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59 Policies from One Year of Donald Trump – Article by David Bier

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The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
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One year ago, Donald Trump thrust his bizarre, erratic, and incomprehensible campaign on the world. Much has been said about Trump’s “rhetoric” during his campaign — the racism, sexism, incivility, and much else besides — but rhetoric is not what makes a Trump administration a unique threat to the country. It is his policy proposals that should receive our closest attention and concern.

Below is a list of 59 “policies,” if you can dignify them with such a title, that Trump has proposed during his campaign. The list drives home how truly frightening a Trump presidency would be for the country and the world. Skimming the surface of Trump’s stream of consciousness brings out some particularly disturbing aspects of his agenda: notably, the way he singles out specific businesses and individuals for targeting by the government, as well as his obsessions with China, Mexico, Muslims, and immigrants.

Perhaps worst of all, Trump’s proposals expose how broad he thinks the powers of the presidency are: virtually infinite. There is never a glimmer of understanding that the government is bound by the Constitution, that the federal government has limited scope and authority, or that president is just one of three equal branches of the federal government.

Instead, it is Trump, and Trump alone, who will transform American laws, government, and society, from the top down. Trump will bomb and invade countries, Trump will steal their oil, Trump will kill deserters, torture suspects, bypass courts, ban Muslims, break treaties, and have the military do things like mass executions with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood — all while getting Americans to say “Merry Christmas” again.

Well, all I can say is Merry Christmas, America. Here’s what the primaries brought us this year.

Bold: attack on individual or business.
Italics: attack on Mexico or China.
Underlined: attack on immigration.

June 2015

1. Make Ford Scrap Expansion Plan in Mexico

August 2015

2. Deport 11 Million Immigrants
3. Triple Number of Deportation Agents
4. Force Cities and States to Help Deport Immigrants
5. Force Mexico to Pay for Wall on US Border
6. Strip US Citizenship from Babies Born to Immigrants

September 2015

7. Use FCC to Fine His Critic, Rich Lowry
8. Place 35% Tariff on Ford Cars Made in Mexico
9. “We Will Break” North American Free Trade Agreement
10. “Government Will Pay” for Health Care for “Everyone”

October 2015

11. Deport Syrian Refugees Legally in the US
12. Soldiers Who Desert Should Be Shot
13. Spend Tens of Billions on Border Wall
14. Keep Troops in Afghanistan

November 2015

15. Kill TPP Free Trade Agreement
16. Get Americans to Say “Merry Christmas”
17. Create Special Deportation Force to Remove Immigrants
18. “Bomb the S***” Out of Syria
19. Close Mosques in the United States
20. Create Database for Muslims
21. Bypass Courts in Mass Deportation Plan

December 2015

22. Restart Warrantless Surveillance, Metadata Collection
23. Kill Family Members of Terrorists
24. Washington Post Is a “Tax Shelter” for Amazon, Jeff Bezos
25. Ban All Muslim Travel to US
26. Shut Down “Parts” of the Internet
27. Issue Executive Order Mandating the Death Penalty for Killing Police

January 2016

28. Impose 45% Tariff on Chinese Products
29. Throw Bowe Bergdhal Out of a Plane in Afghanistan

February 2016

30. Tells Supporters to Knock Out Protesters
31. Use Eminent Domain for Economic Development
32. Tax Carrier-brand Air Conditioners Made in Mexico
33. Force Apple, Tim Cook to Break into iPhone for FBI
34. Keep Obamacare’s Individual Mandate for Health Insurance
35. Praises Mass Executions of Captured Soldiers with Bullets Dipped in Pigs’ Blood
36. Threatens Donor for Giving to Opponent’s Campaign
37. Prosecute Hillary Clinton
38. Proposes “Trade War” with China
39. “Open Up Libel Laws” to Sue Critical Press

March 2016

40. Force Apple to Make iPhones in US, not China
41. Force Military to Follow Illegal Orders
42. Prosecute Ed Snowden for “Spying” for Russia
43. “Torture” Terrorism Suspects
44. Increase Military Spending
45. Steal Iraqis’ Oil
46. “Pause” Legal Immigration
47. Send 20,000 or 30,000 Troops to Middle East
48. Trump Could Envision a Nuclear First Strike
49. Appoint Supreme Court Justice to Investigate Clinton’s Email

April 2016

50. Raise Taxes on the Wealthy

May 2016

51. Threatens Pfizer, Carrier, Ford, and Nabisco With 35% Tariff
52. Increase Minimum Wage
53. “Go After” Amazon for Anti-Trust and Taxes
54. Bomb Libya
55. Threatens “Mexican” Federal Judge Trying His Case

June 2016

56. “Keep Business Out of Mexico”
57. Ban All People from Countries with “History of Terrorism”
58. Surveillance of US Mosques
59. Ban Guns for People on Secret “Watch Lists”

David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Niskanen Center. He is an expert on visa reform, border security, and interior enforcement. From 2013 to 2015, he drafted immigration legislation as senior policy advisor for Congressman Raúl Labrador, a member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Previously, Mr. Bier was an immigration policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Interest in Libertarianism Explodes – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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 Johnston / Weld

For forty years, the Libertarian Party has worked to survive. Then, in what seems to be a brief flash of time, it is suddenly at the center of American political life. It’s absolutely remarkable how quickly this has happened.

It’s a perfect storm that made this happen. Party A has become a plastic vessel for pillaging pressure groups, with a phony at the top of the ticket. Party B has been taken over by a cartoonish replica of an interwar strongman. Like beautiful poetry, or like the third act of a 19th-century opera, the Libertarian Party has risen to the occasion to represent a simple proposition: people should be free.

And that theme seems interestingly attractive, enough to draw more media attention to the Libertarian Party in the last week than it had received in the previous 40 years combined. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But a Google News search generates 600,000 results right now, and more recent coverage than I could read between now and midnight. Meanwhile, the Johnson/Weld ticket is polling at 11% nationally, which is essentially unprecedented.

Given today’s information flood, do you know how difficult this is to accomplish? It’s unbelievably difficult to cause anything to trend in this world. That this has happened is amazing. Plus, “libertarian” is a weird word to most people. In some ways, for a party that represents a beautifully simple idea, and the most important idea in the history of the world, this is word is a handicap.

And yet it is happening anyway.

Libertarian_Interest

Friends of mine have taken issue with this or that position held by Gary Johnson and William Weld. This is not the point. Every time I speak to either them, they are immediately quick to clarify that this election is not about them as people or the particulars of their policy positions. It is about representing an idea and a body of thought — an idea that has otherwise been nearly vanquished from public life. They admit to being imperfect carriers of that message. But this humility alone contrasts with the arrogance of the other two parties.

Nor is this really about getting Johnson/Weld elected. It is about clarifying the very existence of an option to two varieties of authoritarianism that the two main parties represent.

This ticket is not an end but a beginning.

