Libertarian Thoughts on Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s candidacy for president of the United States has been somewhat unique.  It is not unique in the same sense as Ron Paul’s campaigns, but there are a few similarities.

There is obviously a tide of discontent in the nation as several outsiders have made a splash.  Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have both done surprisingly well.  Although Sanders is a sitting U.S. senator, he is still something of an outsider in the sense that he is not in favor with the establishment.

These two candidates have tapped into the discontent.  While I think their proposed solutions are way off base for the most part, they are acknowledging that major problems exist.  Americans don’t want to be told that everything is fine when they know that everything is not fine.

I have seen a wide range of reaction from libertarians on the Trump candidacy.  I would like to clarify my own positions and present a libertarian perspective.

While Trump is nothing close to being a libertarian, there are certain positions that can be encouraging for libertarians.

The most divisive thing about Trump is his politically incorrect rhetoric.  I think this is divisive even amongst libertarians.  In my opinion, some of the things he says are stupid and childish.  He sometimes sounds like a third-grader calling another kid names.  In addition, there are a few things Trump has said and done that really probably are offensive.

With that said, I think Trump’ political incorrectness is one of the most refreshing things about him.  He is not anti-women as many accuse.  He insults men at about the same rate as women.  The bottom line is that Trump attacks others after he himself has been attacked.  Perhaps it is childish and immature, but his “victims” are usually the ones who started it.

I just get so tired of listening to politicians mince their words.  They are so afraid to say anything that might offend someone.  They don’t want the wrath of the establishment and the mainstream media.  For this, Trump is a nice change.

Another nice thing to say is that Trump cannot be bought, or at least not easily.  This bugs the establishment to no end.  So although Trump ultimately takes many establishment positions, the establishment still hates him because the elites feel they cannot fully control him.

Trump has also been decent on foreign policy some of the time.  He is not afraid to call the Iraq War exactly what it is – a complete disaster.  It is nice that we have come far enough where he can say this in a Republican race and he is not instantly disqualified.

Trump has also been decent when it comes to dealing with Russia.  Of course, compared to the other Republican candidates, that is not hard.  He says we should let Putin defeat ISIS if they want to take on that role.  He says we should talk to Putin and deal with him in a civilized manner.  In other words, Trump does not want to provoke a war with Russia.

Unfortunately, Trump is quick to contradict himself and talk big about dropping bombs and defeating other countries.

On economics, Trump is terrible for the most part.  His tax plan may be one of the best of the candidates out there, but again, that isn’t saying much.  He is terrible on free trade and he offers little in the way of specific spending cuts.

In terms of civil liberties, I get quite concerned as a libertarian.  While I like some of Trump’s political incorrectness, I don’t like it in terms of his collectivist thinking with foreigners, and even Muslims.

This country has a blemish (one of many) for setting up internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II.  This was the wonderful (note the sarcasm) F.D.R. who did this.  This is the guy hailed by so-called progressives, and even many conservatives.  If something similar were to happen again – say, to Muslims – then Trump would be just the kind of guy to implement it.

And that is the main problem with Trump.  He shows occasional streaks of being a major authoritarian.  We just don’t know what we are going to get if he gets in the White House.

From what I have heard and seen, Trump actually seems like a gentleman, despite his public battles.  He may be less corrupt and less deceptive than most of the others.  It is hard to imagine that Trump could be any worse than a Hillary Clinton, or Jeb Bush, or Marco Rubio, or even Ben Carson.  At this point, Trump actually seems far less likely to start another major war.

As a libertarian, I will not support Trump with any money or any votes.  Still, I think he has been good so far in terms of shaking things up.  It is nice to see the establishment worry, and it is nice to see political correctness take a step back.

If Trump actually makes it to the White House, I really don’t know what to expect.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers.

I write this blog from a libertarian perspective and I don’t hesitate in continually criticizing the U.S. government.  But I have to make a clear distinction between country and government.

While there are a lot of things to be critical of, I am also quick to acknowledge the great things we enjoy in the United States in today’s world.

I say that we live in contradictory times.  Due to government spending, government regulation, and Federal Reserve inflation, times are tough.  In terms of meeting basic needs, the 1950s generation may have had it better than us today.

But I would not want to trade places with someone in the 1950s.  It might be a little harder to pay our bills, but we enjoy enormous wealth and choices that did not exist at that time.  They didn’t even have microwave ovens then.  They certainly didn’t have computers or cell phones.  Some people had television, but it was rarely more than one per household.  You had your choice of a couple of channels, which you could change by getting up off the couch and going up to the tv.

I think Thanksgiving is a time that we should be thankful for what we have because we don’t do it enough.  We need to acknowledge the good things we have in life.  This definitely includes friends and family, but it also includes our material wealth that makes our lives easier.  We don’t have to go out and work on a farm for 12 hours a day and still have to worry about surviving.

