Tag Archives: Libertarianism

Who We Are: A Survey of the Claremont Independent Staff

Between the George Will disinvitation at Scripps, the Allan Cunningham controversy at Harvey Mudd, and the one-sidedness of political discussions at the Claremont Colleges as a whole, it was a rough year for those who made controversial statements at the 5Cs. It is no surprise, then, that the Claremont Independent has experienced unprecedented growth this year, doubling the size of its staff to 40 writers. While CI writers used to be almost exclusively CMC students, all five schools are now represented, with the majority of our writers (56%) hailing from one of the other four Claremont Colleges. 

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The CI often gets a bad rap around the 5Cs—many people consider us to be a group of crazed right-wingers trying to spread our propaganda around the campuses. In reality, we are an independent publication in all senses of the word. We do not receive any funding from any of the colleges, and we have no official political affiliation. As an independent magazine, we have the autonomy to write articles about things that other Claremont publications cannot or will not comment on. As a result, students are often drawn to us because we can provide them with an outlet to express opinions that would be frowned upon elsewhere.

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Consequently, our staff is predominantly conservative: 63% of CI writers describe themselves as either Moderate Republicans or Republicans, and 96% of our staff identifies with a political ideology that is typically considered “conservative.” Almost everyone on our staff supports a Republican candidate for the upcoming presidential election, and nobody on our staff is planning to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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To gain a better sense of the CI staff’s political leanings, I took a survey asking about our writers’ opinions on twenty different major political issues. The issues surveyed included economic, social,
environmental, and college campus-related topics. The responses revealed that the majority of our staff supported the conservative stance on sixteen of the twenty questions. The issues where our staff’s collective stance leaned more toward the traditionally liberal side were gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, abortions, and income-based affirmative action.

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On the whole, the respondents were conservative on fiscal issues and split on social issues. This is to be expected, given that approximately one-third of the CI staff identifies as either a Libertarian or a Classical Liberal, both of which tend to be socially liberal.

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For eleven of the twenty issues surveyed, at least 20% of respondents fell on each side of the debate. For all but five issues, at least 10% of respondents held the minority opinion. There was only one question that every CI survey respondent agreed upon: “Should able-bodied, mentally capable adults who receive welfare be required to work?”

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While the CI staff remains divided on several issues (such as the death penalty and gun control), we are much less divided on more prominent issues (such as sexual assault adjudication policies, minimum wage, and Obamacare) that are frequently brought up in conversations around the 5Cs. Those who feel like their opinions are left out of these common campus conversations are more likely to join the CI to articulate and reflect on their ideas without getting shut down, which explains why our staff’s opinions are more homogeneous on the more popular topics and more divided on those issues that are discussed less often.

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Though the CI staff is not especially diverse on the “Democrat vs. Republican” front, there is still plenty of variety in the different types of conservative ideologies our staff members hold. At schools like the Claremont Colleges, where there are ten or more students who support the Democratic Party for every student who supports the Republican Party, most politically conscious students can easily distinguish between a liberal, progressive, and centrist Democrat. However, it is harder for students who lack exposure to conservative thought to immediately recognize how various types of conservative opinions differ from one another.

Democrats typically advocate for social and economic equality through a combination of progressive income taxes, government regulations, and interventions. In general, Democrats believe the best solution to economic and social problems is the institution of more government programs. Therefore, most Democrats support universal health care, environmental regulations, and labor unions.

The Republican Party’s platform is based on conservatism, advocating for a free market capitalist economy, small government, strong military, and social conservativism. Like Republicans, Libertarians, who are not designated as either Republicans or Democrats (although Libertarian politicians tend to run as Republican candidates), support the free market and limited government. However, Libertarians differ from Republicans by calling for a more limited military, unrestricted migration, and social liberalism.

Classical Liberals’ political opinions are quite similar to those of Libertarians, but they arrive at their conclusions for different reasons. As perhaps best explained by Richard Epstein, the main difference between a Libertarian and a Classical Liberal is that Libertarians tend to focus on ensuring that the government acts in accordance with its designated role (or, more often than not, its lack thereof), while Classical Liberals are typically more concerned with the consequences of governmental interventions.

At schools where there isn’t usually more than one conservative in the room, it is easy to ignore the vast array of right-of-center perspectives. Being pro-life does not preclude one from supporting gay marriage, and favoring lower taxes does not require one to oppose a reduction in military spending. Political opinions are a spectrum, and the CI strives to provide a look into those opinions that often go ignored.

