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I wrote yesterday about the debate among leftists, which is partly a contest between Bernie Sanders-style socialists and Elizabeth Warren-style corporatists.

Now let’s look at the debate on the right.

There’s an ongoing argument over what it means to be conservative, especially when thinking about the role of the federal government.

You can view this debate – if you peruse this “political compass test” – as being a battle over whether it is best for conservatism to be represented by Friedrich Hayek or Angela Merkel? By Donald Trump or Gary Johnson?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a debate between whether the right believes in the principles of small-state classical liberalism or whether it thinks government should have the power to steer society.

Representing the latter view, here’s some of what Henry Olsen wrote for the Washington Post.

…libertarian-minded opinion leaders have criticized Trump… For these people, Trump was…an apostate whose heresies had to be cast out of the conservative church. Trump’s overwhelming victory in the primaries should have shocked them out of their ideological slumber. …the market fundamentalists seem to see nothing— absolutely nothing — about today’s capitalism to dislike. …National Review’s founder, William F. Buckley, famously wrote that…the federal government’s proper peacetime duties are solely to “protect its citizens’ lives, liberty, and property.” With respect to its efforts to do anything else, “we are, without reservation, on the libertarian side.” But that dog don’t hunt politically. ..libertarian-conservatives remain oblivious or intentionally in denial… The New Deal’s intellectual core, that the federal government should vigorously act to correct market failures, remains at the center of what Americans expect from Washington. Trump’s nomination and election proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that even a majority of Republicans agree. Less doctrinaire conservative thinkers understand this. Ramesh Ponnuru noted in his National Review essay that…capitalism “require[s] invigoration” as a result. The American Enterprise Institute’s Yuval Levin goes further, noting that “sometimes our economic policy has to be determined by more than purely economic considerations.” Other factors, such as social order and family formation, are also worthy goals to which pure economic efficiency or growth must bend at times. …this debate is fundamental to the future of conservatism and perhaps of the United States itself.

And here’s the beginning of a history-filled article by Joshua Tait in the National Interest.

When FOX television host Tucker Carlson recently attacked conservative faith in free market economics, he probably surprised a number of his viewers. For too long, Carlson charged, libertarians and social conservatives have ignored the fundamental part economic structures play in undermining communities. Families are crushed beneath market forces. Disposable goods—fueled by consumer culture—provide little salve for drug addiction and suicide. Markets are a “tool,” Carlson said, not a “religion.” “You’d have to be a fool to worship” them. Carlson put a primetime spin on an argument that has been brewing for some time on the right. Just as the 2008 economic collapse and the national prominence of Bernie Sanders have begun to shift the Democratic Party’s stance toward socialism, so the long effects of the downturn and Trump’s election have caused a rethinking of conservative commitment to free markets.

Last but not least, Jonah Goldberg examines a slice of this divide in a column for National Review.

The idea holding together the conservative movement since the 1960s was called “fusionism.” The concept…was that freedom and virtue were inextricably linked. …Today, conservative forces concerned with freedom and virtue are pulling apart. The catalyst is a sprawling coalition of self-described nationalists, Catholic integralists, protectionists, economic planners, and others who are increasingly rallying around something called “post-liberal” conservativism. By “liberal,” they…mean classical liberalism, the Enlightenment worldview held by the Founding Fathers. What the post-liberals want is hard to summarize beyond generalities. They seek a federal government that cares more about pursuing the “highest good” than protecting the “libertarian” (their word) system of individual rights and free markets. …On the other side are…conservatives who…still rally to the banner of classical liberalism and its philosophy of natural rights and equality under the law. …this intellectual mudfight really is…about what conservatism will mean after Trump is gone from the scene. …the so-called post-liberals now want Washington to dictate how we should all pursue happiness, just so long as it’s from the right. …Where the post-liberals have a point is that humans are happiest in communities, families and institutions of faith. The solution to the culture wars is to allow more freedom for these “little platoons” of civil society… What America needs is less talk of national unity — from the left or the right — and more freedom to let people live the way they want to live, not just as individuals, but as members of local communities. We don’t need to move past liberalism, we need to return to it.

