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Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Choice for Libertarians

The libertarians I know personally and the ones I've gotten to know through this blog and other websites are mostly friendly folks. That goes a long way in holding a sincere and respectful conversation about issues. I share their hope that mutual agreement will engender greater cooperation in electing Ron Paul president.

I also understand the impulse to convert. I would  like nothing better than to convince  libertarians to see things my way on economic issues as much so as they want to convert me to their Austrian ways. Perhaps, one or the other will happen one day but I think we both can see the unlikelihood of that happening before November 2012, if ever.

I will not here belabor the point I have made continually throughout this blog that Ron Paul secures the nomination and the election only through establishing a real coalition strategy with the promise of a real coalition government. I do not say, forget the cultural conservatives or other elements of the Republican party. I do say, do everything reasonably possible to woo them and win the nomination with them on your side. I doubt very seriously you can win by only reaching out to progressives or by only reaching out to other stripes of conservatives. And it is very clear to me that Ron Paul stands a much better chance of being elected if he is the GOP nominee.

For the last 50 years libertarians have chosen another coalition and have had some success within that coalition. Libertarians have forfeited their desire for total cultural liberty and their commitment to non-intervention foreign policy to gain a modicum of economic liberty. That has not yielded them less government but it has given them marginal victories in terms of tax and regulatory policy. I am sure many of you will slap your head at this last comment. I did say "marginal" but if you wish to say "minuscule," I will not argue the fine point as it makes my major point all the more relevant.

That point is: libertarians must now choose whether they wish to stay within their current coalition or join with progressives in a new coalition. At first this may seem like an easy decision. Of course, libertarians are happy to join with progressives to end drug wars, the military industrial catastrophe and the assault on our constitutional rights and civil liberties.

However that choice is made more complex by the reality that some amount of compromise on economic issues will need to be worked out if we are ever to move us beyond our current confinement. A real coalition will involve agreement on foreign policy, cultural, constitutional, and economic issues.  The first two are rather simple and the third would require a little bit more work. The fourth seems all but impossible.

The need to solidify the terms of an economic agreement is essential to establishing a true coalition. Robin Koener, founder of the Blue Republican movement, has been instrumental in calling for about 70% of what is needed to form a coalition. What he and other libertarians have not ventured into  is the differences on our interpretations of the commerce clause and economic issues.

Libertarians might think, "Why would progressives refuse a deal that gave them 70% of what they want?" A rational question, but one has to imagine the shoe on the other foot. Let's say Mitt Romney was already our president and Bernie Sanders was the progressive favorite in a Democratic primary full of progressive posers.  We would have much the same problems we have now. You would find the polite section of the Bernie Sanders' entourage begging you to jump ship and come on board. You'll get 70% of what you want, but the commerce clause will be interpreted our way with a 3 trillion dollar public works stimulus and higher marginal rates on the top 2%.

This is an exact analogy to what polite Paulians are offering us now. As hard as it would be for most libertarians to swallow the compromise I just described, progressives feel the same way when they look at Paul's budget. We like the huge cuts in militarism spending and would love to see more. We are glad to join with you in ridding the nation of the unpatriotic Patriot Act. We want the US Constitution respected and unlawful and counterproductive wars and occupations ended.We appreciate Ron Paul's sincere willingness to make sure that current recipients of social security and medicare get the full benefits they were promised.

However, his opt out plan seems as dangerous to us as the public option does to you. His promise to gut several cabinet departments scares us like any tax increase scares you. We are as skeptical of the commitments and abilities of state and local governments and private businesses and organizations to provide for the needy as you are of the federal government solving their problems. We fear that banks and businesses self-regulating will be giving the the proverbial fox the key to the hen house. We value private property but do not think that small land owners can compete with larger ones in the court house and that our national parks ought to be property of all the people collectively and not put up for sale to oil slurpers.

We progressives may need our heads examined and healthy dose of Hayek and an abundant ameliorative of von Mises. You may think that if we just give you guys a chance, we will be overwhelmed with the turn around in the American economy. You may be absolutely right on every economic issue, but you must account for our obstinacy in a politically realistic way. Of course, we must also make the same calculation and reach the same conclusion about you. Neither of us has a majority or large enough plurality of the electorate to convince 60 Senators that one of us is right and and the other, wrong. American political history is filled with this tension between libertarian and interventionists elements in economic, military and cultural affairs. This reality is not going to change in 2012.

And so you and we both need a partner. Fortunately, we don't have to get married; we just have to room with each other for 4 (or maybe 8) years. That means we are both going to have to compromise on economic issues and agree to do so ahead of the primaries, or given a third party run, before the general election.

The basic agreement looks like this: whatever deal we make on reductions in spending over the the term of 2013 through 2016, we need also to agree that half of the savings is used to reduce federal debt while the other half goes to the states in block grants according to the population of each state.  There is where the contest can unfold. Let's see which states fair the best under our policies or yours.

Dr. Paul has already agreed to a transition plan that calls for most of the savings to come from reductions in overseas spending and for half of that savings to go to shore up entitlements. He does this for the moral purpose of taking care of those already in the system and for the ideological purpose of giving young people the opportunity to opt out of the system. This proposal, as much as you like it and and as fair as it may be, will fail to pass congress. And anyone who tells you differently, is using something we and  Dr. Paul want to make legal. As soon as the opt out is out of legislative options, the more realistic block grants deal needs to be put in place.

I am optimistic that if we could strike this basic deal there are other areas of economic policy on which we can make good, principled and mutually acceptable deals. We can legalize pot if we tax and regulate it like we do tobacco and alcohol. We can raise tariffs on countries who do not play by the rules that we and other democratic societies do. We can lower the pay roll tax rate substantially and permanently on both employers and employees if we eliminate the cap or find a better way to raise funds. We can significantly and permanently lower everyone's income tax rates below the Bush rates if we put an absolute limit on the dollar value of all deductions, credits and exemptions and add an annual consumption tax on individual spending above a million dollars. And this is a longer shot... we might just find a way for you to have your opt out in exchange for us getting our public option.

