Looking for the Leverage Points

Politics is a long slog. So is this extended meditation on political strategy. Let’s see if we can extract any useful action items out of this extended analysis. First, quick recap of the story so far:

  • Most political actions are intermediate; they do not yield any changes in law or regulations. By themselves they have no value.
  • Setting a value on intermediate milestones is very difficult.
  • You need to change some minds to change a policy – or you can go all in to implement policies where the minds have already been [mostly] changed.
  • Radicals, reactionaries, and creative political types need allies. Either that, or they need to take over a small country or state, or live on a floating island.
  • Government is being pushed ever upwards to the central level. This makes creative politics very difficult.
  • Those who love liberty and family need to play defense, and wins some soon.

You might notice a problem: these bullet points conflict with one another!

Fortunately, there are shortcuts: single issue organizations, lobbying, and special interest politics.

It is much easier to build an effective coalition around a single issue than for a complete political platform. Organizations such as The Marijuana Policy Project, The Virginia Citizens Defense League, and the Institute for Justice have a far better track record than the Libertarian Party for actually affecting public policy.

Getting incumbent legislators out of office is extremely difficult. Threatening their office is an order order of magnitude easier. Incumbents cling to their seats by listening to active voters. Demonstrate that you have enough motivated voters in an incumbent’s district to swing the next election, and you get an incumbent who changes his mind.

If you want some Big Boy money to play with, get some special interests on your side. Special interest money saved us from HillaryCare. Alas, it is extremely difficult to get special interest money to lobby for that which is positively good. We do need some type of medical reform, and the insurance industry isn’t going to be for it! Special interest money is like the One Ring of Power – useful but very dangerous. So we need to be careful here.

So, what are the best options for single issue lobbying for those who love liberty and think that Mayberry and Lake Woebegone would be nice places to live?

Diagnosing Our Social Breakdown

What do Occupy Wall St., Black Lives Matter, the opioid epidemic, Millenial socialists, calls for free college and student loan forgiveness, strident calls for legal abortion, the decline of marriage, the trashing of the Bill of Rights, and even the decline of Christianity all have in common?

The answer:

Young adults who cannot get a decent job!

Markets are supposed to match people with useful skills with those who want to buy the products of those skills. For young adults the markets aren’t working. This makes socialism look good.

The promise of capitalism (and college) is that if you work hard, you will get paid more. Inequality is acceptable when there is economic mobility. The young are not seeing economic mobility; they see a caste system forming.

Marriage is expensive. Having children more so. Young adults want to have sex. When the economy postpones the age of affordable marriage too long, premarital sex become the norm. This makes legal abortion very important.

And when Christian moralists decry the situation, they young are increasingly replying “Fsck you, hypocrite!” with some good reason.

Unmarried young men are dangerous. Ambitious unmarried young men without a legal path for advancement are doubly so. This leads to high crime rates in our core cities.

High crime in the core cities leads to loss of civil liberties as the government strives to contain the problem.

High crime in poorer neighborhoods leads people who want to start a family to buy excessively expensive housing to get away from the crime.

It all ties together. To turn the tide we need to find a few viable reforms that allow young people to be the happy squares that their ancestors were in the 1950s. Let’s look at a few possibilities.

Fix the Schools?

Me: “Why do we need to learn this?”

The answer in high school: “You will need this for college.”

The answer in college: “We don’t teach job skills. We teach EDUCATION! You will get your [slimy] job skills when you get a job.”

This mindset was all well and good for educating the nobility back in the day. And it worked for teaching future clerics and bureaucrats. But putting the masses through this scam has been a disaster!

The purpose of an education is create good citizens who lead the Good Life. This requires teaching job skills!

People who don’t know how to thrive in a capitalist economy become socialists. To be a socialist is to be a bad citizen. Very very double plus bad citizen in the case of full on Marxist socialists.

A free society needs to be filled with people trained to be free. This means people who understand how their society works, and how to operate independently within it.

The core curriculum should include enough accounting, business law, and whatnot to make starting a business a realistic option for a very large fraction of the populace. Wage serfdom should be optional.

And even white collar types should understand the technology which surrounds them. Technology education should not be limited to tradesmen and engineers. The words artist and artisan have the same root…

I could write reams on what’s wrong with our education system. And I might.

Education reform can be done without national consensus. Those interested in an idea can Just Do It: start a private school, implement it as part of homeschool, etc. And we still have elected school boards in this country. Some local control remains…

Those who act can profit. They can give their kids a leg up in life. They can also give with effect: every student helped is a win.

For these reasons the education issue is one where conservatives and libertarians already see some victories. But the road is still very long.

Meanwhile the universities are still cranking out Marxists, and we have millions already ripped off by the current corrupted system. Education reform is not enough.

A Universal Inheritance?

The Cultural Marxists on campus and the Social Justice Warriors in general disgust me greatly. They have destroyed what value there was in a humanities education, and they are attacking free speech. And they are trying to stir up a race war for good measure. The dream of Charles Manson lives on.

I have a cunning plan to steal their thunder and take their jobs: a Universal Inheritance.

White Privilege used to be a real thing. And how! But we did have something called the Civil Rights Act back over a half century ago. And we were making great strides back in the 70s getting used to treating each other as equals. So what’s with all the White Privilege talk today?

Part of the problem is our injustice system. We still have a White Privilege (and a Class Privilege) problem when it comes to drug law enforcement. (I was fighting against this problem well before black lives started mattering.)

But that’s not the only problem. The effects of past injustice can linger for generations. It shows up in the sizes of one’s inheritance, and the value of one’s social network. It also affects attitude towards education – especially the overly long winding path that is traditional liberal arts education.

In one respect I am a bit woke: there should have been reparations. The governments of the U.S. had been mistreating African Americans for a very long time – for an entire century after slavery was outlawed. Repealing these injustices was not enough. Compensation was in order.

Unfortunately, we have run up against a statute of limitations problem. It’s rather too late for direct reparations. To do so would just stir up bad memories and make racism great again.

Indirect reparations is another matter. In order to reduce the inheritance gap, just give every citizen a lump sum upon reaching the age of maturity. For those born into privilege, it’s a tax rebate. For the rest it is a leg up that can be used as they see fit:

  • Money for college
  • Capital to start a business
  • A down payment for a house
  • A bitchin sports car

Yes, some people will blow their inheritance. So be it. Even a blown inheritance can be useful: it is educational. It eliminates excuses.

Note that this universal inheritance would be instead of government aid for college. No more grants or guaranteed student loans. Colleges would have to compete for students’ cash.

Expect a return of honest tuition rates. Less price discrimination.

And fewer bogus “Studies” departments.

We could fight the Social Justice Warriors – with [indirect] reparations!

And, by the way, this would also make earlier marriage more affordable for those who don’t go the college route.

But what about when the inheritance runs out? And what about those who have already passed the age of maturity?

A Citizen Dividend?

Here is another idea that is potentially transpartisan: a Citizen Dividend. I could make a case for such to factions ranging from leftists to tax reformers to the nativist right.

  • A Citizen Dividend can turn a market compatible minimum wage into a living wage.
  • A Citizen Dividend can be a bridge from welfare to work.
  • A Citizen Dividend can be used to make the income tax flat for 99% of the population while keeping the system progressive on the net.
  • A Citizen Dividend restricts the benefits of the welfare state to citizens. No more paying people to come here. (And fewer calls for a Wall.)

Note that I use the term Citizen Dividend instead of Universal Basic Income. The latter term conjures up images of people living entirely off the dole. The former does not. Plenty of Republicans collect dividends and still go to work.

The idea is potentially faction spanning and many effects would be immediate. But this is clearly a national issue, and a hard sell given the already huge budget deficits we are now experiencing. (I can rightfully claim that this would not be that expensive, if we used it to replace parts of the welfare entitlements and tax deductions. But, this is a hard case to make nationally. It requires numbers…)

Balance the Budget?

The plight of young adults trying to enter the workforce is part of a much bigger problem:

We have a system which subsidizes capital owners at the expense of workers in general.

Deficit spending subsidizes those who have money to lend at the expense of those on the borrowing end.

Skeptics ask, however: Why aren’t interest rates higher given the enormous deficits? Possible answers:

  • Budget deficits are offset in part by foreign investors parking their money here. The U.S. is like Switzerland – with nukes.
  • Baby boomers saving for retirement (including pension funds) provided a monster pool of capital. This pool will start leaking as boomers retire.
  • The banking/financial system is kiting checks. Short term funds are used to make long term investments. This leads to periodic crashes and bailouts.
  • Capital is taxed at a much lower rate than labor to ensure enough capital. (A double subsidy!)

If modern liberals could grok this one lesson, much could be fixed.

But Keynesian Economics is too much fun. Stimulus Packages! Whee!

Meanwhile, Republicans indulge in their own form of Santa Claus Economics, by abusing the logic of the Laffer Curve.

So, if I had the money of an H. Ross Perot, I’d make this my issue. Perot almost won the presidency on the deficit issue.

For an unfunded outsider, this is too difficult an issue for near term success. Any talk of deficit reduction has to be coupled by talk of tax increases and credible spending cuts. Otherwise we’re talking Feel Good Fluff.

So how about going straight to the tax increases?

Higher Tariffs, Anyone?

What is the difference between federal taxes on imports and federal taxes on domestically produced items?

About a factor of ten.

10!

We don’t have Free Trade. We have Subsidized Outsourcing. Subsidized guttng of the American working class. Subsidized National Suicide.

Yes libertarians, tariffs are taxes. But deficit spending takes wealth out of the economy as well.

Yes, tariffs would make consumer goods more expensive. But I’d rather pay a bit more at Walmart than pay taxes for laid off workers on welfare and angry young men in jail.

This is a transpartisan issue. Dick Gephart and the WTO protesters of not long ago were on the Left. H. Ross Perot came from the Center. Donald Trump is approaching this issue from the Right.

But unlike Trump, I don’t want a “Better Deal.” I want taxes on imports comparable to those on domestic products – with an exception for products from truly poor nations that need a hand.

The academic argument for our extremely low tariff rates is based on an artificial use case, a scenario radically different from the modern welfare state in which we live. Common sense is already on the side of higher tariffs. It might be possible to win this one by simply giving ordinary folks the talking points to use against the Intellectuals Yet Idiots.

A 25% pay raise for Working Class America with respect to medical expenses would dampen calls for single payer medicine as well.

I’m contemplating another book…

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