Freedom is fairness.
Absent from the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates, from the election thus far, and from the political discourse of this country in general.
What has been absent?
Ideas. Ideas have been absent. Strangely, and utterly, absent.
I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way.
In all four debates, the candidates stuck to the issues. They talked about Benghazi, tax rates, and energy sources. They didn't talk about economic theory. They didn't talk about political philosophy. They didn't get ideological. They may disagree on everything else, but they seem to agree on this one thing: don't talk about ideas.
It's as if a secret treaty has been struck. It's as if someone convinced all of the cognoscenti surrounding both campaigns to advise their candidates to stay away, as far away as possible, from being perceived as ideological. It's dangerous to be perceived as ideological these days. Be perceived as practical. Stick to your talking points. Don't tell them what you really think and explain why you think it. If you do, they – the voters and the media – they'll laugh at you. They value practical leaders. Practical leaders that can sit down to have a practical discussion. That can gesticulate and talk past each other ad nauseam about 'the facts' and what 'the facts say', while firing one statistic after another into the no-man's-land of a debate with no agreed upon context.
When ideas have made an appearance in the campaign, it has been as part of a rehearsed political stump speech: vague, trite aphorisms calculated to pander to one demographic or another. Throw-away rhetoric, not a proper explanation of what they believe and an explanation of the rigorous process of reasoning whereby they arrived at those conclusions.
Where their ideas are absent, ours must be present. Let's get clear on what we believe first, then decide which candidate suits our ideas best.
Where Ideas Come From
Let's speak in metaphors.
An idea, divorced from a body of thought, from a philosophy, is like a ship without an anchor, or a plant without roots.
Ideas are like ants. They come from somewhere, and they never come alone. The colony they come from used to be called a 'philosophy', and it has lots of ideas that work together in harmony.
An idea is like a door frame. A political philosophy is like a house. A political philosophy is a body of thought, a body of ideas, that can't just be assembled randomly – a door here, a window there. It has to be carefully designed and constructed to have structural integrity. The ideas have to be consistent with each other, to fit together, in order for the rooms to be livable. Otherwise, the whole thing would collapse at the first sign of logical analysis.
Where do ideas come from? Ideas come from philosophy.
Philosophy comes from pondering The Big Questions - about life, ethics, human nature, society, economics, and government. Wrestle with them long enough, and The Big Questions lead to Answers. That, is philosophy.
That part of philosophy that deals with political questions is known as Political Philosophy.
Once, not long ago, not only candidates, but any citizen who wished to consider him- or herself 'well-educated', would read, think, and discuss political philosophy. Those were the days when the names of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Smith, Marx, Bastiat, Hayek and Keynes were not unfamiliar.
Each of these philosophers wrestled with The Big Questions:
What is the meaning of life? Is there an objective morality, a 'right' and 'wrong'? Are there such things as 'human rights'? If so, what are they, where do they come from, why should they be respected, and how should they be protected? What is the relationship between an individual and society? What is the role of government? Where does it derive its power, and how should it be structured? What are its limits, if any? How should be people governed? What makes a law 'good' or 'bad'? What are the principles by which a government should tax, regulate, and pass laws? How would an Ideal State function? And so on…
Each of these philosophers' writings acknowledged and built upon, either directly or indirectly, the answers to these questions of those who had come before. People used to call it The Great Conversation, because it provided the context whereby citizens could engage in productive political discourse.
They used to have conversations like this:
“Oh, I see. Then you agree with Rousseau, that civil society is a trick perpetrated by the powerful on the weak in order to maintain their power or wealth, and that this departure from our natural state of freedom is the fundamental origin of inequality that must be corrected by the State?”
“Not quite. I agree with Rousseau that… But dispute the notion that… My position on the matter is…”
“But good sir, this line of argument is inconsistent. Your first statement contradicts your second, in that it…”
Why have these conversations disappeared from the face of the earth? It is, to me, a sad omen. We would do well to bring them back.
Along these lines…
Emblematic of the flaws of our present generation, this election has become about two men, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It's not even about their ideas anymore, either, it's about Big Bird. In previous generations, the debate would spin around ideas.
