Today I was in a Congressional debate in the 1st District of Virginia, which was held in Williamsburg. (Kudos to the League of Women Voters, by the way, for inviting the 3rd party candidate!) I think there were about 150 people there.
For the most part, I pretty much had my libertarian doctrine down, so most questions I had an answer for. A couple questions I ran into trouble with were when they asked about what we should do about the national debt. My instinct was to say we just default on it, since logically the only way to pay it down is through taxation, which is immoral. But, not having studied that issue, I just said that we should cut spending. It turns out Rothbard did address this very issue.
Another thing they asked was whether I would support a GI Bill for education for veterans. I reiterated my stance against government involvement in education, and said that the best long-term solution to all veterans’ issues was to privatize the military and have private defense companies compete to offer the best salary and benefits packages to soldiers. (There was some unrest in the audience at that point.) I said that if we had made contracts with the soldiers to give them educational benefits, we should go ahead and make good on those, though. (Although after reading Rothbard, I’m not so sure about that!)
Another moment that brought a big gasp from the audience was when I said we should simply abolish Medicare. Noticing the reaction, the moderator asked how I would convince Congress to do such a thing. I said that it would be a tough sell, because there is a strong constituency for keeping Medicare, but that abolishing it was the right thing to do, because the only way we can give money to older generations is by taking it from younger generations that need the money just as badly; a better alternative would be to let people save up money in their youth (rather than taxing it away) so that compound interest will give them enough money to afford insurance.
They asked about health care in general, and I said that many of our problems could be solved through simple prevention. I pointed out that we have an obesity epidemic, which is related to many other diseases, such as type II diabetes. If we get rid of the government subsidies for health care, people will have more of an incentive to take better care of themselves. (I might also have mentioned ideas such as FDA abolition, pharmaceutical patent abolition, etc.; although there’s only so much you can say in one minute.)
They asked what I would say to the next President about dealing with partisanship and leading the way forward, etc. I said that if I met the President, I would give him some books about economics (this got some laughs). And I said that neither of the two parties knows how to solve our current problems, so I didn’t see the big deal about partisanship.
Someone asked about Indian tribes and whether we should recognize them and give them benefits. I said that since they’re sovereign nations, they should support themselves; we shouldn’t spend tax money on them. Had I thought more deeply about it, I might have said that it’s not good for the Indians to receive support from us, because they become dependent on us, lose their sense of self-reliance, and become all that susceptible to intrusions on their sovereignty, because how are
you going to stand up against a country that’s subsidizing you? My opponents said that they absolutely favored recognizing the tribes and showering them with benefits (although the incumbent had qualms about the casinos).
One of the questions was what I will do to get us out of the recession. I basically said that we need to separate Freddie and Fannie from the government, and stop subsidizing risky investments. My
thought was that we need to stop the boom and bust cycles and allow a shakeout to occur. The challenger talked about the need to re-regulate the economy and the incumbent talked about having a better tax policy that would help the economy.
Someone asked about civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, and I said that we should repeal the PATRIOT Act. The incumbent said that in our approach to civil liberties, we could “look at the PATRIOT Act,” and then promptly changed the subject. I notice “looking” at the PATRIOT Act doesn’t necessarily mean taking any action at all.
A question was asked about alternative fuels, and I said that it would basically take care of itself; if fossil fuels become too expensive or their supply too unreliable, people will switch to alternative energy sources. I said that government can’t be trusted to invest research dollars wisely; we should leave that to private industry instead. Had I thought about it more, I might have said that holding polluters accountable can also encourage the use of cleaner fuels. My opponents talked about tax credits and diverting certain funds to research, etc.
All in all, I think these anarcho-capitalist responses are a big pill for the uninitiated to swallow all at once. I think some of these issues are kinda difficult. In reference to the veterans, should we really repudiate what the country has promised them? Then again, what alternatives are there, given that taxation is not a morally acceptable option? I guess that’s just the way it has to be, and would-be soldiers need to take notice not to work for the U.S. Government if they don’t want to get ripped off in the end, when the country goes anarcho-capitalist.
The incumbent seemed pretty cautious not to be too controversial, while the other challenger basically had a socialist platform. People thanked me afterward for spicing up the debate some. (At times when I was speaking the audience got out of order and the moderator had to say, “Settle down!”) I was pretty surprised at how many supportive people I ran into afterward, considering all the sour faces I was staring into during the debate. The conclusion I draw from all this is that next time I want to be even more frank and upfront by just outright saying early on, “We need to abolish government.” I don’t want there to be any confusion about what exactly I’m proposing; the only way these ideas work is when they all hang together as part of the complete anarcho-capitalist system, and it needs to be described with as much clarity and precision as possible.
Anyway, here is my closing statement:
“Now is the time to begin restoring freedom to America. Congress should completely deregulate the economy, so that businesses can thrive to their fullest potential. We should break the government
monopoly on money, so that entrepreneurs can create gold- and silver-backed currencies that will be stabler than our present U.S. dollar. Government services should be privatized and funded entirely
by user fees, so that the different needs and desires of customers can be better accommodated through a competitive marketplace. Taxation should be abolished so that Americans will be free to devote their money toward productive investments, charitable contributions, and improvements in their quality of life, rather than having their incomes siphoned off into wasteful government programs, including unnecessary foreign wars and bailouts of poorly managed companies.
“Historically, we’ve seen that nations such as the Soviet Union, in which government tried to exercise too much central control over the economy, have often collapsed. At best, they tend to experience
economic stagnation compared to freer countries. The current recession is a result of some of the same kinds of harmful government interference. By electing a Congress that will simply rein in
government, and let the market correct itself, America can get through the recovery faster and continue on to a more prosperous future.”
IPR previously covered the race here.