Understandably, we liberty-minded folks are depressed about Rand Paul having to suspend his campaign in the Republican primary. He represented our best shot at reshaping the Republican Party in our image and having a liberty-minded president by 2017.
However, it’s important not to lose perspective. We may have lost this battle, but we’re still winning the war. We can still win this. Time is on our side.
The United States is still trending libertarian. Not in policy, but in the opinions held by the majority of people. Trust in government has reached historic lows. New technologies and cultural phenomena, ranging from social media, to 3D printing, to Kickstarter, to Uber are continually decentralizing our society and empowering individuals to create and be heard. People have more powerful ways than ever before of becoming politically informed.
The evidence of the effect this decentralization has upon our society is evident in the difference between Rand Paul’s supporters and everyone else. Rand Paul’s supporters are some of the most vocal political advocates on social media. Paul has more Facebook likes than Cruz or Rubio, and he was a consistent winner in online polls not yet “adjusted” for demographics. In Iowa, Paul won 13% of the under-age-40 vote, but only 2% of everyone else. The divide here is clearly between the young and those too old to adjust to new technologies.
The way in which Rand Paul was sidelined in the GOP primary makes it very clear that the Republican Party cannot be a vessel for anything radically new. This party is overwhelmingly dominated by the elderly, the hateful, and the out-of-touch. Indeed, Ted Cruz’s message appeals to their base more than Rand Paul’s because of how similar it is to Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric. The reason these two win in the Republican Party is the same reason they cannot win the general public. Remember, the goal is not to keep the Republicans in power, regardless of how badly they mistreat us! If the Republicans want our votes, they have to earn it by nominating a real libertarian, like Rand Paul. If Cruz becomes president, a real libertarian has no shot in that party until 2024 at the earliest!
For Liberty to truly succeed, we need to build a new coalition, not burdened by Republican baggage. Any attempt to compromise our values in order to gain more supporters will only be seen as “selling out.” The Democratic Party works because it is united around a single principle: Government should have an active role in improving our lives. We need to build a party round the principle that we’re better off when the government leaves us alone. There is an existing party that is united around this principle:
The Libertarian Party.
If the trends are ever in our favor, then why hasn’t the Libertarian Party even come close to winning a major election yet? Well, it’s because of the “lesser of two evils” hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that even if we agree with a 3rd party more, we always have to vote for one of the two major parties, because they’re the only ones who have a chance of winning, and it’s better to vote for the lesser evil than “throw away your vote” on a 3rd party. However, your odds of swinging an election between the two giants are astronomically small. For your vote for the Democrats or the Republicans to truly matter in a presidential election, you would have to live in a purple state, that purple state would have to swing on a single vote, and the electoral college would have to swing on that one state. Your vote truly doesn’t matter.
That is, unless you vote 3rd party. You see, 3rd parties desperately need each and every vote they can get. For the Libertarian Party, every vote has a significant chance of pushing them above the symbolic 1% threshold. Every vote pushes them ever closer to the 5% they would need to be included in the national debates. Every vote gives them a higher chance of being declared a “spoiler” for one of the two major parties.
But if we “spoil” the election, isn’t that a bad thing? Well that depends…is media attention a bad thing for a young, unknown political party trying to break out?
We can learn something from Donald Trump’s unexpected success. He broke out in the Republican primary by harnessing the “outrage factories” inherent in some of our new forms of media. By saying obviously outrageous things, he ensured that people rushing to express their hatred for him would dominate every single second of airtime in the political coverage around the country (and indeed, even around the world to some extent). When you’re trying to make a name in politics, as in show business, no publicity is bad publicity.
