Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Trump is a Disaster: A Rejoinder To Prof. Dominick Armentano

President Trump
By Robert Wenzel

Yesterday, I published an essay by  Prof. Dominick Armentano, Hillary v. Trump: A Re-Examination of the Wenzel Theory.

In this post, I will respond to his commentary. As I have a near point-by-point rebuttal, I am republishing his essay in its entirety and adding my comments in blue.

Hillary v. Trump: A Re-Examination of the Wenzel Theory

By Prof. Dominick Armentano

Mid-term into the first Trump term would seem like a good time to re-examine the Wenzel theory that the election of Hillary Clinton would have been better for liberty than the election of Donald Trump.

1: There have been two appointments to the Supreme Court. Both of the Trump appointments and confirmations were reasonably conservative, especially from an economic perspective. Hillary would  also have had 2 nominations and they would have been reasonably liberal. Edge to Trump but not by much.

There is no way we know what these two appointments mean. Both nominees are what I consider constitutional technocrats. That is they do not put liberty above all but rather their technocratic interpretation of the Constitution, which curiously enough seem always to fall in line with the desires of the Deep State.

Kavanaugh, for example, has ruled, when he was a judge, in favor of the National Security Agency’s expansive call record surveillance operation, arguing that collecting these records did not constitute a “search,” and that even if it did, the government can take such records if it has a “special need” to prevent terrorism, even if this burdens the constitutional rights of those searched. 

Libertarian-leaning  Congressman Justin Amash has stated concerning Kavanaugh:
 Disappointing pick, particularly with respect to his #4thAmendment record. Future decisions on the constitutionality of government surveillance of Americans will be huge. We can’t afford a rubber stamp for the executive branch.
 Law professor Ilya Somin writes concerning Neil Gorsuch:
In a 2005 article, he suggested that judges should only strike down laws in “extraordinary” circumstances...Gorsuch praised New Deal-era liberals’ “judicial restraint and deference to the right of Congress to experiment with economic and social policy.” He urged modern liberals to “return to their New Deal roots,” as exemplified by “their own judges of the New Deal era.” Liberal jurists of that period advocated near-total abdication of judicial enforcement of limits on federal power. Their position was badly misguided, and utterly at odds with the originalist approach to constitutional interpretation that Gorsuch himself has advocated elsewhere.
In short, supporting these two choices is a type of Constitutional roulette. Something may come up on the Court's docket where they will rule in favor of liberty, But on important issues, that are likely to come before the Court, such as privacy and government surveillance or the willingness to support Congressional experimentation with social policy, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch are all too clear that they will be horrific.

Shouldn't we in our support of Supreme Court nominees adopt the medical principle of primum non nocere before cheering them on? In the case of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, if the right (wrong?) cases come before the Supreme Court our liberties will be clipped and cause harm, possibly very severe. Hillary's nominees would probably be just as bad but Kavanaugh and Gorsuch are not people to be cheered on. We should take pen to paper and attack them whenever we can and warn about their potential for very dangerous rulings. 

2: Trump got a sweeping tax reduction plan passed, especially on the corporate side. Hillary would not have proposed any such reductions. Clear edge to Trump on this one.

There is no edge to Trump here. A tax cut without a cut in governemnt spending is a scam. The drain on the public is just shifted to debt with possible Fed monetization leading to even more price inflation and thus a greater strain on the general public.

3: There has been some reduction in growth-retarding regulation under Trump especially in health care and at the EPA. Hillary would not have supported any such reductions; indeed, she would have proposed increases. Edge to Trump.

Reduction in health care growth-retarding regulation? 

Trump is expanding government involvement in the healthcare sector. It's just that no one is reporting it. States will soon be able to use federal funding to subsidize premiums for short-term health insurance plans and association health plans, the Trump administration announced in October.

And get a load of this. Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma says that states could apply for waivers that would increase subsidy amounts for young adults to encourage them to sign up for government-designed health insurance. Young adults who traditionally don't sign up for such insurance because they don't need it. It's just to get them in the government-controlled system. That's an outrage.

And wait until Trump cuts a deal on healthcare with the Democratic House. He has said:

“We want to do something on healthcare; they want to do something on healthcare. There are a lot of great things that we can do together.”

As for the EPA that is a nest of cronyism, you would need to be an EPA expert to understand what crony deals have been cut.

4: Four, Trump has (so far) been anti-climate change and has supported no law that would increase costs on businesses or consumers from a global warming perspective. He has withdrawn the U.S. from the global climate change “agreements.” No way on earth that Hillary would have done any of this. Edge to Trump.

I will give you this one.

5: While Trump has talked “more antitrust enforcement” little of that has actually occurred in the first two years. Hillary would have appointed an assistant attorney general in Justice that probably would have begun investigations and started a wide range of antitrust activity, especially against the “new” monopolies like Amazon and Google. Again, edge to Trump.

