Five Things I Would Do If I Was Dictator For A Day

Five Things I Would Do If I Was Dictator For A Day.

At Liberty’s Republic, a blog I contribute to, Brandon Christensen, in response to others doing the same (here and here) gave a list of five things he would do as supreme leader. This was some time ago, but running out of other things to blog, I see no harm in reviving it. Here is his Brandon’s list:

1. End all farm subsidies and enact bilateral or multilateral trading treaties with as many African states as possible. I would focus of states in the Gulf of Guinea and work on issues of land reform and property rights with leaders in this region.

2. Overhaul our entire immigration policy. I’d like to see Canadians, Mexicans, folks from the Caribbean, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Chilean, and northern Europeans be able to move freely between their home states and ours, and fewer restrictions upon others as our trade ties deepen between them and us.

3. I’d get rid of the current tax system as well (including the repeal of the 16th amendment), and replace it with something along the lines of those proposed by Henry George. A tax on land and resources but nothing else seems more than reasonable to me.

4. I’d get our troops out of Europe (and abolish NATO), Korea, and Japan. This could be offset, however, if we were to include the states we protect into a broader free trade zone like the one we have here in the US. Think about it this way: instead of reaching from Hawaii to Maine, the new free trade zone would reach from South Korea to Slovakia and Estonia (and Turkey!).

5. I would either impose term limits on Senators (but not House members) or repeal the 17th amendment so that, like Grover Cleveland stated, there can be much more decentralization in the political process. Also, I would include a nullification clause a la Randy Barnett where 2/3 of state legislatures would be able to overturn federal laws if they so wished.

In the comments I added my own list (I hope readers here will do the same), which is as follows:

My list is what I would do on the Federal level. State Nullification would be on this list if I had room, so my excuse for leaving it off is that States don’t need the Federal Government to approve of their interposition, as that would defeat the purpose. Also, I have long been a fan of repealing the 17th for some time now, but at a time when states are often as corrupt as the Central government, and as dumb as the voting public, I don’t think much would change. I think it is still a good idea, but that its main effect would be on traditional swing states such as Montana (I am itching to throw out Baucus and Tester).

1. End ALL taxes (inflation included), including those that affect our trade policies. Sell national monuments, national parks, bases abroad, bureaucratic office supplies, highways, Federal prisons, unused military and astronautical equipment, things like the DHS’ 450 million rounds of ammunition, and all Federal lands and “useful buildings” to the highest bidder. Use this for revenue. When this source dries up, then come up with something else. Getting rid of these things would eliminate the need to end bureaucracies and occupation via legislation or executive order, because the departments and their employees would literally have nowhere to work or stay, and nothing to do. And since you can’t pay people for doing nothing, fire most federal employees. And when that revenue question pops up again, stick it to the leaches first.

2. If the revenue from these giant auctions isn’t able to carry out the proper functions of government and pay off the entire national debt, go ahead and default on what remains of the National Debt. No handouts or advice from the IMF. Just a big middle finger. The US taxpayer (including countless millions not yet born) no more owes money (if you can call it that) to China, other assorted members of the international community, and international fraudsters than it does to the US Government. If taxation is theft when your own government does it, its rape when some other government or organization does it.

3. Phase out all entitlements, except for Constitutional emoluments to veterans, service members, and other Constitutionally enumerated beneficiaries. I would rather end these unfunded liabilities abruptly, but I suppose there would be several unintended consequences.

4. Competition in currencies. Go ahead and leave the Federal Reserve System. Just strip it of its monopoly powers, its dual mandate, and its lack of oversight.

5. Lift all restrictions on international and interstate commerce, including the on the free flow of labor. No mandates, no sanctions.

There are a few things I might change, but for now I am content to leave the list as is/was. I hope readers will comment with their own unique lists and perhaps continue this thread on their own blogs as well. Remember, we are in fantasyland, so don’t be afraid to be radical. The House and Senate will not be voting on your list.