For what it’s worth, I prefer Jonah’s analysis.

But I’ll also make three additional points.

First, if we care about maximizing freedom and prosperity, there’s no substitute for classical liberalism.

In my lifetime, there have been various alternatives to free markets. There was pre-Reagan Rockefeller Republicanism, post-Reagan “kinder and gentler,” George W. Bush’s so-called compassionate conservatism, reform conservatism, and now various strains of Trumpism and populism.

It may very well be true that some of these alternatives are more politically palatable (though I’m skeptical given the GOP’s unparalleled electoral success with an anti-big government message in 1980, 1994, 2010, and 2014).

But even if some alternatives are more popular, the associated policies will hurt people in the long run. That’s a point I made when arguing for supply-side tax cuts over family-friendly tax cuts.

In other words, you demonstrate compassion by giving people opportunity to prosper, not by giving them other people’s money.

Second, there’s nothing about classical liberalism or capitalism that suggests people should be selfish and atomistic.

Indeed, I pointed out, starting at the 3:36 point of this interview, that a libertarian society is what allows family, neighborhood, and community to flourish.

And, as Jonah explained, the “platoons” of “civil society” are more likely to thrive in an environment where the central government is constrained.

My third and final point is that I’m pessimistic.

The debate on the left is basically about how to make government bigger and how fast that process should occur.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a similar debate on the right, featuring different theories of how to shrink the size and scope of government.

Instead, the Reaganite-oriented classical liberals are the only ones who want America to become more like Hong Kong, while all the competing approaches basically envision government getting bigger, albeit at a slower rate than preferred by folks on the left.

In other words, we’re in a political environment where everyone on the left is debating how quickly to become Mexico and many people on the right are debating how quickly to become France.

No wonder I’ve identified an escape option if America goes down the wrong path.

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I had a chance to write about several interesting topics (Australian politics and policy, the economics of government spending, the structure of taxation) on my recent trip Down Under.

I also appeared on The Outsiders, one of Australia’s most popular political programs.

Here are a few links for those who want more information on some of the topics that were discussed.

  • Societal capital – I fear that there is a tipping point and that nations are doomed once people decide that it’s morally acceptable to use government coercion to live off the effort of others.
  • Demographics – Many nations face a built-in crisis because their redistribution programs are unaffordable now that people are living longer and having fewer children.
  • Social Security reform – It’s not pure libertarianism, but Australia’s system of private retirement accounts is vastly superior to America’s bankrupt tax-and-transfer Social Security system.
  • Socialism – It’s very troubling that many young people support the poisonous ideology of socialism, but I offered an optimistic spin that this doesn’t necessarily mean support for coercive statism.
  • Tax reform – Citing globalization as a driving factor, I couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the supply-side gospel of lower marginal tax rates on productive economic activity.
  • Donald Trump – As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, America’s president is an incoherent mix of good policies on tax and regulation mixed with bad policies on spending and trade.
  • Trade and protectionism – Speaking of trade, I argued that the trade deficit doesn’t matter and also suggested a sensible approach for dealing with China.

P.S. This interview was an encore performance. I also appeared on The Outsiders in 2017. Part of my plan to curry favor so that I can escape to Australia if (when?) America suffers Greek-style chaos.

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Today was the first full day of the annual Friedman Conference in Australia. I presented on tax competition as a means of controlling the “stationary bandit” of government.

Being at an event with several hundred libertarians reminds me that we are a strange group. In a good way, of course, but still easy to caricature.

So rather than write about a serious topic today, I’m going to augment my collection of libertarian humor.

They say we’re a bit dorky. There’s probably some truth to that. The good news is that we’re probably not going to cheat on our significant others since we’re too focused on changing minds.

But if Libertarian Doofus is any indication (see here, here, here, and here), we also don’t have much success with procreation. Here’s another example.

That being said, if we miraculously manage to procreate, we have some handy rules for raising kids.

(Though not all parents are sympathetic.)

Or maybe we opt for a same-sex partner.

That might create logistical challenges in terms of children, but it creates an opportunity to share this button.

The holy trinity of libertarianism: Sex, drugs, and guns. What every happy home needs!

I’ve saved the best for last.

