In late 2017, there was an article published on currentaffairs.org referring to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro as “The Cool Kid’s Philosopher.” The article goes on to quote a New York Times piece crediting him with “dissecting arguments with a lawyer’s skill and references to Aristotle.” Is Shapiro the best we can get when it comes to logic based-philosophy? The short answer is no, but the question of who the true “Cool Kid’s Philosopher” is remains.
By John Keller | United States
In the current day, a critical midterm election is rapidly approaching. With this, a segment of the Democratic Party is claiming that only they care about the nation’s youth. This segment of the party is campaigning with their alleged care for the youth. But their promises of free college, free healthcare, and more only prove how little they really care.
Promises of billions, even trillions, in new spending for the youth beg a simple question. Just where will all of this money come from? Currently, the United States Treasury is bankrupt, with a debt of over $21 trillion. “Free” education and healthcare is only remotely possible in a stable economy, and holding a debt greater than our GDP is a guarantee at an economy that is too weak and too unstable for such programs.
Furthermore, the money for “free” programs must come from somewhere, meaning it comes from government revenue. Ultimately, this is a fancy term for the taxpayer’s back pocket. Currently, the United States has some of the highest tax rates in the world when factoring in city, county, state, and federal taxes.
In order for the Democratic Party’s “free” programs to work, the current entitlements, such as Medicare and Medicaid, require major revisions. As they hurtle towards bankruptcy, there is not much more room to tax people to fund them. In order to avoid this, it is necessary for the government to look at its wasted spending. Several members of Congress, such as Senator Rand Paul, have spoken out against it. In order to improve the United States Treasury and make any of the Democratic Party’s policies attainable, ending waste is a must.
However, the Democratic Party has no plan to lower the debt or rework spending in order to make their promises possible. Thus, any tangible Blue Wave will only put America’s treasury deeper in the red. A bigger debt with consistent votes for more spending simply pushes the issues down the road. This, of course, deepens the severity of issues that America’s youth must tackle. As taxes increase and services decay, America’s youth will take on the responsibility of this nation’s debt. But the cycle can end, in fact quite simply, by stopping this fall’s Blue Wave.
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Kenneth Casey | United States
Last Thursday, Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders introduced a resolution in the Senate that would according to him “accept the assessment of the United States intelligence community with regard to interference by the Russian Federation in our election”, “protect the election systems of the United States from interference by the Russian Federation”, “demand that the Sanctions enacted against the Russian Federation be fully implemented”, “will not accept interference with the ongoing investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller”, and “declares that the president must cooperate with the investigation”.
Rand Paul declared enthusiastic opposition to the resolution on the Senate floor, declaring “The hatred for the president is so intense, that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance”, citing President Reagan sitting down with Gorbachev to lessen nuclear tensions as a prime example. He made it clear he was not defending Russia’s involvement in our elections, but he would “rather that we still have open channels of discussion with the Russians”. Rand is echoing the position his father Ron Paul shares on sanctions and has been vocal on for many years: Sanctions are an act of war, and diplomacy is always much preferred.
You would think that Bernie being the anti-war progressive that he is would take a position similar to Rand’s, to prevent war at all cost with Russia and oppose the sanctions. Instead, he naively stated that his resolution had nothing to do with curtailing relations with Russia, which is factually incorrect considering his resolution calls for enforcement of sanctions against Russia, and sanctions are enacted in order to express displeasure with a country.
Bernie Sanders’s resolution and statements regarding Russia received criticism from well-known, highly-regarded progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski on Tuesday. Kyle, who is the host of Secular Talk on YouTube, an affiliate of the far-left online news organization The Young Turks, made a video on his YouTube channel regarding Paul’s and Sanders’ back and forth on the resolution, asserting “hope you’re sitting for this one, Rand Paul is right and Bernie is wrong.”, and goes on to point out the hypocrisy that Bernie openly admits the resolution increases sanctions, and “acts like that’s not an escalation of tensions”. He goes on to say Rand’s statement that this round of sanctions is “hyperbolic”, but that it’s “definitely the direction that it’s going in”, and criticizes the denseness in Bernie’s statement “Who’s against Diplomacy? Nobody is.” which was a response the Senator gave to Rand Paul when he pointed out the bill damages diplomacy. “Really Bernie? Really? You’re acting like there aren’t people who are against diplomacy when every time Trump sits down with Putin there are screams of he’s doing treason and he’s a traitor?”
