Libertarian Candidate’s Forum, Nov. 6, 2017

 

debate 11-6

 

Held on the campus on UCO last night, the candidates for the libertarian governor nomination were able to tell attendees something about themselves and their positions.  Further, this event gives a little more legitimacy to the infant Oklahoma Libertarian Party; approximately fifty people were in attendance, which is not unreasonable given that this event was only announced a few days before.  Sponsored by the American Democracy Project at UCO, the idea of legitimacy is reinforced because a debate of the republican candidates will be hosted by the ADP in a similar manner, on January 31.

There are three candidates: Chris Powell, Rex Lawhorn, and Joe Exotic.  Overall, Chris Powell and Rex Lawhorn differ only when it comes to style, and their positions hold closely to the libertarian platform.  Both of them are long time libertarians with experience and previous political success.  At the moment, deciding between the two would be a very difficult thing, especially at this moment.

These candidates are very strong compared to all the republican contenders: it’s very clear at this moment that the Republican nomination will be more of a popularity contest, rather than an election of substance.  That really shouldn’t be a surprise.  Either way, the Libertarian party is going to nominate a candidate that can offer substance against the likes of Todd Lamb or Construction Cornett.

Then of course, there is the elephant in the room (aptly enough):  Joe Exotic.  His eccentricity is fun to watch and fun to write about, but we must remember that he is a serious candidate for the nomination and ought to be treated as such by the party organization.  One has to wonder, though, if the decision to close the primaries to independent voters was partly based on Mr. Exotic’s campaign.  If the libertarians were to get together and nominate Joe Exotic, well, that’s one thing – but if a sufficient number of independents went and voted for him in the primary as some sort of joke, that could cause serious problems.  Perhaps Mr. Exotic realizes this full well; he expressed to me personally his anger over the shutting out of thousands of independents from the libertarian primary.

It cannot be denied that while his candidacy ought to be taken seriously, it isn’t going to be by most libertarian voters.  This is not only due to his story and style;  some of his positions do not hold so closely to the libertarian platform.  Indeed, the most obvious is his plan to provide free healthcare to Oklahoma citizens, funded by marijuana taxes.

The issues discussed were relatively basic: education, healthcare, and the Oklahoma budget.  Their arguments and positions were reasonable and not unexpected from libertarians, all being a heavy focus on free market solutions, “direct primary care” for insurance, and the necessity for the diversification of the Oklahoma economy, given the inevitability of the continued fall in the price of oil.

For those interested, the full debate can be viewed here:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F1439575176158061%2Fvideos%2F1449716135143965%2F&show_text=0&width=267

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Budget: you have an agreement, but no deal

The three stooges – Fallin, Schulz, and McCall – have reached a budget agreement, which would lead us to ask: just what have they been doing for the past month?  It’s just a rehashing of the same thing they’ve been trying to force onto us for the last few years.

It includes that $1.50 cigarette tax, an increase of the gasoline tax, possible new taxes on alcohol, and a $1,000 raise for state employees and $3,000 for teachers, annually.

Personally, I would be okay with a slight tax increase simply to patch the hole, or many a more significant one to patch the hole and crease a more sustainable budgetary basis.  However, this plan is not that: it not only raises taxes, but brings us exorbitant new obligations that we might not be able to meet in the future.

Perhaps we can make them, but in a few years you’ll see another round of demands for teacher raises, because this one will be taken for granted.  Taxpayers (and perhaps the legislators) will forget about the tax increase and we’ll be subject to another round of this.

That is, assuming this passes the legislature unscathed.  I have a feeling it won’t, especially with such a large cigarette tax; it wouldn’t necessarily be enough for smoking voters to jump the aisle, but I don’t know if legislators want to take the risk.  It goes without saying that it would hurt businesses along the border of the state, and that may certainly be a problem politically in those areas.

Tl;dr?  You know you are going to see more expenses in the next year, that you’re not going to be able to pay for.  So you ask for a raise.  You get it, but immediately go on a shopping spree in the mall.  That’s all this is.

Two events – how are they connected?

By one variable: guns.

A tragedy happened in Las Vegas, and predictably the leftists crawled out from under rocks within the hour to start demanding anew the thing they’ve always wanted: increased gun control.  There’s the possibility they might get their way this time, as having a republican congress often proves useless.

Anyway, on the opposite side of the world on the previous day, the Catalan people voted for independence from Spain.  The democratic process was met with forceful violence from the Spanish government, with voters being beaten by armored policeman, hundreds to the point of hospitalization.

Now of course, any government would naturally put up some sort of a fight if a part of the country declares themselves independent.

