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Category Archives: Libertarian
Posted: March 22, 2020 at 1:44 am
President Donald Trump and Senator Tom Cotton in the White House in Washington, D.C., August 2, 2017(Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Charles Fain Lehman has written an assessment for the Washington Free Beacon of the policy divide among congressional Republicans on how best to confront the economic dimension of the coronavirus outbreak. He argues that the debate maps at least partly onto pre-existing political struggles within the Republican Party, pitting those open to greater government intervention, such as senators Mitt Romney, Tom Cotton, and Josh Hawley, against more libertarian-leaning members.
This is true, to some extent. One can quibble somewhat with certain aspects of this analyis, however. Certainly, libertarians might resent being stuck with Senator Lindsay Graham as their ostensible philosophical representative. And when a policy expert at a think-tank Lehman describes as libertarian-leaning helps design the plan of one of the supposedly anti-libertarian members, one wonders how severe and serious the distinctions his assessment focuses on are, at least amid coronavirus. (Even if Samuel Hammond isnt exactly a libertarian.)
Theres something meaningful to the fact that no one in Congress is really arguing for the federal government to do nothing, which is not what most libertarians would be on board with now anyway. Instead, theyre arguing over the best way to increase government involvement. This is an extraordinary crisis. Government does often grow in such times in ways that linger afterward. But we have no way of knowing at this time if the attitudes and policies that emerge now will carry on into the future (or if they should). Right now, we dont even know whats going to happen next week.
Or in 2024. Yet Lehman writes:
Cotton, Hawley, and Rubio are all considered potential contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential primary. A successful run by any of them could shift the balance of power in the party away from its more libertarian, business-oriented wing and into the hands of the nascent populist, worker-focused tendency awakened by, among other things, the electoral success of President Donald Trump.
Whether this framing is correct or not, the amount of things we know for certain is, at this time, incredibly low. We dont know what Congress is going to do, whether America will successfully limit the spread of coronavirus, or how it will impact the 2020 election (or if it even will). Lehman may be right that politics isnt stopping completely during this extraordinary event, even if its singular nature suggests caution regarding its utility as a reference point for politics beyond. But whatever happens, speculating about the 2024 presidential primary seems genuinely impossible right now.
Read the original here:
Posted: at 1:44 am
This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is notorious for being a principled voice for limited constitutional government. Even better, he amuses us with how swiftly he induces tantrums among the political establishments flunkies.
Aside from President Donald Trump, its Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is usually the face of evil for liberals. But on Tuesday night, an NBC News story, based on two anonymous McConnell-linked sources, redirected the ire squarely on Paul.
What did the libertarian ophthalmologist-turned-politician do to deserve this? He did his job.
Paul proposed an amendment to the coronavirus bill being rushed through the Senate after passing the House 363-40. For those keeping track, libertarian-leaning Republican Thomas Massie didnt vote, and libertarian-leaning Independent Congressman Justin Amash voted present.
Pauls amendment, according to NBC News reporter Julie Tsirkin, was officially summarized as: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require a social security number for the purposes of the child tax credit, to provide the President the authority to transfer funds as necessary and to terminate United States military operations and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.
Twitter is littered with righteous indignation constantly, but Tuesday night, it was mostly directed at Paul. And it was mostly thanks to the NBC News story poorly co-written by Tsirkin.
Before getting into the catty tone of the article, lets consider the actual concerns people have with Pauls amendment.
First, isnt there a national emergency going on? Now isnt the time for nitpicking whats legal under the Constitution or how Congress appropriates funds. Theres no time for delay, were led to believe.
The answer to this critique is short, because there simply is no delay in voting beyond a few minutes just because an amendment is proposed. All of this drama is just political theatre, with McConnell aides directing the show.
Second, and perhaps more reasonably, it may be asked what the war in Afghanistan has to do with this coronavirus. That almost begs the question though. Why is Congress leaping to this hot new political commodity known as a coronavirus when theyve skirted their true duties for so long?
Beyond the deadly Afghanistan misadventure being a drain on financial resources, its worth investigating how human resources are wasting away, mired down in that desert. In Syria, most of the U.S. troops are from the South Carolina National Guard. Might be nice to have them here!
Here Paul is doing the job all the other senators are supposed to be doing. Unfortunately for him, it doesnt fit into the narrative most comfortable for the political and media elites.
As a result, we end up with junior high school level journalism weaponized against patriotic dissent.
Paul is notorious for forcing votes on amendments he knows will not pass, the NBC News story goes.
It concluded in a similar fashion: He even briefly caused the government to shut down in 2018, using a procedural tactic to block the Senate from meeting the deadline to keep the government open because he objected to the price tag.
Both of these statements are lies, though the authors probably believe them. Its a sure sign of the deep divisions in the country.
