Barger for US Senate

Official campaign website of Al Barger, 2004 Indiana Libertarian Party candidate for US Senate

"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows that the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?" - James Madison, Federalist #62

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rescue American Jobs survey: Revise and extend

I got a candidate survey with some interesting questions from an outfit called Rescue American Jobs. WEBSITE

As you might guess from the very name of the group - much less the questions, they're basically promoting protectionist closed market economic strategies.

As a staunch free market libertarian, I obviously wasn't going to get far with this crowd. They're pretty much coming in with the opposite agenda from me in this stuff. Nonetheless, they were decent questions, they wanted my opinions as a candidate, and so I answered. MY RESULTS

I knew it wouldn't likely win me any points with this group when I answered, for example, "I'm 100% in favor of outsourcing." That up-in-your-grill response felt good, though. Indeed, I was bragging to the crew about my perfect "0" scores. They graded me, not suprisingly, an F.

Now, I'm right about these issues, and they're wrong - of course. So what, though? Several of my Libertarian Party colleagues have criticized me over this survey for not really trying to reach out and show that I understand and share their concerns. I need to present myself as more of a compassionate libertarian, as W might say it, promoting (as his father would say) a kinder and gentler America.

My critics are at least halfway right, though, I must conclude. My job is to show these people that I have a better answer. What someone might mistakenly but perfectly understandably take from my original responses would be that I simply don't care about their concerns.

At that point, they may likely not be open to hearing my different outlook on how to go about addressing their issues. It's not going to change minds, and it's certainly not going to get me votes.

Therefore, let me take this opportunity to, as we say in Congress, revise and extend my remarks.

Jobs and wages are pretty important things. You have to feed the family. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. It's absolutely appropriate that this would be one of the top couple of concerns on voter's minds.

However, I disagree with liberals and socialists on what we need to do to get and keep those jobs. They generally wish to use the force of law to make Americans buy American made products through tariffs and bans on imports. They will tend to want to manipulate tax codes to stop companies from re-locating operations to poorer countries with cheaper labor.

Historically, those types of approaches have not worked well. They hurt consumers, for starters, who are made to pay more for what they buy, which makes everybody in the country poorer.

Protectionist trade policies naturally beget retaliatory policies from other countries. We end up losing valuable foreign markets, and hurt lots of industries, and costs ourselves jobs. A world filled with lots of restrictive trade barriers will not prosper like it should.

Also, the protectionist mentality tends to play to our lowest emotional centers, the xenophobic and racist impulses from the lower part of our animal natures. It is neither accurate nor spiritually uplifting to blame poor Mexicans or Malaysians for our economic problems. Hey they're just trying to feed the kids like anybody else.

You can't just demand by law that companies hire people, or keep people on payrolls when they're not making money on them. Well, you CAN, but it's just not going to work. They'll just end up going broke. The command economy of the Soviet Union and every place that tries similar has been utterly dismal.

As Ayn Rand noted in a critical insight, you can't force someone to THINK. You can force them to stand up, or sit down. You simply cannot force or demand that people create wealth, though. This involves huge complexes thinking and acting that can only be done voluntarily.

The more you restrict people's freedom of action, the more you restrict their ability to create wealth. Forcing people by law to act against the best judgment of their own thinking actively works against their success. You simply can't just pass a law to make bad economic policies work.

Now, what has been shown to really promote more and better jobs in practice is a free market, with stable rule of law, a minimum of regulations, and a minimum of taxes. As would seem absolutely intuitive to me, this approach maximizes wealth creation, business profits and growth in demand for labor, generating more and better jobs.

Generally, the best thing to create jobs and prosperity in the country is to do things to improve the business climate. It might satisfy some resentment to see a rich guy knocked down, but the guy who is making the most money is generally going to be the one creating the most jobs.

There's no such thing as a level playing field. Life isn't fair. Third World countries will generally have certain economic vantages such as lower environmental standards. We might be a little more mindful of the economic costs of EPA rules and high OSHA workplace standards, but we're not going to abandon our high standards - nor should we.

On the other hand, Americans have lots of advantages working for us. We have a much better, more consistent and stable rule of law. We have vast natural resources. We have about the best university system in the world.