In previous examples of libertarian humor, I’ve pointed out that you may not want libertarians at Thanksgiving dinner.

Well, it’s probably not a good idea to have them as night clerks at a hotel, either.

To be sure, this isn’t really a joke.

We are on a trajectory for economic misery. People do need wake-up calls if we’re going to avert Greek-style fiscal and economic chaos.

Though I realize that hotel guests probably don’t want that message right before bed.

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Time to augment our collection of libertarian-themed humor.

Today’s additions starts with might happen to me if I was hiding from a crazed murderer (h/t: Libertarian Reddit).

Actually, I wouldn’t get butchered for this reason since I’m not an anarcho-capitalist.

But I probably wouldn’t be able to resist blurting out that the United States prospered for 100-plus years without an income tax, or that taxes could be very low even with an elastic definition of what counts as public goods.

Next we have some clever Game-of-Thrones satire from the folks at Reason.

I’ve never seen the show, but that’s not necessary since this video perfectly captures the tendency of libertarians to make pedantic (albeit accurate) assertions.

Anyhow, if you liked the narrator of that video, you’ll also like this one, this one, and this one.

Now let’s look at a clever article from the satirists at Babylon Bee.

In an attempt to fulfill the biblical command in 1 Timothy 2 to lift up one’s leaders in prayer, local libertarian believer Stan Marshall asked God to cripple the government and bring it to a swift demise, sources confirmed Tuesday. …He prayed specifically for his local government leaders, that God would providentially deprive them of the “coerced funds” necessary to do their jobs, as well as for the country’s national leaders, that the Almighty would ignite a passionate revolution among the people in order to remove them from power. “Even if you disagree with the people in power, it’s a biblical mandate that we pray for our leaders, and I do that by asking the Lord to smite them each and every day,” he told reporters.

I imagine that most religious libertarians simply pray for politicians to have the wisdom to do as little as possible.

But I like the way Stan takes it to the next level.

Next, we have a doggie that takes after the libertarian chicken.

Let’s look at another example of libertarian-themed humor from Babylon Bee. In this case, libertarians prevail because we’re so relentlessly annoying about our ideas.

The U.S. government announced Monday it will be adopting more libertarian policies going forward, including lower taxes, greater support for civil liberties, and a drastically decentralized federal government, “if all the libertarians will agree to just shut up and stop complaining for like one freaking second.” The announcement was issued in the form of a joint statement by the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government, and is contingent upon libertarians “chilling out a bit” and immediately ceasing from posting memes stating “Taxation is Theft” and “End the Fed” every single second they’re on the internet. …At publishing time, libertarians from across the country had refused to dial down the rhetoric even a little bit, calling the compromise “the greatest travesty since the British raised taxes on tea.”

Unrealistic? Of course.

But I’m willing to be extra annoying just in case this might work.

Next, we get a reappearance of Libertarian Dork.

And here’s an example (from Libertarian Reddit) of how I feel when I’m talking to people in Washington…followed by their reactions to my sensible statements.

Last but not least, here’s a potential reason why libertarianism faces an uphill battle.

You can find even better versions of this meme here and here.

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In the past, I’ve highlighted Christmas rivalries.

This Christmas, though, let’s just go with a libertarian theme. We’ll start with a new video from the clever folks at Reason.

Since the video mentioned Santa sneaking in the country and evading tariffs, here’s a cartoon strip featuring a protectionist Scrooge.

Poor Santa Claus.

He already buried by red tape and he’s been hassled by the IRS and other federal agencies.

Plus he has to deal with children who make impossible requests.

The last thing he needs is trade taxes reducing the amount of toys he can distribute.

But there is hope for a détente between Trump and Santa.

Now let’s focus on some good news.

Here’s a video about the blessings of capitalism. It has a Christmas theme, but free enterprise is a gift every single day of the year.

The above video makes a very Schumpeterian point about how capitalism is the system that best serves the needs of poor people.

But let’s not digress from out holiday theme.

We now have another video from Reason. Remy sings about how a corrupt tax code forces a very unsavory form of redistribution from the poor to the rich.