Kyle is by no means a libertarian. He endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election, supports Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, protectionism in trade, and even helped with the founding of a group that was key to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory in New York. However, he’s been one of the few progressives to point out that Bernie is wrong on the issue of sanctions on Russia and it’s incompatible with the anti-war position held by progressives. He even went at it with The Young Turks founder and host Cenk Uygur on Twitter, stating Cenk was “prodding Trump to be more hawkish on Russia” after Cenk had complained that Trump noticeably used harsh language on Iran but not Russia.
Kyle has been one of the few commentators from the left that has not become convinced that Trump concluded with the Russians in the 2016 election, and thinks that Democrats should focus on actual issues rather than a talking point with zero policy substance. Although I disagree with Kyle on a lot of issues, I admire the fact he’s consistent with his principles and views on policy when so little few others do as such.
There’s no doubt that the “issue” of Russia interference in our election has been one of biggest talking points in the American political landscape ever since President Trump was elected in November of 2016. The dialogue regarding the issue arguably reached its apex in the aftermath of the 2018 Russia–United States summit in which President Trump met with President Putin of Russia, which occurred on July 16th.
Establishment Republicans and neoconservatives shared pretty much the same view as corporatist Democrats regarding Russia. They all want tougher action and less effort towards diplomacy. John McCain called it “One of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in my memory”. You can also take a recent bill introduced by neoconservative Lindsey Graham and corporatist Democrat Bob Menendez on the Senate floor as an example. The proposed bill would slap new sanctions onto Russia, targeting their “debt and energy and financial sectors”. Some notable senators to come out in favor of the bill include Republicans Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Mitch McConnell, and Democrat Chris Van Hollen.
This proposed bill would add onto the U.S. sanctions on Russia that overwhelmingly passed Congress in July of 2017 and was ultimately signed into law by President Trump (although he did send out a tweet in opposition to the sanctions in 2017, but even if he were to veto it, Congress had enough votes in favor to override the president’s veto). The bill only received five Nay votes in the Senate and House combined: 4 from libertarian-leaning Republicans Senator Rand Paul and Representatives Justin Amash, Thomas Massie and John Duncan; and one from an Independent Senator: Bernie Sanders.
Yes, the same Bernie Sanders that introduced a resolution in the Senate that would enforce the previously “overwhelmingly passed sanctions against Russia” was one of 5 Congressmen to vote against the sanctions in the first place. Welcome to Washington, folks.
In Bernie’s defense, he did say at the time of his vote against the sanctions he would support individual sanctions against Russia, but the thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that his reasoning for opposing the sanctions was it included additional sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and he thought that America should play a more “even-handed-approach” in the Middle East and be less reactionary in our policy towards Iran. Why doesn’t he apply the same logic towards Russian sanctions? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
With so little non-interventionist and anti-sanction advocates in Congress, it’s really good to see Rand Paul step up and be a leader on the issues.
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By Ryan Lau | @agorists
As a libertarian, it can be very difficult to find good examples of political figures to admire. Of course, very few public officials are members of the Libertarian Party, and the exceptions usually hold minor local positions. This creates a bit of a problem for libertarians, especially those of the next generation. Without a key figure to look up to, it can be very difficult for many youths to form their opinions.
In fact, it is entirely possible that the lack of libertarians in the country is perpetuated by a lack of clear examples to follow. Though the most informed will discover Hayek and Mises, the reality is that these names are foreign to a majority of people. Yet, names of current politicians are well-known.
What effect does this have on the youth? Simply put, it limits the ideas that they witness and process. If a mouse is fed nothing but cheese in its life, it may believe cheese to be the only food source. Yet, the mouse’s belief does nothing to actually cement itself into reality. It does, however, alter how the mouse perceives reality. In this manner, the nation’s adolescents are no different. If society teaches an adolescent that there is a one dimensional spectrum of ideas in politics, the second dimension will not cease to exist. But, it will not be in the youth’s brain in any way.
Thus, many are under the impression in America that only one dimension exists: left and right. One may either be a conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between. Of course, this could not be farther from the truth, but what reason do they have to doubt this? The fact of the matter is, there is no clear alternative in place. Blame the media. Blame government manipulation. Ultimately, however, the blame game needs to end. It is time for the libertarian movement to start acting proactively, not reactively.
Throughout much of the last two years, Governor Gary Johnson has focused on his Our America Initiative. The main objective is to make the country’s politics “fair” again, and end a bias against third parties. I do not question Johnson’s data on said bias, nor his intentions.
But, this simply is not the behavior of the leader of a new movement. Essentially, the governor is asking the government to treat him fairly, while accusing them of treating him unfairly. In his project, he makes no mention to his numerous embarrassing, televised gaffes during the 2016 election season, or his inability to raise enough money. Though the government does unfairly treat third parties, Johnson takes no responsibility for his own pitfalls, instead choosing to point the blame solely at anyone who can take it. He has successfully brought some more attention to the Libertarian Party, but Gary Johnson is not, and will not be, the next figurehead for libertarians.
