Friday, February 19, 2016

the looming menace of a sanders presidency

The Sanders campaign with strong showings in both New Hampshire (where he won) and Iowa (where he came in second) is quickly gaining momentum. While still an underdog to the formidable Clinton machine, Sanders has tapped in to the frustration of working class Americans and has a very realistic chance of becoming the Democratic nominee for president which would likely make him a favourite in the general. This is a truly horrific prospect.

Sanders, who constantly trumpets the redistribution of wealth, has a fundamental animus towards people who have been successful in the market economy by providing valued goods and services to others. But it is wrong for the state to take from one man and give to another; this is theft. People who get rich in the private sector do so because they have served their fellow man; their profits should be confiscated by the state because they have been justly earned. There is no fundamental conflict between the rich and the poor until the state enters the equation. In a capitalist order, virtually all exchanges are mutually beneficial; that is why people trade, because they expect to benefit. Individuals are uniquely capable of assessing whether or not a given transaction works to their advantage. But with the state, class conflict is created as interactions become coercive and win/lose instead of win/win. When the state grants monopoly privileges to a firm or keeps out competitors in an industry through compulsory licensure this hurts some and helps others and suddenly success becomes less about serving your fellow man and more about lobbying the state for special favours. The net result, especially once this mercantilism permeates throughout the whole of the economy, is devastating to the wealth of the nation. The real problem is not people who got rich by working hard and creating value for others but those who, like Sanders, got rich by by using the state to take the wealth that other people had created. Sander's fundamental belief system is parasitism, the idea that he has the right to live off the fruit of another man's labour.

Sanders constantly rails against the rise in teen unemployment which has been steadily increasing over the last fifty years, which is ironic because the main proximate cause for this phenomenon is the steadily increasing minimum wage, a policy which he enthusiastically supports. The minimum wage prices low skilled workers out of the market place and offers precious little advantage to anyone. Unfortunately the victims of the minimum wage are all too often invisible and very few people understand the impact of this policy, despite the best efforts of advocates of laissez-faire to educate the public over the years. To fight teenage unemployment (indeed, involuntary unemployment of all types) the most important policy move is to eliminate barriers to entry such as the minimum wage and compulsory licensure. The impact of confiscatory tax rates and profligate government spending in this area should not be understated as well.  Groucho Marx said "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." Never has that quip been more true that in the Sanders campaign. The tax, spend and regulate policies of Sanders would significantly aggravate unemployment.

The Senator from Vermont is also fond of attacking America's high rates of incarceration and yet he is too timid to suggest the obvious fix; an immediate end to the war on drugs. Instead we are assured by this angry little socialist that education can be a panacea for all social ills. Half of the federal prison population is in there because of drug crimes. The only solution to this problem is immediate legalization of both hard and soft drugs, as well as amnesty for all convicted users and dealers.  Drug trafficking is a victimless crime and turning it into a felony has been a full frontal assault on the fourth amendment and completely eroded American civil liberties. Ending the war on drugs would free up police resources to handle the truly horrific crime and the government has no place regulating what a person chooses to put in their body.

In order to fund his 'free education for all', Sanders wants to impose a crippling tax on financial speculation.  But speculators play an important role in the market economy, by moving resources from where or when they are plentiful to where or when they are scarce. This transaction tax would have a chilling effect on the dynamism of the market economy, freezing investments in place and having massive, long term consequences for economic growth. And there are already too many people going to college and university.  Not everyone can benefit from higher education. Many people simply do not have the mental capacity for advanced studies. This simple reality may upset egalitarians who submit that we are all simply a tableau rousseau that can be molded into any form but it is the truth. Precisely how many basket weaving and women's studies courses do we need?

There are some good ideas which have sprang from the Sanders campaign. He is right to champion undocumented immigrants, many of whom risked their lives wanting nothing more than the chance to work and provide for their families. The de-militarization of police is also worthy goal. But ultimately his socialist policies would be an absolute disaster for the American people.

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