Are Conservatives Welcome in the OKLP?

That has been a question raised: are disenfranchised conservatives, looking for refuge from the Trump storm, welcome in the libertarian party?

Craig Dawkins, a fellow blogger on his site “Liberty thoughts,” is not in any haste to welcome them in:

Conservatives don’t need a welcome sign. They need to embrace a new ideology that acknowledges the value of every human being and seeks to promote equality under the law, accepts differences in race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, and to stop trying to use government to impose upon individual freedom. In short, they need to fully embrace the non-aggression principle (NAP).

So in the end this is quite simple to resolve. Conservatives should embrace the NAP and join the cause for liberty. But can they do that?

This seems to be a local manifestation of a larger debate.  There are two ways of thinking within the libertarian party: either we should roll out the welcome mat to all for electoral success, with ideals and principles taking a backseat; or that the libertarian party should be a closed group only open to the rare individual who shares the exact views of the rest of the members.

I can understand both sides of the argument.  It is essential to have principles and ideals.  Or else, what is the point?  But then, we must welcome the dissafected and disenfranchised or, again, what is the point?  It seems libertarians have a bad habit of looking down upon anyone who isn’t quite libertarian enough.

It is a difficult proposition, I know.  The party does not want to close itself off from political refugees; but then again, those refugees if they became organized could throw the party off it’s proper course.

But I don’t think we’re really all that far apart, ideologically, between the disenfranchised left, right, and libertarians when it comes to liberty issues.

In the excerpt above, Dawkins states that Conservatives “need to embrace a new ideology.”

It is one thing to be socially conservative.  It is another to expect that the government to coerce and force people into compliance with conservative values.  Such is the state of modern conservatism, but modern liberalism also expects the same out of government.

But conservatism does not really need to change ideology per-se, but rather look at things a bit differently.  It is perfectly okay to remain socially conservative in the libertarian party, so long as you understand that it is not a function of government to make those personal morals and philosophies a matter of law.

Members of the libertarian party, old and new, have come to the understanding that no matter what we believe and practice in our personal lives, it is not up to us to dictate what others may do.  That is true libertarianism.  That is true conservatism, actually, though this is too often forgotten.

It is not proper to say that the Democrats have it right on social issues, and the right has it right on economic issues;  in practice that has constantly been proved false.  It is not proper to say that the libertarian party takes the good elements out of each party platform and dispenses with the bad; rather, libertarianism is a completely new (*) set of ideals above the typical spectrum of American party politics.  But it can appeal to all those on that spectrum, because it is the ultimate compromise:  Believe what you wish, practice what you wish in your own life; do not attempt to force it on me.  

As for the other issues like the border, I genuinely believe we can come to a compromise on that, if we discuss it in a friendly manner, instead of resorting to accusations and name-calling.

Remember, conservatives that are even considering joining the libertarian party already have an aptitude for compromise.  Otherwise, they would remain well entrenched in the collapsing GOP which will always peddle the old fashioned theocratic ideas, until the party fades away into oblivion.  Let’s discuss, let’s chat about it; the liberty republicans, despite a couple of issues, are really not all that different from us.

We should make it clear that the libertarian party, no matter what the members may believe personally, will always stand for limited government at the end of the day.  Social conservatism is not the problem, it’s using government to enforce it.  I think many republicans making the jump into the libertarian party understand this.

The bottom line of all this is, simply, libertarians need to be a little more diplomatic when dealing with those that may disagree with us.

If conservatives really do need to accept a new ideology instead of just thinking of it a little differently, some prominent state libertarians are not helping to facilitate that, the way they conduct discussions.  Quite the opposite, it is turning people away.  These brash libertarians need to be a little more diplomatic; I know it is easier to call names when a contrary opinion is voiced, but it would be much more effective if we take care to explain why that opinion is contradictory to the ideals of personal liberty.

The name calling and high-horse attitude has to end if the libertarian party wants to not only expand, but fully convince people of the merits of the philosophy as a whole.


*I say “new” because it is only now being taken seriously, though the philosophy itself has existed for a very long time.

