the jurisdiction of the states (or even more local governments). Thus we could use these “50 crucibles of democracy” to learn from each other to see what works and what does not. As an example, each state would be able to address the issue of drug prohibition in its own way, and the role of the federal government would be reduced to assisting each state in enforcing its chosen laws. Thus if one state continued to make a particular drug illegal, and someone transported that drug into that state against its laws, this could be a federal crime. In addition, some of the land in many states presently owned by the federal government would be returned to the states. Not the land in military reservations, national parks or even national forests, but that which is now managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Presently, for example, the federal government owns more than 80 percent of all of the land in the State of Nevada, and there is no good reason for it! This land would be returned to those states in a libertarian world, with the encouragement that much of it be auctioned off to the private sector. In that regard, ask yourself the question: who takes better care of a house, an owner or a renter/lessee? Ask the same question about grazing land. If you understand that the answer is an owner, you are on your way to being a libertarian.
Taxpayers. With smaller, more cost-effective governments, taxes would be reduced and people would retain more of their money to spend and invest--all of which would further spur the economy for everybody.
Losers under libertarian governments:
Teachers who can’t teach. They will probably be forced into other occupations, because competition in education would put them out of the teaching business – to which all of us should say: Good!
Recipients of corporate welfare. Companies and individuals that have the time and resources to cater and donate to politicians often reap huge returns for their efforts from subsidies, tax preferences, regulatory privileges and protectionism. Subsidies include directly receiving government (i.e. our) money for such things as growing--or not growing--certain crops like corn and wheat, building athletic stadiums or subsidizing certain filmmakers. “Targeted tax cuts” are tax preferences that are provided to favored industries and firms so that they will locate in the donator’s city and supposedly “create jobs.” Regulatory privileges restrict competition to the benefit of some favored existing businesses, and often even require a “certificate of need” before other companies are even allowed to enter the field. Protectionism in the form of international trade barriers like tariffs and quotas shields some favored businesses from competition, which keeps prices high for consumers and profits high for those favored businesses. These anti-competitive actions, except where they are helpful to further our national interests, would be materially reduced under libertarian governments.
Tax attorneys and other tax preparers. It is clear that many tax accountants and attorneys and companies like H & R Block would not be interested in a graduated flat tax, and neither would a large number of employees of the IRS. Another powerful interest group that would lose would be members of Congress. Why is that? Because, under the present system, almost all of them use their ability to vote for tax breaks for their wealthy constituents, which directly result in the politicians receiving large contributions to and other support for their re-election campaigns.
Prison guards unions. Today the United States of America, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of its prisoners! And, to an unacceptably high degree, this is caused by radical laws like drug prohibition and mandatory minimum and “three strikes and you’re out” sentences that are often sponsored by groups that gain from greater incarceration.
People who favor polarization. Libertarians would form a coalition government that would focus upon merit. This means that Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others would also be invited to participate in government along with Libertarians, as long as they acted within the libertarian principles of more limited and financially responsible government and general social acceptance. This would seriously decrease our present epidemic of polarization.
Many government bureaucrats, inefficient workers and public employees unions. Many government bureaucrats today are shielded from being fired for poor performance or even malfeasance by numbers of regulations that are jealously enforced by their public employees unions, as are many people who now provide services that virtually no one wants. This practice would be seriously reduced. More specifically, those unions would continue to exist, but just for those government employees who freely chose to join them. In addition, since the unions are anti-competitive, they would not have the right to bargain for at all for wages or other benefits. This union bargaining would be replaced by something similar to the federal civil service system.
Conclusion Thomas Jefferson also famously made the comment that we should have a bloody revolution every generation to keep the vested interests at bay. Fortunately, our Constitution has given us the ability for the revolution not to be bloody. But how long has it been? Maybe since the 1860s when the Republican Party took over from the Whigs? And how strong have the vested interests become since that time? Ancient Rome paid homage to liberty for the common man and, for a short time, for republicanism. But in reality what they had was a constant struggle between the privileged classes and the lower classes, and the vested privileged classes almost always won. And we are seeing the same thing now in our country as well. Similarly, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg to protest the excess power of the Catholic Church. It is time that we do the same thing as Martin Luther with a libertarian whitepaper, and bring to life Jefferson’s revolution. The time is now, and the Libertarian Party is ready. And it is the only hope in sight!
This article is a reprint of an original opinion piece published on Judge Jim Gray's website. The views expressed in it are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.
James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, and presently works as a private mediator and arbitrator for ADR Services, Inc. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net, or through his website at www.JudgeJimGray.com.