Year: 2015

Trump’s followers might not be racist

I was at a gas station a couple days ago when I overheard the clerk talking with a customer about the last GOP debate. What caught my attention was that he was the first person I met that openly expressed support for Trump – most conservatives I’ve talked to can’t stand the guy (he’s not conservative enough for them), and most Libertarians are doing their level-best to contrast themselves from his xenophobia – so I naturally wanted to know more. Why, of all the candidates on that stage, did the gas station clerk favor Trump?

“He’s genuine. He speaks his mind.”

That he does. You have to give him credit – he’s not parsing every sentence that comes out of his mouth through a series of focus groups or think tanks. That genuineness, that willingness and ability to say what’s on his mind and damn the consequences, is actually one of the first things supporters consistently love about him. He’s not beholden to campaign contributors – he’s a billionaire, after all – he’s not beholden to the GOP establishment, and he’s not beholden to the media, which happily laps up his every absurd utterance like a kitten splashing around in a milk bowl. In short, whether you love him or hate him, he’s different. Sure, a lot of what’s on his mind is utter nonsense, but he’s willing to share his mind with America and let us decide among ourselves which of his ideas have merit and which of his ideas belong in the rubbish heap of history. That’s pretty rare among aspiring politicians these days, who, more often than not, would rather run every utterance past expensive political consultants, focus groups, polls, major donors, and so forth before they take even the shakiest of stands.

Of course, politicians dissembling is nothing new. Why is Trump different?

Well, to be honest, Trump isn’t all that different. Trump is exercising the same strategy pursued by Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012 – identify a set of problems within the United States, offer solutions (many of which still aren’t in the mainstream), then let the people decide. This strategy was good enough to earn Ron Paul 118 delegates in 2012, which almost quadrupled his delegate total in 2008. What is different, beyond Trump’s positions, is that, since 2008, the number of Americans that are tired of the status quo has consistently doubled in each election cycle – with this trend in mind, it’s not surprising that Trump’s numbers are currently roughly double Paul’s in 2012.

Democrats aren’t immune to this, either, by the way.

Simply put, Trump’s (and Sanders’) campaign is a product of growing dissatisfaction with America’s ruling class. We’re seeing it in our colleges, we’re seeing it in our streets, and now we’re seeing it in our campaigns. Especially since 2008, the American people are sensing that there is something off in how our country is run. Banks are suddenly “too big to fail”, our defense spending is completely unmoored from tactical reality, we can’t build a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles without it somehow costing over $70 billion and taking over a decade (assuming it even gets done in the first place), and that’s just at the national level. At the local level, it took Reno over 50 years to move trains out of downtown (at great cost and at great damage to our city’s credit rating), decades to start construction on the Southeast Corridor (a 5.5 mile road that has been hamstrung by lawsuit after lawsuit and won’t be done for another two years), and over 40 years to build a freeway to Carson City that still isn’t done. Now, as a card-carrying Libertarian, it’s almost refreshing in a way to see so many clear cut examples of government incompetence and sloth; most people, however, want a government that works, or, failing that, at least some credible reasons why it isn’t.

Trump, unlike most other politicians, provides reasons. They might not be good, but they’re better than nothing.

To understand why this is important, I have to draw upon my previous working experience as an IT consultant. Nothing annoys customers more than paying someone over $100/hour to fix a problem, only for them to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” A good consultant comes up with a reason – any reason, really – even if they’re not 100% certain about it. The worst that happens is you try to fix what you thought was the problem, fail, and discover the real problem, whatever that might be. This is just as true at the doctor’s office, if you think about it, and even describes the plot for most House M.D. episodes. Even if you change your story toward the end, most customers value confidence and decisiveness when their money and business is on the line. Trouble is, most of our politicians have done a poor job of this – they’re so deathly afraid of coming up with a diagnosis that their constituents don’t like that they refuse to come up with one at all, or make the diagnosis so frustratingly vague that it’s useless. More and more American people want answers – even if they’re bad, even if they’re wrong – just so they can enjoy the comfort of having an answer.

Thus explaineth Trump’s popularity.

The good news is Americans don’t have to settle for Trump’s violently half-baked racist-tinged answers. The Libertarian Party has been at the forefront of finding problems with America’s political class since 1972 and calling them out on it, reliably and faithfully. If you’d like to see our political class identify problems that don’t require walls on our borders to keep Mexicans from leaving (that’s right – leaving), that don’t require us to deprive travel rights for hundreds of thousands of Blacks, and don’t require us to invade every country that looks at us cross-eyed, why don’t you join us today and come to one of our events?

(Image credit: Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0.)

The case for a $30/hour minimum wage

Money by Pictures of Money is licensed CC BY 2.0.