When a politician would run for office, the citizens used to ask them not just to explain their positions on the various issues then in play, but to go further, to ask them about their ideas. They not only wanted to know their ideas, they wanted to know where their ideas came from. They wanted to understand their political philosophy and their philosophy on life in general. They expected the candidate to be able to provide some exegesis of, if not the texts themselves, at least the lines of argument that shaped their thinking, as well as how they planned to apply that thinking to the problems at hand.
The most recent example I can think of is Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech, A Time for Choosing (text or video), in which he manages to explain, succinctly and coherently, his core philosophy and ideas. Anybody who listened to him that night left with a fairly clear idea of what he believed, and how those beliefs would translate into policy.
For at least a century now, the fundamental political debate in America has been about where this nation should fall along a spectrum of socialism on the Left and free-market capitalism on the Right, with Progressives offering the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too alternative.
One would expect the political debate in 2012 to be waged along these lines, but it has not been. It has been waged issue-by-issue, and neither candidate has chosen to revisit the fundamental philosophical questions of government.
A brief ideological history of the United States
It's worth embarking on a brief ideological history of the United States as a way of framing the present Election.
To this day, FDR remains the farthest left President and Ronald Reagan the farthest right we've had in America.
FDR whole-heartedly embraced socialism and massive government intervention in the economy, but stopped somewhere short of communism, which at the time, was relatively new, if not as an idea, as an idea in-practice, and the Soviet Union was its Great Experiment. As that experiment went horribly wrong and became increasingly a threat to our existence, the country distanced itself from those ideas, although it never dismantled the new machinery of State that FDR had put in place. The traumatic experience of the Great Depression, and the popular understanding (libertarians argue, a profound mis-understanding, but nonetheless…) that The New Deal had turned the economy around, prevented anyone from actually rolling the clock back.
Reagan whole-heartedly embraced capitalism and the free market. He did not believe in monetary stimulus, raising interest rates sharply to bring inflation down and restore the value of the dollar. He did not believe in fiscal stimulus, he cut back on domestic spending. He stimulated the economy by cutting taxes, deregulating, and aggressively fighting inflation. In so doing, Reagan was rejecting what had become the consensus for an entire generation, upheld by both Republicans and Democrats in-office, about what the Federal Government was “supposed to do” when managing the economy out of a recession - increase spending and lower interest rates - following a classic, FDR-esque, Keynesian “demand-side” policy. Many mainstream economists ridiculed him then, and the likes of Paul Krugman ridicule him now, but a resurgent school of libertarian economic thought that provided the intellectual authority behind what has since become known as “supply-side” economics.
Robert Mundell is the father of supply-side economics and won a nobel prize for his work in the field. While advising the Kennedy administration as a young economist, he realized that the policy recommendations of his Keynesian colleagues were exactly backwards. When inflation picked up, they advised raising taxes. When growth slowed, they advised lowering interest rates. Instead, when inflation picked up, they should have raised interest rates, and when growth slowed, they should have lowered taxes.
In an ideological history of the United States, FDR's presidency fundamentally altered the role, scope, and powers of the State, which became the post-war consensus, and then Reagan began the process of reversing that course and returning to a government more aligned with its traditional constitutional role.
Like FDR, Reagan's ideas had a lasting effect. Every president since has paid homage to them. But while a rhetorical “consensus” seemed to last for a long time, what is rarely discussed is that his successors quietly over-turned his policies almost immediately. Bush Sr. raised taxes. So did Clinton, who also raised spending, although a booming economy (who or what deserves the credit for this is up for debate) allowed him to balance the budget. Greenspan began a policy of monetary expansion at the Federal Reserve. George W. Bush lowered taxes, but he dramatically increased both domestic and military spending, while continuing the monetary expansion.
The Progressive Alternative?
In 2008, Barack Obama ran as a 'progressive' candidate, promising an end to an era of partisanship, and the beginning of an era where free-market capitalism would co-operate with the government to deliver outcomes for the public good.
That sounds nice. The question is, is this a real ideological alternative? Can we have our cake and eat it too?
