Tag: Populism

A Populist Battle in the 2020 Election

Jack Parkos | @Laissez_Faire76

As of now, there are 18 Democrats running for the primaries in the 2020 election. Furthermore, Bill Weld has announced that he will challenge Trump in 2020. Although it’s early, it appears that the big candidates for the election are Donald Trump for the Republicans and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats. Both Trump and Sanders have been labeled as “radical” and “anti-establishment” by many in the “establishment”.  The establishment, which, is dying. The old politics of neoliberalism and neoconservatism are being replaced by a new generation. This generation is embracing a new ideology-populism. This is happening on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

Continue reading “A Populist Battle in the 2020 Election”


Progressives Are Not for the Common Man

Jack Parkos | United States

Americans believe a lot about the political parties in America; that the right supports gun rights and the left does not, that conservatives support small government and liberals big government, for examples. We also hear that progressives stand for the working and middle class while the right is elitist. However, it’s not as easy as that to explain.

Progressives: Not for the Common Man

Do progressives really support the working class? It may appear so, as they boast with other populists about supporting the common man. Their policies, on the other hand, do not always represent this. Free healthcare and college may seem to be for the common person until he or she realizes that these policies only raise taxes and prices, which overwhelmingly hurts the middle class.

Furthermore, this break from expectation is evident in immigration policy. When figures on the right criticize illegal immigration, many progressives respond by saying how it brings cheap labor. But this directly hurts the blue collar worker. During his campaign, Trump made it a key point in his election that these policies hurt African-Americans, Hispanics, and the working class as a whole. Why don’t the so-called pro-working class left agree? It is harder for the uneducated to find work if illegal immigrants who work for less than minimum wage come into the country. It thus would appear logical for progressives to support stronger border security.

In fact, this logic used to hold true in the Democratic Party, which used to support strong borders. In a State of the Union address, Bill Clinton clearly stated the following:

“We are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”

The party position has changed drastically in recent years. During this time, the party became more focused on social equality.

Further Hypocrisy

Progressive hypocrisy also applies to the movement’s general opinions towards Apple. The massive tech company has seemingly taken over society, but Apple’s manufacturing plants in China have some of the poorest conditions in the world. The wages are terrible, but you don’t hear progressive outrage to boycott Apple. Instead, many will boycott Chik-Fil-A because its owners believe in traditional marriage.

There’s a reason more progressives aren’t boycotting Apple: the company has secured their futures. Tucker Carlson compares it to buying indulgences. Apple can commit their sins, but won’t face punishment because of their liberal CEO and board members. Nobody is mad that Facebooks spies on us and collects data because Mark Zuckerberg is not a fan of Trump and bans right-wing pages.

Many progressives often criticize libertarians for being only for “the rich.” Given this was true, why do the 1% vote Democratic or Republican? Libertarians don’t want to tax the middle class out of oblivion. Libertarians don’t want to harm small businesses with regulations they do not have the ability to follow. Furthermore, they never advocate for taxing the people who pay salaries for workers. The major parties, particularly not the progressive left, simply do not profess these beneficial policies.

The left cares little about the middle class, working class, or even the upper-middle class. Rather, they often are advocating for a utopia of government overreach that will hurt the common man.

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How Murray Rothbard Helped in Creating Trump

By Jack Parkos | United States

In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States with his rising movement of “right-wing populism”. Right-wing populism is a moment based on putting the “average man” and nation first. Many key tenants include opposition to elitism, mass immigration, social spending, and globalism. Though Trump has been the most successful with his movement, he was not the first right-wing populist.

The Beliefs of Right-Wing Populism

l. Slash Taxes. All taxes, sales, business, property, etc., but especially the most oppressive politically and personally: the income tax. We must work toward repeal of the income tax and abolition of the IRS.

2. Slash Welfare. Get rid of underclass rule by abolishing the welfare system, or, short of abolition, severely cutting and restricting it.

3. Abolish Racial or Group Privileges. Abolish affirmative action, set aside racial quotas, etc., and point out that the root of such quotas is the entire “civil rights” structure, which tramples on the property rights of every American.

4. Take Back the Streets: Crush Criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not “white collar criminals” or “inside traders” but violent street criminals – robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error.

5. Take Back the Streets: Get Rid of the Bums. Again: unleash the cops to clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares? Hopefully, they will disappear, that is, move from the ranks of the petted and cosseted bum class to the ranks of the productive members of society.