So here’s how we win:
There’s no telling how much of this can be accomplished within the time frame of a single election campaign. But no matter how long it takes, remember that our movement is a growing flame, and we can no longer be ignored. As said by Mahatma Gandhi:
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
A significant portion of my political debates involve discussing the effects of libertarian-style economic freedom on a country’s well-being. This type of debate includes two major components: quantifying economic freedom and quantifying a country’s well-being. Measuring these quantities alone is a challenge in itself, but in order to really make an argument regarding their effects on each other, they must be measured independently, without having one measure create bias in the other. When looking at just one country’s policies and well-being, any number of historical events with any number of interpretations can be invoked to suggest that any of these measures are outliers. As an example, just think about how many different explanations there are regarding the causes of the 2007 global financial meltdown. Each different ideological group will adhere religiously to their own explanation, and reject all others. In order to get past all of these political games, we need to find a way to look at every country at once, averaging out the effects of historical anomalies and coincidences. Only if we find a way to do this, can we truly evaluate the general effects of economic freedom on the well-being of countries without politically biased interpretations of events getting in the way. I believe that I have found a set of indices that makes this possible.
I’ve often referred to the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom, which tries to quantify how “economically free” a country is. Their index is compiled from a purely capitalist perspective, which may lead those who operate from a socialist perspective to reject their ordering as a measure of “true freedom.” However, what we can say is that their index is a great measure of how closely the policies of various countries adhere to the capitalist libertarian vision of economic freedom. This excludes any direct description of non-economic personal freedoms. Their scoring system is broken down into 10 categories:
1. Rule of Law
-Property Rights: The extent to which a country’s laws protect the right of individuals to acquire and keep private property.
-Freedom from Corruption: The extent to which a country’s people perceive their government to be free from corruption.
2. Limited Government
-Fiscal Freedom: A measure of how low the tax burden is upon the people.
-Government Spending: A measure of how little of the GDP the government spends.
3. Regulatory Efficiency
-Business Freedom: A measure of how easy it is to start, operate, and close a business in the country’s regulatory framework.
-Labor Freedom: A measure of the absence of regulations on employers’ hiring, use, and firing of employees.
-Monetary Freedom: A measure of the stability of prices, and the absence of government control of prices.
4. Open Markets
-Trade Freedom: A measure of the absence of tariffs, and other government-imposed barriers to international trade.
-Investment Freedom: A measure of how little the government controls investment activities, and the flow of investment resources.
-Financial Freedom: A measure of the independence of banks from government control.
Again, I’d like to emphasize that I’m not asking anyone to assume that these measures are an objective way of measuring freedom. The Heritage Foundation’s index is clearly a measure of how closely a country’s policies adhere to a minarchist libertarian’s view of economic freedom. The higher a country’s score on the index, the more that country’s economic laws and governmental activities follow the libertarian view of individual liberty, avoiding government activism, socialism, technocracy, and other forms of centralization of economic control. It is this description that I will be referring to when I talk about economic freedom throughout the remainder of this series. According to this description, Hong Kong has the world’s most economic freedom with a score of 89.9, and the United States is down at #10 with a score of 76.3. The country with the least economic freedom (that’s fully ranked and scored)1 is Zimbabwe.
So what effects do these policies have on a country’s well-being? A socialist or progressive or technocrat would argue that these policies would destroy a country by making the poor poorer and the rich richer, destroying a country’s foundations. They say that Hong Kong and Singapore can only prosper with such policies because they’re so small, making them outliers. But a libertarian or conservative or capitalist would disagree, saying that these forms of economic freedom allow for the investment, competition, and innovation that make a country grow and prosper. So how do we resolve these differences and ferret out the effects on a country’s well-being of the economic policies originating from these two different perspectives?
Well, I found another index out there which takes an entirely different approach to ranking countries. The Fund for Peace Failed States Index tries to quantify the extent to which a country has failed and collapsed based purely on symptomatic observation of the conditions people live in under the various governments of the world. Their mission is humanitarian rather than ideological, so their scoring system is based purely on an observation of the components of a failed state (things that nobody wants to end up with), and the extent to which each country has experienced those symptoms. Their scores are also broken down into a number of categories:
1. Social Indicators
-Demographic Pressures: The extent to which a population suffers from hazards beyond their own immediate control, such as natural disasters, scarcity, and environmental degradation.
-Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): The magnitude of the problems associated with populations being removed from their homes, creating refugees.
-Group Grievance: The extent of tension between different factional groups (racial, ethnic, religious, etc.), in the form of discrimination or violence.
