It’s the System That’s Racist

What do you get when you mix 17 parts defective welfare system, 23 parts broken justice system, and 2 parts racism?

Answer: Mass incarceration of African Americans, millions of civil liberties violations, and the occasional riot.

The George Floyd murder is but one data point, albeit a particularly egregious one.

Let’s get real on how to fix the problem. You are not going to fix the problem playing Catch the Closet Racist. You could purge every detectably racist cop, judge, and prosecutor from the system. You could make Modern Indignation Studies part of the mandatory high school curriculum. You could demolish every Confederate memorial. And you would only make a temporary dent in the problem.

By far the biggest evils are measures that lock in the effects of past racism. Unless you have a working time machine, you need to pay attention and learn how to fix the ongoing problems.

Our Defective Welfare State

Let’s start with the defective welfare state. Dixiecrats were part of the New Deal Coalition that created the modern welfare state, and FDR did more than dog whistle. Whites got the mortgage assistance and farm bailouts. Blacks got the scraps, the need-based welfare.

Need-based welfare can be mighty handy when you need it, but it can also be a trap. You lose benefits when you work to get out of poverty. The effective marginal tax rate for making the transition from welfare to work is brutal; it’s up there with what the Brits were levying on the Beatles. Maybe worse.

Our welfare system also penalizes marriage. Marriage is a civilizing force – for men of any race. Unmarried young men tend to be rowdy and dangerous. There is an entire film genre based on the phenomenon: Westerns.

Honest work is also civilizing, especially when there is a clear path for advancement for the ambitious. If it is not available, ambitious young men will resort to no-so-legal means for advancement. Ghettos of people locked into need-based welfare will have high concentrations of such dangerous men. Thanks to the magic of past White Privilege, such ghettos are disproportionately black.

This is not a call to eliminate welfare, by the way. It is a call for humane reforms which restore incentives for self improvement. Milton Friedman proposed a solution ages ago: a negative income tax. The idea was given some consideration by Congress back in the 1970s, but was mostly rejected. We have a ghost of a negative income tax in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit, but it is both too small, and it’s so complicated that tax preparation services get much of the benefit.

I prefer a Citizen Dividend. It’s simpler.

Our welfare system has other defects. The United States offloads much of its welfare burden on employers, health insurance especially. This creates a major barrier to entry level work, especially for those with a bad resume.

Jail time really stinks up a resume.

And we pay for our welfare state primarily by taxing domestic labor! We tax domestic employment more than we tax imports and capital gains. We have a system of subsidized outsourcing and automation.

It’s as if malevolent space aliens took over our government in order to create crime for their amusement. And then they broke our justice system for even more quality sadism.

Our Very Broken Justice System

Back when I was young, I was taught that the United States is a free country, that its citizens are innocent until proven guilty, that everyone is entitled to a fair trial. I read horror stories about the KGB, how they would smash down people’s doors in the middle of the night. I watched TV shows mocking tinpot dictatorships with their overmilitarized police. I read about Stalin and his archipelago of gulags.

And what do we have today? The Bill of Rights has been turned on its head. Guilty until proven innocent is the new norm. Warrantless searches and no-knock late raids are standard police procedure. Few can afford a fair trial. And some of our prisons make Stalin’s gulags look good.

How did this happen?

The Drug War. That’s how.

Let me be precise here. The key term here is “War.” If you want to limit hard drugs to certain Morality Free Zones, like we do for casinos, fine. If you want to arrest heroin addicts sleeping on park benches and leaving needles on the ground, no problem. If you want to make people jump through some hoops to get high, or limit open market sales of certain drugs to dilute forms, you can do that too.

But you cannot eliminate recreational drug use without draconian measures. Shredding the Bill of Rights is just a warmup for what’s necessary.

The reason is this: responsible recreational drug use and discreet drug dealing are victimless crimes. That is, there are no victims to call the authorities. Without a victim to trigger an investigation, the police need to be preemptive: mass surveillance, surprise searches, and sting operations are required tools needed to make any headway.