Progressives think of themselves as a new breed with novel ideas that will transcend party lines to solve age-old debates. They reject the classic battle lines of Left and Right. Obama wanted to remake the political landscape like FDR and Reagan, but by redrawing battle lines around a new progressive agenda focused on health care, energy, and the environment.
Ultimately, though, choices had to be made. As the Obama administration increased spending, it came at the expense of an ever-larger deficit, that has to be paid for either by increasing taxes or debasing the currency. While the spending may or may not be well-structured and necessary (not arguing that point here), not every “investment” pays off (see: Solyndra et al).
So, in the end, the Progressive democrat cannot escape the Left-Right spectrum, and in practice, governs from the left (farther left than Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, or Lula de Silva). In 2012, the President's re-election campaign reflects this shift, and his rhetoric has become increasingly populist.
When you meet a progressive, don't expect anything all-too-different from a traditional Keynesian socialist that believes in redistribution, intervention, and government institutions as the primary drivers of change and progress in society, other than perhaps an understanding that capitalism does ultimately pay the bills.
Smartly enough, though, progressives hate being called socialists, because the socialist brand is not in-style. They prefer to associate themselves with the classic big government issues - the environment, health care, education, energy, and so forth - but don't want the labels. They want to be seen as capable of managing these issues better than their predecessors, endowed with new insights and ideas.
An unholy consensus
This should be deeply concerning to us.
Take the financial crisis of 2008, for example.
For the most part, both Republicans and Democrats felt that the government should step in to save the system. Their stance on “the issue” was, at least in its broad strokes, identical.
So one might assume that two candidates, debating this issue, had identical economic philosophies as well.
But, in reality, the convergence is, at best, incidental - an exception that proved the rule that their two policy trajectories would, over time, lead in very different, if not nearly opposite, directions.
These moments of unholy consensus prove fatal when candidates do not clearly differentiate themselves ideologically.
Without demanding ideological clarity and debate from our candidates, we allow practical similarities of opinion on the issues immediately confronting us to obscure the differences on the fundamental governing principles that matter.
There are several complex causes for the crash of the financial markets in 2008 that sent the global economy into a recession we're still not out of. Most of them were both predictable and preventible, some by the banks, and some by policy-makers.
The Left might argue that the crash was a result of deregulation and “unbridled capitalism”, and that not just the banks, but other big businesses that provide essential goods and services to the public, should be closely managed. That, in order to have a more equitable economy moving forward, the government needs to step in to “invest” (hear: spend) in programs that will create jobs for low- and middle-class workers, and create safety nets so that people are protected from the worst.
The Right might argue that the crash shows that government programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac helped to create the problem, and that re-regulation is not the solution, but rather streamlining regulations to focus on what really matters and updating them to take new credit instruments and market conditions into account. The fix for financial markets, then, is not to put an end to excess of so-called “greed”, but to make sure that markets are more transparent and incentives are better aligned: so that shareholders, for example, can take “selfish” preventative measures to pressure their board of directors to ensure that executives have tight-enough controls on risk. The solution for the economy is not to over-extend the credit of the nation to fund spending programs that dramatically increase the dependency of people on the government, but to increase competitiveness and stimulate economic growth by doing the opposite: decreasing taxes and spending, bringing the budget back into surplus, and taxes, decrease spending dramatically, run a budget surplus, and focusing monetary policy exclusively on curbing inflation.
These differences should have emerged when the candidates debated the economy. Shockingly, they did not. Nobody really debated the cause of the crash and how best to respond to it. This was a mistake.
Snobbery and Fear Mongering
Instead of discussing ideas, or even the big issues, like how to respond to the financial crisis, this election has been about snobbery and fear mongering.
Both sides have erected straw-men of their opponents, then demonize the caricatures.
Democrats say that Republicans are run by a bunch of religious wackos who want to push grandma over a cliff, regulate women's bodies, cut taxes only for the rich, let schools fail, let the auto industry fail, let greedy oil companies make more money instead of investing in clean technologies, let businesses pollute the environment, and cut FEMA so that the government can't respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.
Republicans say Democrats are run by a bunch of union workers and closet communists who are willing to let Navy SEALs and ambassadors die to win elections, who want to raise taxes on everybody, bankrupt the country, spend public money on their pet programs and political friends, and have bureaucrats regulate and manage the economy.
