2016, Pt II

[This article is a continuation of 2016 Pt I]

The 2016 elections are over. With their perpetual dominance of the news cycle at our backs, it is important to revisit a litany of other issues that may be at least as meaningful in the coming year. In that spirit, we set the election aside and look at the broader cultural trends at work in America as well as international and domestic policy issues that may weigh heavily in the next year. As we do, we find optimism and concerns in equal measure both at home and abroad.  

Though Trump’s role in promoting a subjectivist, post-truth society is significant, his election is merely the symptom of longstanding cultural decadence. To paraphrase from Ayn Rand, elections merely “cash-in” on the cultural developments from the preceding months and years. With pragmatists controlling the Republican Party and collectivist-subjectivists dominating American cultural discourse, it should come as no surprise that America a collectivist who believes that reality is as he dictates it to be and whose only non-negotiable principle is that everything may be negotiated.

For years, the left has promoted a “primacy of consciousness” metaphysics—i.e., “the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness”—through American universities and other cultural leaders.  Moral relativism and other derivative doctrines take this “primacy of consciousness” for granted, and the left has profited immensely from the expansion of this faulty doctrine over the course of many decades. Some years ago, the “primacy of consciousness” manifested itself in the now-defunct Occupy Movement, which delighted in its own nihilism and took every opportunity to engage in destructive violence. More recently, the doctrine has seen resurgence in the form of the “Black Lives Matter” movement—a racially collectivist movement that, despite its professed desire for justice, is most known for the wanton destruction caused by its adherents. Like so many movements around the world in decades past that have used “liberation,” “justice,” or “freedom” in their names, Black Lives Matter seems to apply an admirable, salutary, and wholly agreeable name with methods and motives that are rarely so respectable.

While coverage of the movement largely yielded to election news, the movement reemerged in September in the wake of a police shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Despite conclusive proof that the man was armed during the confrontation that ended his life, lies from the man’s widow that he was only carrying “a book” and misstatements from the profiteers of prejudice incited riots under BLM’s banner. Rioters in Charlotte shut down highways, destroyed property, and attacked passerbys. Meanwhile, major media outlets to refused to employ the word “riots,” preferring the term “protester” instead. In this sense, both the riots and the coverage thereof exhibited the sort of post-truth subjectivism that plagues the left today—the riots by believing that enough screams to the effect that the man was unarmed would make it true, and the media by believing that refusing to cover the violence wipe it from existence.

However, just as the September riots brought the left’s irrationality into full focus, so too did they provide opportunities for voices of reason to shine through. For example, Atlanta was largely spared from the violence that rocked Charlotte through the prudence of Democratic Mayor Kasim Reed, who (along with the local NAACP chapter) urged demonstrators to stay off the highways and to express their concerns in a “King-ian fashion”—referring to the peaceful demonstrations by Civil Rights Movement leader and Atlantan Martin Luther King, Jr. Meanwhile, a man in Charlotte made headlines for embracing the local police amidst jeers and bigoted taunts from those around him, ably rebuking the hecklers and dismantling BLM’s narrative of a rampant racism in Charlotte’s police department.

Elsewhere in cultural developments: in a bizarre but unsurprising move, critics of Donald Trump from both left and right have begun trying desperately to turn their condemnations of Trump and his incoming administration into attacks on philosopher Ayn Rand. It took little more than a few past mentions of Rand’s books by Trump and two of his cabinet nominees for both leftist and conservative outlets to begin deriding them as consistent and loyal adherents of Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Whereas if Barack Obama were found to have made salutary remarks about Karl Marx or Saul Alinsky, his comments would have been whittled and contorted into non-existence by leftist commentators and we would have been given an itemized list of all of the ways in which he has no socialist sympathies, no such care is taken with Rand. Outlets such as The Washington Post and New York are ready to tie the president-elect to Rand by any contortions necessary, including, in the New York case, Jonathan Chait putting on full display how easy it is with a bit of name recognition to publish an article on a book that the author has clearly never thoroughly read and does not understand. High school slackers everywhere: take heart. Conservatives, never ones to let an anti-Rand bandwagon pass them by, joined in on time. In National Review Online, Kevin Williamson wrote an article dismissing Rand’s influence as insignificant among conservatives and pretending that her many works of nonfiction don’t even exist (all the easier to evade her arguments). As Don Watkins has noted at Voices for Reason, Rand’s influence has been greater than conservatives think, if still not great enough.

