Housing Crisis

I guess I should have a question related to the current recession. Lots of options here. Could talk about banking and money, regulating the financial system or possible bailouts of homeowners who bought at the peak of the housing bubble.  Banking has lots of gradations of libertarian answers, but what could I put for authoritarian answers that hasn’t already been implemented? Ditto for the financial services industry. I can think of some useful additional interventions for the housing crisis. So here goes:



The housing bubble has only partially popped. Millions of homeowners are still owe more than their homes are worth. Many banks are still fragile and many people are unable to move to find better jobs because they cannot sell their homes. Should we do something? If we do, how do we do so without creating a new bubble?

What should we do about the ongoing mortgage crisis?

  • Inflate the currency to bring nominal incomes and rents in line with current home prices.
  • Give out grants to homeowners based on how desperate they are.
  • Buy up surplus housing and demolish it to soak up excess supply.
  • Two of the above.
  • All of the above.
  • Do nothing beyond what we are doing now. The bailouts, new homeowner tax credits, and HARP suffice.
  • Let prices continue to fall but build equity by granting existing homeowners the value of their future mortgage interest deductions as a lump sum payment used to pay down existing mortgages and then eliminate the mortgage deduction.
  • Pop the remaining bubble. Eliminate all bailout programs. Yes, some people will lose, but others will gain by being able to afford homes on the cheap.
  • Pop the bubble even harder. Eliminate the remaining bailout programs, Fannie and Freddie, and the mortgage interest deduction.
  • Crush the bubble. Pop as above and go to a gold standard to eliminate inflation.

War on Terror

War is the health of the State — except where it is the death of the State.  That exception thingy is why I have avoided the foreign intervention issue in prior editions of the Quiz. Taking out Hitler was good for liberty — but the process required quite a bit of death and taxes.

For this go around, my yardstick is amount of government vs. initiation of force. Even there, foreign policy is a bit ambiguous. Fighting WWII did require more government at home — and how!  But if the Axis powers decided to absorb the U.S. after taking care of Eurasia, the total amount of government would have been even bigger even at [U.S.] home  in the long run.

Nonetheless, given how much Ron Paul invested in the foreign policy issue, and how the War on Terror threatens to drag on indefinitely, the lack of a military intervention question is perhaps unacceptable.

For Version 7, perhaps a foreign intervention question focused just on the Middle East is appropriate, given the War on Terror. It can serve as a proxy for attitudes on intervention in general. In fact, George W. Bush gave reason to broaden the question given his Axis of Evil speech.

So, how is this:


Ever since 9/11  the United States has been in a state of open ended war against militant Islamic groups and countries which host them. This has been very expensive, and innocent people have been killed in the cross fire. Then again, we haven’t suffered a major terrorist attack since we began the War on Terror. If we don’t get the terrorists  over there, we might need a full on police state at home to protect the millions of soft targets — or so many claim. But would we be under attack by militant Islamists if we weren’t meddling in the Middle East in the first place?

What is the appropriate military response to terrorism in the 21st Century?

  • The U.S. response was appropriate more or less.
  • We should have pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq much sooner. Take out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, yes. Nation build, no.
  • The second Iraq war was a mistake.
  • The first Iraq war was a mistake, as was Desert Shield. Hussein was Saudi Arabia and Iran’s problem.
  • We shouldn’t meddle in the Middle East at all. Get out of the Persian Gulf. Let the Israelis defend themselves. “They hate us because we are over there.”
  • We should focus on energy independence so we can distance ourselves from the Middle East. Levy a large tariff on OPEC oil and/or spend some billions on a serious energy policy.
  • We should be more aggressive. Bomb Iran before they get nuclear weapons.
  • We should have invaded Saudi Arabia after 9/11. Most of the terrorists were Saudi citizens, and Saudi Arabia sponsored the Taliban.
  • We should take out North Korea to finish off the Axis of Evil.
  • Invade Cuba and establish democracy there.
  • Any to of the above aggressive actions (Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba.)
  • Any three of the above.
  • All of the above.


My feedback from the right is that the above was a leading question. So here is a second try:



After the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, the United States embarked on a campaign of introducing democracy by force of arms and taking out terrorist cells abroad. It seems to have worked. We have suffered no major terrorist attack at home since, and democracies are sprouting all across the Middle East. But the price has been enormous in terms of treasure and lives lost. Did we overreact? And in the longer run, have the recent wars inspired as many future terrorists as we have taken out? Opinions vary.

What is/was the appropriate military response to terrorism in the 21st Century?