While I think we need a lot more liberty, it doesn’t mean we can’t be thankful for what we do have.  And at least we aren’t living in some poor country, or worse, a war-torn country.  The U.S. government is always at war, but most of it is happening elsewhere.

I try to remind fellow libertarians not to be grouchy all the time.  Other people will not want to be around you.  Be a happy libertarian.  You can still defend your principles seriously while maintaining a positive attitude.

Enjoy your time with friends and family, and find your own freedom.

Black Friday and Bad Economics

As Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) approaches, we will get to hear all of the economic analysis surrounding this one day, along with expectations of the rest of the Christmas shopping season.

We will hear reports about whether sales are as strong as expected.  We will hear about whether consumers are spending more or less than last year.  We will hear about whether consumer spending will lead to a stronger overall economy.

Along with all of this, we will hear some really bad economic analysis.

How many times do I have to hear that two-thirds of the U.S. economy is based on consumer spending?

The so-called professionals can talk about this as much as they want, but it doesn’t change the reality.  Spending does not help economic growth or lead to economic growth no matter how often the Keynesian economists say it.

Actually, it isn’t just the hardcore Keynesian economists that believe this.  Unfortunately, most people believe this major economic fallacy.

Consumer spending does not cause economic growth.  If you can understand this one point, you are ahead of 99% of the population.

A society gets richer based on production.  To be clear, this must be production in accordance with consumer demand.  Production does no good if people do not want the things that are being produced.

This is why government spending is so wasteful.  Even if politicians were noble in their attempts to better society, it is impossible for them to do so through government spending.  There is no way anyone can know what other people want.  The only way is to let the market process work and for people to vote with their money.

The government could set up a program to have Apple produce 250 million iPads so that every American adult could own one.  This would be “production”, but it would be a massive misallocation of resources.  The problem is that not everyone wants an iPad.  The people who really want one probably already own one.

Some people may want an iPad but don’t buy one because it is not a high enough priority on their list of wants and needs.  If your air conditioner isn’t working in the middle of summer and you have to pay to get it fixed, this is likely going to be a higher priority for most people over buying a new iPad.  Only a free market can properly allocate resources in accordance with consumer demand.

We hear so often about the supposed need for government to encourage consumer spending.  But consumer spending does not drive economic growth any more than eating vegetables makes more vegetables grow out of the ground.

Consumer spending can be a reflection of production.  It can also be a reflection of consumer sentiment and whether people feel the need to save more money.  But we should never confuse cause and effect.  We should never confuse correlation with causation.

Spending does not drive overall production.  In a free market, consumer spending can direct resources into certain sectors.  If a lot of people are buying iPads, then Apple may choose to direct more resources towards making more iPads in anticipation that the demand will continue.

But here is the key fact that must always be acknowledged.  You can only consume what has first been produced.  It is impossible to consume something that hasn’t been produced.

If people wanting to spend money is all it took for economic growth, then why would the United States be so much richer than many other countries on the planet?  Do people not think that those living in Ethiopia or Cambodia want more?  I’m sure that most Ethiopians would like to have a big screen television, a smartphone, and a nice new car.  Do they just need to spend more to get all of this stuff?

When it is put in those terms, it is easier to see the ridiculousness of the argument.  Wanting things does not make them appear.  Buying things does not automatically make us richer.  It is the savings and capital investment that lead to increased production that makes us richer.

Think about consumer spending for a family.  If you look at consumer spending only, it can tell you something about a family, but it is a very incomplete picture.

Imagine two families that each spend $100,000 per year.  If you knew this fact alone, it doesn’t tell you that much.  It does tell you that they are probably relatively rich by world standards.  The families are probably not from a third-world country.  They are likely to be making an income that is at least close to the amount they are spending.

But maybe one family earns $95,000 per year and is going deeper into debt.  This family has no savings and the interest payments on the credit cards keep building.  This spending is unsustainable.

Maybe the other family earns $150,000 after taxes and is saving $50,000 per year.  Maybe they already have a net worth over a million dollars.  This family will get to a point where they can live off of their assets and not worry about working any more.  Or they can increase their consumption well beyond $100,000 per year.

We certainly would never say that a family is rich because they are spending $100,000 per year.  It might be one sign that they are potentially well off, but that is about all that can be said.

Spending does not lead to economic growth.  It is more of a reflection of past productivity.  It is also impacted by expectations for future productivity.

If sales on Black Friday are higher than expected, maybe it is an indication that we will not have a recession in the near future.  It doesn’t really tell us if economic growth is strong or not though.  Maybe people are spending based on credit card debt.  Maybe they are spending based on expectations of a higher income in the future. Maybe some are spending money based on prior savings.

The same can be said if Black Friday and overall holiday sales are lower than expected.  It might indicate a coming recession, as more people are being conservative with their money.  Many people may be trying to pay down debt or save up more emergency money.