6. Abolish the Fed; Attack the Banksters. Money and banking are recondite issues. But the realities can be made vivid: the Fed is an organized cartel of banksters, who are creating inflation, ripping off the public, destroying the savings of the average American. The hundreds of billions of taxpayer handouts to S&L banksters will be chicken-feed compared to the coming collapse of the commercial banks.

7. America First. A key point, and not meant to be seventh in priority. The American economy is not only in recession; it is stagnating. The average family is worse off now than it was two decades ago. Come home America. Stop supporting bums abroad. Stop all foreign aid, which is aid to banksters and their bonds and their export industries. Stop gloabaloney, and let’s solve our problems at home.

8. Defend Family Values. Which means, get the State out of the family, and replace State control with parental control. In the long run, this means ending public schools, and replacing them with private schools. But we must realize that voucher and even tax credit schemes are not, despite Milton Friedman, transitional demands on the path to privatized education; instead, they will make matters worse by fastening government control more totally upon the private schools. Within the sound alternative is decentralization, and back to local, community neighborhood control of the schools.

These statements sound extremely blunt and to the point. “America First”, unleashing the cops on criminals and “bums”, and slashing welfare. One may think this sounds like President Donald Trump. Indeed it does draw parallels to Trump’s platform, as Trump spoke much of clearing the streets, slashing taxes, and especially putting America first. However, Trump is not the pioneer of this movement

Murray Rothbard and Populism

In fact, it was anarcho-capitalist philosopher Murray Rothbard who wrote this in his essay entitled “Right-Wing Populism.” In the 1990s, Rothbard began his “Paleo strategy”, creating paleo-libertarianism. This movement attempted to create a right-wing populist libertarian coalition to take down the political elites.

This began when the conservative movement split into two groups: the “old right” as Rothbard stated, who were isolationist, and the neoconservative Warhawks. Rothbard, who was sick of the libertarian movement’s progressivism, decided that the former was the best option. Rothbard himself held socially conservative views and began his support for paleoconservative Pat Buchanan. With his help from Buchanan, the Paleo movement (right-wing populist movement ) was born. (During this time, Rothbard was also an avid supporter of Ron Paul).

Rothbard died in 1995, and with him, his right-wing populist movement. The neoconservatives and social democrats that he feared started to win offices. However, in this past election, a man was elected that Rothbard might have dreamed of. This man was Donald Trump. To quote Rothbard:

“And so the proper strategy for the right wing must be what we can call “right-wing populism”: exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses, but the often-shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well. And in this era where the intellectual and media elites are all establishment liberal-conservatives, all in a deep sense one variety or another of social democrat, all bitterly hostile to a genuine Right, we need a dynamic, charismatic leader who has the ability to short-circuit the media elites, and to reach and rouse the masses directly. We need a leadership that can reach the masses and cut through the crippling and distorting hermeneutical fog spread by the media elites.”

Trump’s Populist Movement

At the time, this leader was Pat Buchanan. However, this leader is now Donald Trump, who is dynamic, charismatic, and has attacked the media elites plenty of times was the perfect man for Rothbard’s strategy. Rothbard would have loved Donald Trump and likely would have endorsed him in 2016.

Indeed, Donald Trump’s movement can be seen as Rothbard and Buchanan’s movement rising from the dead. Trump has been compared to Buchanan and has even quoted him in tweets. Furthermore, paleolibertarians such as Lew Rockwell (who also played a role in Rothbard’s movement), Walter Block, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe have shown some sympathy to the Trump movement, although they are not undying loyalists to his cause.

The parallels are very similar. Both of the movements do have a big theme of “America first” with an opposition to neoconservatives and globalism. Furthermore, both Buchanan and Trump were promoters of tariffs (although the libertarians were opposed to this). Trump’s views on immigration are similar to those of Buchanan and Rothbard. Moreover, the movements were tough on crime, progressivism, elitism, and the mainstream media.

Rothbard did not ideally want a state. However, he did have a pragmatic view of a decentralized state with less bureaucratic elites and less war. Although it took time, the 2016 election was a movement that was started by Rothbard and Buchanan two decades ago, and it has finally emerged.

