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Fight climate change
Stop subsidizing fossil fuels
The answer, shockingly, is government intervention.
Fossil fuels in the United States are subsidized in many ways, some obvious and others hidden. First, we spend tens of billions of dollars a year directly propping up the prices of the coal and oil industries, keeping production, mining, shipping, and distribution afloat. The states purpose of these direct subsidies is to protect jobs. Essentially, these subsidies amount to a transfer of wealth from most of the country to participants in the fossil fuel industry–production companies and their employees. While the economic well-being of our citizens is indeed a noble goal, these transfers are inefficient; we are actually hurting our nation’s economy as a whole by taxing the country at large in order to make monthly payments to a small percentage of the population, especially when that population is engaged in undesirable and inefficient activity.
Indirect subsidies are even greater. We spend trillions of dollars on our military, directing much of that force toward protecting our interests overseas (which very often means our fossil fuel interests). We say we’re “making the world safe for democracy,” but do we really mean that we’re making the world safe for the internal combustion engine?
Our states and cities spend billions building and maintaining roads, which amounts to a transfer of wealth from people who don’t rely on roads to those who do. This amounts to an enormous subsidy to automobile producers–you’ve already paid for the road, the police, the stoplights, and for half of the gasoline, so you might as well buy the car. These subsidies prevent innovation of cleaner, more efficient transportation.
Energy producers are also protected by state-sponsored monopoly power, thus distorting prices even further. More on that later.
Our health care industry spends billions to combat health issues that arise from fossil fuel usage. This money could be saved (and everyone’s healthcare costs lowered significantly) if the U.S. government would simply step aside and let new technology flourish.
Some might ask, how does the government know when a technology is becoming obsolete? How do we predict the course of innovation? The beautiful answer is: we don’t have to. As new technologies arise, they naturally replace old ones, without the need for government intervention. The crowd-sourced, market-based competitive systems already in place are much more efficient and accurate than government action. It’s just up to the government to get out of the way.
When a technology becomes obsolete, it’s time to let it go. Where would we be today if our federal government were still propping up the rotary phone?
Stop building pipelines
Stop building walls
Step 1: Completely deregulate immigration. If a peaceful individual wishes to move here, let them. What gives us the right to decide who may and may not live within our borders? Market forces are currently calling for more immigrants than we are allowing, which is creating inefficiency and hurting our economy. By limiting immigration, we are creating a permanent and unhealthy market distortion.
Step 2: Eliminate the income tax and the minimum wage. Tax- and labor law-evasion are currently major drivers of illegal employment (and therefore illegal immigration). Without these factors, immigrants would be on a much more equal footing with citizens and economic immigration pressure would decrease.
Step 3: Provide a path to citizenship for all immigrants. If you live here for ten years and renounce your foreign allegiance, you should be allowed to formally join our nation as a full citizen.
Reform our criminal justice system
This is the result of an overreaching and often tyrannical criminal justice system still stuck in “tough on crime” policies that are demonstrably ineffective or even counterproductive. A good first step would be to treat drug addiction as a health and economic disorder, rather than as a crime. Drug addiction is much less expensive to treat than to punish.
We also support disarming most domestic law enforcement. Modern, firearm-free police forces are in the best interest of the citizens they are trusted to serve, and we support efforts by states and localities to unilaterally remove guns from the streets in this way.
Foster peaceful relations
Even with the best intentions, we have failed repeatedly to protect people from their own governments. We have failed to accurately pick winners and losers in foreign conflicts, and our material support has often killed as many civilians and innocents as “enemy” combatants. From Vietnam to Afghanistan to the Middle East, we almost always cause more harm than good when we send our military to fight foreign oppression.
There are times when war may be necessary: when the United States or our military allies are truly threatened. In this case, it is up to Congress to declare war and up to the country to fully mobilize. But mobilizing our military to police foreign conflicts where the motives, outcomes, and even participants are unclear will always lead to tragedy.
So how can we reach out to the oppressed, abused, and enslaved? Sometimes, we can help by sending food and doctors (or by supporting organizations like the International Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontieres). Sometimes, we can help by welcoming and caring for refugees of foreign conflicts. Sometimes, we can help by simply providing for poor countries a path out of poverty through the free exchange of goods, services, and ideas. Affluent populations with greater access to information are more able to resist tyranny on their own, and when they do, there’s a greater chance they will be friendly to the United States than if we tried to “help” them by dropping bombs on their villages.
We can foster world peace by being peaceful ourselves, and we can foster world health and economic stability by freely trading with the world. Long-term economic growth is not caused by infrastructure or by investment, it is engendered by technology and trade.
Decrease military spending
Phase out Social Security
Eliminate trade barriers
Free our education system
Rather than construct their own schools, hire and train teachers, decide on curricula and administer standardized tests to determine the worth of students, state and local governments should simply give education dollars directly to students, allowing them to spend it on the schools of their choice. Public schools could still exist, but they would exist in free competition with private schools.
Public schools currently benefit from state-sponsored monopoly status–in fact, they are the single largest and most destructive monopoly in the nation. If parents want to send their children to a free school, they have no choice but to send them to the schools assigned by their local or state governments. This historically has led to major imbalances in funding and success levels of public schools, since typically they are funded in large part by property taxes. Poorer families, raising children in poorer areas, are forced to send their children to poorer schools. This unfair reality has led to a powerful and, for many, inescapable cycle of poverty dating back generations.
By freeing families to send their children to any nearby school, public or private, we empower them to break the chains of multigenerational segregation and empower students to seek out educations that will allow them to achieve their full potentials.
It is well known that schoolteachers (particularly public schoolteachers) have one of the most difficult and undercompensated jobs in the United States. Why must this be so? In other industries, dissatisfied employees are free to leave, seeking employment from a competitor who is willing to treat them as they deserve. In the public school monopoly, however, teachers are trapped, unable to meaningfully negotiate. A free education system would reward hard-working teachers with the better jobs they deserve.
It has been argued that a free education system (known by some as “school vouchers”) would harm existing schools, with the thinking being that “our schools are struggling; we need to save them. Funneling students elsewhere would be taking dollars away from the failing schools that desperately need the funding.” However, we must remember that the purpose of the education system is not to support schools (which are, after all, just buildings), but rather to support students and teachers. In other words, a school is wherever teachers and students come together to teach and learn. If a student leaves a school to find a better education elsewhere, or if a teacher leaves a school for a better job elsewhere, then both are better off, and society is better off as a result.
Protect civil rights
The first is morality. We have decided as a nation that allowing the injured and sick to suffer when we have the resources to help them is immoral, even if they cannot pay. Thence arises a major dilemma–people know that, even if they choose not to pay for their own healthcare, they will always be protected by our moral safety net. This leads to major market distortions, where hospitals and insurance providers have to overcharge paying customers in order to be able to afford to tend to those who cannot (or will not) pay.
Another, perhaps more important distortion is positive health care externalities. If we keep people healthy, they will be more productive and peaceful, limiting the spread of disease and helping everyone else lead better lives.
These market failures are real and very powerful. Various market-governmental hybrid solutions have been proposed and tested, but we believe that a system of national health care, while imperfect and inefficient, would be the best option in the end.