For many months, I watched in horror as the only home that tolerated something approaching the old liberal idea has been taken over at its very top by a political force that now has had nothing good to say about liberty.

I’ve looked for an upside but had a hard time finding.

Now I do see the upside. The purging of freedom-minded people from the national end of the Republican Party has created an amazing opportunity. And the Libertarian Party is stepping up to play its historical role.

What is that role? Here has been the controversy for many years. Initially, many people believed it could actually compete with the two parties. When it became obvious that this was not possible, the role became one of ideological agitation and education. Thus ensued a 30-year war over purity of ideology. After all, if the point is not to win, and rather only to enlighten, it becomes important to offer the most bracing possible message.

But that conviction alone does not actually solve the problem. Which version of libertarianism, among the dozens of main packages and hundreds if not thousands of iterations, should prevail? This becomes a prescription for limitless factionalism, arguments, personal attacks — which is pretty much a description of how people have characterized the party and libertarianism generally over the years.

It is for this reason that the Johnson/Weld run this year is so refreshing. They are sometimes called moderates. I don’t think that’s right. It is more correct to say that they are interested in the main theme of the party, and that theme is freedom. No, they are not running to implement my vision of what liberty looks like in all its particulars. But they are on message with the essentials: freedom is what matters and we need more of it.

There was a time when such a message was redundant of what was already said by the Republicans and, perhaps, even the Democrats. But with the whole messaging of the two-party cartel having become “what kind of tyranny do you want?” there is a desperate need for someone to change the subject.

All issues of ideological particulars aside, this is what we need right now. And it will make the difference. Having this ticket become a part of the debate structure can provide that needed boost to liberalism as an idea, saving it from the desire on the part of the Trump/Clinton to drive it out of public life.

These are enormously exciting times. Six months ago, I would have never imagined such opportunities. As I’ve written elsewhere, the choice is at last clear, and clearer than it has been in my lifetime.

We can do socialism, fascism, or liberalism. Which way we take forward will not be determined by who gets elected but by the values we hold as individuals. And here, at long last, national politics can make an enormous contribution to changing hearts and minds.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was originally published on Liberty.me.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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You Are Not Obligated to Support Trump – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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It does not matter that Donald Trump will win the Republican Presidential nomination. In his new video, Mr. Stolyarov emphasizes that you should vote your conscience and support the candidate closest to your personal ideals, not the candidate who has an “R” next to his name.

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Vietnam War at 50: Have We Learned Nothing? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Last week Defense Secretary Ashton Carter laid a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in commemoration of the “50th anniversary” of that war. The date is confusing, as the war started earlier and ended far later than 1966. But the Vietnam War at 50 commemoration presents a good opportunity to reflect on the war and whether we have learned anything from it.

Some 60,000 Americans were killed fighting in that war more than 8,000 miles away. More than a million Vietnamese military and civilians also lost their lives. The US government did not accept that it had pursued a bad policy in Vietnam until the bitter end. But in the end the war was lost and we went home, leaving the destruction of the war behind. For the many who survived on both sides, the war would continue to haunt them.

It was thought at the time that we had learned something from this lost war. The War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973 to prevent future Vietnams by limiting the president’s ability to take the country to war without the Constitutionally mandated Congressional declaration of war. But the law failed in its purpose and was actually used by the war party in Washington to make it easier to go to war without Congress.

Such legislative tricks are doomed to failure when the people still refuse to demand that elected officials follow the Constitution.

When President George H. W. Bush invaded Iraq in 1991, the warhawks celebrated what they considered the end of that post-Vietnam period where Americans were hesitant about being the policeman of the world. President Bush said famously at the time, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.”

They may have beat the Vietnam Syndrome, but they learned nothing from Vietnam.

Colonel Harry Summers  returned to Vietnam in 1974 and told his Vietnamese counterpart Colonel Tsu, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” The Vietnamese officer responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

He is absolutely correct: tactical victories mean nothing when pursuing a strategic mistake.

Last month was another anniversary. March 20, 2003, was the beginning of the second US war on Iraq. It was the night of “shock and awe” as bombs rained down on Iraqis. Like Vietnam, it was a war brought on by the US federal government’s lies and propaganda, amplified by a compliant media that repeated the lies without hesitation.

Like Vietnam, the 2003 Iraq war was a disaster. More than 5,000 Americans were killed in the war and as many as a million or more Iraqis lost their lives. There is nothing to show for the war but destruction, trillions of dollars down the drain, and the emergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Sadly, unlike after the Vietnam fiasco there has been almost no backlash against the US empire. In fact, President Obama has continued the same failed policy and Congress doesn’t even attempt to reign him in. On the very anniversary of that disastrous 2003 invasion, President Obama announced that he was sending US Marines back into Iraq! And not a word from Congress.

We’ve seemingly learned nothing.

There have been too many war anniversaries! We want an end to all these pointless wars. It’s time we learn from these horrible mistakes.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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Were it not for the deeply fallacious and self-defeating mindset of voting for the “lesser evil”, the rise of a demagogue such as Trump would have been impossible in the United States.

Though it may be alleged that economic fascism has characterized America’s “mixed economy” since at least the New Deal of the 1930s, the resurgence of cultural fascism would have been unthinkable even during the 2012 Presidential Election. Yet it is here in the form of Donald Trump’s campaign. Mr. Stolyarov considers what made possible this frightening resurgence of the worst tendencies in American politics. He concludes that the biggest underlying facilitator of Trump’s frightening rise is the very two-party political system in the United States and the “lesser evil” trap it engenders in the minds of many voters.

References

– “The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “Why Republicans Deserved a Crushing Defeat in the 2012 Presidential Election” – Article by G. Stolyarov II –
– “Black students ‘outraged’ after being escorted from Trump rally” – Article by Lindsey Bever – The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune
– “Technically, it is illegal to protest inside of Trump rallies” – Article by Colin Daileda – Mashable –
– “Rejecting the Purveyors of Pull: The Lessons of Atlas Shrugged: Part II” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “Trump is Phony, a Fraud” – Speech by Mitt Romney – PBS NewsHour
– “Hating the Establishment Is Not the Same as Supporting Liberty” – Article by Jeffrey Tucker
– “On Moral Responsibility in General and in the Context of Voting” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “The Importance of Zoltan Istvan’s Transhumanist Presidential Campaign” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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                It is disconcerting to watch as the front-runner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination in the United States espouses a genuinely fascistic agenda – not just in terms of protectionism, economic nationalism, militarism, and the desire to centrally plan economic greatness – but also in terms of the overtly uglier sides of historical fascism: the xenophobia, racism, advocacy of torture and blood guilt, desire to silence political opponents, and incitements to violence against protesters and dissenters. Yet this is precisely what Donald Trump has done, unleashing the long-dormant worst tendencies of American politics. He has emboldened the crudest, least enlightened, most hide-bound enemies of tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and liberty to emerge from well-deserved disgrace to fuel the campaign of a cynical, unprincipled opportunist who thrives by pandering to their lowest impulses. Trump is vulgar, volatile, and unhinged. He has already turned his rallies into miniature versions of the police state he would create if elected – evicting even protesters who simply stand there with signs or clothing that express disagreement with Trump, or even individuals who attract the ire of the frenzied Trumpists for having the “wrong” color of skin or the “wrong” incidental expressions. Because of a bizarre law (H. R. 347, enacted in 2012), it is illegal to protest inside Trump rallies (or rallies of any candidate that receives Secret Service protection), so Trump is already utilizing coercive police powers to suppress dissent.