But instead of repeating the worn arguments in favor of gun rights (they are no less true, however ineffective) I simply offer this example.  Whenever we think we see a negative effect of gun rights, let’s consider that there is a more unfortunate effect of gun control: systematic political oppression.

 

Racism is not Right Wing, it’s fringe…

What happened in Chancellorsville the other day is of course, deplorable.  However: it is also unavoidable.

It is dangerous, but not for the reason everyone thinks it is.  Racist rallies and marches are nothing unusual – it’s not like this is the first one.  The Ku Klux Klan is still an active organization.  300 Nazis is not the “rise of Nazism” in the United States.  It’s 300 Nazis.  Nazis have always existed and have been active in the United States (Remember the “Blues Brothers”?)  Even under the last president – racism existed then, as it does today.

It’s dangerous because it is creating ideological battle lines that are not at all representative of the ideological disagreements of the nation’s population at large.  300 Nazis march in Chancellorsville, and the left attempts to say that it’s a manifestation of the entire right wing.  Patently ridiculous, of course.

The left is now suddenly making a bigger deal out of this in another vain attempt to sabotage Trump.  In doing so, they are simply reinforcing identity politics, the same strategy they used in the last election.  It didn’t work then, and it’s not going to work now.

I’ve said it before: anyone who supported Trump continues to do so.  No minds are being changed.  The only problem that the republicans are bound to have in the midterms is that they haven’t done enough to support Trump’s agenda, and this will put a damper on enthusiastic voting.  Otherwise, the republicans can be assured in their political dominance.

The biggest problem: this business forces us into camps that we would not be caught dead in.  Oppose antifa?  That must automatically make you a Nazi.  Oppose these Nazis?  That automatically puts you in antifa.  Or so goes the logic.  Of course virtually none of us are in either group, and the numbers of those groups are so small that it can hardly affect any political outcome.

 

Human beings are never going to be perfect, and hatred will continue to exist in one form or another.  It’s a worthwhile thing to fight, but also a vain fight – and while we should never accept it, we will have to eventually accept that it’s inevitable.

As a right winger, I condemn all that occurred there, as I hope all of my right-wing colleagues will continue to do.  Racism is not a legitimate part of right-wing thought; as a member of the right I value personal and economic freedom above all things, for everyone.

Who is the aggressor?

It’s really a strange thing: when the opposition to a president is so strong, the belligerence of an oppressive foreign regime is excused.  Where will this stop?

I’m all for political opposition when it’s called for, but excusing the threats of a belligerent enemy just to spite Donald Trump is really too much.

Are we really supposed to believe that,

a) Donald Trump is the aggressor, when vague threats have been made for years by North Korea, and now lately threats of a more specific nature have been made by Pyongyang?

b)  The United States military, who can respond to any sort of contingency quickly and efficiently, is going to be caught with their pants down by one North Korean nuclear missile, resulting in mass death and destruction?

We could cripple the military infrastructure of North Korea easily and without a significant loss of life.  While they do have a large number of troops, their infrastructure and technology is certainly lacking to fully exploit the effectiveness of their large numbers.

I would be very surprised if any strategy set forth by the pentagon or the administration regarding the neutralization of the North Korean nuclear capacity does not take into consideration the innocent human life in North or South Korea, or our own country.  No, friends, the future of humanity is not “at stake.”  No, this isn’t going to result in any sort of mass genocide.

Stop scaring the children just so you can win some cheap political points.  It won’t help you in the midterms…

The left is so worried about war with North Korea.  If you believed them, you would think that the world is on the brink of destruction, every human life is at risk, it’s worthwhile to build fallout shelters once again, and so on.  A typical load of nonsense.

But if the left had it their way, we would be in a war against Russia.  What does their belligerence toward that country suggest – hopes for peace?  A war with Russia, given that their missiles don’t fail catastrophically to the amusement of all observers (as North Korea’s do) would likely be devastating if allowed to escalate, and certainly unnecessary.

But that war would be okay?  Where’s the logic here, folks?  The logic is very simple: if President Trump says or does something, we must automatically oppose it, even if it makes no sense to oppose it.  Because, you know, #notmypresident and all that.

War with Russia is okay, because Trump doesn’t want to go to war with Russia.  War with North Korea is not okay, because Trump wants to go to war (or solve the problem by “fire and fury” – whatever form that takes.)

I tell you, politics is becoming one massive shitpost.

The Death of Retail

…and what it means for the employment of the youth.

A couple articles ago, I briefly talked about how automation is starting to take hold in fast food businesses.  It is certain that the development of this technology will only accelerate.  But there is something else: retail is dying.

