Thursday, December 13, 2007

If They Invited Me to a Debate...

For a variety of reasons, I could not be elected dogcatcher. But if I had participated in the GOP debate yesterday in Iowa, here is how I would have answered some of the questions the moderator asked:

Q: What sacrifices would you ask Americans to make to lower the country's debt? And I'd like you to be specific.

A: Your question is vague, as it does not specify what sort of “debt” is a problem. My “debt” to my mortgage broker is not only not a problem, it is essential to enabling me to have a home for my family. A lot of “debt” is like that, a voluntary exchange of present for future wealth, a trade between people with money but not many opportunities and people with opportunities and not so much money.

If you mean the federal debt, the accumulated money owed to holders of federal bonds, you ask the wrong question. That the government borrows money is not the fundamental problem; that the government spends money to begin with can be. Imagine that we are asked to approve the government’s building of the world’s tallest sandcastle, and that it will cost $1000 per taxpayer. Imagine that the interest rate and the term structure of government borrowing is such that $1 borrowed today implies $2 must be repaid in 20 years. Suppose also that I have $10,000 saved up that I wish to invest for my children, which by construction will be $20,000 in 20 years.

We have two choices as to how to fund our sandcastle. First, borrow the money. If so, I pay no taxes. But the government borrows $1000 on my behalf, and my son inherits $2000 in debt, meaning that the $20,000 he expected to inherit is only $18,000. This is called “borrowing from our children,” and widely decried.

Now suppose the government “pays” for the sandcastle by raising my taxes by $1000. Alas, this means I can only invest $9000 for my child, leaving him with…$18,000. It is not borrowing that takes money from our children; it is government spending. If the sandcastle is actually a wasteful use of dollars relative to what I and my children do with it, the problem is (so to speak) compounded. The sandcastle had better add more to society than the $1000 does.

Q: Who in this country is paying more than a fair share of taxes relative to everyone else -- the wealthy, the middle class, the poor or corporations?

A: Corporations are simply a form of citizen organization, and they should not pay taxes any more than the government workers’ unions or the Knights of Columbus should. Taxes should be assessed on individuals, so as to maximize their transparency and make it more difficult for congressmen to by subterfuge extract wealth from free men and women. Individuals should pay the same tax burden – not as a percentage, but an absolute amount. This insures that all citizens are equal before the law. I would be willing to consider the justice of everyone paying the same share of income as taxes (a “flat tax”), but the lump-sum tax seems to me to be the most just, and most likely to restrain government.

Q: Some of our big trading partners commit human rights violations. Considering that poverty and abuse are often blamed for fostering terrorism, should we alter trade policies with those countries?

A: The assertion that “poverty and abuse” cause terrorism is asinine. The Sept. 11 hijackers, and leaders and foot soldiers of the jihad generally, are often from middle-class backgrounds. Terrorism is a tactic used by enemies who are otherwise militarily weak.

Since I as president would have no sovereign authority over foreigners, I must act to protect the liberty of Americans. This indicates that all Americans should have the right to buy and sell with foreigners without restraint, national-security needs (narrowly defined) excepted.

The assertion that “some of our big trading partners commit human rights violations” is too vague to be helpful in answering the question.

Q: What specific changes should be made in NAFTA?

A: As president I would seek to withdraw the US from NAFTA and all other trade agreements, and implement unilateral free-trade policies with the rest of the world. Buyers and sellers need to be equal before the law, and it is not proper to use the power of the state to restrict the liberty to trade of either. The gains to trade are first and foremost greater competition, lower prices, higher quality and more possibilities generally for consumers, with jobs created in export industries only the price that needs to be paid (our workers making things that our people don’t even get to use) to achieve this. A dead white male named Adam Smith settled this some 230 years ago; please look into it.

Q: I want to take on a new issue. I would like to see a show of hands. How many of you believe global climate change is a serious threat and caused by human activity?

A: Raising hands is what schoolchildren do. It is undignified and showboating by the moderator in what should be a serious enterprise, a presidential debate. [To his credit, Sen. Thompson gave a similar answer.]

Q: What impact on the economy would be acceptable in order to reverse global warming and greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Man is an immensely innovative creature, and rumors of his demise are constantly being exaggerated by those resentful of commerce and achievement, including the modern neurotics of the environmental movement. Such climate change as occurs will be handled, just as it has been handled in the last 100 years, by free men and women responding to problems as they occur. The transnational bureaucracy that many seek to create so as to limit our freedom to experiment, to buy and sell, and to achieve is a far greater threat than any human-induced climate change.

Q: American 15-year-olds ranked behind 16 other countries in a recent assessment of science literacy. What educational standards does the U.S. need to adopt or improve to compete in the global economy? And what will you do to move us toward those standards? And what's your timetable?... If we need to improve our educational system quickly to be more competitive in the world, does the federal government need to exercise different influence than it has historically over educational standards? If so, in what ways? And if not, how do you encourage state to meet national goals to move us forward?

A: The regulation of public schooling is not a constitutionally authorized function of the federal government.

Q. Please suggest a New Years resolution for one of your opponents here today.

A: I suggest that candidates resolve to read and to send to every member of Congress the following items: The Constitution of the United States, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty and The Road to Serfdom, and Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. Thank you for your attention.

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Blogger Libertarian Jason said...

Dude... I would vote for you.

I would also ask them to read Mises and Rothbard, as well.

12:13 PM  

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