Category Archives: Libertarians

“That Libertarian” Dr. Marc Feldman R.I.P.

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I just received the news that Libertarian Party activist Dr. Marc Feldman died earlier today. The LP posted the following press release:

2016 candidate for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president and newly re-elected at-large member of the Libertarian National Committee passed away on Tuesday. The cause of death is not known at the time of this writing.

Nicholas Sarwark, LP Chair, released the following statement:

“Members of the Libertarian Party are deeply saddened to learn of Dr. Feldman’s passing. He grew up cynical about politics and politicians, but found in the Libertarian Party a politics of empowering individuals that he could believe in. We will miss his dedication as? a member of the national committee and candidate for public office,? but most of all, I will miss a good friend. He was a delightful,? spirited, and dedicated Libertarian who inspired and won the hearts of? many. Our deepest condolences to his family on their loss.”

Fellow presidential candidates, with whom he shared the debate stage at numerous Libertarian conventions, expressed their condolences.

Libertarian presidential nominee Gov. Gary Johnson said, “I am saddened to hear of the loss of Marc Feldman. He was a true champion of liberty and a friend to many of us. His humor and wit will be missed.”

“God speed, Dr. Feldman,” said software entrepreneur John McAfee. “You were a gentleman and a scholar. Rest easy now. We’ll take it from here.”

“I got to know Marc over the last seven months in the campaign trail,” said radio host Darryl Perry. “We became friends and I respected his opinions. I send my condolences to his family and other friends. Shalom.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that Dr. Marc Feldman passed away,” said Libertarian Republic founder Austin Petersen. “He was a good man. He was very entertaining. He could have been a fantastic host of a Libertarian television show.”

To be honest, I don’t know who many of the players are within the Libertarian Party. Marc Feldman is not really a name that rings a bell. But then I saw his picture and I wondered: “Wait, is he that libertarian?” (Dr. Feldman has ‘one of those faces’ you remember).

The libertarian that gave that speech at the 2016 National Libertarian Party Convention before the delegates began voting for their party’s nominee?

I’m sad to report that yes, that libertarian is no longer with us.

Here is that speech:

That speech puts a smile on my face whenever I hear it. There’s something about that speech that makes me want to do a fist pump because we’ve all been that libertarian at one time or another (it seems Austin Petersen felt the same way).

Thank you Dr. Feldman for your efforts to make the world a freer place. Rest in Peace.

Why I Can’t Take The Libertarian Party Seriously

mcafeeWith the almost inevitable nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to lead their respective parties, there is a heavy push for an option for the Presidency that gives voters a more palatable option. This kind of push is hardly unprecedented – it seems to come up every election cycle, and started in earnest in 2012 when the “Anyone But (Mitt) Romney” movement failed – but with this year’s nominees being disliked on an unprecedented level, the push is stronger than ever. Partly due to their standing as the stronger of the alternative parties, and due to Trump’s toxicity and statist policies in general, the Libertarian Party (“big L”) stands to make the greatest gains, with many predicting the party could break the 5% threshold that legitimizes a party and gets it ballot and debate access, bringing the libertarian message – “small l” – to the general population.

That would be great, if the Libertarian Party itself could be taken seriously. Nothing I’ve seen, in my time following politics or in this election in general – indicates a real change. Part of that is due to the nature of third party pushes, but a lot of that has to do with the party itself.

First, the nature of Presidential elections, and most importantly their coverage, shows that everyone’s focus will narrow as November looms. This is ubiquitous; media coverage will focus on polls and potential “November Surprises”. Non-partisan voters will realize they have to make a choice ASAP, and historically that’s been a binary choice. Party insiders on both sides will swing their weight around – it’s already happening, particularly on the Republican side as they stamp out #NeverTrump, but the Democrats are doing their level best to stamp out Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” as well – and voters who were upset with their preferred primary candidate losing will inevitably fall in line. Much as in life, when it comes to elections, people stop playing around the closer reality gets; in life, we focus less on a flighty partner who inspires us creatively but is riskier to our future, and settle down with a safe, stable mate. Most people will not seriously consider a third party candidate of any stripe, especially in swing states that will be barraged by advertising and appearances.