The clearest signal that Ron Paul can give us that this is an acceptable deal is to name a running mate like Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich and begin to name a coalition cabinet ahead of the election. That's a tact he might have to wait to take until after the bosses run him out of Tampa Bay despite a plurality of votes and delegates (which would be most easily obtained if he became more public and intentional in his courting us).

I know you, my libertarian friends, have, like I and all my pollyannish progressive partners, grandiose dreams of complete victory, of triumphant policy shifts, of an America finally just and free. Wouldn't it be wonderful?!!!

Now let's be real, and make the deal before it's too late. You already know what the alternative is.

49 comments:

  1. Is it more effective to start the negotiating by addressing the easiest subjects first?

    "...half of the savings is used to reduce federal debt while the other half goes to the states in block grants according to the population of each state."

    The way it works now is we send money to DC. It then gets run through a politicizing machine that extracts approximately 40% of its value, attaches strings, then sends it back to the states based on political calculations rather than the more intuitive population metric you propose.

    My counter-proposal is to instead work toward a system without the middle man (DC). If we reduce the taxes collected by the amount that you propose to block-grant back to the states, then the states could collect that money directly. Besides the obvious advantages, the states would have more revenue without a greater burden on the taxpayer because for every dollar we send to DC, only 60 cents is returned.

    Is that proposal acceptable?

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  2. How about voting on principal? I think that something everyone can agree on. I'm a libertarian, so you know where I stand, but let's say in 2016 the race came down to Mitt Romney and Bernie Sanders. I would vote for Bernie Sanders, not because I agree with everything he stands for, but because he's honest and principled, he sticks by his principals so I know what I'm going to get. Same goes for Dr. Paul, he has principals and he stays true to them, what you see is what you get. That's the kind of person we need as President no matter what political party they are in.

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  3. Voting on principle alone is not such a great idea because I'm sure David Duke is a very principled guy too.

    Maybe a compromise can go a long way, but progressives need to remember that they too have struck a deal with the democratic party and were delivered the same marginal results we have. If they go Obama in 2012, they won't be getting what they want, only a botched approximation hindered by wars overseas and the police state at home, so it does not seem like a good deal to me.

    Maybe progressives would feel more comfortable with a candidate that would give citizens better federal welfare programs, but when Obama says he is that candidate, he is lying.

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  4. Nice Job! Here's your anthem!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfiONX1Lbn0&feature

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  5. Thanks Johnny and Faith. Nice jingle. Do hope that Dennis endorses Paul.

    Spacecomics, Good point and I hope to have my next post up soon entitled, "The Choice for Progressives" I would like to say that this progressive is not looking for welfare, if you mean by that something for nothing.

    Toria, I also admire people of principle but I am a bit reluctant to make that my only reason for voting for a person for the same reason Spacecomics gave. Unfortunately our political system values compromise above principle and perhaps there is no way around it in a democratic society. What I wish is that the compromises would be combinations of the best ideas rather than lowest common denominator policy.

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  6. Jim,
    Thanks for your thoughtful response and proposal. I agree that political considerations weigh too heavily in how block grants get distributed. I think if we could get a government in place that is truly a coalition consistent libertarians and consistent progressives (30 Rand Pauls and 30 Bernie Sanders in the Senate)and the Senators and Representatives were elected because they pledged to endorse this specific means of distributing the funds, it could get done.

    That said, we should have been working on building this coalition years ago so that we had 50 million people strategically voting for a new coalition government. so your proposal has merit. I am not sure that it would be the easiest sale to progressives sense our suspicion would be that the tax cuts would go mostly to the rich in rich districts and states and because state governments are very unlikely to raise taxes to get the revenue they need to do the infrastructure projects that we progressives are pushing so hard for.

    That being said as well, I would say that we might be able to work out a deal along these lines: we put the money back in peoples' pockets through making the payroll tax progressive (3, 6 and 9 for employees and employers) and without a cap and reducing the 4 lowest margins, adding the bottom half of the top margin to the second highest margin and then increasing the top margin to 40%. Or to make it a lot simpler, double the exemption and standard deduction, have 3 margins of 10, 20 and 30 with a 10% annual consumption tax on spending over a million dollars while imposing an absolute cap on the total dollar value of all deductions, exemptions and tax credits of a half million per individual.
    Would you shake hands on that?

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  7. Anti-War Progressives should vote Ron Paul. Unlike Obama, Ron Paul will change for America's Foreign Policy and end the empire. That is something a President Paul could do and will do, without Congress.

    As for everything else Paul wants, that will take Congress.

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  8. Thanks for your thoughtful article. Regarding political obstinacy: I disagree, and is based upon the reflection of growing public understanding of the evil tyranny that can and does exist under a private banking cartel - the Federal Reserve. It has been capitalism that has been blamed for mercantilism by many, and mostly progressives. The anger is quite understandable!

    With sound money, lower regulations, tort law changes, adherence to bankruptcy and fraud laws, and lobby money changes (tall order); true free market principles would afford stabilizing and reducing inflation (increase purchasing power), repatriating capital (job creation), punishing wrongdoing and mal-investment rather than reward it, reduce graft and give incentives to produce and save.

    Please read: Ron Paul: One year to go, and G. Edward Griffin's The Creature from Jekyll Island.

    Utmost, a Paul presidency would do wonders to cut the abuses in the legislative, judicial and executive branches and re-balance the most important part of government: We The People

    It is our government, and I mean you and me - whatever spectrum you represent.

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  9. I think the compromise is to simply get the progressives to quit focusing their political designs on Washington DC, and have them focus them on whatever state they prefer- say, Vermont for example. Then they can have all the empowering collectivism and government services they want, but others would be free to more elsewhere, say Nebraska, should they not find the system to their liking. Ron Paul, in giving states the ability to do such things and disallowing the federal government to get involved, is already offering the compromise. So, progressives don't need any sweetening of the deal to vote for Ron Paul. Unless the sweetener they're looking for is the ability to force their ideas on someone else who doesn't want them, and remove the possibility of others forming political arrangements that THEY might prefer. In which case, progressives need to check their aggressive tendencies at the door and start the conversation again, by disavowing threatening federal coercion both overseas AND at home.