In some sense, many of these accusations may be rooted in valid criticisms, but they are delivered in a mean, angry, and disrespectful way.
Snobbery doesn't advance either side's cause. Both sides have philosophies that draw on long and rich intellectual traditions. It is far better to spend time and money making and responding to thoughtful arguments, than to demonize an opponent.
In one of my favorite political essays, The Seen and the Unseen, the author, 19th century French senator Frederic Bastiat, makes the point that just because someone disagrees with a policy, does not mean that they disagree with the stated goals of the policy.
The goals of policy are always positive. The Left does not spend, and the Right does not cut spending, because they believe it will make society worse off. The Right does not oppose environmental regulation because they are against the environment. Conversely, the Left does not advance environmental regulation because they are against business.
There are rare circumstances when an opponent's motives really do come into question, but those arguments should always be made deliberately and delicately. They should not become the norm. It isn't conducive to a healthy body politic. And leaders should lead by example.
In politics, there are ideas, and there are politicians. It's important to remember the difference, and the relationship, between the two.
Ideas are pure. They are our vision for the future. They are our answers for the way our country ought to be. The policies we ought to have in place. The values and principles and philosophies that we ought to govern by.
Then there are politicians. Politicians are people. Flawed at best. They are our emissaries. We elect them to positions in our government because we believe they will represent us, and our ideas.
It's easy to get burnt-out on politics, because of politicians. They are not pure. Even those who “stand for” your ideas, will say things you believe in, and do things you don't. They may pay lip-service to all the ideas you believe in, but not have the talent and experience, or character and guts, to follow through on them.
It's okay to get burnt-out on politicians. It's important not to burn out on ideas. In the High Seas of election season, don't lose sight of True North.
Ideas point to True North.
Politics exists because people disagree about True North. They disagree about both ideas and politicians. Otherwise, this election would just be about governance, about who is better qualified to “manage” the country better. But it's about more than that. It's about what sort of country we want, in the first place. Specifically, it's about the role of government in society.
Behind every disagreement in this election has been lurking a larger Disagreement. Taxes, health care, and energy are issues, but they are not The Issue. The Issue, as I see it, is whether fairness brings freedom, or freedom is fairness.
Democrats believe, by and large, that fairness brings freedom. Republicans believe, by and large, that freedom is fairness.
Those positions represent two sharply contrasting visions for what sort of place America should be and which direction the government should take to get there. I would like to discuss both positions and then make my own position clear.
If fairness brings freedom…
Earlier today, I got into a political discussion with a friend of mine on Facebook. She is intelligent, well-educated, and articulate. She expressed the classic position for those who believe that fairness brings freedom:
“More egalitarian societies produce higher levels of wellbeing… There needs to be an equal level of opportunity. We need some degree of progressive taxation to rebalance the injustice that has a poor kid from the ghetto never able to achieve the same as a white man from a family of privilege.”
As best I can tell from numerous conversations, people like her believe that in order for people to have freedom, the government needs to create an “equal level of opportunity” for everybody. She puts fairness first, and trusts that freedom will follow.
To do this, the government needs to redistribute outcomes. The answer is: tax the wealthy to pay for free government education, subsidized health care, and other programs.
By making society more fair, the argument goes, it will not only become more “just”, but everyone will be happier, and we will all be more free, because we will be equipped to make what we want of our lives.
The underlying idea is that as human beings, we have a right to certain things: we have a right to health care, we have a right to education, and so on.
This is a position that FDR and Obama would agree with.
If freedom is fairness…
There are those who reject the notion that human beings can have a right to anything as absurd. They argue that individuals have no natural claim to each other's, or “society's”, property or services. Instead, they define rights as freedoms from: freedom from violence, freedom from theft, freedom from oppression.
They believe that the government's role is limited to establishing freedom, and that, by definition, a free society is fair. Fairness, for them, means living in a free society that guarantees them the same protection under the law as everyone else. Given that, they believe that it is not the government's role to worry about or manipulate outcomes in order to make them more “just” or “fair”, as in “equal”.