Whether its the 9/11 Victims bill, the Ukrainegate impeachment failure, or foreign aid, Paul consistently upsets the right people by doing the right thing. This doesnt mean Paul is perfect, but it does mean Americans should appreciate his special role in Washington, DC.
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Posted: at 1:44 am
People who own big cats are unusual, were told near the outset of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which proceeds to prove that and then some over seven jaw-dropping episodes. Netflix has made a lot of noise with unscripted programming, but its going to roar with this beyond-bizarre docu-series distraction, which demonstrates that outlandish people who love filming themselves are a formula for TV thats grrrr-reat.
Its hard to know, frankly, where to begin with all the strange twists and turns, but directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin rightly assume that its easiest to work backward from the (almost) end: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, an eccentric keeper of tigers, lions and other big cats in Oklahoma who goes by the name Joe Exotic, allegedly having orchestrated a murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin, a woman who runs a facility called Big Cat Rescue, who had lobbied to shut down operations like his.
After that, though, theres a whole lot to chew on. Big cats, it turns out, are a kind of aphrodisiac, inspiring what can only be described as cultish devotion including Joes marriage to not one but two men; another big-cat owner, Bhagavan Doc Antle, who is basically a polygamist; and Jeff Lowe, who comes into Joes orbit later and brags about using exotic pets as a come-on to find partners for threesomes.
But wait, theres more: The colorful characters that Joe attracts to work for him (including one who loses a limb to a tiger attack); Joes desire to create his own media kingdom, enlisting a former Inside Edition correspondent, Rick Kirkham, to oversee his TV efforts; and finally, Joes forays into politics, running for president before mounting a libertarian bid for governor of Oklahoma, despite being a little unclear on what a libertarian actually is.
Finally, theres Baskin, who would seemingly be the voice of reason in all this, objecting, as she does, to people housing and trading in dangerous cats. Still, she finances those efforts largely through the fortune she inherited from her late husband, who disappeared under the kind of mysterious circumstances that even a Dateline NBC producer might consider too good to be true.
Because the big-cat owners are showmen (beyond the zoo, Joe fancies himself a country-and-western singer), theres a whole lot of vamping for the cameras. They also tend to document their actions extensively, which makes the occasional use of reenactments here feel especially gratuitous.
Still, even by the standards of reality TV a genre populated by exhibitionists and those seeking their 15 minutes of fame Tiger King is so awash in hard-to-believe oddballs that lean into their image it genuinely feels like a Coen brothers movie come to life, the kind of thing any studio would return to the writer saying the screenplay was too over the top.
During the final chapter, one of Joes employees says theres a lot of drama in the zoo world. Thats about the only thing thats understated in Tiger King, which even amid the current glut of true crime is the kind of juicy morsel thats almost impossible to resist.
Tiger King premieres March 20 on Netflix.
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Posted: at 1:44 am
Campaign Beat: The Pandemic, The Primary And Third Parties
Campaign fundraising is tricky during a pandemic. The June primary could be mail-in only. State auditor and congressional candidate Matt Rosendale urges Montanans to get coronavirus testing that may not be available. A well-known Republican enters the Senate race as a Libertarian. And no one knows how a global health crisis will affect the 2020 election.
Listen now on Campaign Beat, MTPR's weekly political analysis program, with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.
Sally Mauk: Rob the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all our lives, and the 2020 campaign, of course, is no exception. We have at least one candidate, Mike Cooney, in self-quarantine. We have another candidate sharing pasty recipes on Facebook, and all of them basically canceling all in-person events. But meanwhile, we're being bombarded with fundraising emails from the candidates.
Rob Saldin: That's right, Sally. I mean, the campaigns I think just don't seem quite as important as they did a couple of weeks ago, too, I would add. But yeah, I mean, at least for the next several weeks, quite possibly much longer than that, things like in-person meet and greets are out, and same with in-person fundraisers, obviously. But as you note, I mean, on on the other hand, we do still have all these campaign fundraising emails coming out. And I've actually been a little surprised that that all is just carrying on pretty much as usual, just because given what's going on around us, these email pleas for money just seem obtuse and petty and, more than that, you know, maybe even a little offensive. I mean, we're already seeing a lot of people being hit hard economically. And there's every reason to think that it's going to get a lot worse. And, you know, we see a lot of individuals and organizations out there trying to think through how best we can support our people in our communities who are who are going to suffer on account of this. And yet a lot of these campaigns are still sending out these e-mails begging for money. And I kind of find it off-putting.
Mauk: Of course, they're probably at a loss about what they should be doing right now, given that they can't campaign actually like they normally would, and this is the last thing they can do. But I agree with you. I think it strikes an insensitive tone to what's going on.
Rob, the Montana primary is June 2, and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who's also running for the U.S. House, tweeted out a video saying he's considering all options about how to conduct that primary.
