When reality comes crashing

I published my first editorial at The Daily Caller. Check it out.

Venezuela should have been the Norway of South America. Pundits had been predicting this since 2010, when it was clear that the country would dethrone Saudi Arabia – a much wealthier country with an almost identical population – as having the largest oil reserves in the world.

But in spite of all this, Venezuela has still managing to undergo what Time described as a “complete collapse of society.” The democratically elected socialist government tried to faithfully implement a centrally planned economy and smash capitalism. By some metrics they succeeded. They smashed the markets for toilet paper and made it nearly impossible to come by, they smashed the market for food and forced citizens to wait in hours-long breadlines, and then they even smashed those lines by removing people from them based on the last digits on their government ID cards. Now food scarcity is so bad that people are set to be forced to work on farms.

The chasm between the notional and the actual couldn’t be larger. Not once did the ruling elites of Venezuela consider that their naïve – no, psychotic – utopianism might lead to bad results. President Nicolás Maduro’s adherence to ideology led him to blame the crisis on “economic warfare promoted right-wing sectors” of the country. It’s clear that, in making that statement, he was under the influence of ideology and not facts. He, just like every other socialist, is trying to relitigate 150 years of known economic fact: countries with free markets and powerful “right-wing sectors” don’t have breadlines and don’t have catastrophic shortages.

Trump’s Foreign Policy

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The nomination of Donald Trump this week could had been an opportunity to begin to understand the foreign policy of the New York businessman turned into politician. Like in many other areas of policy it doesn’t sound clear what he means but it certainly doesn’t sound like an average Republican. Even in an event organized by the Washington Post at the convention to discuss this topic, two experts in national security like Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Cato Institute’s Emma Ashford seem unable to underline a coherent vision of what Trump wants America to do overseas.

But despite the somehow incoherent mumblings of the insurgent politician there are some clues that could very useful to understand the logic behind his statements. Trump had expressed sympathy for Putin who he considers a strong leader, while the neoconservative wing of the GOP had sounded very hawkish on Russia comparing the Putin government with the Soviet Union. There is a wide variety of conservative that also had express sympathy for Russia, but in general there a two groups, the paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan who consider Vladimir Putin a defender of Christian values or populists like Sarah Palin who appreciate the image of Russian president as a tough leader. Trump had said that he would like to maintain good relations with Putin and the Russian president had also express sympathy for the real-estate mogul. But it seems that there is an obstacle in the relations: NATO.

Both neoconservatives and liberal interventionists had long consider that now there is basically a new Cold War with Russia. United States representing a form of liberal democracy and Russia as an authoritarian vision of right-wing populism. Is not surprise that neoconservatives like William Kristol is so adamantly an opponent of Trump, some neoconservatives like Robert Kagan are backing Clinton whose own hawkish views had been reinforced by her advisors coming the liberal interventionist wing of the Democratic Party. There is where NATO enters the conversation. Some consider that after the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO should had disappear. But it didn’t and the relatively bad relation between America and Russia are in great part due to NATO expansion in former communists countries which Moscow consider part of their area of influence. The annexation of Crimea is maybe the greatest point in this chess played by Putin as a form of counter the influence of America and Europe in Ukraine.

Trump own visions of NATO probably are the most revealing aspect of his unorthodox foreign policy. He initially went as far as suggesting that the US should withdraw from NATO. Those who accuse Trump of being just a demagogue that would do anything to appease the Republican base never knew how to answer while someone who is running as a Republican would make such a polemic statement, considering that while respected by part of the conservative base both Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul where defeated in the primaries. Not only that, while he now maintains that he is saying that he wants NATO members to pay their fair share to be defended by the US, he could easily had say that he was misunderstood like when early in his campaign he was in favor of Syrian refugees but then he wanted to deport them. However the level of criticism of NATO for GOP and Democratic insiders always consider any question about unforgeable especially after its latest comments doubting if the US would defend its Eastern European allies against a threat from Russia. To the point that even some Democrats think that Trump is a Manchurian candidate of Moscow, the campaign manager of the Clinton, Robby Mook goes as far to suggesting the Russian government was involve in the DNCleaks which goal was to help elect Donald Trump even if until now there is not tangible evidence of that.

