Knowledge Equals Critics

There was a recent Gallup survey showing that Americans are not too fond of Congress.  49% of Americans rated Congress as bad or poor.  Just 15% rated Congress as excellent or good, while 34% rated it as fair.

The first question that comes to mind is just who the 15% are that rate Congress excellent or good.

But these results are not the most interesting thing about the poll.  The poll also asked the Americans surveyed to answer five questions about Congress.

I could answer all five questions with no problem without resorting to Google.  I’m not sure if I should be proud of that or if I should get more of a life.  But since I write on these topics, it is probably good that I know the basics.

The interesting thing is that the people who answered the most questions correctly were also those who were the most critical of Congress.  For example, for the people who answered 4 or 5 questions right out of the 5, only 7% thought Congress is doing an excellent or good job (as compared to 15% overall).

Out of those same people who answered 4 or 5 questions right, 66% rated Congress as poor or bad (compared to 49% overall).

Meanwhile, for the people who could not answer any of the 5 questions correctly, 27% of them think Congress is doing a good or excellent job.

So when I rhetorically asked the question above about who these people are rating Congress so highly, this gives us some of our answer.  It is the people who have absolutely no clue as to what is happening.  If these people stayed away from the voting booths, then I would have no problem with their ignorance.  The problem is that many of them show up to cast an ignorant vote.  They might know just enough to vote for the candidate promising the most welfare handouts.

I have long thought that it is ironic that libertarians and those who study Austrian economics know more about the Fed than any other group, except perhaps the central bankers themselves.  Yet, libertarians are also the biggest critics.  The hardcore libertarians do not want the Fed.  They don’t think a central bank should exist.

I believe the main reason is that those who understand – whether we are talking about Congress or the Fed – are the same people who understand they are getting ripped off.

Aside from the bankers and insiders, it is the Austro-libertarians who understand that the Fed’s main purpose is to fund the deficits of Congress and to support the big banks.  It is not to smooth out business cycles.  The Fed is the main cause of the boom/ bust cycles.

If you have any group or organization that is doing harmful things, it is going to be the people who know the most about the organization who will be the most critical of it, unless of course they are profiting from it and are not fully honest.

I also believe that libertarians and free market advocates who understand the Fed should take advantage of the fact that they do understand.  While studying economics tells us that we can’t predict human action with any certainty and that we can’t time events in the future or how exactly they will play out, it can help us prepare.

Unfortunately, I think many libertarians just don’t know how to connect protecting their own freedom and their money with their knowledge of the government and the central bank.  Sometimes they know just enough to make a lot of mistakes.

I also find that for as much as most people underestimate the harm that government does, libertarians underestimate the power of the free market.  There are so many gloom and doomers.  It is partially for good reason because they know the damage being done by the state.  But they also underestimate the power of the free market to overcome many of the obstacles.

This latest Gallup poll confirmed what I already thought.  It is the most ignorant people who are the most damaging.  But I also want to say that people who are politically apathetic are often the best targets for libertarians.  To a certain extent, apathetic people are correct not to pay too much attention to politics if it means they are focusing on improving themselves and their own life.  I am not talking about the apathetic people who collect welfare and have little interest in ever bettering themselves.

If we want to have a more libertarian society, the answer is education, and I don’t mean the kind you get in school.  People must be educated on the benefits of liberty.  They must be informed on the damage done by the government and the central bank.  As people get more informed, it will likely benefit the libertarian movement.

The Best-Case Scenario for President

Even though I am anti-politics, I still find it entertaining.  I understand that the state – particularly the U.S. government – is brutal.  When you look at all of the death and destruction, both directly and indirectly, it probably isn’t something that should be entertaining.

The entertainment for me is watching these duds get up on stage and squirm through a bunch of questions.  They are so afraid to say something wrong.  In this sense, it is the main reason so many people like Donald Trump.  He mostly just speaks what is on his mind, or at least appears to.

In terms of the race for the presidency, I think a lot of it is show.  It is nice that the establishment is so bugged by Trump.  I actually like Trump in some respects, but that will change quickly if he actually gets elected president.  I can envision him being quite dictatorial.

I always like people better when they are in the so-called private sector, as opposed to politics.  With Arnold Schwarzenegger, I like some of his movies and I don’t care for others.  But I can watch the ones I like.  When he became governor in California, he really disgusted me.  Now that he is out of politics again, maybe I can once again like him one day.

But back to the topic of the presidency, I think the president is a figurehead to a large degree.  These candidates are vetted.  Some are more well liked than others by the establishment, but most of them are acceptable.  Even Ronald Reagan became acceptable to the establishment.  They didn’t like him, but they could put up with him.

Kennedy obviously fell out of favor with the establishment.  It was probably because he opposed a further escalation in Vietnam.  Maybe it was because he was in the way of Johnson and all of his cronies.

I think Rand Paul would have been similar to Ronald Reagan.  There would have been a fight to keep him out of the White House, but ultimately he would have been acceptable to the establishment.  Anyway, that is not a factor now because Paul will be out of the race soon.  His campaign could not have been worse.

