POLITICAL OPINIONS#60: ENVIRONMENTALISM & SOCIALISM

INTRODUCTION:

 

It is easy to operate under the assumption of knowing a person’s stance on one political issue we have a window to the entirety of their ideological convictions. Much can be said for how certain political beliefs are highly correlated with other supporting political and non-political philosophical tenants.  The congruency of being a social conservative, Pro-life, religiosity, and supporting the political views of  Pat Buchanan seems to be logically sound. However,  not all correlations of political beliefs are that epistemologically linear and are sometimes are more conceptually nuanced. For example, the anti-war demonstrator who is pro-choice when it comes to the controversial topic of abortion.  Anytime you analyze the definition of human life in the abortion debate the topic quickly devolves into a semantical tightrope walk.  One where operational definitions of human life are subjected to veracity tested filtered through philosophical, legal, scientific, and even biblical literature. However, conservatives have their own cognitive dissonance tested when confronted with the prospect of being Pro-life, but defending just war doctrines or state-sanctioned executions.

 

While such distinctions can easily be settled on the grounds of oversimplification of the issue,  sometimes that seems to be too dismissive of an answer.  While philosophical nuance can explain oblique congruency with seemingly incompatible ideas couldn’t there also be other factors at play? In recent years the sense of increased attachment to ideological labels and institutions. There have even been studies conducted where individuals rejected policy proposals fitting into their political view just because they were told it was supported by the opposing party [3].  A 2016  study demonstrated “…Activation of the posterior medial parietal cortex is also consistent with another study of motivated reasoning in politics…” when faced with unfavorable information about a favored political candidate [4]. Given some physiological insight why we attempt to justify supporting politically incompatible views.

 

The social, psychological, and biological factors behind these phenomena are certainly engaging, however, I could write an entire book addressing these issues. However, I have other objectives at hand. What really inspired this blog entry was an observation made after reading up on the ” Green New Deal” being purposed by a certain junior congresswoman who shall go unnamed. I at that moment noticed a strong correlation between support for socialist economic policy and environmentalism.  A correlation so pronounced there is even a splinter form of socialism known as eco-socialism [5].  Now I am not going to resort to the sophomorically inserting anti-socialism MEMES into my blog post and crafting an obtuse polemic devolving into patronizing diatribes.  Rather explore a legitimate inquiry into the philosophical framework of environmentalism.

 

My main inquiry is why environmentalism is so strongly correlated to socialist economic policies? In environmentalist circles, the perils of manipulating certain variables are well noted and cited. However, can’t the same be said for the American Economy?  The burst of the 2008 Housing Bubble engendered by artificially low-interest rates [6] [7]. I would state that an institution such as the Federal Reserve manipulating mortgage interest rates would be analogous to housing development or population killing off a major food source in an ecosystem’s food-chain. As any environmentalist will tell you such a disruption will have truly pernicious ramifications for every life form in that environment. So why it is so outlandish to apply the same concept to our economy?  When we generally attempt to implement pricing control, increase the minimum wage, and subsidize production in select industries all have unforeseen and typically detrimental consequences.  While such thinking is in direct confrontation with the left-wing leaning sentiments of environmentalism it does not have conflict. The idea of not disturbing the natural order can be extrapolated and applied to environmentalism as well as economics.  However, there is ample tribalism and the maneuvering of confirmation bias that will make such a notion far-fetched.

 

COMPLEX SYSTEMS:

Both a natural ecosystem and the American Economy (or any nation’s economy for that matter) operates as a complex system.  A complex system  is defined as:

” …. any system featuring a large number of interacting components (agents, processes, etc.) whose aggregate activity is nonlinear (not derivable from the summations of the activity of individual components) and typically exhibits hierarchical self-organization under selective pressures. ” [8].

Essentially an entity comprised of a multitude of different interacting variable. There is a self-organized hierarchy or natural order created by the components and their interaction.  It should also be noted that the components of a complex system are extremely interdependent [9]. Meaning that if you alter the input on one variable it impacts every other variable within a complex system.  Which explains why in an ecosystem you take away one food source it causes an imbalance. Some species of plants, animals, or microorganisms will overpopulate the environmental. In contrast, some will either face extinction or die off. In any complex system, the line between equilibrium and chaos is razor thin.

While it is easy to associate a biome in the natural world as a complex system. What constitutes a complex system extends beyond that mere example. Essentially any entity with a self-arranged order, composed of an interacting variable, and the effects of alteration can be easily measured or predicted, constitutes a complex system. For instance, examples of social complex systems range from  ” … ant colonies, families, and nations…” [10]. This also includes economies as well. There is a natural flow or cadence to the hierarchy and functions of transactions in economic behavior. Beyond just how the intervention of taxes, tariffs, price controls, etc causes disturbances and the market tends to work around such barriers, most factors are set by market behavior.

If you are familiar with the Austrian School of economics you may be aware of the theory of subjective value, the Austrian theory of value, the theory of imputation, etc.  This theory of pricing goes by a myriad of different monikers. Essentially it addresses Adam Smith’s Diamond-Water Paradox of marginal utility [13]. Essentially the subjective assessment of the value of a scarce commodity is determined by the market or the buyer [12].  Versus the price being derived from the costs of production which tend to be the assumption of the classical school of economics [11].  One real-life example of Austrian pricing theory that I have some experience with is purchasing goods and services for a wedding.  Standard napkins you would purchase for a dinner party tend to be less expensive than those that have the words “wedding” on the label. For all intensive purposes, the cost of production is the same, however, what accounts for the difference in price. The only rational way to view this difference is that the consumer is willing to pay the higher price for the “wedding” napkins if not there would be no price difference. The difference in price demonstrates the higher perceived value by the consumer.

Now I am not trying to convert anyone to the Austrian School of Economics, however, many of the theories within this school do an excellent job of explaining the natural order of pricing in the market. Demonstrating that natural flow and cadence solidifies the fact that the economy is a complex system. One that is comprised of a myriad of economic transactions and behaviors.  One that one you alter one variable either for good intentions or other motives creates nonlinear counterreactions that cannot be easily controlled. Similar to how in a biome there are natural predators and prey, pricing in the economic market is determined by the market. Darwin theory of  Natural Selection reverts right back to the self-selecting nature of complex systems [14]. Similar to how gene selection is determined by surviving long enough to copulate economies have their own self-selection process. Markets being consumer driven, economic conditions are at the mercy of their subjective attribution of price and perception of the value of goods and services offered. If a producer cannot adapt to market conditions the odds of failure are almost inevitable.

 

Considering the evidence presented, the overlap between economic environments and those in the natural world is quite resounding. The plethora of commonalities validates the theory of Complex Systems at a conceptual level. Both are self-organizing, interconnected variable interaction with one another, and alteration of one variable impacts all others.

 

Seeing how this concept can be extrapolated and applied makes me question the alliance between socialistic economic policy and environmentalism. Beyond the microcosm of the subculture of environmentalism, socialism abroad has garnered more support. The results of a political poll conducted in August of 2018 revealed that sixty percent of Democrats polled viewed socialism favorably [15]. However, such numbers do not exactly speak to the views of the average voter.  But within environmentalism, there has been a longstanding ethos against capitalism. A bias stemming from the perception that damage to the environment being a byproduct of capitalistic greed [16]. Making the natural reciprocal of Socialism appealing. Former Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein’s platform had a plethora of initiatives intensive on economic central planning and redistributive policies [17].

My question becomes if you understand disrupting natural environments is detrimental, why isn’t the same true for the American economy? The counterargument can be made that we need government involvement to correct for the environmental blunders of man. The initial problem was engendered by disruption of a naturally occurring variable. Trying to correct for the blemishes of a capitalistic society through welfare initiatives also disrupts natural order. Could be viewed as being analogous to dumping toxic waste into a stream. Both demonstrate a lack of foresight and have a litany of adverse ramifications.

 

SPONTANEOUS ORDER:

Not to beat a dead horse here, however, I would also like to incorporate the concept of Spontaneous order into this discourse. While it may feel as if I have exhaustively expounded upon the parallels between the American economy and natural environments, the matter still remains unresolved.  The concept of Spontaneous order really bridges any remaining gaps between the social and natural worlds, in regards to external meddling.

 

The idea of spontaneous order was conceptualized by Nobel prize-winning Austrian Economist F.A. Hayek. The idea is derived from the concept of the “Invisible-hand” which was contrived by the Moral Philosopher Adam Smith. Smith argued that “… society developed from a spontaneous order which was the result of human action but not of human design…”. Hayek expanded upon this notion by stating that while reason and logic have facilitated human development, society was too complex to be methodically planned bit by bit. Hayek also speculated that many who dismissed the premise of spontaneous order did so by being hung up on the dichotomy of chaos (unplanned)  and order (planned). When in actuality economies belong to a third category where there are rules, self-organized, and “… increase in complexity in a way that would not be fully understood…” [18].

It is analogous to the development of human language. While there are rules predicating verb conjugation, syntax, etc these rules were not consciously contrived by one person. But rather spontaneously arose in the absence of human design [19]. There is also the skating rink example which parallels the unwritten rules of the driver. Example being the right of way rule at a 4-way stop. In the skating rink example, if you were to be a ruler and were to build a skating rink you would assume you would need to install speed limit signs, traffic lights, etc to ensure safety [20, 21]. It could be said that you ” … can’t expect skaters to navigate the rink on their own…” because you need rules and agents to enforce those rules [20]. However, the skaters seem to manage to do so it is not the result of intentional planning  [20, 21].

 

In social systems such as economies, we cannot adequately plan them what makes us think we are capable of doing so with the complex systems of the natural world.  In sense exploring the idea of spontaneous order illustrates how economies are not conscious design nor are natural biomes. Any attempt to intervene or plan either would merely be more detrimental than beneficial as you are attempting to control entities that have a nonlinear result from such measures. While I do see how transgressive acts such as littering and dumping toxic waste as pernicious and as negative they are more a variable of human meddling than a lack of government oversight. For one, both acts are examples of manipulation of variables by human choice. Second being, even in light of regulations and punitive sanctions people still chose to litter. While such measures have the best intentions it cannot change the fact that people possess free will with limitations. Overall, erroneous choices exist regardless of the existence of regulation. Unless someone can demonstrate that such regulations reduce such actions on a statistically significant level, see them as nothing more than futile. However, if we shouldn’t be hunting a species out of extinction, why is it okay raise the minimum wage to the point that fast-food workers are replaced by machines because it is no longer solvent to keep them employed?  Both demonstrate how intentions do not always match results.

 

DISCUSSION:

 

For the record, I am not attempting to proselytize anyone to the virtues of Libertarianism or of Austrian School of Economics. Rather, I am expressing an interesting conceptual connection between social and environmental systems. I would purport that if we shouldn’t be upsetting the equilibrium in one, we should not be doing the same in the other. Which is why I am expressing my confusion regarding the strong correlation between environmentalism and socialism. If you comprehend the perils of variable manipulation in the natural world, why wouldn’t it apply to the social world? The American economy as with any economy is most certainly a social complex system.  An economy is comprised of economic behavior through the manifestation of exchanges. So if spontaneous order applies to both the natural and social world any attempt to artificially manipulate it would a mere hindrance. The underlying cadence or implicit law being the laws and theories of biology for the natural world and social laws whether written or intuitively understood. For example, the Law of Supply and Demand in economics.

 

However, many would argue that I am fundamentally mistaken by questioning the alliance between socialism and environmentalism. It does seem as if there is a strong preference for government involvement in correcting for the damage that has already been done. Due to the assumption that a lack of regulation led to the current environmental conditions. Which would to some extent nullify my argument.  Especially when you consider the current trajectory of using governmental bodies and alliances to grapple with issues such as global warming, early forerunner being the Kyoto Protocol. One of the first of the global attempts at addressing the issue [22]. The current trajectory of the environmental movement is to remedy issue through the consolidation of governmental power, now even at a global level.