                Though it may be alleged that economic fascism has characterized America’s “mixed economy” since at least the New Deal of the 1930s, the resurgence of cultural fascism would have been unthinkable even during the 2012 Presidential Election. Mitt Romney, who seemed to me at the time to represent a paradigm of crony capitalism that inched toward overarching totalitarianism, now appears to be a gentleman and an intellectual – a voice of reason, class, and prudence in his eloquent denunciation of Donald Trump. Romney, as President, would have been unlikely to avert an incremental descent into fascism (although, in retrospect, he seems to be a decent human being), and his own candidacy was marred by manipulations at various State Republican Conventions, but, compared to Trump, Romney is a model of civility and good sense. Romney, if elected, would primarily have been the next status-quo President, overseeing a deeply flawed and deteriorating but endurable economic, political, and civil-liberties situation. Trump, however, would plunge the United States into an abyss where the remnants of personal liberty will suffocate.

                And yet the manipulations that occurred in 2012 to aid Romney paved the way for a Trump candidacy and its widely perceived “unstoppable” momentum. (Let us hope that this perception is premature!) I was a delegate to the Nevada State Republican Convention in 2012, where I helped elect a pro-Ron Paul delegation to the Republican National Convention. However, upon learning of the events at the National Convention, I became forever disillusioned with the ability of the Republican Party to become receptive to the advocacy of individual freedom. I wrote after Romney’s electoral defeat that

the rule change enacted by the party establishment at the National Convention, over the vociferous objections of the majority of delegates there, has permanently turned the Republican Party into an oligarchy where the delegates and decision-makers will henceforth be picked by the ‘front-runner’ in any future Presidential contest. Gone are the days when people like me could, through grass-roots activism and participation at successive levels of the party conventions, become delegates to a state convention and exert some modicum of influence over how the party is governed and intellectually inclined.

                The Republican Party establishment intended its rule change to prevent the ability of motivated grass-roots activists to elect delegates at State Conventions who would vote against the “presumptive nominee” and in favor of an upstart – presumably more libertarian – contender such as Ron Paul. Little did the establishment expect that this rule change would prevent its own favored candidates from effectively contesting Donald Trump’s nomination if Trump continues to win popular votes, especially in “winner-take-all” primaries, and approaches a majority of the total delegates. The most that the Republican Party elites can hope for now is that a candidate such as Ted Cruz eventually overtakes Trump, or that the remaining candidates – Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich – split enough of the delegates to deny Trump the majority and lead to a brokered convention. But as the narrative of inevitability continues to be spun in Trump’s favor and he amasses prominent endorsements and even promises from the other candidates that they would support him if he were the nominee, these damage-control plans seem quite vulnerable. Blind party loyalty, combined with a bandwagon mentality, appears to be driving the Republican establishment to a reluctant capitulation to Trump – which would be political suicide, but they are apt to do it anyway.

                If Trump trumps the old Republican Party establishment, however, this would be nothing to cheer. It would be a replacement of a defunct, cronyist, and backroom-dealing oligarchy – but one considerably tempered by satiation from its own decades of comfortable dominance and the remaining checks and balances of the political system – with a vicious, crass, completely unrestrained new oligarchy headed by Trump himself, and fueled by populistic pandering to masses about whom Trump personally could not care less. Trump asserts that he is incorruptible because he is funding his own campaign. However, the truth is that he does not need to pay anyone off for special political privileges, because he is the special interest that would be garnering the favors during “normal times”. If elected, he will simply do so without the intermediaries of the traditional political class. As Jeffrey Tucker eloquently explains,

many have fallen for Donald Trump’s claim that he deserves support solely because he owes nothing to anyone. Therefore, he is not part of the establishment. Why is that good for liberty? He has said nothing about dismantling power. […] He wants surveillance, controls on the internet, religious tests for migration, war-like tariffs, industrial planning, and autocratic foreign-policy power. He’s praised police power and toyed with ideas such as internment and killings of political enemies. His entire governing philosophy boils down to arbitrary, free-wheeling authoritarianism.

                Yet the biggest underlying facilitator of Trump’s frightening rise is the very two-party political system in the United States. Had the ballot-access laws not been rigged against “third” political parties and independent candidates, and had representation been determined on a proportional rather than a “winner-take-all” basis, there would have been genuine alternatives for voters to choose from. At present, however, every recent election season has degenerated into a spectacle of demonizing “the other side” – even if that side is just a different wing of the same political establishment. Far too many people vote for “the lesser evil” in their view, rather than the candidate with whom they agree most (who will most likely be a minor-party or independent candidate, since both the Republican and Democratic Parties are widely perceived as ineffectual and misguided once actually in power). Instead of evaluating specific candidates based on their stances on the issues as well as their personal record of integrity (or lack thereof), too many voters have learned to viscerally hate “the other” party’s brand and exhibit unconditional loyalty to their own. During the primary process, even voters who prefer the candidates who did not become the nominee will often capitulate and embrace a deeply flawed frontrunner. If too many Republican voters come to believe that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be intolerable choices for President, then they may come to rally behind Trump even if they personally would have preferred Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich – and that is how a fascistic campaign could elicit the support of even the many non-fascists who simply cannot distance themselves from the “R” next to a candidate’s name.

                The only way in the long term to defeat Trump and those like him (because, in the wake of Trump’s bewildering popularity, others will emerge to imitate his tactics) is to renounce the two-party political system and judge each candidate solely on his or her policies, record, and personal merits or demerits. As I pointed out in 2012 in “On Moral Responsibility in General and in the Context of Voting”,

The most reliable way to avoid adverse moral responsibility in voting is to vote for a candidate whom one considers to be an improvement over the status quo in absolute, not relative, terms – and without regard for how others might vote. Morality is not based on consensus, but on objective truth. One’s own understanding of objective truth, and the continual pursuit of improving that understanding, is the best path to moral action and the habits of thought that facilitate it.

More recently, in 2015, I explained that

voters who are caught in the expectations trap will tend to vote for the “lesser evil” (in their view) from one party, because they tend to think that the consequences of the election of the candidate from the other party will be dire indeed, and they do not want to “take their vote away” from the slightly less objectionable candidate. This thinking rests on the false assumption that a single individual’s vote, especially in a national election, can actually sway the outcome. Given that the probabilities of this occurring are negligible, the better choice – the choice consistent with individual autonomy and the pursuit of principle – is to vote solely based on one’s preference, without any regard for how others will vote or how the election will turn out.

