It's Easy Being Green

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

It's Easy Being Green

by Ralph Shnelvar, January 13, 2003 (posted)

[Ralph Shnelvar ran as the 2002 Libertarian candidate for Governor. The following article originally appeared in the January 2003 edition of Liberty News, the publication of the Libertarian Party of Boulder County. It is reproduced with Shnelvar's permission, and he retains the copyright.]

It's not easy being a Libertarian candidate compared to being a candidate for any other political party. It's especially not easy being a Libertarian compared to being a Green candidate.

Look what a Green candidate has to offer:

  • Free health care.
  • Free money for candidates to run for office.
  • A minimum wage (a so-called "Living Wage") that will make the poor richer.
  • A guarantee that you will have an education, food, and a roof over your head.
  • A healthy environment with government regulating all pollution.
  • No traffic congestion if we can just build enough trains and have enough buses on the street.
  • Lots of open space because the awful developers will be prevented from taking that wonderful land and converting it to the awful housing that everyone hates but wants to live in.

As Libertarians we know that what the Greens (and the rest of the Socialist/Democrat/Republican establishment) are really promising is perpetual poverty. We know, as Libertarians, that these schemes to artificially create wealth simply cannot work.

It's a mixed bag in terms of the last election. The electorate rightly rejected most of the hair-brained schemes. Unfortunately, the electorate embraced some really stupid ones.

"Free" Health Care

Free health care is really "Government pays for your health care." This extraordinarily stupid proposal (supported by Al Gore and my opponent, Ron Forthofer) was rejected by 80% of Oregonians in the 2002 election.

Free money for candidates to run for office

The Greens took $5000 of money for its winning candidate, John Eder, in Maine. This was in a district of about 10,000 voters. Let's see, on a typical ballot I see about 100 candidates for about 20 offices. Each candidate gets $5000, so we're looking at $500,000 for a district of 10,000. A typical family of 4 is being forced to pay $200 for an election. They are being forced to pay for messages that may not want and most vigorously may disagree with. And they are being prevented from contributing to the campaigns of candidates that they do want to vote for.

Of course, if you volunteer then you can give as much time and energy as you care to.

Hmm, who has lots of time on their hands? Union members? Students? Teachers? Government workers? The homeless? Anyone and everyone who wants a government hand out? Who doesn't have the time to devote to politics? Those who have to pay the taxes?

Is there any reason that our opponents are doing handsprings over these burdensome reporting requirements and caps on contributions?

A minimum wage (a so-called "Living Wage")

This is a perennial favorite. It doesn't matter how often the experiment is tried. It doesn't matter how destructive of the economy it is, it is always high on the list of the socialist's agenda. They never are able to answer "If a $15 living wage is good, why not $100 or $1000 per hour?" The problem, of course, is that it just sounds so good and painless.

Count on Boulder to implement this fantasy. Count on businesses continuing to leave Boulder so that the entire business environment looks like Crossroads Mall. Count on the homeowners to take up the slack in tax revenues. Count on people who live in Boulder driving to more business-friendly environments. Count on the Greens to bemoan all that traffic.

A guarantee that you will have an education, food, and a roof over your head

My Green opponent apparently signed on to at least two of these three needs. The Democrat would have except that he would have lost by an even bigger margin had he done so.

Libertarians can legitimately argue whether it is the state's responsibility-or even good public policy-to provide "free" education to children of parents who cannot afford it. But, of course, our opponents view "free" education as a means to indoctrinate children. They are actively hostile to home schooling. They are hostile to private education. They hate the idea that some SUV owner might give his kid an advantage over some other parent's kid by actually trying to help his kid get ahead by providing a voucher to the SUV owner for his kid's education.

They view the economy as a zero-sum game. Everyone should have the same education because those with better educations will get a bigger slice of a fixed sized (shrinking!) pie. They think that making people smarter does not grow the pie. It is somehow unfair for parents to give their children an advantage over other children.

We know better. We know that education is an investment in human capital. We know that this investment pays off. We also know that there is an optimal level of investment.