 

While such patterns give Right-leaning conspiracy theorists new avenues of intrigue to exhaust, I do not believe that this is a massive conspiracy. Rather a misguided attempt through using international governance structures to eliminate a problem that cannot be solved. Especially when a lot of these agreements appear to be a typical ceremonial formality.  China signed the Paris Climate accord back in 2016, however, are they taking this commitment seriously ? [23] The United States has decreased carbon dioxide emissions by 800 million tons annually over the past decade. While China emits more than the United States and EU combined, currently Asia accounts for 50 percent of the world’s emissions [24]. China is the major contributor. Another example of how the good intentions of government involvement do not necessarily yield results. Also, this agreement would only work if all the major contributors took it seriously. In my uneducated opinion, I do not believe China would risk the economic impact of complying with the agreement. I am pretty sure there is more of a profit over principle paradigm at work.

 

As you may remember, I discussed the notion of coping with cognitive dissonance and tribal political behavior. If the premise of preservation is extrapolated from environmentalism it, in theory, can be applied to social systems. Economies included. Preservation in the sense of not manipulating naturally occurring cycles. It can be stated that I am merely transposing my libertarian perspective to a set of ideas that are incompatible with such thinking. Whether or not the prospect of limited government and environmentalism can coexist in the pantheon of ideas is a matter of perspective. Much of that speculation is contingent on examining the tenants of both paradigms. Much can be said for the notion of environmentalism being tied socialized economical policies through the concept of justice. Utilizing government institutions to amend the evils and perceived fallacies of man.

 

The leftism and emphasis on artificially stacking the deck to even the wrongs of the world do not matter of conforming to tribalism, but rather the status quo of liberal environmentalists.  Due to the strong emphasis on social and environmental justice (in a sense both are conceptual kissing cousins) the hard leftist tendencies are right on base for this microcosm of the left. If anything the standard left of center democrat is shifting more towards the hard left in regards to policy and ethos.  So if anything the philosophical pillars of the ecologically conscious left are infiltrating the mainstream democratic party. The Environmentalist/ Progressive sect of the liberalism appears to be the prime mover pushing the pendulum of liberal thought versus accommodating itself to the mainstream democratic party. Making the issue of tribal conformity and ideological veering towards the extremes the victimhood of the democratic party.  In this era of instruction politics, it is common to see both Republicans and Democrats moving towards the extremes of the ideological bell curve.

 

Now I am intrigued by one environmentalist movement that may be a step in the right direction. However, I have not done much in the way of research on this microcosm of environmentalism, that is the Free-market Environmentalism. Example being the Clean Capitalist  Coalition being concerned with being more environmentally conscious without stifling economic growth [25]. While I still need to do some further research on this movement, it does look like a potential compromise to the current socialist-environmentalism paradigm. I need to to do more investigating before I can endorse this perspective. However, it may be a measure and appropriate compromise.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

[1].https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-60-environmentalism-socialism

[2].https://youtu.be/rh_Featv0gA

[3]. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bias-fundamentals/201806/tribalism-in-politics

[4]. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

[5] http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/ecosocialism/

[6] https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardsalsman/2013/09/19/the-financial-crisis-was-a-failure-of-government-not-free-markets/#77ca2bd451c3

[7] https://fee.org/articles/how-the-federal-government-created-the-subprime-mortgage-crisis/

[8] https://www.informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/publications/complex/csm.html

[9].https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/complexsystems/introduction.html#interdependence

[10]. http://www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/ComplexSocialSystem.htm

[11]. https://mises.org/library/marginal-utility-not-rocket-science

[12] https://mises.org/library/subjective-value-theory

[13] https://www.britannica.com/topic/diamond-water-paradox

[14] https://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Natural_selection

[15] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/08/14/democrats-prefer-socialism-capitalism-gallup-poll/988558002/

[16]. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Why-Do-Environmentalists-Hate-Capitalism.html

[17]. https://www.jill2016.com/plan

[18] https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/the-region/hayeks-legacy-of-the-spontaneous-order

[19]. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billconerly/2017/10/30/business-planning-with-austrian-economics-spontaneous-order/#4d335d9380d0

[20]. https://fee.org/articles/spontaneous-order/

[21]. https://reason.com/archives/2011/02/10/spontaneous-order

[22] https://www.iep.utm.edu/envi-eth/#H3

[23]https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-37265541

[24] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2018/07/01/china-emits-more-carbon-dioxide-than-the-u-s-and-eu-combined/#5d136096628c

[25] https://www.forbes.com/sites/waynewinegarden/2018/09/28/free-market-environmentalism/#65c74a991f1a

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POLITICAL OPINIONS #59: ELECTORAL COLLEGE

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

Even at its infancy, the democratic process had its critics pointing out its inherent flaws and inefficiencies. Even the legendary classical philosopher Socrates cast his doubts and cynicism regarding democratic forms of government. Per the Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

 

“… Socrates “suggests that [the rulers] need to tell the citizens a myth that should be believed by subsequent generations in order for everyone to accept his position in the city”—and to accept the legitimacy of the rulers. The myth—like modern scientific racism and eugenics—divides the citizenry into an essential hierarchy, which Socrates symbolizes by the metals gold, silver, and bronze…” [3].

 

This interpretation of the Socratic stance on democracy demonstrates the longstanding debate on its innate flaws and failings as a form of government. Socrates had company in his follow classical intellectuals including Thucydides known for his historical accounts of the Peloponnesian War. While the criticisms of the classical thinkers may not necessarily be 100 percent applicable to the contemporary American political landscape it does demonstrate that even at its genesis democracy has at its critics.

 

Few Americans would call for the just but totalitarian rule advocated in Plato’s Republic, but rather a different critique has emerged in recent years. Over the years the speculation of institutional failures of democracy in American has become more salient. Particularly in regards to the role of the electoral college in the presidential election. While there has been a myriad of armchair pundits who apathetically chose not to participate in the democratic process due to the electorate, it is now starting to gain some mainstream traction.  The 2000 Presidential Election engendered a significant amount of controversy due to Republican Presidential candidate losing the popular vote, but obtaining the support from the electoral college [4]. While certainly scintillating to many voters not quite at the level of being a full-on flash point.  The public outrage in regards to the electoral vote superseding the popular came to a head after the 2016 election.

 

In the 2016 election, when Donald J. Trump, reminiscent of the 2000 election, won the electorate and lost the popular vote. Which spawned a wide range of investigations ranging from foreign meddling to manipulation of website and social media algorithms [5]. However, I am not composing this blog entry to address such inquiries. I am looking to address whether or not on any rational level we should keep the electoral college.  Per the results of 2016 of a Gallup opinion polls shows that the there was a sharp increase in the number of Americans that believe we should keep the electoral college, that number is still merely 47 percent [6]. Still more than half of the country is in favor of abolishment; therefore, it may be advantageous to explore alternatives. However, I will present evidence from both sides of the argument and then attempt to draw some rational conclusions.

 

Just a disclaimer, I am not addressing this issue out of any partisanship or other motives. I am merely attempting to grapple with a difficult and controversial matter of federal policy and governmental institutions.  Regardless of whether going forward, it is conspicuously evident that the electoral college needs to be abandoned in favor of direct elections, it would be petty to retroactively take action against past presidents. However, I do find it interesting that whenever this issue does come back to prevalence, no one wants to have a serious conversation about policy, but rather shout a linear “Get Rid of its Mantra”. These same individuals did not call for reform when politicians of their preferred political affiliation got elected into the oval office.  In other words, this will be a serious discourse on policy versus a Trump and Bush bashing session.  For anyone who does oppose the electoral college when it is convenient to do so may want to actually think about the issue on a less superficial level.

 

BACKGROUND:

 

The Electoral college was established in Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution, yes it is  Constitutionally legal. Most states have a requirement that the electorate must go with the candidate that received the “plurality ‘of the vote[ 7]. Twenty-six states have a process where they “bind” the electorate to vote for the candidate they pledge to vote for, enforced by fines and oaths. Faithless electors are ones that vote against their pledged candidate, which has happened in 1948, 1956, 1960,1968, 1972,1976,1988 elections. A blank ballot was cast for Colorado in 2000 and seven electorates broke away from the popular vote in 2016. Since 1887  per 3 U.S.C. 15  implement procedure for objections to electoral votes.  Which much be presented in writing with a signature from one senator and representative, a joint meeting being held in Congress.  There are two on record objections 1969 and 2005, both were rejected. There have been two Constitutional amendments related to the  President and Vice president. The 23rd amendment ratified in 1961 where the District of Columbia was granted three electorates [7].

 

 

 

WHY NOT DIRECT ELECT:

 

It is fair on a basic rational level to question the validity of having the final result of the Presidential election determined by an institutional body rather than the voters. However, few who express their ire for the quiddity of such perceived injustice ask what the reasoning is for having the electoral college in place.  While the founder fathers were far from perfect morally, I hardly believe they would haphazardly implement restrictive policy with no rationale. Especially when you consider their recent extrication from the claws of English colonial rule. I am going to dare to ask the question that seems to elude many and what is the true purpose of the electoral college and are they a possible safeguard for the democratic process?

 

In a very general sense, there are two key reasons why the drafters of the United States Constitution built-in the institution of the electoral college. The first reason being as creating a safeguard between the Presidential selection process and the voting public. The second was to work as an equalizing force to give more balanced voting representation to states that have lower populations [8]. The safeguard between the voters and the selection process is justified in the  Federalist papers, it is speculated that this section was written by founder James Madison [8].  Madison wrote Federalist Papers #68:

 

“…. The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to a lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: “For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,” yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration…” [9].

 

In a sense, the founders feared the tyranny would hijack the voting interest of the public and erode the integrity of the democratic process. As grandiose and abstract as that sounds, essentially, they are conveying that the electorate is a barrier between external manipulation influencing voter behavior. Considering the dismally low literacy rates of the voting public back when the Federalist Papers were drafted it does seem a little more valid. However, it may not be a stretch to say that their high amount of veracity to keeping this institutional safeguard in the present day. While most Americans are literate in the direct sense, we do have new modern threats to the external influence of voter behavior. Threats include excessive campaign advertisements funded by political action committees, lobbyists, and even data collection and algorithms directing the user to specific kinds of media content. Just remember the whole Cambridge Analytica controversy and you get a pristine picture of the last example. Which really illustrates how the tools of manipulation may have changed, but the sophists are still at bay. In regards to the notion that people have a higher standard of educational obtainment being used to justify abolishing the electorate is debatable. While most Americans may be able to read they are not literate when it comes to policy. If nearly forty percent of Americans polled in a 2006 Ohio University poll believed that Saddam Hussein worked closely with Al Qaeda prior to the U.S., one could certainly be incredulous of the judgment of the voting public [10].

 

The argument for the electorate balancing out representation for states with lower populations does seem to be quite straightforward. The question can be posed that if we truly have a democratic form of government if the East and West coasts are the ones determining our elections. While middle American and the Rustbelt is politically left in the dust. It becomes more problematic in the sense that Presidential candidates give more focus to states with larger populations. This also translates into appointments and other state-specific accommodations [11]. While it easy to argue the potential for institutional corruption when you live in a city like Los Angeles, however, it does not account for the disadvantages of someone living in Cheyenne.  In a sense, it would whittle down our two-party system to a one-party system. Natural the coasts will back the DNC. Which would install one party with a different figurehead in the Executive branch of government.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE:

 

While the intentions of the Founding Father’s reflected the moral sentiments of the Scottish Enlightenment ( a bountiful dose of Lockean goodwill), could they have been misguided? It is easy to contemplate if the very same institutional safety net created by the framers could be used the create a whole new form of injustice. Many opponents of the Electoral College languish at the institution’s inefficiencies and proclivity for tampering. Which are certainly valid concerns, however, much of these qualms are fair weather grievances versus actual principled calls for reform. The often come at the heels of concern generated by partisanship rather than a genuine conviction for policy reform. The same individuals calling for relinquishment and adjustment to this process did not seem to have a problem when Barrack Obama won the electoral vote back in the 2012 election [12]. A quick retort would be that he did also win the popular vote as well as the electoral vote. That is certainly a fair argument in a very superficial manner, it does not stifle the accusations of partisanship. If you truly believe the Electoral College is flawed shouldn’t your support for abolishment be unwavering? Rather than a concern that is only pertinent when it serves a political candidate you dislike.

