Liberty is on the Decline in America, and the Two-Party System is the Problem

There are many culprits to the growing anti-liberty sentiments in American politics. There’s the media, the terrorists, the two-party system. There’s the hivemind that connects younger people on the internet, the innocent, nostalgic ignorance which pervades amongst older generations, and a general distrust growing between every subculture of American society.

Quite a few of these problems are unavoidable, so all we can do as Americans (or just as human beings, as this applies to a great number of nations in these troubling times) is to band together as individuals and create a political solution to the problems we are facing. In the United States, the only true, permanent solution to the problem at hand is a monumental task to undertake: end the two-party system.

While many Americans will roll their eyes at this and say it’s impossible, it’s the truthful answer. Just take a look at the Republicans and Democrats right now. Do you think any of them care about liberty? Do they care about individual freedoms? It seems like most of them don’t even care about the people they are supposedly representing. A few names stand out: Rand Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie. These three are outspoken in their defense of liberty and show genuine compassion for their constituents, yet they are all members of the Republican Party.

People like the three aforementioned are good in the sense that they are small bastions of liberty in the otherwise barren landscape on Capitol Hill, but as members of the two-party system, they cannot be counted on to help end it. And their party, the Republican Party, is not a true friend of liberty. It still panders to some genuinely discriminatory views held mainly by its older voters, and it shows an unhealthy lust for war (as does the Democratic Party nowadays) that is simply not representative of the non-aggression we need the United States to demonstrate in this world.

The only true political party in the United States which is consistently and steadfastly a friend to liberty is the Libertarian Party. However, the Libertarian Party is a mess. While I certainly have not always been around to see the Libertarian Party evolve, I am literate, and from what I can see, the Libertarian Party has always been a mess. That’s not a good start to ending the two-party system.

Still, the Libertarian Party is the best tool available to solve the problems at hand, and if wielded correctly, I think it has the capability to find success. In 2016, the Libertarian Party received a record number of votes in US House of Representatives and US Senate Elections.

Gary Johnson also received 3.27% of votes for President, although I, like many others who voted for him, saw this as a disappointing result given the nature of the two frontrunners. Nevertheless, his campaign had some positive takeaways, too. Johnson received over $11 million in donations, showing that given a competent campaign team with dedicated fundraisers, donors will be willing to donate money to Libertarian Party candidates. Johnson also received several newspaper endorsements from respected and well-read staples like the Chicago Tribune. Newspapers receive notice from their readers for who they endorse, so the newspapers who endorsed Johnson did so must have assumed that their readers would at least be open to the idea of voting for him.

To begin the weakening of the two-party system, third parties have to win elections or at least put up significant results of double-digit percentages on a consistent basis. Ideally, of course, the Libertarian Party needs to be the best-performing third party because I doubt the Green Party or equivalent is going to be much help for liberty.

Here’s what I would ask all Americans leaning towards the side of smaller government (you do not even need to be a full-blooded libertarian) to do:

  1. Vote. So many of us lose hope so easily… if we would all just show up to the ballot boxes, I’m sure it’d boost small government candidates at least a percentage point or two across the board. We need to look towards the midterm elections in 2018 and try to grow upon the improvements made to the Libertarian Party’s voter base in 2016.
  2. Donate! Campaigns cost money. The Libertarian Party is, relative to the old parties, extremely poor. If you want them to win elections and have spare change laying around, you need to donate money to them and to their candidates.
  3. Run for office. You can run as a Libertarian, an independent, a Republican, a Democrat… whatever, really. Now keep in mind that by some stroke of luck you may actually win, so if you know you wouldn’t be able to hold the office, don’t run for that particular office. But I think that most people could probably handle holding a local level office, and many others could be a state representative or state senator. Just put your name down. Give people in your area a small-government, liberty-friendly candidate to vote for.

And specifically for existing members and voters of the Libertarian Party:

4. Try harder!!! The Libertarian Party is a mess, but it doesn’t have to be a mess. Recruit better candidates. Fundraise. Market the party and the message of liberty to people around you. Put in the effort tenfold, and do it with a polite, enthusiastic, winning mentality. I know some of you are already trying hard, and we are all grateful for that, but even you can try harder. We can all try harder, and we have to.