In some ways, decreased sales has a positive aspect.  It means more people are likely being responsible with their money.  It hopefully means that some people are saving money for a rainy day instead of spending it all on Christmas gifts.

That is the problem with looking at spending though.  We don’t know if the spending is depleting resources or if there is still adequate saving occurring even with the spending.

It is ultimately savings and capital investment that leads to greater productivity and a higher standard of living.  If greater productivity leads to greater consumption, then that is the reward for people in a society.  They can consume what has been produced, because you can only consume what is first produced.  Even Santa Claus can only deliver gifts that have been produced.

Libertarian Debate on Immigration

There are many debates that occur within the libertarian movement.  There are arguments between minarchists, anarchists, and constitutionalists.  There are never-ending arguments over tactics.  There are debates over seemingly small issues.

Abortion can be a contentious debate, but I think most libertarians have actually come to accept both sides on this.  It is not an argument over the non-aggression principle.  It is really an argument over when life begins and when a person becomes a person with rights.

Those who are “pro-life” typically believe that life begins at conception.  Therefore, it makes sense that they believe abortion is murder.  Those who are “pro-choice” typically don’t believe that life begins at conception, or at least don’t recognize the fetus as a person with rights.  Therefore, it makes sense that they believe it should be a woman’s right to choose.  There are certainly varying positions on the subject, but most libertarians have really come to grips with the subject in that most at least respect most opposing views.

There is one issue though where the same can’t be said.  The issue of immigration is front and center now and libertarian opinion varies greatly on this.  And while many will respect the people on the other side of the issue, they really don’t respect the position at all.  We know this is a difficult issue just because it is so hard for libertarians to agree.

And we are not just talking about all self-identified libertarians.  After all, Glenn Beck has referred to himself as a libertarian even though he is nowhere close.  I am talking about hardcore libertarians, most of whom believe in voluntarism or some form of the non-aggression principle.

This debate really hit home for me this week when I saw a complete difference of opinion from two of my favorite and most respected libertarians.  They are Lew Rockwell (of and the Mises Institute) and Jim Babka (of

Rockwell published a piece called “Open Borders: A Libertarian Reappraisal“.  It was based on a talk that he delivered at a Mises Institute event.

As the title suggests, Rockwell considers the idea of open borders to not be a libertarian solution.  He suggests the immigration debate should revolve around private property rights.  On this, I don’t think he would get a lot of disagreement from hardcore libertarians, although I can’t be sure.

It is more interesting when Rockwell addresses the issue of access to public roads, public transportation, public buildings, etc.  He basically says that taxpayers are the true owners of the public property.  This is probably the more controversial point with libertarians in his piece.  He also suggests decentralization, which is of course hard for any libertarian to argue with.

Jim Babka responded to Lew Rockwell’s piece.  Babka’s piece was published by Students for Liberty.  He asked Rockwell if he wanted to publish it on his site, but Rockwell politely declined.  Babka said he understands, and it is understandable that Rockwell doesn’t want to get into a big debate about it on his great website.

Babka takes issue with the claim that public spaces are really private property.  He takes issue with Rockwell for referring to “forced association” for property owners.

It is hard for me to do justice to both pieces and I would encourage people to read both sides.

I think Babka’s most powerful argument is where he wrote the following:

“This new, forced association principle clashes with the ZAP.  To stop aliens who are walking, job seeking, purchasing, and house renting, there will be cases where someone must be prepared to shoot them. Who, amongst the libertarians, is willing to pull the first trigger?”

When Babka refers to the ZAP, he is referring to the zero-aggression principle.  This is by far his most powerful argument because that is always the dilemma libertarians face.  If you believe in some law, are you prepared to shoot somebody who violates it?

I have used this argument before when talking about laws that would require banks to engage in 100% reserve requirements.  If banks are openly lending via fractional reserves and making voluntary contracts with other parties, who is going to step in with a gun to tell them they can’t do this?  Are you going to point the gun at the banker or the person depositing the money?

It is possible to have laws and penalties that don’t require the use of a gun, but we don’t need to get into that issue here.

In terms of immigration, if you want someone out of the country, then you are basically going to have to use force.  It becomes even trickier if the person is not on “public property”.

What if I invite someone from a foreign land to stay at my house?  Are there libertarians who would advocate that the government police bust down my door to capture the immigrant who is here illegally?  Or will he only be kidnapped once he steps foot on a public sidewalk or road?

There could be legitimate answers to these questions, but I feel the need to ask them.  For me, they have not been satisfactorily answered.

Even on the immigration issue, there is far more common ground between most libertarians than what they might realize.  The major debate arises because we don’t live in a libertarian society.  It is like trying to have a debate over whether there should be prayer in the public schools.  How can you even take a position if you don’t believe in government schools?