 

It is quite conspicuous that the substrate for the arguments against the Electoral College is contaminated with petty partisanship and debates that quickly fizzle out once the election results cycle becomes lukewarm in the news cycle. Despite these major flaws in motives, there are some truly compelling arguments against preserving this institutional process. The only possible way to provide a proper analysis of this topic is to present both sides of the proverbial coin. The contrast provides the best compilation of information to draw strong conclusions.

 

The first grouping of arguments criticizing the Electoral College address imbalance that it creates in regards to voter representation.  It eliminates the “one person, one vote” metric through allocating more to smaller states. Not only does this artificial manipulation appear to be less transparent than a majority vote, but it also can cause the candidate with the popular vote to still lose. [13] Not only does it seem counterintuitive to the quiddity of democracy, but also has the moral shortcoming not having the true winner being elected. Which compromises the trust of the public. The electorate striding to even the tide by providing more representation to more rural states have created another problem. The potential for there to be an institutional advantage for a preferred political party of rural states [13]. There is certainly some compelling evidence to say at least at the anecdotal level there may be some truth to this notion. It is well noted that there is a strong conservative streak in among the body of electoral representatives [14]. This proclivity the Conservative leanings of the rural states, which are the ones that receive the most amount of electoral acknowledgment has been noted for decades [15] [16].

 

The second subcategory of arguments can be perceived as the Electoral College’s potential impact on voter participation. The Electoral College disincentivizing voter turn out extends beyond the common assertion a perceived futility of action.  A more oblique speculated cause being that political candidates focus more attention on competitive states, such as swing states. The lack of campaigning attention leaves constituents in less pivotal voting districts and states less incline to vote. Interlocked with this point is that issues pertinent to voters are covered more extensively in “competitive” states. Again surmised to adversely impact voter turn out. Due to the stiff competition faced in “battleground” / “swing” states the creates the incentive for the use of electoral fraud to even the odds versus going by the merits of the popular vote [13]. Such potential for institutional corruption weakens voter confidence and circles back to the notion of perceived futility decreasing voter turn out.

 

The third variety of arguments against the Electoral College echoes the sentiments of the mainstream media.  That is the notion that the Electoral College fails to filter out unqualified or incompetent candidates. Now, some may be inclined to argue this systemic failure is far from a new phenomenon. In light of Trump’s ascent into the apogee of political power, a hyperbolic sense of unhinged panic has swept our country.  Magnifying previously glossed over political shortcomings, the difference being Trump is more brazen. Almost to the extent of flaunting it. Some argue that when the drafters implemented the Electoral College it was designed to stifle such a populist movement of that of  Donald Trump, which it failed to do [17]. In subtracting the variable of blatant partisanship and outrage over his cavalier abandonment of political correctness is a fair assessment.  He has no previous political experience,  no understanding of the interworkings of political institutions, no real grasp of economics, foreign affairs, etc and he still obtained the electoral vote.

 

FLAWS IN THE ARGUMENTS FOR ELECTORAL COLLEGE:

When examining the validity of an argument as it is imperative to present the counter-arguments, but to also expose any blind spots. Even arguments that appear to be airtight have logical and factual shortcomings. In order to comprehensively present the Pros and Cons of an issue, we must look at the failings of both sets of arguments. Out of the necessity of intellectual honesty, I will explore the pitfalls of the arguments of the Electoral College.

 

One of the premiere arguments in favor of the Electoral College is that it serves as a bulwark from the constituents putting the wrong individual in power.  Essentially a preventative measure against a populous movement putting an unqualified candidate in power. When put into the context of when the Constitution was drafted, this argument makes a lot of sense. Literacy was not prevalent and it was quite common for special interests to use bribery to influence voter behavior. Even our first President and Founding Father George Washington resorted to enticing voters with free alcohol [19].

It certainly seems in the context of a world where education is scant, marauding tactics run rampant.  However,  while theoretically the electorate may be designed to protect against such the passion of the people,  the byproduct, in reality, is far from desirable. In our bipartisan political system, the members of the electorate body tend to have an alliance to one of the two parties. Which expectedly influences their voting patterns. Many Republicans disapproved of President Trump, however, even those incredulous in the electorate still voted for him. It should be noted the number of  “faithless votes” or the electorate breaking rank with the constituency of their district is rare. In the 2016 election, the electorate reflected rather than deflected the sentiments of the populous Conservative movement. The electorate did not impede this shift in the political climate as originally intended but rather allowed a conventionally unqualified candidate to become president [18].

 

Another core argument supporting the Electoral College is that prevents rural states from losing influence in national elections. Which would appear to be a substantive rationale until you are confronted with the facts of the 2016 Election. The Republican and Democratic candidates spent 87 percent of the campaign in one of the 12 “battleground” states.  By the end of the election, there were approximately 27 states that were never visited by a mainstream presidential candidate. The majority of those neglected states were rural states [18] Not only does this demonstrate that the Electoral College does not necessarily give balance or deference to rural states in regards to campaign attention. This also has profound ramifications for voter turn out and participation. It has been shown that voter turn is higher in the swing states that receive more campaign coverage [20]. While we cannot infer causation from such correlations it is still a notable pattern to pay attention to.

 

The third erroneous argument reinforcing the Electoral College is that it strengthens the perceived legitimacy of the winning party. The media coverage of close elections creates the illusion that the victor won by a significant margin. For instance, Ronald Regan won the popular vote by about 51 percent and the electoral vote by over 90 percent.  Bill Clinton won the electoral vote twice with having less than popular vote. No doubt he lost some votes the relative success of Ross Perot as a somewhat significant third-party candidate. This artificial perception of significant victory influences public opinion and enables the president to more easily act about their political aspirations. [18]

 

LOOPHOLES IN THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST MAINTAINING THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE:

While the arguments in favor of the maintain the  Electoral College have blind spots, there are plenty of follies in the opposing arguments as well. In the spirit of equity, I must expound erroneous assumptions of those proposing abolishing the Electoral College.

The first  Achille’s Heel in the arguments against the Electoral College regarding it not satisfying the “one person, one vote” metric is a two-pronged attack.  For one, the United States does not function as a direct democracy, but rather a Presidential Republic. In such a system the government has institutions that strive to create a balance between state and individual representation. Understanding that aspect of the nature of the U.S. government nullifies this argument unless substantial Constitutional and institution restructuring occurs [13].

 

The second prong in this counterargument is that the assumption the imbalance of smaller state representation is disproportionate. It is often said that the Electoral College favors representation to less populated states that lean towards the Republican Party.  However, many academic argue the opposite due to the fact that more populated states are more pivotal in the outcomes of elections [13].

 

The flaw in the argument for relinquishing the governmental body of the Electoral College pertains to the objection to the candidate not having the majority popular gaining their seat in office. Which first of all is an anomaly that very rarely happens in the United States [13]. It has only transpired a grand total of five times throughout the course of the history of the Electoral College. Starting with the Election of 1824 with the electoral victory of John Quincy Adams and most recently 2016 victory of Donald Trump [21]. Just from an objective standpoint five times in the course of 242 years is far from statistically significant nor cause for reasonable concern. Which leads me to believe that the few Americans who are concerned are more so out of partisanship than a genuine concern of equity.

 

Addressing the shortcomings of the argument that the Electoral College adversely impacts voter participation. Argument resting firmly on the notion that due to Electoral College only states with sufficient pull in the electorate receive sufficient campaign coverage. However, it is also fair to say that if we eliminated the Electoral College there is no way to prove that this same problem would not still transpire. Regardless of whether this institution exists or not candidates are going to continue to focus on the regions that will be most advantageous to their victory[13].  Getting rid of this safeguard is merely going to deference to the coastal states, in the end, would just shift the location of the extensive campaigning and media coverage. While a different side of the argument, it can also be said that we have no concrete evidence that abolishing the Electoral College would disincentivize voter fraud [13].  While it seems natural to want to liberate the voting processing from red tape and bureaucracy, it cannot be argued in certain terms if untested.

 

The final blemish in the argument against the Electoral College is regarding it impeding clear and decisive election results. It does appear as if this argument isn’t full proof nor does it completely hold water. The fear being that Electoral College will further support the bicameral party system by shutting out third party candidates for the sake of decisive elections. In the 2000 Election Ralph Nader received a meager 3 percent of the popular vote. While Ross Perot received only 19.4 percent of the popular vote in the 1992 election cycle. Neither election had to go through a congressional assessment to determine a winner.  But it also should be noted that such minuscule popular vote numbers would in no way significantly impact the voting partners of the electorate [13]. Even if we were had transitioned to direct elections Perot and Nader still would have not had even a glimmer of hope of winning.

 

DISCUSSION:

While the skepticism and the passionate outcry to eliminate or reform the Electoral College is easy to sympathize it is generally underscores the actual mechanics of the institution. In all honesty, most of these fervent surges in the interest to reform this institution seems to be shortlived and conflated with political opportunism.  Seldom does a winning party or candidate call for reform of the electorate. Outside of the obvious being that it would run counter to their best interest, it easy to be complacent of its shortcomings. The mantra of  “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix” seems to be a suitable colloquialism to exemplify how those who benefit approach this topic. The sincerity of the majority of the critics of the Electoral College is certainly something I am suspicious of. From my anecdotal observations, it would appear that it only becomes a hot topic when the Democrats lose a Presidental Election. However, I never once heard a Democratic president in office call for reform of this governmental body.  I would dare to question that if an institution is inequitable,  wouldn’t it be so regardless of the outcome? Hence, why the vast majority of outrage in the 2016 election is more of an indictment of the candidate than the process. The same sentiments can also, in theory, be echoed for the  2000 Presidental Election as well.

 

It is no surprise with the lack of serious and sincere discussion regarding the Electoral College, that we have little in the way of alternate procedures for electing the President. If the methodology is flawed then how would the opponents suggest we proceed?  It is easy to express grievances, however, it takes on a whole other level of commitment to postulate a solution. The founding fathers devised the Electoral College without the intention of it being dominated by two parties. George Washington even warned about the perils of political parties creating discord [22]. Due to changes within the American political climate, there are unforeseen consequences now impacting the electorate. It serves as safeguard beyond the original function, now serving as an apparatus for balancing the voting influence of more populated states. If we eliminate this institution how can we ensure that one party does not dominate? Then again should we be controlling for equality of outcome? But we do run the risk of creating an extended democratic presidency by allowing the Left-leaning more populated areas unchecked voting influence. Which would negate the prospect of term limits due to each subsequent president pushing the same policy, just a different name.

 

The lack of a concise plan from opponents of the Electoral College only compounds matters. Eliminating this governmental body only creates more answered questions. It can be said that while it is a flawed system at least we understand the risks of it, due to it being tried and tested [13]. I never purport that maintaining the status quo is always the best policy. However, considering the rare circumstances under which the candidate with the popular vote does not receive the electoral, it is not a serious concern. At least statistically. If this had shown a stronger pattern of transpiring, I would advocate potentially abolishing the electorate.  I suppose to some extent I see a greater danger in relinquishment creating a political ruling class. In other words, our already scant array of choices of political affiliation being eliminated to one. Again circuitously connecting back to my point of making term limits a pointless concept. I am unsure if it worth to dwell in uncharted waters if this is a potential byproduct of eliminating the Electoral College.

 

When really examining the issue of eliminating the Electoral College it really runs parallel to the discussion about Direct Democracy. In a sense eliminating this institution would make this portion of the political process an example of direct democracy. Most will admit that here in the United States it has worked very well when it comes to voting on referendums at the state level.  However, the question becomes would this be a functional policy or a mangled mess on the national level. It is well documented that Switzerland had adopted the practice of direct democracy nationwide with relative success. Researcher  Simon Geissbuhler’s paper: Does direct democracy really work? A review of the empirical evidence from Switzerland demonstrates how this system has worked.  Geissbuhler’s research concluded that in direct democracy the voter, not the institution ended up being the balancing force. Essentially when the legislator moves too far to the right or left on a policy the voter behavior becomes more centrist [23].