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11 thoughts on “Five Things I Would Do If I Was Dictator For A Day

  1. This is an interesting parlor game. The only element I would add would be a kind of “war-game” in which the scenarios of what was being proposed were played out.. This might give us a better sense of what exactly the limits of our model might be, and in the process help improve them. But I am ready to play. I could think of at least 20 things I would change as dictator for a day, but I’ll stick with 5.

    1) Split up the Big Banks, and pass a “Tobin Tax” on financial transactions. This would help reverse a generation long shift towards the dominance of finance in the American economy.
    2) Related to (1) Have a “jubilee year” in which the debts of individuals below a certain income threshold and businesses below a certain size were written off. This would help re-balance a generation long growth in economic inequality.
    3) Move taxing authority and governance away from the federal government and as close to the individual as possible- to the local city and state level. This would help re-balance an almost century long shift of power to the federal government,
    4) End the duopoly of the Republican and Democrats by opening up state primaries to independents.
    5) Foster social innovation in the same way and to the same extent we foster scientific innovation allowing communities to experiment with alternative economic and political systems: libertarian, communist, anarchist,etc in the hope of finding viable alternatives to the current economic and political order.

    Now, obviously I have not thought of all the potential difficulties my proposals might encounter, so please oblige me, Hank, and let me know where you think my dictatorship might run into problems, or where it suggests questions. And let me do the same for yours:

    1) In terms of your “fire- sale” are you going to limit the purchase of these public assets to Americans alone? If not, we could see China and others buy up vast swaths of especially the American West.

    2) #1 probably leaves an opening for China to counter-balance the default of #2.

    3) Would the phase out of entitlements entail that people who have paid into the system that will be dismantled by the time they retire get their money ” back”? The government may have funded these programs like a ponzi scheme, but regular Joes consider them to be what they were intended to be- a form of insurance.

    I’ll skip 4

    5) Just for the record, I work with immigrants nearly everyday, and I am very pro-immigration, but wouldn’t unilaterally ending restrictions on immigration essentially flood the US with millions of people from all over the world almost instantly? After all, if a US in terrible shape is better than the kinds of mass poverty found elsewhere. Many struggling governments in the developing world might love to off-load many of their poor, and would pay for the boat ride. How would we absorb all of these people? Many would likely find themselves in the armies of the unemployed that would not be made up of former government workers.

    • You are absolutely right about the need to think these through, including in how they might relate to or effect each other, and implement or change them accordingly. And like I said, there are things I would modify in my list. I just wanted to post it the way it was before and leave those changes for later.

      As far as your critique of my master plan,

      1. Give the states the power of who can buy what within those states. Transfer federal land to the states. Presumably the states, especially those in the red would sell a lot of the land without the Feds having to mandate them to do so. Then split the proceeds between the state government and the federal government. Some states might choose to allow the Chinese to buy, but I suspect most wouldn’t. Even the ones that did, because it is the Federal Government that is indebted to China, and not the states, wouldn’t be beholden to China.

      Also, flooding the market with all that land would drastically reduce the price. Massive deflation can have its own harmful effects, so perhaps selling only a certain amount each year would be beneficial. Of course, this excess in supply could conceivably be countered with an increase in demand. This could be achieved in any number of ways, ranging from advertisement to tax breaks to indirect subsidies.

      2. True, but we only owe the Chinese a “little” more than one trillion, and plenty of that goes to Hong Kong, as opposed to China Proper. I may be wrong, but on the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t seem like it would take much land sold to pay that off, thereby eliminating this leverage they would otherwise have. Alternatively, you could default BEFORE the fire sale, assuming you could get away with ticking that many people off. The first people you would need to pay back are ordinary citizens that bought Treasury Bills. More on Treasury Bills under 4.

      3. Yes. Phase them out. Don’t end them abruptly. I have almost no skin in this game, and what little I have yet I would be willing to give up if it would help phase out entitlements. For those that feel they are entitled, get them as much as you can, while you can. But at a certain point someone else is paying for it. There is an argument to be made for telling these people “tough luck”. If you actually look at Social Security legislation there is NO promise that those paying in will be payed back. The language is plain enough, and the Supreme Court agrees that Social Security is a TAX, not an insurance or retirement program. Of course, Social Security is just one entitlement.