The Libertarian Party has been an outspoken opponent of the minimum wage since its inception. However, in much the same way Republicans were telling us in 2012 that we need to focus less on marriage equality and drug decriminalization, Democrats are telling us that a higher minimum wage is politically popular and we need to just go along with it. After examining the evidence, I agree. In fact, I think current Democrat-sponsored plans to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour don’t go far enough, and here’s why:

First, a bit of background about myself. I’m currently an IT Manager. My job is to make sure that my employer’s computers and networks work efficiently and make us money. If our computers didn’t save us money – in printed paper, in automating tedious processes, in helping us find documents with a quick search instead of a bored file clerk rifling through filing cabinets – we wouldn’t have computers in our office and I wouldn’t have a job. Automation, needless to say, is very important to me. It’s how I justify my salary. If I have to manually do something twice, I write a script so I never have to do it again. It doesn’t always go as planned, of course, but, more often than not, I either don’t have to do something again or I learn how to automate something else in the process. When all goes well, the time I free up by automating something somewhere makes it possible for my employer to do more with less. We can process paperwork in less time, which improves customer service, and we can do it with fewer employees than we used to. Some of the money saved from our reduced headcount ends up in my boss’s pocket, while some of it ends up in my pocket in the form of regular pay raises. It’s win-win for everyone involved… well, everyone that I care about, anyway. And my boss.

While looking into the minimum wage issue, I learned that, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 3.9% of all American workers currently make the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, which means that, if we got rid of the minimum wage the way the Libertarian Party wants to, it would only affect those workers currently making a minimum wage that don’t justify making a minimum wage, which can’t be very many of them. However, I also learned that, on average, American workers make roughly $25/hour – and that’s when it hit me. There are a lot of projects at work that don’t make economic sense because my coworkers, whose jobs I would love to automate into oblivion, are cheaper to employ than the capital expenses we would incur attempting to automate their jobs away. However, if we increase the minimum wage to $30/hour – just a shade above the average American worker’s wage – I’ll get the green light to automate all sorts of things around the office! This will really help the economy since my employer, along with every other employer in the US, will have to buy lots and lots of expensive servers, scanners, software, and so much more to do what my coworkers – who may have been making below that $25/hour average – have been doing productively and more or less satisfyingly (I guess? I don’t really care.) for years. The best part is, by the time I’m done automating most of the office, I’ll save enough money where my boss will be able to afford to give me all sorts of raises! That is most definitely a good thing. Having fewer annoying coworkers interrupting me with unreasonable demands while I write blog articles for the Libertarian Party will just be icing on the cake.

Of course, I won’t be the only one benefiting from this. Manufacturers of food service robots will benefit tremendously, and the Japanese will make a mint on medical robots, who will make a fine replacement for all those medical assistants currently justifying less than $30/hour. We’ll even be able to replace waiters with robots, which I’m sure will lead to much less spit in my food – that seems to be a recurring problem whenever I tell waiters I’m going to automate their jobs away for some reason. Good riddance to bad rubbish right there.

So, in conclusion, that’s why I favor a $30/hour minimum wage and why I think you should too.

Want to tell me what you think about my idea? Great! If you join the LP as a dues paying member, you’ll have the right to vote for more Executive Committee members like me that agree with this idea and can make this the official policy of the Party! Also, if you follow us on Facebook, join our Facebook group, follow us on Meetup, or join the LP as a free member, you can find out when our next event near Reno is and tell me all about it in person. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are intended to be satirical, in much the same way as “The Onion” or “The Duffel Blog.” They do not reflect the policy positions of the Libertarian Party or the Libertarian Party of Nevada (except where the article so indicates). The LPN’s official position on the minimum wage can be read fully here.

Gun rights have nothing to do with militias

Gun Club by Peretz Partensky is licensed CC BY 2.0.

Not anymore – and why that’s okay.

Ever since the San Bernardino massacre, the never ending national conversation surrounding gun rights has reasserted itself once more. The usual cast and characters have adopted their usual positions – either everybody needs to be armed or nobody should be armed – and, past that, the only people profiting from all of this are monomaniacal journalists focused exclusively on the scoop and the new media outlets that cover them. It’s a tired, old conversation, one that will never get anywhere since neither side trusts the other and the courts have already decided anyway, so let’s talk about something much more interesting:

 

Are gun rights, as currently exercised in a modern society, a useful check on government power?

James Madison certainly thought so, and said as much in Federalist No. 46:

Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence.