-Human Flight and Brain Drain: A measure of the net emigration of the populace, especially the emigration of educated individuals.
2. Economic Indicators
-Uneven Economic Development: The extent of disparities and inequality in income, wealth, and economic opportunities among different groups.
-Poverty and Economic Decline: A measure of how severely a country suffers from economic recession, inflation, high public debt, unemployment, and other indicators of economic decline.
3. Political and Military Indicators
-State Legitimacy: The extent to which a government fails to represent its citizens through corruption, power struggles, or disenfranchising votes.
-Public Services: A measure of the effectiveness and prevalence of the infrastructure that most governments provide as public services, including police, fire, communications, transportation services, and others.
-Human Rights and Rule of Law: The extent to which a government violates human rights through deprivation of civil liberties, arbitrary exercise of the law, or cruel and disproportionate punishment.
-Security Apparatus: The level of militarized internal conflict, and the number of fatalities that result.
-Factionalized Elites: A measure of political entrenchment, brinksmanship, and other tactics that make real political change impossible.
-External Intervention: The extent to which a country has failed to meet its international obligations, leading to foreign intervention in their affairs.
The Failed State Index does not measure policy. It directly measures reports of how far a country has progressed towards failure, in terms of establishing a stable legal framework, protecting the people, and ensuring their prosperity. With such a comprehensive description of the factors involved in the collapse of a country, this index acts as an appropriate measure of a country’s well-being. Somalia gains the #1 spot in state failure, with a score of 114.9, while Finland comes in last place at #177 (in the game where you want to lose) with a score of 20.0. The United States sits at #159, with a failure score of 34.8.
In the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom, we have a good measure of how extensively countries adhere to the policies of libertarian-style economic freedom, and in the Failed State Index, we have a direct measure of various conditions that describe the well-being of countries. So if we can find any correlations between these two scoring systems, then we can determine the extent to which certain policies may create the conditions of a failed state. Though we must be careful not to say that correlation necessarily implies causation, we can certainly say that the stronger the correlation, the more closely a policy is related to the condition.
To elaborate, there are three scenarios that may be implied by a generalized correlation between a policy and a condition:
1. The policy caused the condition.
2. The condition leads countries to adopt this policy.
3. Some external factor leads both to the condition and the adoption of a policy.
No country is absolutely bound to legislate policy based on the conditions it experiences. In other words, while a policy can directly cause a condition, a condition can only indirectly cause a policy to be implemented, by exerting pressure on whatever legislative process a country uses. Thus, we would necessarily see stronger correlations in scenario #1 than in scenarios #2 and #3. Hence, we can say that the stronger the correlation observed, the more likely it is that the policy directly causes the condition, rather than any indirect relationship occurring between the policy and the condition. Using this standard, we can distinguish relationships that describe the direct effects of a policy from other types of relationships that may pop up.
With this evaluation standard in mind, I’ve plotted every available2 country on a graph comparing their Failed State rankings to their Economic Freedom rankings (Figure 1).
As can be seen in Figure 1, there definitely is some sort of correlation between economic freedom ranking and state failure ranking. A linear fit can be applied to the data with an R-squared value of 0.55 and a slope of -0.731. This is a fairly strong, negative correlation, indicating there is indeed a relationship between these two rankings. Based on this data, we cannot be 100% certain that every component of economic freedom prevents state failure, but we can at least say that economic freedom clearly is not the cause of state failure.
Because of the high R-squared value, there must be at least some influence from economic freedom that prevents state failure. No nation with less economic freedom than Slovenia (Economic Freedom rank #69) has managed to avoid failure better than Italy or Argentina (tied Failed State rank #145). Additionally, no nation with more economic freedom than Jordan (Economic Freedom rank #30) has ended up failing worse than Cyprus (Failed State rank #119). For every 10 ranks a country drops in economic freedom, you can expect them to go up about 7 ranks in state failure. Interestingly, between 2008 and 2012, the US has dropped 5 ranks in economic freedom, and gone up 2 ranks in state failure, whereas the linear fit would predict an increase in failed state status of 3 or 4 ranks. The predictive power there is not bad, though not perfectly accurate.