             Had Trump been one candidate among tens of independent contenders, he would have been rightly recognized as a demagogue whose base of support is a xenophobic, poorly educated fringe. Had numerous political parties been able to compete without major barriers to entry, today’s “moderate” establishment Republicans and movement conservatives would have had no need to fight with Trump over a particular party’s nomination, since they – having little in common – would have likely fielded multiple candidates of their own from multiple parties. As it stands now, however, the two-party system has destroyed the checks that would exist in a truly politically competitive system to prevent a fascistic demagogue’s meteoric rise. Only the consciences of voters stand between Trump and the Republican nomination, as well as the Presidency. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to vote solely on principle and escape the “lesser evil” trap, lest the greater evil of untrammeled illiberalism trap us forever.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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Trump and Sanders Are Both Conservatives – Article by Steven Horwitz

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The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Shared Visions of Fear, Force, and Collectivism

Those of us who reject the conventional left-right political spectrum often see things that those working within it cannot. For example, in “Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the ‘F’ Word” (Freeman, Winter 2015), I argue that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, seen by many as occupying opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, both embrace the thinking of economic nationalism, if not fascism.

They also share a different political tradition. It may seem to contradict their shared fascist pedigree, but Trump and Sanders are both, in a meaningful sense, conservatives.

Trump, of course, has been lambasted by many self-described conservatives precisely because they believe he is not a conservative. And Sanders, the self-described “democratic socialist,” hardly fits our usual conception of a conservative. What exactly am I arguing, then?

They are both conservatives from the perspective of classical liberalism. More specifically, they are conservatives in the sense that F.A. Hayek used the term in 1960 when he wrote the postscript to The Constitution of Liberty titled “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” There he said of conservatives,

They typically lack the courage to welcome the same undesigned change from which new tools of human endeavors will emerge.… This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other characteristics of conservatism: its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.… The conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules.

That description would seem to apply to both Trump and Sanders. They share a fear of uncontrolled and undesigned change, especially in the economy. This is most obvious in Trump’s bluster about how America never “wins” and his desire to raise tariffs on Chinese imports and close the flow of immigrants, especially from Mexico. Economic globalization is a terrific example of uncontrolled change, and using foreign workers and producers as scapegoats for that change — especially when those changes have largely benefited most Americans — is a good example of this fear of the uncontrolled.

Those policies also show the much-discussed economic ignorance of Trump and his supporters, as shutting off trade and migration would impoverish the very people Trump claims to care about — those who are, in fact, supporting him. International trade and the free migration of labor drive down costs and leave US consumers with more money in their pockets with which to buy new and different goods. They also improve living standards for our trade partners, but Trump and his followers wrongly perceive their gains as necessitating American losses.

The same concerns are echoed in Sanders’s criticisms of free trade and in his claim that immigration is undermining good jobs for the native-born. Trump’s rhetoric might be more about how the US needs to “beat” the Chinese, and Sanders might focus more on the effects on working class Americans, especially union workers, but both fear the uncontrolled change of globalized markets, seeing commerce as a zero-sum game. (See “Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere,” FEE.org, January 20, 2016.)

For Sanders, fear of change also bubbles up in his criticisms of Uber — even though he uses the service all the time. Part of Hayek’s description was the fear of change producing “new tools of human endeavor.” The new economy emerging from the reduction of transaction costs will continue to threaten labor unions and the old economic understanding of employment and the firm. Sanders’s view of the economy is very much a conservative one as he tries to save the institutions of an economy that no longer exists because it no longer best serves human wants.

In addition, both Trump and Sanders are more than willing to use coercion and arbitrary power to attempt to resist that change. These similarities manifest in different ways, as Trump sees himself as the CEO of America, bossing people and moving resources around as if it were one of his own (frequently bankrupt) companies. CEOs are not bound by constitutional constraints and are used to issuing orders to all who they oversee. This is clearly Trump’s perspective, and many of his followers apparently see him as Hayek’s “decent man” who should not be too constrained by rules.

The same is true of Sanders, though he and his supporters would deny it. One need only consider his more extreme taxation proposals as well as the trillions in new spending he would authorize to see that he will also not be bound by constraints and will happily use coercion to achieve his ends. This is also clear in his policies on trade and immigration, which, like Trump’s, would require a large and intrusive bureaucracy to enforce. As we already know from current immigration restrictions, such bureaucracies are nothing if not arbitrary and coercive. Both Trump and Sanders believe that with the right people in charge, there’s no need for rule-based constraints on political power.

Hayek also said of conservatives that they are characterized by a

hostility to internationalism and [a] proneness to a strident nationalism.… [It is] this nationalistic bias which frequently provides the bridge from conservatism to collectivism: to think in terms of “our” industry or resource is only a short step away from demanding that these national assets be directed in the national interest.

As noted, Sanders and Trump share exactly this hostility and proneness. And despite being seen as political opposites, their distinct views converge in the idea that resources are “ours” as a nation and that it is the president’s job (and the state’s more generally) to direct them in the national interest. For Trump, that interest is “making America great again” and making sure we “beat” the Chinese. For Sanders, that interest is the attempt to protect “the working class” against the predation of two different enemies: the 1 percent and foreign firms and workers, all of whom are destroying our industries and human resources.

All of this fear of uncontrolled change and economic nationalism is in sharp contrast with the position of what Hayek calls “liberalism” or what we might call “classical liberalism” or “libertarianism.” In that same essay, Hayek said of classical liberalism, “The liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.”

This is why classical liberalism rejects the idea that the path toward progress entails electing the right people (the “decent men”) and the cult of personality that frequently accompanies that idea, as we’ve seen with Trump and Sanders. Classical liberalism understands how, under the right rules and institutions, progress for all is the unintended outcome of allowing each to pursue their own values and ends with an equal respect for others to do the same, regardless of which side of an artificial political boundary they reside on.

If we want to live in peace, prosperity, and cooperation, we need to recognize that progress is a product of unpredictable, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable change.

Trump and Sanders can stand on their porches telling us to get off their lawn, but we’re going to do it in an Uber imported from Asia and driven by a nonunionized immigrant, because we classical liberals welcome the change they fear.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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No, Mr. Trump, Victims of Eminent Domain Do Not “Get a Fortune” – Article by George C. Leef

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Categories: Economics, Justice, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatGeorge C. Leef
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Trump’s huge mistake about eminent domain

During the debate among Republican presidential candidates last month, Jeb Bush hammered Donald Trump on his abuse of eminent domain. But Trump apparently sees nothing wrong in having government officials force people to sell their property.

Trump replied,

Eminent domain is an absolute necessity for a country, for our country. Without it, you wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything. You would have schools, you wouldn’t have bridges.

