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My wife and I recently celebrated the birth of our first child. A few weeks before he was born we were watching a particularly depressing evening news broadcast. We sat through half a dozen stories that evoked feelings of anger, sadness, and despair before looking at each other and asking, “What are we doing bringing a kid into this crazy world?” The question was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I imagine every parent asks themselves that at some point and it’s really not surprising why. Let’s take stock of where we’re at…
We’ve just come out of a multi-year pandemic that resulted in millions of lives lost. The attempt to control the severity of the pandemic has had a myriad of negative consequences. In an effort to save the crashing economy, the federal government initiated trillions of dollars of additional spending with assistance from the federal reserve, which printed the money out of thin air. This increase in the money supply devalued the dollar, and coupled with labor shortages, caused price increases that haven’t been seen in decades. Drug overdose deaths are higher, violent crime is on the rise, and home ownership is now even more of a pipedream for millennials and Generation Z.
When the pandemic started, children were sent home from school as districts scrambled to facilitate remote learning. When they were allowed to attend in-person, they were often required to wear face coverings. There is evidence that this response to COVID has saddled our children with a number of issues. We now have stunted personality development of young adults and a mental health crisis for children. ACT scores have dropped to their lowest in 30 years. Two decades of progress in math and reading have vanished. Our kids are now more obese than ever, with evidence that the average BMI for children have doubled.
In times like this, we should be able to turn to our leaders for guidance on where to go from here. Let’s check in on them to see where their priorities are: We have governors who are trying to harm the reputation of those in the opposing party by punting immigrants between states like a political football. They’re sending billions of dollars (that we don’t have) to Ukraine for a war that doesn’t involve us, increasing the risk of nuclear war with Russia. They’re beefing up IRS enforcement to try and shake more pennies out of our piggy banks. And they’re arguing over whether Elon Musk should be allowed to buy Twitter.
So we face some large and unwieldy problems, and we have a political class that is either unwilling or unable to tackle them. I’ve always cared about liberty and freedom, but now I find myself asking what sort of country we’re going to be leaving for my son. Should we load him up with a public debt and a tax bill that he has no ability to consent to paying? Should we continue to devalue our currency and inflate the costs of college and home ownership? Am I supposed to be okay with him being obese, stupid, and depressed the next time a public health crisis emerges?
Since we cannot rely on our existing leaders to solve our problems, and since these leaders seem determined to curb our liberties at every step, we must roll up our sleeves and provide solutions ourselves. As Libertarians, we must be the voice calling for sound money, reduced government spending and taxation, and an end to involvement in foreign wars. It is imperative that we never allow the education or the social and emotional development of our children to suffer at the hands of bureaucrats and noisy fear-mongers. The fallout of the response to COVID should be the perfect case-study demonstrating how negative consequences are forced upon people when the government implements top-down edicts.
Fortunately, there is hope to be found in this sea of tears. Public trust in government remains very low. The CDC has admitted that it got some things wrong. More and more people are taking their children out of government schools and enrolling in private school or opting to homeschool. Homeschooled students tend to outperform their public school counterparts.  And Americans are more willing to voluntarily help others with their time and money than they were before COVID.
The evidence is clear: top-down solutions have a tendency to create more harm than good. Solutions that are local and voluntary can minimize widespread risk and allow for faster error correction. Future generations are depending on us to set things right and we need to be ready to answer that call.
Jordan Bertke, FCLPO Executive Committee At-Large Member