TAS Writing Assignments

The American Scene is an awesome place and thanks to Ross and Reihan we’ve managed to put together some of the smartest minds on the internet (and, well, me). Unfortunately, precisely because of the awesomeness of the Scenesters, most of us have outside gigs (guilty!) that prevent us from writing here as often as we would like.

But there’s stuff from us that I’d love to read!

So I’ve decided to just hand out writing assignments. Watch out, they will be graded and will be on your permanent record.

Ross: A book. What would a truly pro-life, modern society look like? Pro-lifers rightly make the case against abortion but I think it would be very useful to also make the case for what a pro-life society would and should look like. I also happen to believe that many “pro-life” politicians delude themselves about what true pro-life policies would entail. It would not simply entail outlawing abortion.

It would entail a massive public/private network of support for women who have unwanted pregnancies. A truly pro-_life_ society would also have different policies and attitudes toward end of life care. Ross is the writer who’s been one of the most lucid in hinting about this stuff in various interviews and blog posts, but I think we need an in-depth look at what, looking over the abortion law hill, true pro-life policies would be. It seems to me that Ross is the best-placed to do this, and it would be a true service.

Reihan: You need to write more books, dude! One a year should be a minimum. Here’s the next one: tomorrow, the US Constitution is amended, making Reihan Salam Secretary of Education for life, with dictatorial power to run roughshod over Congress, the courts, unions, states, etc. What does education in the US in 2030 look like? You have 300 pages.

Peter: an article. What percentage of GDP would an ideal libertarian state consume?

This ideal libertarian (as opposed to minarchist or anarcho-capitalist) state would presumably fund a well-functioning justice, police and national defense system. Note that Switzerland, a country that is rightly admired by many libertarians, is a heavily militarized country, precisely to ensure its neutrality/non-interventionism. An ideal libertarian state would also presumably provide some sort of negative income tax as well as school vouchers and vouchers for (catastrophic) health insurance. While such programs would mostly involve cutting checks and thus comparatively small bureaucracies, they would still be not-insignificant wealth transfers from Peter to Paul.

Also note that while you can reasonably argue that an ideal libertarian state would experience high economic growth, these kind of expenditures would hold relatively constant as a percentage of GDP. As libertarians are fond of pointing out, we spend more on health today than in 1900 because we’re much richer.

So, what would all of those wealth transfer schemes take out of GDP? 20%? 30%? …40%?

Bonus question: how would the ideal libertarian state raise that money? Libertarians don’t like corporate income taxes for a bunch of very good reasons. They also don’t like the VAT because it desensitizes the citizenry to tax increases. They don’t like taxes on capital. They certainly don’t like import duties. So how would this ideal libertarian state raise this not-insubstantial revenue? Would it be mostly through personal income taxes? If so, might the higher brackets of personal income taxes have… gasp high marginal rates?

POULOS: A 3-5 page explanation of what, exactly, “postmodern conservatism” means. That my grandmother can understand. My grandmother is not dumb, and not poorly read, mind you. But she needs things explained clearly. So do I, in this regard, evidently.

I will probably come up with ideas for the other Scenesters (and Scenesters are welcome to come up with writing assignments for me!).