One recurrent topic in his campaign is the America First slogan. While used by isolationists in the past and most recently revived by the campaigns of Pat Buchanan. Jesse Walker of Reason had pointed out referring to his foreign policy speech that Trump is an instinctive nationalist which explains why he could sound hawkish at times when talking of the Middle East and dovish when talking of Eastern Europe. While some think that here was a hint of Buchanism in his acceptance speech at the convention when he goes as far as saying that this election was “Americanism over globalism”, an important point to be made is that Trump started his political career considering running against Buchanan in the Reform Party primaries and while Buchanan endorsed him early on the campaign, Trump doesn’t speak of Pat and neither invite him to convention despite the lack of prominent speakers. The populist nationalism of Trump is right-wing like Buchanan but is not anti-imperialist. Buchanan thought that after the end of the Cold War, the tradition of Old Right anti-interventionism should be revived. That’s why Buchanism and Trumpism collide especially in the Middle East where Trump still wants an active presence.

There are several accusations by liberals that Trump is a fascist but other point that is made is that if elected he would be closer to Berlusconi. Is funny that beside that phrase there had been not much insight because while the political party of Berlusconi, Forza Italia, was somehow in the right it was ideologically broadly enough to include socialdemocrats which the GOP consider an anathema to conservativism. But Berlusconi was close to both Russia and Israel, two of the main alleged future allies of Trump. But I really doubt that beyond of that they would had that much in common.

Israel is an open question. Trump initially sounded neutral. He then was backed by longtime supporters of Israel like Sheldon Adelson who may explain why his visions had started to shift and his relation with a pro- Israel businessman like his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Now he started he sounds as hawkish on the issue as any neocon.  Trump was proud of the Republican platform which he considers: “the most pro-Israel of all time”. Some consider that his supporters are anti-Semites and that Trump itself is anti-Semite despite having a Jewish daughter but that hasn’t weak the support among some Israel hardliners.

The Middle East in general looks more dubious because there is where he for moments sound hawkish but at the same time breaks with the neocon orthodoxy. He seems having no interest in democracy promotion while calling to fight against radical Islamic extremism. He’s against the Iran deal and doesn’t want to speak about Turkey. Saudi Arabia is a curious case while Trump is critic of Saudi Arabia at the same time he would not be like a president who would go to accuse continuously the country for its human rights abuses and maybe their share hate for Iran could make both work together on some issues.

While Trump talks about he wanted to be unpredictable and dealmaker with all the world, he started his campaign by railing against Mexican immigrants and accusing the Mexican government of sending criminals to America. Mexico has been a reliable American ally and alienate them in that form was a truly mistake. Trump would risk having bad relations with the broad Latin America. It wouldn’t surprise me that if elected, presidents of the region would try to avoid him. Even the Latin American right who generally is pro-American is deeply anger with Trump and his campaign.

On Asia, he wants to withdraw militarily while accusing China of currency manipulation. Wants Japan and South Korea to defend itself. He doesn’t sound to care about the destiny of Taiwan or Hong Kong and the Chinese influence in the region or any elaborate thoughts on the South China Sea controversy. East Asia is where strategic thought is needed but that is the area of which Trump knows nothing. Being the geographical region where the Obama seems to having being successful with important advances improving the relations with Southeast Asian countries which geopolitically could limit Chinese influence overseas.

In general we could say that Trump is neither an isolationist, anti-interventionist, realist, liberal interventionist nor neoconservative because is impossible to put Trump in a mold. But foreign policy is actually where he is not as unpredictable as in other policy areas. It would be difficult to find him speaking ill of Russia and Israel. The question of who is more hawkish Trump or Hillary is hard to answer since Clinton is more hawkish on Russia but on some issues like the Iran Deal she is able to take a realist position. However to credit of Trump he had taken some risks in being critical of NATO something not even Sanders did. Despite that if one reads the GOP platform the foreign policy in the Republican Party is still managed by the neoconservative wing of the party and his victory speech he basically accused all problems of America to Hillary Clinton despite that if something the GOP had been more active bad decisions overseas. Trump’s foreign policy is in the making and we could expect surprises on the way but I tend to suspect that while he is skeptic of globalism, once in office the GOP establishment could push him in a more mainstream hawkish line.

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The Greens come back

The discussion about the campaign of Jill Stein of the Green Party is the topic of my The National Interest piece.

She has also become politically savvy, trying to appeal to disenfranchised Sanders voters who, especially after the leaks, feel that the DNC has betrayed them. She even went to the Democratic convention trying to directly reach some Sanders supporters. The surprise of the so-called “Demexit” even included people raising Jill Stein banners inside the DNC.

Read the whole thing to know about these particular campaign different from others.

