Why was ethanol a non-issue for “rigged economy” liberals?


Just before the Iowa caucuses, the Renewable Fuel Standard became a big issue in the Republican race, with Ted Cruz and Rand Paul coming out against it and the rest supporting it. The law essentially mandates that transportation fuel contain a minimum amount of ethanol.

Cruz and Paul took the principled and correct position that the government should not be dictating the contents of fuel and using force to disrupt the voluntary exchange of a good between buyers and sellers. To do this, they had to take on the very powerful ethanol lobby, something which few politicians have done before.

Despite a barrage of misinformation and negative ads, Cruz went on to win the caucus and in doing so, effectively killed the ethanol lobby (or so say the pundits). If ever there was a win for principles over special interests, this was one.

So, coming to the point — why was this almost a non-issue in the Democratic race? Why did Clinton and Sanders end up supporting the mandate? Don’t they go around exciting the masses by talking about how “rigged” the American economy is? Why would they support something that is a quintessential case of rigging the system?

The answer lies in the fact that they (and liberals, in general) do not actually understand what an unrigged economy looks like and what corrupting it entails. A market that consists of voluntary exchange of goods and services between buyers and sellers is not rigged, even if it results in outcomes one doesn’t like.

On the other hand, Sanders’ proposals to force people to pay for “free” college, “free” healthcare or the likes are what can be considered unjust interventions or “rigging.” If people want to help others attend college or get healthcare, they can donate through existing charities or form new private organizations for that purpose.

The system is definitely rigged (think of the various subsidies, private discrimination laws or the laws that interfere with the contract between an employer and her employee), but liberals, if anything, want to rig it even more. Most of them have never spent any time studying political philosophy and thus do not understand that positive rights are not valid (because they are essentially in conflict with someone else’s negative rights), or even the difference between positive and negative rights.

What rigs the system is legislating positive rights, or equivalently, making the state initiate aggression against someone. A prime example would be something Clinton and Sanders both have come out in support of — forcing people to fund abortion†.

Unless liberals undertake the efforts required to understand basic political theory and form coherent thoughts about politics, the rest would have to endure having their negative rights violated and see a clueless man like Sanders be hailed as a savior.

† I cannot imagine people more amoral and depraved than those who support forcing people to fund abortion. In order to do this, you have to simultaneously believe in these two propositions: 1. that a mother has neither an enforceable nor an unenforceable obligation towards the child in her womb, but 2. strangers have an enforceable obligation to pay so that the mother can terminate that child.

On the Left’s favorite catchphrase “Money Isn’t Speech”

Since the Supreme Court dealt a blow to laws restricting money in politics in Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC, it’s easy to spot a liberal conveying her displeasure by regurgitating a trite one-liner:

“Money isn’t speech.”

Well, take that Chief Justice Roberts – your court would certainly have decided otherwise, if only this piece of irrefutable insight were shared with it!

It would be easier to ignore such posturing, if a host of Democrats were not determined in undermining the First Amendment by rallying their base behind this slogan. Not kidding – forty-one Democrat Senators, including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, proposed an amendment to the Constitution that will override the free speech protections afforded by the Bill of Rights!†

So, let me explain why the proposition “money isn’t speech,” even though superficially true, does not at all serve the purpose liberals want it to.

Of course, money isn’t speech, in a literal sense. But, that does not mean Congress can limit the money one can spend on furthering her speech while not affecting her right to free speech. Communicating speech may involve distributing pamphlets, books and movies; and writing articles on websites, all of which require money. Speech isn’t sui generis, in this sense. Money is an inextricable part of our lives and plays an important role in helping achieve our interests.

Consider this: money isn’t abortion, either. But you cannot expect liberals to stay mum if Congress were to propose passing laws limiting expenditure on abortion, can you? Would they not go up in arms about the supposed right to abortion being infringed? The plain truth is: it is impossible to limit expenditure on something and not affect the right to it!

Some counter that speech does not necessarily require money – one can, after all, simply choose to talk face-to-face with others. This rejoinder is misleading on multiple levels. First, you can only talk to so many people that way. Yes, you could recruit others to do the job, but guess what: they may ask to be paid! Or, you might find a group of people ready to volunteer for your cause, if there is one. That brings me to the crucial second point: even if there is a way that permits you to disseminate your ideas in a cost-free or less costly manner (in relation to the way you chose), the government has no business mandating that you use it.

It might not appear to be self-evident that this is the case: but, the alternative is to allow the government to regulate which channels of communication people can employ in various situations or limit the reach of your message, a clear affront to the First Amendment’s letter and spirit. The abortion analogy can come handy again: would liberals find it okay if the government decreed that a person must use a cheap healthcare facility, or limited the amount of money she could spend getting abortions? No!

The other common argument – that you can use “free” services like Twitter or YouTube similarly falls under minimal scrutiny. Leave aside, for a minute, the plain but overlooked fact that the continued operation of these services requires private funding: the government simply cannot be trusted with the power to tell which media are “acceptable.” If you want to launch your own website, write your own book, or create your own movie, you should be absolutely free to do so. The availability of “free” services, which by the way are and should be under no obligation to carry your views, is no excuse to restrict you.

The right to free speech is one of the most essential and cherished rights the citizenry has. Any proposal to diminish it under the pretense of “leveling the playing field” or “curtailing money in politics” is an outrage. As always, the solution lies in having more speech, not less.


Read Senator Ted Cruz’s insightful op-ed in The Wall Street Journal and Charles Cooke’s piece, both castigating Democrats for their assault on the First Amendment.

The Senate Joint Resolution 19 proposes an amendment to the Constitution that says “Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on…the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.” A book or movie may endorse a candidate, and thus would be subject to being banned or its distribution curtailed by the government. The Citizens United case was literally about FEC trying to limit the distribution of a movie criticizing Hillary Clinton.