Recently, for the Blaze, Tucker Carlson has been interviewing prospective GOP nominees for president, and he has been asking them questions that they are not used to in the slightest. The most infamous of these questions so far was directed to Mike Pence, the former Vice President, on the topic of foreign aid and intervention.
When the clip starts, Pence is attempting to critique the current regime that we’re under for not being efficient enough in its hawkish policy, supposedly being too slow to send support to Ukraine and underdelivering on promises of intervention. Tucker then interrupts Pence, saying, “I’m sorry, Mr. Vice President… you are distressed that the Ukrainians don’t have enough American tanks? Every city in the United States has become much worse over the past three years. Drive around. There’s not one city that’s gotten better in the United States, and it’s visible. Our economy has degraded. The suicide rate has jumped. Filth and disorder and crime have exponentially increased, and yet, your concern is that the Ukrainians, a country most people can’t find on a map, who’ve received tens of billions of U.S. tax dollars, don’t have enough tanks? I think it’s a fair question to ask, like, where’s the concern for the United States in that?”
Pence then gives his viral response, heard in its entirety in a separate clip, saying, “Well, it’s not my concern. Tucker, I’ve heard that routine from you before, but that’s not my concern. I’m running for president of the United States, because I think this country’s in a lot of trouble. I think Joe Biden has weakened America at home and abroad, and as president of the United States, we’re going to restore law and order in our cities. We’re going to secure our border. We’re going to get this economy moving again, and we’re going to make sure that we have men and women on our courts at every level that will stand for the right to life and defend all the God-given liberties enshrined in our constitution. Anybody that says that we can’t be the leader of the free world and solve our problems at home has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth. We can do both, and as president of the United States, we will secure our border. We will support our military. We will revive our economy and stand by our values, and we will also lead the world for freedom.”
It’s clear to see why this would catch so much attention. For starters, it does not look good for a potential nominee (and a former Vice President) to admit in a Freudian slip that the domestic wellbeing of his country, including difficult subjects like suicide rates and civilizational decline, is not his concern. If a defender of Pence was to be overly charitable, they could make the case that he misunderstood the question or misspoke or was (contradictorily) declaring that Ukraine was not his concern, but the above transcripts and clips would make such a case impossible. The most straightforward conclusion has certainly been the most popular, with Auron MacIntyre, a noted friend to Austrians, summarizing the exchange by saying that Pence simply has an “inability to care about American people in the same way” that he cares about Ukrainians.
Tucker’s criticism was made from his usual position of nativism and populism, and though his implications are likely statist in nature, there is actually a great deal of common ground to be found with right wing populists, like Tucker, and anti-statist libertarians. In fact, Tucker’s lambasting of Pence and other GOP politicians presents quite the opportunity for libertarianism to further cement itself as serious force and the desirable alternative to our current political climate. To accomplish this, libertarians would do well to adopt a conciliatory attitude to these right wing populists, often decried as statists.
Their concerns over the economy are a great vehicle for libertarian economic measures to become the normal position among the uncompromising right. The populists know that something is wrong. Taxes are much higher than they used to be, and they only seem to rise as time goes on. Maybe one specific tax decreases, or maybe there’s a general decline in a few for a short time, but these momentary abatements do not disprove the general trend of increasing tax rates with an ever-growing scope. Beyond taxation, state regulations are also following the same trend. The volume and scope of regulations on the books now would be derided as totalitarianism a few decades ago. Despite the over-bloated tax regime and the overburdening regulations, few if any benefits seem to be reaching the average person.
Right wing populists are more open to economic libertarianism than perhaps they would have been a few decades ago. After all, it was thirty years ago when NAFTA, a nomenclative perversion of the concept of free trade, was the political issue of the day. Being as a majority of the Left was rallying around the treaty, and the rhetoric surrounding it was ostensibly in favor of free trade, this made free trade a position of the Left and one to be opposed by right wing populists. This persists into the present day on some parts of the Right which remain staunchly protectionist and in opposition to the hyper-standardization that results from agreements like NAFTA. Even with these holdouts, surmounting their objections is not impossible. They dislike what has become known as “free trade” because of the negative impacts on domestic cultures and communities. Libertarians have been against these treaties from the outset, correctly pointing out that they are just masks behind which the government hides its subsidization of exports (or, now for the West, imports). There should be no problem with libertarians amplifying their rhetoric against these distortive treaties in an effort to coalesce with the right wing populists.