Hillary is in bed with Silicon Valley. They cried when she lost. She wouldn't do anything to them.

6: Trump’s proposed budget increases for “defense” have been horrible from a liberty perspective. But would Hillary have proposed smaller increases? Possibly, but her record as Sec. of State leaves this issue in doubt.  Slight edge to Hillary perhaps.

Trump is out of control when it comes to defense spending.

7: Trump’s foreign policy has been ambiguous. Clearly he has attempted to begin to reduce tensions with Russia and North Korea. (The Russian attempt has been swatted down by the Russian collusion investigation and Democrats). Doubtful whether Hillary would have done any of this. Edge to Trump. Trump has not started any new wars although there has, of course, been no termination of old ones. No clear edge to either Hillary or Trump here.

Trump is about to announce a Middle East "NATO".  He says he is going to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  His administration is filled with dangerous neocons, just as Hillary's would have been. But she is more crony and would be more willing to take foreign payoffs which would keep global tensions low (See Is Hillary Clinton a Warmonger?)

8: So called immigration policy is still a giant mess. Would a Clinton Administration have done any better? Doubtful. No clear winner here.

Trump is using immigration to stir up his base in a way that Hayek warned about in Chapter 10 of The Road to Serfdom. Hillary would never do that. This is Trump at his most dangerous.

9: Tariffs are clearly the major Trump disaster. Tariffs are very dumb and make normal political relations with China almost impossible. Unlikely Hillary would have done any of this. Edge to Clinton.

Agreed. Trump is a disaster on tariffs but it is not his major disaster. Stirring up the masses (on both left and right) from their slumber is why he is most dangerous. We don't need active Lefties, or active immigrant-haters. We need active advocates for liberty--the one group that has shrunk under Trump.

10: This is the deal breaker: the mid-terms have put more liberal democrats in positions of power. I assume that THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED EVEN IF HILLARY HAD BEEN ELECTED. For example, the little socialist from Queens would be in the House regardless of who won in 2016 since her issues are income inequality, minimum wage, and immigration. Nothing that Hillary could have done would have persuaded her voters to NOT elect our little economist/socialist. Ditto for all of the other lefty Democrats that replaced Republicans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran against the Democratic 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley (There never is a significant Republican challenger in her district). There is no way she would have even ran against Crowley if Hillary was in office.  

 BUT IT GETS WORSE. A reasonable case can be made for the fact that the Senate would also have flipped to the Democrats if Hillary had been elected.  (Here in Florida, for instance, Bill Nelson would have easily won re-election with Hillary support). This would put all 3 branches of government (and a less conservative SC) in Democratic control. HOW, PRAY TELL, WOULD ANY OF THIS HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR LIBERTY? Clear edge to Trump here.

Midterm turnout was at record levels because of Trump. Hillary would have put the country to sleep except for Hillary haters. She couldn't get Democrats to come out to vote her into office and she is going to get them to come out for the midterms? No way. 

Do not misunderstand. Trump is an economic boob and can’t string two intelligent sentences together. He clearly has no principles that accord with liberty. But my quick subjective counter-factual analysis concludes that, on balance, he has been less harmful (so far) than Clinton would have been. What say you Bob Wenzel?

My final point is that, clearly, Trump is what I expected, pretty bad on everything. It can be argued, although I disagree, that Hillary would have been marginally worse. But my point from the beginning was that Trump would kill the liberty movement and he has and that is the most important point.

The buffoonish behavior of Trump is turning the kids off to capitalism. The liberty movement is going nowhere fast as likely converts support Trump, the kids are turning to socialism.  This kind of lefty advance amongst the kids we would not have seen under Hillary.

Consider, the socialist Ocasio-Cortes (who wouldn't have even run if Hillary was president) now has 1.2 million followers on twitter! And she is getting major mainstream coverage. I am not surprised

Immediately after the election on November 10, 2016, I wrote:
Heading into the election, I felt that for strategic reasons Hillary Clinton was the best alternative for libertarians. Not because she is good on many issues, she is not, but because she would come with a ready-made opposition that would listen to libertarian arguments against her.

It would have been a great opportunity to reach out to Trump supporters and spread the libertarian message. That opportunity is now gone with the Trump victory. Trump supporters are rabid, they will likely follow him down almost any hell hole.

These people are not going to listen to our arguments for smaller government. Their man is in power.

There will be opposition to Trump but it will be coming from the Left, not the Trump right.

The Left is all about expanding the state. Thus, it will be very difficult to reach out to these people and present state shrinking anti-Trump ideas. They are a perfect target for the socialists...

 The socialists are going to experience a boom in followers under Trump.

Thus, neither the left nor the right is going to be open to libertarian ideas at the present time.
I see no reason to change my view.

Have we really gotten anything out of the Trump presidency but to lose our libertarian soul?

I think not.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of

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