Inequality is part of the natural order of the universe, and they leave it alone. To them, the important thing is that a free society is the sort of place where, if a person works hard, it is possible to succeed by creating value, value that will be rewarded by the market on the basis of its merits, based on the supply of and demand for that type of value.
In this view, you are responsible for providing for your own education and healthcare, because no individual has a natural right to these services.
Nobody can force you to help others, by taxing you, and giving it to them. If you do, it is voluntary. Similarly, when you do succeed, your success can not be claimed by anyone else. It is your own. Because you earned it on your own, you will not feel guilty or indebted to anything as impersonal as “society”. Those people you have to thank you paid, with the exception of personal benefactors and friends who may have supported you along the way. At least you can thank them to their face.
As for that poor kid from the ghetto, there is no “injustice” to “rebalance”. Government hand-outs only create a sense of entitlement and dependence. America has had plenty of those kids who have gone on to greatness. Steve Jobs was the orphaned son of a Syrian immigrant, raised by working class parents. This immigrant from El Salvador did it, with restaurants in Washington, D.C. My uncle came to this country penniless after the Iranian revolution, he started out in the oil fields of North Dakota, then bought an ice cream truck, and now owns one of the largest ice cream distribution businesses in the country, with over one hundred employees.
For two hundred years, immigrants have chosen to come to this country, because it was the land of freedom and opportunity, where anything was possible in a meritocracy where the market rewards people who create value.
Freedom means opportunity, and opportunity is fairness. “Opportunity” is not something you are given, it is something you have the freedom to pursue.
This is the position that Reagan attempted to restore. This is in-line with the understanding of freedom the Founders had when they created this nation. It was to be the Great Experiment in self-reliance, individual responsibility, and limited government.
What do you believe, how would you govern?
I think that before an election it is a worthy intellectual exercise and thought experiment to pretend to be one of the candidates.
If you were running for President, what would be your political philosophy and how would you govern the nation? What would be your version of the Ideal State?
I believe that freedom is fairness. I am one of a nearly extinct political species known as a classical liberal. Libertarians and fiscal conservatives are my nearest relatives. My political philosophy was strongly influenced by John Locke, the Founders, the Austrian and Chicago schools of economics, Frederic Bastiat, and Ayn Rand. Here is how I would govern…
The role of government ought to be limited. It has to perform a small set of tasks, and perform them excellently. Certainly, much better than it has been. Those tasks include, first and foremost, defending the country from external threats, securing our trade and other national interests abroad by negotiating agreements that promote peace and prosperity abroad, protecting citizens at home from violence and theft, responding to natural disasters, administering justice through courts that uphold the constitution, prevent abuses, protect our rights (freedoms from, not to), and enforce lawful contracts, etc., passing laws that create streamlined regulatory environments that ensure that markets function properly in a way that aligns the selfish interests of various stakeholders - consumers, shareholders, directors, management, employees, etc. - towards the willing exchanges of value that create wealth, to manage the creation and maintenance of infrastructure and parks on public land, to enact a sensible tax code, to ensure that voting happens smoothly, and other basic, core functions of government.
Those are the essential tasks.
There are very few problems which the private sector, with all its dynamic ingenuity, cannot solve. As the size of government decreases, the responsibilities of the private sector can increase to pick up additional burdens.
Every non-essential program on which the government is currently spending money, the ultimate goal has to be to phase the government out while phasing in a well-structured private-sector solution. The first step is to get the government out of owning and operating programs, and let it just fund them. The next step is to create conditions whereby if the private sector “steps up” to take on more responsibilities, the public sector can “back down” to give them up.
Education is the perfect example. Let's move to a voucher system. The government will continue to fund education, but it will no longer own and operate schools, directly pay teacher's salaries, or set curriculum standards. This will unleash a wave of innovation as entrepreneurs found education companies to compete for the $10-15K a year that each student will be worth. To compete, they will innovate on the curriculum and do everything else they can think of to improve results. Parents will choose, and if they wish, supplement the cost out-of-pocket. An ecosystem of supporting products and services will be born around the new industry, including companies that will provide ratings and reviews, like Yelp or Flixter, except for education.