"But where we're at right now, we're taking a deliberate pause for the next week or so, for gathering information and we're talking to people."
The push, Rob, I think, is to move to a completely mail in ballot in the primary, right?
Saldin: Well, I think that's definitely an option. I mean, Stapleton started that message by saying, you know, he's been hearing from people and, you know, talk of postponing the election or something like that. I mean, in a democracy, I think you don't ever want to open the door on stuff like that unless it's absolutely necessary. And as Stapleton mentions in his video, we've run elections in this country under all sorts of challenging conditions. So I expect that we'll find a way to pull this one off as scheduled.
You know, it does seem to me that we're in a relatively good position here in Montana for a couple reasons in terms of approaching this primary. I mean, first, we've got a lot of time to work with compared to many other states. I mean, we saw just this week Ohio scrambling just hours before the polls opened, trying to figure out what they were going to do. But our primary, it's dead last on the calendar. So we've got time to be more deliberate and thinking through the options.
And then the other reason we're in comparatively good shape is that we have a very strong vote by mail tradition here that a lot of other states don't have, a lot of states don't have that option at all. And so we have the process in place. We have experience with it. And just culturally, it's something that's well within the bounds of what people consider normal. So we're in a position, I think, to consider, as you suggest, Sally, yeah, shifting to a system that's exclusively vote by mail, either as a temporary measure or as a permanent switch. And in fact, several states already run their elections entirely by mail.
You know, an alternative would be if you don't want to go all vote by mail for whatever reason, you know, Stapleton and others could make a big public push to try to encourage as many people as possible to opt in to the vote by mail option. And in Stapleton's video, he did just that. So the practical effect of that would be to decrease the number of people showing up to polling station. So all that said, I would certainly hope and expect that one way or another we can hold our primary on schedule.
Mauk: Holly, another Republican House candidate and current state auditor, Matt Rosendale, put out a statement announcing he too has suspended campaign related gatherings because of the pandemic. And his statement also says he's been, "busy making sure Montanans across the state have access to free coronavirus testing," and encourages Montanans with symptoms to take advantage of this testing. But the truth is, Holly, widespread testing is not available in Montana. Not even close. And not everyone who wants to get tested is able to.
Holly Michels: Yeah, that's right, Sally. I've been watching just as this has unfolded in Montana. Candidates are really, I think, some, struggling to figure out how to talk about the cornavirus as the're candidates out there and sending emails to their supporters. The quote from Rosendale I think is interesting because, you know, he does have this role as a state auditor where he is the person working with insurance companies, trying to, there's a lot of federal changes that insurance companies in Montana are following to make testing more affordable. You're waiving co-pays, waiving treatment. You need to see a primary care physician to have a test ordered. But the state has been really careful in talking about testing and trying to emphasize that there's not an unlimited number of tests available in Montana. You know, they're careful and they don't want to cause panic, making people think that there are no tests available, but there is limited capacity and doctors are trying to be pretty judicious with who is tested. They're following recommendations that look at if you're going to be in a hospital testing so that health care providers can be safe and wear protective equipment around you, but also not waste that protective equipment if you don't have COVID-19. So I think this is something that, I think, you know, I've talked to a lot of state officials; medical public health people this week have really tried to push out the message that you everyone can't just show up and get tested. And that would be great if we lived in a world like that, but that's not where we're at right now. So I think this email from Rosendale runs counter to the messaging we've seen from public health officials and state officials as well.
Mauk: Well, it's super important right now that state officials be putting out consistent messaging and accurate messaging. I'll leave that there.
Holly, there has been another late entry into the U.S. Senate race, and that's Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise, and she's entered the race as a Libertarian candidate, which is interesting since she is a lifelong Republican and former chair of the state Republican Party.
Michels: She was not holding back any punches this week. What happened is the Libertarians had a candidate up for the U.S. Senate who withdrew on the filing deadline, and a piece of state law let the Libertarian Party nominate someone else to run. And Susan Good Geise, she was that person. She really lit into Republicans, saying that she's tired of being called a RINO, which stands for Republican in name only. She said she's been a faithful party member since 1988, but that Republican leadership, she said, profanes what the party once stood for and said she just can't stomach that anymore. She went after Senator Steve Daines pretty directly for not holding in-person town halls, pointing out as a county commissioner, she's meeting with the public twice a week. She also said that she really doesn't support President Trump and she's pretty frustrated with Republicans that are just backing him, sort of what she's saying, is blindly. So it's pretty a interesting candidate. She didn't really talk much about why she's a Libertarian. It seemed like it's mostly that she's just really not with the Republican Party anymore.
Mauk: Rob, third party candidates in a tight election can actually sway the outcome.
