This is the third of four articles spanning my discussion with Dave Nalle. The first and second pieces are available.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
“Long on the fringes of American politics, small-government conservatives were closer than ever to mainstream acceptance,” Politico Magazine’s Tim Alberta wrote in a recent story. “Then two things happened: Donald Trump and Jihadi John.”
Alberta went on to mention that “(t)here are areas, certainly, in which Trumpism and libertarianism will peacefully co-exist; school choice …. is one example. Deregulation is another. But by and large, they cannot be reconciled. Where libertarians champion the flow of people and capital across international borders, Trump aims to slow, or even stop, both. Where libertarians advocate drug legalization and criminal justice reform, Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, seek a return to law-and-order policies. Where libertarians push to protect the First and Fourth Amendments, Trump pushes back with threats of banning Muslims and expanding the surveillance state.”
Is our new president really so adverse to libertarian ideals? If this is the case, he is in marked disagreement with one fellow he has spoken highly of on several occasions.
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism,” President-to-be Ronald Reagan told Reason’s Manuel Klausner in 1975. “I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals—if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”
Within the Republican ranks, one group stands unabashedly to oppose not only the Donald, but any other politico who discards libertarianism.
“The Republican Liberty Caucus is a 527 voluntary grassroots membership organization dedicated to working within the Republican Party to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets,” the RLC declares on its website. “Founded in 1991, it is the oldest continuously-operating organization within the Liberty Republican movement.”
Dave Nalle is the former vice chairman of this caucus. He stepped down to be a regional director late last year because of the RLC’s internal disputes over public support for Trump -- or lack thereof. Nalle, who backed Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the former two-term New Mexico governor, has always had a strong independent streak. I saw this firsthand when he was my section co-editor at Blogcritics Magazine several years ago.
Nalle has also built a career in the business world. The founder and owner of Scriptorium Fonts, he might be to thank for the style of text you often see in advertisements or use in a word processing program.
I recently spoke with Nalle about many issues relative to libertarian Republican politics. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: China is notorious for its currency manipulation schemes. Beyond this, however, it not only owns a tremendous amount of America's national debt, but accounts for much of our trade deficit as well. How do you suppose that the U.S. could level the playing field in the near future?
Dave Nalle: We engaged in currency manipulation during the Bush years. How did that work out for us? If China continues that kind of program in the long term it will hurt them more than us. Being tied to the US by trade and borrowing weakens China's ability to bargain with us considerably. They can't afford to provoke a trade war any more than we can and they have much less of a margin on which to survive a collapse.
The best way to level the playing field would be something like the Trans Pacific Partnership to draw trading partners away from China and towards us and build up other nations in the region to be more competitive, but that was handled incredibly badly and it lost popular support. The best way to beat China without something like an improved version of the TPP would be to gradually cut back on borrowing. I don't see that happening. What would be disastrous would be to slap a tariff on Chinese manufactured goods which would just hurt American companies and consumers.
Cotto: Some claim that the surest way for America to enjoy monetary stability is a return to the gold standard. Do you believe that, given current socioeconomic affairs, this is a viable option?
Nalle: Gold is not magical. It only has the value the market assigns to it just like any commodity. With finite reserves of gold I don't see this as a viable option, but the idea of tying the value of the currency to some trackable indicator in the economy might have merit, but that isn't much different from what the Federal Reserve has been doing with inflation.
Cotto: Many have heard about the fair tax, but fewer know much about it. In a summary sense, what are your views on the concept?
Nalle: I think it is an appealing idea. Consumption taxes are inherently more fair than income taxes especially with a mechanism like the "prebate" to deal with essential expenses. But I don't see much chance of it passing. The numbers are too daunting and the systemic change is too radical for lawmakers to accept.