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  10. jblack, do you think Ron Paul doing nothing more than he is now to reach progressives is really going to get him the nomination?

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  11. I think what Ron Paul needs to do is to reach out to the Progressives, saying something like "Hey, I understand your position, and I need you to understand how my positions, especially on the role of Federal Government are complimentary to your positions on the economy.

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  12. Cornelius:

    Ron Paul is trying to get the GOP nomination, not the DNC nomination. And reaching out to progressives right now wouldn't help him become the GOP nominee in any way. Yes, please explain to me how reaching out to progressives will really help RP lock down the GOP nod.

    After Ron Paul gets the GOP nod, beating Obama the neocon warmonger will be easy. Getting the GOP nod is the hard part. And progressives can't help with that. It's already too late to change your party registration in my state (NY) for example.

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  14. "... we put the money back in peoples' pockets through making the payroll tax progressive (3, 6 and 9 for employees and employers) and without a cap and reducing the 4 lowest margins, adding the bottom half of the top margin to the second highest margin and then increasing the top margin to 40%. Or to make it a lot simpler, double the exemption and standard deduction, have 3 margins of 10, 20 and 30 with a 10% annual consumption tax on spending over a million dollars while imposing an absolute cap on the total dollar value of all deductions, exemptions and tax credits of a half million per individual.
    Would you shake hands on that?"

    That made my head spin, I had to read it twice. Laws such as the tax code are complicated by design. The reason for the complexity is to deceive people into believing that a good deed was done, while in reality, GE and other huge corporations pay little or no tax on large profits by making use of the numerous legal loopholes in the tax code.

    I'm having a hard time trying to agree to a consumption tax on top of an income tax, its administration would mean more bureaucracy and more points of contact with the IRS, not to mention that the threshold could be changed easily once the plan was in place. But let's say the threshold doesn't change, let's do some math...

    With a threshold of $1M and factoring in inflation, In a few years the tax would affect spending at $1M level still, but adjusting for inflation, the effective level would soon be $800K, then $600K... So through inflation, Congress could increase taxes deeper and deeper into the middle class by simply doing nothing.

    That said, I would counter your plan with one that would tax all income over
    (insert number here)
    with no deductions... no possibility for loopholes. Then if you want a graduated tax on higher incomes, we can negotiate that point.

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  15. Jim,
    I would be fine with your proposal if we make that number 25K per tax payer with another 25K per child and then graduated it at 10, 20, 30 and 40 with 40 being for couples earning more than a million annually. I would prefer a progressive consumption tax in the long run phased in gradually over 6 or 7 years. Robert Frank offers the best idea out there now and it's on that liberals and conservatives can endorse: http://www.democracyjournal.org/8/6591.php

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  16. jblack,
    It's very simple. Ron Paul peaks among likely Republicans at 15%. He has to have 35% in a 3 way race. He cannot win without bringing at least 2 million progressives on board along with an equal number of independents. The math of appealing only to GOP and conservative independents just does not add up. The calculus gets even more demanding come general election. There is almost certainly going to be a third candidate in the general election race. He does not win without a real coalition with progressives and he has to start reaching them now.

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  17. Cornelius:

    The theory that it is easier for Ron Paul, an 11 or 12 term small government, pro-life republican, to pick up 2 million progressives, than for him to pick up 2 million more republicans is far fetched, in my opinion. No offense meant, of course.

    Also, this would mean RP would have to run as a 3rd party. And while I LOVE the idea of 3rd parties, RP has not the money to do so, nor is the system set up to facilitate such an upset. Getting 35% in an election in which you're excluded from the televised debates, have limited ballot access, and have the entire Washington establishment against you is perhaps the most implausible of all the scenarios we're discussing.

    I would also contend that RP doesnt peak with repubs at 15%. I think he can double that. At least, that's his best shot to white house.

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    Replies
    1. jblack,

      I'm new here, and it's just after the South Carolina primary.

      RP's doing reasonably well, all things considered, but keep in mind that some of the votes he has already gotten in these first few primaries are from progressives that might or might not be willing to vote for Obama in the general election but who see no reason to waste an opportunity to vote for Paul in a primary.
      So doubling 15%, especially if the MSM gets a 'memo from corporate' to unload on him, seems unlikely to me. Your mileage may vary...but is it worth gambling the fate of the republic on ? If you think RP couldn't pick up way more than an extra 2 million progressives by doing something as simple as having a series of taped and Internet-published discussions (think "My Dinner with Andre", but with Ron) with Kucinich and/or Sanders, then you probably don't know enough progressives. We are flat-out disgusted with business as usual from the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama crowd of crony plutocrats and their political enablers.

      There is an organization called Americans Elect which says it is nonpartisan. It is trying to get a place on the ballot in all 50 states and wants to do an online nominating convention in June. If Paul and either Kucinich or Sanders were 'out' and going steady by that time, there is no way they wouldn't get the nomination on that ticket. If there were any problems needing foot-soldiers (petition signatures, etc.), progressives and libertarians would volunteer in numbers we can probably only imagine if we're having a really good dream.