If the U.S. government did not have an interventionist foreign policy, then this would likely end most threats of terrorism from overseas.  We can’t be 100% safe, but that includes the people who already live here.

Another major factor is welfare.  Many people – libertarians included – criticize immigration because so many people come here and collect welfare benefits.  Of course, in a libertarian society, there would be no government-financed welfare.  All welfare would be voluntary.

I have found it funny for a long time now how Americans get so worked up over welfare going to immigrants.  Why don’t they get so worked up about Americans on welfare?

If welfare actually worked and helped people in the long run (which it doesn’t), then I would think that immigrants might be more justified in getting welfare.  Someone born and raised in the United States has a lot more opportunity than some Mexican from a poor rural village.  Who would be more deserving of welfare if anyone is deserving of it?

Of course, a third issue – which plays a major role in this debate – is that government simply owns too much.  If we didn’t have all of this government-owned land, government roads, government buildings, etc., then it would be much easier to resolve on the basis of private property rights.

Libertarians can keep debating the immigration issue, but I don’t think it will have a lot of impact one way or another.  I have seen too many anti-immigration arguments based on utilitarian arguments though.  I have been hearing too many libertarians saying that more immigration will lead to less liberty in the future and that is why we need to oppose it.  But if that is the case, then you could just as easily say that about almost anything.  “We can’t legalize the use of cocaine because all of the drug addicts will keep us from having a more libertarian society.”  I hope you see my point here.

Libertarians must stay united on the most important questions of foreign policy and government welfare and government ownership.  If we move in a more libertarian direction on these issues, then the immigration “problem” will not be so much of a problem any more.

Austrian Business Cycle Theory Takes Time

When it comes to the overall economic picture, sometimes it is a good idea to take a step back and look at the big picture.

I am a firm believer in the Austrian Business Cycle Theory.  You can call it whatever you want, but when a central bank creates money out of thin air and releases it into the economy, it has its consequences.

It may not mean significantly higher prices right away – or at all if judging by recent history – but it misallocates resources.  It translates into capital going into certain sectors than it otherwise would have.  It means that production is lower in terms of meeting consumer demand.

With loose money usually comes lower interest rates.  This policy is especially bad because it discourages savings and encourages more debt.  Interest rates are an important mechanism (price) in our world, as they basically tell us the price of money.  When there is a shortage of savings, higher interest rates will draw people into saving more.  The free market is self-correcting.

The problem is when the central bank and government distort interest rates.  It sends false signals, which can contribute to the artificial booms and the subsequent busts.  Artificially low interest rates mean less savings, even if more saving is needed in the economy.

One thing we know from the Austrian Business Cycle Theory that can help us with predicting the economy and helping us with our investments is that loose money and artificially low interest rates will cause unsustainable bubbles/ booms that eventually go bust.

The Fed (or any central bank) does not need to stop its loose monetary policies in order to bring on a bust.  At some point, a bust becomes inevitable unless the central bank continues to accelerate its rate of money creation.  If the central bank keeps accelerating its monetary inflation, then you will eventually end up with hyperinflation and a bust that is far worse than any other.

So what is the status of our present situation?

Since there are billions of moving parts in the economy, we can’t know precisely what has happened and where we are.  But we can still take a look at the big picture.

Since the fall of 2008 (the word “fall” has two meanings here), the Fed has increased the adjusted monetary base by five times.  In normal circumstances, one would expect this to cause massive price inflation.  But in our crazy economic world of the last decade, most of this newly created money went into bank reserves, thus helping keep a lid on price inflation.

While the federal funds rate still sits near zero, the Fed’s monetary policy has actually been tight for about a year now.  It was just over a year ago that the Fed announced the end of its latest round of quantitative easing.  This was the end of QE3.

Under normal circumstances, we should expect a recession to be coming soon.  The Fed has stopped the flow of new money, so there should be an inevitable bust.  The problem we face is figuring out how big and when.

The massive excess reserves built up by banks makes this much trickier than in the past.  If banks continue relatively tight lending (at least compared to a decade ago), then a recession may be close at hand.

But what if the banks start lending out more money?  All of a sudden, this cancels out the Fed’s tight monetary policy.  It could actually mean inflation while the Fed sits on its hands.  It would be inflation via fractional reserve lending.

In this sense, the Fed’s interest rate policy is somewhat important.  If the Fed does raise interest rates, it can only feasibly do so by increasing the rate it pays on bank reserves.  If it does this, then this will just encourage banks to keep a lot of money locked up in reserves.

For this reason, I tend to lean more towards seeing a recession within the next year rather than later.  That is with the assumption that the Fed does raise the federal funds rate, even if gradually, and it also assumes that the Fed doesn’t start another round of quantitative easing.