More common ground can be found in taxation and welfare. Most right wing populists are against taxation, especially taxes on the lower and middle classes. The income tax, property taxes, inheritance tax, and sales tax are obvious burdens that both sides can happily rally against. Opposition to social security and the Great Society taxes may prove more difficult for common ground, as the older, more paternalistic populists will likely still support some measures of welfare. This is an untenable position, though, and younger populists realize it. In fact, the populists of Generation Z will be a hotbed for finding support in slashing these archaic programs of thievery. Many of them understand that Social Security in particular will demand vast sums of their earnings only to exhaust of its resources long before they could possibly draw from the pool. Again, coalitions can be built, and a cooperative future is in sight.
What about Tucker’s (popular) remark of violent crime and filth inundating the cities of America? Well, libertarians can agree here as well. The police must be unleashed. They must also be held individually liable if they make a mistake in administering instant punishment. In case one should accuse me of deviating from libertarianism here and trapsing into statism, this is ripped directly from Rothbard’s populist manifesto. In case one should disagree with this prescription, Rothbard provides an excellent rationale, if for a separate point, writing, “We must reject once and for all the left-libertarian view that all government-operated resources must be cesspools. We must try, short of ultimate privatization, to operate government facilities in a manner most conducive to business, or to neighborhood control.” More briefly, if we must have a state, having it operate in a favorable manner is just fine. Once again, the current surge of populism against old Neoconservatives like Pence and his ilk is a great opportunity for libertarians to assert themselves as defenders of good order.
A response to the suicide rate is another subject on which libertarians and right wing populists could align. Understanding the exact causes behind the recent increases is difficult, but a couple good guesses as to the cause could be offered. Isolation is reasonably to be one cause. The enforced isolation wrought upon the America by the totalitarian medical bureaucracy would, in a just society, be met with harsh retribution, an outcome that would satiate both populists and libertarians. What about deaths of despair? This is a category that includes suicide as well as drug overdoses and medical complications from the overconsumption of alcohol. It is a problem that has been left almost solely in the domain of the unfashionable far-right, because the category mainly affects their unfashionable demographic: white men. While the subject has gotten increased coverage after the forced lockdowns, I can recall it appearing in media since at least 2015. Here, libertarians should be able to offer solutions. For overdoses, particularly opioid overdoses, our current medical system is the cause, and its regulations exacerbate the issue. Both libertarians and right wing populists could agree to tearing the system down, especially if the libertarians continue to emphasize that doing so would not only help those white men, but also make healthcare much cheaper for everyone.
Wokeness is also a shared enemy of the populists and the libertarians. Diversity quotas, inclusivity proposals, the general decline in meritocratic standards, and forced association understandably abhors both groups, though most populists are only now beginning to understand why it’s all happening. Libertarians have known why for a while: the Civil Rights Acts, and everything built upon them, eliminated of freedom of association. This left a vacuum that could only be filled by forced association. Even seemingly private Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity initiatives are heavily encouraged, usually through funding, or sometimes required by the state and various NGOs. In order to rid the country of wokeness, and reestablish freedom of association and the primacy of property rights, the Civil Rights Acts must be nullified on the local level or repealed altogether (another point made by Rothbard).
Looking at the available common ground, such an alliance would be greatly beneficial for both groups. Some skeptics may insist that it would have the same result as the libertarian alliance with the paleoconservatives, but it does not have to. After all, as our modern tyranny continues to grow ever more total, one has to wonder if discussions about future trade and tax policies and their underlying concepts can simply be addressed at a later date. Even if they can’t, growing popularity of right wing populism, exemplified by Tucker’s exchange with Pence, is an excellent opportunity for libertarians to forge friendships in the shared fight for liberty while harkening back to an forgotten heritage.
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