Sunday, October 30, 2011

Political Litmus Tests, ctd.

A few weeks back, I explained why a candidate's stance on free trade served as a good political litmus test:
I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who views candidate's trade policy as a key determinant of whether I'll vote for him/her. That's kinda crazy, I know, but if you study trade policy and politics like I do, you realize pretty quickly that a candidate's stance on free trade is quite predictive of whether he/she generally puts facts and principle before politics and self-interest. You see, public figures who support free trade and reject protectionism are pretty brave souls. They turn down eager corporate and union donations from those unseemly rent-seekers who seek to thwart international competition at the expense of American companies and families. They ignore attacks on their patriotism from misguided demagogues. And they openly push policies which, despite their overwhelming economic and historical support, are met with public hostility and ignorance and an unethical opposition willing to take full advantage thereof.

On the other hand, those who freely discard their free market, trade liberalization ideals (or who never had them in the first place) are either ignorant of basic law and economics or are willing to eschew those facts in order to gain a short-term political advantage based on misunderstood public opinion polls. Neither option is very flattering and each raises serious questions as to the candidate's fitness as a leader and public servant.
In today's Washington Post, columnist George Will identifies another good litmus test (and one I've frequently discussed here) - ethanol:
Life poses difficult choices, but not about ethanol. Government subsidizes ethanol production, imposes tariffs to protect manufacturers of it and mandates the use of it — and it injures the nation’s and the world’s economic, environmental, and social (it raises food prices) well-being.
Where does a certain GOP frontrunner stand on this no-brainer of an issue and what does his stance say about his political courage and ability to beat President Obama in 2012?

Go grab some popcorn, read Will's column and find out for yourself.

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