      Let people opt out. Not just young people who haven’t even started paying in yet, but those who are willing to be transferred to a private system, and those who are willing to forgo what is “owed to them”.

      But at a certain point, might someone be left holding the bag? Perhaps. If this is impossible to avoid, who should it be? The people who have bought into it for all these years, or young people who have nothing to do with it yet. At the risk of sounding mean, I have trouble sympathizing with people that were suckered into it. I realize they (including my parents, grandparents, and for a brief period when I was employed as a surveyor, myself) didn’t have much of a choice, but personal responsibility does come into play here.

      4. I take it you din’t have many qualms with my solution to fiat currency. As I mentioned above, there is one thing I would add, and that is that the Fed, should no longer be allowed to purchase Treasury Bills or any other Treasury issued bonds or securities, even with commodity-backed dollars. Not only does this lead to the creation of more worthless dollars, but it is a conflict of interest even if those dollars were sound. Ending this ability of the Fed would essentially take them back to the level of power they were at before 1917, when Woodrow Wilson signed the Liberty Bond Act into law.

      5. Aren’t entitlements and welfare huge draws of immigration? I think phasing these out, especially for non-citizens would curtail a lot of the freeloading. To the extent that immigration itself is not curtailed, those that came, though numerous, should not present any more problem than the waves of immigration in the mid to late 1800s did. Especially with all that cheap land for sale. Immigration and the demand for adequate living space it brings could be all the more reason to sell federal land in amounts that would otherwise depress the price of land.

      Thanks for commenting. I want to look at your master plan as well. In a little while.

      • Excellent responses, Hank. And please, take my own master plan to task.

        I am having trouble getting the fire sale scenario you painted out of my head, though not in the way I think you intended. It would actually make a GREAT political novel: I can see all sorts of players- and not just the Chinese or Abu Dhabi trying to get a piece of the pie- American Indians trying to get back their land, super-billionaires buying up whole mountains, rancher families fighting over the best land, environmentalist desperate to save species such as wolves and bears and funded by the super-rich to “re-wild” parts of the west, may be even bring back long extinct species such as the woolly mammoth or saber tooth tiger in parts of Alaska.

        On a side- note, I emailed G, over the weekend. He is on vacation now in Greece and is eager to respond to the debate once he gets home. I will keep you posted.

        Rick

        • Sounds good, Rick. Yes, the auction thing seems like it would be the Homestead Act on steroids. Minus the vote-buying, I would hope. Something for everyone.

          I got on this subject a few months ago when some friends and I went on a road trip here in Montana. We came across a mountainside that had two distinct types of tree growing on it. Dense, crowded, dry, beetle-eaten pine, and green, lush, sparse (but still quite numerous) pine. They were the same species so far as we could tell. The healthier trees were where there had been logging and regrowth. These trees are less likely to help ignite or fuel wildfires. So we started talking about alternatives to how land was managed. Public versus private being the two major categories.

          • Did you post that story about the land management discussion? Not to give you advise on blogging, Hank,
            (I am no expert), but I think that would make a GREAT post- and I think that even though I doubt I would ultimately agree with you.

            • To be honest, I don’t recall too many specifics. These friends of mine are quite unique. They are about as interested in politics, policy, and economics as I am. So we have had many such discussions. But I think that that is an excellent idea for when such a discussion is fresh. Just yesterday I was with them again (they are brothers) at a pizza place and we talked about how the one had just been to Texas at the “Patriot Academy”, a conservative-youth educational camp/convention, and that he was the only one there that was not going to vote for Romney, because it is against his principles. Most of the other people there did not like Romney either, but will be voting for him anyways. He said that he and the others were arguing one night when a Texas legislator by the name of David Simpson approached their table and took his side. Needless to say, we got to talking about the various factions of the Republican vote. That is, until our order arrived.