Our opponents are bipolar. They want to spend infinite amounts of money on education. But heaven forbid the parent who wants to give his child a better education that the child sitting next to him or her in school.

The biggest problem that I have with providing a publicly-funded social safety net is that it distorts personal rational economics. If we provide "free" health care, then people will, gasp!, go to the doctor far more often than if they had to pay for it. If we provide affordable housing then people will not value the housing that they have been given as much as if they had to provide it for themselves. If we provide publicly funded education then people will over-consume education.

I remember a young man who attended one of the debates that I was at (at the Auraria campus). He wanted "the government" to pay for his college education. Besides asking him "Where does it end?" I neglected to ask him why it was fair that someone had to work a year of his or her life to pay for his "free" education. To him and to Ron Forthofer and the rest of that crowd, they just see that there is money that they can take just by voting it so. It is just so appealing to not have to pay for one's own education, or health care, or housing, or food.

When Ron Forthofer said, "I'll provide you with that free college education," the young man said "I'll vote for you (Ron)."

Thus there is always the argument that society should provide some sort of minimum level of existence for all. "You can't let those people die!" they scream. "They" do not understand that more people will die if we reallocate the economic resources inefficiently.

People will die. This is the harsh reality. The question is: How do we minimize the suffering? How do we minimize the number of deaths? It does not make any sense to eat all the seed corn. It does not even make sense to eat most of the seed corn to fill hungry bellies if it means that many more will die of starvation next season.

It does not make sense to forcibly take the seed corn from those who have carefully grown it and simply give it to others. To do so simply guarantees that there will be less seed corn the next time around.

Is it any wonder that businesses do not wish to do business in Boulder when the Boulder City Council openly speculates about condemning Crossroads Mall and the Pollard auto dealership? More to the point, businesses must inflate their prices to capture the uncertainty of the business and political climate. It is no wonder at all that 50% of the people in Boulder shop at Costco or Sams Club in Superior.

So the Greens and the Democrats and the Republicans will tax us now, spend economic resources now, waste money now, all in the name of getting votes from people who want their freebies now.

Only we tell the truth. For the most part, people hate the messenger.

A healthy environment with government regulating all pollution

I fully endorse government regulating the third party effects of pollution. What I do not endorse is the government mandating the means of how private organizations must implement pollution control. I do not endorse the fact that government is, itself, the worst of polluters. I do not endorse the fact that pollution controls are imposed on the politically weak at the expense of vested interests.

Ever follow a belching truck or a diesel bus?

No traffic congestion if we can just build enough trains and have enough buses on the street

It's really neat that there are going to be advertisements in January linking people who drive SUVs as (unwitting) accomplices of Ossama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Honest. Really. See page 19 of the December 23, 2002 issue of Time magazine.

There is a good bit of news in this unbelievable silliness. 27% of new car sales are SUVs. That means that AT LEAST 27% of the car buying public wants SUVs. They will view this interference in the marketplace with hostility.

So now if you buy pot, you are helping bin Laden. If you drive, you are helping Saddam. Whether you do something legal or illegal, you are helping terrorists.

Let's face it, if you breath then you are helping the Ayatollah.

The objective of the train/bus/bicycle crowd is not to improve the ecology but to reduce the disparity between haves and have-nots and to hell with personal freedom or the economy.

We are all bozos on this standing-room only bus.

Thankfully, though, all the buses in Boulder are -- for the most part -- completely empty.

Lots of open space

I finally got through to one of the "open space at any cost" crowd when I asked him, "If you put in the kind of controls you want then only the very rich will be able to live in exurbia. Is that what you want?"

* * *

It's easy being Green. Promise them health care. Promise them education. Promise them affordable housing. Promise them elections free of big money. Promise them everything but be prepared to make excuses when nothing can be delivered. They ran that experiment once in the Soviet Union.

It's easy being Green. They will guarantee prosperity. Of course, prosperity is impossible to guarantee.

We can't guarantee prosperity. Being honest, all we can promise is that if the Greenies leave everyone alone then we will all have a good chance at prosperity.

We can guarantee a chance. With the Greens, we can guarantee failure.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com