14 February 2011

Various points

If someone came forward with a political platform to attack at least 3 of these, without also proposing to strengthen the other 3, I'd vote for them.

1. The huge rise in occupational licensing.

2. The huge rise in people incarcerated in the war on drugs, and also the scandalous reluctance of doctors to prescribe adequate pain medication (also due to the war on drugs.)

3. The need for more legal immigration.

4. The need to replace taxes on capital with progressive consumption taxes.

5. Local zoning rules that prevent dense development.

6. Tax exemptions for mortgage interest and health insurance.

Also important: many of these are local or state issues. Occupational licensing laws differ by state, so do many drug laws (possession laws especially), taxation differs slightly by state (though very few states impose something like a VAT as opposed to capital taxation), and in fact zoning laws are almost entirely a state-local issue. This would mean that these issues could and should be attacked in a decentralised way. Yet because there's relative agreement between Democrats and Republicans over levers of control in these areas, we don't get many local politicians promising to overturn local zoning laws or license requirements for barbers, teachers, or dental assistants and so on.

I'd also second the categories. I very much consider myself a pragmatic libertarian, concerned with outcomes and harms imposed by bad political policies. Another phrase for it might be an economically educated liberal/progressive. That is: that I know "liberal" free market policies will tend to produce better outcomes than centralised controls or state laws will, but also that silly outdated traditional adherence on various cultural matters imposes substantial costs to society that could be properly outsourced by removing those state-controls (things like state-imposed discrimination against homosexuals in the same vein as Jim Crow laws, narcotics consumption, vice crimes, etc). I'd say there's a wide amount of academic perspectives that seems to share these sorts of views, and fair amount of idealised conservativism and progressivism as well, and obviously neither of these groups compose a large portion of the middle ground actually found in politics. What concerns libertarians (and those few idealistic polar opposites) is the prevalence of corrupted versions making up the middle who actually get to govern the country at any level. So we get "free market" Republicans who vote for tax subsidies for corn and oil and imposing restrictions on immigration and vice transactions, and putatively utilitarian Democrats voting to preserve teachers unions concerns and those of other much larger interest groups (as opposed to the general interests of the public), and so on.

This also captures that split on libertarian grounds between Hayekians and Rothbardians. I very recently had to explain the "taxation is theft" vision of libertarianism. I think there's a modest moral concern there regarding taxation, but it can be outweighed by a small, efficient state providing public goods and capturing externality costs. If instead we get a large, inefficient state providing large economic rents to favoured interests instead of public goods, then yes, by all means, object to the state's taxation on moral grounds.

Just make sure you also object to its spending (as many Tea Partiers do on principle, but not in actual practice).
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