The Lesser of Two Goods

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Millions of Americans will go to their local polling place next month, and yet, they will not vote for anyone. They will vote against a candidate by voting for a candidate they consider to be the lesser of two evils. Most of these voters will be Republicans who will reluctantly vote for John McCain because they can’t bear the thought of that evil socialist Democrat Barack Obama becoming president. Nothing McCain believes or doesn’t believe means anything; nothing McCain has done or will do means anything. Some of these Republicans will soothe their consciences by telling themselves that they are really voting for Sarah Palin instead of John McCain — once again choosing the lesser of two evils.

I gave up years ago voting for the lesser of two evils. The Republican Party is stupid and evil just like the Democratic Party, as I have pointed out many, many times, and most recently here. But not only did I give up voting for the lesser of two evils, I also gave up voting for individuals. I do, however, vote against local tax increases if given the chance since this is clearly a case of good (no tax increase) versus evil (tax increase) instead of evil (Democrat) versus evil (Republican). The only exception I have ever made, and will probably ever make, to not voting for individuals was when I rejoined the Republican Party so I could vote for Ron Paul in my state’s Republican presidential primary. (I switched back to Independent the next day.)

Since Ron Paul endorsed Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin for president on September 22, I have been asked by many Christians, and others who did not state their religious affiliation, for my opinion of Chuck Baldwin. For the record, Baldwin and I both know and admire Ron Paul, both of us live in Pensacola, Florida, both of us are conservative Christians, and both of us attend Independent Baptist churches.

It is not my purpose to comment on Dr. Paul’s reasons for endorsing a candidate or the wisdom of his decision. Some libertarians are upset with Dr. Paul for his support of Baldwin. I do think, however, that they would have been just as upset if he had pledged to support Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr. They certainly would have been more upset if Dr. Paul had endorsed any other major-party or third-party candidate.

It is also not my purpose to comment on the Constitution Party. Some libertarians are in a panic about Chuck Baldwin because of some things in the Constitution Party platform. I think some of the concerns about the platform have been read into it. And besides, Baldwin does not give the same emphasis to certain things that the Constitution Party platform does. In fact, his own personal views appear to be closer to Ron Paul than to the Constitution Party.

Charles “Chuck” Baldwin (b. 1952) is a Baptist pastor, and has been since 1975. Although now politically an Independent, he is both a former Democrat and a former Republican. He has never held elective office, although he was the vice-presidential candidate for the Constitution Party in the 2004 election.

Baldwin writes an almost weekly column, with an extensive archive available here. I have read his columns for several years — only occasionally finding something I disagree with — and am relying on two in particular for this article: “If I Were President” (May 2, 2008) and “Thank You, Dr. Ron Paul” (September 23, 2008). In addition to Baldwin’s campaign website, I have also referred to a recent interview Pastor Baldwin did with The New American. I don’t know Chuck Baldwin personally. In addition to reading his columns, I have met him twice, attended his church for a Sunday service, and remember occasionally listening to the local radio show he had in the 1990s. Although I have minor disagreements with some of his positions, if I voted, I could genuinely vote for him, rather than voting against the other candidates by voting for him. I am not endorsing Baldwin; I am merely writing as an impartial (except when it comes to liberty, property, and peace) political analyst.

Because he is not Ron Paul, whom I consider to be the ideal candidate (as apparently does Baldwin — he supported Paul in the Republican primaries from the very beginning and has stated that he would not be running for president if Paul were still a candidate), a vote for Chuck Baldwin would be a vote for, not the lesser of two evils, but the lesser of two goods. Therefore, although I could say many good things about Baldwin (strong advocate of all the amendments in the Bill of Rights, opposes the U.S. empire and the war on terror, supports disbanding the Fed), I want to focus on those areas in which Baldwin differs from Paul and on certain positions Baldwin holds that might be a problem for libertarians.

Libertarianism

In his recent interview with The New American, Baldwin was asked: “Do you find that philosophically, you differ a great deal from the Libertarian Party?” His reply: “Yes, I do. That’s why I’m not a libertarian.” Here is perhaps the essence of any “problems” that Baldwin might have: he is a conservative. Baldwin was at Ron Paul’s Rally for the Republic. Certainly he heard Lew Rockwell deliver these lines:

Clearly, in the age of Bush, conservatism now constitutes as great or even greater threat to American liberty than the left and left-liberalism. It is long past time for every right-thinking American to reject the term conservative as a self-description.

