Thursday, December 15, 2016

Should Libertarians Defend Donald Trump?

The below is a correspondence between a Dr. C and me that refers to a separate back and forth that I published at a post at Target Liberty,The Problem With a Trump Presidency for Libertarians, with another correspondent. 

Since there is some economic discussion, in addition to foreign policy, and some discussion of how we should deal with Trump and his non-liberty leaning positions, I have chosen to publish this portion here at EPJ.  -RW

My responses are in blue:

It seems there is a lot of speculation on your end on what Trump "might do" or "has done" and that therefore, libertarians have to take this position or that. You seem to take the view that there is one "libertarian position" that all libertarians should take in the context of the government we have today, which is clearly and verifiably wrong (remember, we can't compare interpersonal utilities?). 

Well, there are libertarian positions. Libertarians are against violations of NAP, so any kind of coercion by government would be a violation of NAP. I didn't say everything in the world could be a NAP violation. Nor have I said that when the choice is between two NAP violations that there is a clear libertarian choice. However, if a government leader is only presenting us two NAP violating choices I can certainly say he is not providing the libertarian choice. And I am certainly aware of the problem with two NAP violating options that we can't  compare interpersonal utilities since I was the one that originally made the point to you.

On the one hand, you claim that Trump will only replace Obamacare with something else, and then leap to claim that just the act of replacing it with another plan is bad enough that libertarians should not support it. Shouldn't we wait to see what that replacement is before we make up our minds on whether that is good or bad? 

All I say in my response is "Trump does not want to end Obamacare, he wants to replace it." The correspondent I was addressing misstated, as others have, that Trump was going to eliminate Obamacare.  I am not hopeful at all about this replacement but we shall see.
You also speculate that Trump intimidated carrier with some threats. How do you know that? All we know from publicly available information is that Trump (and Pence) offered a tax incentive to
arrier, which is totally different from a punitive tax threat.

Well. of course, he intimidated Carrier and Carrier's parent. Why the hell else would they take a "deal" that gives them a  $7 million tax credit but will cost them hundreds of millions beyond that. No sane businessman would have done this deal without facing a serious threat. It's Banana Republic stuff.
There is nothing wrong with tax incentives to any company, for any reason. After all, it allows them to keep some of their money, at a price. I find the assertion that "tax incentives distort the structure of the economy and prices" ludicrous. If the company finds it more profitable to refuse the tax incentive and keep doing whatever it is doing, thereby keeping their tax structure unaltered, it will chose that (remember, preferences are revealed in action?). If, however, they find that the net cost of complying with conditions to obtain the tax incentive is less than keeping their current tax structure, they will comply. Either case, they are no worse off than they were before the tax incentive. This is obvious on even a cursory analysis.

Yes, taxes distort the economy and confiscate wealth. So, less taxes are better. This is exactly the case with tax incentives. Tax incentives that companies prefer to utilize are better than no tax incentives. "No taxes" is the best case scenario, but that is not an option here.

Tax credits are much more complex than you state here. You are throwing up straw men and making shallow arguments. See my discussion herehere and here that of Prof. Matthew McCaffrey  here.

Same thing with "Trump liking to win". I don't know what that means. Trump probably views governments as caretakers that have a duty to negotiate on behalf of their citizens, which makes him no different than every other president that has held office before him.

Could be but that is wrong from a libertarian perspective. From a libertarian perspective, governments shouldn't negotiate anything "on behalf of their citizens," so the original correspondent is incorrect in proposing this as a libertarian characteristic of Trump's.

The only difference, it seems, is that most of the recent presidents,  including Clinton, Bush & Obama, were happy to use that power to enrich themselves financially or politically, at the expense of the citizens. Trump wants to actually use that power to benefit the citizens. He may be misguided in his beliefs, but I see no evidence to doubt his motivations. Will he do more damage with good intentions than the others have done, or Hillary would have done? No one, including you, knows, unless you can see the future.