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  18. jblack,
    I think that the best scenario is thanks to those 2 million progressive coming on board, Paul goes to Tampa Bay with a plurality of popular votes and delegates. He is accused of fraudulent methods and the 2nd and 3rd place candidates agree to team up and share delegates, resulting in a Romney/? ticket and a walk out of nearly 40% of the delegates. Obama, moves his rhetoric rightward, having failed miserably to get his anemic jobs program to pass. Progressive leadership begins to see the light. Dennis Kucinich, now without a district joins Nader, McKinney, and Sanders in a a press conference to endorse Ron Paul. Paul surges in the polls and OWS and Tea party endorsements start rolling in. Within a week 2 polls show a 3 way race in a 3 way tie. The MSM has a new story to tell. One week later a Paul/Sanders ticket is announced. One week after that a coalition budget and cabinet is announced. That budget comes in 100 billion less than Romney's and 200 billion less than Obama's and promises 3 trillion in debt reduction and 2 trillion in block grants to the states over 4 years time.
    America is in the mood for a radical outside the box campaign. A conventional strategy is not going to get an unconventional politician elected. The sooner Paul's supporters get over their utopian salivations, the sooner he can move this country out of the mess its in. There's a gift horse. Stop the dental exam and saddle up.

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  19. How about this, encourage libertarians to help the 52 Green candidates get elected tomorrow (November 8th)?

    http://freeindependentsun.com/republic/greens-go-local-november-8-2011-occupy-the-election/

    This would be a great way to pull from Obama and the Democrats before the Primary. Then when a Ron Paul support is talking to a liberal or progressive that may be open to Paul they can say,

    "This isn't about left or right, it's about changing the direction of the country, I even voted for some Green candidates yesterday [or last week/month]. Ron Paul is the best candidate in the GOP race, it is important we nominate him."

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  20. An excellent idea jaktober, especially if the Green candidate is facing a neo-con Republican and a blue dog Democrat. Thanks for bringing it up.

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  21. Cornelius:

    I think your scenario, while great sounding, seems so far fetched. Unfortunately, people my parent's age who do nothing but watch television news all day will drive this election, as they always do. Maybe in the years to come, that'll change. But for now, there's no going outside to box for a bunch of 60 year olds who will be half the voters that actually turn out. You and I will go there, but grandma just ain't.

    It's too bad, though, because the timing has never been so good for a 3rd party. Conservatives will hate Romney and be furious that they have to back a big government RINO. Progressives will be furious they have to back the corporatist war-monger that is Obama. And a small government, anti-corporatist, peace candidate like Ron Paul could really clean up. I agree with you here. But at the end of the day, too many party loyalists will simply pull the level for whatever Dem or Repub they're offered, even though they hate them, simply because they're not ready to be conditioned to do otherwise.

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  23. I agree with you completely that the most likely scenario is the one you describe. My only addition is Ron Paul stands almost no chance of getting the nomination without a deliberate attempt to bring progressives on board by promising to form a coalition government. The only slight outside chance of a conventional strategy working for him is if Sarah Palin endorses him. Even then he is up against a vicious establishment who will stop at nothing to maintain power.

    It is extremely frustrating to see both progressives and libertarians passing up this rarest of opportunities. The circumstances have never been like this in my life time. We would have to go back to William Jennings Bryan to find an analogous situation and America did not take advantage of it then either. My greatest fear is that the next president finds a way to get the economy up and running by starting another war, the absolute worst form of stimulus. He would probably succeed enough that neither progressivism nor libertarianism sees the political light of day for another 40 years. I am just very sad and discouraged by people of good will being too fearful to step out of the tribal boxes the establishment has us firmly trapped in.

    Oh well...I'll be doing another version of this in 2020 when I invite you to join me in supporting a pro life liberal in the Democratic primary.

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  24. For my part, the $1 trillion budget reduction is not up for debate - the OP's proposal of limiting it to $500 billion and giving the difference to the States is unacceptable. I think perhaps you don't appreciate the gravity of the situation. Cutting the deficit is not only an ideological move, it the only hope for he survival of the system. Once the wheels come off, and they will shortly if nothing is done, we're all cooked. Game over.

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  26. Skeptical, to clarify, I am not saying cut only half trillion. I am saying cut a trillion from current budget and used half for debt reduction and reallocate the other half to states according to population. Two points, one political, the other economic:
    Political: If this deal could get Ron Paul elected would you take it and if refusing it meant he would not be elected, would you still reject it. I know that is a hypothetical but it is a more probable outcome than what you are talking about. Again, this is not to say yours is not the better idea in terms of economics but wouldn't you admit that mine is better than what Obama or any of the other Republicans, except Gary Johnson are proposing? Would you forfeit getting half of what you want done just because you cannot get all you want done?
    Economic: That half which is reallocated to the states would mean it is essentially decentralized money, much of which goes to cut state debt and reduce state taxes. Much of it would also go for state contracts paid to private businesses for constructing roads, sewer systems, etc., things that make for more economic efficiency for all businesses, families and individuals. Much of the money paid to state employees and private contractors will be spent in the private sector. All of this will bolster job growth and increase revenues for local, state and federal governments.

    If we combine this type of decentralizing reallocation of funds with serious tax reform which extremely lowers rates for the vast majority of people, extremely simplifies the tax code, and rewards work and investment rather than consumption, don't you think that provides even more job growth and increased revenue?
    All that said, if we could create a plan which reduces federal spending by a half trillion and federal debt by a trillion, would you reject that plan as well?

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  27. Cornelius - the problem with 'use $500 for debt reduction' - is that even cutting a trillion dollars from the budget does not yet get you to the point where the debt can be reduced. To do what you suggest - cutting debt by $500 billion and giving $500 billion extra to the states - would require a change in budget position of some $2.3T, not $1T.

    How about we leave that for Ron's second term?

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  28. Cornelius:

    I take your proposal seriously. In concept, I think that it is going to take something like this to reverse our decline. The left/right dialectic has, in many ways, become both tiring and false.

    Really, there is only one thing that libertarians and progressives need to agree on - that decentralization of economic and political power is to be preferred over its centralization. The secular trend towards centralization begun in the era of Lincoln, Bizmark, and Stalin has been an unmitigated disaster. It has led to the slaughter of millions in the "bloody century" and the wholesale destruction of individual liberty. We are hurtling toward the sort of dystopian future imagined by Orwell - dominated by omnipotent totalitarian regimes serving a political and economic elite so insulated and detached from the common people that they are little more than unknowable and unaccountable shadows.