And what a lot of people don’t know because they were all saying, oh, you’re going to take their property. When somebody — when eminent domain is used on somebody’s property, that person gets a fortune. They at least get fair market value, and if they’re smart, they’ll get two or three times the value of their property.

This last assertion led George Mason law professor Ilya Somin (an expert on eminent domain) to quip at the Volokh Conspiracy, “If eminent domain really were a good way to make a fortune, the Donald Trumps of the world would be lobbying the government to condemn their property. But that rarely, if ever, happens.”

Put aside Trump’s hyperbole about the supposed impossibility of schools, hospitals, and bridges without eminent domain. What I want to focus on is his claim that eminent domain is not objectionable because people who have their property taken make out just fine financially.

That claim is simply indefensible. The truth is that people who lose their property to eminent domain proceedings are almost never made whole.

Legal scholars have for many years been writing about the injustice that usually befalls people who have to settle for what the government deems “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment. I wouldn’t expect Mr. Trump to know about that because he is too busy making deals. But the kind of deals businessmen usually make involve two parties who can say “no,” unless and until they think the deal will improve their positions.

With eminent domain takings, however, the property owner can’t say “no,” and usually must settle for much less than he or she would have bargained for in a voluntary setting.

Professor Gideon Kanner has written extensively about the problem of inadequate compensation for people who’ve been forced to sell under eminent domain. In his article “[Un]Equal Justice under Law: The Invidiously Disparate Treatment of American Property Owners in Taking Cases,” he writes:

The true standard of compensation is not indemnity, but rather fair market value so artfully defined as to exclude factors that sellers and buyers in voluntary transactions would consider, and that the government need only pay for what it acquires, not for what the owner has lost.

Those losses include business goodwill, relocation expenses, and the emotional damage of having to leave a community where one may have strong ties. In the government’s calculus, people are expected to suffer such losses as part of the price of living in America.

As the Supreme Court stated in the 1949 takings case Kimball Laundry v. U.S., “Loss to the owner of non-transferable values … is properly treated as part of the burden of common citizenship.” That “tough luck, property owner” mindset still prevails.

Knowing that they hold the high cards (and ultimately the guns) when they deal with property owners, government officials take full advantage. As Kanner observes, “Condemning agencies regularly reap unjustified windfalls from the fact that the majority of their offers (including the many low-ball ones) are accepted without litigation or even involvement by a private appraiser or lawyer.”

Therefore, eminent domain causes many property owners to suffer uncompensated losses.

Far from “getting a fortune” or “two or three times” the market value of their property, most owners are left substantially worse off for their unwanted encounter with condemning government agencies. Few if any of them shrug off the losses as their part of the “burden of common citizenship.”

Although the eminent domain issue came up during a debate among presidential candidates, there is hardly anything that the president can do to rectify the problem of under-compensation for property owners. He (or she) cannot issue an executive order mandating that property owners be made whole.

If there is to be a solution, it must come from the judiciary.

Judges, and especially the justices of the Supreme Court, will have to stop ruling that merely because an individual is paid an amount deemed “fair market value,” the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of “just compensation” has been satisfied.

It would also help property owners if the Supreme Court would overturn Kelo v. New London and establish that property can only be taken for actual “public use,” as the Fifth Amendment requires, and not for private use that local politicians think might have some “public benefit.”

Since we are going to have confirmation hearings for a new member of the Court eventually, it would be important to find out precisely what the nominee thinks “just compensation” and “public use” actually mean.

George Leef is the former book review editor of The Freeman. He is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Why Transhumanists Should Not Endorse the Two-Party Political System – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Politics, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
September 26, 2015
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“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Extensive discussions have recently occurred in transhumanist circles on the desirable strategies, tactics, and directions for transhumanist political activity in the United States. One question in particular has stood out among these discussions: Is it a wise or prudent choice for a transhumanist, especially a prominent one, to endorse a Presidential candidate from one of the two major political parties (Republican or Democratic) and to actively work to support that candidate’s election, when that candidate has not expressed strong sympathies with the transhumanist vision of overcoming human limitations through scientific and technological progress? Some transhumanists may believe that such an endorsement would gain them influence within the political mainstream, perhaps eventually leading to advisory positions and the ability to direct political elites toward decisions that are more conducive to accelerating technological progress or removing barriers to the arrival of radical life extension.

However, this expectation is mistaken. Here I outline several major reasons why, to achieve the best possible outcomes, transhumanists should stand apart from the two-party political system. Instead, transhumanists should pursue their advocacy goals – be they policy-oriented or focused on education of the general public on emerging technologies – through their own independent organizations and voices. This approach does not rule out collaboration with other, non-transhumanist institutions and individuals, nor does it prevent one from acknowledging both the merits of certain non-transhumanist candidates’ positions and the flaws of some transhumanists’ chosen strategies. However, it is imperative to avoid the perceived compulsion to subordinate oneself to the two-party political system just because it is there.

(1) The existing two-party political system in the United States is an obstacle to transhumanism and cannot be effectively used as its instrument. The two-party system is designed to preserve the very institutional status quo which puts forth barriers to technological advancement and causes the rate of progress to currently lag far behind its potential. Both the Democratic and the Republican political machines primarily exist to protect those with political connections, who might be dislodged from positions of economic privilege by dramatic technological change and the attendant reshuffling of the social order. As such, the rhetoric of the major political parties tends to be concentrated on relatively minor differences in governance styles, personalities, accidents of history, and “hot-button” issues over which elected officials have little substantive influence (for instance, abortion, religion, and gun ownership). This is a strategy of distraction, used to keep the public focused on matters largely outside of any politician’s control, thereby leaving the dominance of today’s politically connected special interests intact by default. At the same time, the fundamental questions raised by transhumanists about possibilities for dramatically improving the human condition, deliberately go unaddressed on the campaign trail. Mainstream politicians do not wish to discuss the colossal changes that could and should be wrought by emerging technologies.

(2) Current major-party candidates would never accept transhumanism anyway. Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or any of the others running with an “R” or “D” next to their names will not change by an iota if endorsed by even a prominent transhumanist. All of these candidates will disregard the transhumanist endorsement, each for their peculiar mix of reasons, but with a strikingly similar outcome. No matter how strongly a transhumanist endorses these actual or would-be politicians, their mainstream advisors will not let transhumanists into their circle. This is actually a compliment to the transhumanists, who stand apart from and above the political status quo. It is not the transhumanists who must bend to the political status quo. Rather, the political status quo is precisely what transhumanists must overcome in order to achieve their aims. The way to bypass the establishment’s grip on politics is not to join the establishment, but rather to shift the discussion and climate of public opinion so as to render the establishment reluctantly compelled to follow the currents of change, made possible by emerging technologies in a hyper-pluralist society.