To the leftist case, ironically, one would be hard-pressed to find an individual more emblematic of Ayn Rand’s villains than Donald Trump. Though the left would find it much easier to make their case if Rand’s novels had been stories of rich-versus-poor or if she had argued for freedom on the grounds of class conflict, both the heroes and villains in her stories span many wealth brackets and are defined less by their possessions than how they earned them. Rand’s villains are nihilists, altruists (in the original meaning of the word), collectivists, statists who seek to use government to extract unearned wealth using the force of government. They are, in her word, “pull-peddlers” who use influence to grift the unearned and who see other people, rather than their own intellect and abilities, as their means of survival. They are the corporate welfare recipients that the left claims to despise but only further entrenches with every greater measure of regulation and control. And in many ways, that is precisely how Trump has seen fit to pursue his career: taking the unearned by refusing to pay his vendors and daring them to sue him, using eminent domain law and the power of the state to secure investment properties that he desired, and, now, advocating further regulations and controls–more deeply entrenching the connection between private industry and the state, along with the unsavory products of those relationships. Given her condemnations of such practices, the absurdity of treating Trump as a Rand admirer or as someone who even understands her philosophy should be clear.

As for conservatives, given their decades of failure to separate state and economy and the ease with which they forget their free market ideals the moment that they regain a majority, while Williamson may be wrong as to the degree of Rand’s influence among conservatives, it is fair to say that the GOP has never earned being branded with an integrity like hers. They have always shown an uneasiness with respect to Objectivism, though, that we suspect to be driven by her articulation of a far more consistent moral defense of capitalism than the American right has ever mustered. Though theirs has been more popular and culturally salient as of this writing, the leftward drift of American culture should give them pause and invite them to ask whether their intellectual case for freedom–based in arguments from faith, tradition, tragedy, and depravity—may be neither rational nor a road to success. Don Watkins characterizes their approach well:

For the more intellectually inclined conservatives, the differences between Rand’s philosophy and theirs are even starker. Whereas she upheld a heroic vision of man they hold what conservative thinker Thomas Sowell calls a “tragic vision” of man’s inherent limitations and imperfections. Whereas she held that all ideas need to face the scrutiny of reason’s light they see the rejection of tradition as a threat to the social order and the root of tyranny. Whereas she regarded the individual as the basic unit of society they elevate the family and the community. Whereas she was a principled champion of laissez-faire capitalism they view unrestrained selfishness as morally intolerable and advocate a regulatory-welfare state that limits self-interest for the common good. It’s not that they don’t get what Rand is saying — to a large extent they do, and they reject it.”

Beyond politics, however, there are, as always, many positive and beneficial developments that demonstrate the inventive power and benevolent sense of life that remains inseparable from American culture. Americans are blessed to have their presidential elections coincide every four years with the Olympic Games, reminding us that outside of political debates and the handful of figures on the national stage, there exists a world of people pursuing their own individual dreams and achieving wonders in the process. The athletes representing the United States took home 121 medals this year, 46 of them gold, with the closest competitor, China, finishing with 70 medals overall. For decades, the success of the United States in world sports has stood as testament not to the superiority of our political and economic system in “producing” athletes, as the Soviets intended for communism, but to the inventiveness and wonder of individuals who, when left free to pursue their passions in a society that affords them the freedom and comfort to do so, find greatness in themselves. One could not ask for a more perfect representation of the way in which a free society attracts talent and allows it to seek fulfillment rather than struggling to hammer it into existence, nor of the superior motivating forces of passion over fear. And in a much-needed story of underdog success, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series after 108 years, inspiring a country that needed a moment to forget its divisions and rally around a set of unlikely heroes.

In science, developments continue at a rapid pace. New discoveries have given us further evidence as to the development of multicellular organisms, new and more distant galaxies, and oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere. For the claustrophobes among us, worry not: the universe is now estimated to be growing five to nine percent faster than once thought. In medicine, a successful head transplant has been performed on animals; a fully functioning bionic eye prototype was unveiled, giving new hope to those who suffer from blindness; a gene mutation is found to lower heart attack risk by fifty percent; and cellular biologists have made strides in understanding and potentially halting the human aging process. These are but a few among dozens of innovations and discoveries made in the past year, with potential to improve both our understanding of the world in which we live and how to make it better.