    If Progressives and Libertarians can embrace this single idea, then I believe that they can form a powerful coalition and can make common cause without sacrificing their principles. Ironically, this idea is not historically foreign to either "side." The "left" actually has a strong tradition of preferring decentralization and "home rule" as does the Libertarian right. However, through clever bifurcation, the statists have relegated the decentralists in both major political parties to permanent minority status for a century. In the mean time, the permanent bipartisan establishment aggrandizes the central state and large corporate and financial interests at the expense of the common people.

    In the United States, the original "grand compromise" was actually very similar to the one that we are talking about. The Constitution formed a central government of strictly limited and expressily enumerated powers, with the States and the people retaining plenary powers to govern themselves. In hindsight, it was an imperfect system, and perhaps even designed by powerful political and economic interests to fail in precisely the way that it did. But that is water under the bridge. The Constitution still forms a plausible basis for self government provided the people recognize the vital importance of strictly limiting the powers of the central state and allowing the States to function as the laboratories of democracy.

    In order to get from here to there, we must first give up on the idea of a strong central state with plenary powers. Progressives must learn to be content with conducting their experiments in the States. The same can be said for the Libertarians. If they strike this grand comprimise, then we can find our way back from this abyss.

    From a practical perspective, we must agree that all powers and responsibilities of the central state not expressly authorized by the COnstitution must be transferred back to the States. In order to accomplish this goal, the federal moneys that fund these programs at the national level must also be block granted back to the States with no strings attached. These federal moneys must be phased out over a period of time (perhaps 10 years) with the States deciding what they want to do with these various programs and how they want to fund them. As the federal funding is phased out, the federal tax burden must be decreased proportionately so that the States can pick up the ball through increased taxation for the programs that they wish to continue or expand.

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  29. ...continued


    Ron Paul's announced program goes a long way towards moving in this direction while simeltaneously tackling the budgetary disaster which, unfortunately, must be addressed immediately before things spin out of control. By cutting 1 trillion immediately and bringing the budget into balance over 3 years, Dr. Paul's program will stablize the financial situation. His program retains moneys for key social safety nets and other government funtions and (excepting those explicitly authorized by the COnstitution) it is these programs and monies that should be returned to the States.

    The only other critical component to such a program is that we must legalize gold and silver as legal tender again. I cannot overstate the importance of this issue to anyone who understands Austrian economics. In our way of thinking, the central bank is the primary mechanism by which political and economic elites pick the pockets of the common people. Whether Progressives feel as passionately about this as Libertairans, I do not know. However, I hope that they do, and that they are at least willing to permit "COnstitutional Money" to compete in the marketplace with central bank fiat money on an even footing, with the eventual goal of removing the central bank's special government sponsored monopoly privilege.

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  30. intuitive, yes over 4 years time that is what it would take, give of take a number or two behind the decimal point. At least that's what i think you were referring to. I think it would probably take realistically closer to 6 years rather than 4 to get there.

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  31. KLT,
    I think we are pretty much on the same page although we are coming at this from different ideologies. I think you are right about the remoteness of central government planning for and response to the needs and desires of ordinary people. I think this is more about lack of democracy in the way our government works rather than whether that government is federal, state or local.
    The main policy shift that I suggest right now is moving the money Ron Paul designates for funding the "opt out" to state block grants. It sounds like you would agree with that idea if and when the congress rejects the "opt out."
    I am not sure we would agree to what the constitution expressly allows the federal government to do given the general disagreement that libertarians and progressives have with regard to the commerce clause.

    Nevertheless, I would be willing to phase out federal funding of most domestic programming over the time frame you mentioned after we get these four years of funds transferred from militarism to state bock grants and debt reduction.
    The reason we progressives hesitate to go whole hog with states rights is the record of states in dealing with the poor and favoring regressive taxation. Another problem I see is geography means less and less in the internet age. Perhaps what we need to do is find a way that empowers groups of people across borders to take care of one another. I am not sure how this might work but one way might be allow everyone who wants to opt out of medicare to do so while also allowing everyone to buy into medicare before retirement and without disability. Furthermore let those who opt out buy whatever insurance plan they want and allow those who opt in to make the reforms to make medicare solvent going forward. I think you allude to a similar idea when you talk about allowing competitive currencies including those backed by gold and silver. I would add that I would replace the current federal reserve with a democratically control central bank.
    We might extend this to education. Elizabeth Warren advocates parental voucher funded public education. I would even be willing to allow this in private schools but would want to allow for non-discriminatory prerequisites. Again, the source of this funding needs to be progressive rather than regressive and states have to put these types of taxation in place first.
    Taxation seems to be a big sticking point which might best be suspended for 4 years as much as both might hate that. Or we might come to agree that tariffs must go up on China. several times on this blog I have praise Robert Frank's progressive consumption and advocated a resident earned income tax credit voucher (REITCV) card replacing all tax deductions and credits, ideas I think libertarians and supply-siders would not find objectionable in principle.
    anyway, i do appreciate your engaging me in a serious and respectful manner. I think there is much more room for compromise and, better still, synthesis between libertarian and progressive ideas. The first step, I think we both agree, is to get a Ron Paul led coalition government in power.

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  32. Cornelius:

    You raise many interesting points that I would love to engage you on for further discussion. However, as you pointed out elsewhere, it is unlikely that we will convert each other to our varying points of view in the near term. In order for this to work, we simply have to agree to a federal political structure that we find mutually acceptable.

    It appears that we are in general agreement on the matter of scale, and that we agree that many functions of the federal government should be returned to the States - particularly those which are "Unconstitutional." As you say, we may disagree on what is Constitutional and what is not Constitutional in some cases (such as the interpretation of the commerce clause). I think we should avoid getting bogged down in a heated debate about what is or is not Constitutional. Instead, we should identify those things that we can agree to return to the States and those things which we cannot agree upon. At this late stage, a "Constitutional" rationale can probably be found to justify just about anything. As a starting point, I would suggest that we look at what the federal government was doing in 1900. That would be a pretty good "baseline" for what we might consider to be "Constitutional."

