Former Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld announced today he is running for president against Donald Trump, hoping to secure the Republican nomination.
Jack Shields | United States
Ben Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Indeed, since civilization formed, they have been a part of life. Today, taxes are everywhere: we have income, sales, and estate taxes, tariffs, and many more.
Despite most people thinking they pay enough or more than their share, many are quite happy to raise taxes on others in the name of ‘paying their fair share.’ And now, with the Democrats in control of the House Representatives, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already proposing a top rate of 70% to fund her radical agenda.
Which Form of Taxation is Best?
It is important to note that after the Trump tax cuts, the Feds collected a record amount of revenue. Moreover, the 1% who supposedly don’t pay their fair share already contribute 43% of the collected revenue. Meanwhile, the top 20% contribute 87% of the total income tax revenue. Rightfully, some conservatives and most libertarians despise the current state of high taxes. Because of this, Republican administrations and red states have slashed them when they had the opportunity. But in their noble goal, they have neglected the fairest one of them all.
When examining which taxation method is best, the valid questions of whether there should there be taxation or should the government be spending this much are irrelevant. As of right now, there is spending and there is taxation. I will give neither justification nor disapproval for either. Rather, I will present the best possible situation in the status quo by examining all possible taxes. Obviously, we may need some other forms of taxation to fund all our spending, but we should still strive towards the most moral system possible.
Property Tax: Immoral and Harmful
Perhaps the most popular alternative method for red states without an income tax, such as Texas, is the Real Property Tax, a tax on real estate. In principle, a property tax may be on any good someone owns, not necessarily just land. This is immoral in principle and detrimental in practice. One of the most important rights an individual can have is the right to property and the fruit of one’s labor.
Placing a tax unrelated to the actual acquiring of such property effectively makes it not your property. Rather, the government owns it and you may rent it as long as you can pay for it. As soon you are unable to, you must give it back up to those who really own it.
If you work your entire life to pay for something, it ought to be yours entirely. When the transaction is complete, the government should not be involved, save cases of illegal misuse and other abnormal instances. No government should allow itself to take property that you worked hard to attain.
Tariffs and the Sales Tax
Among the protectionists of the Republican party such as President Trump, tariffs have been supported. Tariffs, however, act essentially as just another tax against the American people. They make better products cost more and lose us thousands of jobs.
Economically, they are a complete disaster. Free trade, which requires no tariffs, is the best way to improve the lives of Americans. Any economic system which places protecting the worker over pleasing the consumer is doomed to fail, and tariffs are a means by which protectionists hope to achieve their flawed economic system, and they should receive support.
The sales tax is also a popular idea among conservatives and libertarians as a way to get rid of the income tax. On the surface, this is a very appealing option. No income tax. No IRS. Seems quite nice. However, the problem is this is regressive and unfairly impacts the poor.
Take two individuals that live in a city with a 5% sales tax. Person A makes $20,000 a year and Person B makes $100,000. Person A has to spend all of their $20,000, essentially giving them an income tax of 5%. But Person B spends $80,000 of their $100,000, saving the rest. This effectively gives them a rate of 4%, as they pay nothing on what they saved. We should strive for the fairest rate and the regressive sales tax is not the best choice.
Taxes that Unfairly Harm the Rich
Just as we shouldn’t have a system that unfairly harms the poor, we should not have a system that harms the rich. But unfortunately, this idea is quite popular in two very immoral ways. The first of these is the estate tax, perhaps the most immoral one out there. The idea that when someone dies, the government gets to go in and take some of their stuff, is truly horrifying. It is one thing to tax someone as they earn income or are in the middle of a transaction. The idea, though, that a death initiates a need to take from the family is just wrong.
One of the biggest incentives for earning is to care for your family. One of the marks of a truly successful life, at least from an economic perspective, is having your family be financially prosperous because of you, even when you are long gone. The fact that this only targets the richest of the rich is irrelevant when looking at it from a moral perspective. When someone dies, there is no moral reason to go in and take their stuff.
The Progressive Income Tax
The next favorite policy against the rich is the progressive income tax. The idea, of course, is that as you make more money, you can afford to lose more of your income. There are already a plethora of economic reasons why this is a terrible idea, and Thomas Sowell writes particularly well on the issue. The economic side has already seen lengthy discussion.