These tools are unconstitutional. So our legislatures have created a system of bypasses around the Bill of Rights. The law books have been polluted with thousands of piddling crimes so that everyone is guilty of something. This gives police discretion to find probable cause to search without a warrant.

Police discretion.

This, Dear Reader, is a racial bias amplifier cranked up to eleven.

An Evil Feedback Loop

With the amplification cranked up that high, the racial injustice can keep on going without any more input racism whatsoever. It’s all in the feedback. And there are lots of feedback loops.

The Drug War has not eliminated recreational drugs. It has just made them more expensive. That means you have drug dealers walking around with lots of cash. And they cannot rely on police protection (unless the cops are corrupt). So you get armed drug dealers, and you get gangs and organized crime syndicates to provide government-like services to drug dealers.

Gangs, like governments, go to war. And they go to war in poor neighborhoods, since dealers on college campuses and in nice neighborhoods tend to be dealing drugs as a side gig, and can afford to simply eat the loss of a drug deal gone bad.

With gangs going to war in poor neighborhoods, you have probable cause to bring in greater police presence. Even unbiased computer algorithms will effectively racial profile. It’s time for Stop and Frisk, neighborhood cameras, and Civil Asset Forfeiture. Goodbye Second, Fourth and Seventh Amendments.

And what about those the police catch? We have nowhere near the courtroom capacity to handle the caseload. So the system routinely piles on the charges in order to force a plea bargain. Goodbye Fifth Amendment.

And then we have our underfunded prison system. Conditions are brutal. New prisoners are under constant threat of rape and other abuse. Goodbye Eighth Amendment. This provides two more feedback mechanisms.

  1. Prisoners get turned into hardened criminals thanks to this brutal experience.
  2. All the victims of this broken system lose respect for the justice system – because it doesn’t deserve respect. Criminals can become local heroes.

It’s the System that’s Racist

If you think you can fix the nightmare by spouting Social Justice platitudes, you are living in a fairyland.

Even if the government used the Orbital Mind Control Laser to zap all racist thoughts, the problem would remain.

Censoring Bad Thinkers and toppling monuments are even less effective. If anything, they are backfiring, making racism great again.

If you are serious about racial justice, fix the welfare system; clean the law books; outlaw plea bargaining and Civil Asset Forfeiture; dial back the Drug War to those measures that the government can usefully do while obeying the Bill of Rights. Turn down that racism amplifier until the feedback stops.

Is the Trump Win a Victory for the Upper Left?

I did not vote for Donald Trump yesterday. In fact, I refused to vote for any Republicans out of disgust for some of Trump’s statements and habits.

But Trump might be an ugly realization of the market opportunity that I have been pointing out for over a decade.

Let me explain.

I first came across the idea of mixing populism with a vision of smaller government when I read None Dare Call it Conspiracy back in high school. The idea was mixed with a bunch of outrageous conspiracy theories that bordered on anti Semitism. I have seen this mix in later years mixed with racism on the paleo conservative web sites, which are now labeled alt-right. The mix can also be seen in the old Reform Party.

When thinking of possible new political party names, I seriously contemplated American Party — and rejected it. I did not want to mix my ideas with racism and conspiracy theories. My hope has been that a clean revival of classical liberal ideals in a successful package could squash such ugliness. (Those long out of power often resort to conspiratorial mindsets.) I may have been preempted.

For American citizens, Donald Trump is economically far to the left of any Republican since Eisenhower. He’s more of a pre-McGovern Democrat than a conservative. He’s Dick Gephart with an attitude. He is arguably to the left of Hillary.

True, he has also revived racism somewhat, which is also an old Democrat trait. But Trump’s racism is not aimed at our black population — which stands to benefit from protectionism and a closing of the borders. Nativism favors the black population because on average Black America has deeper roots here than White America. Most black immigration ended in 1808. And by making U.S. Citizenship harder to get, it increases the value thereof. This constitutes a form of reparations for past injustices for the descendants of slaves who didn’t really get full citizenship until my childhood days.