 

 

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The Budget Crisis Goes Beyond the Budget

As mentioned here before, it is a bad thing for hard working Oklahomans if the legislature is in session.

Despite all the promises and all the rhetoric of the conservatives in our state house, Oklahomans will soon be inundated with a number of burdensome and incomprehensible tax plans which, as we will see, is a permanent solution to what is most likely a temporary problem.

When oil prices return to their previous levels, will the taxes be removed?  Of course they won’t; and in that event, the state government will find new ways to spend that revenue, necessitating another set of taxes for when another budget crisis comes up.  A sad, yet predictable cycle.

Conservatives are resorting to progressive solutions to solve problems, a frustrating thing for Oklahomans who elected them to run our state in a conservative way.

This crisis goes far beyond a budget.  It has to do with the faith and trust Oklahomans put into their legislators to responsibly handle tax revenues which are entrusted to them.  And it will inevitably result in a lack of trust in our so-called “conservative” values.

It is a very easy thing for someone, especially a legislator – usually as a candidate – to espouse conservative principles to an audience very willing to listen.  It is a far more difficult thing to stand on those principles when times get difficult, to make decisions that are politically harmful.  The constituents don’t really know what conservatism means either; they demand services of government such as education and healthcare, and in the next moment expect the state to cut back on both taxes and activity.  We cannot have both.

It is a sad fact that we will complain and groan about new taxes for a short time, but very quickly they will be absorbed and forgotten, like they always are.  But cuts in the state services are not so easily forgotten, especially with regards to educational cuts.  Such is the équation fatale; by election time the taxes will be forgotten, but cuts to services will not be.  

It is very easy to think of the state government as some sort of defense against the monster of the federal government.  And, to be fair, it sometimes is.  However that becomes very difficult to think when our state engages in very similar practices!

 

Beyond this, Boren will get his sales tax in November to fill the coffers of his school; Tulsa is already stuck with the absurd Vision plans, and the whisper is that there will be a MAPS 4 in Oklahoma City.  Where will it end?  Perhaps those sorts of plans have a place in good economic times.  But this is not the time for such frivolous projects.  The council of OKC should be ashamed of itself if it is seriously considering a fourth MAPS at this time.

The Failure of the Vaccine Informational Bill

Whenever the legislature is in session, it is an unfortunate thing for Oklahomans.

The Vaccine information bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses of our state congress, just to be vetoed by the governor.  Yesterday took place an attempt to override that veto, which failed in the house.

This is one of the few pieces of legislation on the subject that can be considered completely neutral, in that it does not oppose or support any particular side of the vaccine issue.  Simply, it was to require a list of ingredients be offered with a vaccine to the patient.

Everything else we are able to consume or otherwise put into our bodies comes with a list of ingredients.  Why should vaccines be any different?

Chances are, that the informational sheets will be tucked away without thought by most; just as we ignore the long, imposing list of chemicals on each can of soda.  I do not think this bill would have discouraged anyone from refusing a vaccine that wouldn’t have refused it anyway.

But now perhaps, more damage has been done because of the suppression of this harmless piece of legislation.  Maybe there is something amiss with the vaccines that are being administered, after all?  If there wasn’t, why would this piece of legislation be, as Fallin said, “a step in the wrong direction?”

This legislative disappointment is peanuts compared to what we will soon be seeing regarding the budget.  Oklahomans now have every right to feel frustrated and disillusioned.

How will Oklahoma Solve it’s Budget Pickle?

Taxes!  Budgets!  What boring topics we are obliged to discuss.  But such is what we are faced with: a 1.5 billion dollar budget hole.

Citizens demand certain services from the state government; and then seem surprised when they have to pay for them.  Especially now that oil tax revenues have dropped off so drastically – and most of the solutions offered thus far deal with increasing sales taxes.  Can’t our legislators be any more creative?

There are two major expenses which the state government must figure out a way to not only fund, but increase funding due to popular demand: education and medicaid.

Legislators have been quick in offering a few solutions, meanwhile frightening Oklahomans into submission: that these tax increases are essential in order to keep the state running.  And because cutting expenditures is absolutely out of the question, for political reasons, we will have to determine which bitter pill is the least so.