 

Geissbuhler’s findings do seem to run counter to the speculated fears of direct democracy devolving into mob rule. A few variables to keep in mind is for one that Switzerland is a lot more homogeneous of a culture than the United States. When the majority of your few citizens share the same ideas and perspectives it is a lot easier to avoid discord. However, direct democracy could be detrimental to many of the rights that are Constitutionally protected. If we were to eliminate much of the checks and balances in the American Legislative process and left it up to the voting public, we could easily end up nullifying important amendments.  What is important to remember is that the First Amendment was not drafted to protect popular speech, but rather unpopular speech. So by opening up the process of Constitutional Amendment to the masses in a sense, we are surrendering individual liberty for the convictions of the crowd. I could easily see how in a knee-jerk reaction to the Overland Park shooting the general public potentially abolishing the Second Amendment. Keep in mind that back in 2009 the Swiss citizens voted for legislation for a nationwide ban on Minarets on Mosques [24]. Such prohibitions here in the United States would be a direct attack on religious liberty. Would certainly be contrary to our founding principles.

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] https://peterclark7979.wixsite.com/website/home/political-opinions-59-electoral-college

[2] https://vimeo.com/307932748

[3] http://www.openculture.com/2016/11/why-socrates-hated-democracies-an-animated-case-for-why-self-government-requires-wisdom-education.html

[4] https://www.britannica.com/event/United-States-presidential-election-of-2000

[5] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/presidential-election-2016-results-timeline-controversies-quotes-seats-maps-polls-quotes-a7398606.html

[6] https://news.gallup.com/poll/198917/americans-support-electoral-college-rises-sharply.aspx

[7]. https://history.house.gov/Institution/Electoral-College/Electoral-College/

[8] https://www.historycentral.com/elections/Electoralcollgewhy.html

[9] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed68.asp

[10] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmarshallcrotty/2013/09/26/why-general-knowledge-matters-and-why-we-should-test-for-it/#60d1fdf14be3

[11]http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2012/11/defending_the_electoral_college.html

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2012/results/president.html

[13] Thinking About the Political Impacts of the Electoral College, Benard Grofman & Scott L. Feld, 2005, Published by Springer.

[14] https://www.uakron.edu/bliss/docs/state-of-the-parties-documents/Stonecash.pdf

[15] https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-urban-rural-divide-more-pronounced-than-ever/

[16] http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/04/the-urban-rural-divide-matters-more-than-red-vs-blue-state.html

[17] http://www.harvardpolitics.com/united-states/the-case-against-the-electoral-college/

[18] http://time.com/4571626/electoral-college-wrong-arguments/

[19] https://about.bgov.com/blog/that-time-george-washington-bought-an-election-with-160-gallons-of-booze-and-other-presidents-day-stories/

[20]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/255970024_Battleground_states_and_voter_participation_in_US_presidential_elections_An_empirical_test

[21] https://www.factcheck.org/2008/03/presidents-winning-without-popular-vote/

[22] https://www.constitutionfacts.com/founders-library/first-party-system/

[23] Does Direct Democracy Really Work? A Review of the Empirical Evidence from Switzerland. Geissbuhler, Simon (2014).

[24]. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/world/europe/30swiss.html

 

 

 

 

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS#58: KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS AND THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOL

INTRODUCTION:

When it comes to the economic schools of philosophy and application there are two that come to mind. The two schools being Keynesian and Austrian school.  The significantly more prevalent of the two, the  Keynesian school is regarded as being the universally accepted form of economics.  It is championed and utilized by both mainstream Conservative and Liberal economists. Considering the relative obscurity of the Austrian school of economics is seldom discussed as a viable alternative economic philosophy.  In the vast majority of undergraduate economics courses it may only mentioned in brief passing. Potentially noted with a hint of parenthetical derision and ridicule.  With no serious consideration of the Austrian school it is viewed as more of a theoretical footnote. It can be argued that the Austrian school has been periodically maligned unfairly considering the Resistance to actively apply it.

 

However, while the Austrian school as been marred as a punchline to many economists it has been undergoing a reemergence. In the ravages of the 2007 and 2008 economic crisis which was punctuated by the integral contribution of the “housing-bubble”, more Americans grew incredulous of  our economic policies. The mounting evidence of the failure of the status quo economic policies, methods, and philosophies brought forth the opportunity for alternatives. The Austrian school would begin to as it continues to reach a broader audience.  No longer being confined to the circle and associations of libertarians and fringe economists. The major impetus for the increase in  mainstream exposure being the Presidential campaign of then Texas senator Dr. Ron Paul. His 2008 campaign coincided with the economic turmoil of the recession and provided ample opportunity to present suggestions to remedy the carnage. Dr. Paul having longstanding ties to organizations such as the Mises Institute which have been enduring proponents of Austrian economics. The organization taking it’s name from Austrian economist Ludwig  Von Mises. Paul utilized his platform the become one of the most vociferous allies of Austrian economics in mainstream politics.  It spoke of the kind of fiscal conservatism that appealed to those rattled by the volatility of the contemporary economic market.

 

The whole point of this blog entry is not to be a slanted and partisan indictment of Keynesian economic theory. This entry will be more of a side by side comparison and introduction to the two theories. The two paragraph preamble above is merely there to demonstrate how Austrian economics has been ostracized by the majority of economists. Which is more so why it is important for me to include in equal consideration of that of Keynesian theory. If we do not contemplate the potentials of both theories we are falling short of intellectual honest and otherwise just passively capitulate to conventional wisdom. To do otherwise would merely making us victim of the appeal to authority fallacy which is far from  a prudent means of arriving at the best answers. While I will not provide any direct commentary on the follies and positive attributes of either theory, I will do so in subsequent blog entries in the future.

 

BACKGROUND OF KEYNESIAN  ECONOMICS:

The roots of  Keynesian economics  stem back to the economic conceptualizations of English economist John Maynard Keynes. Keynes book General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, solidified the principles of the pillars of his theory [1]. It remained unchallenged until the 1970’s when the economic principles of Monetarism became more prevalent. Right around the 1971 expiration of the Bretton Woods Agreement, that move the United States away from the gold standard [2]. Many of the sound money advocates grew silent as the 1980’s rolled on. The Keynesian system remained in favor and once again came under scrutiny  in the 2007-2008 recession. Theorists refined current methodology to adapt to the current economic climate and has been viewed as relative successful [1].

Keynesian Economics will have its   legacy encapsulated as the prevailing form of economics for the 20th century. Considering the reforms made to it back during the global fiscal crisis of 2007-2008, it has demonstrated its fungible malleability of it has a theory. While being open to adaptation and pragmatic evolution , the fundamental difference between the two schools needs to be established. That is the role of government in economic affairs. Economists of this economic paradigm tend to belief that government intervention can have positive results on employment rates and demand/ production of goods and services. Generally through manipulating “tax policies” and “government expenditures” [1].

 

CORE ASSUMPTIONS OF KEYNESIAN THEORY:

 

The Keynesian school of economics did arise from the Keynes attempts to analyze the causes of the Great Depression. The theory assumes that lowering taxes and increasing government spending mimics market demand and can counteract an economic depression. Through utilizing government intervention it can optimize economic performance and circumvent slumps. [3]Through artificially impacting aggregate demand or  “measurement of the sum of all final goods and services produced in an economy, expressed as the total amount of money exchanged for those goods and services”  [5].

The Keynesian theory of economics postulates that aggregate demand is impacted by decisions made in public and private sector. Which essentially can be distilled to the fact that decisions made in regards to momentary and fiscal policy impact aggregate demand. Keynesian theorists use to  purport that monetary policy had no impact and modern theorists have relinquished this view. Policies regarding spending, taxation, and currency all have an integral impact on this metric.[4].

 

A second talking point of Keynesian theory is that changes in aggregate demand have a short-term effect on output and employment, but not on prices. Subscribers of this theory believe that long term consequences cannot dictate short term and we live in the short term. This notion exemplified by  inflation only slightly rising when unemployment decreases. Pronounced repercussions of  monetary policy are only significant if prices are rigid and wages do not appropriately adjust. The injection of  more currency to the more supply would have a similar influence on prices. If  government spending increases and all other forms remain the same , commercial output will increase. They apply the concept of multiplier effect to explain how subsidy from the government increases output. [4].

 

 

A third core doctrine of this economic philosophy is that wages and prices are slow to respond to supply and demand resulting in surpluses and shortages. [4].

 

The fourth central component of  Keynesian economics do not find a typical arrange of unemployment to be acceptable due to it being contingent on aggregate demand and the slow rate of price adjustment. Keynesians have a proclivity to view unemployment to high and variable across the board. They view that in economically tumultuous periods “…efficient markets respond to unattractive opportunities..”. In other words, even if it is a recession, you should not stave off hiring more employees. [4].

 

The fifth notable attribute of Keynesian economics is that proponents support activist stabilization policies. Such as example would include a moderate increase to the money supply to combat a higher unemployment rate as a means of artificially re-calibrating  balance. [4].

 

The six and final characteristic of Keynesian though would be seeing more peril in unemployment than inflation. Many of this school of thought perceive the costs of inflation as being a small consequence. Which clearly demonstrates the train of logic used in their economic stabilization  theories. This acceptance and justification of aggressive government action rests on two assumptions, (1) the ebbs and flows of macroeconomics are overall detrimental and (2) the government has the capacity to remedy any issues in the free-market. [4].

 

BACKGROUND OF THE AUSTRIAN SCHOOL:

 

In a figurative sense, if  Keynesian economics had an arch nemesis it would be Austrian economics. While Keynesian school of though regard governmental adjustments  and institutional oversight, the Austrian school is its staunch reciprocal. In stead of artificial safeguards and invitations, Austrians economist would rather allow the market to operate in a natural fashion. Allowing the complex system of the economy adjust through the actions of actors in the private sector versus the parental stewardship of the public sector.

 

The genesis of Austrian economic theory can be traced back to the late-1800’s in the country of Austria. The key architect of  being  founder Carl Menger and his myriad of various followers Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk  and Friedrich von Wieser. Influence of such economic theories were continued in the twentieth century by some of the most renowned  theorists, including the likes of  Ludwig von Mises  and Friedrich August von Hayek, “who was awarded the Nobel prize in economics in 1974…” [6]

 

Menger engendered the enduring legacy of Austrian economics through the publication of his book  Principles of Economics 1871. The book fixated on historical studies of  entrepreneurship, time structure of capital goods, banking and money, business cycles,  dynamic markets, critiques of government intervention  and knowledge as decentralized [7]. Menger  postulated that the value of a commodity was  subjectively derived, however, the marginal of a commodity is its true value. The more scant a commodity is the it will be utilized in a more important manner. Single-highhandedly rectified Adam Smith’s “Diamond-water paradox” of how Diamond which are nonessential to life put cost more than water. Menger’s direct students would then advance upon these principles of marginal utility. [8].

 

His student Friedrich Von Wieser applied  marginal utility  to not value of a commodity but to the premise of consumption. The value of productive resources would be attributed to their contribution the final product. Wieser also applied the concept of opportunity costs to the costs of  production [8]. Opportunity costs being the opportunities lost in exchange for choosing one expenditure over another.[9]. Eugen Von Bohm-Bawerk  derived his theory of price from marginal utility.  However, Bohm-Bawerk’s  true contribution to economics was his research on capital and interest. Specifically concentrated how time factored into value, interest being a form of compensation to  a lender for the use of capital with no direct payoff. The percentage rate of the interest being determined by the size of labor pool, amount of capital in the local market, and ability to increase productivity. [8].

 

The contemporary legacy of Austrian economics was land-marked by the theories of  two Austrian economists that ended up stateside. The two prominent economists being the revered F.A. Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises.  In a broad sense both theorists asserted that complex economies cannot be planned due to ” true market prices being absent…” making it impossible to procure information for planning [8]. The seeds of the backbone this fiscally conservative tradition came about in 1945 when Hayek arrived to the United Stated for a lecture tour. Hayek embarked upon the tour in support of his renowned classic  The Road to Serfdom.  His book garnered much attention and landed him on the cover of Reader’s Digest. While impressive, Hayek’s connections to business man and free trade organizations is would made his career enduring.The organizations he formed and even his salary as a lecturer over at the University of Chicago can be cemented by these professional ties. [10].

 

KEY ASSUMPTIONS OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS:

“There, he offers 10 propositions that define Austrian economics.