Saldin: Yeah, sure. You know, this strikes me as another little piece of bad news for Steve Daines. Obviously, it was just recently that Bullock decided to jump into the race on the Democratic side and now looks like there's going to be a reasonably well-known Libertarian candidate running to. And, you know, Libertarians have often gotten, you know, somewhere around 4 percent of the total vote, and in a in a close election, that absolutely could make a difference. And you would assume, of course, that the Libertarian candidate would be pulling votes from the Republican. Of course it's never exactly a one to one thing. I mean, some people who would vote Libertarian would otherwise just not show up. And then some people probably would vote for the Democrat for one reason or another. But having a strong Libertarian candidate on the ballot is certainly not what Daines would have liked.
Mauk: Speaking of third party candidates, Rob, Montana Democrats have filed a complaint with the state commissioner of political practices, asking him to investigate who is behind the successful effort to get the Green Party on the ballot. They're running a bunch of candidates. We've mentioned before that the Green Party of Montana says it's not them. And a new law requires that groups spending more than $500 to qualify a minor party must register with the commissioner. But no group has. That's the complaint.
Saldin: Yeah. And obviously, what the Democrats think is going on here is is a cynical ploy on the part of Republican affiliated groups to go out and qualify the Green Party for the ballot on the assumption it's the exact opposite of where we were just talking about with the dynamic between the Republicans and the libertarians, right? The idea here is that the Greens would pull away votes from the Democratic Party. And so to the extent you have people on the ballot who are to the left of the Democratic Party, that's helpful, beneficial to Republican candidates. And we do see this kind of thing from time to time. I mean, I remember back in 2012 we saw some efforts on the part of supporters of Jon Tester to help fuel the campaign of a Libertarian running for Senate that year, presumably with the goal of harming Denny Rehberg, the Republican candidate. And that was a pretty close election. The Libertarian did pretty well. And so these things can matter.
Mauk Finally, Holly and Rob, none of us can really predict how the crisis of the pandemic is going to affect this election and voters' behavior. But it seems to me it could either suppress voting as people just try to focus on staying both physically and economically healthy. Or it could rally people to vote for change if they become convinced that the current people in power are failing them. What do you guys think?
Michels Yeah, I'm really curious to see how it goes. I mean, a lot of people that I've been talking to, you know, are talking about amping up, encouraging people to vote by mail, really, you know, pointing out the options in Montana that you have if you don't want to go to a polling place, and kind of trying to capitalize on, you know, if you don't like what you're seeing your government do right now, if you don't think they responded quick enough, that's a way that you can voice your concern in both the primary and the fall election. But I'm also hearing a lot of concerns about, when you look at people who staff polling places, they're typically those people who are kind of in those higher risk categories. They tend to be older Montanans. I think the term the governor used this week was legacy Montanans, which I thought was a nice way to say that. But I'm hearing concerns about that too from people who normally go to a polling place and that's what they're comfortable with and they're not quite sure about the risks associated with that this year.
Saldin The honest answer is I have no idea. It's very hard to figure out where we're going to be a week from now, let alone in November. Things are changing so quickly.
Mauk There are so many unknowns in the current situation. But Rob and Holly, please take care and we will continue our discussion from a safe distance next week.
You've been listening to Campaign Beat, a weekly political analysis program produced by Montana Public Radio. Campaign Beat features University of Montana political science professor in Mansfield, senior fellow Rob Saldin and Lee Newspapers Capitol Reporter Holly micheal's and host Sally Mauk. Join us next week for more analysis of Montana politics.
Campaign Beat, is a weekly political analysis program produced by Montana Public Radio featuring University of Montana Political Science Professor and Mansfield Center Fellow Rob Saldin, Lee Newspapers Capitol Reporter Holly Michels and host Sally Mauk. Join us next week for more analysis of Montana politics.
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The Right to Assemble Not Erased By Government Emergency Libertarians to Continue Meeting in Keene Sundays at 5pm – Free Keene
Posted: at 1:44 am
New Hampshires Longest Running Regular Libertarian Social Meetup
Its an outrageous order and contrary to a basic right of humans, which is the right to assemble. Its also a violation of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In order for many humans to be happy, they need to be around other people. We are a social animal. Now the people calling themselves the state or the government have decided to threaten everyone with violence if they dont do as they are told and OBEY for their own good, of course.
Normally, libertarians are skeptical of the things they are told by government goons, however weve seen yet another schism in the movement in the last few weeks over this Coronavirus scare. Apparently if an authoritarian puts on a lab coat then many libertarians will fall under their spell.
I dont know if Coronavirus is the threat the government and media are making it out to be. I do know this, however:
1. Politicians and bureaucrats lie. Theres no reason to believe they are telling the truth now. There is a long history of governments manufacturing a crisis and spreading fear in order to attain more power. We saw this in a big way prior to Coronavirus in the hysterical paranoia fostered by the state after 9/11. As a result we saw the rise of Homeland Security and the further elimination of freedom. The response to Coronavirus is even worse. In some cases like San Francisco people are under total lockdowns. They also use the term lockdown in prison.