    One thing is certain, of all the functions now performed by the central government, the least controversial aspect of their duties is providing for the national defense, and that this role is the largest and most expensive role performed by the central government. Fortunately, I believe most Libertarians and Progressives are in violent agreement (pardon the pun) on this one. We believe that the military/industrial complex should be sharply curtailed and that we should return to a more non-interventionist foreign policy. This is the cornerstone of our coalition.

    Despite these major areas of agreement concerning the role of the federal government, it is important to recognize that Libertarians and Progressives have far different ideas about how to implement social policy, even though their goals are often similar. We must agree to disagree on many of these things. We must both be willing to fight these battles at the level of the States, recognizing that we will often be at odds, and that considerable variation is likely to arise from one State to another. If we can agree to be "OK" with this, and allow the chips to fall where they may from State to State, then I think we have a plausible framework for a real reform coalition at the federal level.

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  33. KLT,
    I am with you on that cornerstone issue, which is what so infuriates me with my fellow progressives. The trash that was wrong under Bush is still wrong under Obama and until we take out the trash (this is mostly about policy rather than people), we will never get anywhere other than the place the powers that be want us.

    Sorting out what role the federal government can and/or should play in the economy is not going to be a politically easy task. My thought is that we progressives will have to settle for less than we want while libertarians have to tolerate more than they want for the four years if we can garner the courage to live with each other for the sake of getting rid of what we both know is wrong with the system.

    I do think what we progressives desire is to have good democratic governance and if states and localities can prove that they do it better than federal government, we are willing to shift our focus in that direction. Perhaps it would be in the interest of libertarians to cooperate with our policies a bit more on the state and local levels so they don't have to fight us on the federal level as much. That may be part 2 of a coalition strategy which might need more than 4 years to clean up the garbage the duopoly has dump on all of us.

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  34. Cornelius,

    I originally became aware of your proposition over on the Daily Paul. I am engaging you here since this seems to be a "quieter" place that is conducive to more in depth discussion. I appreciate your sincere efforts to find some common ground, and your ability to remain "cool" under fire. I have read some of the comments over on the dailypaul, and I see that some of them are quite heated.

    As an aside, I hope that you can appreciate that "Progressive" is a dirty word to many Libertarians - especially those whose knowledge of Progressivism is limited to their exposure to prominent self-proclaimed "Progressives" within the context of modern politics. That crop of statists has poisoned the word "Progressive" in the same way that people like George Bush poisoned the word "Conservative." Thus, the visceral negative reaction that you get from some.

    But, back to our discussion. In the above post, you mention two significant challenges. (1)what role should the federal government play in the economy and, (2) can the States and localities "prove" that they can do it better than the federal government.

    For whatever it is worth, I think it would be interesting to see if you and I, as a libertarian and a progressive, can answer these difficult questions. If we can agree, then perhaps it would be possible for others to agree.

    I would like to address the second issue first. In appealing to common sense, there is no logical reason that States can't do it "better." Certainly, from the standpoint of a Progressive, you might imagine that a particular State that had a high concentration of Progressives would be far more likely to "do it better" than the national government. Of course, you might also be concerned that a State with a low concentration of Progressives would do it "worse." So, the question is, are you willing to accept the fact that it will be "better" in some States, and "worse" in others?

    As a starting point, imagine that we live in two entirely seperate soveriegn countries. Mine is "libertarian" to the maximum extent, while yours is "progressive" the maximum extent. As independent and soveriegn nations, the only question that we must answer is, can we tolerate each other's existence, or is it such an affront to our sensibilities that we would be compelled to wage war upon each other? I believe that most libertarians and progressives could tolerate such a situation without making war upon each other. Let that be our baseline.

    Now imagine that our two nations had a common enemy. Could we enter into a mutual defense pact, and still preserve the differential character of our societies? Obviously, we could. It has been done many times in history. As long as each nation contributed the promised resources to the mutual defense effort, there would be no basis for additional acrimony.

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  35. ...continued

    This latter scenario fairly represents the situation in the American Colonies during and after the War for Independence under the Articles of Confederation. After the War, each American State was a fully soveriegn nation that entered into a compact with the other States primarily to provide for the common defense. This is conceptually similar to the relationship the various members of the European Union share today.

    What if we turned the clock all the way back to that point? Could Progressives agree that it would be possible to have a confederation of soveriegn States for the purpose of providing for the common defense - some of which are predominately progressive, and some of which are not? After all, our States really are quite large. If California was a soveriegn nation, it would be the 7th largest economy in the world. Even our smallest State is larger than many other actual soverign nations that exist today.

    I would stipulate that if we could, in principle, agree that we could suffer to coexist in such a situation, then any lesser comprimise that we make in returning functions to the States should be immenently doable. If you are willing (in principle) to send everything except defense back to the States, then surely we could agree to send some lesser amount of things back. More particularly, we should just agree that if either of us thinks that something should be at the State level rather than the federal level, then we will agree to send it to the States by default.

    Does that sound like a workable framework?

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  36. KLT,
    Asa theoretical construction, I would be willing to send everything back to the states. I would have some misgivings on a practical level. You mention the chief exception being military. I would add that when we have a common language, a contiguous geography, interstate transportation and communication systems and a common currency, it would be difficult to send everything to the states.
    For example, I think we need common environmental laws and common means of adjudicating and enforcing such laws. We ought to have a minimum standard at a federal level and allow for higher standards at state and local levels. If we do not, we get companies playing a race to the bottom which means economic musical chairs for the rest of us.
    This could as well be said for civil rights and minimum wage laws. I know the latter is one you would probably take issue with.
    Let me come back to this later.

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  37. Cornelius:

    You said "As a theoretical construction, I would be willing to send everything back to the states. I would have some misgivings on a practical level."

    I take this to mean that you are mentally prepared to send everything back to the States (including environmental protection, civil rights, and minimum wage) if that is what it takes, although you would not be particularly happy about it (especially as it concerns those items I mentioned).