  1. Only individuals choose.
  2. The study of the market order is fundamentally about exchange behavior and the institutions within which exchanges take place.
  3. The “facts” of the social sciences are what people believe and think.
  4. Utility and costs are subjective.
  5. The price system economizes on the information that people need to process in making their decisions.
  6. Private property in the means of production is a necessary condition for rational economic calculation.
  7. The competitive market is a process of entrepreneurial discovery.
  8. Money is nonneutral.
  9. The capital structure consists of heterogeneous goods that have multispecific uses that must be aligned.
  10. Social institutions often are the result of human action, but not of human design.”

[11].

 

DISCUSSION:

As is evident in the side by side juxtaposition of these two competing economic philosophies are their sharp distinctions.  It would be fair to say it is to the extent that they are nearly polar opposites. One body of theories places faith in governing institutions and the other does in the markets. Austrian economics views markets as a true complex systems analogous to an environmental ecosystem. Imposing artificial restraints merely causes destructive chaos. Impositions of regulation and misguided manipulation merely results in disruption. Similar to how eliminating a food source from an ecosystem  devolves into biological instability, relinquishment of equilibrium. Which is why Austrian economists generally favor less institutional intervention in economic matters. Setting aside any ideological biases I possess I can honestly state that it is line of logic that could be seen as rational.

 

However, the reasoning behind the core principles of Keynesian economics is not lost on me. While being a staunch reciprocal of the Austrian school it almost seems equally as cogent in a superficial sense. It easy to see the validity of the two body of theories when ideological predispositions and data are out of the equation. The  Austrian school of economics  may seem reasonable  if you have you are fiscally conservative or have studied biology. However, I should interject that it is counter intuitive to some extent.  The ardent emphasis on formal structure in society is so instilled in us ,even most libertarians have difficult side-stepping these tendencies. Maybe not in terms of policy, but in terms of personal judgement. From the time that we are children are constantly bombarded with  rules that shape our behavior and help us conform ideas and forms of conduct. Even examples as trivial as the rules of a board game such as Candy Land align for this cognitive bias for formal structure. I am not judging it so much as this is merely an observation.

 

The trepidation and fear of allowing economic transactions to exist without an abundance of regulation has its origins in our conditioning towards formal structure. While it denying the stability of naturally occurring equilibrium, it is not an outlandish notion. Humans are wired for self-preservation, part of the evolutionary mechanisms behind this is to address the most base and repugnant motives of human nature.  Many individuals see it as whenever there is an opportunity to capitalize, someone is getting victimized. The question becomes are the regulations truly an objective force of  moral good if they are the invention of man?  State sanctioned laws are merely  constructs, the conceptual by product of human though. The have the potential to reflect aspects of moral truth, however, they also can be slanted to favor certain individuals.  The agenda behind the lawmakers thought process are just as suspect as the motives of  your neighbor selling  his 1969 Mustang car. The key difference being your neighbor has quite a bit to lose in reputation when compared by the senator who chooses to vote for oppressive regulations. The senator can hide in obscurity, while your neighbor will likely not do so well in future transactions, having violated the variable of trust. Trust a key component of reducing transactions costs.

 

While economic regulations in theory could be well-intentioned, they are certainly open to scrutiny.  Few metrics can really examine with regulations are effective especially when dealing with a dynamic complex system such as economy. Where you are dealing with a Wealth of Nations style  free-market  or a heavily regulated market, the foreboding peril of human nature is always present.  If the inherent risk is always omnipresent, would you rather live by your own will or the will of others?  This open rhetorical question is not an attribution of judgement , but  rather food for thought.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1]. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Keynesian-economics

[2]. https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/bretton_woods_created

[3]. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/k/keynesianeconomics.asp

[4]. https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/KeynesianEconomics.html

[5]. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/aggregatedemand.asp

[6]. http://austrian-institute.org/en/the-austrian-school-of-economics/

[7]. https://www.progress.org/articles/austrian-economics-explained

[8]. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Austrian-school-of-economics

[9] https://www.britannica.com/topic/opportunity-cost

[10] https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/159020

[11]. http://www.coordinationproblem.org/2010/11/what-austrian-economics-is-and-what-austrian-economics-is-not.html

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS# 57: JONES ACT

INTRODUCTION

In recent years, the prevalence of protectionist economic policies has increased with the Trump administration. President Trump campaigned during 2016 presidential election under the slogan of “America First”. Such a broad statement leaves a load desire in a summary of a campaign platform.  However, it is certainly a slogan that is concise and appealing, like most political slogans.  “ America First” is not only a simple saying but reflects a paradigm shift in regards to foreign policy and economics. If interpreted from a superficial standpoint, it could be viewed as a sentiment of supporting American exceptionalism. The cynics in the room would be more apt to be rightfully dubious of such assertions in the absence of concrete evidence. Is it really a substantiation of American exceptionalism to forlorn capitalism for protectionist trade policy? Capitalistic trade between the United States and foreign trade allies is a big part of what has made the United States an economic superpower in the past. Considering the interconnected and global nature of the current economy, it seems unrealistic that isolationist trade policies could be anything but detrimental. In light of the decades of rises in labor costs and production regulations, it was inevitable for globalism to come about. Outsourcing labor has helped facilitate competitive pricing in the market.

 

I understand that many may be disgusted that I am speaking of outsourcing in such a positive light, but there are often two sides to every coin.  As a nation’s economy becomes more technologically advanced certain occupations become obsolete. Many of the manufacturing jobs are outmoded when compared to the skill set of the majority of the United States, keeping these jobs domestic is only increasing the MSRP  of the goods. Many who voted for Trump, rather than adapting to the demands of the market, want to utilize government intervention as recourse to artificially reorient the market. The Trump has attempted to make such corrections through import tariffs. Using such methods will only hurt more consumers when compared to the minuscule number of jobs it will save. I would surmise that the overall cost of living is high enough without artificial measures raising the costs. Merely to appease a minority the American population.

 

Needless to say, I am far from a proponent of protectionist economic trade policies and can see nothing other than peril and illusion in them. They always seem great on the surface; however, they tend to only exacerbate current economic issues. Now that I have demonstrated for purposes of transparency my biases in regard to trade policy, I feel that I can proceed. It is clear that I am a free trade absolutist, however, I will try to provide both sides of the argument for the Jones Act in as impartial of a manner as I have the capacity for. In order to become a better thinker, I will attempt to provide an even account of the positive and negative attributes of the Jones Act. However, I do not see how place economic constraints on the United States is putting “America First”. My instinct is to view such rhetoric as smoke and mirrors, however, it is important I do not let my incredulity override this blog entry.

 

WHAT IS THE JONES ACT?:

 

Many of you who are not privy to contemporary American trade policy may have never heard of the Jones Act.  This piece of legislation has remained relatively obscure and would be a periodical talking point on the Senate floor garnering little publicity. However, since the Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and President Trump acted against his protectionist campaign platform and temporarily waived it to assist with disaster relief, the issue has become more prevalent over the past year [1]. While not a typical mainstay on the stage of political commentary the policy is far from new. It harkens back to the isolationism of President Woodrow Wilson. The Jones Act was a subclause of the  Merchant Marine Act of 1920 under the article: (46 U.S.C. § 30104).  The original intent of this article of the  Merchant Marine Act of 1920 was to protect shipping industry of the United States against foreign competition and to provide a provisional naval auxiliary in times of war [2]. The original intentions of this legislation were certainly reflective of the political climate and sentiments of the  Woodrow administration.  It provides a similar purview into the political climate of the time in a similar manner as the Trump admiration’s trade tariffs. Sometimes the policies of a specific era are reflective of the circumstances specific to that time in history. Throughout America’s history, we have gone through several periods of economic and diplomatic isolationism for a litany of various reasons.  In the future, historians maybe expounding the Trump era import tariffs as a reactionary policy to country job outsourcing and lack of domestic production. Analogous to how I am reflecting upon the Jones Act now.

 

While we have above we have an overview of the Jones Acts, but we have not addressed the parameters of the legislation. As implemented how does this act seek to protect the American shipping industry? How this statute works to protect American Shipbuilders and carriers through making it illegal for foreign ships to move American goods from U.S. port to U.S. port. The vessel needs to be American built, be American owned, have American Crew manning the vessel and be masked with an American flag [3]. However, contrary to popular misconception, a foreign vessel can make landfall on one port and then discharge at another if it is all foreign freight. I use to work for a Steamship Line where we had a vessel schedule where the U.S. bound ships would discharge cargo at Port of Long Beach and then move up the coast to the Port of Oakland.  Such vessel rotations are legal by the fact this routing was for the discharge of imported freight.  However, if Matson ( one of the few Steam Ship Lines to service Hawaii, I believe) would be prohibited to move freight from Hawaii to Alaska with a Korean built ship. Please note that the U.S. built a ship and American crew is also applicable to commercial fishing in U.S. waters [3]. While the Jones Act is currently a valid statute, it can be temporarily suspended to assist with FEMA aid in times of emergency [4].

 

 

ARGUMENTS FOR THE JONES ACT:

 

The 2017 Forbes Article, Why Repealing The Jones Act Could Be A Disaster For The U.S., provides 4 core arguments in favor of the Jones Act.

1.       Without the Jones Act, The Navy would need to spend many billions of on New Sealift vessel.

The Author Loren Thompson asserts that the navy would need to invest in more vessels during the time of war. Versus appropriating commercial vessels for the transportation of military cargo. 36 percent of U.S. masked ships are utilized on the Jones Act protected routes. If repealed these ships could be registered in other countries pushing the Navy to obtain new ships.

2.       Without the Jones Act, The Navy would be Hard-pressed to crew the sealift vessels it already has.

While vessels can be commissioned, retired, and re-commissioned, the same cannot be said for the crew. Approximately 90 percent of all mariners work on trade routes supported by the Jones Act. Without the Jones Act, the Navy would not have a trained pool of civilian sailors to assist in times of national emergency.

3.       Without the Jones Act, U.S. Construction of Large Commercial Vessels would Cease.

Per the article, “1981, the Reagan Administration abolished the “construction-differential subsidy” provided to domestic shipyards without seeking reciprocity from other shipbuilding nations.”.  Reducing overall U.S. ship production to 1 percent of all the world’s large capacity commercial ships. Repealing the Jones Act would completely destroy the shipyards in the U.S.

4.       Without the Jones Act, foreign ships and mariners would take over critical U.S. economic infrastructure.

The vast majority of steel is transported via the Great Lakes in the interior of the United States. To relinquish the interior waterways to foreign sailors and ships would posse risks to national security.

 

[5]

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE JONES ACT

 

While many of the concerns expressed in the article mentioned above are valid, there are always two sides two every story. It is reasonable to want to hold national security and domestic job security in high regard. However, do any of these benefits come with any drawbacks and if so are they more costly than the benefits. I will be the first to mention it is hard to get an unbiased answer to these questions from most written sources. The author is either discrediting the Jones Act or sing its praises, neither perspective genuinely neutral. The article I am going to reference the arguments against the Jones Act was written by the Cato Institute. It is a very well researched and extensive article. The one caveat is that it is overwhelmingly in opposition to the Jones Act and is such an extensive article I am only referencing a portion of it. I welcome my readers to view the article in its entirety, just check out the website link in the footnotes.  Just beware the Cato Institute is a libertarian-leaning public policy research organization.  There is a certain pejorative (at least in my eyes) term that can be applied here as well (Think tank,  public policy research organization= think tank). I apologize if my dry attempts at humor are not too captivating.  For the sake of brevity, let’s look at the 4 ways that the article addresses how the Jones Act has been an economic burden to the United States.

 

Prior to getting into the specific ways the Jones Act adversely affects the U.S. economy, we should look at past research done the legislation’s ramifications.  There were a few studies conducted over the 1990’s by U.S. International Trade Commision that estimated that “… $656 million to $9.8 billion…” [6].   U.S. International Trade Commission has not provided any follow-up estimates regarding overall costs of the Jones Act. However,  this only seems to ignore true economic consequences for the United States. The costs impact lost revenue,  Environmental costs, Transportation costs, and Infrastructure cost.

 

  1.  Lost of Domestic Revenue

The decrease in domestic revenue engendered by the Jones Act is evident in several various ways. The emphasis on the utilization of domestic carriers increases costs while diminishing profit margins. Even when the cost of the commodity is approximate to its foreign counterpart it is the costs of the domestic carrier or vessel that makes foreign carriers more advantageous. For example, cattle ranchers in Hawaii route their ocean shipment through Canada and even utilizing air freight solutions. These options may work in the short term they overall reduce potential profits. In general, the costs of using Domestic carriers reduce profits at home.