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Conservatives Must Move Past Donald Trump

By Shiam Kannan | United States

Since his inauguration in 2016, President Donald Trump has governed rather conservatively with bona fides such as last year’s tax bill and the nomination of two originalist justices to the Supreme Court. This has proven popular with conservative voters, and has brought previously skeptical conservative politicians, such as conservative Senator Mike Lee, to see the President in a much more favorable light. Nonetheless, the cold, hard truth remains: Trump cannot be the future of the conservative movement, and American conservatism must move beyond him in order to preserve the values upon which the ideology rests. This may be shocking to hear for many conservatives, given Trump’s record of governance so far. However, when analyzing his effect on conservatism, we cannot only look at his actions as President; rather, we must also take into account his effect on the movement as a whole.

The Redefining of Conservatism

Perhaps the biggest danger Trump poses to American conservatism is the fact that he seeks to redefine it. Conservatism, in the American sense, is built around a core of classical liberalism in the Lockean tradition. It emphasizes natural rights, limited government, and exalts individual liberty above all, while simultaneously recognizing that liberty without moral order is not liberty at all. Put simply, conservatism is merely libertarianism augmented with social traditionalism. Promulgated by such prominent figures as William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Russell Kirk, and eventually Ronald Reagan, this marriage of social conservatism and libertarian governance, known as “fusionism,” has been the dominant strain of conservative belief in the United States—until now.

In the Trump era, the American right has been taken in a much different direction, embracing populism over ideology and abandoning many of its libertarian roots. Trump’s demagoguery, vitriolic attacks on the American media, troubled relationship with the truth, lack of humility or restraint, and blustering rhetoric all point towards the same conclusion: Trump is no conservative. He is merely the face of a tumor on American conservatism which has managed to hijack the movement, one which values style over substance and has no philosophy, no ideology, and no guiding worldview whatsoever.

The Lack of a Conservative Foreign Policy

Nowhere is Trump’s lack of a conservative worldview more clearly seen than in foreign policy. The most prominent issue that comes to mind is his trade policy. Trump has openly embraced protectionism, which is antithetical to the conservative belief in limited government and free markets. His misguided belief that trade is a zero-sum game is more in line with the beliefs of Bernie Sanders than those of, say, Ronald Reagan. His trade wars, not only with China but also with allies such as Canada, are an affront to the conservative philosophy, which embraces strong alliances and open trade with allies.

However, it is not only in trade policy where Trump flouts conservative orthodoxy. For all his talk of nationalism and his attacks on kneeling NFL players, Trump himself doesn’t seem like he believes in American exceptionalism. Indeed, he has no problem morally equating America with de-facto dictatorships such as Russia. For example, when asked by Bill O’Reilly why he supported Putin despite him being a “killer,” Trump’s reply was shocking: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” Clearly, these don’t seem like the words of someone who believes that America is a shining city upon a hill, a cornerstone of conservative philosophy.

Trump also rejects conservative principles when it comes to international relations, embracing isolationism over principled leadership. A healthy nationalism, which inspires the people to take pride in their nation, is a good thing and is something conservatives should strive to promote. On the other hand, Trump’s brand of neo-isolationism, masquerading as nationalism, is un-conservative, as it denies a role for American leadership in the world. Instead of affirming America’s unique status as leader of the free world, Trump has turned his back on our allies, even going so far as threatening to pull out of NATO. Trump’s strained relationships with Western leaders, such as Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Emmanuel Macron, only further emphasize how he is contributing to the estrangement of the United States from the world around it.

This is not to say that Trump should embrace liberal internationalism, give up on his support for American sovereignty, and promote an interventionist foreign policy. But foreign policy isn’t a binary choice. A conservative foreign policy would assert American leadership on the world stage, strengthening bonds with Western powers and maintaining the trust of our allies, while at the same time being skeptical of unnecessary intervention and defending American sovereignty from entities such as the UN. After all, conservatism is the politics of realism, whereas both unbridled interventionism and isolationism are utopian ideologies: the former in its belief that American militarism can solve all the problems in the world, and the latter in its belief that the world can maintain order, stability, and a balance of power without American leadership.