I am glad that Rand Paul failed with his strategy of trying to play both sides.  His father was far more successful, in many aspects.  If Rand Paul were sent to the White House, I would be afraid that anything bad happening would be blamed on libertarianism, even though his policies would probably only be slightly less socialist than the others.

Here is a good question for a libertarian though.  Assuming an establishment candidate wins the presidency, who would be the best-case scenario in terms of liberty?

Of course, it is impossible to know for sure.  We really don’t know how someone will behave once in office.  Trump is probably the biggest unknown at this point.  Would he scale back the U.S. empire overseas, or would he feel the need to keep it going to show his strength?

I think any other Republican would be a disaster.  They are all pro war, although some are worse than others.

The Republicans will likely keep majorities in the House and Senate.  From this standpoint, we are probably better off with a Democrat in the presidency.  Gridlock tends to be better than having one party control all of the branches.

I don’t want Hillary Clinton though.  I’m not saying it is the end of America if she wins, but I can’t think of a more corrupt and power-hungry person.  She is a war hawk and she may get away with more war being a woman.  If Republicans opposed her war making, it would be for the wrong reasons.  They would probably say she is not being forceful enough.

Bernie Sanders, while not the peace candidate that many think he is, would certainly be much better in terms of foreign policy.  I am not even really considering him in this discussion though because I am not sure he is approved by the establishment and I also don’t think he can win.

At this point, I think the best-case scenario is for Joe Biden to win the presidency.  He may be a little less hawkish than Clinton.  He would clash with the Republicans and there would be less likelihood of a major war or a major new government program.

The other benefit is that Joe Biden is a bit of a clown.  He has a habit of saying stupid things and doing stupid things.  He puts his foot in his mouth a lot.  The late night shows enjoy his antics.  In other words, I don’t think many people would take him too seriously.  This is the reputation the president should have.

You won’t find me holding a “Biden for President” sign or going to the voting booth to fill in his name, but I think he may be the best-case scenario right now for liberty.  We’ll see.

Convincing Politicians

It is time for me to pick on Thomas Sowell again.  I know he is old and has a good legacy.  He has had a productive life with a lot of writing.  I will even say he is a pretty good economist, at least on some issues.

He is somewhat similar to Milton Friedman.  Sowell is not good when it comes to the Fed or monetary policy in general.  Unfortunately, it is a big piece of economics for an economist to be weak on.  Sowell is good when it comes to things like the minimum wage and tax disincentives.  He is also a really good writer.

I still think Sowell is a statist though.  He wants to force you to stick your kids with needles.  He believes in an interventionist foreign policy.  He dislikes Ron Paul and supported Newt Gingrich.  Is that enough?

Yet many libertarians love the guy.  Maybe they are just trying to find a black person who they can claim as a libertarian.  If they want that, they should at least go with Walter Williams instead.  Williams is not too good on foreign policy, but he mainly sticks to economics and the law, where he is very strong on particular issues.

Sowell’s latest article published on discusses the opportunity Republicans now have that John Boehner is stepping down as Speaker of the House.  This in itself is rather naive.  Does he really think the Republican politicians want to reduce government in any way?

Sowell then goes on to talk about the Reagan revolution.  Every respected Republican has to pay homage to Ronald Reagan.

Sowell praises Reagan for his accomplishments, despite not having a majority in the House or Senate.  Reagan did manage to lower income tax rates.  This was his big accomplishment.  This must be what Sowell is referring to.

Other than things Reagan didn’t do, what other major accomplishments did he have?  He didn’t get us into a really major war and he kept things peaceful with the Soviet Union.  After that, Reagan’s actual record is not very good from a libertarian perspective.  He increased spending, increased deficits, increased payroll taxes, and did not shut down any major agencies.

Sowell is right in the fact that Reagan went over the Democrats’ heads in reducing income tax rates.  He brought his message directly to the people.

Sowell says: “Contrary to the thinking — or lack of thinking — among today’s Republican leaders, Reagan did not go to these Democratic voters and pander to them by offering them a watered-down version of what the Democrats were offering. He took his case to them and talked — yes, TALKED — to let them know what his own agenda offered to them and to the country.”

In other words, it wasn’t Reagan talking to Democratic politicians that made a difference.  It was Reagan talking directly to the American people.  The people then overwhelmingly demanded that the Democrats in Congress support Reagan’s tax cut proposals.  Unless a politician was in a heavily Democratic state or district, he felt threatened with his job.  They listened to their constituents because the public opinion was so overwhelming.

You don’t reduce the size and scope of government by convincing politicians of the merits of your philosophy.  You do it by convincing politicians that their jobs are at stake if they don’t go along with you.

The only way to convince politicians is to get public opinion strongly on your side.  If you want to get rid of the Department of Education or end U.S. foreign interventions, you aren’t going to do it by speaking logically to politicians.  You are going to do it by speaking logically to the American people and getting them on your side.  Only then will politicians listen.

Luckily, I think Sowell got this last point correct.  He understands the need to get the American people on the side of liberty (or whatever side he is on) in order to convince Democrat politicians to go along with it.  Unfortunately, Sowell needs to realize that the American people need to put that same pressure on the Republican politicians because most of them are not really interested in reducing government either.  They will do it if they have to do it in order to keep their jobs.