Socially, The Donald is way more liberal than recent Republicans. He has a very European attitude about sexual mores. While he doesn’t drink himself, he has put his name on a brand of Vodka. And he ran casinos. He has long been in the vice industry. He has a serious potty-mouth.

Trump has flopped around on the issue of marijuana legalization, but overall, I’d say he has promise. (His running mate, not so!)

On gun rights, Trump has gone all in for the Second Amendment on his web site.

Given how Obama has revived the Cold War, and Hillary wants to make taking out a Russian ally her top priority, Trump may well be the peace candidate among the major party choices.

The Downside of Trump

As I wrote at the beginning, I did not vote for Mr. Trump. He has added a very ugly spin to the idea of the Upper Left.

  • His rallies had an authoritarian vibe that remind me of the 1930s. (Look up National Recovery Administration parade.)
  • He has made incredibly evil statements about bombing and torturing our enemies.
  • His tax and spending plans could cause the deficit to balloon. Deficit spending is regressive. This pushes him back towards the Right economically.
  • A serious attempt to expel the millions of illegal immigrants will be a civil liberties nightmare: racial profiling for those who look Mexican. The project is impossible with a national ID.

For now, I shall try to hope for the best. Maybe this is a Nixon Go to China thing. Maybe an ugly cover is needed for good ideas.

Or maybe we really, really need that new political party.

Can a Third Party Win the Presidency?

The Democratic Party isn’t. The party bosses have fixed the 2016 primaries to ensure the nomination of Hillary Clinton, who combines the ethics of Richard Nixon with the charm and good looks of…Richard Nixon.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are demonstrating why democracy is not always a good idea. Is Donald Trump a supervillain or does he merely play one on TV? Enquiring minds want to know.

And so interest in third party alternatives has exploded. Hundreds of people are checking out the new party manual on the main site. And this is good — in the longer run.

But alas, it is rather too late to get a new party together, select a candidate, and put him or her on the ballot in enough states to make a difference. A super strong celebrity write-in candidate might win a state or two, but it is a real long shot.

There is a less risky option: Gary Johnson. For a change, the Libertarian Party has a Presidential ticket that has more experience, and is more mainstream than the Republican ticket. 2016 is a strange year.

Yes, Gary Johnson Could be Our Next President

It isn’t likely, but it is quite possible. Gary Johnson could well become the next President of the United States. This may sound like wishful thinking. After all, Libertarians typically have a hard time breaking 1%. But this is not a typical year.

1. Never Trump is for Real

National Review devoted an entire issue to damning Donald Trump. It’s rather late for them to back out, and I cannot imagine them endorsing Hillary. And yes, it didn’t take me long to find an article recommending Gary Johnson.

Red State has multiple writers making the case for Johnson, and the articles are getting featured on the front page.

George Will left the Republican Party over Trump.

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have both said they will not support Trump. Romney said he could support the LP VP candidate, William Weld, and he left open the possibility of endorsing Gary after he learns more.

Quite a few Republican state legislators have endorsed the LP ticket and some have switched party.

This just in, the first Republican U.S. Congressman has endorsed Johnson.

2. The Social Liberals have Mobilized

Marijuana legalization is an idea whose time has finally come. Disgust with failed military adventures and an out of control security state is high. Black Lives Matter is drawing attention to the horrors of the Drug War. Bernie Sanders has drawn young social liberals into the political game, but many are not ready to vote for Hillary.

Years ago I theorized that the real sweet spot on the Nolan Chart was not pure libertarianism, or even moderate libertarianism. The real sweet spot is somewhere near the border between libertarian and social liberal.

Figure1_5c

Under Bill Clinton the Democrats downplayed civil liberties in favor of harsh law-and-order measures. Meanwhile, the Republican have become ever less socially conservative. Rush Limbaugh is no prude, William F. Buckley favored ending the Drug War.

But perhaps I jumped the gun. The few candidates who followed my advice didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. The civil libertarians I was trying to reach were more concerned about the wealth gap, big corporations and the environment.

But this year is different. Civil liberties are a major concern and the Johnson/Weld campaign is taking full advantage of the fact. The campaign is triangulating aggressively, making more efforts to go after the burned Bernie voters than the Never Trumps.

