Every October before an election, both Democrats and Republicans ramp up fear-based campaigns. The Halloween season isn’t only for supernatural stories and macabre imagery, it’s also for frightening voters as a strategy for getting out the vote. The phenomenon even has a name, the “October surprise.”
This election year, Republicans are trying to panic voters with massive publicity about the migrant caravan of Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans “invading” the United States. There is a racist, xenophobic component to stoking fear about immigrants from countries to the south, although this is usually hinted at with silent “dog whistles” rather than being stated outright. More often, Republicans try to scare voters about immigrant competition for jobs and welfare funding.
Democrats have their own October surprise campaign this year, claiming that Republicans want to end people’s access to health care. Never mind the extensive evidence of how government involvement in health care raises prices and restricts access, Democrats claim that if we don’t ensure government’s role as third-party payer for medical costs, people will die in the streets.
Libertarians take a different approach: an appeal to common sense.
Libertarians understand that every immigrant arriving in the United States to work is also a consumer. When immigrants take American jobs, the economy expands and new jobs are created. Some of our more talented immigrants — countless entrepreneurial minds, like Russian immigrant Sergey Brin who cofounded Google — have created whole new industries with hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
From Siberians who crossed the Bering Strait and settled North America to Europeans who braved the North Atlantic, to Chinese who came to work in the California gold mines and help build the transcontinental railroad, to Central and South Americans who helped enable the bounty of American agriculture, every wave of immigrants has helped build our prosperity. Without them, we would not be America.
Today, the United States has record low unemployment. We have a growing population of senior citizens and a static or declining number of working-age people, pushing both public and private pension plans toward bankruptcy as more people collect than pay. Pensions can be shored up with higher contributions, lower benefits, or abnormally high investment returns, but an easier way to sustain customary retirement funding is to increase the number of contributing workers. The United States has a static birth rate, so the only way to bolster the working class is to allow more people from other countries to join our workforce.
“Instead of building a wall and threatening the caravan of immigrants with military action, we should be encouraging immigration for anyone willing to work and contribute to the economy,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark, who is also running a campaign for mayor of Phoenix.
The Cato Institute, a libertarian policy think tank, has published definitive research showing that immigrants commit crime at a lower rate than native-born Americans, are less likely to consume welfare benefits, and generally consume a lower value of welfare benefits when they do use such services. Immigrants, almost across the board, are a net value to the United States.
Libertarians contend that Democratic fears about scaling back government’s role in health care are equally absurd. We don’t require car insurance policies to cover gasoline purchases or oil changes. There is no reason to require that health insurance must cover flu shots or any number of other needless mandates. Loading insurance policies with so many requirements merely inflates the salaries of paper shufflers rather than truly enabling better access to health care services. Inexpensive private insurance for catastrophically expensive medical conditions and a free market for routine medical care would drastically reduce most health care costs while providing dramatically better outcomes.
Libertarians would also rescind regulations that reduce the allowed numbers of health care workers and facilities. Certificate of need (CON) laws have swept into 35 states, effectively granting power to existing hospitals to veto the construction of new competing hospitals or clinics. A new medical school must, by law, be accredited by the American Medical Association in conjunction with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. It’s not surprising that very few new medical schools are granted that accreditation, because that would increase the supply of doctors and drive down their salaries.
The pharmaceutical industry works hand-in-glove with the Food and Drug Administration to make the approval of new medicines an extremely slow and costly procedure, reducing competition in drug supply at the expense of patients. There is no reason to let a bureaucracy like the FDA stand in the way of patient access to new forms of medicine. At most, patients need accurate information about new drugs, the type of advisory role performed by the private firm Underwriters Laboratories, which provides certification for a broad range of electronics and other products. Safety and efficacy can be assured without the restrictive, prohibitionist, and anti-competitive elements of our current regulatory scheme.
Republicans and Democrats, the lumbering dinosaurs of American politics, will continue trying to scare voters each Halloween season by demonizing each other and offering big-government programs and restrictions as their only solutions.
Fortunately, there is another way. About 800 Libertarians are running for local, state, and federal office this year — a 35 percent increase over 2016. The Libertarian Party won’t try to scare voters with political ghosts and goblins. Instead, we offer real solutions to increase freedom and prosperity.