Go Ahead, Throw Your Vote Away!

I really hate to bump such a good post as Ken’s last one from the top of the list (go read it if you haven’t had a chance yet), but I’ve been meaning to say something about this year’s Presidential election for some time now. Tomorrow’s primary day here in California (and about half of the rest of the country), and I for one am looking forward to “throwing my vote away”.

To borrow a phrase from another blogger, last month I went through the motions of changing my political affiliation from “Libertarian” to “that party that lets you vote for Ron Paul in the primaries”. I know that many (if not most) readers of this site will disagree with me on this choice, but I figured I’d be a coward not to give my endorsement to what will probably be the only major-party candidate I’ll see in my lifetime worth voting for.

Now, Ron isn’t perfect, and I do disagree with him strongly on some issues. Immigration for one–as one person put it, immigration laws used to be such that so long as you didn’t have some super-contagious disease, you were welcome–I think that wouldn’t be a bad policy to go back to.
But some differences aside, I agree with Ron that:

  • Even with the recent downturn in violence, staying in Iraq isn’t worth the continued costs
  • Militarism and military spending are one of the biggest drivers of federal deficit spending today, and that we should bring our troops home from now-obsolete Cold War bases
  • That central planning isn’t any better for currency than it is for any other portion of the economy
  • That combining militarism, welfare statism, and our monetary policy greatly increases our odds of severely hobbling the economy
  • That the executive branch needs to be reigned back in to a more constitutionally sound footing
  • That most federal agencies are of rather dubious constitutionality
  • That entirely eliminating the personal income tax, and replacing it with nothing but spending cuts, would be very good for the economy and society as a whole

There’s probably other areas we agree on, but for me the big issues of the day are executive power, militarism, and the economic downturn that’s underway (in a large part due to deficit spending, monetary policy, and government intervention).

That said, I do think it’s worth bringing up the whole newsletters issue. I’m sorely disappointed not only by the obvious lack of judgment that this episode brings to light, but also by how Ron Paul’s campaign has handled things. I’m not the vindicative sort that wants to see someone outed and destroyed for stupid stuff they wrote when I was still in Junior High, but I would’ve appreciated a more transparent explanation of how this all happened under his nose, when he found out, what he did about it, and what he’s learned from the whole mess.

I can’t say I’ve been very happy to see the libertarianosphere’s reaction to the issue either. At least according to how sites like Wikipedia define paleolibertarianism, it’s probably the closest match for how I see the world. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been rather embarrassed at the behavior of some of the big paleo sites like LewRockwell.com (which used to be on my list of sites I regularly visited). While there have been some meanspirited stuff from the Reason and Cato sites, many of those so-called “cosmopolitarians” are people who were genuinely interested in Ron Paul before the whole newsletter thing hit the fan. At least as far as people like Radley Balko and Jim Henley (both on my daily read list), I got the feeling that they were sincerely dismayed by this turn of events. Jim sounded downright depressed. I know I was. Anyhow, I think the whole episode has been a rather sad one. With as much mutual hatin’ going on as there has been, you’d think we were talking about the People’s Front of Judea vs. the Judean People’s Front…

Anyhow, all things told, I still can’t see anyone else on either party who even remotely represents my views and concerns. So while I have some reservations, you can still consider this to be my endorsement of Dr No.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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12 Responses to Go Ahead, Throw Your Vote Away!

  1. Mark in AZ says:

    Jon, I also changed my regestration from Libertarian to “the one that starts with an R”. I voted for Ron Paul first thing this morning.

    You are not alone.

    Mark Horning

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jon, Jon, Jon. You’re credibility has just taken a major hit. I’m sad about that, because I think you have some potential. But, as a wise man (Hugh B. Brown) once said, “the cure to wrong thinking is more thinking.” So keep thinking, and maybe you’ll see the error in your ways.

    –Tim

  3. Jon Goff says:

    Tim,
    Just out of friendly curiosity, but regarding my support for Ron Paul, what exactly do you feel is “wrong thinking” or the “error of my ways”?

    ~Jon

  4. Paul Breed says:

    I both voted for Ron and contributed the maximum allowable. You are not alone in your thoughts.

    Paul Breed

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jon, sorry for taking so long to reply, but I had to go out and vote. I’ve responded, below, to some of your points, and in order to give my responses some context, I’ve paraphrased your statements to which I’m responding. Sorry if I’ve misquoted or misconstrued your sentiments.

    Thanks,

    –Tim

    You: Military spending is one of the biggest drivers of federal deficit spending today.

    Me: Congressman Paul claims to support the Consitution, so I assume you do too. The military and keeping the country safe are things the Constitution actually enumerates as legitimately belonging to the federal government. Why would you criticize military spending and give a free pass to the much greater amount of money spent on entitlement programs that are not enumerated as being within the federal ambit?

    You: Combining militarism, welfare statism, and our monetary policy greatly increases our odds of severely hobbling the economy.

    Me: I agree, but mainly because of “welfare statism” and not because of militarism.

    You: The executive branch needs to be reigned back in to a more constitutionally sound footing.

    Me: The executive branch has been weakened greatly from its proper Constitutional role by two things: (1) the U.S. Supreme Court and (2) the bureaucracy of the numerous alphabet agencies of the executive branch (e.g., NASA) which effectively hobble the ability of a president to put his or her policies into effect. If you really want to change things for the better, reign in the Supreme Court and control the federal agencies. Easier said than done, but electing a president who will nominate originalist judges will help over time.

    You: Most federal agencies are of rather dubious constitutionality.

    Me: I so agree. But that water went under the bridge long ago during the FDR administration.

    You: Entirely eliminating the personal income tax, and replacing it with nothing but spending cuts, would be very good for the economy and society as a whole.