2. Media benefits when it propagates fear. If it bleeds, it leads! News is a business. They have advertisers, so the more people they can get to tune in, the more valuable the ad space. If people are in a state of fear, they are more likely to hang on through that next commercial break. Plus, mainstream news sources depend on government for its press releases and usually incorporate them, verbatim, into their on-air copy. Though in theory their job is to expose political corruption, if they are too good at this, the state agents will not talk to them any longer and then they wont get the scoop, so any critique of government from mainstream media is usually highly limited.
3. Whenever government takes more freedoms, it doesnt cede that ground back to liberty after the crisis has ended.
Keene Bitcoin Meetup
I do know this, people are obedient and more than willing to do what they are ordered by people wearing fancy hats, uniforms, and lab coats. They are easily frightened into giving up their freedoms, all for the promise that theyll be able to continue to suck air.
However, what is the point of living if you cant make your own choices?
Thankfully, not everyone is living in fear. There are occasional breaks in the fear porn news to reveal that many younger people are still getting together. In New Hampshire some heroic folks have filed a lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire over the governors unconstitutional and anti-freedom executive order.
If people across New Hampshire dont stand up and take back their liberties, then we no longer deserve the live free or die slogan. To that end, in spite of Sununus order, the longest-running weekly social gathering of libertarians in New Hampshire, Social Sundays will continue. Previously held at Local Burger on Main St, it has moved to the Bitcoin Embassy NH located at 661 Marlboro St. in Keene. The new start time is now 5pm. Attend at your own risk and bring your own food and drink. If the event gets to over 51 people a special prize will be awarded. No cops allowed.
Opinion | Rufus Woods, Art of Community: Now is the time to sacrifice for elders and the vulnerable – wenatcheeworld.com
Posted: at 1:44 am
The extreme measures being taken in this state and the country to slow down the spread of COVID-19 has led to some fierce debates about the role of government vs. the liberty of individuals to make their own decisions.
Here in the Wenatchee Valley, Gov. Jay Inslees actions to shutter schools, close bars and restaurants (except for curbside pickup) and ban large gatherings hit a flashpoint when the owner of the Wok About Grill, Shon Smith, posted a defiant message on Facebook announcing he would not comply with the rules.
The posting started a firestorm of comments that at one point had 500 likes and 1,000 expressions of dislike. Smith ultimately chose to comply with state law, to his credit. We've all made decisions in the heat of the moment that we have regretted at least I know I have.
I am going to try to take a step back and see if I can put this in a larger context of whats happening in our society, because it is symptomatic of a fundamental divide in this country.
Those who liked Smiths initial decision talked about their admiration for his support of employees who would miss paychecks, which is a legitimate concern. We all need to be concerned and take meaningful actions to support local businesses and others when social distancing is the norm.
The other major thread in comments by those supporting his message was that government has no right to take such a unilateral action and that individual businesses (and I presume nonprofits) should make their own decisions.
Those who expressed exasperation with Smiths decision raised the issue of the impact of ones actions on the community as a whole. Were seeing the nightmare unfold in Italy where some seriously ill old people are not being treated because they lack the resources. They ignored it, as did the Trump Administration in the critical first weeks of the outbreak, resulting in a failure to be able to adequately test for the virus.
If we dont slow the spread of coronavirus by social distancing and extreme measures like shutting down sports and entertainment venues, we could well see the same scenario happening here. Thats the crucial argument for accepting these limitations on our liberty.
There is some value in the Libertarian mindset, but it raises a fundamental question of what kind society we wish to have. If individualism is the only thing that matters, does that mean individuals have no responsibility for the most vulnerable in our society or for the community as a whole? Why does it have to be either/or? Cant it be both/and?
Some time ago, a founder of the Tea Party and a devoted Libertarian, Matt Kibbe, had a dialogue with liberal activist Heather McGhee, moderated by Krista Tippett. They explored areas of common ground as well as areas of disagreement.
One of the things that McGhee appreciated about Libertarians was that they have been supportive of criminal justice reform to address the problem of mass incarceration in this country.
I was fascinated by Kibbes perspective on individual rights vis-a-vis caring for others. Libertarians are guilty of deemphasizing the importance of community, deemphasizing the value of helping other people, he said.
Kibbe emphasized the importance of cooperative action in community. And this is not because somebody long ago passed a law, he continued. Its because people working through their differences actually came up with a common set of understandings about how we could get along with each other.
We need to be supporting businesses and everyone who is going to be struggling to make ends meet in the coming weeks. We have a lot of children who need to be fed, families to be supported, elders to care for, etc.
We have people on the front lines medical personnel, firefighters, law enforcement and EMTs who will be putting their lives on the line helping those who are stricken.
This is a time to put the most vulnerable in our community first and ourselves second.