(3) Endorsing an establishment candidate will alienate the transhumanist base. Instead, a prominent transhumanist would do much better to pay attention to and leverage the ideas and projects originating from the natural constituencies of transhumanism – futurists, researchers, technology entrepreneurs, philosophically inclined laypersons, and “digital natives” of the millennial generation. Through a bit of organization and creative marketing, a prominent transhumanist could harness the energies of these creative, talented, and industrious individuals into major intellectual, infrastructural, and public-awareness victories for the transhumanist movement. The impetus for a movement such as transhumanism – and, more generally, any ideological movement that seeks radical societal change – is precisely the lack of accommodation for that movement’s ideals in the current society. The energy of the movement’s base will be lost if they see its direction as one of sacrificing its core distinctiveness and ideals in order to fit within the mainstream political mold and to seek acceptance by political elites to whom the movement’s ideals are completely foreign. If Hillary Clinton or Ben Carson (or any mainstream candidate who comes to mind) suddenly achieved philosophical enlightenment and announced strong personal support for transhumanism, then this would be a victory for transhumanism and a sign that the candidate is worthy of serious consideration. But for a transhumanist to endorse a mainstream candidate without that kind of gesture on the candidate’s part is simply a signal that the candidate does not need to change in order to gain or retain the support of the transhumanist.

As an analogy, consider the very different fates of Ron Paul and his son Rand. Ron Paul – a libertarian and Constitutional conservative whose views are profoundly incompatible with those of the Republican Party establishment – only ran as a Republican to raise the profile of his educational efforts in favor of individual liberty and limited government. But he never endorsed one of his Republican rivals for the nomination, even after dropping out of the races in 2008 and 2012. He did not agree with the policy stances of John McCain and Mitt Romney, so he simply stood aside and continued to express his principled views. He remains highly esteemed in many libertarian and constitutional conservative circles today. By contrast, Rand Paul endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, thinking that this was a stepping stone to securing the Republican nomination in 2016. However, this decision alienated Rand Paul’s natural libertarian political base (which despised Romney). At the same time, Rand Paul is still far too libertarian to be accepted by the Republican elite, in spite of all of the compromises he has made over the past few years in order to appear “electable” and palatable to establishment media commentators and pollsters. As a result, he is a minor contender for the Republican nomination, quite unlikely to win or even advance his standing.

By analogy, the transhumanist movement is extremely unlikely to show even a modicum of concerted support for a particular establishment candidate – whether Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Bernie Sanders, or Bobby Jindal. (As noted above, this is also a justified outcome, since none of these candidates would accommodate the vision and objectives of the transhumanist movement.) On the other hand, an explicit transhumanist – Zoltan Istvan – has rallied many transhumanists behind his candidacy, but he can only maintain their enthusiasm in the political arena for as long as he remains in the running. Istvan has been able to garner considerable sympathies from transhumanists who are otherwise extremely varied in their political persuasions and metaphysical worldviews. However, once a transhumanist candidate is no longer running, his supporters will go their separate ways. The libertarian transhumanists will either abstain from voting or endorse the Libertarian Party nominee (as I, for instance, did in 2008 and 2012). Many of the democratic, egalitarian, and socialist transhumanists will strongly support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. A few might even favor the Green Party nominee. If Istvan stays in the race, however, many of these transhumanists will be tempted to support him until the end. Even if they do not get to cast a ballot for Istvan, they could help with activism, crowdfunding, and publicity-raising initiatives.

(4) Endorsing an establishment candidate will be seen as a defeat for transhumanism. If a prominent transhumanist advocates for the election of a particular front-runner, this will essentially be perceived as a concession to the political mainstream and the two-party system. Transhumanism only has a chance if it remains independent of the Republican/Democratic hegemony and instead continues to be an outside voice, gradually influencing politicians to change their ways – not because transhumanists have joined them, but because the evolution of society and public opinion leave them no other choice. If instead the establishment’s favored pundits get to say, “Aha! Even the starry-eyed, utopian transhumanists recognized the futility of their lofty dreams and decided to come down to Earth and join us sensible people” – then this will be seen as a major blow to visionary transhumanist ideals.

(5) Because transhumanists do not hold primaries, nothing prevents them from remaining independent voices until the end. It is understandable that, as the electoral season unfolds, both Republican and Democratic contenders would eventually drop out to support the leading candidate of their party. Transhumanists, however, are under no such compulsion. For instance, Zoltan Istvan has no rivals for the Transhumanist candidacy, and can formally remain in the race for as long as he wishes. He does not even need to have a massive fundraising base to do so. Even if he eventually ends up with $0 for campaign purposes, he could make a few statements, write a few articles, give a few interviews now and then, to stay officially in the running and in the public eye. No matter what happens at the polls, he will then be remembered as a pioneering transhumanist candidate who never gave up or gave in. This legacy could secure his place in history, much like Ron Paul’s principled, unyielding character and actions secured his.

For all other transhumanists who are not running for office, there is absolutely no need to endorse a candidate who is the last man (or woman) standing after the primary processes of the major parties are concluded. Voting should not be about backing someone whom one expects to win, but rather about expressing one’s own ideals and aspirations for superior policy decisions and outcomes.

As I pointed out in my original endorsement of Zoltan Istvan’s campaign,

In fact, much of the sub-optimal equilibrium of the two-party system in the United States arises from a misguided “expectations trap” – where each voter fears expressing his or her principles by voting for the candidate closest to that voter’s actual policy preferences. Instead, voters who are caught in the expectations trap will tend to vote for the “lesser evil” (in their view) from one party, because they tend to think that the consequences of the election of the candidate from the other party will be dire indeed, and they do not want to “take their vote away” from the slightly less objectionable candidate. This thinking rests on the false assumption that a single individual’s vote, especially in a national election, can actually sway the outcome. Given that the probabilities of this occurring are negligible, the better choice – the choice consistent with individual autonomy and the pursuit of principle – is to vote solely based on one’s preference, without any regard for how others will vote or how the election will turn out. One is free to persuade others to vote a certain way, of course, or to listen to arguments from others – but these persuasive efforts, to have merit, should be based on the actual positions and character of the candidates involved, and not on appeals to sacrifice one’s intellectual integrity in order to fulfill the “collective good” of avoiding the victory of the “absolutely terrible” (not quite) candidate from one major party, whose policy choices are likely to be near-identical to the “only slightly terrible” candidate from the other major party. While an individual’s vote cannot actually affect who wins, it can – if exercised according to preference – send a signal as to what issues voters actually care about. Whichever politicians do get elected would see a large outpouring of third-party support as a signal of public discontentment and will perhaps be prompted by this signal to shift their stances on policy issues based on the vote counts they observe. Even a few thousand votes for the Transhumanist Party can send a sufficient signal that many Americans are becoming interested in accelerating technological innovation and the freedom from obstacles posed to it by legacy institutions.

