Poverty and Libertarianism

While personally admiring of some principles of libertarianism, I’ve tended to think of libertarians as the partisans of employed, healthy, childless, college educated people. That said, America’s current political climate has had me rethinking my priorities for what should be done now.

While I support the SCHIP program, I was taken aback by the recent vetoed legislation, which introduced large extra tobacco taxes. I’m not a fan of tobacco, but drugs and Rational Choice Theory don’t mix. If you are addicted, you will pay to get your fix, even if it means skimping on food or stuff for your kids, which the ghastly tax hike would definitely help accomplish. Ah yes, and smoking tends to be a more lower-class thing, so it seems like we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, ripping off the poor even more to expand SCHIP (and the expansion would have benefitted families with incomes upwards of $70,000 dollars, so some middle class families might have benefit off the backs of the poor).

The Washington Post recently published an article on the role American cotton subsidies play in keeping African countries locked into poverty. I would also point out that cotton is a very thirsty crop, and by encouraging the heavy use of aquifers to grow this crop, we are doing our own land no favors either, and could be hurting the cotton farmers in the long run by encouraging them to dessicate their land. I hope they save all that money they make!

Likewise with ethanol: it was all the rage and the government wanted us to make as much of this dubious biofuel as possible: now we have a glut. Who do you think gets burned by that: the fat cats like Archer Daniels Midland, the federal government that started this frenzy, or the farmers and the environment? Or for that matter, the people who depend on corn for food, but now have inflated prices from government initiatives rapidly jacking up demand for a product beyond what the market can handle?

I do think society should work to address social iniquities, but using the federal government to do so at every turn just doesn’t work. While do not agree with Ron Paul on all points (especially immigration), I have found his principled, literate style to be supremely refreshing, and as president, I can’t help but think he would be a good counterbalance to the Congress. What does everyone else think?

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