We have already seen a bust in the oil bubble over the last year and a half.  Remember that the price went from about $100 to $40 in a relatively short time period.

I think the most vulnerable bubble now is in stocks.  But in some ways, I don’t really care too much about stocks.  I care about stocks more as an indicator than I actually care about stock valuations.

What matters most to most people is the employment picture.  If we hit a recession, unemployment is likely to rise again.  Wages are likely to go down.

It is important to remember that corrections are needed when the damage has already been done.  I can see that the American middle class is struggling tremendously.  Wages are not keeping up with expenses.  This in itself points to a necessary correction.

Recessions (corrections) hurt because some people lose their jobs.  But the unemployment is a result of the previous misallocation of resources.  The correction is needed to put those resources to their proper uses.  The correction also has the benefit of lowering expenses for most people.

We will keep an eye on what the Fed is doing.  More importantly, we will keep an eye on what the banks are doing.  If the Fed keeps monetary policy tight and the banks do not expand lending, then we should expect a recession in the somewhat near future.

Still, we can’t time the Austrian Business Cycle Theory.  Sometimes these things take time to unravel.  It takes a while for the mistakes to be realized by the marketplace.

Blowback in Paris

The unfortunate terrorist attacks in Paris are likely going to lead to even more violence and turmoil in the world.  It is also going to lead to bigger government.

After multiple attacks across Paris – almost simultaneously – there are going to be further divisions of public opinion.  Assuming that everything is as it seems, then there is little question that this is a classic case of blowback.

To be clear, this isn’t to fault any of the victims of the attack.  They are victims.  They are in no way directly responsible for what the French government has done in the past – at least that we know of.  Most of the victims are probably not even indirectly responsible.

So this is not an excuse for the terrorists who committed this atrocious act.  But I have to make this clear because there are always child-like responses when people talk of blowback.  They will claim that we are blaming the victims or that we are saying the victims somehow deserved it.  This is not true at all.

The primary victims of the attacks are the people who died and who were injured and their close friends and family.  Unfortunately, the French people are going to be secondary victims, not just because of the increased fear, but also because of the response of their government.  It is already in lockdown mode and it is going to be something of a military police state for a while now.

If the French government responds with even more aggression – likely against people who were in no way involved in these attacks – then there will be new victims in the future.  They will be victims of the French government.  These will not be called terrorist attacks, even though innocent people will die.

But the world didn’t start on November 13, 2015 in France.  It isn’t a story of the French just sitting there minding their own business.  Perhaps most of the victims were just sitting there minding their own business, but unfortunately for them, their government was not.

This is a classic case of blowback.  It appears to be an attack by ISIS or some kind of group that came from the Middle East – most likely Syria.  The U.S. government has been trying to overthrow the Syrian government for several years now, even though Assad is probably one of the less hostile dictators.

The U.S. government and its allies are also responsible for the existence of ISIS.  If there had been no Iraq War, there would be no ISIS.  Even worse, it seems that the U.S. government is fighting ISIS at one moment and then is actually arming ISIS and allies of ISIS at another.  The U.S. government is arming rebels to go after Assad.  It has all basically led to a war-torn region, particularly in Syria.  It has killed a lot of people.  It has driven out Christians who were accepted under Assad.  It has turned millions of lives upside down.

This is one of the main reasons there is now a refugee crisis in Western Europe.  People tend not to like living in regions where bombs are going off on a consistent basis.

The French government has been something of an ally to the U.S. government.  The French military has been dropping bombs on Syria since late September.  It was already supposedly going after ISIS in Iraq.

How many people died in Syria from French bombs?  And when that happened, were there candlelight vigils being held in France or the United States or anywhere else outside of that region?  Was it headline news?

For some reason, many westerners think that some lives are just more valuable than others, even when it involves completely innocent people.  Most of the people from Syria are not terrorists.  They are not inherently bad people.  But when a country drops bombs and kills innocent people, it tends to make friends and family members mad.

We can be fairly certain that the family members of the victims in Paris are mad right now and some of them probably want revenge.  It is just as certain that family members of innocent Syrians who died from bombs being dropped on them are mad and seeking revenge.

Of course, we shouldn’t seek revenge on a whole country.  Nobody should.  This is group think.  If you are going to seek revenge at all, it should be for those who are directly responsible for the violent acts in the first place.  This goes both ways.

Therefore, the terrorists that just committed the murders in Paris are guilty of murder.  But the military people who drop bombs on innocent people in Syria and elsewhere, along with those who issue the orders, are also guilty of murder.

Unfortunately, violence usually begets more violence.  It is a bad cycle that has to end at some point.  Only people responsible for a crime should be punished for that crime.  It shouldn’t be a whole country or society or religious group or race or any other group of people.  Individuals are responsible for their own actions.