The Lack of a Conservative Domestic Policy

On the domestic front, Trump has fared rather well on policy, but yet again, has failed on principle. While Trump is responsible for many conservative victories, like the tax cuts passed back in 2017, the way he has gone about pursuing other policy objectives, especially regarding immigration, are not conservative in the least. A conservative President would recognize his Constitutional limitations and defer to the Constitution’s mandate of separation of powers. Trump, however, does the opposite. For example, despite lambasting former President Obama for his liberal use of executive orders to circumvent Congress, Trump has had no qualms about using executive power to advance his own goals. Recently, Trump attempted to unilaterally change the rules for obtaining asylum in the United States, barring illegal immigrants from making asylum claims. While it is certainly both reasonable and conservative to ensure that people seeking asylum enter properly at ports of entry, we cannot forget that Trump is not king, and thus does not have unchecked power to make the law whatever he wants it to be. It is the job of Congress, as per Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution, to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and if Trump were truly a conservative, he would respect Congress’s authority as America’s sole legislative body, and pressure them to pass the immigration laws he supports, instead of abusing the powers of his office.

If Trumpism cannot be the guiding philosophy of the future of American conservatism, then what can? Who will the torch-bearer be? We have many options. It could be Rand Paul, the stalwart defender of the Bill of Rights and unwavering fiscal hawk. It could be Ben Sasse, one of the few Republican Senators who are willing to stand up to Donald Trump. It could even be figures such as Ben Shapiro, who are spreading principled conservatism to a millennial audience. There are many principled Republicans who could run for President in 2024, or even 2020 (if we’re lucky), who could take the mantle of the GOP and restore it to being the party of individual freedom, American exceptionalism, constitutionalism, limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility which it has been for most of its history. However, Donald Trump is not one of them, and if we want conservatism to remain a prominent force in American politics, we must reject him as its standard-bearer.

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Populism and Elitism: Two Sides of an Evil Sword

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In American politics, we often see the switch between populism and elitism. In the 1890s, for example, the People’s Party took the nation by storm. Many of their policies, from the direct election of senators to a shorter workweek, eventually went into effect.

Not long after, Woodrow Wilson came into office. At this point, the pendulum of politics swung toward elitism, with resegregation and Wilson’s own attitude of superiority following WWI taking a hold. But of course, what swings in one direction must come back.

The McCarthy era saw a quick snap back to populism, though this time, it was of the right wing. Presidents Johnson and Nixon followed suit. A few decades later, the focus shifted back to the elite in the Bush/Clinton era. Now, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have reignited the populist flares of both sides. Like left and right, populism and elitism run, always opposed and never in control for too long. But do either of them have any merits?

Elitism: The Ultimate Gamble

A system that practices elitism has a fairly small number of people making most of the decisions. In a sense, it suggests that people are not properly equipped to decide many things for themselves. Instead, those who are most qualified and specialized should make more important decisions. For example, an elitist is more likely to support the appointment, rather than election, of senators. They believe in reduced importance and role of the people.

Without a doubt, elitism opens itself up to a number of problems. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that a monarch in elitist country X makes most or all of the policy decisions. The people have little to no power and can’t vote for a new leader if they don’t like this one.

Three possibilities occur here. First, the leader may, as an expert, do a good job fulfilling the needs of the populace without harming them. Second, he or she may do a poor job in doing so. Third, it is possible (and even likely) that some combination of these previous two outcomes happens.

The Benign Elitist

In the first situation, the leader of country X knows what is best for all of his or her people, and makes decisions that make them happy. Yet such a feat would require a superhuman ability to please. The simple fact of the matter is that no leader can adequately know what is truly best for everyone. The second he or she makes a decision that helps most people, others may see harms.

There are far too many people in any country to make them all happy. Thus, it is impossible for any elitist ruler to do so; the idea is a contradiction. Different people have different needs, and no leader can wave a wand and meet them all. The individuals themselves are far more likely to make these decisions best. After all, they have a vested interest in the situation. For instance, imagine a trial lawyer trying to determine whether to take a risky case. Though his financial advisor may be rich, powerful, and brilliant, he alone truly knows the case; hence, he is the best person to make a final decision about it.

On the contrary, some may state that elitism is necessary for certain functions of life. A baseball coach, for instance, is far more useful than a novice player in teaching how to swing the bat. But politics is not a sport. The swinging of a bat harms nobody unless the player decides not to grip it well. Unfortunately, politics does not work in this manner, and the decisions have much greater impacts. Moreover, political events affect individuals in ways that no elitist can truly understand without being involved. Due to the size of an elite, though, it is almost impossible for them to have knowledge of all people’s needs.

Hit or Miss

Alternatively, elitism offers the possibility that the leader in charge does not satisfy the peoples’ needs. In this case, the power that an elite has can lead to dangerous consequences. Tyranny grows even faster when all of the people in power share it. Without any strong resistance from other people in power, there is not much short of a revolution to stop an unjust elite.

