By Josh Colver
Free Trade is good economic policy to follow, but it’s almost just as important to foreign policy. According to Webster the definition of free trade is “international trade left to its natural course without tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions.”
Free trade is a good thing. It’s beneficial to the United States, and it’s beneficial to the rest of the world. When American products are allowed to compete with the rest of the world, it lowers the prices and increases the quality of the goods. Trade is also a crucial tool in foreign policy. When we trade with other countries, it builds a foundation for friendship and good relations. I think Thomas Jefferson has the best advice for us: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations...entangling alliances with none.” We need to start trading with countries that are not typically our friends; we need to start trading with Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. If we can start trading with these nations, we can ease the tensions that we have faced in the past. Take for example Vietnam. 40 years ago we invaded and fought against Vietnam when they were our enemy. Now we trade with Vietnam and have diplomatic relations with them. When countries trade with each other, this allows them to build trust between each other.
It also creates a disincentive to go to war, because if Iran or North Korea is getting an essential good or service from us, they are less likely to wage war. They wouldn’t want to risk losing an important part of their economy from us and many other countries around the world who are allied with us. So, if we wish to relieve tensions between our enemies and help foster goodwill towards each other, we need free trade.
By Josh Colver
If you have spent any time among libertarians than you have heard the slogan “taxation is theft” before. This slogan, although catchy, is unimportant if there is not a basic understanding of the argument behind it. Which is why I am going to explain it.
As an individual, I am outlawed by the government from taking items and money that is not mine. This is also known as theft or stealing. It doesn’t matter if what I am doing is virtuous. It doesn’t matter if I am going to use the money I stole from my neighbor to give to charity and feed the homeless. The ends do not justify the means. Theft is illegal, theft is immoral, and it is destructive to society. But if we turn the tables on this analogy government is allowed to do all these things. The government can steal from individuals, up to any amount that it so desires. Any resistance will result in the imprisonment of the citizen who refuses to pay his money over to the state.
This also has a lot to do with the monopoly of force that the state holds. The state can use force to coerce its citizens to do whatever it likes, the extremes of this can be seen in numerous examples throughout history. But when an individual tries to use force to coerce another individual into doing something he is imprisoned. In the words of former presidential candidate Austin Petersen, “You are not charitable because you put a gun to someone else’s head and force them to be charitable.” At the end of the day that's exactly what it is, every government measure and law has to be enforced through the barrel of a gun or else there would not be compliance. Does this mean I want to completely abolish the federal government? No, I’m not an anarchist. It means that I want the lowest possible rate of tax that is necessary for our government to function. But it is important to remember that true charity comes from private donations to people and organizations. That’s where true love comes from, voluntarily giving to those in need, not coercion from the state. The government doesn’t love us, but we can show our love to others and reflect our principles and beliefs through charity. When people have more money left over from cutting taxes, they will give more. Religious nonprofits do so much good work in our community, but often government gets in the way of helping by demanding that they comply with all these rules and regulations. The government gets in the way of charity helping people. Even doctors perform medical service for charity. Around the holiday season Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is a registered eye ophthalmologist, performs eye surgery for no charge and has helped countless people regain sight. His father Ron, who’s also a doctor, used to tell people to put away their Medicare and Medicaid cards if they couldn’t afford to pay for it, and he’d do it for free. People are inherently good, and they care for each other. We often forget that we are the most generous nation in the world and that’s not from government that's from a great country full of great Americans.
By Josh Colver
The issue of welfare is also a moral issue that needs to be discussed. I’m all for a safety net to help people out when they fall on hard times, but I have a big problem when it becomes a hammock and not a safety net. Of course, we all want to help the poor. Democrats want to help the poor, Republicans want to help the poor, and Libertarians want to help the poor. So it’s not an issue of caring, we all care. What we need to do is look at the facts and historical data to best figure out how to fight poverty.
Since 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson declared the War on Poverty we have spent 22 trillion dollars on the fight, adjusted for inflation. The Census Bureau reports that the amount of Americans in poverty is 14.5%. Amazingly that is almost the same rate that it was in 1967. Many people would be shocked to hear this, and may even struggle to understand how this is possible. But the reason for this massive failure is the government. Government is extremely inefficient in what they do. They tend to believe that if we throw a certain amount of money at the problem and look the other way, then our work is done. But we have to be result oriented. All these social programs have good intentions, but good intentions don’t mean good results. A big reason why these programs have failed is that our welfare system is designed to discourage work, penalize marriage, and ultimately trapping them in poverty.
The main reason our welfare system isn’t working is because of benefit cliffs. Under our current system many people who are poor or are on welfare reach a point when they are offered a raise or want to take a second job, they choose not to because by accepting that job or taking that raise they lose money because they no longer qualify for benefits. This cliff that exists between dependency and independence is nearly impossible to scale. This cliff results in limited upward mobility. People cannot climb out of poverty if benefits are not tailored to needs and if the welfare system punishes work. The current welfare system also penalizes marriage. A specific example of this is demonstrated by the Heritage Foundation, “For example, a single mother with two children who earns $15,000 per year would generally receive around $5,200 per year of food stamp benefits. However, if she marries a father with the same earnings level, her food stamps would be cut to zero. A single mother receiving benefits from Section 8 or public housing would receive a subsidy worth on average around $11,000 per year if she were not employed, but if she marries a man earning $20,000 per year, these benefits would be cut nearly in half. Both food stamps and housing programs provide attractive financial incentives for couples to remain separate and unmarried.” But this issue doesn’t just affect economics, this also affects kids and their chances at success and getting ahead. According to the Heritage Foundation, kids that are in single parent households are twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime, twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems, roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school, and a third more likely to drop out before completing high school.
These policies again come back to central planning and how it fails dramatically. When government inserts itself into issues like this and attempts to socially engineer a society through the welfare system, it has disastrous consequences. The way to fix this is to first eliminate the penalties for marriage in our welfare system, and secondly eliminate the benefit cliff. Instead of having a dramatic drop off in which nobody can escape from, let’s create a stairway to success. As you earn money and your income increases, your benefits will decrease proportionally with it. Instead of if you earn money and take a job, then you are punished and set back by it. This way we will create a ladder to climb out of poverty instead of a cliff that cannot be scaled. I think Ronald Reagan said it best, “ We should measure welfare's success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”