Across the Atlantic, the uncontested story of the year was the British people’s decision, via referendum, to leave the European Union. The culmination of more than twenty years’ work by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader, Nigel Farage, the “Brexit” vote was a shocking success that defied pollsters’ predictions and was greeted variously with horror and elation on both sides of the Atlantic. Though the British pound has remained weaker in the uncertain climate that has followed, financial markets largely bounced back with impressive speed, their initial decline seemingly consisting not of lost asset value but of misplaced bets shaking themselves out. Given the value of the UK market to the rest of Europe, reasonable expectations are that bilateral trade agreements will largely reestablish Britain’s foregone access to the European Common Market system. In a late twist in early November, a British high court ruled that, by law, Parliament must vote on the decision to leave and report its own decision to the European Commission for the move to be official. Nonetheless, expectations are that Parliament will honor the results of the referendum. If so, Farage, who stepped down as UKIP leader in the wake of the referendum, will likely go down in world history books as the figurehead of a peaceable and democratic exit from a vast politico-economic union spanning most of the European continent.

While the British Conservatives continue to dominate the UK Parliament, the Conservative Party in Canada suffered substantial electoral defeat in 2015. Led by Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party successfully achieved an absolute majority in Canada’s government. Despite an Islamist terrorist attack in Ottawa in March, the new Canadian government made good on its promise to largely shift away from involvement in Obama’s military engagements in the Middle East and to refocus on domestic policy. Trudeau, however, ignited public controversy late in 2016 by offering words of support for deceased dictator Fidel Castro. Castro, who along with Che Guevara was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and imprisonments through their leadership of socialist revolutions and oppression in Central and South America, should not be missed by any who truly understand and value human liberty. Nonetheless, Trudeau called Castro a “remarkable leader” who had “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people”—apparently excluding from memory Castro’s notorious abuses of individual right and brutality. The backlash was swift, especially from Cuban ex-patriots and their descendants in the United States such as Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Rubio questioned whether the statement was legitimate or a “parody,” and Cruz slammed socialists’ adoration for dictators like Castro, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. Social media users further mocked Trudeau with the hashtag “#Trudeaulogies,” imagining the condolences Trudeau may hypothetically offer for the likes of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and other brutal tyrants throughout history. While the criticism forced Trudeau to acknowledge Castro’s abuses of individual rights, that he had to walk back his comments in the first place demonstrates the extreme disconnect between the left’s praise for socialist dictators and the reality of their legacies.

In a stroke of positive news, one of the world’s longest-running civil wars, that between the Colombian government and the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), has come to an end. In November, negotiations produced a peace deal that was signed by both sides and, at the end of the month, approved by Colombia’s Senate and House of Representatives. Spanning over half a century, leaving over 200,000 people dead, and comprising some of the most gruesome and horrifying scenes in the history of modern warfare, the conflict with FARC has long been a plague on Colombia’s peace and prosperity. Justice will not be complete, as part of the deal required immunity for those FARC rebels who confessed to war crimes, but many will go before the courts on charges of drug trafficking, murders, and other crimes. President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in August in an apparent effort by the Nobel committee to give him greater bargaining power. Though the award is much deserved, and commemoration of the end of this bloody conflict should be widespread, in light of Nobel committee members’ admission last year that President Obama’s prize was likewise given not in honor of things accomplished but in order to bolster him politically in political battles to come, we wonder if the Nobel Prize is quickly becoming an endorsement of political leaders and a gift of political capital rather than an actual award for feats yet achieved.

Perhaps the most understated but salient force of political change this year has been the price of oil. From Russia to Venezuela to the Gulf monarchies, the fall in global oil prices is spurring change in myriad ways. Russia under Vladimir Putin has grown increasingly assertive in the last two years with respect to Ukraine and Syria, making numerous non-EU countries in Eastern Europe all the more eager to join the Union and enjoy its protections. Military operations aside, Putin has pursued a more aggressive diplomacy in other respects, expressing a clear preference for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential elections and similarly supporting right-wing populist movements and leaders in other countries. In Venezuela, collapsing oil prices have worsened the devastating conditions created by socialist policies there under Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro. Hyperinflation continues to devastate the economy, hunger plagues the emaciated residents of major cities, and stores stand empty or shuttered as trade restrictions prevent goods from entering to relieve the suffering. Fortunately, so many Venezuelans recognize their problems as the direct consequences of socialism; unfortunately, they lack the means to change their condition until the decay weakens the enforcement power of the state. And in the Middle East, the Gulf States, which have for decades funded massive welfare states off of oil revenue, are anticipating change in the years to come. The Saudi crown in particular has responded powerfully, revealing high aspirations of reform. It is currently shopping for a global stock exchange on which to offer shares in state-owned Aramco, which would mean the (at least partial) privatization of the most valuable company in the world. And it has announced plans to privatize the economy more generally, moving from the now seventy-six percent of GDP made up of government spending to roughly thirty percent. Such a transition would be unprecedented on the timeline that they propose, inviting concerns as to whether the royal family can achieve it without inviting a revolution or armed challenge in an already unstable part of the world. Further stoking concerns, the Saudi state has informed its citizens, most of whom do not work and approximately forty percent of whom have never officially held gainful employment, that they should expect to enter the labor force in the next decade. The Saudi people’s adaptation to working life and prospects for employment will thus play heavily into the political stability of the country—and of the region—going forward.

