3 Things to Like About 2017

There were a few silver linings for liberty lovers this past year.

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Red tape
Vchalup/Dreamstime

This time of year, we pause to take stock of what happened in the year that has passed. Although there were plenty of policy developments to dislike in 2017, in the spirit of the holidays, I will stick to my three favorites.

Forget, for now, about immigration policy, free trade setbacks, the busting of the budget caps and the continuation of the war on drugs and the pain it causes its victims. 2017 may or may not have been a net positive; that's for each of you to decide.

First, President Donald Trump just signed a historic reduction in the corporate income tax rate, from 35 percent—the highest of all industrialized nations—to 21 percent. And except for a one-time repatriation tax, the U.S. will no longer tax most profits made by businesses overseas.

Both changes should boost economic growth and American workers' wages. Moreover, the reform removes many of the distortions that discourage companies from investing foreign-earned income in the United States and prompt them to use tax avoidance techniques.

Second, this was a very good year for deregulation. Cutting taxes isn't the only way to boost growth and raise wages; innovation may matter even more. Getting rid of duplicative and outdated regulatory hurdles to innovation promises to have a real impact on our lives. That's what the Trump administration, with the help of Congress, seems committed to doing.

When the president first got to the White House, for example, he froze many not-yet-implemented Obama-era regulations. These include the punishing overtime pay regulation, which would have increased the cost of employing workers and ultimately reduced their base compensation to offset the increase in overtime pay.

Trump also issued an executive order requiring that for every new regulation issued, "at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process." That should put the brakes on the regulatory frenzy of the past few years. Congress also used the Congressional Review Act to eliminate another 14 costly regulations, a tool that had been used only once before.

At the agency level, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is doing his share to boost innovation and investment through deregulation. The FDA is working on lowering the cost of development to bring a new drug to market—$2.6 billion on average, according to one Tufts University study—by streamlining and lightening the approval process without jeopardizing safety.

Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, eliminated misleading "net neutrality" rules. As my colleague Brent Skorup explains, "net neutrality had given the FCC far-reaching authority to approve or reject new internet business models, technologies and services based on a vague standard and to initiate investigations into telecom and tech companies for contrived violations. The FCC appointed itself an invasive zoning board for the internet."

Last but not least are the sustained efforts by Sens. Pat Toomey, (R-Pa.), and Richard Shelby, (R-Ala.), to slow down the process that would restore the Export-Import Bank, a bastion of cronyism, to its full and former glory.

Appointing enough board members to give Ex-Im a full quorum would instantly restore the agency's ability to sign off on deals above $10 million for the benefit of a handful of very large foreign and domestic corporations. By resisting, the two senators are fighting a lonely fight on behalf of the unseen victims of corporate welfare.

Scott Garrett's nomination for Ex-Im president provided some hope, as he promised to cut down on the cronyism. However, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs blocked his nomination and confirmed several board members. If they are confirmed by the whole Senate, it's back to business for the "Bank of Boeing."

Thanks to the recent efforts of Toomey and Shelby, Ex-Im's return to functionality is stalled a little longer. But whatever happens to the bank, principled politicians are rare. Politicians who resist the call of special interests are even rarer, which is why their action is worth celebrating.

Tax reform, regulatory reform and the continued fight against cronyism were the highlights of 2017. Let's hope 2018 brings advances in the fight for economic freedom and prosperity.

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  1. Also, Persona 5, Yakuza 0, Ys 8.

    1. It’s a shame about Ys 8’s translation though. NIS never fails to disappoint. With that said, at least they committed to releasing a new script. (And hopefully they fired that awful translator who crapped out the abortion we got on release day.)

      Also 2017 brought us one the greatest rock albums of the 21st century.

    2. Stop playing Japanese propaganda. It’s bad for your brain.

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  2. OT, because I won’t be linksing early this morning: Here Are the Absolute Worst Artworks We Saw Around the World in 2017

    It isn’t sufficient for Hirst to create an ersatz bust of Nefertiti?he needs to show her breasts as well. And it isn’t sufficient to retell the horror story of the Minotaur’s predation of sacrificial maidens?he has to show the monster raping a beautiful (and screaming) naked woman.

    Even a statue of a dead woman laid out on a stone platform is not allowed the solemnity of the subject. Instead, the marble sheet covering the cadaver is shown pulled down to expose her breasts, and draped so as to transparently show her genitals. It’s creepy.

    I thought it was quite tasteful.

    1. And tasty.

      1. I love the taste of formaldehyde in the morning.

  3. Wow, an actual reasonable and fair article to bring a little bit of truth, balance, and perspective to the relentless daily tidal wave of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Very nicely done.

