American electoral processes tend to be long and when it comes to presidential races, they tend to be very long. As such, there were few potential or declared candidates for the 2020 election that appeared to be of any interest, not least because most are career politicians with all too familiar faces, whose records are uninspiring at best. But then I discovered an officially registered candidate called Andrew Yang, a man who not only comes off as incredibly intelligent during interviews, appears to have written his own policy statements, but also knows that millions of people in the US are dead tired of political extremes from both the left and right.
While Yang is running as a Democratic, I would personally describe him as a modern centrist with an independent streak. To put it another way, Yang is campaigning on a platform of vastly more innovative ideas than the average Democrat or Republican and this is putting it mildly. His flagship policy is a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for all adult Americans under pension age. While clearly attractive, the question that naturally arises during discussions of such a proposal is “who is going to pay for it”? The answer for Yang is that through a combination of levying new taxes such as a small but nationally uniform VAT, introducing a modest financial transaction tax, ending the bloated current welfare system and cutting wasteful bureaucracy, the system will not only pay for itself but will simultaneously stimulate commercial activity in the most direct manner possible. It is noteworthy that Yang cites figures as diverse as Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Nixon, Milton Friedman and Bill Gates as a unique group of individuals who each endorsed a similar system.
Yang also argues for a vastly simplified tax structure whereby cumbersome self-assessments would be replaced by official tax estimates which could be moderated after the fact, in place of costly and stressful audits. This too appears to be a step in the right direction, although it is not clear whether or not Yang would lower income tax and capital gains in order to off-set the implementation of new taxes – taxes which overall I find to be fairer than most existing American taxes.
In either case, Yang has confronted a growing elephant in the room when he discusses the need to provide a uniform income guarantee for Americans who will have to adjust to new trends in the job market as artificial intelligence and automation continue to replace human workers across multiple positions in both industry and the service sector.
Eurasia Future has published multiple articles detailing how China’s Reform and Opening Up of 1978 anticipated a long term growth model that could balance the efficiency of increasingly automated factories on the one hand and the genuine requirement for the public welfare of former factory workers on the other. While artificial intelligence was more theory than practice in 1978, China’s model which rejects the extremes of older economic systems is clearly well placed to be in a position wherein the mechanical hand is able to produce wealth that lands in the same place as the wealth produced by the human hand.
Whilst Yang’s model is not market socialism as such, it certainly helps to make the US system vastly more adaptable to the changes that are going to come to all major economies sooner rather than later. Beyond this, a universal basic income guarantee can actually help to encourage the cherished entrepreneurial spirit as there is a natural fail safe against the risks associated with any start-up business endeavour.
Yang describes himself and indeed comes off as a powerful advocate for a system of free enterprise that is less bureaucratic than America’s existing system. Yang’s overall model of evolving capitalism is people-centred rather than confined by red tape. As an someone who admires the virtues of the post-78 Chinese model, the Singapore model which Yang himself appears to praise on his website, as well as the Austrian school’s model favoured by former Congressman Ron Paul, it is important to realise that no economic model is a zero-sum game and that as such, much of what Yang suggests presents what appear to be win-win situations to extremely big problems.
That being said, more clarity is needed on how he intends to pay for his positive programs of human development in an age when America’s debt and deficit are sky high. Furthermore, it would also be helpful to learn about Yang’s views on monetary policy, particularly in respect of sound money and ending the Fed’s addiction to printing money which at least has somewhat ebbed under Jerome Powell. This is of course particularly important because it could help determine Yang’s fiscal policies in relation to monetary inflation.
In terms of banking for those on ordinary incomes, Yang proposes giving local post offices basic banking functions – ostensibly for those who want to shield themselves from the runway fractional reserve banking of a post Glass–Steagall era. So long as the service was cost effective to the customer and not a new spending hole for the Federal Government, this too could be a very good system that would give people an alternative to private banking, whilst ideally allowing for those who want to take the risks associated with private banking to do so in an even less regulated environment. This would of course be win-win wherein the customer knows what he or she is getting into before singing any contract with a local banker.
On Foreign Policy, Yang outlines how he seeks to save money by pivoting military spending towards more practical uses, including infrastructural development. Here, there is little to complain about as it would not only cut costs, but would spend what is left on projects to help people in America rather than wars that kill people abroad. Again, this appears to be a win-win.
On social policy, Yang is a clear pragmatist who believes firmly in equal rights in all of their guises, but without forcing the argument using the fanatical rhetoric that continues to dominate both America’s far-left and far-right.
While keeping inflation low and balancing the budget remain the biggest questions one ought to ask Andrew Yang, the fact that he is a man clearly capable of answering these questions makes it more than worth while for those around the world and especially those in the United States to pay attention to his campaign. In a sea of blandness chasing extremism, Yang is a clearly inspiration figure who represents a modern centrist viewpoint.