In order to preserve the desirable role of voting as an expression of genuine individual preferences, the least constructive course of action is to vote for someone just because others might, or because that person is considered by establishment media and pundits to “have a chance of winning.” Ultimately, whether a transhumanist ends up voting for a third-party candidate, a major-party candidate, or not at all, is not so important as whether that transhumanist actually voted according to his or her individual conscience and principles.

A Vision for Transhumanist Political Involvement

Given that support of the two-party system should be a non-starter for transhumanists, what is a better way? The best approach is to gradually shape the external environment to which politicians respond, instead of playing the game of politics by the rules at which establishment politicians are adept. Conventional politicians seek to get elected and re-elected and must therefore cater to multiple constituencies, often with contradictory interests and preferences. But this does not need to be the way of politics. Ron Paul, for instance, was a pioneer of the educational campaign – the use of the publicity attached to political involvement as a means primarily to spread a message and change the climate of public opinion, rather than to win office. The educational campaign is more resilient than the conventional campaign, since it does not need to be concerned with weekly poll figures or donations from special interests who seek special favors. Zoltan Istvan has also endeavored to pursue this approach through his numerous writings, interviews, and the Immortality Bus campaign. As an incredibly energetic, determined, and active individual, he has been able to attract major publicity on a minimal budget. Istvan’s educational campaign should continue for as long as possible – ideally all the way up to Election Day 2016. His continued presence in the race would give many transhumanists a compelling reason not to acquiesce to the two-party system with cynical resignation.

But, far beyond the 2016 election season, the formation of a Transhumanist Party infrastructure in the United States creates the possibility of a much longer-range strategy for influencing public opinion toward an enthusiastic embrace of emerging technologies and the imperative of technological progress. Indeed, the possibility exists to take the concept of an educational campaign a step further. Instead of having the election of candidates to office as its primary objective, a transhumanist political party – be it the United States Transhumanist Party or a State-level affiliate – should instead focus directly on education, activism, and policy recommendations. We do not so much need politicians in office with a “T” next to their names, as we need the climate of public opinion to be favorable to the vision of the future that we advocate.

NTP-Logo-9-1-2015It is with this vision in mind that Wendy Stolyarov and I formed the Nevada Transhumanist Party on August 31, 2015. (See the officially filed Constitution and Bylaws here and a searchable version here; also join the Facebook group here, as Allied Membership is open to any person, anywhere, with a rational faculty and ability to form political opinions.) While an initial impetus for this decision was to further raise the profile of Zoltan Istvan’s Presidential campaign, the long-term benefit of establishing an infrastructure for discussion and activism among transhumanists is even more important to us. The Nevada Transhumanist Party is a State-level political party unlike any other. While we support the efforts of the United States Transhumanist Party, we are also independent from it in governance and decision-making. We will not be fielding our own candidates or funding any campaigns in the foreseeable future. Rather, we will use volunteer efforts to coordinate educational events – both online and in person – and connect individuals who are interested in the possibilities made available by emerging technologies. Over time, we will build a network of support and will encourage participation by as many people as are interested. Indeed, the Nevada Transhumanist Party Constitution explicitly embraces the concept of making alliances with others to attain specific objectives without sacrificing principles or independence. We also aim to achieve the maximum possible inclusiveness in terms of party membership, receptiveness to member input, and delegation of authority to members who are interested in undertaking beneficial projects that help advance the principles and objectives expressed in the Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform. We will enthusiastically endorse any worthwhile project that is consistent with these aims. Our goal is not to win any particular election, but rather to move toward a society in which any elected official will need to respect the transhumanist vision and do nothing to impede it, in order to attain office and remain there. This allows us the luxury of a long time horizon, consistent with the long-term vision that transhumanism itself holds for our hopefully long-lived future.

If more of us reject the notion of politics as a winner-take-all horse race and replace responses to day-to-day poll fluctuations with a steady, principled effort toward securing the long-term prospects of transhumanism, then we will have won a lasting victory against politics as usual. In the process, we might just create the better world that conventional politicians keep promising, but never deliver.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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The Importance of Zoltan Istvan’s Transhumanist Presidential Campaign – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Education, Politics, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
September 13, 2015
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 Zoltan Istvan – journalist, transhumanist philosopher, and author of the novel The Transhumanist Wager – is currently touring the western United States on his Immortality Bus, spreading the message that indefinite life extension is achievable through the progress of science and technology, and should become a political priority. Istvan is running for President of the United States. He knows that he is almost certainly not going to win the 2016 Presidential election, but he seeks to maximize public awareness of the opportunities and questions posed by emerging technologies, and he has thus far done so on an impressively minimal budget. Istvan has founded the United States Transhumanist Party and has encouraged the formation of State-level parties in order to improve his chances of recognition as a candidate at the federal level. On August 31, 2015, Wendy Stolyarov and I officially formed the Nevada Transhumanist Party and registered it with the Secretary of State. (See the officially filed Constitution and Bylaws here and a searchable version here; also join the Facebook group here, as Allied Membership is open to anyone with a rational faculty and ability to form political opinions.) The Nevada Transhumanist Party Platform adopts and expands upon many of the planks of the United States Transhumanist Party Platform – but also imparts upon them a heightened libertarian and individualistic flavor.

Even while I also do not expect Zoltan Istvan to win the Presidency in 2016, and while I recognize the even greater difficulty of qualifying for ballot access for State-level offices (in Nevada, this would require submitting a petition with the signatures of 5,431 registered voters and is thus not a near-term priority for the Nevada Transhumanist Party), I still unequivocally endorse Istvan’s campaign. Why have I made this decision? I present my reasoning here. Whether or not readers will view Istvan as their preferred choice for President, the motives for his campaign and its impact have a much broader significance that should be considered by all.

NTP-Logo-9-1-20151. Voting should not be about who wins. In fact, much of the sub-optimal equilibrium of the two-party system in the United States arises from a misguided “expectations trap” – where each voter fears expressing his or her principles by voting for the candidate closest to that voter’s actual policy preferences. Instead, voters who are caught in the expectations trap will tend to vote for the “lesser evil” (in their view) from one party, because they tend to think that the consequences of the election of the candidate from the other party will be dire indeed, and they do not want to “take their vote away” from the slightly less objectionable candidate. This thinking rests on the false assumption that a single individual’s vote, especially in a national election, can actually sway the outcome. Given that the probabilities of this occurring are negligible, the better choice – the choice consistent with individual autonomy and the pursuit of principle – is to vote solely based on one’s preference, without any regard for how others will vote or how the election will turn out. One is free to persuade others to vote a certain way, of course, or to listen to arguments from others – but these persuasive efforts, to have merit, should be based on the actual positions and character of the candidates involved, and not on appeals to sacrifice one’s intellectual integrity in order to fulfill the “collective good” of avoiding the victory of the “absolutely terrible” (not quite) candidate from one major party, whose policy choices are likely to be near-identical to the “only slightly terrible” candidate from the other major party. While an individual’s vote cannot actually affect who wins, it can – if exercised according to preference – send a signal as to what issues voters actually care about. Whichever politicians do get elected would see a large outpouring of third-party support as a signal of public discontentment and will perhaps be prompted by this signal to shift their stances on policy issues based on the vote counts they observe. Even a few thousand votes for the Transhumanist Party can send a sufficient signal that many Americans are becoming interested in accelerating technological innovation and the freedom from obstacles posed to it by legacy institutions.