    The other major highlights I would add are Neil Gorsuch being added to the U.S. Supreme Court (a massive one given that we’re one more Ruth Bader Ginsburg away from losing most of what precious few liberties we still have left), and the addition to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals of Don Willett, maybe the most libertarian judge in America.

    1. My thoughts exactly; while much of the mass media world “loses it’s mind” on a daily basis over Trump’s latest tweet, the federal courts are being steadily remade following recommendations of the Federalist Society and not the ABA. That, and the fact that Lady McBeth is not our POTUS, are enough of a legacy for any president. Deregulation only makes it sweeter.

    2. I would also add ending Obama’s DACA and Paris Accord and forcing those issues back to the elected representation in congress where they belong. No more electing a Monarch with a phone and a pen.

  4. Thank goodness for Veronique de Rugy.

    Deregulation, cutting the corporate tax rate by 40%, etc, is undeniably good news to lovers of free market capitalism, which, unfortunately, doesn’t mean plenty of my fellow libertarians won’t live in denial.

    “Progress” on other issues should be weighed under the guidance of Econ 101 principles, too. If the alternative to Donald Trump doing nothing wasn’t necessarily Hillary Clinton doing nothing, then Trump’s performance shouldn’t be weighed against the status quo.

    For instance, it isn’t just that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have deregulated; she would have pushed for more regulation.

    Hillary Clinton might not have done nothing in the wake of mass shootings in Las Vegas and elsewhere. If she would have pushed for gun control, then Trump doing nothing is superior.

    As evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s failed relationship with Putin when she was secretary of state, she would not have collaborated with Putin, nor Putin with her, the alternative to Donald Trump collaborating with Putin to defeat ISIS in Syria was not Hillary Clinton doing the same thing. She wanted to invade Syria.

    All things considered, it has been a very good year for liberty–maybe the best we’ve had in more than 20 years. This isn’t like when the Berlin wall came down, NAFTA was ratifies, or when China joined the WTO, but it was a very, very good year. I’m glad to see someone at Reason stopped obsessing over Trump’s tweets to notice.

    1. Considering two of the three things that the author mentioned happened what, in the last 6 weeks, I can see why there was focus on trump’s tweets this past year.

      Pretty good last 6 weeks though.

      1. Indeed. Funny how many of the so-called “libertarians” at Reason seem to occasionally forget that the president isn’t an absolute dictator and that passing legislation takes time and is very difficult, especially when you have a razor-thin majority.

        Legislation-wise, under Obama, we got the obamination called Obamacare, and under Trump we got the biggest tax cut in 30 years. I know which one I like better; it’s no contest in my book.

  5. 2017 was a check move to the left’s king by Trump.

    2018 should be even better.

    1. 2018 should be even better.

      That remains to be seen. If the dems succeed in flipping congress-this might be as good as we get from El Trumpo. Team Blue is very good at turning out their smurfs to vote against the evil one, as we just saw in Virginia.

      1. Virginia was no big win really, already held by a Democrat.

        1. The big win for Democrats in Virginia was flipping (or nearly flipping, depending on the outcome of the last seat) the House of Delegates, where the Republicans had a supermajority.

  6. Veronique, the corporate income tax does not violate individual rights. FDR called them Artificial People when he made gold illegal in 1933. IRS agents can’t shoot or jail corporations–especially now since La Suprema Corte says they may buy all the judges and votes they can fit in their shopping carts. I will be the first to applaud a reduction in corporate income taxes the day the individual income tax is repealed in its entirety–but not before. Until such time, the thing means nothing but a transfer of taxation from artificial creatures like Mitt Romney’s banks to flesh-and-blood human beings against whom IRS agents carry guns loaded with live ammunition. I expected better of you.

    1. #HnR2017

      Where FDR is Woke Bae

    2. Every dollar a corporation pays in taxes ultimately means one less dollar in the pocket of a flesh-and-blood human being.

  7. This is all very encouraging, but when is the onerous War on Drugs going to be called off and the DEA disbanded? When are police unions going to be busted? When is the IRS going to be reined in? When will police stop having access to, indeed gifted with, military weapons? That is what’s going in the wrong direction.

    1. War on Drugs isn’t going in the wrong direction, it’s at the wrong destination. Doesn’t look like it’s getting worse in this country now. The only significant movement I see now is in a good direction.

  8. Barack Hussein Obama sprung Bradley/Chelsea Manning from prison. Libertarians, rejoice!

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