If we don’t do something soon, the idea of individual liberty will become a thing of the past. My generation of Americans, the newest generation of voters… they act mostly as a collective, which is bad, but I’ve found that people my age also tend to be very open-minded. Spread the word to new voters if you can, and they very well may listen.

I don’t want to go to vote anymore and frown at my choices, then look at the results and frown even more. That’s no fun, is it now? We have work to do, so let’s get to work.

“Fair Trade” is the Myth that Everyone Seems to Believe in

“Fair trade” is a myth. The whole idea is absolutely bananas. Why, do you ask? Well… because of bananas.

Fair trade is the idea that a country will benefit more by levying trade tariffs and other trade barriers against other nations in order to reduce competition and keep jobs located within your own nation from moving overseas. It sounds like a fantastic idea if you choose to believe fantastic-sounding ideas at face value, but in reality, it’s a horrendous idea.

Let’s use that banana example. Here in Atlanta, the most widely-eaten brand of banana seems to be Chiquita. Chiquita’s bananas are not grown in the United States; they are grown in Mexico, Central America, and Ecuador. However, let’s imagine that the American apple industry starts losing revenue, so the US government decides to put a tariff on banana imports in hopes that more people will switch their fruit consumption from bananas to apples. Now you have to pay 50% more per banana if you want one, and if you don’t want to pay that money, then you either buy the apples or go find yourself something else to eat. Sure, the apple industry is protected and maybe apple sales increase a little bit and one employee per apple orchard has his job saved, but the cost of this small victory is a massive increase in banana cost which harms both American consumers and Latin Americans who work on banana plantations.

Not a good example? Well, let’s talk about cars, then. The auto industry was one of the main recipients of criticism from Donald Trump during the US presidential election in 2016. What was the problem? He was critical of American auto manufacturers locating their production facilities across the border in Mexico. Is that fair criticism? Let’s think about why a business would locate their production facility across the border. If Ford moves a factory from the Midwest to Mexico, they’re doing it because that’s the best way for them to maximize their profits and produce cars cheaply. The cheaper a company can produce its goods, the cheaper the goods will be for consumers back in the US to buy those goods. Also, the company’s competitors will have to reduce their prices to compete with the cheap, foreign-made goods. When companies like Ford or General Motors relocate factories to Mexico, they are actually benefiting the economy as a whole by reducing the prices of all the goods in their industry (in this case, automotives).

The so-called “fair trade” agreements which have become popular ideas from both sides of American politics appeal to voters because we feel for those folks in rural towns who lose their jobs when the factories move out. We are angered when we see pictures of what we consider to be poor working conditions in American-owned factories in other countries. What we don’t consider is that Americans as a whole benefit immensely more from the cheaper goods than we do from having a few hundred more jobs. The wealth accrued will allow for Americans to have more spending money, increase investment, and cause for jobs to increase within the country over time in other industries. As for the workers in Mexico and other countries who are producing goods for American companies, are they really being hurt by the American factories in their towns? Not at all! They love it when American factories open up. The wages which seem extremely low by American standards are actually higher (in some cases, substantially higher) than the local wages in other countries, and the work in factories is oftentimes preferable to work on a farm or no work at all.

Americans need to consider the big picture when thinking about whether or not we really need “fair trade.” Free trade agreements like NAFTA have helped Americans save money on consumer goods while at the same time helping lift tens of thousands of Mexicans out of poverty as they earn livable wages in American or Canadian-owned factories. Free trade offers the best long-term benefits for all parties involved.

Why I Think Gambling Should be Completely Legal in the US 

First off, it’s important to know the current legal status of gambling in the United States. Most people are unaware that gambling is actually legal in all forms under the federal government, barring some restrictions on interstate gambling. The vast majority of limitations on gambling in the US are imposed by state governments. As of now, only Nevada and Louisiana permit statewide casino gambling. Many more states permit other forms of gambling, such as lotteries, yet even those are not universal among states. What’s the big deal?