The people of Syria are not responsible for the actions of some terrorists.  I am not responsible for the actions of the U.S. government.  Most French people are not responsible for the actions of the French government – at least in a direct way.

This violence has to stop at some point.  We need more people to stand up and say “enough”.  It is time to end the violence.

Republican Debate and Carly Fiorina

I watched most of the Republican debate on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.  It was hosted by Fox Business Network.

First, it was a bit more tame than previous debates.  The debate moderators purposely kept it mostly on policy questions instead of more personal questions.

CNBC took a beating during and after the last debate.  It gave Ted Cruz a great opening to attack the media and the questioning.  When I briefly tuned in to anyone associated with Fox News after this recent debate, it is no surprise that they were patting themselves on the back.

Still, I do think the moderators did a half decent job.  It wasn’t all of the questions I would have asked, but it was about as good as I could have hoped for coming from the mainstream media.

I thought Donald Trump basically held his own.  That doesn’t mean I agree with him on most things, but I think he will hold his lead in the polls for now.  He is toning things down a bit, but he better be careful not to get too conservative with his words.  It was amusing when he told Carly Fiorina to stop interrupting when she was interrupting Rand Paul.

Rand Paul did a much better job.  I’m not sure I liked the smirk on his face a few times because a few of his lines came across as too scripted.  Still, he did an overall better job than he has done before and his message was a bit closer to libertarianism.  Unfortunately for him, it was probably much too little and much too late.  He should have been pounding away on his father’s message this whole campaign.  Instead, he abandoned it and his campaign has been a disaster.

As things go deeper and closer to Iowa and New Hampshire, it is looking less likely that one of the hardcore establishment candidates will get the nomination.  John Kasich was really annoying and he can throw in the towel now.

Jeb Bush is also on his last legs.  He may not even make it to the New Hampshire primary.  It will be nice to see the Bush dynasty taken down, hopefully for good.

Ben Carson was boring and tired as usual.  I think as people get to know him, they are liking him less.  We’ll see if that holds.  He looks like the one person that may challenge Trump in Iowa though.

The new establishment favorite is Marco Rubio.  He is a slick speaker.  At this point, it looks as though the establishment may just completely abandon Bush and put their hopes in Rubio, who they can at least control.

Ted Cruz has been doing well, but I’m not sure that he can get the nomination.  He still looks and sounds like an alien.  He is really good sometimes on domestic policies from a libertarian point of view.  Unfortunately, it all gets canceled out and more when he starts on foreign policy and all of his militarist solutions.

Perhaps the most interesting one to listen to was Carly Fiorina.  After her initial surge in the polls, she has fallen back quite a bit.

She is really articulate.  On domestic issues, she made some really good points.  She was talking about baseline budgeting and how we need to get rid of that.  She was talking about taking law-making powers away from federal bureaucracies.  This is a subject that I hold dear.  It goes along with the proposed Write the Laws Act by  If Congress would stop delegating its power to make new laws, then we would be so much better off and the economy would be so much better off.

But just because Fiorina is articulate and sounded good on some economic issues, it doesn’t mean she isn’t a crazed militarist.  She said she won’t talk to Putin.  It is coming out now that she lied about how she met him somewhere other than a Green Room.

Florina said she wants to build up the military to intimidate Putin.  She said she wants to conduct very aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States.  In other words, she is nuts.

By the way, this was Rand Paul’s missed opportunity (well, one of many in this campaign).  He should have called her a nut.  He should have called her crazy.  He should have said that she purposely wants to start World War 3.  He should have absolutely hammered her after she made these statements, but he didn’t.

I know that many of these candidates talk a good game on economics, yet they would be horrible once in office.  It is easy to constantly trick a lot of the Republican voters in this matter.  “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  What can you say about Republican voters who get fooled every election cycle?

Still, Cruz and Fiorina are quite articulate when it comes to economic policy and their rhetoric is pro free market in a lot of cases.  It is too bad that they are also two of the biggest war hawks up there.  It seems that the more conservative one gets, the better they are on economics and the more blood thirsty they are in terms of foreign policy.

I miss the last two presidential election cycles when we had Ron Paul running.  It was a rare time in history that people could hear a consistent truth.  He stood for free market economic policies and a non-interventionist policy.  We had it good then.

Now I always have to give disclaimers whenever I agree or disagree with someone.  I have to say that even though I like some of what he or she has to say on domestic policies, I don’t like them overall.  It is the same with Bernie Sanders.  I like some of what he has to say on foreign intervention (even though he is not a complete non-interventionist), but his economic policies are everything I stand against.

It is still easy with Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.  I disagree with almost everything they say.  And for the little I might agree with, I know they are lying.

The Struggling American Middle Class

Who are the presidential candidates who have done surprisingly well?  This isn’t a question of who you think will win or who is winning in the polls.  Who is doing better than expected?