The best thing we can do is to make it more attractive to do business here. We're going to lose out on some lower end jobs because dirt poor South Americans will do them cheaper. That can't be helped. However, we can do tort reform, lower taxes, and improve education. We can try to streamline and simplify some of the thousands of pages of tax code, and business regulations.

Democrats like to brag on how Bill Clinton created 20 million jobs in the 90s. To the extent that it was anything done by government, what was it that Bill Clinton actually did? In a word: NAFTA.

NAFTA was his main big legislative accomplishment, moving it through a still Democratic Congress where Reagan and Bush Sr had been unable. Despite his liberal Democratic facade, Clinton did not rework the tax code to stop outsourcing, or much of any of the typical liberal socialist stuff. He opened markets coming in and out with NAFTA and other trade agreements. The "giant sucking sound" that Ross Perot imagined turned out to be a huge INCREASE in American jobs and wages.

Now, I don't want to 100% endorse NAFTA or other trade agreements. There are lots of issues about national sovereignty, and lots of things to nitpick over.

However, Bill Clinton was quite good at getting trade agreements, which resulted in lots more business going in and out of the country, both directions. This generated great opportunities for American businesses around the world, and for businessmen around the world to do business here.

We got much cheaper consumer goods in many cases, improving the standard of living even for people whose income remained static. We lost some jobs where we weren't competitive, but we created a great many more jobs by selling things all over the world. It was a win-win.

That's how you do it.

Here are the original responses I made to the Rescue American Jobs questionnare:

National defense. The main job of the federal government is to stop people from coming in and killing us. In line with that, I tend to be fairly hawkish. I supported the Iraq war, and (depending on circumstances) would be likely to favor military action against Iran and/or North Korea.

It's not pretty or nice, we're definitely better off taking the fight to our enemies in their homelands rather than waiting for them to hit us again.

I favor free, open trade. I am highly disinclined to engage in any kind of protectionism. It hurts consumers, generates ill will in the world, and ultimately just doesn't help.

I understand that there are some legitimate issues about inequality in US vs third world labor and environmental laws, and so forth. There are hundreds of countries with their own laws.

Therefore, there is not and will never be any totally "fair" trade or "level playing field." Life isn't fair. However, a lot of that un-levelness is American advantage in thousands of ways.

I'm guessing that this is not what this organization wants to hear, but if you can't compete in the world market in your current job or industry, then find something else to do for a living.

I'm 100% in favor of outsourcing. This "American jobs" talk is a lot of nonsense. "Job" is a noun as a figure of language and sentence structure, but is not in fact a tangible possession that someone owns. It's not a table or chair, but a relationship between and employer and employee. People sometimes talk about foreigners "stealing American jobs." That's such a lot of nonsense.

If the employer no longer needs or cannot afford the employee, or can get the job done far cheaper somewhere else, then that's not just their right, but their absolute proper RESPONSIBILITY to their own stockholders.

To my ears, people talking about "shipping out American jobs" sounds like racism. Indians and Mexicans have to eat, too, and they have as much right to work as an American.

Look, Americans have SO many advantages in the world. If some of our businesses can't keep up, then they should do something else.

I'm all for them. As a good Libertarian, I tend to want to favor open borders in general - though post 9/11 security concerns give me some doubts. Plus, I recognize the strain on social services of huge influxes of illegal Mexicans.

However, visas for professionals should be a no-brainer. Unless someone has some obvious security flags, we want all the educated professionals we can get.

Most obviously, if it wasn't for immigrants, big parts of rural America (including my own) would not have anything like sufficient doctors.

Government will inevitably be corrupted in thousands of creative ways all around as long as it has the power to hand out trillions of dollars a year in tax money, and as long as it has vast powers to hand out legilative favors. This corruption comes from corporations, from foreign interests, from labor unions (especially government unions such as AFSCME and the NEA), and from every other person or group with a hand out for money or favors. As long as the government has big favors and piles of money to hand out, rich dirtbags are going to be at the front of the line.

Reducing the size of the federal government and restriciting it to the few functions actually authorized by the US Constitution is the only thing that will really substantially reduce corruption. Eliminate income taxes, cut the spending and power of the government by at least two thirds, and the influence peddling and corruption will be largely eliminated. There simply won't be near so much influence to peddle.

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