” … although Trump was not a libertarian, was his philosophy in energy, environment, and regulation reasonably free market? Were the President’s motivations laudatory? Consumer-, entrepreneur-, and taxpayer-driven? I believe they were, outside of foreign trade policy with certain countries.”
I recently had this exchange with a ideological and personal friend, Richard Ebeling, BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, about the civil war within the libertarian movement in regard to the Donald Trump presidency. Always there, the divide boiled over last week with Trump’s last stand. I was part of it.
After reviewing our exchange, I revisited many Trump-related posts here at MasterResource regarding energy, climate, and the environment. (Wednesday’s post will list approximately 30.) The question is: although Trump was not a libertarian, was his philosophy in this area reasonably free market, outside of foreign trade policy with certain countries? Were the President’s motivations laudatory? Consumer-, entrepreneur-, and taxpayer-driven? I believe they were.
Ebeling: Many of my weekly articles over the last four years have been on Trump’s rude, crude, boorish behavior and his total disregard or understanding of the meaning of liberty and limited government in the American tradition. But it does not change the fact that taxes were lowered, some regulations were removed and unemployment for many groups in the labor force reached historic lows before the Coronavirus and the government lockdowns and shutdowns by federal and especially state-level policies.
He did not initiate these tax and regulatory policies for classical liberal-based reasons, but they nonetheless had their salutary effects on the economy. But, at the same time, Trump has brought almost all of this down on himself with his words and deeds.
Bradley: I agree. But I am not in the business of personality. Focused very much on energy/environmental policy (have to defer to Wayne Crews on regulation more generally and experts in all the other areas to make their own assessments, including foreign policies). Trump has provided some ‘worldview’ to go along with withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and for his pro-energy policies, all chronicled at MasterResource.
Now, in terms of opportunity cost and sunk cost, I have supported Trump ‘more’ in comparison to the Left. The downside of TDS among classical liberals is that the good side of Trump’s polices were left twisting in the wind. Some more ‘policy, not personality’ would and still is good as a methodology for classical liberalism. Sweet Joe Biden and bad policy lie just ahead in Trump’s good areas…
Ebeling: Yes, ideas should be separated from personalities. But . . . In reality ideas and policies are expressed, conveyed, and implemented by people who articulate them.Thus, it is a common trait to connect what is said with the person saying or doing it. Think of Reagan’s persona compared to Trump, for instance. So, in many people’s eyes he has ended up discrediting reasonable policies because of his conduct and manner.
Bradley: I agree. But happy get-along Reagan, for example, did not do with energy what Trump did. Reagan said he was going to abolish DOE and did not. Trump exited the Paris climate accord and ‘mainstreamed’ ‘energy dominance’ in a way that no Republican would have done (and had done). And for the right reasons.
Trump on Regulation
Trump did have a worldview behind his regulatory reform. Maybe not as much as libertarians want, but a pretty good one, particularly in terms of the political opportunity cost now known as Biden/Harris.
And his record was pretty good for the modern era, maybe very good. (CEI expert Wayne Crews reports, you decide.)
Last month at MasterResource, I summarized the White House philosophy on regulation, Trump’s Last Regulatory White Paper (Fall 2020 Regulatory Plan). The White House stated in its introduction:
Regulatory reform marks one of the central and abiding successes of President Trump’s Administration. From the beginning, the President has focused on regulatory reform as a principal means both to promote economic growth and to secure the liberty of Americans…. Many of the most important deregulatory actions have issued in the past fiscal year, leading to the greatest reduction in regulatory burden in decades. As significant, the President has reformed the way regulation happens in the United States, thereby promoting the rule of law.
Did many libertarians so critical of Trump read or report on this summary? With less than 650 views of Crews’ regulatory update above, I would say not.
I cannot help but believe from my recent Facebook exchanges with leading libertarian academics that too many fell into the Progressive Left trap of changing the narrative from public policy to Trump’s character. (Is the Left really the character party, by the way?) For academic libertarians surrounded by Progressives in the workplace, is ignoring or downplaying Trump’s accomplishments a way to try to get along? To have a dialogue?
These are questions, not answers. A scholarly ‘Libertarians and Trump” book needs to be written. After all, some believe that unlike the Green Party that was starved by the Democrat establishment, the libertarians, not voting or voting for LP candidate Jo Jorgensen, might have swung a very close election to Biden/Harris.
Tomorrow in Part II, approximately 30 important Trump energy/climate speeches and moments will be listed–for the record.