Elsewhere, nations around the globe continue to struggle against militant Islam, which seeks to topple the secular (or relatively secular) government. In 2016, these conflicts were most pronounced in Libya, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. Libya, still rebuilding from the civil war that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, now faces an insurgency funded and organized by Islamic State militants. With the consent of the transitional government, the United States has led airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya while providing support for the budding democratic government. And despite assurances by the Nigerian government to the contrary, Boko Haram (also a self-proclaimed Islamic State vassal) continues to hold significant amounts of territory in eastern Nigeria while carrying out attacks against the democratic government and civilian targets. In Bangladesh, radical Islamists—similarly inspired by the Islamic State—have expanded their campaign of violence against secular bloggers and other civilian targets. For its part, the Bangladeshi government continues to vigorously prosecute Islamic terrorist activities (sometimes at the expense of individual rights), even though its high court rejected a petition to abolish Islam’s status as the official state religion. Each of these nations faces unique challenges, all of which will continue well into 2017 and potentially beyond. But this much is certain: until the states and organizations that legitimize and inspire Islamist terrorists are dismantled, the attacks will continue–if not in these nations, then elsewhere.

Likely the most ominous situation abroad continues to be the ongoing civil war in Syria. Pitting not altogether secular rebels against ISIS against an alliance of the Assad government, Russia, and Iran, the war has become a multi-dimensional and deadly conflict that has precipitated the injury or death of 11.5% of the Syrian population and the displacement of an astounding 45%. Numerous ceasefire and peace agreements have been initiated and faltered in 2016, leaving stability beyond reach. By the year’s end, atrocities were reported in Aleppo as families suspected of rebel sympathies were being pulled from their homes and executed.

It is difficult to read the situation in Syria without seeing it as an extension of the collapse and power vacuum precipitated by the Iraq War. The destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime and the establishment of a state too weak and uncommitted to reform to fight for it allowed for the growth of Islamic militancy, which has spilled over into Syria’s own internecine conflict. The United States, which allowed for fundamentally theocratic constitutions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, inadvertently legitimized the region’s religious politics and allowed numerous Islamist groups to transition from outsider factions into formal political parties. In the process, as ISIS controls more territory in Iraq, Syria, and other unstable and conflict-ridden states such as Libya, the Assad regime, for all of its horrors, has been made to seem perhaps not the worst of all possible parties to emerge victorious. Nonetheless, the emerging, increasingly public alliance between Russia, Syria, and Iran is just the sort that has historically gone looking for further conflicts and precipitated far greater wars than this. As it rapidly transitions from the covert sharing of military and intelligence facilities to public proclamations of loyalty and allegiance, that unholy trinity should be the top intelligence priority of the incoming Trump administration.

Back at home, however, the Trump administration’s top priority, it seems, is trade. Perhaps the most contagious and undoubtedly one of the most deadly ideas in economics is the notion that trade is a threat to a country’s economic well being. Since the days of David Ricardo and Adam Smith, economists have labored with little success to convince the masses of the benefits of international trade and that, just as surely as your next door neighbors specializing as butcher and baker makes them more productive and improves your quality of life through specialization and trade, so our lives are enriched a million times over by the same trade relationships being conducted across borders, oceans, and cultural barriers. International trade is why your television doesn’t cost $6,200 (2016 $), as it did in 1964. Trade is why the American quality of life is the highest in the world. And trade is why fewer American workers have to work in factories where a sign advertises how many days it has been since the last major physical injury in that facility. At a time when our lives are made better every hour of every day by international trade, it is sad to witness the shift on the American right towards supporting impoverishing tariffs, trade restrictions, and economic nationalism. Though the left long ago surrendered its free trade credentials in favor of union support, the GOP remained largely in favor of foreign trade until late. Now, vilifying both NAFTA and TPP, so many conservatives have joined Donald Trump’s nationalist fervor and defended the need for government intervention in and control of foreign trade in order to preserve higher-cost modes of production.