However, just as with the estate tax, the immorality of the system has seen little public examination. If an individual obeys the law and earns a sizable income, what right do you have to use the government to steal the money and use it for your own ideas? The idea that these rich people are evil and have no idea how to help people with their money is just wrong. Practically, do you really think Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi are smarter with money than Bill Gates, who is using his billions to cure AIDS, or LeBron James, who is using his millions to send underprivileged kids to college? Of course not.
Morally, if your neighbor disapproved of the way you spent your money so he took 70% of it and spent it how he wished, we’d call it stealing (rightfully so). When the government does it, it is still stealing and still wrong. The point of taxation is to give the government a stream of revenue to properly execute its powers. If at any point taxation deviates from this goal in the name of any other, it is immoral. Surely, this is the poster child for this immoral practice.
Its Cousin: Sin Taxes
Special taxes against things which present a supposed moral problem such as alcohol or marijuana (sin tax) are essentially the cousin of the progressive income tax and are just as immoral. Taxing something, whether it be a whiskey tax or carbon tax, is just another way to legislate morality. Just like the progressive tax, this deviates from the goal of bringing in revenue.
The Flat Tax: The Most Moral System
With prevalent practical and moral issues with all the taxation methods listed above, the flat income tax stands alone as the most moral tax system. Of course, it is not perfect; any type of taxation is a necessary evil, after all. By definition, necessary evil is still evil. Nevertheless, it solves the moral and practical issues of the other systems.
Unlike the property tax, this only occurs right as you acquire money, and then you’re done. You don’t have to keep paying it every year. Unlike tariffs, it in no way interferes with free trade. Unlike the sales and progressive income taxes, it does not disproportionately affect the rich or poor. It is an equal percentage across the board, making it fair by mathematical law. Unlike the estate tax, it will not immorally take money from a family dealing with the loss of a loved one. And unlike the progressive income or sin taxes, the flat tax does not legislate morality.
If you raise the rate on one group, you have to raise it on all, making rate increases much more difficult and unpopular. This will help to ensure that taxation only funds the government’s enumerated powers. Thus, it will be moral (assuming, of course, that the enumerated powers are moral).
Because it is both moral and practically capable of raising a reasonable amount of revenue; the flat tax is clearly the system conservatives and libertarians should advocate for in their quest to end limitless taxation and government spending.
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Nickolas Roberson | United States
A newly published report by the Tax Foundation on the 5th of December has found that the Trump administration’s recently imposed tariffs on aluminum, steel, solar panels, and a plethora of other industrial goods from China will increase taxation on Americans by $42 billion.
A tariff, as defined by the said report, is “a type of excise tax that is levied on goods produced abroad at the time of import.” Their intent is to “increase consumption of goods manufactured at home by increasing the price of foreign-produced goods.” This pricing of foreign goods is artificially increased, as the government is taxing its citizens for purchasing and consuming products. Things affected are foods, such as bananas or rice, personal goods, such as televisions or furniture, or commercial goods that could be tractors, cars, airplanes, etc. Why? The governments of our world state that their intentions are to protect their domestic industries from the competition and “vices” of foreign businesses and companies. In reality, tariffs are further methods for big brother to increase his control over us, regulating our methods of voluntary exchange, what goods we trade, and by taking away our money in the form of extended taxation.
Regarding the Trump administration’s tariffs specifically, there will be a 25 percent tariff on imported steel ($7.3 billion tax increase), a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum ($1.7 billion tax increase), 25 percent tariff on imported goods from China that have a total value of $50 billion ($12.5 billion tax increase), and a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of other imports from China ($20 billion tax increase). Thus, as reported by the Tax Foundation, the overall tax increase will be near $42 billion on American citizens. Additionally, the administration threatened to implement another $129 billion worth of tariffs on more Chinese products and merchandise.