    • 1. There seems to be some disconnect as to the purposes of a tax. Some say it is to discourage behavior. Others say it is simply a means to collect revenue. There is no reason why it can’t be both. So long as there are taxes, why not slap them on activities deemed harmful or less productive? The Tobin tax seems to have been devised mainly as a tax to dissuade speculators. And while there is something to be said about the dominance of finance, especially in terms of cartel-like institutions, in American life, I do not see speculation in itself as a bad thing. It is a volatile thing to be sure. It has its own costs as well as its benefits, both to its practitioners and society. But on the whole speculation has become essential to the price system, and is efficient when compared to more committed types of trading. If you think of it as a force, then how dangerous it is depends upon how it is channeled, and not necessarily its strength. Therefore dissuading it may only be dealing with the symptoms of a given problem and not the root causes. But as a means of collecting revenue, a Tobin tax, whether on the sale, the purchase, or both, is really no more alarming than any other tax.

      I am all for busting the trusts, as it were. The smaller firms that would arise would lead to greater competition and thus greater innovation, efficiency, quantity, and quality. Not only would this be an economic boon in the long run, but it may very well serve justice. And I don’t mean social justice, per se. I mean that some of these corporations and monopolies are actually, provably even, guilty of or complicit in fraud. And by fraud, I mean both legal and illegal plunder. As usual, I sense that Washington DC and the Federal Reserve are both part and parcel of this activity, given their propensity to stimulate, bail out, perversely incentivize, and subsidize these institutions, either through the fine print of laws almost no one reads, laws the American people never consented to, or underhanded partiality.

      2. As in (1), I think that a lot of ordinary people were defrauded. But at the same time, other people were just foolish, having themselves to blame primarily. Their delinquency, however, may be more negligent than deliberate, and any settlement should reflect that fact. Lenders and their enablers/overseers (depending on how you view the relationship) should not be allowing risky loans, ones that are very unlikely to be paid back, in the first place. Ideally, with exceptions given the volatility and caprice common to human nature, banks would not be in the business of loaning to credit risks. At least not in the willy-nilly fashion they have been, even credit-risks need to live. Not getting a loan and instead opting for charity or deferment would be a wiser choice than selling oneself into debt slavery, though neither choice is a walk in the park. Perhaps there could be a separate category of lenders that forgive debt after a certain threshold, and still manage to stay solvent. People are innovative. It might just work.

      One way to cut back on all the cheap and easy credit is to institute full reserve requirements (Rothbard’s preference). ANother is to let the market set the optimal reserve percentages, allowing customers (depositors, investors, and borrowers) to know all the risks involved with different reserve levels.

      3. I agree. The closer to the individual taxing power is, the lower the rate and the better the service, for he will no longer be subsidizing others, and they will no longer be subsidizing him, as when country dwellers pay the same highway taxes as commuters and urbanites, despite using less expensive roads less often.

      4.Again I concur. A related idea would be to abolish the Commission on Presidential Debates and other quasi-private groups. This particular commission was started by the two major parties and purports to keep “unqualified” candidates out of major televised debates. While these groups apparently do keep out people who may be genuinely unqualified, they are too readily abused to the benefit to the two parties and to whomever is currently in power. So while it may be a good idea to keep someone like me from debating, and there should definitely be some way of doing just that, it is not justifiable to deny a Ralph Nader or a Gary Johnson their chance.

      5. I take it you mean full-fledged voluntarism and not just experiments with the purpose in mind of finding the best (for whom?) alternative and then implementing that across the board. Take healthcare. Each state (or better yet, each community) should be allowed its own healthcare system. But should that be the end of it and should they be allowed to make their own modifications whenever? Or should the state with the best (for whom?) results, after a trial period, be the model the others are made to comply with?