In so doing, these conservatives join those on the left who pander to unions in treating the market and free economic institutions as fundamentally flawed and destructive, in need of correction from benevolent rulers who can micromanage or macromanage national production into a different distribution of labor and income than the market would otherwise support. As Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence said in early December, they believe that “the free market has been sorting [the economy] out and America’s been losing.” Again, though one suspects that such a statement would have been looked upon as poison had it been said by Barack Obama, on the lips of a Republican it gained favor on the right. In an Economist/YouGov poll, fifty-seven percent of self-described Republicans agreed with the statement, which, in combination with Trump’s choice of anti-trade economist Peter Navarro as his campaign’s economic advisor, suggests what the new Trump administration may pursue in its initial moves on economic policy. Time will tell whether Congressional Republicans’ more favorable views toward trade will win out over the administration’s sentiments and, for that matter, whether such rhetoric will merely melt away like so many of Trump’s positions, discarded as mere momentary conveniences rather than statements of belief.

Key to winning this struggle will be popular economic education–always a difficult hurdle—and the remedying of false economic beliefs about the effects of trade. The claim that trade destroys jobs is central to that fight. While it is true that offshoring and the substitution of domestic production with imports puts an end to some jobs at first, to think clearly about economics we must focus on what Frederic Bastiat called “the seen and the unseen”: the first-order effects of trade and their second-order consequences. Yes, some jobs go overseas. At the same time, however, the American cost of living falls, and consumers—for every worker is also a consumer—see an increase in wealth and the real value of their incomes. Increases in real wealth combined with other countries shouldering the burden of producing the initial good means that wealth is freed up for investment in new businesses, creating new jobs, and generating economic growth in new areas in which American businesses have a comparative advantage.

Here is where opponents of trade will argue back that the process doesn’t work out that way and that many of those workers have remained unemployed and discouraged. In some cases, that is true, although the reality is that economists do not yet have the data or the research to know for how many workers this is true. It cannot yet be said how many of America’s discouraged and unemployed workers are in their condition due to offshoring and imports. The best that we can say is that it is some of them but not all of them. Regardless, however, we must keep two facts in mind with respect to policy, and conservatives must stand accountable to these facts: (1) all Americans gain an immense benefit and improvement in their quality of life due to trade, and (2) protectionist policies are a redistribution of wealth from consumers to those workers who would not otherwise be in manufacturing work were it not for tariffs and regulations. Should we be sympathetic to those who lose their jobs to trade? Undoubtedly, and no amount of economic argumentation will likely overcome the feeling of loss that comes with that. To remain consistent in its principles, however, the American right cannot oppose welfare statism in its domestic policy and advocate it in its trade policy. If it does, it will continue to scare off investment, all while transferring wealth from some Americans to others and from future generations to the present.

The question remains, however: what has prevented the reabsorption of American workers into the labor force and hindered America’s recovery from a recession that began almost a decade ago? Why have those workers not been shuffled back into the economy, as trade advocates argue should happen? The answer is not that a free market is flawed and prone to failure. The answer is that government policy has continually hindered our recovery and kept business investment from recovering as it should. The Federal Reserve has done its part with a decade of ultra-low interest rates and paying interest on reserves above the market rate. The net effect, which the average voter fails to see, is that the Fed has effectively paid banks to not lend money to businesses. Fearful of inflation and losing its control over interest rates, it has discouraged lending and kept credit tight, keeping the recovery slow in the process. This, combined with crippling uncertainty with regard to regulatory policy (ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, a potential future Republican federal healthcare plan, etc.), has left American businesses in the lurch. With a new president whose views seem to change with the wind, it is unclear whether such uncertainty will subside or remain a fixture in the coming year. The Fed having voted at the end of the year to raise interest rates by one quarter of a percent, at least monetary policy seems to be moving in favor of providing the necessary conditions for a rise in economic activity. Difficult though it seems for the GOP to remain suspicious of government once they hold Congress and the White House, they should direct what remaining limited government spirit they have onto both monetary and regulatory policies as the source of high unemployment rather than blaming the market first.