It also should be considered the amount of oil that the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, imports from Venezuela versus from domestic oil reserves. It costs a mere $2 per a barrel to ship oil from Gulf Coast to Eastern Canada. In contrast, a Jones Act compliant vessel it would cost approximately $6 per a barrel to ship from the Gulf Coast to Northeastern U.S.  A 1999 study conducted by the Government  Accountability Office found that the Jones Act exempt oil shipping route from Northern Alaska to U.S. Virgin Islands  cost three times less than from the Gulf Coast. Even though this route which encompasses taking a circuitous route which takes twice as long. [6].

 

2. Environmental Costs

The environmental costs of the Jones Act are more oblique and peripheral consideration, but a still valid cause of concern. Many goods that could be transported by ship through interior waterways (for example the Mississippi River) are done so by truck. The World Wide Shipping Council cites that marine transport of goods is the most efficient mode of transport in regards to carbon emissions. Carbon Emission being a major contributing factor to air pollution.  Transportation by ship produces merely:

“….10-40 grams of carbon dioxide to carry one ton of cargo one kilometer. In contrast, rail transport produces 20-150 grams, and trucking — whose tonnage is forecast to grow 44 percent by 2045 according to the Department of Transportation — produces 60-150 grams” [6]

While environmental detriment inflicted by the Jones Act tends to be more of an implicit cost. There are more explicitly monetary costs that result from this increase in air pollution. The cost of carbon emissions from vehicles idling in traffic is estimated reach $7.6 billion dollars by 2030 (from 2013 to 2030). Many of these losses in money and productivity manifest themselves in environmental improvement initiatives and other countermeasures.

[6].

3.  Transportation Costs

It can be said that the Jones Act has artificially increased domestic shipping costs by eliminating competition. The requirements of having a U.S. built a ship, U.S. Manned crew, U.S. Owned, and have the vessel registered in the United States restricts the number of potential vendors. Lifting many of the Jones Act requirements it would increase the number of vendors that could service the interior waterways of the U.S.  By increasing the number of vendors to service  U.S. ports it would decrease shipping costs. Beyond the principles of supply and demand, the costs are also impacted by higher than average operating costs. 2010 study found that the operating cost of U.S. commercial vessels was 2.7 times higher than that of foreign vendors.  The daily operating cost for U.S. Commercial vessel is estimated to be $20,053 per day. It is also surmised that 68 percent of that cost is related to to the crew versus 35 percent of daily operation costs for foreign vessels. [6].

 

4. Infrastructure Costs

Utilizing land-based modes of transportation of goods cause wear and tear on our countries in-land infrastructure. The obvious consequence of this are the costs of maintenance and repair on our roads and railways. Similar the Environmental costs the Infrastructure costs tend to get obscene by some of the more salient repercussions of the Jones Act. Per 2014 Congressional Office Budget Report annual capital spending on highways encompassed $93 billion and $73 billion for operations and maintenance.  The article also mentions how commercial trucks account for 10 percent of total highway traffic, but 75 percent of maintenance costs. It was also suggested that road maintenance amounted to approximately  23 percent of the total federal deficit.  While infrastructure is a necessity, if it is possible to alleviate unnecessary weathering, it would certainly be fiscally responsible and prudent to do so.  [6].

 

DISCUSSION:

 

I apologize for my ire-filled rant spanning two paragraphs in the introduction, it was not based on facts, but rather on my strong convictions on economic policy. I choose to keep those two judgemental and aimless paragraphs in for a reason.  Too often we are susceptible to faulty thinking and faulty logic. In the age of wanton social media consumption, we all have the propensity to be enveloped by our own self-indulgent echo-chamber. However, my diatribe against protectionism does have some truth attached to the visceral reaction. The ” America First” policies are all too often what all political slogans are, a marketing campaign. There is little thought or practical policy data that goes into the formation of these slogans. What is truly vexing about them is that they are often giving the constituency faith in broad abstract ideas that are short-sighted.  These slogans such as ” America First” or ” Change we can believe in” are short and are very salient.  Often the campaign platform for a political candidate represents the vague sentiment but fails to truly demonstrate who these policies will be effective. Nevermind the process of implementation. Personally, I feel that President Trump was merely trying to appease and tap into a forlorn constituency that is looking to survive for today versus contemplating the consequences of tomorrow.

 

When placed in a similar position as the rust belt demographic  Trump voter you do not have the luxury of analyzing the facts nor inoculating yourself against faulty logic.  I personally feel that the “America First” mantra is not inherently pernicious,  but is misguided. While I really attempted to see the value in trade tariffs and Byzantine trade regulations such as the Jones Act, I do not see much value. While such policies are superficially appealing to some they are abjectly shortsighted. When I really look at the significant amount of data in regards to the overall costs to the United States for protectionist policies, such as the Jones Act, it is impossible for me to support such measures. I really attempted to see the other side of the issue, however, I cannot reasonably do so. The opposition to the Jones Act seems to be armed with more hard data in regards to the economic effects. While the proponents tend to base their arguments on the hypothetical. Unless someone can tell me when the provisions of using commercial ships to supplement our naval fleet have been advantageous, I can only see it has a strawman argument. Then again, I could be wrong. That one highly improbable hypothetical consideration is not enough of practical concern to justify the Jones Act. Especially when faced with the significant costs engendered by the Jones Act.

 

In actuality how many American Jobs were precisely preserved by the Jones Act? I tried to find statistics on how many Americans are estimated to work as Merchant Marines. The main occupation that would be preserved by the Jones Act and would speculate that constitutes a small percentage of American Jobs. The jobs that are saved by this legislation is only a minute fraction of jobs, it is a relatively small segment of the job market. I do not see how the gargantuan economic costs are outweighed by the small number of jobs that are saved. I will dedicate an entire blog entry to address whether or not Jones Act achieves its ends as a national security measure.

 

So far we have only examined the broader aspects of the Jones Act that do not directly impact the average person. While conducting my research for this topic I came across a lot of information on how Jones Act has impacted the cost of living in Hawaii. Per the Grassroots the cost of living is 12 percent higher than the average state in the country [7]. In my opinion, is an excellent parable of who protectionism hinders the United States. This policy is making the cost of living in Hawaii artificially more expensive than it needs to be. From my perspective, that isn’t helping the Americans who live in that state it is only hurting them. I would surmise that there are more people who suffer financially living in Hawaii than the number of U.S. Merchant Marines that benefit from the Jones Act.

 

 

[8].

 

 

 

 

FOOT NOTES:

 

[1]. https://newrepublic.com/minutes/145057/waiving-jones-act-wont-solve-puerto-ricos-problems-right-now

[2]. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/jones_act

[3]. http://www.maritimelawcenter.com/html/the_jones_act.html

[4]. https://transportationinstitute.org/jones-act/

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2017/10/17/maritime-security-five-reasons-the-jones-act-is-a-bargain/#7bea525d3d96

[6]. https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/jones-act-burden-america-can-no-longer-bear

[7]: http://www.grassrootinstitute.org/2017/04/the-jones-act-in-perspective/

[8]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58txZlurgLk

 

 

 

 

 

POLITICAL OPINIONS #56: THE ROLE OF THEOLOGY IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION VS. FRENCH REVOLUTION

INTRODUCTION:

For those of you who have active imaginations, attempt to picture the results of the American Revolution if the Brittish had won.  An interesting juxtaposition when compared to the current state of history and an engaging exercise for those into the whole alternative history scene. While imaging the byproduct of the United States still being under English colonial control in 2018 maybe engrossing idea to entertain, let’s stack the chips a little higher. Hypothetically, what if the American colonists emancipated themselves from colonial rule, however, their efforts devolve into divisive chaos. The idealistic principles behind the revolution failed to maintain order and a political power vacuum is created, waiting for the lurking totalitarian to seize control. For many patriotic Americans, this may parallel the dark prophecies conveyed in dystopian science fiction novels. However, the events described are actually a loose interpretation of the French Revolution.

The question becomes why was the American Revolution such a political and philosophical success and the French Revolution was such an abject failure? Historians and political commentators have a litany of hypotheses addressing this inquiry. However, one particularly interesting claim made by Conservatives was the philosophical backbone supporting both revolutions. The French people were definitely influenced by the success of the American colonists, however, their philosophical principles varied.  The French Enlightenment philosophers were well known for their criticism of religion. The philosophical core of France’s secular culture is ingrained in the country even to the present day[1]. All you need to do is read Voltaire’s Candide to really demonstrate France’s tradition of staunch secularism. France’s core unifying philosophical tenant, with little to no moral safeguards, was logic. The Conservative critics overwhelmingly attribute the failings of the French Revolution to the moral shortcoming of the French secularism.

 

In contrast, the founding fathers of the United States were much more influenced by the theological principles of Christianity. The founders of the United States were influenced by the Enlightenment philosophers of England and Scotland. While the majority of European philosophers only saw the folly in religion the English/ Scottish philosophers remained unwavering in their faith [2]. Much of the founding principles of the United States were basic in Judeo-Christian ethos and solidified by the premise of natural rights that are divinely allocated. In a sense, it was a more egalitarian inversion of the divinely decreed ” Divine Right of Kings” championed throughout Europe a few centuries prior. The principle of a divinely sanctioned equality of man certainly has the rigidity that logic and reason does not. The fungible nature of logic and reason means that you can utilize these tools to fit your agenda. In contrast, the word of God is Gospel, with little leg room for manipulation if you are an orthodox Christian. Coupling the rights of citizenhood with faith works in regards to justification as faith is not be questioned.

In an attempt to clear the air here, I feel as if I should expound upon theological biases, I may have. My theological convictions reside in a purgatorial expanse between belief and disbelief. For categorical purposes, I would proclaim myself to be an agnostic. I do have a degree of openness when it comes to exploring these ideas. I just wanted to reassure the readers that I am not slanted towards any undue praise of Christianity.  If it works as a moral framework, even if it is situationally successful, I cannot outright condemn. Particularly on the grounds of intellectual honesty.  While Christianity does have its shortcomings there are also highly positive attributes about it as a moral philosophical belief system. The atheists are also imbalanced and have the disposition to deny any positivity that can be yield from religion. I certainly feel like I am at an advantage in being able to discuss this topic because I am not beholden to a strong conviction on their side of the dichotomous divide.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION:

The events leading to the  French Revolution were complex and cannot be pinpoint as one sole cause being the harbinger of the revolt against the King. Under the reign of King Louis XVI’s involvement in the American Revolution and ostentatious spending left France in financial ruin. As a countermeasure, the king raised taxes which was met with looting and riots. The discontent with the fiscal climate in the country was only compounded by the rise in population of the non-aristocratic populace. While they the peasant class out vote the aristocracy they were stifled by the “noble veto” making their efforts for political engagement futile. They band together to form what became known as the Third Estate in an attempt to gain more political representation. On June 17th, 1789, the Third Estate convened a meeting in an indoor tennis court. The formally adopting the title of the National Assembly. The members took the  Tennis Court Oath, professing not to leave until reforms have been made to the Country’s constitution  (fiscal, judicial reforms, and the privileges of the nobility). By June 27th most of the “.. Clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles…” had joined with the National Assembly in the demonstration. King Louis XVI reluctantly complied with their demands.

 

By July of 1789, there were numerous rumors of a military coup transpiring in France among the nobility.  This rumor came to fruition on July 14, 1789, when rioters stormed the Versailles fortress in search munitions. This became the spark that started the revolution. This widespread rebellion against the French upper class became known as “The Great Fear” or “la Grande peur”. The efforts of the revolting class became recognized once the old feudalistic system was abolished on August 4th, 1789. This marked the beginning of a new Era in French History.

[3].

 

DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN:

Finally on August 26th, 1789 the National Assembly approved the Declaration of The Rights of Man. Mirroring the similar ideals as the Declaration of Independence in the United States, minus the allusions to a higher power. The document created an egalitarian overlay that provides political rights to citizens regardless of socio-economical status with 17 articles comprising the document.