One source of error in predicting the trends a country will follow is the fact that each ranking is a measure relative to every other country, rather than an absolute measure. So, if a country is improving or worsening their economic freedom or state failure, they may remain at the same rank if the countries surrounding them in the ranking are moving in the same direction. To account for this error, we can plot the countries based on their absolute Economic Freedom and Failed State scores, rather than their rankings (Figure 2).
Even if we look at the raw scores, there still appears to be a correlation. With a linear fit, the R-squared value is about the same, at 0.53, and the slope is -1.54. The data appears better grouped, but the similar R-squared value comes as a result of some bias in the residuals. Instead of a linear fit, a sigmoid might fit better (Figure 3).
Indeed, a sigmoid curve fits the data comparing freedom and failure scores far better, with an R-squared value of 0.61. The correlation is apparently very negative, with a loss in 15 freedom points translating into a gain of over 40 state failure points in the steepest part of the curve. No country with a freedom score higher than 76 has a failure score higher than 45. Additionally, no country with a freedom score lower than 48 has a failure score lower than 67. With such a reliable negative relationship between economic freedom and state failure, this now appears to be a strong enough correlation to establish causation.
If a country’s freedom score drops below 76, they will end up in severe danger of rapidly climbing in state failure score. Countries with an economic freedom score as low as 70 already span nearly the entire spectrum of state failure, including failure scores from 20 to 85. Ominously, the United States currently has a freedom score of 76.3, putting this country right at the edge of the cliff of rapid state failure. Perhaps this observation relates to the general perception that the U.S. is headed towards decline. The curve fit predicts the U.S. state failure score to be about 34.96, and the actual state failure score is 34.8. The U.S. economic freedom score has dropped more than 4 points over the last 4 years, increasing its failed state score from 32.8 (predicted: 30.3). So far, this correlative model is very accurately predicting the trajectory of the United States as it abandons policies of economic freedom, putting this country on pace to be worse off than Spain by the end of a second Obama term, worse off than Greece and Kuwait within 10 years, worse off than Cuba, Mexico, and Vietnam within just 15 years, worse off than Israel and Madagascar in 20 years, and putting us among the worst failed states in the world within just 25 years.
I would hope that Americans would remember their heritage of liberty and stop this decline before we get far enough along to consider ourselves equal to any of the above-mentioned countries in well-being. But before this decline can be prevented, Americans need to recognize how great of an effect economic liberty has on our lives. We cannot continue to function as a successful, developed nation if we continue electing politicians who publicly disparage the principles of liberty, equating economic freedom with an attack on the poor. As the data presented here shows, it simply is not true that economic freedom creates poor social conditions, and in fact, the opposite appears to be true. If we favor the principles and policies of economic freedom, we will gain prosperity as a country. Australia (89.1, 23.2), New Zealand (82.1, 25.6), and Switzerland (81.1, 23.3) appear to have learned this lesson, so why can’t we?
I will be continuing this analysis in Part 2 of the series, with an analysis of how the subcategories of Heritage’s Economic Freedom measures correlate with State Failure.
1. North Korea is included in the ranking, but is not fully scored. Afghanistan, Iraq, Liechtenstein, Sudan, and Somalia are not ranked due to the difficulty of obtaining reliable data.
2. Countries were excluded if and only if data was not available from one of the two indices.
On January 1st, 2014, the Individual Mandate contained within ObamaCare goes into effect. This mandate will make a dictator out of the US President overnight.
I do not make this claim lightly. For a power being granted to a leader to be considered dictatorial, there are three requirements that must be fulfilled:
The power must give absolute power to one individual.
The power must be totalitarian in scope.
The power must be irrevocable.
Absolute Power for One Individual
When the Individual Mandate goes into effect, all Americans will be required to purchase “proper” health insurance plans, or will be forced to pay a tax. All health insurance companies will be forced to only offer “proper” plans to their customers. It will be considered illegal to offer an insurance plan that is not considered “proper.”