Future things III: Tokyo Drift

(First and second)

  • The pro-choice moral philosophy will continue toward its logical conclusion and it will become legal for women to kill homeless people, provided that they do it discreetly.
  • Thanks to news reports and social media, “migrant” will move down the dysphemism treadmill until it’s no longer used except as a pejorative.
  • Advances in remote sensing and biometric technologies will make it trivial to see how aroused someone is at any given moment, resulting in a WikiLeaks-like database of everyone’s sexual preferences.
  • There will be a film adaptation of “The Most Dangerous Game” that involves two Donald Trump supporters going to the North Sentinel Island in cutting-edge weapons gear, and their goal is killing the entire uncontacted Sentinelese population there.
  • Facebook will have a system for people to directly share emotions/experiences with each other (memories at the beach house!), but it will quickly become a scandal when a lot of people use it to get high.

The Eternal Libertarian Dilemma

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A recent poll has shown libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at 13%. He, according to Matt Welch, could have more support than any Libertarian Party presidential candidate in the history of the party. The media, which is usually not interested in libertarians or any third-party candidate, had shown different side this year covering with enthusiasm the convention. Johnson and his vice presidential candidate William Weld had do a late night tour. So why these year. As pointed out by Justin Raimondo back in 2011, Johnson libertarianism is particularly moderate.

Though Johnson was by far the most moderate candidate in the Libertarian primaries, and he won was because of his tenure as governor of New Mexico, he was able to convince libertarians to choose William Weld as VP only by a tiny margin. If the radical libertarianism of Ron Paul became a subject of conversation in 2008 and 2012, why wouldn’t Johnson get the same treatment for 2016? The fact is that besides being a Reason reader and a broad promoter of libertarian ideas, he’s not as philosophical as Ron Paul.

Johnson is antiwar, but doesn’t speak of withdrawing from NATO, a geopolitical move that has broad support among libertarians. He is for the “FairTax,” a tax reform measure that many libertarians oppose due to a philosophical objection to taxation in general. Ending the Fed, a cause made popular by Ron Paul, isn’t one of his priorities.

I think William Weld is more intellectual than Johnson, though he is less of a libertarian and more of a hawk. But in an election featuring Hillary Clinton, the most neoconservative of all Democrats, and a divisive nativist like Donald Trump, Johnson looks like a good choice after all. He’s is promoting himself as a socially liberal and fiscal conservative with an executive experience like his VP.

The problem is that his definition of libertarianism as fiscal conservativism and social liberalism excludes a lot of libertarians. Was Ron Paul a social liberal? Was Robert Anton Wilson a fiscal conservative? I think not.

Is libertarianism is moderation, centrism? Even Goldwater sounded for a few moments more libertarian than Johnson. From the beginning, Justin Raimondo has said that the #NeverTrump crowd is happy with Johnson because they think he’s taking more votes from disaffected Republicans that would help elect Hillary. If not, how does someone such interest in his campaign from a liberal outlet like MSNBC make any sense?  The media was largely hostile to Ron Paul, with The Young Turks and RT being among the few to treat him with respect. But the moderate ideas of Johnson like marijuana legalization are praised by liberal late-night hosts. And perhaps the really disturbing part of the Libertarian campaign that even Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are considering vote for the LP, even though they represent the antithesis of libertarianism in most ways.

The LP’s rise in the polls show that there is anger in the country against both parties and their presidential nominees. Thirteen percent is an unprecedented for a third party, and if the Libertarian candidate is able to reach 15%, is probable he will be in the debates but this is complicate because it need to be at that numbers in three national polls. On the one side this makes us think what would have happen if Ron Paul would have run as an LP candidate instead of Johnson. Back in 2012, Paul was polling 13% against an incumbent president popular with a liberal base and mainstream conservatives with establishment support, which makes me think that now he would be polling better than Johnson.

Over the years, the Libertarian Party and the libertarian movement as a whole had a very nuanced question: would they push for reform or revolution? The reformist wing is usually more minarchist and Friedmanite, but sometimes people close to the Kochtopus could be radical Rothbardians. The revolutionary wing is diverse: it has anarcho-capitalists, left-libertarians and Ron Paul fans, with a major unifying for threat of these factions being that they don’t like compromise. For the moment the reformist wing is most visible thanks to Johnson, but it has problems. I’m sure Ron Paul could do it better than the former governor with millennials that probably now would vote for Jill Stein. On the other hand, the fact that Johnson doesn’t stand up for religious liberty is going to make him lose conservative votes. My advice to libertarians is that they should study the cases of this general election that’s often more polarizing someone like Ron Paul is better than Gary Johnson but in senatorial campaigns is often moderates not radicals who could win. Think of Rand Paul’s victory and Sean Haugh’s defeat in their respective bids for the Senate.

Gary Johnson, at any rate, is almost certainly going to be the most voted libertarian in history. The libertarians face a difficult time with both parties becoming more hostile to the principles of liberty. But with the establishment in such a fragile state, maybe an insurgent campaign in 2020 could unite radicals and moderates toward a libertarian future.

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