  2. Hank,
    Thanks for commenting on my “master plan”. I have 2 clarifications to make.

    1). The Tobin Tax: My attraction to this tax is two-fold. First, its purpose, to me, seems to be to discourage not so much speculation, but “over-trading”. Trading systems have become so computerized, and so globalized that you have trillions of dollars essentially being pushed around for no discernible market purpose at all. Think of the trillions of dollars that are “made” by currency traders whole essentially take advantage of the minute by minute changes (of a few cents) of currencies. It’s that minute by minute or now milosecond by miliosecond change that catches whats going on. Many financial transactions today have little relationship with actual investment or exchange- they just take advantage of constantly, incredibly small changes in value to make a killing. Hell, they dug a tunnel laced with fiber optic cables from Chicago to New York to gain 2 SECONDS of trading time. The Tobin Tax would help slow such insanity down, and tax it for what much of it is- a completely superfluous form of economic activity. Second, the last figure I saw was that the financial sector accounted for 35 PERCENT OF AMERICAN GDP. This might make sense for a relatively small society with an over-sized financial center e.g. the UK, but surely it is an unhealthy situation for an enormous country such as the US. The Tobin Tax, and other taxes like it put some head winds in front of this dangerous course.

    2) I am all for public investments in science and technology and I think the Founders- like Franklin and Jefferson- had similar ideas on the necessity of investing for the “common weal”. I don’t think America had much need for another kind of innovation- social innovation- because the country itself was just such an innovation. Now, though, I think we are in need of such social innovation and I think we can fund it in similar ways to the way we fund scientific innovation.

    I am thinking of something like the Utopian-seasteading initiative by the libertarian Peter Theil who proposes setting up man made islands which would be governed based on libertarian principles. Though this is no doubt ironic, but why not provide public seed money to try out such an experiment, or public seed money to try out a community whose economy is based on worker cooperatives or what have you?

    Many of our ideological battles are driven by the fact that whatever side “wins” will decide what the world we live in will look like. Giving people opportunities to live VOLUNTARILY in communities that actually reflect their values in so far as their Constitutionally guaranteed right are protected most especially the RIGHT TO MOVE, might be a way to take the edge off these ideological divisions without sacrificing the way in which they reflect the substantive differences between us of what defines “the good life”.

    It is my belief that we should encourage policy innovation as much as possible, though I am instinctively opposed to “mandates” of almost any form. Much better, I think, to create some kind of public data base where policies crafted along with their success or failure are accessible to anyone who wants them. Communities that consistently chose policies ill fitted for their citizens or who fail to take into account what works are bound to face the ultimate failure- their people will pick up and move.

  3. I am not sure what I’d do as I never really thought of this (never thought anyone should be dictator, even though it looks like we have our own, Dear leader).
    I do know I’d close bases all over the world, and selling them seems a good way of getting a bit of our cash back.
    I would also make it so social-security and medicare funds are untouchable, by ANYONE other than those who are recipients of same (by virtue that they PAID IN). I don’t want our MIC stealing monies from those paying in, and I think that they do this, at no additional cost, is reprehensible
    I would have to think what else I’d do- perhaps I would end the two-party system and put some certain folk to work (actual work), growing food for US, and food that we could sell to other countries.. NO more farm-subsidies, though.

    Looks like i already gave at least five things I would do. Can we count on our dear-leader to do same? No, never, regardless of which neocon is (s)elected in November (and I think it will never be MITT.)

    • Hey, thanks for reading Anne. Great point: No one should want to be dictator. Even those with good intentions can lead us to hell.

      In addition to earmarking payroll taxes to SS and Medicare ONLY, so the politicians can’t rob those dollars, I think that Social Security and Medicare need to be phased out, but that those in it should get as much as they can, even though there has never been an actual trust fund or savings pool. And if this is not possible (because the program really is way past insolvent), there should be more means testing and people taken off the roles. Ideally these people could transfer what they already have in it into private accounts, or if they are willing, just let THEIR money go. Personally, I have already paid in around $100-200 (while working as a surveyor the first half of 2012), but I would be willing to lose that if it meant those more dependent on it could get their funds.

      So 1. Close military bases around the world, selling them to the highest trustworthy bidder.

      2. Cordon off payroll revenue and use it solely to pay those in the program already.

      3. End the two-party monopoly.

      4. Grow our own food, with a surplus to sell. Probably made easy by lowering taxes, ending certain trade and commerce restrictions.

      5. End farm subsidies.

      And I agree, I don’t think Mitt can win this. And he sure ain’t getting my or your vote.

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