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Posted: at 1:44 am
I am a libertarian. I'm generally supportive of a very limited government that performs a few necessary functions. Redistributing wealth and bailing out folks from their own misadventures are not among those necessary functions of a limited government. If the government is going to provide a social safety net, it should try to design it so that it does not incentivize unproductive behavior and does not waste public resources.
Those considerations do not apply to the current debate over federal appropriations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government should just send the checks. Quickly and with minimal red tape. Means testing and complex fade outs are not what is useful in the moment. The immediate crisis calls for relief, plain and simple.
It is certainly the case that some on the left want to use the present moment to launch expansive new social programs. Those debates can wait until another day, and politicians on the left are doing no one any favors by trying to exploit the crisis by tying aid to a host of onerous restrictions or attempting to erect new permanent programs. Crises are often exploited to expand the state, and we should be vigilant in resisting such efforts.
Likewise, there are those on the right who have fallen into familiar routines of resisting any government assistance as a hand-out, packaging government assistance as a tax cut, or tying government assistance to their own favored set of conditions and exceptions. If we were discussing a new permanent social program, then such design details would matter a great deal and should be central to the debate, but we are not.
In the present moment, the government itself has ordered businesses to stop operating. The global pandemic has brought economic activity to a standstill in ways that could not have been anticipated or adequately planned for by responsible private actors. With good reason, the government has disrupted people's livelihoods and restricted individual activity for the sake of the common good. Even if we were to think the government has been misguided in some of the steps it has taken, the fact remains that the government has taken steps that have unavoidably done substantial economic damage.
In such circumstances, the government should compensate individuals for the damage it has wrought and relieve individuals from the unforeseen burdens that they have been asked to assume. What individuals earned last year has no bearing on what their current needs are given the government-ordered lockdown. The more complex and burdensome the government makes any financial assistance that it offers, the less effective it will be in mitigating the economic costs of the pandemic and relieving people of their current suffering from the effort to contain the pandemic. The more complex the policy the government attempts to design, the longer it will take to reach agreement on what to do, the more difficult and time-consuming the implementation will be, and the greater the uncertainty and economic disruption that the government will be creating. The more complex and nuanced the policy the government attempts to design, the more room there will be special-interest favoritism and rent-seeking cronyism.
The government's current efforts to lockdown social and economic activity in order to stem the spread of the disease will necessarily rely heavily on voluntary compliance. The state might be able to effectively quarantine some individuals or isolated areas, but it cannot for any extended period of time shut down the country. People will voluntarily assume some individual burdens for the collective good if the necessity of doing so is clearly explained and those burdens are not too onerous. The government cannot expect people to assume those burdens forever and cannot expect them to take truly heroic actions. The government needs an exit strategy from the current policy of containment, and that will eventually require extensive testing, tracking and individual quarantine. In the meantime, the government needs to minimize the damage and maximize the efficacy of the current containment strategy, and that requires relieving individuals from immediate financial uncertainty.
The government has instantly thrown millions of people out of work in what was previously a full-employment economy. There will be unavoidable economic consequences to that, and the government can only take steps to mitigate those consequences. It should, however, act as quickly to provide financial support for those adversely affected by the societal lockdown as it has to impose that lockdown. If the government had been more fiscally responsible in the past, we would be in a better position to take the necessary steps now. But we cannot fix past mistakes by closing our eyes to current needs.
Even a libertarian should support a simple, temporary program of massive relief to be immediately phased out as soon as the crisis has passed so as to collectivize the hardship of fighting this common foe and insure as smooth a transition as possible to the post-epidemic situation.
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OPINION EXCHANGE | Amid the outbreak, Minnesota’s minor political parties will struggle to get on the ballot – Minneapolis Star Tribune
Posted: at 1:44 am
On March 14, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suspended the signature-gathering process for candidates for political office in his state to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, while at the same time reducing the number of signatures that will be required for each office this year by approximately 70%.
Public health experts have been clear that one of the most common ways to communicate COVID-19 is through direct person to person contact, and we are doing everything in our immediate power to reduce unnecessary interactions, Cuomo said in a news release. This executive order modifies the election process in a way that both protects public health and ensures the democratic process remains healthy and strong regardless of the ongoing pandemic.
On that same day, the chairs of the three minor political parties in Minnesota came together and submitted a joint letter titled Urgent policy change request, to accommodate the COVID-19 emergency declaration made for Minnesota health/safety, as it applies to current minor political party petitioning practices and requirements.
Despite multiple requests to top officials, none have responded. And now that the Minnesota Legislature has put itself into hiatus until April 14, it seems apparent that Gov. Tim Walz needs to quickly address this situation with an executive order akin to Cuomos.
