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How Popular is the Libertarian Movement?

[U.S. flag in shape of U.S.]

“Libertarians are living in a fantasy world.” — Paul Krugman, New York Times

The New York Times magazine published a cover story last week with the headline, “Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?” It highlighted Sen. Rand Paul’s recent growth in popularity and his potential as a presidential candidate in 2016. But the reporter did his best to portray the libertarian movement as a “radical fringe” element of society by highlighting a bunch of young people more interested in pot than getting a successful job.

My reaction: The libertarian movement will truly arrive when The New York Times does a serious article on the #1 libertarian think tank (Cato Institute), the #1 libertarian TV show (Stossel on Fox) and the #1 libertarian conference (FreedomFest).

After the article appeared, Paul Krugman opined that libertarians are living in a “fantasy world.” He used as an example the call to replace the hodge-podge welfare system with a national guaranteed minimum income without a means test. Charles Murray has recommended that every American receive $10,000 a year from the federal government to replace the welfare program.

Krugman thinks the guaranteed income idea is crazy. I don’t especially like it myself, because it means giving welfare to people who don’t need it (the middle class and wealthy). Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman advocated a negative income tax, which makes more sense.

But Krugman is terribly insensitive to the plight of the welfare class in this country — it is a serious and growing problem with 47 million Americans on food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, etc. We’ve developed a dependent class in this country, with fourth-generation welfare recipients. Federal case workers often discourage people from getting off welfare.

The Welfare Reform Act of 1996, pushed through by President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress, went a long ways toward solving the welfare program in this country by requiring able-bodied people to find a job after five years of getting welfare. The number of people on food stamps and Medicaid actually declined for more than a decade — until the Great Recession of 2008. Then the program was gutted. Now is the time to bring it back.

You Blew It! Americans Overeat

America is #1 in many ways, but one recent United Nations report gave the country a dubious honor. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the United States has the highest calorie intake of any country by averaging 3,770 calories per person daily.

One could interpret this announcement as positive evidence that Americans are better fed than people in other countries. But it also could mean that Americans are overweight. In fact, more than one-third of Americans are considered “obese” — a total of 79 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means more heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stokes.

The countries just behind the United States were Austria, with an average of 3,760 calories consumed per day and Italy, averaging 3,660 calories per person each day.

Countries with the lowest average daily calorie consumption were India with 2,300 and the Congo at 1,590. Hunger is a serious problem in these countries.

I admire First Lady Michelle Obama for taking on the issue of food habits — just as long as it’s a voluntary effort and not a government program.

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week about what has contributed to a falling deficit. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below.

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About Mark Skousen

Mark Skousen, Ph. D., is the editor of the monthly investment newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies, as well as three weekly trading services, Skousen High-Income Alert, Hedge Fund Trader and Fast Money Alert. He also is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books. He earned his Ph. D. in monetary economics at George Washington University in 1977. He has taught economics and finance at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, Grantham University, Barnard College, Mercy College, Rollins College and as a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. He also has been a consultant to IBM, Hutchinson Technology and other Fortune 500 companies.

View all posts by Mark Skousen →

  • Wayne

    Liberals have always lived in a fantasy world, and they’re in the process of destroying the real one.

  • Douglas Kelly

    I’m happy to see your acknowledgment of the Libertarian “movement” in your newsletter. Being libertarian as such, it has soft edges unlike many political ideologies. As you know the general consensus of Libertarianism is smaller government and laisse faire treatment of citizens. It does have “liberal” and “conservative” segments, but they generally meet somewhere in the middle with few major differences. Both agree that government has become too large. Both agree that the central phenomenon of our present economy is a vanishing middle class. Both agree that government cannot solve our problems, but only makes them worse. Altogether, there is more we agree on than that we disagree on.

    I have to laugh when anyone includes remarks by Paul Krugman, a most daft and idiotic person. He identifies himself as an economist, but that means nothing in the real world. He is totally wrong about the Libertarian ideal of course, as he is about nearly everything else. Oh, except for Congress coining one billion dollar coins with which we could pay off the debt. The soundness of that idea puts him in a class all his own.

    To quote your article, “. . . Paul Krugman opined that libertarians are living in a “fantasy world.” He used as an example the call to replace the hodge-podge welfare system with a national guaranteed minimum income without a means test.”

    Fantasy world indeed. When a reputed and hollowed columnist with the NYT can only summon up one or two nonsensical ideas of others’ strangely reasoned comments, he is not to be taken seriously. I’m amazed that some do.

    We would all be better off not accepting the Grey Lady as the newspaper of record. I believe that myth has become the legend. When that happens we should return to the myth, or be done with it. Rational minds reject the notion, particularly out here in the vast fly-over where we see reality that those on the east side of the Hudson never see and know nothing about.

    I’m steadfastly libertarian as you may have guessed. I was shoved that way by the past twenty years of our governance in the United States. (Note that I draw a strong line between using the word “government” when I’m speaking of its “governance.” The words are not interchangeable.)

    I have alway held strong social and political attitudes, because the doings of those effecting these ideas also effect me. But there comes a time when one must adjust to political, social, and cultural changes occurring. My epiphany came during the Bush administration when things were done that actually changed our government, such as the Patriot Act. That was governance and government on a collision course and unfortunately the governance by won by creating the cognitive dissonance of fear vs safety in the minds of the citizens. Governance is an illusion. Our government is not.

    We have a country that is upside down and has been severely so since the needless and corrupt economic crash of 2007, and the needless and corrupt way it was and is being handled. Who would have thought that in a capitalist republic banks, or any business, would be bailed out of their self-made crisis? Too big to fail we were told. Not doing it would wreck the economy. I say if a bank is too big to fail it is too big to exist. But it was done and our economy was still wrecked.

    Those who we are told are handling it are not to be trusted again to solve the same problem they created originally. Most American citizens have little faith in our government, and that is sad because our government is not the problem. It’s our governance that is the problem.

    But with a 92% re-election rate of incumbents, we have little chance of anything changing. The status quo is all these presently serving members want to assure their continued life as elite rulers. They’ve become insanely corrupted by their power and the money that flows from it, so we can easily understand why they don’t want change and will not change. We libertarians fear the end game of this is fascism resulting in a new rendition of feudalism. Given the dynamics of our present course, there are few other alternative results.

    I hope you continue to speak about the libertarian movement. It needs a legitimating voice and it needs definition by comparison to other political constructs.

  • James

    It should come as no surprise that Krugman and other secular left defenders of the gluttonous monstrosity known as the federal government should find libertarianism so frightening. Oppressive taxation hangs like a millstone around the neck of our economy and the tentacles of over regulation choke off innovation and job creation.
    Please pass the message along to vote against all incumbents and career politicians until those who represent us in Washington get the message. The message is, of course, the same libertarian sentiment that founded our nation “Get the Government off our backs” and watch the miraculous blossoming of this great experiment in democracy into the shining city on the hill.

  • http://theobservanteye.com/ Ryan69

    The lefty Dems and the conservative Republicans have always used the drug legalization argument with Libertarians. I watched a debate years ago between a Libertarian congressional candidate and his Democrat opponent and a question about foreign policy was asked and the Dem morphed his answer to include her opponents stand on legalizing drugs. Makes no sense but that is standard practice and the MSM goes along with it.

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