These two threats to the employment of the young lead me to predict that within two decades, there will be a tangible and perhaps serious crisis when it comes to the employment of the young and under-experienced.

Strictly speaking, retail will never completely die off – some things can never be practically fulfilled by amazon.  But as the baby boomers – the bulk of the consumers that support big box retail – die off, retail business will shrink because those consumers won’t be replaced.

Retail does seem, at the surface, to be plunder on the high seas.  Typically 100% markup on housewares, and for clothing it is much more, perhaps 300%+.

But retail served an important function: it served as a buffer between the producer and the consumer.  By buffer, I do not mean a simple middleman.  You see, manufacturers prefer to produce in bulk quantities, as that lowers the individual unit price of each product.  However, the market is not immediately willing to purchase bulk quantities, at any price.  So retailers accept the risk of buying large quantities of goods and then stocking them for purchase at the market’s leisure.  There is always the possibility that those items won’t sell, hence the high markup on the prices.

All well and good.  However, it’s obvious that Amazon and other services, while still technically playing the role of a retailer, can offer goods at a lower markup because the costs of warehousing and automation are much less than public retail space.  This is fairly obvious.  However, it means that there is another threat to the employment of the youth and under-experienced persons.

These are defined as 16 – 24 year olds, my generation, who may not yet have achieved their college degrees or may have just recently.  The statistics concerning this generation are a little less straight forward given that many of them work only seasonally, or not at all.

Nearly 12 percent of the participating youth workforce is unemployed.

What can we expect to happen when retail and fast food jobs begin to decline in number?  This will obviously mean that the effective market rate for youthful under-experienced labor will decrease to the lowest possible rate – minimum wage.  You’ll find that many jobs, especially in fast food situations, are $1 or $2 above minimum wage.  (the irony is of course, that it’s the calls for increasing minimum wage that helps to motivate further automation.)

I’m not really sure what, if anything, can be done about this.  It’s just a new reality.

 

Libertarianism, Morality, and Bigotry

It’s a thankless job, defending libertarianism from leftists.

The question: ought libertarians actively seek and weed out supposed “bigots” from the ranks of libertarianism?

At the surface, this seems reasonable.  Who wants racists and sexists crashing the party? Certainly, if allowed to get out of hand, this could pose problems for the image of the philosophy and more practically, the party.

But hold on a minute: it’s not so clear cut.  We are inclined to ask the following questions:

  1. Who defines what is bigoted?  As noted above, racism and sexism is pretty obvious.  What about other things, though?  If I oppose modern Feminism (I do, actually – it’s an absurd movement that has outlived it’s usefulness) does that throw me in the boat of bigots?  How about philosophical disagreements with religions?  Nobody really cares about disagreements regarding Christianity, but what about the sacred cow of the left-libertarians, Islam?
  2. Who decides?  Who decides what is done?  You can’t be kicked out of the party (I think?) you can’t be voted off the island – so what?

A lot of question marks, and of course it’s purely rhetorical, intended to point out the weaknesses in the above concept.  Of course, I think it’s really all a frivolous matter.

You see, the left libertarians have an obsession with chasing and attacking what is essentially a ghost – bigotry.  While it technically does exist, it does not exist meaningfully, just like a ghost.  Even worse, this concept of “getting rid of the bigots” will really just be used to get rid of people whose opinions we don’t like.  Anything can be “bigoted” if you say it’s bigoted.

Of course, the point is moot anyway.  If all the white supremacists banded together and decided to call themselves libertarians, what could we really do about it?  No fear of that happening though; remember that many white supremacists (Richard Spencer, most notably) are socialists in the tradition of Hitler himself.

 

President Trump can tweet whatever he wants

Fifteen years ago, the title of this article would have made no sense at all…

Trump cannot say or do anything without a rain of criticism from the media.  So it’s less that he did something actually wrong with his latest round of tweets, but really the media will latch onto anything to attack him on.  Bearing this reality in mind, let’s proceed with my commentary on this nonsense.

Trump can tweet whatever he wants from his personal twitter account.  It would perhaps be different if it was from the POTUS twitter account (which is really the property of the office, and not the man who occupies it.)  But it’s from his personal twitter account; given the unprecedented situation this is, we would be right in asking a couple of questions:

Is the president of the United States denied freedom of speech rights?

If yes, are all politicians and government officials denied freedom of speech rights?

Really, I can’t get on board with all this false outrage over these tweets.  Do words hurt you?

Scarborough says that he constantly “degrades” women.  But then, why are women looking for validation from a man they despise?