 

As a general matter, the question of how much free market fervor will remain in the GOP now that it holds both houses of Congress and the White House remains up in the air. Their speed in abandoning or softening various free market positions since Trump’s election has been impressive. They have been quick to urge that they fully intend to take action on ObamaCare, but Paul Ryan’s language of “ObamaCare relief” leaves open what that is and raises concerns as to whether it would include bailouts for insurance companies, many of whom lobbied for the law. Whatever their intentions, a free market in medicine does not appear to be the GOP’s plan, being discarded without mention in favor of their own federal plan of some kind. Conservatives enthused or leftists despondent at the prospect of the GOP on a deregulatory crusade should remember the GOP’s friendliness towards regulation and federal control during George W. Bush’s two terms and bear in mind that Donald Trump has consistently shown over his campaign and in numerous comments over the years his predilection for government control and the need of the state to control or guide the economy in some capacity. If so, we worry that he will be readily met by centrist Republicans in Congress whose proposals for control have been stifled for the past six years by either Tea Party fervor for limited government or the Obama administration’s own agendas. Centrists already show signs of wanting to bring back earmarks in order to give Congressional leaders more leverage to force votes on unrelated issues. One of the side effects of devout pragmatism, however, is a distaste for your own tactics used against you once you find yourself out of the majority, so if the GOP follows through with this, expect them to be bemoaning it the next time they lose the majority.

This is a unique review to conclude in many ways. One is the remaining sense of disbelief as to the results of the 2016 elections. Until the results poured in on election night, it seemed impossible that Donald Trump could emerge victorious. In the end, despite his supporters’ attestations, we maintain that it was by no means the force of his campaign that he won but rather the weakness of Hillary Clinton’s and the utter decay of the Democratic Party under Barack Obama. Whatever favorable polls President Obama may take with him as he departs, the numbers tell a different story: thirty states with Republican governors and thirty-two states with Republican-controlled legislatures, governing 61% of the American population. With Hillary Clinton now a perennial losing candidate and Bernie Sanders pushing eighty by the next presidential election, it is currently unimaginable who will be the Democratic front-runner in 2020. Young and well liked candidates are few, and those who are there will have to gain considerable ground in the next four years in order to distinguish themselves without the all-consuming persona of Barack Obama.

In the meantime, predictions as to policy expectations are difficult to make. The Republican will to repeal ObamaCare seems strong and the law is publicly disliked, so the probability of its survival seems low. What will follow that, however, we cannot say; it will, as noted, likely be a somewhat freer but still regulation- and tax-engineered program. The same risks apply where Dodd-Frank is concerned, though perhaps more than anything what the U.S. needs now is a true and thorough campaign of deregulation. Unfortunately, we are not particularly confident that Republicans have the will and convictions to follow through on their promises now that the administration and enforcement of those regulations is in their hands. We have already begun to hear how long and difficult it will be to take action on these major federal programs despite having heard in the past six years that all they needed was the House, the Senate, and then the White House. And we would like to think that the threat of voters’ punishment will be enough to keep legislators in line, but if the Trump election proved anything, it has proven the willingness of conservative voters to compromise on so many issues in order to remain loyal to a party label or in order to avoid the even worse fate of handing power to a Democratic Party that drifts ever further to the left. Unless and until the Democratic Party realizes the danger of its leftward drift and its alienation of more conventional American values among the electorate, it will continue to retain support in its strongholds of California, the Northeast, and most American universities while losing the majority of the country. We say this not in support of its efforts but because neither its trajectory towards becoming the American Democratic Socialist Party nor Republicans’ feeling of safety and unaccountability are good for America and Americans’ economic freedom.

In our seventh annual review, we have labored to remain true to the values and intentions of the previous six. We have long been careful to keep this from ever being a partisan publication but to apply our reason and values to the interpretation of American politics and culture without favoritism. In the process, we have invited personal criticism from both right and left, each accusing us of loyalty to the other. We take this to be a sign of success. As we enter 2017, we intend to prove to you, our readers, that under a Republican administration this publication will be no different. We will as readily single out and criticize the abuse of political power, deplore the rot of bad ideology, and praise the good wherever we find it. We hope that you will join us as we provide even more and better analysis in the coming year than we have in the last and as we work to return America to the values of its past in order to make possible a greater and more prosperous future.

 

From all of us,

Happy New Year!

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