In my opinion, restricting gambling should be viewed in the same vein as the restriction of alcohol or marijuana. All three are bad in large quantities, but are they really so bad that the government needs to step in and make them illegal? Probably not. Gambling, especially, has some highly beneficial purposes (as does medical marijuana). Here in Georgia, the Georgia Lottery funds the HOPE Scholarship, a scholarship which deals out millions of dollars of in-state college tuituon each year. Programs like the Georgia Lottery could be implemented in every state and help improve the education system here in America.

I think we all need to collectively become a bit more open-minded. Is gambling generally a bad idea? Of course, but does that mean people shouldn’t be able to have a little fun? It doesn’t many effects on your health, yet it is more illegal in most places than alcohol, which can have tremendously negative impacts on your health. Also, the entire gambling=crime narrative, while true, doesn’t mean that gambling cannot be made safer for all parties involved. Online gambling, for instance, has no criminal association, yet it is also restricted in most places. The same goes for sports betting, online or otherwise. Personally, I think we need to remove all limitations on online gambling other than the standard 18-years-or-older, adults-only statute. Past that, how about we look at legalizing lotteries in all states. 

It’s our money. How about we all gain the freedom to spend it how we’d like? 

A Brief Look at Supertall Buildings in the 2010’s and Their Place in Global Politics

I mean for this post, as with all of my other posts, to be a thoughtful opinion piece. Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree.

From an economics standpoint, supertall structures generally don’t seem to make much sense. As we can see with buildings like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the Jeddah Tower currently being constructed in Saudi Arabia, the costs of engineering a massive skyscraper are absolutely astronomical. CNN reported over a year ago that the Jeddah Tower was to cost $1.23 billion dollars. With the project being as massive as it is, the costs are likely to be even higher when all’s said and done. Much of the cost comes from having to develop new systems in order to make the supertall skyscraper function in a normal capacity even at 600+ meters high.

How do you offset the costs? Many point to tourism generated by the towers as a source of income. While this may work for Dubai, how many tourists are going to want to visit Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? Or Azerbaijan, where a massive, $2B, 1 kilometer-tall skyscraper is set to be constructed on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the near future? Many of these supertall towers are being constructed in the Middle East where they pose as massive targets and have little access to Western tourists.

In my opinion, if you’re going to build a supertall building, you’re just going to have to face the facts: supertall structures do not make money as effectively as ordinary skyscrapers. Sometimes, supertall skyscrapers just need to be seen for what they are: symbols of power. In the 2010’s, a decade where the world–despite all the non-state violence or the proxy wars–has become more peaceful than in previous decades, power cannot be displayed military. Power must be flaunted in other ways. China, with its massive economy, has begun building equally massive towers in the same line of thought.

However, the US also has its own supertall skyscraper, One World Trade Center in New York (the building in the featured image above). While under construction, it was given the working name of “Freedom Tower” to highlight the values it stands for: democracy, peace, liberty, and prosperity. I think this divisive time in American history calls for the construction of more “Freedom Towers”. China has shown these towers to be symbols of economic power. Many people think that the US is a waning economic giant in comparison to the rising BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). We need people with the money to build great projects to do so. We ought to be hosting World’s Fairs again. We ought to be building monuments to honor our nation’s greatest triumphs and memorials to remember our biggest downfalls. I think that supertall skyscrapers could be one way to get our heads out of the sand.

We Americans don’t need issues to divide us; we need symbols to look up to.

The Growing Problem: Anti-Patriotic Sentiments Are Becoming Common Amongst Millennials in the United States

I’ll start off the political side of this site with a bit of a rant about something that really irks me: a small yet noticeable percentage of young Americans have developed some very disturbingly anti-American views. I don’t think there’s any way to tell exactly how or why or when or where these sentiments develop from, but it troubles me to hear the words that come out of the mouths of my peers. I’ve been to every state in this nation, and I know the wealth of goodness and great people and places offered by the United States of America. Hearing people around me speak of it with such disdain is honestly just disappointing.

So why do some millennials feel out of touch with what it means to be an American?  Perhaps a better first question would be, what exactly does it mean to be an American? Take me, for instance. I’ve lived in the United States for my entire life. I’ve gone to American public schools, I’ve heard the “Star Spangled Banner” played before countless sporting events, and I’ve watched fireworks displays on Independence Day. What separates me from the anti-America Americans who have shared the same experiences?