I think there are three obvious choices: Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Bernie Sanders.  They are not establishment candidates.  They are outsiders, at least compared to most of the rest of the field.

Sanders is a senator, but he is a little out there in more ways than one.  The establishment could deal with Sanders, but they don’t really want to.  He actually shows some opposition to war and the spy state.

The establishment could learn to live with Ben Carson.  Again, they would much prefer someone they can fully control such as Bush or Rubio.

The establishment hates Donald Trump the most.  They would prefer Rand Paul at this point over Trump.  It isn’t that Trump holds a lot of views unfavorable to the establishment.  It is just that he can not be bought with money.

It is obvious that many American voters are fed up with the status quo and want to see something different.  This is why these three are doing well in the polls.  I don’t expect Sanders to overtake Clinton, but he is still doing surprisingly well.

With Trump and Sanders in particular, there is a common theme.  They are resonating with the public because they are feeling their pain.  Obviously Trump has nothing in common with the average middle class American in terms of dealing with financial struggles.  But he at least acknowledges their pain.

Sanders and Trump are continually saying that Americans are taking it on the chin.  I think people want this recognized because it is true.

Now their solutions are horrendous – Sanders more so than Trump.  But at least they are offering something.

If someone feels sick and goes to the doctor, most people would prefer a doctor who prescribes something or gives some kind of suggestion to get better, even if it ends up being wrong.  Most people will resent a doctor who tells the patient that it is all in their head and that they really aren’t sick.

In other words, many Americans are looking for some empathy.  They at least want it acknowledged that times are tough and that the middle class is getting royally screwed.

This is where Rand Paul really blew it.  He messed up a lot of things with his campaign, but this was such an easy message that he missed.  He should have simply agreed with Trump on the struggles of the middle class and then gone on to offer a different solution.

Rand Paul’s strategy from the beginning was to appeal to his father’s libertarian base, while also bringing in other conservatives who are far less libertarian, such as some Tea Party people.  Instead, Paul just turned off both factions with his wishy-washy answers.

But here was one issue where he could have told the truth and he really could have appealed to both factions.  He just needed to strongly acknowledge the plight of the middle class.  And his answer should be less taxes, less spending, and less inflation.  Paul and his advisors completely missed the boat on this one.

The basic problems in the economy right now is too much government spending, too much government regulation, and too much Federal Reserve monetary inflation.  This has resulted in the cost-of-living rising faster than incomes.  In other words, real incomes are falling.

The consumer price index can help us see trends in consumer prices, but it is not an accurate reflection of our cost-of-living in comparison to our wages.  In most cases, the cost-of-living raises that people are getting in their jobs are not even enough to offset the increased premiums in their health insurance.  And while prices aren’t skyrocketing for things such as food and cars, they are going up.

Life is expensive and wages are not keeping up.  They especially aren’t keeping up when you take out all of the taxes.

This is really where most of the candidates fell short.  Trump and Sanders have exploited this opportunity just by pointing out reality.  Sanders wants to tax the rich and have a bigger welfare state.  Trump wants to tax the rich too, although to a lesser extent.  He wants to start a trade war with China.

They are both bad on economics.  But at least they recognize that the patient is sick.  The patient wants a doctor who believes him.  The patient doesn’t want to be told that everything is fine when he knows that everything is not fine.

Making More Money

When it comes to money advice, I take a lot of pieces from a lot of different people.

With Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, there are pieces of valid advice.  I generally don’t like their investment advice.  They are usually anti-gold.  They do not have a good understanding of the fiat monetary system that we deal with in today’s world.

I agree with Ramsey and Orman on buying term life insurance, as opposed to whole life insurance.  I tend to agree with them on issues of debt, particularly credit card debt.  So while I don’t agree with some of their investment advice, I still find you can learn something from listening to them, as long as you know what not to learn also.

I believe people should attempt to live below their means.  This means spending less than they make.  There are exceptions to this rule.  I have less sympathy for someone earning a high income.  Someone who is single and on their own making $40,000 per year or less is probably struggling quite a bit to get by.  I can understand that it is hard to live below their means, even though some people are able to do it.

There are families making $200,000 per year that spend almost everything they make.  This is a big mistake.  Unless they are living in a really high cost of living area such as New York City, there is no reason they can not cut back comfortably.  They are probably wasting money at this level.  I know taxes will take up a big chunk, but there is no reason a family in this situation can’t start saving at least $10,000 per year while still living quite comfortably.  It should really be more at this level.

Sometimes people just simply need to make more money though.  Someone earning $40,000 per year is just never going to get rich, barring some stroke of luck with a very low probability.  Most people aren’t going to win the lottery no matter how much they dream about it.

Even at $80,000 per year, you are probably never going to be rich.  If you are frugal and make good decisions, you will live comfortably.  You may even get to retire one day in some comfort.