Articles:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. Nobody nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Anyone soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.

10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

[4].

The Declaration of the rights of man was a step in the right direction in regards to increased equality within France. However, it was not enough to quell the discontent of radicals such as Maximilien de Robespierre. More moderate members of the assembly were looking to establish a Constitutional Monarchy which did not sit well with individuals such as Robespierre. [3].

 

THE STREETS RAN RED WITH BLOOD:

 

The darkest period of the whole French Revolution was known by historians as the Reign of Terror. On September 5, 1793, after the revolutionary factions took over the government they enacted a campaign of terror against suspected nobles, clergymen and anyone against there misguide crusade for equality. Executions for those who impeded their cause ran rampant throughout France from Paris to the countryside. For the lower class people that were still religiously observant, there was a de-Christianization program spearheaded by Jacques Hebert. The  Committee of Public Safety headed by Robespierre held totalitarian control over the government. In a paranoid state of rage, the government limited political opponents on the left and right of the political spectrum in 1794. They suspended the of a legal defendant trial or legal assistance leaving with the jury only able to acquit or convict them. It estimated that the number of people arrested during this era was approximately 300,000, 17,000 officially executed, and 10,000 died in prison without trial. The chaos continued from the failure of the French Revolution did not fully subside until Napoleon Bonaparte took the control of the country in the late 1700’s- early 1800’s. Mr. Bonaparte may have brought order but was far from a champion of democracy and had his own lust for conquest. [5].

 

THE FAILURES OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE:

It is quite evident that the French revolutionaries were drastically opposed to religion, especially Christianity. If you look at the origins of the intellectual principles behind the revolution it is clear that the many French citizens at the time saw religion as a divisive force. [1]. Whether or not religion does engender socio-economic stratification is open for debate. What is quite salient is how the absence and lack of tolerance towards impacted the actions of the revolutionary government.  If you really examine that portion of the Reign of Terror period of French history, the religious conservatives that fault the lack of religion in the French Revolution seem to be more credible.

 

The article from the Christian publication The Christian Post did a comparative overlay between the American and French Revolutions. 2014 article demonstrates how the philosophical differences between the two can be seen as the primary reason for the variance in results. The author states how the French revolution was the philosophical appeal to the “… human assertions of truth…”. Conversely, the American revolution was based on natural law which had divine justification. The French revolution attempted to depart from the virtue of religion and misplace a twisted sense of divinity on the “ruler”. Which post-Reign of Terror ended up being the warmonger Napoleon. The value that Christianity places on the individual is what was imparted to our Constitutional rights. Emphasized protection of human rights versus veneration of the state.

[6].

 

DISCUSSION:

As a skeptic of Christianity and all other formally organized religions, I do approach the benefits of religion with a healthy amount of incredulity. However, I am not one to argue with positive outcomes. To play Devil’s advocate here (no pun intended), we cannot necessarily confirm that the causation of the corruption and collapse of the French Revolutionary government was due to a lack of religiosity. It is something that we cannot methodically replicate, therefore we can only speculate as armchair historians. I should state that the religiosity of the American revolutionaries and the French was the most salient difference between the two. While we cannot prove the causation of the chaos and disarray of post-revolution France, is likely a multitude of different factors. It should be noted that French revolutionaries never set up comparable checks and balances systems as was set up in America. Unchecked executive power will lead to tyranny.

 

I can certainly see how the philosophical framework of Christianity could lend itself to establishing a government that protects the rights of the people. Christianity is a religion that focuses on the individual. The individual possesses freewill to either go on the righteous path or to sin. Because God gave people free will us should be able to exercise our natural rights without oppressive restriction from the state. In early civilizations, the Emperors of Rome or the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt declared divinity as justification for the totalitrian rule. A kind of government authority that takes no consideration for the rights of the constituency, but the desires of the king. It has to be accepted because the king is a god. Due to Christianity’s prescriptions against false idols, it can be surmised that giving too much power to a political leader or the government is heresy.  This because Christians are to worship God not the government.  The framers of the U.S. Consitution being privy to their Christian roots knew enough to place restrictions on the state and to avoid intermarrying the government with religion. Once you combine the two,  only unsavory things can happen whether you are a Christian or not.

I know that many secularists may be under the impression that there is the too much religious influence in American government. Anyone under the impression that we live in a theocracy is being melodramatic. If anything the Christian principles of putting God above the state has protected us from tyranny in an abstract manner. As we mentioned early how in France there was not the same emphasis on checks on executive power. It can be speculated that the checks and balances are there to keep us from putting government before faith. I will not be attending church anytime soon, however, I am thankful our Founding Fathers were Christians. Not because I believe that it is a superior religion to any other. It is because I value the built-in safety guards against over-concentration of governmental authority. If it happens to be derived from a specific theological perspective, then it is merely another feather in the cap of that religion. The irony is that many American atheists owe their freedom to deny the existence of a higher power to protections provided from the ideals of Christianity.

 

 

 

 

 

Foot Notes:

[1]: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3325285.stm

[2]:https://mises.org/library/scottish-enlightenment-and-presbyterianism

[3].https://www.history.com/topics/french-revolution

[4]. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/rightsof.asp

[5]: https://www.britannica.com/event/Reign-of-Terror

[6]: https://www.christianpost.com/news/the-american-revolution-vs-the-french-revolution-123275/

PHILOSOPHICAL RANTS #19: A DISCOURSE ON OBJECTIVE TRUTH

DISCUSSION:

Yesterday, I found myself attempting to excogitate the concept of objective truth, an idea that I have grappled with for quite some time. While there most likely is an objectively fixed manifestation of truth, is there any degree of variance on the number of perspectives that reflect it? I am willing to accept the hypothetical notion that there is such a thing as objective truth. Even when it comes to issues concerning morality. However, I do surmise that there are divergent means of reaching the truth through various stipulations, paradigms, and methodology.  The old saying “there is more than one way to skin a cat” seems to be poignant considering the inquiry at hand.

 

Any of the diversified paths to truth may vary. However, it would not be a radical departure from the conventional means of arriving at the truth. It should be noted that the number of correct assumptions or methods are self-limiting. Limitations being predicated on the defining principles and attributes of the concept or idea that is true. Considering the limitations there are only a finite number of permutational results that do not conflict with the truth. The more removed from the defining attributes of the truth a concept is, the increased aptitude of it being false. Parenthetically there are multiple appropriate angles to see the truth. The best way to illustrate this point in a concrete manner is through mathematics. While the equations themselves are symbolic abstractions they represent what is reflected in the natural order through “written” computation.  There are various examples of several numbers being prevalent throughout human history and nature. The natural propensity towards equilibrium and symmetry are essentially a representation of balancing proportions.

 

EG.)

2+2=4,   8-4=14,  16/4= 4,   3-1+2= 4

 

The overall truth or factual expression demonstrated in the equations above is that they are all equal to the number 4. As is evident above there are several correct operational expressions that are equal to the number 4.  The computational expressions above demonstrates how they are several different correct ways to compose an equation that is equal to 4.

EG.)

2+1= 4

 

In contrast, the above equation is not a variation that is true. Due to the fact that it would be impossible by numeric logic for this equation to equal four, it has to be seen as false. In other words a radical departure from the truth. The core defining attribute of the veracity of the equation is whether or not the sum of the equation is numerical congruent with the sum.  If not, then we cannot accept it has a valid perspective of viewing the truth. It is too drastic of a deviation from the more conventional routes of reaching the number 4 by computations.  It directly conflicts with the parameters of the laws of mathematics.

 

Some individuals may argue that the examples provided above are too rudimentary to substantiate objective reality. In contrast, I would argue that it provides a preview of how some universal principles are resolute and cannot be altered by subjectivity. The fact that a quantifiable principle can be replicated and extrapolated makes an outstanding case for the existence of objective truth. Where this is most important is in the arena of morality. The ethos of our morality is the bedrock of our civilization, without it we would fall into the throes of anarchy and discord. While it is common in Post-modern circles to apply radical subjectivity in regards to morality, it’s not something to be taken frivolously. Without a cohesive moral philosophy, a myriad of reprehensible transgressions can be justified. To merely distill it down to a matter of opinion, is pernicious. If we as a society to tolerate all sorts of atrocities they will become more and more common. Ethical boundaries need to be delineated, regardless of the beliefs or internal narratives liberated by the disinhibition of the moral fluidity of Post-modern thought. The natural order has a confirmed truth with room for some variety and the same can be applied to the realm of morality as well.

POLITICAL OPINIONS#55: UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME- PROS AND CONS

INTRODUCTION:

When it comes to government-funded entitlement program there is much controversy and contention engulfing the topic. All you have to do is extrapolate the debate in regards to Universal Health Care to get a purview into the depth of discord. Similar to Universal Health Care there is a plenitude of horizontal arguments competing for substantiating veracity. Even with the diversity of economic, social, and moral considerations; most people will capitulate to our proclivity fall within one of the two dichotomous perspectives. Pro-Universal Basic Income or Anti-Universal Basic Income. The true misfortune is that with all the gears and components comprising the structure of the issue, a linear for or against argument may not be the best approach. Especially when the nuance that needs to be addressed when debating the validity of Universal Basic Income is so intricate. However, I comprehend how easy it is to surrender to our own philosophical and political biases without evaluating all the facts and joining one of the two diametrically opposing camps.

 

While our tendencies to pick one side over the other without ample analysis of the issue based on our own predispositions, we may need to overcome this fallacy of thought. Particularly when this logical fallacy is applied to Universal Basic Income. This topic becoming a serious contender for political debate is right on the horizon. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has incorporated implementing Universal Basic Income as a key pillar of his presidential campaign. Beyond Mr. Yang bringing this topic to the front door of the American political scene, other countries are have implemented UBI policies. Even if we were to completely negate the rising prevalence of Universal Basic Income in American politics, the increasing numbers of people suffering from job displacement due to certain occupations being outmoded. In the ashes of a manufacturing empire that are now known as the Rust Belt, it is critical to find solutions for the myriad of obsolete jobs. The economic and philosophical cost to the region has been dismally compounded by and correlated with the ravages of the opioid epidemic. As much as the potential benefits of Universal Basic Income can be speculated, personally I am incredulous of  UBI as a policy. While it sounds like a good policy, is it effective in the long run? No one really has any hard data with any range of historical depth to corroborate that it is an effective policy.  Without any hard evidence, how do we know that it is any more effective than putting a band-aid on cancer? My reservations extend beyond the lack of applicable results, by nature I distrust the government to effectively implement  Universal Basic Income in a manner to curtail abuse and be applied in a fiscally responsible manner.

 

WHAT IS UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME:

Before we get deep into the arguments supporting and countering the validity of Universal Basic Income, we should have an operational definition for it. It can be best defined as a regularly scheduled distribution of money that is unconditionally provided to all citizens by the government [1].  Generally, it is provided under the pretense that it will help assist with providing supplemental assistance for satisfying the costs of living.  It should be noted that this is in reference to assisting with basic essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter versus luxury expenses. There are five key attributes that define an implemented Universal basics income policy [1].

  1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal: it is paid to all, without a means test.
  5. Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.

[1].

As is evident from the list of crucial identifying attributes, there are key defining characteristics that distinguish UBI from other forms of monetary government assistance. The most notable would probably be the absence of any sort of conditions such as being under a certain income bracket or employment requirements.

 

ANDREW YANG’S PLAN:

Certainly not by happenstance, democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has quite a bit of information regarding Universal Basic income on his campaign website for the 2020 election. While I learned of Mr. Yang’s efforts to support this issue from pursuing the internet, his appearance on the Waking Up podcast hosted by Sam Harris really solidified him as a serious champion of this policy. At least in my mind.

[3].

 

However, let’s examine some of the reasons why an individual such as Mr. Yang might actually be pushing Universal Basic Income as a reasonable solution to work displacement.  Especially when you consider the number of jobs that have been outsourced abroad or have automated. Most experts tend to believe that this is a trend that will not be stifled any time soon. However, some experts would tend to assert that the displaced jobs will be filled by comparable positions, it is most likely too early to tell [4].