First there’s the cigarette tax.  That’s always the old standby, as politically it isn’t that harmful because it’s accompanied with promises that it will decrease smoking and eventually decrease medical costs associated with tobacco use.  But $1.50 per pack?  Well, that is something new.  I heard a figure cited that $182 million could be raised in this way; I do wonder if that number takes into account either, a) the people that stop smoking or b) the people that would be driven across state lines to buy their tobacco products, hurting our retailers in the process.  Either way, the sum raised by this sort of tax hardly goes a long way in filling the shortfall.  A cigarette tax would have to be accompanied by another tax which is much more effective.

Besides, as stated in the Oklahoman article of May 1, this would only go so far as to “stabilize” the current medicare provider rates, which implies that it is a temporary measure only with no way of addressing future provider rate hikes.

Secondly: Insure Oklahoma.  This proposal has been floated around for a little while and seems to be the favorite of some of the more powerful circles, raising a cause for concern.  The summary (might be an oversimplification) is that we would take federal money to fund an Oklahoma program called “Insure Oklahoma.”  Now there is no doubt that the idea of taking federal money leaves a bad taste, much like orange juice and toothpaste.  But it is our money, right?  And if we can’t have our money back in our bank accounts, at least we can have it back in our state to alleviate a further burden.  But, alas!  When it comes to taking money from the feds, it never comes easy – there is always strings and obligations attached.

Likewise with the proposal to transition some medicaid recipients onto private plans.  That has a better sound to it, except that it would essentially amount to the same thing: taking federal money.

The other option, and actually the most economically sensible plan thus far, is “modernizing” the tax code.  First, to charge sales taxes on services not before taxed, such as haircuts, plumbing services, etc.  I don’t think this will be as economically harmful as increasing the sales tax across the board; in fact, I was surprised that those things weren’t taxed already.  After all, it is really quite unfair that most services are taxed, but some are not (when we buy things, we don’t buy the thing itself, but the service of having it formed into it’s present shape.)

However, I doubt that the expansion of a sales tax would go a long way in filling such a deep hole.  It would have to be, in order to have some meaningful effect, be accompanied by an internet sales tax.  To place a tax on the last truly free market is reprehensible to me, even if other states are doing it; but the hole must be filled.  If it was a temporary proposition I would be all for it; but there’s no such thing as a temporary tax.  It pains me to say it, but this might be our best option for filling the budget hole.  But an internet sales  tax should be only a last resort!

There is of course using the entire rainy day fund, with the hope that oil tax revenues go up to their previous levels in the future.  Even still, it would have to be accompanied by another drastic measure, as the contents of the rainy day fund could only fill the hole about halfway.

To alleviate education expenses, some have proposed that we consolidate the school districts, saving money on administrative expenses.  I think it’s a fantastic idea; but something I think should happen regardless of a shortfall and besides, I don’t think it would fill it.

In order to fill the hole we would have to decide which combination of taxes and measures would be the least economically harmful to the State.

When oil prices return to their past levels, as they might, what will happen?  Will the taxes necessitated by present circumstances be removed?  Of course they won’t; taxes are permanent, and typically are forgotten very quickly.

We have a republican governor, and a republican majority in both the State House and Senate.  These are republicans who espouse any number of fiscally conservative talking points:  We must cut government.  We must cut spending.  We must protect the taxpayer.  And the voters, naturally, support such candidates because they are of the same opinion, at least until it actually comes to cutting government services which benefit them.  An ever deepening gulf between theory and practice.  

 

Is there an “Establishment” in the Libertarian Party?

It certainly seems odd – and maybe a stretch – to say that the anti-establishment party has an establishment wing of it’s own.

But I think it is so, and it is personified by Gov. Gary Johnson and his supporters.

There is no precise way to define the term establishment;  it means different things at different times to different people.  One likes to attach the label “establishment” to certain elected officials and would be correct in doing so, but another could claim that every elected political official is part of the establishment simply by virtue of being an elected official.

In a political context, the term is impossible to define precisely.  But there is a general underlying theme: that members of the establishment sell out the principles they believe in or on which they were elected to further political power or influence.