When analyzing the economic impacts of the President’s current protectionist tariffs, the Tax Foundation found that they would “reduce long-run GDP by 0.12 percent ($30.4 billion) and wages by 0.08 percent and eliminate 94,300 full-time equivalent jobs.” If the proposed tariffs are implemented as well, “long-run GDP would fall by 0.38 percent ($94.4 billion) and wages by 0.24 percent, and 292,600 full-time equivalent jobs would be eliminated.” It should be reiterated that tariffs are artificially increased prices of imported products and services by the government to discourage consumers from purchasing them. It is truly a form of taxation. No Chinese business or manufacturer is paying this tax, as the Trump administration continues to attempt to debate and establish.
Now, what are the origins of tariffs? For centuries, European nations practiced a trading system dubbed mercantilism, which attempted to prevent goods and services from leaving a home country, preventing trade value from leaving the said country. Incredibly high tariffs and other trade barriers were put into place, leading to high costs for manufactured goods and multiple trade wars throughout the world. However, in 1776, an economist named Adam Smith published his work titled Wealth of Nations.
This magnum opus regarding economics questioned the systems of mercantilism and proposed the idea of free trade: an economic theory that promoted competition between businesses and individuals across a global scale, voluntary trade without regulations such as tariffs, and no discrimination against imports or exports. As this new idea spread across the globe, nations and its citizens experienced a rapid flow of commerce, development of economies, and increases in productivity and innovation. The practice of the aforementioned theory was so successful. Organizations such as the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and the European Union were developed to continue to promote its benefits to the human race.
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump and his administration seem to be ignoring this history of free trade and its plethora of benefits. With their tariffs, both current and proposed, competition will be stifled in the economy of the United States, resulting in higher prices for goods and services; jobs will be lost, GDP will fall, and the overall economy could possibly become a bear market. The next question that must be asked: will these tariffs counteract the benefits of Trump’s deregulation plan, with it increasing the economic freedom and reducing the regulatory costs of the nation? Furthermore, when will this expansion of government end? When will big brother stop raping and pillaging people for their capital and assets to pay off its own enormous debt? Only time will be able to answer this question, but one thing is obvious to the naked eye: the future of the United States of America is a foggy and obscure one.
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By Andrew Zirkle | United States
Although oil prices have been taking a steep nosedive over the past few months, there is a new underlying problem that can be expected to hit the oil industry in the next 5-10 years due to the indirect effects of US metal tariffs. Since early 2018, the United States has imposed a 25% steel tariff on all but four countries and a worldwide tariff on aluminum set at 10%. These tariffs, enacted using the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, have been repeatedly been justified by the Trump administration as retaliatory tariffs or tariffs designed to protect the American metal industry. The current near $50pb price of crude oil seems to indicate prices have been unaffected in the short term by the application of these tariffs, however, there it is clear that these measures, if sustained, could have long-term implications on the profitability of America’s rapidly expanding oil industry. The US oil industry, which relies on steel and aluminum for refinery construction as well as tanker and truck construction, has not faced large tariffs since the Bush administration, and those tariffs were short lived. The expansion and long-term growth of US oil processing is incredibly dependent on the on the price of metal and although it’s not apparent yet, the damage that these tariffs could have on domestic oil production in the US is irreversible.
Above is an abstract diagram illustrating the effect of import tariffs on crude oil processing firms that need to purchase metal to make investments in production capital. The sections A, B, C, and D, which are above the price but below the demand curve represent the consumer surplus, which shrinks during the tariffs. The monetary loss to the consumers of the metal, which in this case is oil companies, is much larger than the monetary gain for domestic metal producers, which is a producer surplus represented by section A. Section C represents new government revenue collected through taxation and Sections B and D represent deadweight loss: a loss in economic efficiency achieved due to taxation. Although this loss in economic inefficiency is not optimal, there are greater long-term losses that are shouldered only by the oil industry.
The demand for petroleum-based products in the United States is expected to increase in the coming years, and to maintain energy independence, the United States will have to increase its production, transportation and refining capabilities. All over the United States, new refineries are under construction, oil pipelines are being laid and new tanker fleets are being built. All these capital goods are necessary to the health of the petroleum industry, yet companies in the petroleum industry will have to either cancel these projects or increase the price of their product to maintain viable profit margins.