  • What we did. The U.S. response, including the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, was appropriate and sufficient.
  • We need to do more. We should intervene in Syria.
  • More: we need to stop Iran for getting nuclear weapons, by force of arms if need be.
  • More: there is another country or countries that need military correction soon.
  • Two of the above additional interventions
  • All of the above additional interventions.
  • Less. Taking out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were worthwhile, but we shouldn’t have stayed for the extensive nation building afterwards.
  • Less. Afghanistan yes. The second Iraq war no.
  • Much less. Even the first Iraq war was a mistake, as was Desert Shield. Saddam was Saudi Arabia and Iran’s problem.
  • Much less. They hate us not because we are free, but because we are over there. We should focus on energy independence so we can end our involvement in the Persian Gulf. Levy a large tariff on OPEC oil and/or spend some billions on a serious energy policy.
  • Much less. Let’s get completely out the Middle East now, without waiting for energy independence. And let Israel defend itself.


Version 7 is Up!

At long last Version 7 of Quiz2D is up and running! As I write this I have just put the fifth draft up on the site. (The fifth draft has an added question on abortion.)

I write this post both as a quick announcement and as a placeholder for general comments on the new edition. I’m still taking suggestions on additional answers for the existing questions as well as for additional questions.

I’m especially interested in errors and biased wording. I am open to additional questions and answers to existing questions, but becoming less open day by day. The new edition of the political test is getting pretty long. I’m going for longer as this is a web-only test — the original was kept short for use at fair booths and the like — but even at home on a computer, people do have a patience limit.


Immigration is a somewhat ambiguous issue on the Nolan Chart. Cracking down on immigration definitely requires government action — huge amounts of intrusive government action to deport illegal immigrants not caught at the border. But given the existence of the welfare state and minimum wages laws, granting amnesty and/or opening the floodgates would require expanding the already over-extended welfare system and other government services. This holds even if every immigrant is hard working.

Low skill hard working immigrants pull down the market rates for the jobs they do, causing many native-born to go on welfare. The developing world has billions of people with poor English language skills and little education who would earn more working in First World sweatshops. This thwarts the goals of progressive legislation designed to eliminate such sweatshops.

Open immigration between nations of equal economic status is workable. Free immigration is also workable with factories hungry for manual laborers or a frontier open for colonization. These conditions no longer apply to the U.S.

So is immigration an economic or personal freedom issue? Technically it is both. I think I’ll keep it in the personal axis as liberals are making more pro-immigration statements and conservatives more anti-immigration statements. But note how Obama is deporting plenty of illegal aliens, and how much amnesty was granted under Republican administrations. This issue does not fit cleanly in the left-right axis.

I’m tempted to omit this issue for the next Quiz, but I’ll keep it for two reasons:

  1. I’d like to pitch a creative compromise which keeps the inflow manageable while protecting the civil liberties of recently nationalized citizens.
  2. I’d like to know where people stand on this issue with respect to other issues. For example, Ron Paul was quite anti-immigration in previous runs, whereas the Libertarian Party is and was open borders in its platform. Most liberal pundits make pro-immigration statements, but Ed Schultz is quite an outlier. I’d be curious to know how many liberals agree with Schultz.

So, for the next version a few more options on immigration. Also, the question will clearly be on immigration vs. illegal immigration. (Raise the quotas and the illegal immigration problem goes away.)


The United States and other developed nations have welfare systems and minimum wage/job conditions laws designed to set a minimum standard of living for all citizens. This minimum standard is way above the standard of living for billions of people in poorer nations. This leads to massive immigration pressure. Immigrants — legal and illegal — enter rich nations like the U.S. willing to do hard jobs at minimum wage or less. Consumers of their labor benefit, but many citizen laborers suffer and some of them go on welfare raising the general tax burden.  We currently set immigration quotas far below the demand, with the result of millions of illegal aliens residing within the land. Since they are illegally here, they cannot safely call the police, so alien communities are ripe pickings for organized crime. But getting them out would be a civil liberties nightmare.

What should the U.S. immigration policy be?

  • Open the gates! Borders are artificial. Let the welfare system crash and shantytowns bloom. Overall, more people benefit with fully open borders.
  • Raise the quotas a bit, but favor skilled immigrants to ensure enough jobs for unskilled immigrants.
  • Keep the existing immigration laws.
  • Tax the poor but give all citizens a monthly rebate check. This could be the “prebate” promoted by the Fair Tax folks, or making the income tax flat towards the bottom coupled with a citizen’s dividend.
  • As above, but also sell citizenships. Anyone can become a citizen as long as they obey the laws and prove that they are/will be a net taxpayer.
  • Seal the borders but don’t violate civil liberties trying to hunt down illegals already within the country.
  • Institute a national ID in order to catch illegals within the borders.
  • Reduce the immigration quotas so we can assimilate the immigrants we have.
  • Do two of the above three options (seal borders, national ID, reduced quotas).
  • Do all of the above three options to reduce immigrations.

What have I missed?

Public Education

Over the years I have come across more authoritarian options to make the public schools better than I was aware of last time around: longer school hours, year around schools, uniforms, advanced degrees for school teachers, etc. As such, I think it wise to narrow the Education question to just primary education. Leave college out or to another question.

And yes, the old question was extremely biased. Need to work on that.

Anyway, here is a more comprehensive question with less bias:


Public education is a key component to a successful democracy, or an example of democratic socialism — depending on whom you ask. Regardless, pundits all over the political spectrum claim that U.S. public schools are worse than they should be. They point to better test scores by students all over the world to back their assertions.

Should our system of public education be significantly reformed?

  • Yes, we need more class time. Extend school hours to match standard work hours.
  • Yes, we need more class time. Extend the school year and get rid of the long summer break when the kids forget what they have learned.
  • Yes, we need better trained teachers. Require graduate degrees to teach and pay teachers accordingly.
  • Yes, we need more discipline. Require school uniforms.
  • Yes, divide the school population between academics and vocational ed students via tests like they do in much of Europe.
  • Any 2 of the above reforms.
  • Any 3 of the above reforms.
  • Any 4 of the above reforms.
  • All of the above reforms.
  • No, our system has its problems, but it fosters creativity and universal citizenship.
  • Yes, the schools need competition to keep administrations on the bounce. We need more charter schools and other forms of public school choice.
  • Yes, we need more competition. Grant school vouchers for students who go to private school (at a fraction of the marginal cost of public school).
  • Yes, charge partial tuition for public schools and grant scholarships for poor students. (This gets around the religious freedom problem that vouchers present.)
  • Yes. Sell off the public schools and grant school vouchers for all children.
  • Yes. Sell off the public schools and completely separate school from state. Let charities figure out how to educate the poor.

This is a lot of options, but this is a big question. And since the Quiz is now online only, no need to be as short as it used to be. What think ye?


Should I keep the censorship question? It seems dated with cable TV and the Internet as options. If you want to see it, you pretty much can these days. In fact you can see it even if you don’t want to.

The main calls for censorship I see currently are people complaining about non-media corporations buying political advertising. This is an area where the political Right is more for free speech than the Left at the moment (in the U.S.)

Any other good censorship issues active in the U.S.? Otherwise, I think I will remove this category for the next version of the Quiz.


My old sex question is really dated — it references the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Sodomy and fornication laws are no longer enforced. Whether or not prostitution should be legal is relevant, but what do I put in for authoritarian options?

In the comments below, I would really appreciate some ideas here. Should I keep the sex issue at all? Or are their other sex-related issues more pressing than whether or not to legalize prostitution? (Gay marriage is a biggie, but it doesn’t entirely fit in the libertarian-authoritarian axis.)

Anyway, a draft:


If you own your body, why can’t you sell it or images thereof? On the other hand, love and marriage are precious and declining. If cracking down the sex industry would save marriages, then wouldn’t this be worth the price? But is the sex industry responsible for the decline of marriage?

To what degree should the sex industry be legal?

  • None, outlaw pornography AND strip clubs.
  • Much less, outlaw pornography OR strip clubs.
  • Less. Make it harder to get pornography, but allow it for determined adults. For example, all dirty images on the Internet should be behind paywalls.
  • Current law: outlaw and regulate as we do now.
  • More legal. Keep strip clubs and pornography legal, and legalize prostitution as well.

Free Trade

Adam Smith and David Ricardo made a very powerful case against mercantilism, Ricardo going so far as to do a mathematical proof. Yet mercantilist China is fast becoming the world’s economic superpower. Free trade U.S. is in danger of becoming a has been power.

Yes, one can blame overregulation, deficit spending, and perhaps vulture capitalism for U.S.  relative declines. And even though the balance sheet is looking bad, and U.S. employment numbers stink, it is also true that U.S. (and First World in general) workers benefit from being able to purchase cheap goods from rising powers like China.

Still, theory and results seem a bit at odds. How does the Law of Comparative Advantage work when applied to a country which has a welfare system, a minimum wage, and workplace safety regulations? How about when one country subsidizes an export? Which is closer to the free trade optimum: one country subsidizing an export with not response, or the importer imposing a tax equal to the subsidy?

And even if tariffs are still destructive, how do revenue tariffs compare with other taxes? All taxes have a price.

I don’t claim to have the answers to these questions. I suspect there are some economists out there who have redone Ricardo’s proof with some of these complications added. If so, I’d be interested in some references. In the meantime, I have become considerably more sympathetic to the protectionists and anti-globalization advocates than I was when I first wrote the Quiz.

So, an attempt at a more balanced question (to replace the old Subsidies question).


The classical economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo made compelling cases for free trade. Specialization and comparative advantage benefit all trading partners. But did their proofs take into account the modern welfare state, minimum wages and pollution regulations? Are first world nations such as the U.S. giving away their seed corn to rising mercantilist powers such as China, while hurting their working classes in the bargain? Then again, what of the complexity, corruption and crony capitalism which arises when the government tries to offset foreign export subsidies with retaliatory tariffs, counter subsidies, etc.?

What should the U.S. trade policy be?

  • Continue as currently, more or less.
  • Get rid of all tariffs, quotas, and export subsidies.
  • Aggressively enforce existing trade laws, retaliating against foreign subsidies which hurt domestic industries.
  • Increase tariffs and/or pull out of some/all of our trade agreements.
  • Implement an all out industrial policy.
  • Get rid of the existing reams of tariff schedules and trade agreements, but tax imports implicitly by having a national sales tax. This sales tax could replace Social Security taxes, the federal income tax, or both.

Hmmm, not as many options as I have for some V7 questions, but perhaps this is a good thing. Note that I do not go from most authoritarian to least or vice versa. The last answer is probably the most libertarian, yet if follows the most authoritarian. Confusing?

Hard Drugs

When I was young and single, I agreed with the libertarian position on drugs: legalize them all. Now that I am older and a parent, I must admit that I don’t want a crack house down the street — legal or illegal. Some of the hard drugs, especially the uppers like cocaine and meth, can induce violence even without the black market component. Marijuana users, on the other hand, present no extra danger to others. So I want to separate marijuana from the hard drugs issue.

That said, making the hard drugs universally illegal does subsidize a criminal underground, an underground dangerous enough to turn Mexico into a failed state. There are good arguments for legalization other than natural rights arguments.

So, for the next edition of the Quiz, I want to go fine grained on the options, to see if people are interested in attempting to balance between the dangers of criminal gangs vs. out of control neighbors.


Hard drugs such as cocaine and opiates are dangerous, both to the users and those around the users. They are addictive as well, so the “right to choose” argument is weaker than it is for softer drugs like marijuana. On the other hand, making these drugs illegal subsidizes dangerous criminal gangs, and diverts users from the dilute forms (coca leaf tea, smoked opium gum) to the more concentrated forms (crack, heroin). Finally, because discrete drug use is operationally a victimless crime, we require police state tactics in order to have any chance at successful enforcement.

Should we change our laws against hard drugs?

  • No. Keep the laws we have on the books, and enforce at current levels.
  • No. Keep existing laws and extend vigorous enforcement. Treat rich white users as harshly as minorities caught with hard drugs.
  • Increase the penalties for possession to those for dealing so the courts don’t have to prove intention to distribute.
  • In addition to existing enforcement, seal the borders so cocaine and opium cannot get into the country.
  • Keep the laws, but back off on some of the more aggressive police state tactics. Instead, seal the borders and search for the drugs at border crossings instead of doing dangerous no-knock searches on citizens.
  • Yes. but legalize the more dilute forms only (cf. coca leaf, smokeable opium).
  • Legalize hard drugs for licensed users only. (Like Timothy Leary’s proposal. License drug use like we license drivers and pilots.)
  • Legalize dilute forms for licensed users only.
  • Legalize hard drugs for limited jurisdictions only (Nevada, Indian reservations…), like we do for casino gambling today.
  • Legalize dilute forms of hard drugs for limited jurisdictions only.
  • Legalize dilute forms for licensed users within limited jurisdictions.
  • Legalize all forms but to licensed users within limited jurisdictions.
  • Legalize all hard drugs period. Punish those who cannot handle their highs and hurt others.

What important permutations have I missed? What bias needs to be removed?



States across the land are passing medical marijuana provisions, and many in the mainstream media are calling for outright legalization. Opinions on the harder drugs (cocaine, opiates) are significantly different. So for version 7 of the Quiz, I think it’s time to split the drug question.

(Well, actually, medical cocaine and opiates are legal today, and have been all along. But they have been strictly controlled. California’s medical marijuana program is something of a free-for-all, a near legalization.)


Marijuana is in many ways as soft or softer a drug than currently legal drugs. It is far less addictive than tobacco, and induces far less belligerent behavior than alcohol. Making marijuana illegal is Prohibition all over again, an enormous subsidy for gangs and organized crime. Then again, marijuana does have health hazards, and long term use can cause paranoia and resistance to”working for The Man.” Can we field an army with marijuana legal?

Should marijuana be legalized?

  • No. Keep current laws on the books.
  • No, and crack down on states which de facto legalize marijuana through lax “medical marijuana” laws.
  • No, and expand enforcement. Throw the book at rich white users the same as we do with poor blacks.
  • Partially. Legalize medical marijuana, but with a stricter definition of medical than California uses.
  • Partially. Use California’s medical marijuana laws as a national model.
  • Decriminalize only. Make marijuana possession and dealing a fineable offense, with fines in proportion to amount found.
  • Yes. Legalize marijuana outright, but tax and regulate it like we do hard liquor.
  • Yes. Legalize mariuana and don’t regulate/tax.

What options have I missed? Is my prelude too biased?