Even if the leader violates the laws of logic and makes truly everyone happy, there is no guarantee that he or she will continue to do so. Moreover, a term of rule is never permanent, and future rulers are unlikely to carry on an identical legacy as past ones. Even if a ruler pleased absolutely everyone, the successor, more than likely, would not.

Thus, it appears that elitism is not an adequate way to promote good. The elitist cannot be truly good, for there are too many people to tend to; it is impossible to do so for all of them. When he or she is bad, the consequences are far too dire. We must not entrust power to those who will be unseeing at best and despotic at worst.

Populism: Lukewarm Water

Populism, on the other hand, gives a far greater role to the people. As stated previously, they tend to support more policies that reflect the desire of the majority, which usually is the working and middle classes. For example, they may strongly support unions and oppose giving government elites too much power. This does not, however, necessarily mean they support smaller government, as many populists support a strongly graduated income tax and high tariffs.

Populism and elitism both are ridden with issues, but a particular one is unique to populism; so many people are in the decision-making processes that the voices of legitimate experts are weak. Populism is more likely to be democratic and give strong favor to the majority. And if the majority is wrong? Tough luck, it isn’t the will of the people.

Despite its prevalence on both the left and the right, populism generally limits the realm of acceptable thought. As masses of people must approve policies before they go into action, it is hard for an individual with an innovative idea to further it. Majorities are often wrong, as are elites.

The Moderating Effect

Imagine that 10 people in a room of 30 are fascists. 10 more are standard American liberals and conservatives, but the last 10 people are anarchists. In a populist system, each opinion receives equal weight, and those that do not have the support of the people will falter. In this case, the ten fascists will not see much support from the other 20. So, it is safe to say that populism has a moderating effect on tyranny. In an elitist system, if the one or few in charge is or are fascist, then fascist policies will rule. A populist system, however, can quench the fires of extreme tyranny.

Yet, this same effect happens on ideas of liberty. The 10 anarchists, under populism, are not going to receive support from the 20 who do believe in a state. Similarly, populism has a moderating effect on liberty, preventing true freedom from ever occurring. Where elitism takes a gamble, populism removes both the risk and the reward. In place, there is only a system of lukewarm moderation, in which no forms of true liberty are likely to exist.

Majority Rule

As stated above, people have drastically differing needs. An elite leader may or may not attempt to make them all happy. The populists, on the contrary, are far more likely to do so. But is this a good thing?

If ten people believe in a free society that benefits all, but fifty people propose a notion that they believe will benefit the people (as the majority, whatever they believe will benefit them will benefit the most people in a disagreement), then the fifty, however right or wrong they are, will take precedence. Generally, populism, like democracy, places tremendous importance on the people are stresses equal say.

On the other hand, if the roles are switched, the fifty people in favor of liberty will see their idea gain more momentum. However, this is not due to the merits of the idea itself, but simply due to a majority holding the opinion and the majority can certainly be wrong.

In fact, most Americans do not even know the basic functions of their own government. In a recent poll, 37 percent of Americans could not name a First Amendment right. 74 percent could not name the branches of government and more than half said that illegal immigrants have no Constitutional rights. Are these really the people that should be making the decisions that affect us all?

Populism and Elitism: Shared Faults

Populism and elitism, without a doubt, differ considerably in their means and implementations. Also, they have some distinctly different flaws. Despite this, there is a key piece that the two ideas have in common; they both suggest that others can and should forcibly make decisions for you.

In a situation in which you are not the expert, it is wise to allow one to step in. On the contrary, it can be beneficial to take a poll of many other perspectives to see the merits of an idea. Yet, populism and elitism do both of these things by force, imposing them through the will of the government onto the people. In neither case is anyone really free, with the possible exception of the rulers in an elitist system.

The court case example from above applies to populism as well. There is nothing necessarily different about a majority and an elite. Both may have good intentions and be correct. But, both may also have wicked intentions or be incorrect (or both). For this reason, it is highly irresponsible to give the power of decision-making to anyone but the individual. In most cases, the individual is the most capable of making his or her own choices. Exceptions certainly exist, but nothing is stopping people from choosing to seek the opinions of majorities or experts. But overreliance on one, the other, or both is a road to disaster. We must, in order for a free society to prosper, allow each of us to make our own choices. Populism and elitism simply are not compatible with this idea.

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