The domestic oil tanker construction industry is already under intense pressure. The International Maritime Organization has set new standards and regulations for the environmental performance of oil tankers. This is causing an excess in tanker scrapping and a new demand for updated oil tankers. The new demand for updated tankers will require the tanker building industry to consume more steel than it normally does. This increased demand for tankers combined with an increased price in steel and aluminum could result in oil companies shouldering a huge price burden when looking to update their fleet. In the next 5 years, the Aluminum and Steel tariffs will cost the petroleum industry an additional 1.45 Billion dollars, as tanker building companies will struggle to deal with the increase in materials price when building 2020 compliant tankers. Anything transferred by sea between two US ports must be carried by an American built ship, per the US Jones Act of 1920. This means that despite a great increase in materials costs due to tariffs, American petroleum supply chains must continue to rely on US built ships even if they are drastically more expensive. This will likely mean that the domestic seaway petroleum supply chain will contract, meaning that overseas transportation from offshore refineries will become much more expensive and transporting petroleum to areas in the US that can’t produce it locally will become much costlier. The domestic shipbuilding industry will also become much less competitive worldwide, as global supply chains will become much more reliant on shipbuilding in countries like Bangladesh, India, and China, which can build ships for a significantly lower cost due to a lack of trade barriers for raw materials.
Refinery construction is also heavily dependent on stable steel and aluminum pricing. The United States sped up refinery construction and upgrades as an aging generation of oil refineries built in the ’60s is rapidly approaching the end of its safe and usable lifespan. Currently, refinery construction costs range between $70,000 and $90,000 per barrel capacity, however, this figure is heavily dependent on the size and type of refinery being built. Steel and aluminum make up a strong majority, around 75%, of the construction materials used to produce refinery components. With these factors considered, as well as the refinery construction and upgrade trends in the United States, the Petroleum industry can be expected to pay an additional 3.5 Billion dollars over the next five years for refinery construction. This number is especially troubling, as oil refining has small and volatile profit margins, especially in refineries that produce less than 100k barrels per day. These smaller refineries are becoming more common in the United States, with 5 of them being built in the last 5 years5 of them being built in the last 5 years.
The oil industry is also highly dependent on the construction of transportation pipelines used to transport crude throughout the country. Pipeline transportation is by far the most efficient method of transporting crude oil, much more effective than truck transportation. Pipeline construction is accelerating across the country; however, the new tariffs are putting that growth in jeopardy. Pipelines and pipeline components are almost completely composed of the two metals targeted in the tariffs: steel and aluminum. Major pipeline construction in the next 5 years will take a cost hit of 2.2 Billion dollars, a price which may force project delays and cancellations. This development will weaken the transportation capabilities of crude oil companies trying to transport both crude and finished product. The alternatives to pipelines, trucking, and rail, are much less efficient than pipelines and are also affected by the metal tariffs.
Pipeline transportation is another part of the petroleum supply chain that will also take a hit from tariffs. Pipelines have become an increasingly important part of the domestic petroleum industry as more US companies are processing oil in Canada and then using pipelines to ship the crude oil to US refineries. The increased pipeline development in the United States will be hampered due to increased raw materials cost. This increased cost will likely cause current projects to be finished over budget and future projects to be canceled due to rising costs. This new difficulty in above ground transportation will make it much more difficult for US-based companies to take advantage of the new supply opportunities in Canada, and will likely prevent the domestic supply of petroleum products from keeping up with demand.
The United States has had a recent spike in oil production following a lull in oil production in the early 2000s. This recent spike in domestic production was caused by the efforts of the US Government to reduce foreign dependence on oil as well as other market factors including unrest in the Middle East. Overall, the United States has seen positive results from increased oil production. Prices of petroleum products, which used to be heavily influenced by the whims of foreign governments and OPEC, are now stabilized due to a larger part of the market coming under the influence of a market-based competitive domestic market. The upward trend of US petroleum production was expected to continue, however, these new tariffs put that favorable trend in jeopardy. Petroleum refining already has incredibly thin profit margins and with increased costs for construction, repair, and upgrades, planned refinery construction will either be reduced to meet cost goals or will be more expensive to oil companies due to increased material cost. In the first case, domestic oil production will not expand at the same rate as demand and foreign control over the oil market will increase. In the second case, domestic oil will increase in cost which will result in higher prices for petroleum products or more foreign control.
