Friday, May 4, 2007

America's least compelling platform.

Somehow I've ended up on the contact list of an organization--or individual--billing itself as Americans for a Free Republic, dedicated to, well, read it for yourself:

Like a modern day Cyclops with one eye and a stunted brain, our Federal Government in America grows fatter and fatter every decade as it corrupts the forces of freedom and the soundness of our money. Grunting and belching, regimenting and taxing, spending and consuming with the abandon of a drunken Caesar, this gargantuan beast has, in the span of 90 years, transformed a once productive marvel and manufacturing leader of the world into a decadent debtor nation hell-bent to follow Rome into the dustbin of history.

The two levers of power that have allowed Gargantua to grow into such a beast were given to it in 1913 with the enactment of the Federal Reserve banking system and the progressive income tax. These two institutions ushered in the two evils of modern day politics: 1) fiat money, and 2) confiscatory taxation. In doing so, they destroyed the idea of "limited government" that the Founders had given us in 1787. This was the death knell of our free republic. With the ability to indiscriminately print money and to confiscate our personal incomes, the Federal Government has been able to grow exponentially over the past century -- well beyond the strictly constrained power that the Founding Fathers intended it to be.

I think all libertarians and free-market conservatives agree that if we are to stop this travesty of tyrannization over our lives, we must challenge the two institutions that give Gargantua its power to grow unabated. We must mount a powerful political attack upon the policies of FIAT MONEY and PROGRESSIVE TAXATION.

Educating the populace about fiat money and the income tax through conventional means, however, is an extremely laborious process, and our problem today is that America is running out of time. A serious crash of our economy is looming up ahead as three major crises descend upon us: 1) the massive build up of government and private debt, 2) the bankruptcy of the social security and medicare systems, and 3) peak oil. Within the next 10 years, these crises are going to be plowing through our society like mack trucks tearing through a flower garden...

In other words, it's a party for types who fancy themselves "libertarian" but always want to talk about money and taxes.

"Executive Director" Hultberg's idea is that a third party formed around a two-plank platform of flat taxation and commodity money will succeed where the Reform Party and the Libertarian Party (with which I'm affiliated, perhaps grudgingly) failed. He goes on to provide an argument for that, based more on fancy than on observation of either group's failure modes, a prime example of what Mencken would call "simple, elegant, and wrong."

What Hultberg misses, as a matter of course, is that it is very difficult, and perhaps practically impossible, to build a grassroots third party at the Federal level, given the "wasted vote" fallacy and the first-past-the-post voting system. The mechanism is, of course, apparent: elect candidates to local and regional office (something to which many LP libertarians are outright averse...), but Hultberg's platform doesn't even apply to local issues!

Accepting, argumentum, the thesis that a two-plank party would fare better, we should ask whether these are well-chosen planks. The answer is a firm "no".

Not only does nobody care, there's no real reason for them to do so. The Social Security demographic crisis is real, but neither flat tax rates nor commodity money fix the problem. At best, the latter prevents the government from inflating its debts away. "Peak oil" is not a crisis, and those who talk of it as such are usually either dolts, cranks, or charlatans. (Justifying radicalism with economic hypochondria is, by the way, both not uncommon and usually wrongheaded.) Hultberg seems to understand a little something about economics, even if his views are unorthodox, so I'd put him in one of the latter categories.

His take on progressive taxation lands him firmly in "crank" territory. Adoption of a flat tax would surely simplify our overly complicated tax code, but it wouldn't necessitate or even provide any strong incentive for reduction of the Federal government's size or scope. The claim that such a tax is unconstitutional is absurd. (I challenge anyone to prove me wrong by winning in court.) Far from taxing different people at different rates, it instead taxes the first fraction of one's income at one rate, the second fraction at another, and so on. As this applies equally to everyone, it's far from the class legislation Hultberg claims it to be; one would expect someone who cares so much about the issue to understand that and to refrain from such wild statements!

The fallacies of pseudolibertarian cranks are almost predictible. Going on about "rights" and "privileges" is a common pastime of that crowd, and in a similar vein one hears talk about (e.g.) property not "really being yours" if it is taxed. Hultberg provides us what should be a classic example:

America is based upon each citizen's equal and inalienable right to life, liberty and property. How else does one preserve his life, enjoy his liberty and maintain his property than through the production and the consumption of his own income? If the State can take an arbitrary and unequal percentage of our income because 51% of the people deem it desirable, then we don't have much of a right to the use and disposal of our property, do we? We have only the permission for that use and disposal, and then only so long as we dutifully serve the reigning mobocracy in the manner it deems desirable.

Yep, you read it right: Progressive taxation is servitude. Again letting the stupidity slide for the sake of argument, how would a flat tax be better?

With absurd views of what constitutes both problems and their respective solutions, it's doubtful that Hultberg/AFR will gain traction. The cynic in me considers them a valuable addition to the political landscape; the Libertarian Party could use a honey trap for tax protestors!

No comments: