In August of 2000 I warned that voting for Bush was a very big mistake. Many people complained to me that Bush was a good conservative who would be good for the economy and national defense. I was right, they were wrong. Bush turned out to be worse than my wildest dreams. Today I will present some alternatives for 2004.
With Bush being a full-blown disaster in terms of the economy, foreign policy, and social policy, my fellow economists should be dragging their tails between their legs in shame. In retrospect, Al Gore would have been far better. He probably would not have gotten us into war or increased government spending by the outrageous amounts that have occurred under Bush. He certainly would not have gone against the UN and 500 Americans would still be alive today, not to mentions thousands of Iraqis. There is even some small possibility that he could have salvaged the World Conference on Racism and produced a more tolerable result for all parties. A dimwitted Democrat and a leaderless Republican Congress would have prevented the worst excesses of both parties. Without 9/11, Greenspan might have allowed for the normal recession and correction of all the investment excesses of the late 1990s and today we would be in a real, not phony, recovery.
What did my fellow economists present as the benefits of a Bush presidency? He would strengthen Social Security, cut taxes, institute education vouchers, hold down the growth of government, strengthen national defense, pay down the debt, and promote free trade. Really?
He did pass a small cut in taxes, but tax cuts without decreases in government spending are practically meaningless. Social Security has been "strengthened" with the prescription drug giveaway, a mammoth increase in government spending that greatly undermines the financial solvency of Social Security and drives up drug prices for the rest of us. Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" is an illogical policy that will only serve to further entrench Washington bureaucracy in your local public schools. Government spending has skyrocketed with record rates of growth and the phony surplus has been turned into very real and gigantic deficits. Bush has not used his veto power, but this supposed free trader has used protectionist measures to insult our allies and threatened the globe with a protectionist trade war. Meanwhile the dollar is dropping like a stone.
The favorite of my prognostications from August of 2000 would have surely alarmed some members of Bush’s foreign policy and energy policy advisory teams, were they avid readers of Mises.org:
Bush’s "ideas to hold down the growth of government will not work and we already spend enough on national defense unless you have in mind getting America involved in even more international conflicts like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, etc."
The alternative to Bush is Senator John Kerry, but he is no real alternative. Bush’s Skull and Cross Bone Yalie brother supports the welfare state, the warfare state, and the war on drugs. He voted for the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, deficit spending, prescription drug benefits, and even opposes medical marijuana. Where Bush combines the public speaking ability of a ranch hand with the humility of an evangelical Christian on cocaine, Kerry is the second coming of the ultra-liberal Edmund Muskie and the poster boy of special interests groups.
The one alternative is simply not to vote. That’s always the best alternative unless you have the opportunity to vote for a truly good candidate who will not compromise your liberty. Politicians hate it when people do not vote because they need your vote to legitimatize their power.
Then there is Aaron Russo, a candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Unlike Bush and Kerry who come from privileged backgrounds and wealth and have no real world accomplishments, Russo comes from a modest family background and is an accomplished entrepreneur. Most famous as a Hollywood producer, his management talents have been recognized with an Emmy, a Tony, Golden Globe nominations, and many gold and platinum records, as well as six Academy Award nominations for his films and a NAACP Image award.
Russo’s strategy is to attack Bush and Kerry (BK) on issues where they are allies in destroying our freedom. BK supported the war on Iraq, the Patriot Act, huge increases in government spending and debt, and both oppose medical marijuana. BK supported gun control measures.
Russo opposes BK on all of these issues. The beauty here is that he can attack Kerry where he is weak with his liberal base, on such issues as voting for war, the Patriot Act and opposing medical marijuana. He can attack Bush where he is weak with the conservatives, on such issues as the huge increases in government spending, gun control, and prescription drug benefits. They are both guilty in all of this havoc.
He also is making preemptive strikes against the coming military draft and stopping illegal immigrants from getting on the federal dole. He hopes to unite supporters in the sound money, gun rights, alternative medicine, medical marijuana, anti-draft, and anti-war movements. With no celebrity candidates propping up the Reform and Green parties, he hopes to be able to draw votes from all the third parties and independent votes, especially if he gets some support from his Hollywood friends like Bette Midler and Jack Nicholson.
I met Russo this past week and found him to be an intelligent and thoughtful man. More importantly he is charismatic, sincere, and emotional, and breaths life into the defense of liberty. In the past, the Libertarian Party has had some tremendous people run for the presidency, but they have always been too intellectual for the task. Most major party candidates for president do not even read books; LP candidates write books! To arouse the American frog and to coax it out of the slowly boiling pot of lost liberty requires emotional appeal and confrontation.
If he gets into the debates he will hammer Bush and Kerry. His candidacy could derail the drive to bring back the draft. If nothing else, your support will send a most unwelcome message to Washington. If you vote for Bush or Kerry, you send the message that you appreciate all that they are doing and that the temperature of the water is just fine.
And now for my disclaimer: I actually do vote and am a member of the Libertarian Party. I ran for Congress in 1984 even though I was not old enough and unwittingly became the first elected Libertarian in Alabama by winning the uncontested race for Constable of Lee County in 1988. After dropping out of politics for several years, I was hoodwinked into become the Vice Chairman of the Alabama Libertarian Party, then the Chairman, and then their Candidate for US Senate all in a 24 hours period in 1996. I was endorsed by the Reform Party (their first Libertarian endorsement), lost badly in the election, but was appointed to a junior cabinet position by the Republican governor who had also been elected to the position twenty years earlier as a Democrat. Is that clear?
Mark Thornton [send him mail] is an economist who lives in Auburn, Alabama. He is author of The Economics of Prohibition, is a senior fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and is the Book Review Editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is co-author of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War.