Jimmy Carter Freed Markets. Will Joe Biden?

Joe Biden with Jimmy Carter. Public Domain.

On October 1, Jimmy Carter became the first-ever US president to live past 95 years. He enjoyed a celebratory cavalcade in Plains, Georgia.  Yet his Democratic party has ignored one of his most enduring legacies.

Signing the Airline Deregulation Act, the Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act, and the Staggers Rail Act into law, Carter’s pen struck longstanding regulatory restrictions on commerce via sky, road, and railway. More goods from more sellers could now be bought — and delivered — in more ways.

The regulatory structures left in place by such partial measures have faced no real challenge from subsequent Democratic and Republican administrations. Partisans on both sides would soon mistake deregulation for a right-wing project, originating with rock-ribbed conservative Ronald Reagan and continued by centrist Bill Clinton, despite neither putting into practice their rhetorical echoes of Carter.

The view of Carter’s economic program from farther left was summed up by Howard Zinn: That it preserved “the fundamental facts of maldistribution of wealth in America.” Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer puzzles that Carter’s deregulation was supported by “an odd coalition of right-wingers, mainstream economists, liberals, and consumer advocates.”

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader urged Carter to allow “wide-open price competition in the marketplace.” This, he argued, would undermine corporate “federal and state welfare supports” which “assure price-setting cartels.”  Gabriel Kolko’s historical study Railroads and Regulation supports that case, showing how industry titans not only supported federal regulation but “enthusiastically worked for its extension.”

Given how much “the motives and consequences of regulation have been misunderstood,” Kolko was onto something in inferring that “the conventional interpretation … warrants a radical reappraisal.”

Carter has called Joe Biden his “first and most effective supporter in the Senate.” The current Democratic nominee should be reminded to follow Carter’s deregulatory path.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


If It’s Important to Vote, It’s Important to Vote for Freedom

Free stock photo via Pexels. Photo by Rahul.
Free stock photo via Pexels. Photo by Rahul.

With the 2020 presidential election less than a month away, my TV screen and snail and email boxes are awash in, and my phone is ringing off the hook with, reminders of how very, very important it is that I vote. Pleas from the candidates and their proxies, of course, but also the generic “no matter who you vote for, vote.”

How important is it, really, that you or I mark and cast a ballot?

According to the political operatives knocking on my door (sometimes literally), my potential failure to vote — or my decision to vote for the “wrong” candidate — constitutes an existential threat to motherhood, apple pie, and America.

Could my vote (which, by the way, I’ve already cast by mail for the Libertarian Party’s Jo Jorgensen) affect the outcome of next month’s election?

It seems unlikely. The last time a single vote decided a statewide election was in 1839 when Marcus Morton became governor of Massachusetts with 51,034 votes out of a total 102,066 ballots cast.

I probably have a better chance of winning next week’s Mega Millions jackpot than of casting the vote that decides which candidate’s slate of electors will represent Florida in choosing the next president. And as a Libertarian, the chance of my vote putting my preferred candidate over the top, in Florida or nationally, is even slimmer.

So does it really matter whether I vote or not? Absent some earth-shaking development that I can neither predict nor bring about by force of will, more than nine of every 10 voters will choose “business as usual” by casting their ballots for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. They’ll vote against freedom and for an ever more authoritarian state. And yes, they’ll almost certainly win.

Why bother? Because it matters to ME, that’s why. I have an opinion, voting is a way of expressing that opinion, and the vote total my preferred candidate gets, however small, will remain a matter of public record long after you’ve forgotten this column.

If one or two of a hundred voters choose freedom, they — WE — light a flame of hope in the deep dark night of fear and loathing that is 21st century American politics. A tiny, guttering flame, perhaps, but a flame I’d not want to see go out entirely.

Your vote is your voice. I won’t join my voice to the voices of the party of hate or the party of fear. Will you?

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


How the 25th Amendment Could Help Trump Win Re-Election

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As I write this, President Donald Trump is at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19 and, we are told, experiencing “very concerning” symptoms.  I wish the president a full and speedy recovery, but like many Americans I’m also interested in how this development affects the upcoming presidential election.

The consensus seems to be that it’s bad for Trump — he’s off the campaign trail for at least two weeks, his medical condition is the center of attention, and any kind of illness tends to make a president look “weak” (not good less than a month ahead of an election).

But Trump could use his unfortunate affliction to his own political advantage, by invoking the 25th Amendment.

Yes, I’m talking about the same 25th Amendment which some figures in the “Russiagate” investigation had apparently hoped to use to remove him from office early on. That amendment has two sides.

One side of the 25th involves the vice president and a majority of the cabinet deciding (and informing the Senate and the House) that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. The other side involves the president himself notifying the Senate and the House of the same conclusion. In either case, the vice president becomes acting president until and unless the president recovers.

Two significant issues in this election involve the transfer of presidential power.

One concerns the ages and apparent infirmities of the two “major party” candidates. Donald Trump and Joe Biden are both in their 70s. Both seemingly suffer from health problems including but not limited to incipient or actual dementia. Whether either of them, if elected, would survive the next four years in a physically vigorous and mentally competent state is a reasonable concern.

The other involves a seeming unwillingness on Donald Trump’s part to voluntarily relinquish personal power under any circumstances — maybe not even after losing the election next month.

Trump could reassure the public on both of those matters by invoking the 25th Amendment himself. That would communicate to the electorate that he cares more about continuity of government than about personal power. It would also would give Vice President Mike Pence a chance to prove himself ready to serve as president when and as needed. Both would likely play well with any remaining undecided voters.

On the practical side, COVID-19 can move very quickly. In August, my mother went from an apparent turn for the better, sitting up in bed, talking and eating, to dead in about two hours. A president hospitalized with that kind of condition is inherently incapacitated. President Trump should focus on his own recovery, not on appearing strong ahead of an election.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.