Unfortunately, James Madison’s numbers were a little off, even during the time of his writing in 1788 – Napoleonic France, with a population of roughly 30 million, would support a national army that was twice the size of the one he thought our federal government could support less than 20 years later; using more modern logistical techniques, the USSR conscripted close to 35 million soldiers out of a population of almost 200 million, or more than 10 times the number of soldiers that Madison thought a nation could support. He was also astonishingly optimistic about the ability of militias to choose effective leadership, especially on the eve of battle – this starry-eyed ideologically driven optimism, though well meant, was largely discredited by the uneven performance of the citizen militia in the War of 1812 against much better organized and trained British regulars. A similar experiment would be tried, curiously enough and somewhat by accident, by the Bolsheviks near the end of World War I – it didn’t end well for them, either, and more forceful means were eventually used to motivate and discipline their forces through the remainder of the Russian Revolution.

The truth is, even by Madison’s time, it was clear that a well trained, well equipped, professional military could outperform any citizen militia of similar strength – this is why George Washington spent so much time running away from the British during the Philadelphia campaign and why it took over a year since the Declaration of Independence was issued for the Americans to win a significant enough victory to attract a vitally necessary alliance with the French. What Madison and others hoped was that, instead of maintaining an expensive and potentially liberty-threatening standing army, the United States could adopt a defensive strategy that took advantage of its size and population by simply having armed citizen militias throughout the land that could be equipped, trained, and deployed against an invading enemy during the time it would take an enemy to get from one part of the United States to the other. This, curiously enough, is another accidental parallel to Russian military strategy, in that the Russians relied on defense in depth, slow transport times, strained logistics for invaders, and a near-inexhaustible supply of manpower from the Napoleonic War all the way through World War II; thankfully, the United States learned the limits of this approach without enduring over 20 million casualties in the process.

Nowadays, the difference in abilities between a modern professional military and a bunch of rifle-wielding civilians is even more pronounced. To start with, private citizens in the United States do not possess anywhere near the sort of firepower required to attempt even a Syrian-style insurrection – though there are undoubtedly a few citizens keeping a small supply of MANPADS squirreled away somewhere surreptitiously, the number is almost certainly not high enough to make an appreciable dent against the best funded military on Earth; the same could be said for armored vehicles, automatic weapons, howitzers, missiles, or anything else opponents of modern militaries have used to reduce their effectiveness. Even if there were enough automatic weapons to, say, meaningfully fight a set-piece battle against a small battalion, the logistics of citizen weapons would be a nightmare – while the military would be standardized on a small selection of NATO rounds, civilian automatic weapons could rely on Russian or Chinese rounds, NATO rounds, or just be single fire hunting rifles or handguns requiring all sorts of ammunition types. This would make each person participating in a citizen militia dependent on their own ammunition stores, as well as their ability to transport that ammunition, which would drastically reduce their effectiveness in prolonged battle (meaning, in this case, any battle that lasts more than an hour or two). Even if we hand wave the logistical issues aside – which would be a mistake – there’s the small issue of coordination, which would require communications (which are easily and routinely compromised), and some method of creating an effective chain of command while under fire. Oh, and our military has a few of these things lying about, too, for good measure.

In short, if your plan for overcoming the overbearing power of the government is an armed insurrection conducted by a bunch of gun owners of various ages and physical conditions – half of whom might not even be on your side – carrying whatever arms they can pack with whatever ammunition they can find, training themselves in effective infantry tactics on the fly, and coordinating with each other via insecure channels, you need a better plan.

So, if the original plan laid down by the Founding Fathers of a well armed citizen militia keeping the federal military in check was almost dreamily optimistic when it was first conceived in the late 18th century, and is suicidally unrealistic today, then what can be done?

The answer is ideas. Truth be told, winning our freedom by the gun was never realistic – freedom won by the gun can be taken away by bigger guns. The only way freedom can endure is through the power of ideas, through persuasion, and through voluntary action. It is because of ideas – ideas like freedom, duty, and honor – that our military hasn’t overthrown our government in a bloody coup, even though it clearly possesses the firepower and, quite possibly, the political support as well. It is because of ideas that we try, as often as practical and oftentimes more often than that, to work together and settle our differences without violence or bloodshed through the political process. It is because of ideas that we try, perhaps less often than we should and definitely less often than we could, to ignore differences when they don’t directly affect us and let everyone live their own lives while we live ours.

If you would like to help us share our ideas, help us turn our ideas into political action, and help us make Nevada a better place without violence or bloodshed, we need your help. Join our party. Volunteer. Help us out. Even if you just register to vote, that would help us get your voice heard.

Blowback

This article explains the folly of the warfare state. We must not let the attack on Paris, though tragic, cause us to go back to a never-ending war in the Middle East. We must put an end to drone strikes and military bases in the Middle East.

“As it turned out, however, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, but that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.” -David Stockman

 

Read the full article here: http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/blowback-the-washington-war-partys-folly-comes-home-to-roost/

 

If you want to see the US stay out of the middle east, an end to nation building, an end to foreign aid, and an end to meddling in another people’s sovereignty, be sure to Join Now. We need your voice to help us continue the fight against the military-industrial-congressional complex!