In November, The Economist wrote “If the Republican campaign is to return to normality, it will do so in South Carolina” due to the state’s ability to filter out the unserious candidates. We are now a month out from the South Carolina primary, and a lot could still happen, but if you’re one of the people who think the government should do less spying on citizens, less intervening in the market, and less mindless spending on the DoD procurement program, you’re in a for bad time: Trump is at 49% chance of winning, Cruz 18%, and Rubio 13%.
In 1996, Hurricane Fran hit Raleigh, knocking out power and trees. Duke Political Science Professor Michael Munger describes the response of several citizens from a neighboring town who decided to exploit the situation. These budding opportunist entrepreneurs rented some refrigerated trucks, filled them with ice and drove to Raleigh, where they sold the bags of ice for about $8 each. Raleigh police eventually arrived, arrested them for price gouging, and allowed the ice to melt with virtually none distributed to the locals.
President Obama finished his State of the Union address a few hours ago. In this address, he presented 4 major questions that he believes we must answer as we move on to the future. Here is my answer to those questions.
1. How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
Giving everyone a fair shot in the economy is easy if you are okay with redistributing income equally and severely restricting consumer choices. Everyone has a set amount of money, and no one can make a mistake too large. What makes this question a challenge is giving everyone a fair shot within the confines of our basic liberties.
To do this, regulations must be repealed. Massive regulatory agencies like the FDA and the CPSC don’t protect those in need, they tax them by limiting their options to those more expensive. Regulations on businesses stifle competition that would otherwise drive prices down, and the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world drives work away from the country.
Furthermore, in-kind benefits need to be replaced with in-cash ones. Federal grants and loans for higher education encourage universities to spend more on student services, as they no longer must cut costs for low-income students. Food stamps restrict voluntary exchange for the poor, preventing them from budgeting the benefit according to their needs and interests. In-cash benefits reduce administrative costs, increase pro-consumer market mechanisms, and gives the poor more consumer power.
2. How do we make technology work for us, and not against us, particularly for urgent challenges such as climate change.
President Obama seems to believe that the best way to make technology work for us is to put the government to the task. However, this overlooks the fact that innovation almost entirely derives from private entrepreneurs. Governments are tied to what the majority population knows or believes, putting the possibilities for innovative ideas in chains. This leads to rent-seeking, an enormous waste of resources that often results in failure
Again, the first solution is to remove regulations that slow innovators down. A 10-15 year drug approval process keeps tons of potential life saving treatments off the shelves. Ridiculous regulations on car sales have limited Tesla Motors’ ability to sell electric cars to consumers.
In regards to climate change in particular, emissions trading is a pseudo-market mechanism that can create a “market need” that would promote private innovation in that area.
3. How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policemen?
This one is simple. Use the military for its actual purpose: to defend the rights of Americans. If we feel that ISIS is a threat to our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then there is justification for war. Going beyond that has not made us safer or better leaders, but has instead caused decades-long instability in countries like Iran and Chile.
When we aren’t threatened, our place is as a leader in diplomacy. We should tout our success as a free nation as an example of what other nations can be, and do our best to become even better. For example, we can work to move our culture past racism and sexism, whilst maintaining the 1st amendment for all.
4. How can we make our politics reflect the best of us, not the worst?
Respect is key for this final question. As the President stated, we must understand that, despite ideological differences, most people have the country’s best interests in mind. As citizens, we should do our best to avoid toxic rhetoric about other sides, promote a discussion that fosters learning, and vote for candidates who do the same.
We must also refine our election system. The electoral college and unfair primary system should be scrapped for one that that gives every citizen an equal vote. Corporate influence over political candidates must be reduced without infringing on the right to free expression. I like Rand Paul’s idea of restricting Congressional access for large campaign donors.
As the President said in his address, we are in changing times, and we must make the right choices to promote liberty and prosperity.