Full Gallery of Responses (25 Slides):

A Free Market Defense of Plan B Vending Machines

By Chris Gaarder and Hannah Oh

Here at the Claremont Independent, we aim to kindle meaningful discussion by introducing less commonly held views on a variety of campus issues. In his latest opinion piece, Harry Arnold ‘17 expresses his views on the promotion of Pomona’s Plan B vending machine and its negative moral and social implications. However, we argue that, from an economic standpoint, there is a strong free market case to be made in defense of vending machines that sell Plan B, among other medical supplies, on America’s college campuses.

Plan B is a prime example of the near-infinite problems bedeviling our nation’s health care market, particularly when it comes to drug policy. Medical vending machines exemplify the positive changes occurring in America’s healthcare landscape in spite of federal policy.

On the whole, drugs are far too expensive and inaccessible for the average consumer. Part of this is due to the elaborate regulations and bureaucratic red tape promulgated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The high cost of getting a new drug approved by the FDA is outrageous. Forbes has determined that it costs, on average, $350 million to get a new drug through the FDA to the market. Who pays for that? It isn’t the drug companies. Instead, the cost is shifted onto consumers directly, or indirectly through higher insurance premiums and taxes to cover those on government-provided health insurance programs.

When Plan B first came out as an over-the-counter drug, it cost up to $90 and averaged around $50. How were those prices set? It’s hard to tell due to our country’s historical lack of price transparency and competition for medical goods and services. When you go to your pharmacist or your doctor, you pay whatever price they set. And the system is built against allowing consumers to shop around. With all the distortions and opacity in the healthcare market, these prices are often arbitrary and highly inflated. Some people don’t mind paying a higher price, but most price-conscious consumers would prefer to pay less.

Today we are in the midst of one of the first major shifts of market forces into healthcare. If allowed to continue, it could prove to be the best thing that ever happened to healthcare, and Corporate America is leading the way.

In recent years, big-box retail corporations have realized that there is serious money to be made in providing health care services and products, ranging from simple flu shots to a wide range of prescription drugs. Target, for example, utilizes its immense purchasing power, operating efficiency, and tight profit margin to deliver the same drugs as pharmacies and hospitals at a much lower price.

Transparent store prices breed competition on factors including price, quality, and convenience. Unlike with pharmacies and hospitals, consumers who buy drugs at chain stores, such as Target, Rite-Aid, or WalMart, are able to easily compare among the various providers to find the best price. On college campuses, vending machines provide yet another source of competition for over-the-counter drugs.

IMG_0526Vending machines for Plan B are an innovative way to provide around-the-clock access and competitive pricing. With vending machines, no direct intermediary is necessary for purchase. You simply insert money and receive your desired product, at any time of day (especially important given the time-sensitive nature of Plan B). Vending machines also provide college students a level of convenience similar to what big box retailers provide real-world consumers. Convenience is valuable itself, a non-monetary form of competition.

By providing emergency contraception via vending machines, colleges are more efficiently meeting student demand. The Pomona College administration did not invent the Plan B vending machine: the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) played an integral role in introducing the concept and formalizing the final proposal. The desire for a vending machine that distributes Plan B arose from students concerned that the drug is not available at night or over the weekend. Student Health Services, the only Plan B provider on campus, is closed during those times. To address this shortcoming, Pomona students initiated a viable solution that won widespread support.

Students at Claremont McKenna College are only now engaging in a meaningful discussion about Pomona’s policy change, and that’s because of Harry’s article. His article promotes one of the many perspectives that exist among right-leaning students. His is more conservative, ours more libertarian.

The Claremont Independent staff remains divided on this issue, but we hope that, in any case, we are able to spark a thoughtful dialogue on campus, perhaps beyond Plan B, vending machines, and Skittles, that sheds further light on the morality of commoditizing emergency contraception, the social consequences of our college hookup culture, and the economic fundamentals behind improving student access.

Featured Organization: Young Americans for Freedom

As a conservative in an overwhelmingly liberal college environment, it can often be difficult to engage in intellectual discourse with like-minded individuals. Two CMC students, Cameron Ridley ’15 and Kelsey Heflin ’16, recognized this problem, as well as the conservative movement’s inability to “provide an easily graspable alternative to the strong rhetoric of the Left.” Together they established the CMC chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a non-profit group devoted to advancing conservative ideas.

Young Americans for FredomThe Young Americans for Freedom, or YAF, sponsors conferences and connects its members with educational and career opportunities within the conservative community. According to Ridley, YAF “touts itself as a think tank that develops the ideas which politicians may then use to bolster their positions.” The CMC chapter of YAF plans to organize activities including movie showings, debates, and participation in political campaigns.