There comes a time in the life of every believer in freedom when he must declare, without any hesitation, to have no attachment to the idea of conservatism.

But it is not just that conservatives have departed from conservatism. “The problem with American conservatism,” as Rockwell so magnificently summarized in “The Great Conservative Hoax,”

is that it hates the left more than the state, loves the past more than liberty, feels a greater attachment to nationalism than to the idea of self-determination, believes brute force is the answer to all social problems, and thinks it is better to impose truth rather than risk losing one soul to heresy. It has never understood the idea of freedom as a self-ordering principle of society. It has never seen the state as the enemy of what conservatives purport to favor. It has always looked to presidential power as the saving grace of what is right and true about America.

As the candidate of the Constitution Party, it is no surprise that Chuck Baldwin emphasizes returning to the Constitution. But it is not enough to return to the Constitution. Our standard is liberty, not the Constitution — a document which made allowance for slavery until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Nevertheless, I think Baldwin is more of a libertarian than he is willing to admit. Being a libertarian is not the same as being a member of the Libertarian Party and subscribing to its platform. Some libertarians don’t even consider Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate, to be a real libertarian.

Immigration

One of the reasons Baldwin gave in his interview with The New American for differing philosophically with the Libertarian Party is that “historically, libertarians believe in open borders.” Well, not Gary Becker, not Milton Friedman, not Thomas Sowell, not John Hospers, not Walter Williams, not Hans Hoppe, not Stephen Cox, not Ludwig von Mises, not Murray Rothbard. Although some libertarians believe in open borders (as do others who are not libertarians), it is by no means an established tenet of libertarianism.

I believe that Ron Paul takes a sensible view of immigration. I have summarized his position on immigration before, so I will merely reproduce it here:

Ron Paul is opposed to “open borders.” He believes that the U.S. government should fight terrorism by first securing its own borders. Because he believes that true citizenship requires cultural connections and an allegiance to the United States, he favors an end to birthright citizenship. And because he believes that it insults legal immigrants, he does not favor amnesty for illegal immigrants in any form. But Dr. Paul is not anti-immigrant in any sense of the word. He believes that the immigration problem fundamentally is a welfare state problem. He joins the vast majority of Americans who welcome immigrants who want to come here, work hard, and build a better life. He opposes welfare state subsidies for illegal immigrants that alienate taxpayers and breed suspicion of immigrants. Dr. Paul also believes that all federal government business should be conducted in English.

So, what does Baldwin say about immigration? From his article “If I Were President”:

It is absolutely ludicrous to say we are fighting a war on terror half way around the world when we refuse to secure our borders and ports. If I were President, I would immediately seal our borders. I would also see to it that employers in America who knowingly hire illegal aliens are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In plain language: any employer who consciously hires illegal aliens would go to jail. They would not pass Go; they would not collect $200; they would go straight to jail.

By sealing the borders and by cutting off the money supply to illegal aliens, the problem of illegal immigration would dry up. As it is, we have no idea how many potential terrorists — not to mention violent gang members such as MS-13 — have snuck (and are sneaking) through our borders.

And speaking of illegal immigration, as President, I would enforce our visa rules. This means anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law is immediately deported. There would be no “path to citizenship” given to any illegal alien. That means no amnesty. Not in any shape, manner, or form. I would not allow tax dollars to be used to pay for illegal aliens’ education, social services, or medical care. As President, I would end birthright citizenship for illegal aliens. There would be no “anchor babies” during my administration.

And from Baldwin’s recent article thanking Ron Paul:

I will take my oath to the Constitution seriously, when it states that one of the express purposes of the federal government is to “repel Invasions.” This means we will secure America’s borders, because the illegal immigration crisis is more than mere immigration: it is an invasion, and I will stop it! Even if I have to send the U.S. Army to the borders, we will put a stop to this invasion of illegal aliens.

Obviously, Baldwin’s position on immigration is closer to that of former Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo. Libertarians would say a hearty “amen” to Baldwin’s plan to eliminate the spending of tax dollars on illegals, but jailing employers who hire people that are willing to work is something that many people — not just libertarians — have a big problem with. The cure (a potentially bigger, more powerful, and more intrusive government) could turn out to be worse than the disease.