But we reach an odd crossroads when we start to see an establishment mindset form in the anti-establishment party.  It is a reach, surely?  If only.

Without any doubt, Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Establishment personified, as he is willing to compromise many key libertarian principles in order to have some sort of wider appeal.

And many libertarians are quite prepared to humor him, apparently, for a number of pathetic reasons.

The main justification is that he is the most “electable” of the libertarian candidates.  Indeed there was a poll which had him in the double digits against Trump and Hillary, an impressive feat for an unknown candidate.  But that is the key – he is unknown.  People would choose a broomstick over Trump or Hillary, understandably so.  Why on earth would we pick a pandering candidate, in this case?  If people will truly vote for anything over Trump and Hillary, why not get our ideals out there, instead of changing them for popular consumption that will result either way?

Appeal is not lacking!  The appeal of a third party is simply that it is a third party!

Another justification is that Johnson has political experience.  Isn’t that the very thing we, as libertarians, want to avoid?  Besides, his record as governor of New Mexico isn’t exceptional.

Then there is talk of moderation; I can understand why some would want some form of moderation in this race of extremes.  But again, any mainstream support that the libertarian party can count on will be ‘refugees’ that can’t bear to vote for Trump or Clinton, and won’t really concern themselves much with the different shades of libertarian thought.

We must nip this ‘libertarian establishment’ before it goes any further.  If you are supporting Gary Johnson because you genuinely agree with him, very well, I can’t fault you for that.  But if you are supporting Gary Johnson because you see him as the more “electable” or more “moderate” candidate, then what is the point?

This is not the time to compromise principles for electability.

 

 

 

Have the roles reversed?

A few weeks ago, I was preparing a column in which I would compare how the election of 1968 is so similar to this one.  And certainly there was a similar pattern: conflict and violence between two contrasting visions of America, our involvement in an overseas conflict which we could not well explain how we got into it, much less how to get out, and so on.  Perhaps we could make some predictions about the future, based on what played out previously.

But at the time, a few weeks ago, it looked as if there would indeed be some form of contested convention on the right, and that the democrat party would not.  Quite the opposite in 1968!  But now it is clear that this is more like 1968 than I thought it would be.  The republicans have a clear nominee, just as Nixon was in 1968; and the delegates will walk in, nominate him, and that is the end of the matter.  I think it will be quite different for the democrat party, if Sanders does persist as he promises to do, if not a contested convention it will be chaotic.

But the real point of this column is to show how the “roles” have reversed.

The past few cycles, the GOP has made an effort always to nominate a candidate who is a) an “establishment” favorite and b) who they feel would have the widest range of appeal in a general election.  What they always forgot was that their own base of support was lukewarm about that candidate at best, and that explains their failure in the past two cycles (and their close failure in 2000.)  It is a rule of politics that a candidate must energize his main base of support before he can even think about trying to appeal to the independent voters.  Republicans voted for McCain and Romney not because they were enthusiastic about those candidates, but because they did not want the alternative.  That’s what the republican party depended on to win victories; and the victories so optimistically predicted never materialized.

The end result was a mediocre candidate who could not energize the base and had limited appeal to independent voters.  The democrat party, on the other hand, was able to nominate candidates responsive to the feelings and sentiments of the base.

How that has switched now!  No matter what one thinks of Trump, it is clear that he is responsive to the feelings and sentiments of the Republican party, or a majority of it.  The massive numbers he has been pulling in the states he has won is a sure testament of this.  On the other side, Hillary is the establishment favorite yet she has a lukewarm support at best, without the energy the current president had, or like Bernie Sanders has at the moment.

Hillary’s candidacy is comparable to McCain in 2008.  Many voters on the left don’t care for her (or, in some extremes, despise her as much as Trump) but will support her anyway due to a miserable alternative.  But it is in vain to make predictions on how that will work out as in victories, as so much can change in such a short time, as we have certainly seen so far.

We will also see a significant third party surge, perhaps large enough to throw the election in the opposite direction.  There has been a huge spike of interest in the libertarian party and particular candidates in the past few days, which I think will increase as the circus intensifies.  We may take solace in that!