If not Johnson, who else can fill the role? Some go so far as the Republican Party, claiming that Rand Paul should be the next leader of liberty. Conversely, he is a far worse choice. With his support for a federal income tax, as well as his vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, Paul shows that his true colors do not reside near liberty. Though he is better than most Republicans, the lesser of two evils is still evil. In fact, that very principle of not voting for a lesser evil is often the reason libertarians leave the major parties. It is absurd to think that now, they should throw their support behind a statist of a slightly lower degree.
Ruling out both of them, there simply are not many options left. Both Larry Sharpe and Austin Petersen are smart, respectable men with a desire for change. Yet, neither comes close to being well-known enough to make a national impact. Petersen, if he wins his Senate race, may have the potential to fill that gaping void. However, Josh Hawley may prove to be too difficult a primary opponent to defeat. Sharpe, on the other hand, appears even less likely to win his race for Governor of New York. Without a title, neither of these men are likely to gain the recognition needed to be the face of a movement.
We as a nation are at a turbulent time in politics. Approval ratings for both parties are at a record low, and desire for a third party is higher than ever before. Gary Johnson is correct with those statements. Yet, if libertarians wish to become a force in politics, with or without the aid of the Libertarian Party, they need a figurehead, someone who can inspire the masses. Ron Paul did exactly this, and did a great job of it, but he is well into his ninth decade and has retired from politics. We as a movement need a new viable leader, but alas, one does not seem to exist.
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By Kaihua Zhou | United States
Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, extolled the virtues of the free market and individual liberty. Conservatives such as Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Ted Cruz are on record as admirers of her literature. To liberals, Rand personifies their anxieties: unbridled selfishness oppressing the weak. In reality, Rand’s vision, while extraordinary in its scope, possesses its limitations. Perhaps the greatest limitation is its conception of faith and love.
In a 1959 interview with Mike Wallace, Rand posits the following:
I am primarily the creator of a new code of morality which has so far been believed impossible. Namely, a morality not based on faith, not on arbitrary whim, not on emotion, not on arbitrary edict, mystical or social, but on reason…
I’m challenging the moral code of altruism. The precept that man’s moral duty is to live for others. That man must sacrifice himself to others.
Such sentiments fell dramatically outside mainstream thought in 1959, and they remain so today. It is for this precise cause that Rand remains so controversial.
Rand’s view has a degree of merit. If taken to an extreme, selflessness can father oppression. One need only recall their terrors of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and Pol Pot’s Cambodia to see the consequences of collectivism. When states determine that their citizens live only for the sake of advancing their cause, tragedies occur.
However, Rand’s counter-proposal can lead to its own pitfalls. To quote again from the 1959 interview,
You don’t love everybody indiscriminately. You love only those who deserve it.
Instead of altruism, Objectivists hold that one must love conditionally. This begs the question: who deserves love? Does a captured enemy combatant “deserve” it? Do individuals struggling with substance abuse “deserve” love? What about unrepentant criminals? Within society, there is a spectrum of moral qualities. Consequently, individuals vary in their ability to contribute to society. It is fair to say not all are equally worthy of love, but even so, all possess human dignity and are entitled to certain liberties. With that dignity comes moral obligation, and a degree of unconditional love. Such is the faith-based morality that Rand deplores.
In a strictly Judeo-Christian context, the Holy Bible records multiple examples of this. In both the Old and New Testaments, moral failures are repeatedly condemned. David referred to Goliath as an “uncircumcised Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:26) and Christ had no qualms challenging the corrupt, referring to Harold as a “fox” ( Luke 13:32). These are powerful examples of recognizing evil. Even so, the testaments also proclaim imago dei, an equality among God’s children. Thus, they all deserve a degree of love. Malachi 2:10 states that ” Have we not all one father? have not one God created us?”. Similarly, Christ commanded his disciples to forgive their trespassers and to love one another ( Matthew 6:14-15, John 15:19). Thus a faith-based morality can recognize faults in character, while maintaining that there are universal moral obligations.
To be absolutely clear, this is not equivalent to blind naiveté. A prosecutor, for example, can recognize the villainy of a crime lord, while respecting a defendant’s rights. Nor does the idea require collectivism. Citizens can fulfill their moral duty without being forced by the state to do so. Rand was right to praise the freedoms of individuals. Where she erred was failing to see the subtleties of love and faith.