Why Libertarians Should Vote: Restoring Liberty via the Ballot Box (Part 3 of 3)by Stephen Littau
I am not a fan of direct democracy. As I pointed out in part 2 of this series, the Colorado ballot has a number of anti-liberty ballot measures from the Left and the Right. The Colorado ballot is a classic example of how democracy can be reduced to tyrannical of mob rule.
Having said that, the system is what it is; why not use the system in a way which restores the rights of life, liberty, and property?
When Democracy is used to Promote Liberty: The Compassionate Use Act of 1996
Paradoxically, direct democracy has in some ways advanced Libertarian issues in ways which would have been difficult if not impossible given the current two party power structure. Libertarian activist Steve Kubby was a key player in advocating California Prop 215 (a.k.a. the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996”) which legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Unfortunately Prop 215 has failed numerous legal challenges and patients, vendors, and doctors have suffered severe punishment at the hands of the federal government despite the state law (click here, here, and here for details). Prop 215 has, however, at the very least forced policy makers to rethink prohibition of medical marijuana.
Since the passage of Prop 215, 11 other states have passed similar laws (7 through the initiative process 4 through state legislatures). Earlier this year, Barney Frank (D) introduced HR5843 which would go even further to decriminalize use of marijuana by adults. Still, it may take some time before Washington catches up with the progress being made at the state level but if/when Washington does get over its reefer mania, it will be due in no small part to those who fought for the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
Pro-Liberty Ballot Measures on the Colorado Ballot?
As terrible as the Colorado ballot is, there are more than a few measures which would restore liberty to Coloradans. Amendment 46 would prohibit state and city governments from using race, gender, or ethnic, based preferences (a.k.a. “affirmative action”) for hiring or promotion considerations.
Amendment 50 would take decisions regarding casino gambling away from the state and allow the local communities where the casinos are located to decide hours of operation, the games which will be played, and maximum wager.
Referendum N removes obsolete language from the Colorado Constitution as originally adopted in 1876 regarding the prohibition of the importing, manufacturing, and selling of “impure” alcohol. Proponents of N point out that the problem of impure alcohol no longer exists as it did when Colorado first became a state. The only argument against the measure in the 2008 Ballot Information Booklet is that enacting N “may diminish the historical character of the constitution.”
And perhaps the best ballot measure of all this November: Referendum O. Referendum O would improve the process of citizen-initiated state laws by raising the requirements for amending the state constitution while simultaneously lowering the requirements for citizen-initiated statutes. Currently, the requirements for statutes and amendments are identical but the state constitution is supreme when statutes conflict with the constitution.
This would encourage activist groups to focus their efforts on statutes rather than litter the state constitution with every wacko proposal the mob wishes to impose. And not only does Referendum raise the minimum number of signatures to qualify for the ballot but it also requires that 8% of the minimum required signatures are collected from each congressional district (rather than the will of people of Denver vs. the rest of the state).
When the prospects for liberty are not so good, it’s very tempting to drop out of the process. Although I am supporting Libertarian Bob Barr for president in this election, I realize that he does not have a realistic chance of winning.
But don’t tell me I’m “throwing my vote away” because I’m voting my principles. If I were to choose between “the lesser of two evils,” then I would be throwing my vote away. Beyond that, I also realize that in voting Libertarian, I can help pave the way for other Libertarians to have easier access to the ballot in future races from sheriff all the way up to president.
But even if you believe that Barr is not a “real Libertarian” and therefore, cannot support him, I would urge you to skip the presidential race and work down the ballot. Are there any other Libertarians, “Ron Paul Republicans,” or Libertarian leaning independents running? Are there any ballot measures which will either advance or reduce liberty?
As John Philpot Curran once said, “Evil prospers when good men do nothing.”
While it is true that evil may still prosper despite our best efforts, we can each at least say we did our part to resist the emotional whims of our friends, the tyrants next door.