He has also degraded men on his twitter account.  (“Pervert alert.  Anthony Weiner is back on Twitter.  All girls under the age of 18, block him immediately.”)  This isn’t a problem, is it?  We don’t see the same sort of outrage from the left when he criticizes a man on his twitter (or in person.)  The real sexism here is that the left, by being selectively outraged, is saying that women are too sensitive to handle criticism.   If the genders are equal (they are, of course) they ought to be able to handle negative words like anyone else.

 

We ought to oppose any censorship whatsoever.

 

Why do people become so outraged over words on social media?  I remember after the May 20th tornado, a facebook post of a man made the outrage rounds.  He asked why it was that people were still living in Moore, given that the tornadoes were a common occurrence (paraphrasing here, this was three years ago.)

Instead of people just ignoring it, chuckling at it, treating it for what it was worth (nothing) these keyboard warriors mounted a campaign to have him fired by his employer.  Why?  What did that accomplish?  The post was on his personal facebook.

They were just words.

And if “Low IQ Crazy Mika” cries herself to sleep over what Donald Trump said about her, that is her problem, not his.  And it certainly isn’t our problem.

Trump’s personal twitter offers us a connection to the president never before seen.  We can read his tweets like we would any of our friends, and it offers a direct unfiltered connection between the United States president and the people of the world.

And besides, it’s entertaining.  “Pervert alert!”

 

Automation and the Minimum Wage

Admittedly, libertarianism depends largely on idealism.  But the idealism we have lies in our honest solutions to actual reality; whereas the left tweaks, twists, alters, or outright invents realities to accommodate their own solutions.  Simply, all extreme ideologies are necessarily idealistic; but one fits their solutions to reality, and the other fits reality to their solution.

The problem is obvious – people aren’t getting paid enough to survive.

There are two possible solutions, but only one of which will have the desired effect of improving the welfare of American workers, particularly minimum wage workers.  Raise the wage, keep it the same, or eliminate the concept altogether.

Raising the wage depends on a reality in which employers would be willing to pay more for labor, without also cutting available jobs and/or raising prices.  Furthermore, there is an added problem: replacing man with machine.

McDonald’s stocks had a very good day when it was announced that electronic ordering kiosks would soon be a feature in some stores.  If the cost of labor is already so much that companies are considering making these sorts of investments, what will happen when we raise these costs further?

It’s a little hard to imagine, but visit a new walmart grocery shop – most of the points of sale are automated.  Ten years ago that was indeed hard to imagine: back then, they were impractical and annoying.  Now they’re easier, and presumably cheaper.  We might have a hard time holding on to these jobs altogether, regardless of the rate.

A sad reality for people of my age group, especially: our choices of employment are very limited.  Raising the minimum wage will restrict our options further.  

Raising the minimum wage has no positive outcomes in the long or short term.  In the short term, it raises prices on goods and results in less hours available to workers.  In the long term, it means restricting employment options via less available jobs and replacement of human labor by technology.

 

Oklahoma Republicans are Blowing It

Republicans are well entrenched in power in Oklahoma.  And for the moment, despite all their blunders, their corruption, and outright incompetence – there is no indication that Republican’s political dominance will end.  It will someday, however, as demographics shift in Oklahoma.

Republicans are certainly taking their present immunity from meaningful political opposition in Oklahoma for granted.  The budget fiasco and the shady “solutions” to it further negatively impact the reputation of a party which, both on the state and national level, is suffering already from a PR problem.

So just what are the Oklahoma republicans thinking?  It could be that they aren’t thinking.  However, I think it’s a sort of prevailing hubris and delusions of political indestructibility.

They keep up this nonsense, and their days are numbered.

I am referring, of course, to how they handled the budget fiasco in 2017.  It’s not that I wanted them to raise taxes; I think cuts could still be made.  However, the republicans have refused to do this.

If you are going to raise taxes, it must be done in a fair and sensible manner.  In this case, it would be a slight increase in the income tax rate.  Now, I don’t mean to say that this would be a good thing – but it is preferable to willy-nilly taxes like cigarette “fees.”  Nickels and dimes which are not only a temporary fix, but also will never go away.

The beauty of raising the income tax now, is that it will be lowered again later down the road when it becomes politically expedient.  However, no one’s going to rise to the campaign stump and declare “I’m for lowering the sales tax on cars…” because soon, the increase in that tax will be forgotten.  But people remember the income tax…

 

Republicans don’t need to worry now.  There’s still enough voters that, though this circus angers them, they would never consider voting for democrats.  Give it ten years, and this is going to change, dramatically.