Friday, June 14, 2019

Interview: William Shughart says "libertarians may get a half-full glass" from Trump's presidency, explains why

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

This is the second half of my discussion with Dr. William Shughart. Read the first article 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."
The economics, let alone social and national security aspects, of personal liberty are an intricate matter. Fortunately, Dr. William F. Shughart knows the ins and outs of this oft-misrepresented subject.
He "is Research Director and Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, and past President of the Southern Economic Association," the Doctor's Institute biography explains. "A former economist at the Federal Trade Commission, Professor Shughart received his Ph.D. in economics from Texas A & M University, and he has taught at George Mason University, Clemson University, University of Mississippi, and the University of Arizona.
"Professor Shughart is Editor-in-Chief of Public Choice and his books include Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination .... A contributor to numerous other books, Professor Shughart is the author of more than 100 articles for scholarly journals and his popular articles have also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Oklahoman, San Francisco Chronicle, Investor’s Business Daily, San Jose Mercury News, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Examiner, Kansas City Star, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times, Detroit Free Press, Clarion-Ledger, Vision Hispana, National Post, Providence Journal, and many other publications."
Shughart recently spoke with me about many issues relative to America's economic situation. The first half of our discussion is included below.


Joseph Ford 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? 

Dr. William Shughart: The US prospered under the gold standard, but I don’t think a return to it is a viable option nowadays. Instead, I would limit the Federal Reserve System’s monetary policy discretion (it currently is supposed to maintain stable prices and “full employment”, which are two very incompatible policy goals – revise legislation to get rid of the second one).

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? 

Shughart: I am in favor of any tax reform proposal that lowers marginal income tax rates, especially in the top income bracket. Reducing tax rates is more important than the method used to do so.

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? 

Shughart: Some of his policies will (i.e., paring back the administrative state, cutting federal spending); others may lower wages (trade restrictions in the long run).

Cotto: A few years ago, certain political forecasters claimed that the future of America's center-right belongs to libertarians. Since the 2012 presidential election, protectionism has surged in both major parties. Now, in the age of Trump, libertarianism's once-ascendant nature seems a distant memory. Would you say that libertarian Republican politics have any serious potential under Trump? 

Shughart: Historically, Republicans have been the party of trade protectionism; Democrats once were free traders, but now push expansion in the size of government. So, who knows what the future holds? Libertarians, of course, favor free trade and generally open borders, neither of which is consistent with Trump’s policy aims. On the other hand, if Trump is successful in reducing regulatory intervention and cutting federal government spending, libertarians may get a half-full glass.

Cotto: During the years ahead, do you see America playing a larger or smaller role in the global economy? 

Shughart: A bigger role, especially if the European Union unravels further, as I expect it will. “Brexit” happened; “Frexit” is on the horizon. Germany may leave unless Greece is kicked out first.