So you ask, what’s wrong with proper insurance? There’s a catch: The Secretary of Health and Human Services has sole authoritative power (Section 224(b), on pg. 123) to determine the contents and requirements of a “proper health insurance plan.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services (currently Kathleen Sebelius) reports directly to the President, must follow all of his Executive Orders, and can be fired by him at any time, so that he can appoint a new one of his choice.
In other words, the President maintains a dictatorship over the definition of the “proper health insurance plans” that we are all forced to buy. The President can also force health insurance companies to boycott any health care providers (doctors and hospitals) that try to cater to individuals who choose not to buy health insurance. They already use this method to force health care providers to offer major discounts to Medicare patients, and they could easily use this method to prevent those resisting the Individual Mandate from obtaining any form of health care at all.
So the choice we all end up with is: buy one of these “proper” health insurance plans defined by the President, or be punished through the complete deprivation of health care. This is the enforcement mechanism.
Totalitarian in Scope
But this only affects health care, and health care is special, right?
Wrong. There is no legal requirement in the ObamaCare law that the definition of a “proper health insurance plan” must only include measures relating to health care. Already, Obama has declared that every health insurance plan must provide contraception, which is only as relevant to health as our choice of food, car, home, or any other choices we make in our lives.
The President can easily decree any other purchasing mandate, requiring us to buy a GM car, or buy broccoli, or buy houses in specific areas, or buy certain newspapers, or subscribe to a propaganda newsletter touting the president’s achievements, or join a union. The President can also use his power over insurance coverage to retaliate against groups who do not support him. For instance, the President might put clause in your insurance plan that states that you lose coverage for some number of conditions if you buy a gun, or spend too much money supporting his opponent, or live in a wealthy neighborhood.
From a legal perspective, this law gives the President the totalitarian power to force any activity, or punish any activity, under the threat of loss of health care. All he has to do is say that it’s a part of your insurance plan (which would rapidly lose all relation to health care other than through its enforcement mechanism).
What about the separation of powers? Checks and balances? Congress has already surrendered its power by delegating the power to define “proper” insurance plans to the President’s appointees. The Supreme Court has already taken a whack at this law, and bizarrely ruled the Individual Mandate constitutional so long as it only makes use of economic incentives, rather than prison sentences to enforce its goals. But of course, those economic incentives can be just as damaging as prison sentences. The only branch of government that has the power to stop this law from becoming a dictatorship is the Executive Branch. Only the dictator can prevent the dictatorship (or a 2/3rds majority in both houses of Congress to override vetoes, but that’s the stuff of legend). The separation of powers and all the checks and balances have been thwarted.
As humans have learned throughout history, once a leader gains dictatorial power, it is extremely difficult to remove him, even if he is subjected to periodic elections. Under a dictatorship, information is controlled, and political opponents are destroyed, as in Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany. The means of production are given to political allies, and elections are stolen, as in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and Chavez’s Venezuela. The citizens may even begin to worship their leaders out of a sense of dependence, as in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Maoist China, and North Korea.
Our only hope for avoiding dictatorship is to get ObamaCare repealed before January 1st, 2014. Obama will not do it. If we cannot remove Obama from office, either in the November election, or through impeachment prior to 2014, the United States government will become a dictatorship.
If you’ve been wondering what would drive a libertarian like myself to support a conservative like Mitt Romney, this is why. After the Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare, the gravity of the situation became clear: it’s all on us to pick the right president. Unlike Gary Johnson, Romney can beat Obama, and unlike Obama, he has pledged to repeal ObamaCare. Certainly, there is always the chance that Romney is lying and would keep ObamaCare. But if he does, he loses the support of his base, and the legendary 2/3rds majority in Congress may manifest and repeal the dictatorial powers over his veto.
This is our last chance. We, the People of the United States, must remove Barack Obama from office in order to save our freedom from an untimely death.
EDIT (6/11/13): Added a link to the section of the Obamacare bill that gives the Secretary of HHS this power.
For those who don’t understand, or think it’s all a matter of context, allow me to explain what is so offensive about Obama’s statements.