    If that is what you mean, then I think we have already determined that it is possible for us to reach agreement. In fact, we have already reached agreement, because I would also be willing to send everything back to the States except defense, if I had to.

    Of course, in reality, we are not talking about doing that. We are just "prepared" to do it if necessary. What we are talking about doing is working within the (admittedly flawed) US Constitutional framework to effect change.

    On the issue of environmental protection, I believe that the EPA must go. It is a remarkably recent innovation (1970) and clearly unconstitutional. Of course, this does not mean that the federal government does not have a legitimate role to play in protecting the environment. Pollution is a matter of property rights, and federal courts clearly has jurisdiction to adjudicate such disputes when they are interstate in nature.

    Civil rights is a little more tricky. Prior to about 1890, it was understood that the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government. However, in the 20th century, the doctrine of incorporation has been used to selectively apply portions of the Bill of Rights to States and localities (based on the "due process" clause of the 14th amendment). Frankly, I believe that this was a mistake. You have to remember that politics is a power game, and this is a bludgeon that the federal government handed to themselves (via the federal courts) with which to beat the States, thereby upsetting the balance of powers. It also leads to such absurd rulings as the one that recently over-turned gun ban laws in several States and localities (and I say that even though I am pro gun). In particular, I find any law which singles out any group of people (by race, ethnicity, gender, or anything else) to be bigoted and an affront to the core principle that each individual should be equal under the law. With that said, I think we are stuck with this one. Very few people are likely to understand or care why this is a bad idea. Any attempt to change the status quo in this regard would lead to hysteria and political failure.

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  38. ...continued

    As to the federal minimum wage, you are correct in assuming that I have would have a problem with it. Of course, not as much as you might expect. Frankly, the minimum wage is irrelevant to everyone except (1) Union members whose contract price is tied to it and (2) predominately young, poor, (usually ethnic) minorities, with low skills and low education who are excluded from the workforce by such legislation. For their sake, I oppose it. But I would not "break the deal" over this one issue. However, generally speaking, I would be in favor of stripping the federal government of all ability to interfere with commerce in any way, except to "regulate" interstate trade (which, properly understood, means preserving a tariff-free trade zone among the States) - and, of course, adjudicating interstate disputes and cases of fraud.

    Toward the end of your post, you mentioned a concern about a "race to the bottom." I hope that you can appreciate the fact that this particular argument can be used to justify any and all federal interventions. It is a generic monkey-wrench. In reality, I believe that we are just as likely to have a "race to the top." I personally choose to live in a pleasant, environmentally wholesome, friendly, rural setting even though I could likely triple my salary by moving into one of the major cities. There is no reason to expect that people will not make similar judgments in selecting a place to live. Money isn't everything. If a place is nasty, stinky, unpleasant, and hostile, and low-paying, I imagine many people will vote with their feet. That is the ultimate freedom.

    If you really believe in the Progressive idea, then have some faith that you can build a better world and that people will flock to your way of life. This is how the "laboratories of democracy" were designed to work.

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  39. PS: If you are determined to keep the minimum wage, then I would insist that it be proportional to the cost of living on a county by county basis. This would be "fair" wouldn't it? The minimum wage falls most heavily on rural areas like mine that have a low cost of living where it excludes a much higher percentage of the population from gainful employment.

    If you are not determined to keep it at the federal level, then allow the States to experiment with the best way to implement it.

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  40. KLT,
    I am saying that I am prepared to send everything back to the states but the states are not prepared to have all of those responsibilities. Civil rights is an example of how woefully unprepared morally, economically and legally the states were to treat humans as equal under the law.
    I think that states and localities can and should have flexibility on the minimum wage but only above a federal minimum wage. In inflation adjusted dollars the current minimum wage is way below what it was 40 years ago.

    That being said I would be ok with establishing a low minimum training wage along side a higher minimum living wage. For example, 5 per hour until the worker has paid 5k payroll taxes and 10 per hour after the worker has paid more 10 K in payroll taxes.

    When I speak of race to the bottom I am referring to how factories moved south when they did not want to pay union wages and how they moved to the third world when they wanted to pay slave wages and not have to comply with environmental, safety and wage standards. That is always what happens when there are no universal minimum standards.

    I think what we progressives might have to settle for in a 4 year coalition is no increase in the minimum wage while libertarians would have to settle for no elimination of the minimum wage (which would mean actually that you most likely get a reduction in minimum wage since there will probably be some among of inflation even under a Paul administration).

    We could probably agree to an number of major changes in the federal reserve. We could certainly agree to a number of reductions in the way fund and implement national security. I think there are a number of ways that we could agree to reform the tax code and maybe even eliminate the income tax altogether.

    I also think we could combine reduce the overall size of various federal departments. We could combine Labor, Commerce, Education, HHS, HUD and Trade into one or two departments. We could also do the same with defense, homeland security and international intelligence and with EPA, Energy and Interior. Progressives are no opposed to cutting waste and bureaucracy.

    I am not sure that we could agree about the constitutionality of these departments but certainly we could shift them to states as states demonstrated their abilities to fund and manage these concerns more effectively.

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  41. How pleasant to find such a constructive blog and a civilized conservation!

    I very much agree that we all have to come together. The powers that be have been able to divide us for much too long. I am from Europe and I follow your election process every day and I hope you manage to elect Ron Paul as president for your sake and for the sake of the rest of the world.

    Being from Europe I have seen how they have introduced the EU to detrimental effects. One by one each of the members are now on the brink of bankruptcy. All our democracies have effectively been replaced with an authoritarian dictatorship. What happened in America over the last about 100 years or so has been achieved in Europe over the last couple of decades.

    I have no faith in Government. To me history is very clear in that big government always leads to less freedom, less democracy and the wiping out of the middle class (the 99%). I guess that makes me a libertarian but not out of principle. I would be happy to support a government that helped the poor and made society more fair. Well, I guess that's enough about my background.