2. Life and liberty necessarily go together. You cannot have liberty if you are not alive, and you cannot live well unless you have liberty. In “Liberty Through Long Life” (2013), I discussed the many emerging technologies that could facilitate dramatic improvements in individual liberty, but also noted that “there is a common requirement for one to enjoy all of these potential breakthroughs, along with many others that may be wholly impossible to anticipate: one has to remain alive for a long time. The longer one remains alive, the greater the probability that one’s personal sphere of liberty would be expanded by these innovations.” In “Liberty or Death: Why Libertarians Should Proclaim That Death is Wrong” (2014), I expressed a corollary to this insight: “If we argue for liberty today, it will still likely take decades of the most ardent advocacy and activism to undo the harms caused by ongoing and escalating infringements of every natural and constitutional right of even the most law-abiding citizens. Therefore, while I support every effort – conventional or radically innovative – to move our societies and governments in the direction of liberty, it is essential to recognize that the success of such efforts will take an immense amount of time. If you do not remain alive during that time, then you will die without having known true liberty.”

Unfortunately, given the current combination of political, economic, and societal conditions – including the decidedly un-libertarian mindsets of the majority of the world’s population today – the transformation of existing societies into libertarian havens will not occur anytime soon. Politics as usual – and even libertarian argumentation as usual – will not get us there in time for us. And yet we should continue to strive to actualize the libertarian ideals; we should do so by championing radical life extension as well as societal transformation by means of emerging technologies, so that the balance of resources and incentives can gradually shift in favor of individualistic, pro-liberty mindsets and behaviors – without violent revolutions or other personally damaging upheavals.

Zoltan Istvan is attempting to do exactly what I have advocated in “The Imperative of Technological Progress: Why Stagnation Will Lead to Disaster and How Techno-Optimism Can Overcome It” (2015): “The key to achieving a freer, more prosperous, and longer-lived future is to educate both elites and the general public to accurately weigh the opportunities and risks of emerging technologies. […] By simply arguing the techno-optimist case and educating people from all walks of life about the tremendous beneficial potential of emerging technologies, we can each do our part to ensure that the 21st century will become known as an era of humankind’s great liberation from its age-old limitations, and not a lurch back into the bog of premodern barbarism.” By becoming a prominent techno-optimist advocate, Istvan has even transcended the typical issue-specific policy debates. I may disagree with some of Istvan’s specific policy stances (for instance, his suggestion that college should be free and mandatory for all) – but these disagreements are greatly outweighed by my support for Istvan’s larger role as a visible champion of a radical acceleration of technological progress – the only path that will enable the libertarian ideal to ever be actualized for us.

3. Zoltan Istvan has successfully and beneficially co-opted politics as a vehicle for techno-optimist discourse. Zoltan Istvan is achieving for the cause of transhumanism – the overcoming of age-old human limitations through science and technology – what Ron Paul achieved for the cause of libertarianism during his Presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 (both of which I supported). Ron Paul also did not win the Presidency (although he became an impressive contender for it), but the educational impact of his campaign was tremendous – particularly raising awareness on the issues of a peaceful foreign policy and respect for civil liberties and social freedoms, but also to some extent on the dangers of central banking and inflationary monetary policy. A new generation of activists for liberty came of age during the Ron Paul campaigns and obtained valuable experience and a platform for advocating meaningful policy changes. While Ron Paul was not the sole influence on the recent decisions in many states to completely decriminalize marijuana, the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, and the United States’ avoidance of war with both Russia and Iran, he certainly helped sway the political climate in the direction of these victories for liberty. The Republicans lost both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections, and deserved to lose, in part because the Republican Party establishment deliberately sidelined Ron Paul and rigged the rules against him. Meanwhile, Ron Paul ended up a longer-term winner – an intellectual inspiration to a growing segment of the American population, many of whom continue to deeply respect his example and unwavering integrity.

Zoltan Istvan is venturing even further in the direction of politics-as-education, completely discarding the damaging notion of politics-as-horse-race. Instead of throwing much of his effort into the task of winning the election – which often requires duplicitous rhetoric, creation of a fake persona, and appeals to the lowest common denominator, hardly recipes for true progress – Istvan holds nothing back in expressing what he actually thinks about the desired directions for politics and government. In particular, he emphasizes issues that other candidates systematically avoid – such as the implications of human genetic modification or the possibilities of radical life extension in the coming decades. By prominently communicating that these technologies are not mere science fiction but proximate opportunities, Istvan may persuade large numbers of people to press for the removal of political and other institutional barriers to these technologies’ development and dissemination. Public awareness of possibilities for tremendous technological improvement may result in a greater groundswell of advocacy for the “Six Libertarian Reforms to Accelerate Life Extension” that I outlined in 2013. Zoltan Istvan is, furthermore, an ardent champion of taking resources away from offensive inter-human wars, which needlessly destroy many innocent lives, and instead devoting those resources to technological innovation – so that we can stand a chance of winning the real war that we should be fighting against the forces of ruin. Even this alone – giving the world a few decades of breathing room from organized slaughter staged by national governments – would have a colossal, salutary effect on progress and human well-being.

4. The most vital political change will be achieved by visionaries on the fringes, who do not care about the winds of popular opinion. Mainstream politicians – particularly officeholders who seek reelection – are most often lagging, rather than leading, indicators of societal change. In order to keep the favor of their constituents, politicians need to either respond to ever-shifting public opinion or to create the illusion of doing so (a more common course of action in the increasingly oligarchic American political system). For good or for ill, third parties have most often been the originators of policy proposals that were eventually adopted by a future political establishment. To successfully advocate principled positions – such as the maximization of individual liberty and the elimination of political barriers to life-extension research and treatments – does not require holding political office, but it does require visibly persuading many people – both ordinary voters and elites – that these positions are correct. Those politicians who mostly care about remaining in office will never drive these changes themselves, but they might find themselves impelled to jump on the bandwagon if enough support accumulates. I hope that, because of what Zoltan Istvan is doing today, major party platforms in the 2020s and 2030s will include at least some favorable mentions of life-extending medical research, if not calls for the removal of legacy institutional barriers to the acceleration of such research.

Because of the first-time Transhumanist political presence, the 2016 US Presidential election will be unlike any other. This time, especially given the completely unpalatable candidates from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, it is time to try a radically different approach. Jettisoning the conventional aims of electoral politics and turning it instead into a peaceful, honest, innovative, and spectacular educational campaign for techno-optimism and longevity, is a promising approach that could bear fruit for advocates of liberty, even many years and decades into the future.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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