I think one major aspect of the problem is the perceived differences between the United States and other nations, and I say perceived as if they aren’t there, but there really are some significant contrasts between the American way of life and a European or East Asian lifestyle. Here in Atlanta, a large number of people have parents who immigrated from Asia or Europe. In their home countries, the governments tend to be very restrictive. China, for example, is a great rambling machine of big government. On the other side, Germany and France have turned into bureaucratic welfare states. Leaving my personal views for big government and welfare states aside — both of which have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the mindset of the citizens and the effectiveness with which they are implemented — these nations’ styles of government have clear-cut, significant differences with that of the US.

With heavy-handed governments across all oceans from the United States (even in Canada), and a global internet which connects young people everywhere, Americans now quickly realize the oddity of their own nation. They become jealous of others who are offered free healthcare, free education, and quality public services. America does things differently. We stress individualism here while all of the European nations have turned to collectivism. “Working together solves the world’s problems!” they say. A message of cooperation and toleration and faith in government is being preached over the loudspeakers across the pond, and people here in the States can hear it. Unfortunately, collectivism works against the American ideals which have made this nation so wonderful.

I’m not saying that working with other people and helping those around you is a bad habit; on the contrary, that’s how everyone should ideally live their lives. I’m just saying that the collectivist attitudes in Europe have delivered a blow to the American Dream. The keystone of patriotism in the United States for the past century has been American exceptionalism, the belief that the United States of America is the greatest nation that has ever risen on this earth (and still is). The idea of American exceptionalism is quickly fading. This country needs inspiration, something that can make every generation look up at the Stars and Stripes and be filled with pride again.

A New Beginning: My Case for NASA’s Return to the Moon in the Next Decade

In the next decade, NASA plans on returning to the moon with Exploration Missions 1 and 2, with EM-2 being the first crewed mission past low-Earth orbit since the end of the Apollo program. These EMs will mark a new beginning for NASA and space exploration as a whole, a beginning which should mark the trail to Mars and beyond.

The EM crews will be riding in Orion spacecraft launched into space by NASA’s long-developed heavy lift rocket, the SLS. Presumably, NASA’s human spaceflight heads wish to eventually allow Americans to once again set foot on an extraterrestrial object like Mars. I’m thinking that the best course of action would be to start with the Moon first despite the immense costs of developing a lunar program.

Now before you raise your objections, know that I realize these drawbacks to going Moon-first:

  1. Every mission to anywhere other than Mars simply takes away time and money from developing an eventual Mars mission.
  2. Any lunar vehicles would have to be developed independently of Martian vehicles; the gravitational and environmental differences between Mars and the Moon would necessitate this.
  3. A lunar mission(s) would almost certainly ensure that a private entity like SpaceX reaches Mars first.

These are the biggest drawbacks, I think, and they are each fairly substantial. The costs of NASA’s manned spaceflight program would almost certainly skyrocket. I generally oppose questionable spending, but I really think the benefits of a lunar return can potentially outweigh the costs.

  1. As with any space exploration mission, the lunar mission would need to fulfill a scientific purpose. I think the best idea is to begin some on-site (on-moon?) testing for a future, permanent, unmanned lunar base. This lunar base could use the water frozen on the moon to produce fuel for future space missions.
  2. Even if the conditions are different, and extraterrestrial landing is still a landing. The folks at NASA are rusty; this is a new generation. No one has taken part in a manned landing before, so it’d be good to have a practice run before shipping our brave men and women off across the solar system.
  3. The United States of America could use a pick-me-up. The Apollo program was one of the nation’s greatest sources of pride in history. Now in 2016, we have a presidential candidate whose main line of success comes from proclaiming that the United States is no longer great. NASA needs to prove to the world — and more importantly, to Americans — that America still is and will continue to be the greatest nation on Earth.

It may take awhile, but the next President of the United States needs to request a space exploration agenda from NASA that pushes the envelope. A budget increase couldn’t hurt either; NASA does so much and only takes up a minute fraction of the federal budget (currently less than .5%. Less than half of one percent!).

[Photo credit: Image of the Moon by William Cerny]