    Me: Let’s be realistic here. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913, grants Congress the power “to lay and collect taxes on incomes[.]” The Congress is not going to give up on that power. I know, it sucks. But about the best we can hope for are lower income tax rates and flatter tax brackets. You know, what Reagan did.

    You: Immigration laws used to be such that so long as you didn’t have some super-contagious disease, you were welcome–I think that wouldn’t be a bad policy to go back to.

    Me: This statement leads me to believe you’re operating with old or too little information. Immigration is a complicated subject, but this should get you started: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Immigration/bg2034.cfm

    You: We should bring our troops home from now-obsolete Cold War bases.

    Me: Agreed. Pres. Bush and Donald Runsfeld took steps down that road. Unfortunately, there is a lot of bureacratic inertia to overcome. I’m not sure what has happened since Rummy’s departure.

    You: Central planning isn’t any better for currency than it is for any other portion of the economy.

    Me: Not sure what you’re talking about there. Are you concerned the money supply is too great or too little? There are lots of forces affecting that, and we have no choice but to try to offset them with central planning. Milt Friedman would agree.

  6. Jon Goff says:

    Tim,
    Thanks for your comments.

    I don’t give welfare spending a free pass. I just don’t give militarism a free pass either. When you combine welfare and military spending, you have over 2/3 of what the federal government spends in a given year, probably almost 3/4. As it is, I think that military spending plus all the debt payments we have to make to cover prior military spending end up being just as debilitating as welfare spending.

    Now I agree, that the federal government does have a constitutional obligation to defend the country, and that defensive spending is one of the few areas that is actually a legitimate role of government. I just think that most of what the military does today isn’t necessary for defending the country, and in many cases actually makes the country less safe. I do believe in defending the country, I just think we could do so with a much smaller military budget–say about 20-25% of what we’re spending right now. We wouldn’t be able to police the world with a military that big, but we’d still be spending more on our military than all of our potential future enemies put together. I just don’t think for a second that our current military spending and deficit spending is sustainable. We’re either going to have to pull back our military voluntarily, or we’ll be forced to when we can no longer pay for them.

    As for the executive branch…I think the founders would laugh at the thought that our Executive branch is “weakened” compared to its Constitutional authority. Right now the president probably has more power and less limits than King George III had. The idea that the president’s “Commander in Chief” role somehow allows him carte blanch when it comes to what he considers defending the country would be news to those who actually wrote the language.

    As for income tax, my complaint really isn’t for myself. I’ve typically not had to pay much if any taxes so far (I think I paid something like $31 last year of federal income tax). It’s more a principle thing. I’d rather have a much more cash-starved and smaller federal government than a cash-rich one. I know it has no chance of being changed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good position.

    Lastly, regarding central planning in the banks, I still think it’s a dumb idea, regardless of which economists have endorsed it in the past.

    ~Jon

  7. mz says:

    Libertarianism has some decent efficiency ideas but as a whole it’s an adolescent fantasy, just a money oriented people’s version of anarchy (which wouldn’t work in real life either).

    Or at least the version of libertarianism most bloggers and their commenters advocate.

    Sure, government organizations could be streamlined a lot but people are like spoiled teenage kids who don’t understand how much they use their parents services constantly and just want to get rid of them.

    What would happen if the government services were replaced by commercial companies? There are things where natural monopolies or very sensitive and critical areas exist and it’s not smart letting some companies have them just for extracting maximum profit.
    Sometimes it’s inefficient and sometimes it’s straight forward dangerous.

    The profit is not always the best way to measure how well the company works for the society as a whole, but the company sure works to get the most profit by itself. Hence it can actually hurt society if it makes more profit that way.

    So financial incentives don’t work for every case or as only guiding mechanism.

    In some cases, commercial operations can be hugely more efficient and better than government ones. I’m for that.

    Libertarians just take it far too far.

  8. Paul Breed says:

    MZ,
    Government needs to do courts, police, defense, environmental controls, and fund public education.
    (Note I said fund, not run) beyond that I see nothing the government does that would not be better served by private competition.
    I’m willing to have a fact based logical public debate on the issue. What additional functions should government do?

  9. Karl Hallowell says:

    As I see it, there’s a need for government as insurer of last resort, but other duties aren’t essential. “Insurer of last resort” includes roles in disaster relief, national defense, police, and some forms of externality and moral hazard mitigation (inlcuding environmental regulation, making sure US parties don’t on their own provoke unintended wars with other countries and groups).

    I don’t see public education or an intellectual property system as necessary roles for a minimum government. Given how successful the US has been in the past with these systems, I don’t see these as bad ideas either.

    But most of the US’s budget and of its regulatory impact, I see as entitlements (and wealth redistribution) or rent-seeking. Some wealth redistribution is necessary on law enforcement grounds. The poorest people have the least interest in maintaining society. So the richer they are, the more stable society will be.

    But other programs like Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare, the military and space industry oligopolies and monopolies, most labor regulations, the excessive prevalence of subsidized college student loans, farm subsidies, etc either aren’t essential government services or may be, but spend far in excess of the value returned.

  10. Ferris Valyn says:

    Jon – at least your vote will count for something – imagine the fun we Dems here in Mi had, what with losing our Delegates.

    In more seriousness, when Paul loses (which, I am willing to bet you’ll agree an all but forgone conclusion) – will you then go back to a 3rd party, or are you looking at one of the major party candidates?

  11. Jon Goff says:

    Ferris,
    When Paul loses, I’ll probably try and find a third party I can support. Otherwise I’ll write someone in. If it ends up being a McCain vs. Obama match, and it looks like they’re neck-in-neck in California…I *might* vote Obama. But then I’d have to kick my own butt. Nah, I’m one of those “Don’t Blame me, I Didn’t Vote for Kodos or Kang” sorts.

    ~Jon

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