Still, I think a lot of people just simply need to make more money.  This means adding value to other people’s lives.  People like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey are good on the spending side of things.  If you want to get extreme, you can look at Mr. Money Mustache or the Penny Hoarder.

But you can’t neglect making more money.  Sometimes this just means investing more time in yourself, even if you don’t initially see a monetary payoff.

I look for inspiration from different people such as James Altucher, Robert Kiyosaki, Peter Voogd, Tim Ferriss, T. Harv Eker, and various other people.  I don’t need to agree with someone on everything to get inspiration from them.

Sometimes you need to explore other options on making money.  This may mean a side business or a different career.

It doesn’t mean you take out a loan and start a business.  It means you explore your options.  You invest minimal money.  Instead, you invest your time.  You can always invest in yourself by learning more.  You can always learn new marketing skills, computer skills, or people skills.

So while spending less than you earn is important, it is even more important to increase the amount you earn.  If you make a lot of money, it is easy to spend less than you earn if you have any decent amount of discipline.

While U.S. government regulations are in some ways more burdensome now than ever before, there are also more ways to make money now than ever before.  Don’t ignore the opportunities that are out there.  Even in a bad economy, there are people out there with money to spend.  You just have to figure out what they want.

Harry Browne on Anarchy

I still occasionally turn to the late Harry Browne for wisdom.  I just read an old article from 1997 entitled What do Libertarians Want?

While not specifically mentioning anarchy, Browne essentially addresses the topic in this article.  I had also heard him discuss this on a radio show one time, and this article seems consistent with what I remember him saying.

The last paragraph is the most telling.  Browne states:

“If we can reduce government to a fraction of its present size, it will become profitable for the best minds in the world to discover and offer methods of replacing the remaining governmental programs with non-coercive market institutions.  We don’t have to devise those solutions now, and we don’t even have to wonder whether it’s possible to devise such solutions.  It simply isn’t relevant – and it won’t be until we’ve moved much closer to our goal of reducing government to a much smaller size.”

I don’t get into this topic a lot, but it does occasionally come up in libertarian circles.  I have written before on the subject of panarchy.

I think some libertarians who consider themselves anarchists make a major mistake.  They can wish for anarchy for themselves, but they should never seek to force this idea onto others.  If someone else wants to live under a particular type of government, they should be free to do so.

The problem with the state as we know it today is that we can’t opt out.  If we could opt out or choose a different state to live under, then we would have liberty, assuming that other states respected this view.

I have not been involved in many discussions on the idea of anarchy with non-libertarians, although it has occasionally come up.  Even with the concession that anyone should be able to live under a government of their choosing, I tend to struggle with the issue of the courts.  How would a justice system operate in a society without a state?  Who would decide on putting someone in jail who is a violent threat to society?

It’s not to say that I haven’t attempted to answer such questions in my own mind.  I just have trouble articulating the answer to my own satisfaction.  I believe this is one area that libertarian anarchists have failed to answer.  I have tried to read what has been written on this subject, even by greats such as Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and Tom Woods.  Still, nothing has satisfied me yet on this topic.

That is why, as of right now, I basically default to Harry Browne’s position, along with the position of panarchy.  With the occasional discussion with a non-libertarian on the idea of anarchism, I get asked questions about how the roads would work, how the fire department would work, how the country would be defended, how the court system would work, etc.  I feel I can adequately answer the first three questions, but I still struggle with the court question.

But in such a discussion, I ask the non-libertarian if he favors getting the state completely out of education.  In other words, parents should be free to send or not send their kids to school.  And if they do send them to school, they will have to pay for all of it, or rely on charity.

I will also ask the person if he believes we should abolish the FDA and rely on the free market for regulation.  I will ask if he believes in getting rid of Social Security.  I will ask if he believes in legalizing all drugs.

If the person takes the non-libertarian position on any one of these – which it is highly likely he will take the non-libertarian position on most of these – then I have my response to get away from the question of anarchy.  I will say that if I can’t convince him to get the government completely out of education, then I am certainly not going to convince him to get the government out of building roads or defending the country.

I think this is similar to Harry Browne’s point.  It is ok for libertarians to have friendly debates about these topics amongst themselves.  We like to philosophize.  But there isn’t much point with non-libertarians unless you are just hitting them with a moral argument that the initiation of force is never acceptable.

I believe Harry Browne was correct in saying that we need to significantly reduce government, which will in turn allow the best minds in the world to figure out the rest.

When Browne wrote that article, the internet was just starting to take form.  We live in a different world now.  At that time, there were probably some libertarians who thought the state had to at least provide a postal service.  Now, we can see that the Post Office is becoming obsolete, and the little that the Post Office does do could easily be done by institutions in a free market.

Maybe one day we can get to a point where government is such a small part of our lives that the main political arguments in society will be between minarchists and anarchists.  We can only hope.