9 Reasons Why Libertarians Should Be Worried By Donald Trump
The new president has repeatedly vowed to make America less open, less free, and more burdened by an expansive federal government.
Donald Trump is officially the president of the United States of America. Libertarians have plenty of reasons to be worried.
His inaugural speech today was an extended defense of populist protectionism, much like his campaign. From trade to defense spending to entitlements to immigration, Trump has repeatedly promised to take America in a direction that is less open, less free, and more burdened by an oppressive and expansive federal government.
Here are nine reasons why libertarians should be very concerned about a Trump presidency:
1) He has repeatedly promised to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants upon taking office, relying on a "special deportation force" to carry out the task. And even in the occasional moments in which he has seemed to recognize that this task would be logistically impossible, he has continued to insist that he will deport several million people right away, and that other undocumented immigrants who are in the country will not have a path to citizenship unless they leave the country first.
2) More generally, Trump's attitude toward immigrants and outsiders ranges from disdain to outright hostility. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigration and the closure of mosques, and he opened his primary campaign by declaring that Mexican immigrants to the U.S. were rapists and criminals.
3) Trump has also promised to build a massive, expensive wall along the southern border, and has insisted that Mexico will pay for its construction, an absurd notion that is already crumbling, as the incoming administration has asked Congress, not Mexico, to pay for the wall.
4) Trump has made clear that his administration will take a much more aggressive stance on trade as well. During the campaign, he floated the idea of a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods, which would be deeply harmful to consumers and the U.S. economy. Since winning the election, his administration has raised the possibility of a 10 percent tariff on all imports, a policy that could spark a global recession. After winning in November, he said he would pull the nation out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on day one of his presidency.
5) Trump's authoritarian leanings extend to national security as well. He has said that he would institute a program of torture for suspected terrorists that goes beyond what went on in the Bush administration, and has also said that he would kill the families of terrorists. When informed that military commanders might resist such an order, Trump said that he would force them to commit war crimes.
6) The new president has a dim view of constitutional free speech protections too. The First Amendment, he said, provides "too much protection" for free speech. He complained that in the U.S. "our press is allowed to say whatever they want." On the campaign trail, he said he wanted to "open up" libel laws, and threatened to take action against the owner of The Washington Post after the paper published material he didn't like. He thinks flag burning should be illegal, and has repeatedly used the legal system to punish those who irritate him.
7) Trump has shown no interest in meaningful budget reforms: He has repeatedly said he will not cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security—all of which are facing trillions in unfunded liabilities and are among the biggest drivers of the nation's long-term debt—and he has criticized Republicans for wanting to pare back spending on those programs. He has also proposed increasing defense spending. Under his campaign plans, federal debt would rise by more than $10 trillion over the next decade.
8) As a real estate developer, Trump repeatedly sought to use eminent domain to enable the seizure of private homes to make way for commercial developments. On the campaign trail, he defended the use of government muscle to take private property, saying "I think eminent domain is wonderful."
9) Perhaps more worrying than anything else, though, is Trump's long and well documented history of admiration for dictators and authoritarian leaders. He has praised Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, and lauded Vladimir Putin of Russia for his strength as a leader. On the campaign trail, he referred to the 1989 Chinese political protests in Tiananmen Square as a "riot" and marveled at the toughness the Chinese government's murderous response show. "They put it down with strength," Trump told Playboy in 1989. "That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak." In the context of Trump's record—his disdain for immigrants and outsiders, his authoritarian instincts on speech and government power, his general disinterest in reducing the size of the federal government—this admiration should be very worrying indeed.
(For a more cautiously optimistic take on Trump's presidency, check out Reason's podcast with Ken White here.)