 

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign website claims that a third of all Americans will lose their jobs to automation in one form or another within the next 12 years [2].  Yang’s website also presents the statistics that the current labor participation rate is at 62.5 percent and that one out of five “working aged men” are currently out of work [2]. While this numbers might be to some extent concerning and it is obvious that regardless of whether automation further exacerbates this issue or not, the displaced workers still need a means of obtaining currency.  For the out of work coal miner in West Virginia, Universal Basic Income would be able to provide them with a means of being able to purchase food, clothing and other essentials.  Yang also explains due to the fact that people are having their basic needs met they can pursue a less-dangerous and more meaningful task. Going back to school taking care of family members etc [2].

 

While Andrew Yang has some of the broad benefits well defined, how does he plan on implementing this policy?  As is evident from the operational definition in the section above, there is a certain criterion that needs to be met to be considered Universal Basic Income.   A presentation of the core parameters would certainly be advantageous. Well, Yang does provide this information on the website. The parameters set on his campaign platform would entail that every U.S. Citizen ages 18 to 64 years old would be entitled to a $1000.00 check monthly. Regardless of employment status or other contingencies.  One notably stipulation is that U.S. Citizens 65 years old and older would not be eligible and would still continue to collect social security [2].  One point to exemplify is that the amount that Yang, as allocated, is clearly meant to be supplemental entitlement versus a free lunch.  I can state for the record I cannot live off of $1,000.00 a month and I am not particularly extravagant with my expenses. I would surmise that would be the case for the majority of Americans. While I am intrinsically skeptical of UBI as a policy, I can applaud Yang for not getting too extreme in regards to the amount of the monthly entitlement. However, the economic feasibility is still murky in my mind.

 

So far Yang has done a noteworthy job of presenting the finer mechanics of his implementation plan for Universal Basic Income. However, he has not addressed the most agonizing aspect of the whole policy.  Which is, how are we going to pay for it?  It is common knowledge that the United States is drowning in an exorbitant amount of debt. We are talking about trillions of dollars worth of debt.  We cannot implement such a pervasively large entitlement plan without sufficient funding. While compassion for and wanting to improve the lives of less fortunate Americans is a laudable goal, it needs to be realistic. Fiscally this country has already been crippled by nearly twenty years of warfare in abstractly defined theaters of combat and other poorly execute social and corporate welfare policies.  Well, Yang is purposing that we utilize a “VAT (Value-add tax) on goods and services produced by companies” which is considered a fair tax that is difficult for larger operations to hide [2]. Yang is looking to apply this 10 percent tax to fund this venture into UBI. Below are some of the other considerations Yang’s platform has for funding UBI:

1.  Current spending.  We currently spend between $500 and $600 billion a year on welfare programs, food stamps, disability and the like.  This reduces the cost of Universal Basic Income because people already receiving benefits would have a choice but would be ineligible to receive the full $1,000 in addition to current benefits.

2.  A VAT.  Our economy is now incredibly vast at $19 trillion, up $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone.  A VAT at half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue.  A VAT will become more and more important as technology improves because you cannot collect income tax from robots or software.

3.  New revenue.  Putting money into the hands of American consumers would grow the economy.  The Roosevelt Institute projected that the economy would grow by approximately $2.5 trillion and create 4.6 million new jobs.  This would generate approximately $500 – 600 billion in new revenue from economic growth and activity.

4.  We currently spend over one trillion dollars on health care, incarceration, homelessness services and the like.  We would save $100 – 200 billion as people would take better care of themselves and avoid the emergency room, jail, and the street and would generally be more functional.  Universal Basic Income would pay for itself by helping people avoid our institutions, which is when our costs shoot up.  Some studies have shown that $1 to a poor parent will result in as much as $7 in cost-savings and economic growth.”

[2].

 

While it is all well and good  Yang has done a better job of thinking through the logistical issues of implementing such a widespread entitlement program than the likes of Bernie Sanders, there are still other considerations to be addressed. This would seem to be a relatively conspicuous example, does UBI actually work?  A question that any sane taxpaying voter should be allowed to indulge when confronting a presidential candidate. Even if Yang’s means of funding this program are sound, if it is ineffective we are merely squandering taxpayer dollars for a failed pipe dream. Yang believes that he does have some hard evidence for the effective nature of UBI. However, I will be the first to point out that while there may be some that confirm the positive effect of UBI, there isn’t an abundance of longitudinal data. The few countries that have implemented such policies are still in the infant stages of noticing the impact. If there was a country that had 30 plus years of data that has been proven to be able to be replicated, I would be more apt to accept Yang’s claims of effectiveness. The website claims that there are over 461 research papers since 1998 proving the effectiveness of UBI and that it does reduce poverty without people overwhelmingly using the money for destructive means such as drugs and alcohol [2].   The lack of data presented on Yang’s website is compensated by the link provided to the studies substantiating the impact of UBI. For further reading please see below:

https://basicincome.org/research/ [5]

 

COMMON ARGUMENTS AGAINST UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME:

 

While it may seem as if am biased towards Universal Basic Income based on the bountiful amount of positive aspects provided above, nothing can be further from the truth. I am very skeptical of UBI as an effective policy, however, I am attempting to approach in an impartial manner. However, my incredulity in regards to the positive ramifications of this policy cannot be stymied by the angle presented on Mr. Yang’s campaign website.  I feel in order to intellectually honest we must also investigate the drawbacks and potential follies of Universal Basic Income as well. Much like another entity whether conceptual or material, nothing is necessarily a complete fallacy. Most well-intentioned ideas tend to exist on a spectrum of validity with vary degrees of correctness. However, the inverse is also true, regardless of the intentions, there has to be some degree of shortcomings.

 

The well-established think tank  Foundation For Economic Education is well known for propagating and defending the virtues of fiscal conservatism. Certainly, a source that I personally find to be reliable when it comes to commentary on economic policy. FEE published an article back in September 2017 addressing the three commonly verified issues concerning  UBI, in the article The Top Three Arguments Against Universal Basic Income.  The article cites a study conducted by the Roosevelt Institute demonstrating how  Universal Basic Income if implemented, is projected to expand the U.S. economy by $2.5 trillion dollars (by 2025) [6]. While this appears to be a  tremendous incentive to pursue implementation, it is merely speculation. Speculation that glosses right over any potential detriments. The first issue the article references is the overall expense of implementing such a policy. With the current operating social entitlement programs in the United States, there are barriers such as income per a household that limit the pool of recipients.  However, under a UBI policy, everyone would receive money regardless of finical circumstances [6]. It may end up being a more costly program than the current section 8 and Snap programs currently being utilized.  However, the study by the Roosevelt Institute proposes funding by either deficit spending or higher taxes, neither being an economically viable solution [6].

 

The second consideration posed in the article is the ineffective nature of government handouts. This argument is derived from the psychological principle that we lack appreciation for what we do not work for.  While this may sound like a bit of a cliche that is overused by conservatives consider some of the welfare reforms enacted by the Clinton administration.  By placing a work necessity contingency to incentivize recipients to find employment, Clinton actually increased the employment rate [6].

 

The third core argument against imposing a UBI retributive policy is that wouldn’t relinquish the welfare state. There has not been much discourse on the steps and phases for the abolishment of contemporary programs such as SNAP, WIC, etc [6]. From the standpoint of political shrewdness, it would be completely rational for the topic to be circumvented. For social entitlements such as  Social Security to be revoked, it would engender a vitriolic and visceral response from the voting public [6]. The aptitude that UBI will be a replacement program in the light of public outcry and lack of a transition plan is minuscule. It will merely be added on as other gear in the costly and monstrous U.S. welfare platform.

 

As for an emotional appeal and moralistic considerations of Universal Basic Income Andrew Yang’s argument excels. However, it lacks caution when it comes to fiscal feasibility and practical implementation.  While I am personally sympathetic to individuals who have lost jobs to automation and outsourcing, we cannot do it at the expense of the rest of the country. I certainly can comprehend the lukewarm and often regurgitated axiom of “The rich need to pay their fair share”, which is equally as haggard and sickening of a cliche as you can imagine. Almost comparable to the assumptions of the archaic  “Trickle-Down Effect”. While Yang believes that adding a 10 percent Value-add tax on goods and services will fill in the gap enough to fund this program, I personally have a few concerns. For one, I have to side with the FEE in regards to the detriment of supporting this policy through higher taxes. There are a plethora of others who would agree. According to the Tax Policy Center that “… high marginal tax rates…” discourages commerce, investments, and business growth [7].  From the stance of pure logic, this makes sense from the superficial level. What drives business is the cycle of consumers purchasing goods and services and companies producing. If consumer confidence is slighted by new taxes imposed, they will stop buying which will put production into a tailspin. Which would stunt economic growth versus affirming the assumptions of UBI proponents.

 

UNLIKELY SUPPORTERS OF UBI:

This section of the article is not so much about presenting arguments for or against Universal Basic Income. I am intending for this section as an addendum to the topic that presents some stimulating food for thought. Stereotypically we would not predict or assume that proponents of fiscal conservatism would support Universal Basic Income. During Andrew Yang’s appearance on the Waking Up, he mentions in passing how  F.A Hayek and Milton Friedman both supported UBI. I was immoderately skeptical that either man would support such a policy considering they were prominent Austrian economists. The Austrian School of Economics at its core espouses the virtues of Laissez-Faire trade and market liberalism, in other words, limited governmental authority in policy [8]. So the question which is as foreboding and lingering as a thinly veiled apparition is why would individuals who have been steadfast in nonintervention fiscal policy support UBI?  Yang’s claims appeared to be pandering towards advocates of fiscal conservatives and Libertarians, both audiences that are vehemently opposed to governmental encroachment in economic policy. To my surprise, after some quick research apparently, Yang was right, contrary to my prior assumptions both did support UBI as a valid concept.

The Atlantic article The Conservative Case for Guaranteed Basic Income references Hayek and Friedman’s support for UBI in passing. The article itself is fixated on deriving an appeal to conservatives for UBI on the basis it would curtail current welfare spending. Please note that we have already pointed out some of the faulty aspects with this argument in the previous section above. The article mentions how Hayek “endorsed” UBI before the concept was a mainstage political talking point [9]. However, the article goes a little further into Friedman’s account for the policy’s veracity.  It was detailed that “… Friedman advocated a minimum guaranteed income via a “negative income tax”.  [9].   There may be a few of you who are questioning precisely what a Negative Income Tax is.  The genesis of this concept can be traced back to  Friedman’s 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom [10].  How NIT works is it sidesteps the bureaucratic red-tape, it is “….based on the amount by which their incomes exceeded the threshold for tax liability, NIT beneficiaries would receive payments (“negative taxes”) …” [10].

 

Personally, I really revere Milton Friedman as an economist, however, I am still apprehensive about U.S. implementation of UBI.  However, there does seem to be a real deficit of real longitudinal data that corresponds to long durations of research and reproducible results. The fact that Finland, who has run the largest UBI active test in any European country cut the two-year trial short to focus on Social Security reform it noteworthy [11]. Noteworthy in the sense that it should be a glaringly conspicuous red flag, that UBI is not something to haphazardly implement. Considering the larger recipient pool and the different culture in the United States, even if UBI works in the Nordic countries, how can we be sure that those results can be extrapolated to the U.S.? What we would risk by doing so would be either further comprising our economy through deepening the dark trillion dollars plus chasm what is our deficit.  The other alternative being we increase taxes and let’s be forthright here, few Americans want that.  I certainly understand the social consequences and moral imperative to assist displaced workers.  I am not willing to put my faith and confidence in UBI, however, maybe it might be effective. All I know at this point I am very skeptical.

 

 

 

 

FOOT NOTES:

[1]. https://basicincome.org/basic-income/

[2]. https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-ubi/

[3]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhjlPyxNu_M

[4]. http://www.dpaonthenet.net/article/155867/Research-shows-that-automation-will-create-as-many-jobs-as-it-displaces.aspx

[5]. https://basicincome.org/research/

[6]. https://fee.org/articles/the-top-three-arguments-against-a-universal-basic-income/

[7]. https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-do-taxes-affect-economy-long-run

[8]. http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=Austrian-economics

[9]. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/why-arent-reformicons-pushing-a-guaranteed-basic-income/375600/

[10]. http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc1/NegativeIncomeTax.html

[11]. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43866700