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YangGang Needs to Know His Place
They should have looked at his policy, and not his pin
I’m old enough to have watched Sesame Street growing up, and one of the most iconic songs to come from the show was One Of These Things (Is Not Like The Others). As you can imagine, the song teaches children how to think about items’ characteristics and utilize them to develop groupings. That said, I think the organizers of the recent Freedom Fest event would be well considered listening to the song again.
For those unaware, the annual Freedom Fest, which just concluded, is an annual gathering of Libertarian thinkers to discuss the various issues of the day. The event draws many of the heaviest hitters in Libertarian circles; people like Senator Rand Paul, journalist Glenn Greenwald, former Congressman Justin Amash, comedian John Cleese and CEO of Forbes Magazine Steve Forbes, who headlined the event. However, one headliner was not like the others; the founder of the new Forward Party, Andrew Yang. Yang is unlike the others because he is a technocrat. No matter how much he protests it, there is not a libertarian bone in his body.
I first heard of Andrew Yang when he announced his run for President in 2017 but knew virtually nothing about him until June 2018, when he appeared on Sam Harris’s podcast, Making Sense. The main focus of the discussion was on Universal Basic Income (UBI), a concept with which Yang has become synonymous and subsequently renamed the “Freedom Dividend.” As a libertarian, I do not support government programs but was willing to listen to a new idea with an open mind. After all, Yang has a good pedigree - he started several companies and wanted to spread the start-up mentality around the US with his non-profit Venture for America. Additionally, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about my presidential voting options for 2020, so I figured it was worth a listen.
After hearing Yang’s arguments in favor of UBI, not only did I disagree with him, he came off as a buffoon who simply could not sell his idea.
I assumed this guy was toast, but hold my horses; as we know, this would not be the case. He would go on to participate in seven of the Democratic presidential debates; only Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg would join in more.
Among the Democrat Party prospects in the crowded field, Yang positioned himself as the candidate who wasn’t a politician. This was true as far as it went; it just didn’t go very far. While utilizing social media to become successful at this branding, I am still trying to figure out what his “non-politician” ideas were (and continue to be). As far as I can tell, his most notable achievements were replacing the ubiquitous US flag lapel pin with a “MATH” pin (more on this later) and riding a skateboard. As far as his ideas go:
UBI or the “Freedom Dividend” was proposed as a $12,000 annual payment to every American over 18 and claimed it would grow the economy “by 12.56 to 13.10 percent—or about $2.5 trillion by 2025—and it would increase the labor force by 4.5 to 4.7 million people.” Yang explains this is unlike a welfare payment because there will be job loss due to automation (in other words, it’s no different than any other welfare program, we’re just paying it for different reasons). Further, he never explains how he reached those audacious figures of growing the economy. However, he greatly appeals to authority by describing how thinkers as diverse as Milton Friedman, Barak Obama, and Steve Hawking think it is a good idea, so you should too.
On the healthcare front, he supports, wait for it - Medicare for All, with revolutionary ideas like reducing the price of prescription drugs through government negotiations, decreasing lobbyist influence, and improving mental healthcare investments. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
He also has an idea called “Human Centered Capitalism.” I’ll leave it to Yang to explain: “Our current emphasis on corporate profits isn’t working for the vast majority of Americans. This will only be made worse by the development of automation technology and AI. We need to move to a new form of capitalism – Human Capitalism – that’s geared towards maximizing human well-being and fulfillment”, and later “We need to make the markets serve us rather than the other way around. Profit-seeking companies are organized to maximize their bottom line at every turn which will naturally lead to extreme policies and outcomes.”
This concept strikes me as very similar to the stakeholder capitalism idea that the World Economic Forum and its various cronies are pushing. What is precisely libertarian about the idea that businesses should serve those with no financial skin in the game and functionally turn their companies over to Environmental, Society, and Governance (ESG) initiatives used by governments to crush individuals’ civil liberties?
Then again, what is libertarian about any of his ideas? Check out his views on gun control, climate change, student loan forgiveness, or any other standard Democrat talking point. If there is a difference, it’s like the difference between having a batting average of .200 and .210; they are indiscernible from one another.
So with all these run-of-the-mill liberal ideas, why did so many people flock to the #YangGang? Well, he wore a MATH pin; ipso facto, his arguments are more rational because, well, can’t you read, you rube? And he rode a skateboard, and gee, I rode a skateboard once, so not only does he have well-considered ideas, but we both shredded dude! It is impressive how these totems seemed to do so much heavy lifting for him when his ideas were no different than Biden’s or Bernie’s.
Yang has now started the Forward Party. He has better ideas front and center than he displayed during his presidential run with terms limits, stopping the politician to lobbyist revolving door, automatic tax filing, and of course, crypto. These seem like ideas I would agree with, but am I to believe his stance on the more substantive issues raised above has changed? What’s more important to a Libertarian, automatic tax filing or second amendment rights? Politicians' term limits or not further increase the national debt by paying for someone else’s college?
Coming full circle to FreedomFest. Most of his ideas that fit the libertarian mold, only trim at the edges of policy, with his core ideas being unrecognizable to the ideology, so why was he not only invited but also listed as one of the featured speakers? The only reason I can come up with is that enough people in the country are under his spell as a unique thinker that he would draw an audience. That’s all I’ve got.
So, maybe it’s time for the Freedom Fest organizers to rewatch Sesame Street, so they understand Yang’s policy prescriptions are not like the others.