And if you liked that Remy video, he has a pair of great Christmas-themed videos (here and here) about the TSA.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Here are Christmas carols to enlighten Keynesians.

P.P.S. Here’s a Christmas commercial for fans of the 2nd Amendment.

P.P.P.S. Jay Leno shared the best-ever Christmas joke.

P.P.P.P.S. Speaking of best-ever, you’ll understand why this Christmas present ranks among my favorites.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Here are some additional Christmas-themed TSA songs.

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My opinions on crime are very straightforward.

This set of principles explains my views on a wide range of issues, such as the War on Drugs, asset forfeiture, money laundering, search and seizure, and the death penalty.

But I sometimes come across an incident that challenges these principles.

Let’s look at a horrible story from Michigan about girls being genitally mutilated.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested in April 2017 and accused of leading a criminal conspiracy that involved multiple doctors and resulted in the mutilation of nine girls over the course of twelve years. The practice, which is universally recognized as a gross violation of human rights, is traditional among the Dawoodi Bohra, the Muslim sect to which Nagarwala and his co-conspirators belong.

My visceral instinct is for some tit-for-tat justice. The so-called doctors should receive equivalent treatment, without the benefit of anesthesia.

Since that’s not an option, a very lengthy prison sentence could be the next-best alternative.

But something very unusual happened. The barbaric doctors had been charged by the federal government based on a federal law against genital mutilation, and a judge decided that the statute exceeded the proper powers of the federal government.

A federal judge dismissed charges Tuesday against several Michigan doctors accused of mutilating the genitals of numerous underage girls, ruling that the federal prohibition against the practice is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman argued that the 22-year-old federal law prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM), which went unused until last year, constitutes federal overreach. …the judge’s ruling entirely clears four defendants in the case, including three mothers who allegedly handed their underage daughters over to Nagarwala to be mutilated.

This is a quandary.

I want the “doctors” to be thrown under the jail, yet part of me is very happy that a federal judge actually acknowledges that the Constitution imposes some limits on federal power.

Too bad Judge Friedman wasn’t sitting in for Justice John Roberts when the Obamacare case was (wrongly) decided.

Anyhow, here’s what has since happened.

In response to the case, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed new laws prohibiting the practice of FGM, but as those laws applied only to future violations, the defendants in this case were charged under the old federal statute. Twenty-three other states, however, do not have laws banning the practice, leading critics of the judge’s ruling to suggest that parents intent on mutilating their daughters for religious purposes will simply travel to states where they can do so legally.

I have a couple of concluding thoughts.

First, I imagine that all 50 states – even crazy California – will pass laws against this barbaric ritual. So there’s no reason to relax my strong support for federalism.

Second, I hope Michigan authorities figure out how to charge the so-called doctors under existing state laws against assault, kidnapping, and anything else that might work.

In conclusion, I’m not under the illusion that any system will deliver perfect justice. But I do think we would get the best-possible outcomes if we adhered to constitutional principles and restricted the size and scope of the federal government.

P.S. Let’s not forget that jury nullification also should exist as an additional bulwark against bad laws and abusive officials.

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While folks on the left sometimes imply that libertarians are autistic dorks, we do have a sense of humor. Even about our own unusual traits.

But we also like to mock big government, and that’s why we have some new material for our collection of Libertarian humor.

We’ll start with this bit of satire. I don’t know if it accurately captures the preferences of feminists, but it definitely summarizes how we feel about government.

Speaking of “basic functions,” that presumably includes infrastructure.

However, I don’t want Washington to be in charge of such matters. Though that doesn’t mean I have great confidence that any government at any level will do a good job.

Which is the theme from these three images from Columbia University’s Xavier Sala-i-Martin.

We’ll start with some evidence of poor coordination by the bureaucrats in charge of street and the bureaucrats in charge of sidewalks.

I already knew governments had problems with lines on roadways, but this even surprises me.

And I’m not even sure how to describe this bit of road planning. Makes this sign seem like genius by comparison.

Last but not least, this item from Powerline is a perfect way to conclude today’s collection. Maybe John Stossel was right when he wrote that the private sector deserves a bigger role.

The bottom line if that you’ve asked a very silly question if the answer is more government.

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