The War on Drugs

Another of the reasons Baldwin gave in his interview with The New American for differing philosophically with the Libertarian Party is that “historically, the Libertarian Party believes in free access to drugs of all sorts, and I don’t subscribe to that.” Elsewhere in his interview Baldwin was asked: “Where do you stand on the war on drugs?” His reply: “I believe that as president, I would have the responsibility to keep drugs from crossing borders, and I would do everything in my power to keep drugs out of America.”

However, in his article “Thank You, Dr. Ron Paul,” Baldwin denounces the federal war on drugs: “My sworn oath to the Tenth Amendment means I would dismantle the Patriot Act and restore law enforcement to the states and local governments, where it rightly belongs. Yes, this includes the so-called u2018war on drugs’ and the so-called u2018war on terror’.” Whether this means that Baldwin would support a state war on drugs is hard to say, but he clearly rejects a role for the federal government. This, however, contradicts what he said in his interview.

Because it fosters violence, unnecessarily overpopulates prisons, costs the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, has been used as an excuse to attack civil liberties and privacy, and is not the constitutional purpose of government, Ron Paul has always opposed any kind of a war on drugs, viewing drug addiction (like alcohol addiction) as a social problem, not a crime.

According to the government’s own figures, 775,000 Americans were arrested last year for the victimless crime of simple pot possession. But it is simply not the business of government — at any level — to monitor what people smoke, drink, snort, or inject into their own body. A government powerful enough to ban what it considers to be illicit substances is a government powerful enough to ban religious reading material it deems to be subversive. A government powerful enough to control what someone puts into his body is a government powerful enough to control what someone is allowed to hear from a church pulpit.

Free Trade

In his recent article thanking Ron Paul, Baldwin states: “Another area of agreement with Ron Paul is my philosophy of economics.” Although I am sure that is true in many respects (e.g., both Paul and Baldwin want to drastically reduce taxes and government spending), Baldwin does not measure up to Congressman Paul when it comes to the issue of free trade. True, like Paul, Baldwin opposes pseudo-free-trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, FTAA, and the WTO, but the main reason Paul opposes them is because they are government-managed trade agreements instead of genuine free-trade agreements. Baldwin was asked during his interview with The New American: “Are you a free trader or a fair trader, and how do you distinguish between the two?” In his reply he really didn’t answer the question. He condemned “free-trade deals” as a “curse” to America and “tools of globalists to sacrifice American independence and sovereignty.” He further remarked that these agreements “have destroyed our manufacturing base in America.”

When he was then asked whether we should have protective tariffs, Baldwin replied: “No, I’m not for protective tariffs.” Yet, in his article “If I Were President,” he stated: “We must discontinue the practice of allowing China to export its cheap products to the U.S. with no protection for America’s jobs and manufacturing, not to mention the lack of protection for our safety. This must stop, and it will stop when I become President. u2018Free trade’ will no longer mean a free ride for Red China.” Aside from import quotas, I don’t know how one can oppose protective tariffs and at the same time protect America’s jobs and manufacturing.

But does Baldwin really oppose protective tariffs?

In his interview Baldwin proposed eliminating the 16th Amendment, the IRS, and the income tax. Then he said he would seek “to eliminate excessive federal spending” by eliminating federal departments and agencies so as to bring federal spending “down to levels that are constitutionally valid.” To fund the government, Baldwin would institute “an across-the-board, general 10-percent tariff on all imports and that would meet the Constitution’s prescription for financing the federal government — duties, imposts, tariffs.” Fine, a low-revenue tariff; this would be better than an income tax. But on his campaign website, Baldwin advocates tariffs to protect jobs:

In order to keep jobs in this country, we need to have a trade policy that works in the best interest of the American people. To this end, I favor a tariff based revenue system, originally implemented by our founding fathers, & which was the policy of the United States during most of our nation’s history. A tariff on foreign imports, based on the difference between the foreign item’s cost of production abroad and the cost of production of a similar item produced in the United States, would be a Constitutional step toward a fair trade policy that would protect American jobs and, at the same time, raise revenue for our national government.

It is not the purpose of the federal government to protect any American’s job or prop up any American industry. But on the flip side, the government should not be doing anything to harm any American’s job either. If the government really wanted to protect American’s jobs and manufacturing then it would eliminate business taxes, regulations, environmental mandates, labor legislation, export restrictions, and the special privileges granted to labor unions. To his credit, Baldwin is on record as maintaining that “there are far too many government restrictions, mandates, and regulations placed upon business by the federal government.”