“Members also will receive the chance to attend funded YAF conferences, which provides good networking opportunities since it is affiliated with the larger national Young Americans Foundation. At the conferences, students will learn from top professors and leaders in the Conservative Movement and discover ways to champion conservative principles,” Heflin said.

By attending conferences and other educational events, YAF members will be able to enhance the level of discourse within CMC classrooms as well as the wider 5C community. Although YAF is currently listed as an official CMC club, it welcomes members from all the Claremont Colleges.

“We want to foster an environment where conservative-minded students can join and share ideas. We hope to promote conservative principles on campus and provide a place for free discussion and activism to occur among college students,” Ridley said.

Anyone interested in learning more about YAF or joining the CMC chapter can access the “CMC Young Americans for Freedom” Facebook page for meeting information and other opportunities.

Cameron Ridley, Chairman: cridley15@cmc.edu
Kelsey Heflin, Vice-Chairman: kheflin16@cmc.edu

Upcoming Meetings (5:45-6:25 pm in Kravis Center room 109):
– Thursday, October 23, 2014
– Thursday, October 30, 2014
– Thursday, November 13, 2014
– Thursday, November 27, 2014
– Thursday, December 11, 2014

Introducing Libertarianism: 5 Quick Reads

Whether you are waiting at the Hub in between classes or tanning on Green Beach on a Sunday afternoon, there is no better way to pass the time than a good read. If you are open to learning more about libertarian philosophies, there are five short works (all of which you can finish in one sitting) that best explain the basic tenets of libertarianism. Below is a list of scholarly articles, essays, and novellas that sparked my interest in the movement.

1. “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read

As its title suggests, “I, Pencil” is uniquely written from the point of view of a pencil. This charming, 3-page narrative describes the vastly interconnected network of people, tools, and resources required for the pencil’s production. Think about it: you need someone to chop the wood, mine the graphite, mix the clay, make the paint and lacquer, imprint the label, supply the metal, manufacture rubber erasers, so on and so forth. The main point the pencil seeks to illustrate is how the Invisible Hand organically brings together millions of people from various industries and all parts of the world. Each of these individuals has specialized knowledge that helps create this simple, yet important good for consumers.

2. “The Use of Knowledge in Society” by Friedrich Hayek

Friedrich Hayek discusses the “knowledge problem” in this famous 14-page essay, asserting that no single person can hold all of the relevant information needed to plan an economy. The essay’s premise is that bureaucratic central planners can never account for an individual’s preferences, skills, and resources––this knowledge is unique and exclusive to the individual. Hayek argues that this problem can be solved, however, through the price system: prices are a form of communicating subjective values between different people. “The most significant fact about this system,” he writes, “is the economy of knowledge with which it operates, or how little the individual participants need to know in order to be able to take the right action.”

3. “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat

When Ron Paul was asked what book every American should read, he answered “The Law.” Frederic Bastiat, a mid-19th century French legislator, explores two fundamental questions in this 50-page pamphlet: What is the law? And how can we tell when a law is just or unjust? Bastiat provides an in-depth examination and a series of compelling hypotheses, many of which illustrate how greed “plunders” the law. This message is especially relevant today, as it echoes Americans’ growing concerns about crony capitalism and corporatism in U.S. politics.

4. Anthem by Ayn Rand

In this 128-page fictional novella, Ayn Rand takes you on the journey of a man who, in a dystopian collectivist future, rediscovers his own sense of selfhood and individualism. If you haven’t read any of Rand’s works before, Anthem is a great start––it is much less daunting (and substantially shorter) than The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her objectivist philosophy is renowned worldwide, and her influence is even present in modern American politics: Paul Ryan famously tried to get all of his congressional interns to read Rand’s novels, and even gave copies of Atlas Shrugged to his staff for Christmas one year.

5. The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul

Former U.S presidential candidate and House member Ron Paul undoubtedly has a unique set of governing ideals, as evidenced by his cult-like following. Although not a particularly compelling speaker, he effectively articulates his policy proposals in his 192-page manifesto. Paul calls for a return to the Constitution, increased self-government, and a non-interventionist foreign policy that is the antithesis of the Bush (and Obama) Doctrine. His hardline stance against both Democrats and Republicans, coupled with his libertarian streak and intriguing use of historical analysis, allows for a truly unique view of American public policy.