Should these measures remain in place, the US petroleum industry can be expected to take a $7.15 Billion profit hit in the next 5 years just due rise in cost to these 3 elements of oil production. Other elements of oil production that rely on steel and aluminum will also cause a rise in production cost, including well construction, offshore installation construction and even the development of fracking technology. Overall, the tariff affects almost every aspect of domestic oil production in a negative way. The United States can expect to lose control of their oil market to foreign producers unless serious protections are put into place for domestic producers. Even if these protections are put into place, the price of oil will rise long-term as domestic supply contracts. In order to continue the healthy growth and development of the US oil industry, steel and aluminum tariffs must be removed or reduced to lower materials cost.
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Alexander Robak | Canada
In our current society, there exists perhaps no other economic problem greater than the continued hindrance of free trade and public choice by increasingly overreaching, bureaucratic, authoritarian states. Where private enterprises divided by political borders should be permitted to conduct business as usual, they are being continually oppressed by states who want nothing more than to interfere in a once-free market in the name of protectionism. Rather than attempting to support our local private enterprise by hindering the functioning of a free market, the state should allow the free market to operate as it naturally does in as many ways as possible, in order to increase competition and benefit the consumers. The longer that the people allow authoritarian state structures to hinder free trade with oppressive policies, the more the consumers will be affected.
One of the most prominent examples of the government hindrance of free trade in the Canadian economy would be the system currently in place known as “supply management.” Under this system, the federal government of Canada manages the production of egg and dairy products, as well as facilitates the sale of these products under fixed, but constantly increasing prices. This oppressive system came into being in 1972 under the rule of Pierre Elliott Trudeau with the passing of the Farm Product Agencies Act. This piece of legislation was created in order to protect Canadian dairy and egg farmers from American competition, as well as stimulate their success in the marketplace. In essence, Prime Minister Trudeau believed that this piece of legislation would bolster portions of the Canadian economy in the face of daunting American competition. In reality, this legislation benefitted less than 20,000 dairy and egg farmers while increasing prices for almost 37 million Canadian consumers. This policy is a prime example of government interfering in the functioning of a free market to bolster their protectionist system.
The supply management system currently operates through a series of quotas. The government of Canada issues quotas to dairy and egg farmers across the country, who are only permitted to produce an amount of product equal to that which the government allows. On top of this, the government puts quotas on American dairy and egg products, which make it impossible for them to be able to sell their products to a Canadian consumer base while being profitable. Through this policy, the government is able to keep the supply of these products to a minimum. Following the laws of supply and demand, when the supply of a product is low, yet the demand is high, the price will always be increasing, in order for producers to benefit off of a high demand. However, this is opposite to the functioning of a free market. The only reason this policy is in place is to protect the Canadian producers of these products from American competition. In reality, it has increased the prices of essential products for all Canadians. If the market of dairy and egg products were allowed to function without government interference in Canada, there would be far more competition in this sector from the south of our border. This competition would drive the prices of these essential products to a minimum, while also fairly giving Canadian consumers the power of choice. As it stands right now, the power of choice has been revoked from the Canadian consumer base. In addition to this travesty, with the loss of choice in this industry, the Canadian consumers are being forced to pay a premium on products that are absolutely essential. The only people that benefit from this policy are the producers of dairy and eggs in Canada, while the rest of the population is forced to suffer under the policies of a government that believes it is right to interfere in the functioning of a free economy.
Other than that which can be found under the supply management system, the government of Canada has made many other interferences on free trade through the use of tariffs against American imports into the country. Many of these tariffs have been in retaliation to the tariffs placed on Canadian aluminum and steel by President Donald Trump. Many analysts believe that the government of Canada has made up to $300 million off of these tariffs in this period alone. These retaliatory tariffs put in place by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have only contributed to the problem and expanded the sectors in which the Canadian consumer base is economically oppressed. What happens when these tariffs are put in place, is that many of these products continue to be sold in other countries, despite the tariffs. However, in order to make up for the cost of tariffs, these products are sold at over-inflated prices. This forces the consumers to pay more than they usually would for the same products. In essence, the government is forcing consumers both at home and abroad to pay premium prices for products simply because they are not domestically made. It can be seen why this is not a good idea, and negatively impacts our economy. If consumers are forced to pay extra in one sector of the economy for products that they would normally buy, the average consumer has less disposable income that is available to be spent in more niche areas of the economy. This hurts the diversity of our economy in every possible way. The only reason that these tariffs exist is so that the federal government can make money off of the back of a market that it is attempting to function normally, despite government interference in their sector of the economy.