The same goes for all of our poverty alleviation programs. If we are going to spend money on this, let's start by creating a model for private (probably non-profit) organizations with a track record of reducing poverty to compete for and manage those dollars.
The same goes for NASA. If we're going to spend money going to Mars, let's set up a massive X Prize to do it, and let the private space industry go to work. The same goes for the NEH. Kickstarter, anyone? The same goes for social security: is there a private sector alternative to the pension system that I could opt send my money to? And medicare.
Apply this process to all domestic spending and entitlement programs. in order to create efficiencies, use technology to do more with less. Interfacing with government services should be as simple and as accessible as using an iPhone app.
On taxes, a simple progressive flat tax, with no loopholes or exemptions, could finally dispose of an archaic IRS tax code that is thousands of pages long, which makes compliance impossible, and which rewards those with more friends in Washington or those with a larger budget for fancy accountants. I propose 5% for people earning under $50K (everybody should pay in to the system), 10% for people earning up to $100K, 15% for people earning up to $250K, and 25% for people earning over $250K.
On monetary policy, the federal reserve would stop pouring gasoline on wet leaves by contracting the money supply and raising interest rates, focus all efforts on decreasing inflationary risk and squeezing bad credit out of the system.
Economic growth is the number one issue for me in this election, and social issues are a distraction, a red-herring. The pie chart of importance for me is 75% economic (including health care and education), 15% national security, and 10% social issues and “other stuff”, if that.
The Republican brand has been badly damaged recently by its positions on social issues, and if it hopes to revive itself, it needs to change course.
On gay marriage, change the debate. Instead of getting the government into gay marriage, how about getting the government out of heterosexual marriage? There is a strong libertarian argument to be made that the government has no business defining, sanctioning, and regulating an institution such as marriage, which derives its meaning from faith and religion. As far as the State is concerned, any “Significant Other” should do for a Civil Union for tax purposes, visitation rights, and such.
Adoption rights are often cited by conservatives as an argument against legalizing homosexual unions, presumably because they feel that a child would be better raised by a heterosexual couple, and perhaps because they fear sexual abuse, etc. Given that there are not enough families for orphans, it is hard to argue that a child would be, in fact, worse off being taken care of by gay parents. Ground for compromise could probably be found by allowing children a choice, when they are old enough, to either stay in that environment, switch into foster care, or attempt to find heterosexual couple that will adopt them. The reverse would also have to be true, however, for it to be fair. As far as fears about abuse, pre-mature exposure to sexual issues, etc., I think that this needs to be monitored and regulated. Ultimately, objective studies should show plenty of results, either way, and then, instead of discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, we can discriminate on the basis of results, and improve policy.
As far as abortion is concerned, Republicans should drop their insistence on repealing Roe vs. Wade and “banning abortion” or even the more moderate stance of “letting states decide”. It should not be a legislative question but a judicial one, as it deals with the rights, both of the mother, and the unborn.
As a libertarian, raised by conservatives, but with an overwhelmingly liberal peer group, I feel that I am sympathetic to both sides. I do not want the government to have the power to “regulate a woman's body” or impose the beliefs of the majority by force. Conversely, if the unborn fetus is indeed a human life, then the courts have an obligation to protect it.
It is important for conservatives to remember that a candidate's position on abortion has nothing to do with whether he or she personally believes it is right or wrong, and the same goes for voters. The fact is that regardless of your personal views on the morality of abortion, whether informed by faith or not, whether you believe it is right or wrong, should not be imposed on all of society. It is a moral issue without an “obvious” answer, either way. There are legitimate arguments on either side. Ultimately, should it be up to the majority to decide? I think a strong case can and should be made that it should be up to the woman to decide.
If you personally believe that abortion is wrong, then persuade women not to do it, and prevent the problem with contraception and birth control in the first place. Our country embraces free speech for this reason.
An exception should be made, I think, to pass legislation banning abortions in the third trimester, other than for medical safety. By then, a woman has had ample time to make a decision, and there is something very obviously different to most people, I think, between a fetus the size of a peanut and an almost-formed baby, and we should, in that regard, at least, respect the sanctity of human life. Before that, it is a woman's right to choose.