Hillary lost. Why do you Trump fanboys keep on comparing Trump to Hillary? I'll tell you why because Trump can't stand up on his own from a libertarian perspective. so you muddy the waters. Why can't you just analyze Trump's own positions? He is the one that is going to be president. As for what drives him, true, it may not be money. He seems to me to be driven by a desire for the adoration of large crowds. Do we really need to get into other leaders that have commanded and desired such adulation from crowds? I don't consider that a plus.

You say "Under trump, expect troops in Syria and Iraq, destabilization of Iran". This goes against his self declared "we will learn from the mistakes of the past, we won't topple regimes, we will aim for peace with all nations and stability" (from Trump's recent thank you tour). Again, you are just speculating with no more inside knowledge about the military strategy plans going forward. You could be right, but you are just speculating.

I am speculating, yes,  but I think you are misreading Trump. He never says we shouldn't fight, he just doesn't want to do it for expansion of the Empire. He wants to fight off ISIS and he hates Iran. These are the explicitly stated views of retired Lt. General Flynn. who appears to be Trump's closest foreign policy adviser and has been named Trump's Nat
ional Security Adviser.

BTW, we already have special forces in Iraq and Syria. We have even covertly funded, trained and armed "rebel" aka ISIS forces against Assad, which caused a prolongation (and possibly, incitement) of the deadly conflict there. ISIS is a state (a self declared caliphate) which declared war on the west & the US. Is a ground war to defeat them once and for all a better option than a smoldering half-assed war that covertly goes on forever? Michael Scheuer who long headed the Bin Laden unit in ME and southeast asia seems to think so. It is debatable what the best options are at this time but you can't make a blanket statement that one or the other is a better libertarian option.

You are sadly misinformed. Please read Flynn's book and comments of the other Generals surrounding Trump. None of them suggests that a "ground war will defeat them once and for all" They see a multi-generational war.

From Flynn's book: 

"I'm totally convinced that, without a proper sense of urgency, we will eventually be defeated, dominated and very likely destroyed...Do you want to be ruled by men who eagerly drink the blood of their dying enemies?...

"It is not just a fight for a few hundred square miles of sand in Syria, Iraqi and Libyan deserts. They want it all."

And this:

"We have to organize all our national power, from military and economic intelligence and tough-minded diplomacy. It's not cheap and it's probably going to last through several generations."

Since you are speculating, how about this speculation? By electing Trump, we have probably avoided a military conflict with Russia, which is many times deadlier than ground forces fighting ISIS. Even Putin believed this and said so in his speech to the Duma. 

You seem to think that Hillary would have made a libertarian message more acceptable to the masses. This is patently silly. Have you seen how the left is agitating for a war with Russia over some scant evidence that someone speaking Russian hacked Podesta's emails? 

There is no converting these people. It is a perfectly valid speculation to say that Had Hillary won, we would have been East Germany in a few short years.

You misunderstand my point. I have never made the claim that Hillary would have made a libertarian message more acceptable to the masses because of any words she would have said and caused a conversion of lefties. My point is that libertarians would not have lost so many over to the Trump camp, such as yourself, trying to find needles in the haystack to defend him when he has surrounded himself with nutjobs that think we are going to be in a multi-generational war. There are very few of us left who will stand up for liberty and are willing to call out Trump for his many non-libertarian positions. Under Hillary, we would have had many more libertarian attackers much more willing to attack Hillary for her non-libertarian positions. Now, instead, we have libertarian fanboys who twist to defend Trump positions which are far from libertarian and are completely silent on the many Trump positions that are obviously not libertarian.

You say that you are not really not interested in "better" authoritarians. Good for you. But many of us who are directly impacted by taxes, regulations, wars etc are definitely interested in having less authoritarian people in power in the short term. I agree that it is admirable to agitate for liberty every chance we get. But really, all we can do practically is to minimize damage in the short run and hope that is enough in the long run. 

My point was in the context of the correspondent comparing Hillary, once again, to Trump, WHEN HILLARY LOST. It makes no sense to blather out that Trump is a better authoritarian than Hillary (a view I do not hold). Trump is going to be president, should libertarians take Trump taxes, regulations, wars and domestic crackdowns, and just sing kumbaya because "at least we don't have Hillary"?   Or should we stop the apologizing for Trump authoritarian measures and call him out for them?

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