Recent negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement saw both the US and Mexico come away from the conference with a deal, despite the mountain of tariffs between the countries. However, Canada was left out of the agreement, due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s massive demands in regards to tariffs on American products being sold in Canada. Many of these tariffs in question were put in place as retaliatory measures against American tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel. In order to come to the agreement that is currently in place, Justin Trudeau was required to make many concessions to the United States. However, the United States did not have to make trade concessions. What resulted was a lopsided deal in which the United States benefited greatly, while Canadian imports into the United States are still hindered by a mass amount of tariffs. What this means is that it has become easier for American products to be sold in Canada, but it still remains just as hard for Canadian products to be sold in the United States. This begs the question: Is a bad trade deal better than no trade deal?
It can be concluded that not only do these tariffs negatively impact the consumers of both countries, but they also hurt producers that are attempting to sell their products in a national market other than their own. This goes not only for negotiations between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, but can be extended on a global scale. Every country places tariffs in order to counteract tariffs that negatively impact themselves. The problem comes with the fact that tariffs are beneficial to nobody but the government. Over 7 billion people in the world are being negatively impacted by tariffs on a daily basis. The proposed solution to the tariff problem is one of free trade, free markets, and distribution of goods and services on a global scale in relation to the demands of the market, rather than the demands of world governments.
In Friedrich A. Hayek’s 1944 magnum opus The Road To Serfdom, he addresses the problems created by government involvement in the economy. He believed that the economy should be left to those who are actively participating in it, such as consumers and producers, without any government interference whatsoever. This is due to the fact that consumers are better at consuming than the government is. Thus, consumer choice should be left to those who consume. On top of this, the government is ineffective at properly managing production. In the economy, improvement and innovation are able to come about through competition between private enterprises. The government is unable to bring about technological advancement with the effectiveness and efficiency that comes with private competition. He argues that both capitalist and socialist systems are responsible for the travesties perpetrated against the consumers through tariffs and taxes put in place by overreaching government. He concludes that the only way the consumers can have maximum benefit in the economy is through an elimination of all government interference in economic practices.
The only solution that adequately addresses the problems posed by mountains of tariffs in international trade is to abolish almost all tariffs, or in the very least reconsider and renegotiate existing tariffs. We must put an end to the protectionist tax reaping methods of the State so as not to continue negatively affecting both consumers and producers of all products, in all sectors of the economy. Continuing on this path of protectionism will only continue to hurt innocent consumers who wish to contribute to the global economy through the act of consumerism. Mounting tariffs raise the prices of goods and services for consumption. This effectively discourages consumer bases from purchasing goods and services that are essential to many people’s lives. Many times, this leads to consumers either searching for alternatives or going into the unregulated black market to get goods and services that are cheaper than their expensive, tariff-ridden counterparts. Neither of these options are in the interest of world governments, who wish to have consumers effectively contributing to their own economy. The only way to encourage consumption in the economy is through the lowering of prices. This comes about through an increase in competition in the marketplace, and an elimination of auxiliary costs for producers, such as tariffs.
With an abolition of all tariffs would come a completely free market, where consumers are responsible for deciding supply and demand based on collective action. In a free international market, consumers would have the maximum choice, at a minimum price. The only reason that a system of international trade such as this has not yet been implemented is due to the fact that governments have no way of making money off of this. It can be seen when put into black and white terms that the state is responsible for the abolition of free choice in the economy, and does little to no good while attempting to maintain their guise of “good intentions.”
The problems caused by state interference in the economy are not reformable by any means. So long as we allow the state to continue interfering in the practices that should be left up to consumers and producers alone, we will only continue to hurt the economic growth and innovation around the world. The only solution to the problem of tariffs and government intervention in the economy is an abolition of state power in the economy, and the formation of free markets, which are allowed to operate free from interference from outside sources such as the state.
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