What Obama said cuts very deep for a lot of people. It is a very personal attack to tell someone that they only succeeded because somebody else helped them. That’s basically saying that you don’t deserve the success you received, because you didn’t do it yourself. Of course, that’s exactly what Obama wants to say, because in that speech, he’s explicitly making an argument in favor of taking more money from the successful to pay for more government-controlled “investments.”
Obama has made this personal by using his bully pulpit to attack the achievements of every single individual in this country. And we all know he’s wrong, because each of us knows what it took to achieve the success that we have. I didn’t get into a PhD program just riding on somebody else’s coattails. Certainly, I received plenty of help, from my friends, from my family, from my teachers, even from the government. And I know I couldn’t have done it without them, and am eternally grateful for all of that. But it was still my own hard work, focus, and perseverance that made the difference and got me to my goals. As a scientist, I spend every day struggling to elucidate the intricacies of systems that nobody else in the world understands. Every time I make a breakthrough, that is a great personal achievement. And yet, Obama doesn’t think so.
That is why Obama’s statements were so very insulting. That is why Obama’s entire economic philosophy is an insult. Obama believes that success comes in the form of five year plans and Sputnik projects for the glory of a nation. But we are not just cogs in some productivity machine that he runs. We are all individuals, and we all have our own individual goals and achievements. Collective success comes from the contributions of individuals, not the other way around. I don’t want to live in a country where I am a servant to the nation. I want to live in a country that secures the freedom for me to achieve my goals, and lets me help society in the way I feel I am best suited to.
Now I’m gonna try my best to give this argument elements that Republicans and Democrats alike can identify with. So if you don’t like what I’m saying at first, just bear with me and hear me out.
For awhile now, I’ve argued that strict term limits are necessary to ensure that representatives remain representative of the people. If we are continually selecting new representatives from the pool of the people, then we can ensure that our government will continue to be representative of our will, rather than having career politicians continually reelected through name-recognition and corrupt deal-making.
One argument against this that I frequently hear is that freshman politicians aren’t as good at getting things done. It takes someone with political experience to know how to make compromises, rally their base, and do all the politicking necessary to get bills passed.
Enter Nancy Pelosi. She is figurative poster-boy of “political experience.” Well-known for her ability to rally her base and do all the politicking necessary to push controversial legislation through, she is seeking another term as the House Democratic Caucus leader, which would make her the Minority Leader. However, because of her demotion from House Majority Leader to House Minority Leader, everyone in her chain of command is forced to take a demotion, and not everyone is happy about it. This presents Pelosi with a problem, because it means some of her fellow party leaders may set their eyes on the prize of a higher office- specifically, Pelosi’s position of Minority Leader.
However, doing what Pelosi does best, she found a compromise which all contenders for party leadership can be happy with: create a new office so that everyone can be in charge. By creating a new office, she makes sure that all leaders in her party maintain positions of party leadership, preventing a power struggle which would’ve had the potential to unseat her.
So, with Pelosi’s vast experience at politicking, she has benefited herself and her fellow party leaders, but is this solution good for everyone? It’s certainly not good for the Democrats to have someone with a 21% favorable rating among independents (29% overall) to continue leading their party in the House after the massive shellacking they received. I mean, with such a massive election loss, which she completely did not predict, she must be doing something very wrong for her party. Keeping her on as Minority Leader is like Christmas for the Republican Party, because they can continue to paint the Democrats as “the Party of Pelosi.”
Another problem with this is that it indicates she’s willing to create new bureaucracy out of nothing, for no purpose, except to benefit herself and her friends. This demonstrates a capacity for corruption which needs to not be playing a part in the process of crafting legislation.
Pelosi’s political skill has been harmful to both her party and the people she represents. So, if giving incumbents the opportunity to be reelected selects for experience at politicking, then I think we should be doing everything we can to keep incumbents out of the election process entirely, enforcing strict term limits.
The goal of a representative democracy is not to “get things done.” It is to represent the will of the people as best as possible without making every single citizen take the time to read and vote on every single bill.