To maintain fair elections, while recognizing that the health and safety of all Minnesotans is paramount during this outbreak, we hereby call on Gov. Walz, Secretary of State Steve Simon, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, and Senate and House elections committees to act immediately to suspend the physical petitioning requirement and/or the current filing deadline, currently set as June 2, 2020.
In exactly eight weeks, the states three minor political parties (the Libertarian, Independence-Alliance, and Green parties) will enter a limited two-week window for gathering petition signatures to secure ballot access. Each party must collect several thousand signatures during the last two weeks of May (and only then) to nominate and place candidates on the fall general election ballot. It is a process these three parties have completed consistently every election cycle for decades.
But an environment suddenly exists that makes this process a health risk, for both the individuals who do the petitioning and the citizens being approached and asked to sign a nominating petition. Petitioning requires constant face-to-face interaction.
For scope, the Libertarian Party of Minnesota alone intends to dispatch dozens of volunteers to go door-to-door to gather 2,000 signatures each for candidates for president and U.S. Senate, 500 signatures for each of six Minnesota legislative races planned, plus a 50% cushion. To find these 10,000 willing signatories usually requires knocking on over five times that many doors. In other states where petitioning is currently underway, people are avoiding petitioners (understandably so) which is more than tripling the number of door-knocking interactions needed.
An efficient solution already exists, if acted on, in proposed bills SF 752 and companion HF 708. Introduced in 2019 and amended in 2020, these bills remain stuck in committee. If passed, the legislation would provide that political parties that achieved over 1% in the last statewide vote would be allowed to put candidates onto ballots using internal party process, such as convention endorsement, or by filing fee, or with a different deadline that extends to mid-August (around the time of the state primary).
Enacting these proposals will change behaviors for the (only) three minor parties that exist in Minnesota. This will prevent hundreds of thousands of face-to-face interactions from happening soon.
We must not undermine fair elections or endanger public health. We look forward to working with state officials to thoughtfully prioritize the health, safety and rights of all Minnesotans.
Chris Holbrook is chair of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota. Phil Fuehrer is chair of the Independence-Alliance Party of Minnesota. Trahern Crews is chair of the Green Party of Minnesota.
Posted: at 1:44 am
The coronavirus relief checks are coming. Businesses are closing, increasingly by state mandate; unemployment claims are spiking; and as many as eight in 10 American workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, while half can't cover an unexpected $400 expense. Republicans and Democrats alike in Washington agree on the necessity of cash aid distributed directly to the public, something in the range of $1,000 per adult and $500 per child.
The major point left to be settled is means testing: Should the payments be scaled down or phased out entirely for those in higher income brackets? Perhaps the expected response from libertarians like me and fiscal conservatives more broadly is support for upfront means testing or some other barrier (requiring people to request the money, for example, or subjecting it to 2020 income taxes) to reduce the overall expenditure. Perhaps it's my cynical expectation of perpetual federal insolvency talking, but I think that would be a mistake. The scale of our national debt is already so monstrous that penny-pinching pandemic relief aid will accomplish nothing good.
So if we're doing checks, it should be simple and democratic, with minimal bureaucracy and maximum opportunity for local redistribution.
There are several reasons why this is a good idea, none of which require affection for big government. First is the issue of speed. Means testing or requiring applications of any kind takes time. But the growing portion of those eight in 10 workers living paycheck-to-paycheck don't have time. Some live in municipalities, like New York City, where evictions and/or utilities cutoffs have been suspended, but not all. And even if their housing is temporarily safe and transport costs near zero, even the most Spartan quarantiners still have bills to pay.
Second is the reality that however much shutdowns may be the least worst option in many places the state is the party responsible for these losses of income. Eminent domain is a reasonable analogy here, and when your property is taken via eminent domain, you must be compensated. (The Fifth Amendment requires that "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.") That compensation doesn't scale down for those with higher incomes, and rightly so.
Equally compelling, to my mind, is the real risk that means testing will prove destructively inaccurate. The preferred method seems to be checking income levels from 2018 tax returns but surely it's obvious that many people who were comfortable a year and a half ago are now on the brink of disaster?
I'm thinking of my friend who co-owns a local coffee shop, now shuttered indefinitely; or my friend the substitute teacher, who lost work when Minnesota closed all public schools through at least the end of the month; or my friend who works in mental health care in a hospital which could furlough her to make more room for COVID-19 patients. Whatever their 2018 tax returns said, that doesn't reflect their present reality. Here's a classic libertarian line: This isn't a call Washington will be able to make accurately. The feds aren't as smart as they think they are.
Finally, on a more hopeful note, simply sending checks to everyone allows those who don't need the extra money to give it to those who do. If "I still have a secure job" when a check shows up, tweeted Cato Institute scholar Scott Lincicome, "I'll blow it all on local restaurant gift cards and THEN donate all of those to my church." I hope to do something similar, and others will too. Thus permitting "citizens to make millions of separate and decentralized judgments about the needs in their communities will ... make the aid more effective overall," argued National Review writer and former columnist at The Week Michael Brendan Dougherty.