    As I said I believe we have to come together. All people have to come together. As long as we are divided we are easily controlled and led to dictatorship. I share the ideals of progressives. I too want a fair society. To be honest I have to say though, that I believe the progressive movement has been misused to introduce more dictatorship just like the conservative movement has been used to introduce more dictatorship. Funny really, as both movements have freedom as one of their ideals.

    And now to Ron Paul. He has said the same things for 40 years or more. Is it likely that he will change his ideals? Is it likely that he will vote against what he has voted for for all these years? The answer to both questions is no. Is it possible to make an alliance? Who would he have to make this alliance with? How can this person or group guarantee that people will follow? Will it help Ron Paul win the Republican nomination? For practical reasons I think this is impossible.

    For progressives that believe in the lessor of two evils I would recommend taking a serious look at Ron Paul. Let's list Ron Paul against Obama:
    Ron Paul Obama
    End foreign wars Yes No
    End Patriots act Yes No
    End police state at home Yes No
    Follow the rule of law Yes No
    End the drug war Yes No
    Cut military spending Yes No
    Reduce Government secrecy Yes No
    End crony capitalism Yes No
    Stop the bailouts Yes No

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  42. ...continued

    You may not agree with Ron Paul's economic policies but do you agree with Obama's? Do you believe Obama can continue to run deficits of more than a trillion dollars forever without it ever hurting the poor and the middle class? I do very much believe in Ron Paul's economic policies so I am biased, but what better alternatives do you see from the other candidates?

    More than anything else Ron Paul is a man of honor. He has voted consistently for all these years. He believes in the constitution and he will follow your law (the Constitution) unlike all your presidents in recent history. He will not give himself more power, on the contrary he will repeal the executive powers Bush and Obama have given themselves and hand the power back to the people through Congress as it should be according to the Constitution and any ethic and moral standards in a democracy/republic.

    I urge all progressives to do what is right. You may not agree with all Ron Paul's ideas but you don't have to. Ron Paul would restore the constitution and would follow the law by going through congress for any decision. No one else will do this. He would try to persuade people to his ideas like he has done for all these years but he would respect the democratic process and would only introduce the changes that Congress approves. I would argue that Ron Paul is the least scary person to have as president for this very reason - even if you don't agree with him - and I hope everybody will come to this conclusion and help America and the world by electing Ron Paul president in 2012.

    From my perspective from Europe, the world needs a USA president that will follow the law.

    Then when Ron Paul is president he will work with all groups including progressives and together you will find solutions. But the first step is to restore the constitution and the rule of law - as without that - the powers that be will continue to run riot.

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  43. On the topic of the Federal Reserve i believe progressives, libertarians, conservatives, independents and everybody else should easily agree.

    The basis of the central bank (any central bank) is to create money out of nothing and make money out of "lending" this in principle worthless paper to banks and governments. Why should governments pay interest on this money when governments granted the central banks the monopoly to create the money in the first place?

    Ron Paul has proposed that the US government wipe out the debt the government has at the Federal Reserve - some 1.5 trillion dollars worth! There is a good start of reducing the debt.

    Cornelius you mentioned that you would be happy to let the Treasury issue the currency. While not ideal from a libertarian perspective that would certainly be better than the crony capitalism (actually fascist) structure we have today.

    To change the corrupt system we have all over the world today, we have to take control back from the central banks. And this is something we should all agree on.

    Conservatives and libertarians should agree as the central bank is distorting the market. Why have a centralized agency (actually a private monopoly) set interest rates and decide who can get funds and who can't?

    Progressives should agree as this is benefiting the super rich as the largest banks get massive benefits from their friends at the Federal Reserve. This is not the 1% but the 1% of the 1% or less.

    According to polls a majority of Americans now want to have a full audit of the Federal Reserve and when they find out what they have been up to they will surely want to end it altogether.

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  44. Lars,
    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments. I am with you on the issue of the Federal Reserve. I do not think the central bank of the US should be a private monopoly. If there is a to be a central bank, it needs to be controlled by the people through our elected officials.

    It also needs to be 100% transparent about every penny it lends, buys or borrows, detailing every transaction and every party involved.

    I also believe that competing and complimentary currencies should be allowed in the consumer market place. Big banks that waste their assets and ruin their customers' accounts need to pay for it or go into bankruptcy or receivership, while protecting depositors and selling off assets.

    If there are to be any bailouts, it ought to be from the bottom up in a way that does not create moral hazards. For example, all of the money that went to the banks directly should have been used to refinance every loan in America by applying 80% of interest paid to the principle, by reducing the interest rate and by forgiving 10% of the principle.

    In determining interest rates going forward, the discount rate should not be allowed to be over twice the inflation rate or less than half of it without congressional approval. The prime rate ought to never be more than twice the discount rate with a maximum of twice the prime for home and business loans, 3 times the prime for car loans and 4 times the prime for credit cards with all penalties and fees combined never exceeding 2% of the minimum monthly payment. In other words I want us to have real and clear and universal usury laws for all official currency legal tender loans.

    Loans utilizing competing currencies just need to be transparent in whatever they deem to be the terms of the loan without restrictions of interest rates. This type of a arrangement would I think be a fair compromise which allows both libertarians and progressives to choose the currency and banking system(s) they wish to participate in.

    What do you and others think of this type of coalition compromise?

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  45. Cornelius:

    As long as progressives are willing to permit real competing currencies (such as gold and silver) and free market rates of interest on loans and deposits denominated in those currencies, I don't care what is done with the fiat money, and the rules and regulations regarding it.

    I think it is a good compromise.

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  46. Well... let's ask Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders to do it.

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  47. Strange bedfellows, indeed. I love it. This false dichotomy is tiresome.

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  48. Yes..the 2 parties are a duopoly and their actions are consistently corporate with rhetorical variations and minor policy differences.
    There are legitimate ideological differences between libertarians and progressives that may never be resolved but with creative thinking and determination a real coalition can be form to return government of, for and by the people.

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