Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Interview: Matt Kibbe says "Americans are richer and enjoy more choices than ever before"

Editor's note: This interview was originally published in March 2017.

This is the second of three articles spanning my discussion with Matt Kibbe. The first piece is available here. 
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Libertarianism has seen better days.
A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-right belongs to libertarians. Since the 2012 presidential election, however, protectionism surged -- not only in the GOP, but among Democratic ranks as well. Now, amid the age of Donald Trump, libertarianism's once-ascendant nature seems a distant memory.
"I fear that the classical liberal/libertarian idea and ideal will be seriously tarnished by the policies and politics of the Trump Administration," Dr. Richard Ebeling, one of our time's greatest Austrian School thinkers, recently told me.
He continued: "Virtually all of Trump’s proposed policies involve a continuation or an intensification of government involvement in social and economic life. He acts as the all-knowing government central planner when he calls in business executives and tells them where to invest and what products they should make to 'create jobs.' He undermines respect for and protection of essential civil liberties when he ridicules the freedom of the press and their way of reporting on his administration’s actions and his words."

Ebeling went on to state his worry "that with the assistance of the mainstream media the Trump Administration’s anti-freedom policies will tarnish the real case for a free society and a free market. That is, people who want lower taxes and fewer regulations on business will be identified as the people who also believe in torture, discrimination against immigrants, violations of civil liberties, and the instigation of trade wars because of aggressive nationalist attitudes."
One group not giving up on libertarian ideals is Free the People, a consortium which claims its "goal is to get ahead of politics, and engage in the cultural exchange that will set the political agenda for the next 50 years. We want to set the conversation, instead of settling for rhetorical scraps tossed to us by the political class. We want to make the community for liberty a cool thing. Using cutting-edge technology and storytelling, we’re building a grassroots constituency that can translate good ideas into education, conversation, and social activism."
Matt Kibbe is at the helm of this ship. FTP describes him as "President and Chief Community Organizer", making this fellow the only non-leftist I have ever known to use the Barack Obama-popularized 'community organizer' label. 
Needless to mention, he is a unique individual.
"An economist by training, Kibbe is a public policy expert, bestselling author and political commentator," his FTP biography tells. "He served as Senior Advisor to Concerned American Voters, a Rand Paul Super PAC. He is also Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economic Center in Vienna, Austria.
"In 2004 Kibbe founded FreedomWorks, a national grassroots advocacy organization, and served as President until his departure in July 2015. Steve Forbes said 'Kibbe has been to FreedomWorks what Steve Jobs was to Apple.' Newsweek pronounced Kibbe 'one of the masterminds' of tea party politics. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann called Kibbe 'the second worst person in the world.'"
Kibbe recently chatted with me about libertarianism, its role in American life, and his organization. Some of our conversation is included below. 
Joseph Ford Cotto: One reason the American economy fails to meet standards set by its postwar halcyon era is that it produces a decreasing number of material goods. What would you say could be done to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector?

Matt Kibbe: I guess I would disagree that the economy is failing to meet those standards. Americans are richer and enjoy more choices than ever before. To the extent that the economy is held back, it's because of government regulations, not because of a lack of manufacturing. I don't think there's anything uniquely important about manufactured goods as opposed to other goods and services.

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?

Kibbe: I would prefer to see more competition in currency rather than just a return to the gold standard. Bitcoin and other digital currencies are doing very exciting things. Let consumers choose what type of money they want to use, instead of forcing everyone to use one currency.

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?

Kibbe: The Fair Tax is basically a consumption tax. I like the idea in theory, but I think realistically you would end up with both a VAT tax and an income tax, like what we see in Europe. I prefer a flat, single-rate income tax where everyone pays the same percentage of their income.

Cotto: The Donald Trump Administration promises many changes to federal politics. Do you believe that his economic proposals, generally speaking, will bring typical Americans higher wages?

Kibbe: That really depends on which ones he delivers on. He talks a lot about deregulation, which would be great and would improve things for workers. But I think his ideas on trade are horrible, and will only hurt America in the long run.