This is perhaps the most famous insight of libertarian economist F.A. Hayek (who, incidentally, supported a universal basic income, which these checks are on a temporary scale): No central authority can possibly collect all the local knowledge needed to plan a national economy. Indeed, "practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made," Hayek wrote in a 1945 contribution to The American Economic Review, "but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him or are made with his active cooperation."
The state does not know better than you or me about who in our communities is in sudden need. When and we all know there is no "if" here Washington borrows, loans, and spends enormous sums of money attempting to offset the economic distress the response to coronavirus has wrought, distributing responsibility for how that money is spent will make better use of local knowledge than any national means testing program can. The simpler and more democratic the relief spending, the more real good it will be able to do.
Posted: at 1:44 am
The mortgage meltdown of 2008 was rough, but to me it seems that the last time life was so thoroughly upended was 9/11, nearly two decades ago. Since the first reports of positive tests for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in Colorado on March 5, it feels like were living in a different world.
If youve been glued to your cable news or Twitter feed, you probably feel like youve been drinking from the proverbial firehouse. Whats a coronavirus, whats different about this one, whats its R naught, how likely are people to die from it, and what can we do, if anything, to beat it? For most of us the learning curve has been both steep and slippery, as even experts have struggled to get a handle on aspects of this disease.
Meanwhile, as government shuts down businesses across the state, the unemployment forms pile up, and people start to go stir-crazy from social distancing, a lot of us are wondering how far government should go in restricting peoples liberties. Is a heavy government hand really the only or best way to prevent needless death? And how should we weigh the harms of the disease against the harms of a devastated economy? Or is that question too horrible even to consider?
Bluntly, I dont have many definitive answers. And anyone who promises you easy answers to these questions is, well, lets just say they should get in line for some more toilet paper. What I think I can do is help set some context for fruitful ways to think about the questions.
Free-market advocates have pointed to the myriad ways that stupid government policies have hampered the response to the virus. For example, did you know that hospitals often have to (in effect) ask permission from their competitors in order to open new facilities and buy new equipment? Ridiculous. Indeed, one of the major steps that Governor Jared Polis and governors elsewhere took was to remove government barriers to the disease response, as by loosening regulations on hospitals and health professionals. The federal government notoriously tied up testing for the disease in bureaucratic red tapea profound failure.
Free-market advocates also have pointed to the crucial ways that private enterprise has stepped up to address the problem. As economist Tyler Cowen puts the point, Big business is helping America survive the coronavirus.
But even if we grant that politicians and bureaucrats have done a lot of really stupid things, and that business leaders have done many wonderful things to respond, it might still be the case that an important response to the virus (maybe the most important response) is the one by government. Thats the key question I want to consider here.
First, though, I need to dispel a common confusion. A lot of people, whether Progressive, conservative, or libertarian, see the fundamental issue as government power versus individual freedom. Often pitting power against freedom is a useful way to look at things, but it isnt the fundamental.
The fundamental is individual rights. Generally, although the form matters, government power exercised to protect rights is good, and an individual freely violating others rights is bad. The key point is theres nothing inherently suspect about government power; it depends on how and for what that power is used.
What does this have to do with the coronavirus? Here is the key point, as put by philosopher Michael Huemer of the University of Colorado at Boulder: Any individual who is at risk of carrying a communicable disease, such as COVID-19, is posing a risk of physical harm to others when he interacts with them. This potentially justifies government intervention, depending on details. In some contexts, government best preserves liberty by stopping people from infecting others. Your rights to publicly breathe out your germs may end where another persons lungs begin.
(Huemer actually is a libertarian anarchist. But he points out that most libertarians advocate government, and he thinks a private analogue to government properly may impose quarantines in certain circumstances. Im not a libertarian but I broadly agree with Huemer about the just use of force. I also recommend a video from the Ayn Rand Institute on this topic.)
What this principle does not do is give us easy answers for specific cases. A great deal depends on how contagious and deadly the virus is. We continually impose all sorts of risks on others, as by accidentally passing along the flu or by adding another vehicle to a busy road. If we knew the new coronavirus were as deadly as other coronaviruses or even a common flu, we certainly would not be talking about shutting down a huge chunk of the economy because of it. Unfortunately, COVID-19 seems to be quite a lot more contagious and deadly than more-common viral diseases, although, due to lack of widespread testing, we are to a large degree flying blind.
If you were hoping for a pat answer for what specifically government should do here, Im sorry, I cant give you one. What I can say is that individual rights matter and should set the framework for how government responds. I do think that current circumstances warrant some restrictions of movement.
Meanwhile, we can cheer on the people working on the new antivirals, vaccines, and expanded testing that promise to make social distancing and government quarantines a thing of the past.
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.