On the environment, I think it is important for the Republican party, if it seeks the moderate vote, to make clear that it believes that the government has a very important role to play in being a steward of our environment, parks, and natural resources. Libertarians are not anarchists, and we fully acknowledge that markets benefit from well designed and enforced regulations, and that there is such a thing as the Tragedy of the Commons. It makes sense to regulate pollution. It makes sense to regulate food production and marketing. It is foolish, however, to spend incredible amounts of public money in loans, loan guarantees, and investments to subsidize green energy companies (there are better ways to promote new energy technologies), and dangerous to create powerful bureaucracies with sweeping powers to enforce measures that are too broad and too punitive. I am particularly concerned by many measures that democrats have promoted such as cap-and-trade and carbon taxes, which I think will make business far harder and more expensive to conduct, and will give the government the power to regulate almost anything they want in the name of the environment. This, I think, is a position that people can get behind.
The choice before us
Once you've decided what you believe in and why, it is easier to judge which candidate aligns best.
Just because the candidates have not talked in-depth about their ideas, it does not mean that they don't have them. They do. They obfuscate in order to appeal to so-called “independent” voters in swing states, but take their track-records and rhetoric, especially what they say when talking to their base, read between the lines a bit, and extrapolate. It doesn't leave us with as clear a picture about their plans for the next four years as we'd like, but that is the Looking Glass. That is what we have to go on, and as much as we should complain about their lack of directness about it, we have to make a decision on Tuesday.
Therefore, I endorse…
I endorse Mitt Romney for President of the United States in 2012.
He is by no means perfect, and we do not agree on every issue, but I know that he will decrease the regulatory and tax burdens, strengthen the government's financials, increase energy production, and roll back the scope of government through initiatives like vouchers.
He is a better alternative than the President, who has created new entitlements when we can't pay for our old ones, and has been punitive in tone and action to business. He has increased the regulatory burden, prevented drilling, and most importantly, been a Keynesian. He credits his stimulus package for preventing an economic depression, but he doesn't understand how supply-siders would have done it differently, and why it would of worked. He would never go against his base to transition the education system to a voucher model.
I would far rather elect a President who thinks that because 47% of the electorate benefit from some federal program, they can not have a fully objective view on an issue, than a President who has, at times, antagonized “greedy” businessmen and entrepreneurs.
Winning the Peace
I wrote this post for two reasons.
The first is that I have been “consuming” politics this entire election season. I have read scores upon scores of news stories, been dragged into debates around the office, and watched all the Presidential debates.
I don't like to be a taker. I believe in being a “net exporter of thinking” and so I thought I'd frame and synthesize tomorrow's election to bring a sense of closure.
The second is that I care about this country deeply and I love its people, particularly my family and friends, and I want them, and myself, to have the best government possible. I believe this country was founded on a political culture that encouraged active participation and debate, and so I feel it is a sacred duty to express my opinion. Other than that, I have nothing to gain by it, and quite a lot of friendships to lose according to a recent poll, which said that “just over one-out-of-four Americans (27%) say the upcoming election has negatively affected their personal relationship with a friend or family member.” I have tried to take a measured approach, although I don't claim to be unbiased by any means. Quite unlike most of our national media, I might add.
This has been, in my opinion, the World War One of Presidential elections: both sides exhausting resources and energy in an interminable, ugly struggle. Why do we fight? What do we stand for? What will we gain by victory or lose by defeat? Leaders provide no justifications, because soldiers ask for none. We fight because we're English (or German), Republican (or Democrat), and our Queen (or Kaiser), has called upon our ancient loyalties, hatreds, and fears to summon us to the Front to do our part. War is terrible, they say, but inevitable. They make empty promises about “life after the war”. We accept our lot. Accept, and sacrifice. Into the trenches. Sheep to slaughter.
An ugly war, that led to an uglier peace. Those who died, a Lost Generation. Those who survived, jaded by the emptiness of victory. Those who lost, burdened by reparations payments they could not possibly afford. Everyone, desperate to get back to “the way things were”, willfully ignoring how the world had forever changed, rebuilding on bad foundations, a Structure that would not long last.
Let's hope whomever wins on Tuesday, having won the electoral war, wins the governing peace.