The unrestricted freedom to trade with anyone in any country without government interference is not only required if one holds to a consistent philosophy of liberty, it is always better for the country as a whole than protectionist measures, which, like the pseudo-free-trade agreements Baldwin opposes, amount to government-managed trade. Protectionist conservatives who oppose the government managing other areas of the economy are inconsistent when they advocate government-managed trade practices.

On the economics of the Founding Fathers, see Thomas DiLorenzo’s new book on Alexander Hamilton: Hamilton’s Curse. On real free trade, see my “The Moral Case for Free Trade.”

Abortion

Like Ron Paul, and unlike John McCain, Chuck Baldwin is unabashedly pro-life. But in his article, “If I Were President,” Baldwin makes some statements about abortion being eliminated that cannot be substantiated:

If I were President, I would use the bully pulpit of the White House to encourage Congress to pass Congressman Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act. In short, this bill would do two things: First, it would declare that unborn babies are persons under the law. Second, under the authority of Article. III. Section. 2. of the U.S. Constitution, it would remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Court. In essence, this bill would immediately overturn Roe v. Wade and end legalized abortion.

Republicans tout themselves as being “pro-life.” Yet, the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and the White House for six years and did absolutely nothing to overturn Roe or end abortion-on-demand. Under my administration, we could end legal abortion in a matter of days, not decades. And if Congress refused to pass Dr. Paul’s bill, I would use the constitutional power of the Presidency to deny funds to protect abortion clinics. Either way, legalized abortion ends when I take office.

The Sanctity of Life Act (H.R. 1094) would not end legalized abortion, in essence or otherwise. It would return control over abortion to the states. As Dr. Paul has explained numerous times, we have a federal system of government; the central government has no constitutional authority to involve itself in the abortion issue. Because the U.S. president is not a dictator or an absolute monarch, there is nothing any president could do to end legal abortion in a matter of days or decades other than to sign into law unconstitutional legislation passed by Congress outlawing abortion.

The Military

Baldwin opposes the war in Iraq, the war on terror, and the Bush doctrine of preemptive war. He believes that U.S. forces should be deployed only after a declaration of war by Congress and only for defensive purposes. This is all good, of course; and parallels the views of Ron Paul. Yet, there exists two minor concerns about Baldwin’s view of the military.

In his interview with The New American, Baldwin was asked: “Should we pull out of all the countries where we have troops stationed?” His reply: “For the most part, yes, though I would hesitate to say absolutely every place. I would need to analyze all those places.” But why the hesitation? Stationing troops overseas is incompatible with something Baldwin strongly believes — a noninterventionist foreign policy.

The other concern is Baldwin’s appeal to “all military voters and voters who want a strong national defense.” On his campaign website, Baldwin says that his administration “will continue to have a national defense and military that is second to none.” But what American doesn’t want a strong national defense that is second to none? What current or former presidential candidate doesn’t want a strong national defense that is second to none? Baldwin insists that “in order to continue providing for the national defense of this nation we will continue to maintain a strong, state-of-the-art military on land, sea, in the air, and in space.” The only problem with this is that although the official military budget is already in the hundreds of billions of dollars, actual defense spending, according to economist Robert Higgs, is now over $1 trillion — one third of the federal budget. Much of this spending on the warfare state does not need to continue. There must be a clean break with the past when it comes to defense spending.

Foreign Policy

Chuck Baldwin’s views on foreign policy parallel those of Ron Paul: no foreign aid, no military adventures around the globe, no policing the world, no NATO membership, no UN membership, no U.S. troops serving under foreign flags or commands. But like many conservatives, Baldwin has a China problem, as I have previously pointed out here. There I referred to recent articles on China by Lew Rockwell, Tim Swanson, and Ron Paul. It bears repeating what Ron Paul recently wrote: “Instead of lecturing China, where I have no doubt there are problems as there are everywhere, I would suggest that we turn our attention to the very real threats in a United States where our civil liberties and human rights are being eroded on a steady basis.” Our enemy is not China; our enemy is the U.S. government.

Conclusion

I can say without exaggeration that Baldwin is miles ahead of Obama, McCain, McKinney, and Nader when it comes to practically any issue, and especially when it comes to foreign policy. He is close to Barr on most issues, but trumps him when it comes to integrity. Does he have the slightest chance of winning? Unfortunately not, but if someone wanted to vote for the lesser of two goods instead of wasting his vote on the lesser of two evils, then Baldwin would certainly fit into that category.

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