Musings on the mainland

Gun-rights advocates have often insinuated that if the government saw fit to ban firearms, it would see fit to ban knives to curb other types of violence. Though skeptical of gun control, I had always laughed off these sorts of slippery-slope scenarios as far-fetched and improbable. Last fall however, I was studying abroad in Beijing during the 18th Communist Party Congress. For the duration of the congress, a meeting of about 3000 party officials from around the country, the sale of many basic household items was banned in Beijing. These included lighter fluid (to prevent self-immolations), balloons (to prevent leaflet distribution), and yes, scissors and knives (to prevent assassination attempts and other political violence). To make matters more comical, 110,000 civilian “volunteers” were recruited from around the city and paid 40RMB (7 dollars) a day to don red armbands and keep an eye out for “suspicious activity.” The two-week extravaganza reminded me yet again that as an American-born Libertarian, I had wandered far from home both geographically and ideologically.

It was during this trip however, that I was able to reflect on the common American perceptions of China, and how they stacked up against reality. As the world’s second largest economy and a “rising superpower” in the eyes of many Western intellectuals, China has not escaped mention by major American media outlets for a single day in recent years. But when I finally visited China for myself, I realized just how much comparative confidence I still had in the United States.

The late economist Milton Friedman had often emphasized that how people “vote with their feet” should not be overlooked. Reflecting upon this statement, I can only be proud of the fact that over 60,000 people from mainland China still choose to permanently immigrate to the U.S. every year. While I met several American expatriates who were working short-term in China, I did not meet a single one who had chosen to settle there permanently. If all one hears of is the overhyped Chinese “economic miracle” and the United States’ economic struggles, this phenomenon should appear confusing. If one looks beneath China’s thirty-year boom, however, one sees that for all the talk of China “surpassing the U.S.,” flaws abound in the Chinese economic model.

The lack of innovation in the Chinese economy was a constant theme in my conversations with Chinese natives. One student, an economics major at my host university commented that the United States would always be a step ahead of China because the Chinese only ever copied what the Americans did. The enormous market for counterfeit electronic goods in China seemed to affirm his statement, but the failure of China to innovate was not limited to the technology sector. When I asked my Chinese roommate to recommend Chinese television shows to me, he replied that although there were a few good ones, he watched mostly American shows. Before returning to his laptop to watch Prison Break, he joked that he found it humorous that a country of 1.4 billion people could not produce a single good show.

While I was abroad, I also learned that local officials in China were promoted or demoted based on their success in meeting targets for economic development and population control among other things. My roommate, who was a native of the rural Shaanxi province, spoke of how the seizure of village lands for development projects was a point of heated contention and even violent conflict at times between farmers and local officials. The seaside village of Wukan made headlines around the world when its villages revolted and drove local officials out of power over alleged abuses like illegal land-seizure. With no voice in the political process, Chinese citizens have few legal and institutional ways of fighting back.

Additionally, though the Chinese government has been given substantial praise for its ability to direct enormous amounts of investment into developments in a way that the U.S. could only dream of doing, many of these investments have led to enormous waste. For instance, I had the opportunity to ride on China’s newly constructed high-speed rails, the pet project for which the Communist Party has obtained the most bragging rights. I later learned that although high speed-rail tickets cost 35% of an average Chinese urban resident’s income, they were sold at artificially low prices set by the government. Many prominent Chinese economists like Huang Yiping of Peking University, have expressed doubts of China’s high-speed rails ever making a profit. While they serve a small sliver of China’s elite, the high-speed rails have continued hemorrhaging public funds and contributing to the national debt.

As I followed American politics on my laptop in Beijing, I often cursed the rampant pandering both candidates engaged in during the 2012 Presidential debates and lamented the inability of Congress to solve the looming deficit crisis. However, when I remember America’s core ideals of, individual freedom, human rights, and political equality, I am reminded of precisely why so many of the Chinese friends I had made expressed their hopes of coming to the U.S. one day. When I realize the amount of opportunity and social mobility still available in America and the amount of innovation that has taken place here, I can only feel a sense of deep pride.

During a particular discussion in class, one of my teachers, a Beijing native, lamented the fact the Chinese government’s abuses of power could not be adequately checked because one party alone controlled the state. He then expressed envy at the fact that Americans at least had a choice. Ever the cynic, I made an offhand comment on how two equally inept parties made neither for much of a difference or for much of a choice. He immediately objected, remarking that having just one more choice can make a world of difference. I thought on all that I had learned about China, and could only agree. Sometimes, another choice makes all the difference.