The campaign might be over doing it, and thus lose the Never Trumps. They have made statements on abortion, religious freedom [the wedding cake issue], and Supreme Court picks that have me thinking about voting for Trump instead — but radioactive fallout gives me a terrible rash, so I won’t.

The good news for Johnson is that Establishment Republicans are used to compromising. And many of the economic conservatives are not all that socially conservative to begin with. Their social conservatism is often more a matter of team spirit.

3. Has the Johnson Team been reading this site?

As I wrote above, to really get the attention of the social liberals, you also need to be green and egalitarian. Governor Johnson is an avid outdoorsman, and has even been featured in Outdoors magazine. And yes, he has consciously deviated from libertarian orthodoxy in order to protect the environment.

Surprisingly, he has also stated a willingness to consider a carbon tax and a universal basic income! If the campaign were to go all in with these positions it could well end up in the sweet spot in the liberty-equality plane.

MchartMini

It is almost a dream come true.

4. Money is less of an issue

In this age of social media, eyeballs trump ad buys. Ironically, the supposed billionaire Donald Trump has paved the way here.

The mainstream media want eyeballs and thereby got used by Trump. But the mainstream media do not want Trump to be President. So this year they are giving the LP ticket at least an order of magnitude more attention than is usual. Have a look at these articles in Time, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, New Yorker, and the Orange County Register. This is not a complete list. And, by the way, CNN hosted two townhalls for the Johnson/Weld team.

5. A Loophole in Election Law

Gary Johnson does not need a majority to win. He does not even need a national plurality. A plurality in just a few states may suffice. If Trump and Hillary are evenly split, just a few electoral votes going to Johnson could send the decision to the House of Representatives.

If so, the House votes by state delegation. Utah and California each get one vote. Since the Republican Party is now the rural party, the Republicans will have an overwhelming majority unless Trump has some incredibly negative coattails.

The House Republicans may well snub the Republican Party nominee. The Donald has insulted the Republican Establishment repeatedly, including Speaker Ryan. House Republicans could very well vote for Johnson instead, in the name of sanity and national unity.

(That said, it would certainly help if Johnson/Weld got some solid vote totals across the country.)

Warning! This is not a Party-Building Exercise

Ten years ago I led an attempt to reform the Libertarian Party to make a campaign such as this possible. I thought I had failed, and so left the party and have taken a break from active politics.

It is still not clear to me that the LP could build on this year’s success. I see a lot of grumbling from LP stalwarts about Johnson not running a libertarian campaign. If the ticket doesn’t win, there could well be a purge similar to what happened after the 1980 Clark campaign.

But even if the ticket does win, I’m not convinced the LP could absorb a combination of Never Trump Republicans and Bernie-loving social liberals to build a lasting coalition. The party rules and culture are designed to prevent such. A split would be likely.

I could be wrong, however. The Rothbardians could wake up and realize that they have a bigger megaphone for their ideas by being the vanguard of a broader coalition than by running an exclusive philosophy club.

I won’t hold my breath. Those of you interested in starting yet another third party should probably proceed.

But for this year, you might want to support Gary Johnson. I will.

Imagine no IRS

Imagine there was no income tax. It isn’t hard if you try…

But doing more than imagining is hard. Very hard. As the next chapter in my Tax Reform series, demonstrates, the federal income tax has a depressing number of upsides. Replacing it is thus more difficult than frequently advertised.

That said, replacing the income tax is also more worthwhile than advertised from a modern liberal perspective. If you want a narrower wealth gap or prefer Main St. stores to Wal Mart, you have reason to want to replace the income tax.

Time for a Better Flat Tax

The term “flat tax” generally conjures up images of the latest Republican giveaway to the super rich.

But it doesn’t have to. Our current set of federal taxes is much flatter than most people realize. Throw in some gigantic loopholes and it’s downright regressive. (The benefits side, however, is arguably more progressive.)

So, whether you are a Wall St. Occupier or an IRS hater, check out my Flat Tax for the 99%. It’s tax reform done right.