Despite having the energy levels of a comatose skunk Dr Ben Carson was also on stage to see if he can maintain his early momentum and solidify his position as one of the frontrunners for the Republican nomination. His performance was largely akin to those of previous debates, which I thought were not very good performances, but his poll ratings have continued to rise thus making my opinion essentially irrelevant. That being said, let’s get into it.
Carson’s first chance to speak came on thee subject of the minimum wage; he claimed that “every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases”. This would be a legitimate point to make if it was true, but it isn’t. Six hundred economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners, wrote to President Obama and congressional leaders who supported a minimum wage increase and said “in recent years there have been important developments on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labour market”. I’m not an economist but the conclusion of such a significant number of economists is undeniable. Carson also complained about the idea of people being “given everything by the government” which is the standard talking point that American capitalists use to decry social programmes.
On the ins and outs of the campaign Carson bemoaned the media’s coverage of his campaign: “I have no problem with being vetted but what I do have a problem with is being lied about and it being put out as truth”. This comment was met with much applause from the audience, and again this would be a legitimate grievance if it were true, but it isn’t. Carson is complaining that the media has dared to question the stories he wrote in his book that he tried to stab someone, and tried to attack his mother with a hammer which were used as examples to defend his claim that he was a violent young man that went on a transformational moral journey.
However investigations from many different news organisations have found that his class mates have no recollection of Carson trying to kill someone with a knife, and these same class mates do not recognise Carson’s description of himself. In fact they all said that the mild-mannered docile man in the debates was previously a mild-mannered docile student. I would like to point out that I cannot understand why a leading Republican candidate is trying to convince people that he did try and murder someone but again that’s because I’m not a Republican primary voter.
In regards to taxes Carson suggested a flat tax with no loopholes, which would disproportionately benefit the richest in society, and argued that “if you put more money in people’s pockets they’ll be more generous”. It seems thus us on the Left and people like Carson agree that the poor should be helped but we just disagree about the way in which this can be done. For example conservatives think that is people’s taxes are cut the poor will be helped as more people will give to charity, however us on the Left argue that rather than cut taxes, we should use those taxes to improve people’s lives through social programmes. The reason that I believe that the latter option is better is that it removes the jeopardy from the situation. The conservative position relies upon individuals giving their money as a form of altruism, which ironically was described by Ayn Rand as immoral, whereas the Left’s position doesn’t rely upon this. By the government collecting tax revenue the individual doesn’t need to give a lot of money to charity as the government can build schools, or feed people, or provide people with healthcare etc.
Carson’s next chance to speak came on the topic of foreign policy. He, rather courageously, agreed with President Obama’s decision to putting Special Ops troops in Syria and essentially explained the reason for Putin’s active involvement in the Middle East to the audience. Two points on this: firstly, the fact that he had to do this was depressing as it is painfully obvious what Putin is trying to do in the Middle East to anybody with a basic understanding of international politics; secondly the way he explained it was grounded in the idea that it was a consequence of American inaction in the Middle East. Yes it is true that Obama has been less hawkish than Bush in the Middle East but what would the alternative be?
America can’t keep invading and occupying countries for eternity; they tried that once, it was called the Vietnam War, and the reason Iraq is now in turmoil is not because America went away, it’s because they went in to start with. Carson finished by speaking about an oil field close to Anbar Province that is financing ISIS’s activities, and that the solution would be to take that oil field off them, which he believed could be done quite quickly. However, although I believe that the largest armed forces in the history of the world could quite quickly take an oil field, there is a suppressed premise in what he said: the US needs to invade Iraq, again. I don’t know how many times history has to be repeated before people start to learn the lessons of the past but it looks like Dr Carson thinks that third time’s the charm.
The final comments Dr Carson made were in regards to bank bailouts. He said “we should have policies to prevent the banks from enlarging themselves at the expense of smaller entities” and “every single regulation costs money”. He went on to say that he wouldn’t break up the banks but he’d stop them from expanding. Okay this is precious. Dr Carson would stop banks from expanding and have policies that stop banks from increasing in size at the expense of smaller institutions whilst simultaneously rejecting all government regulations. If you pass a law saying that banks cannot expand beyond a certain point, that isn’t a free market because that, Dr Carson, is a regulation.
Carson is trying to have his cake and eat it: you can’t support ‘free markets’ and then propose policies that cite specific regulations you would impose. As someone who isn’t a capitalist I’m not judging him for not wanting a fully anarcho-capitalist system, but I find it funny that in the same answer he decried regulations in front of the baying crowd before outlining the foundations of a regulation he would implement.
The good doctor is currently doing very well among Republican primary voters and this can only be a good thing. Carson self admits to not knowing about foreign policy, and his economic ideas are contradictory which would be a gift for the Democratic Party. Personally I thought that he didn’t do any better than in any of the other debates and on those occasions I didn’t think he did very well at all. On the other hand his poll ratings have continued to rise which is merely a confirmation of what I have long suspected: Republican voters don’t care about the principles they espouse, and nor do they care about consistency or facts.