It’s hard to remember even just four years later, but much of the vitriol people are throwing Clinton’s and Trump’s way is similar to that thrown Mitt Romney’s way then. “We’ll never vote for him!”, said so-called “true” conservatives. “We’ll go third party!” “Mitt is evil!” Today, he’d be called a “cuckservative” and Jesus Christ I can’t believe I had to type that out. Much the same happened after Barack Obama upset Hillary in 2008; Hillary’s partisans – mostly activist women – swore they would go third party. The two liberal alternatives for voters – independent Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party – combined for less than a million votes, .74% of the total vote. They didn’t even get 1% *combined*.

Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party did do better in 2012, amidst all that Romney hate… getting all the way to just over 1.2m votes, around 1% of the total vote, which is the second highest percentage the Libertarian Party has ever had1. This, despite all the “could Johnson make an impact on the race!?” think pieces of the day. It’s sad, because he had some good libertarian credentials, and had a successful record as the Republican governor or New Mex– wait, did I say Republican? That’s right, he was Republican. As was both parts of the 2008 Libertarian ticket.

This leads to my main issue with the big-L party: They’re not really libertarian. They’re almost all just failed Republicans.

I’m 36 years old, and the 2000 election was my first that I could participate in. Here is a run-down of every candidate for President in my adult life:

2000: Harry Browne, ran his second straight campaign. Ran a principled campaign, but it would go downhill from here.
2004: Michael Badnarik, member of the Free State Project and 9/11 Truther.
2008: Bob Barr, a former Republican who came into Congress in the 1994 Gingrich revolution, and who had an authoritarian voting record while there. Voted for the Patriot Act. His running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, is an Obama “birther” who our colleague Doug Mataconis rightly called out for being a scam. Both Barr and Root have since left the LP and gone back to the Republicans.
2012: Gary Johnson, who in this same election ran for President as a Republican but had a moment of clarity when his candidacy crashed and burned. His running mate, Jim Gray, was also a Republican that decided to join the LP after losing a Republican candidacy.

In 2016, the Libertarian Party has no fewer than 18 people listed as Presidential candidates, though only three are considered legitimate:

* The favourite, Gary Johnson, who since losing in 2012, has taken over as the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a medical marijuana company. This has led to many viewing him as a one-issue candidate regarding marijuana legalization.
* Austin Petersen, a 35 year old whose main claims to fame are his campaign of “I’m not those guys!” despite emulating much of Trump’s tactics, and his somewhat less than libertarian positions. Internally, his focus has been on Johnson being a “drug dealer”.
* John McAfee, the founder of McAfee Associates and antivirus pioneer who is batshit fucking crazy.

When the best shot you have is the guy that got around 1% the last time he ran, a mid-level internet troll, and whatever John McAfee is, you can’t be taken seriously in any election.

In the end, furthering your ideals only gets you so far; you have to win elections to make real progress. Even with a system fundamentally set up to discourage third party candidacies, one would think they’d have at least a few small victories under their belt, but nationally, they’ve completely failed: Libertarian Party candidates have never once won a national or statewide race. In fact, they’ve never been close; the only times they’ve gotten a decent share of the vote in a national or state election was when they were running in races without a contender from one of the two major parties, usually a Democrat. Congratulations, Joel Balam, for winning 32% of the vote against a Republican for the US House, but there is no participation medal here.

This is before I get into the legitimate kooks, dingbats and wingnuts that associate themselves with the Libertarian Party for want of attention, if nothing else. Truthers, birthers, and alt-right personalities who couldn’t even find a home in the Republican party have a home in a party that is desperate for numbers.

In the end, the Libertarian Party is little more than the AAA farm club of the Republicans. If someone can’t play in the big leagues, they can simply go down to the minors, work on their swing-state pitch, and eventually be promoted back up to the real show. Even Ron Paul, the patron saint of libertarian thought to many, had to become a Republican in order to actually accomplish something. Not only does this hurt the legitimacy of the party, it turns off people like me, former Democrats who care about social rights and liberties every bit as much as conservatives care about economic freedom and who can see common ground on the overlap. When Stephen points out the issues with the Party taking on refugees, this is the main concern brought up. He indicated his confidence that libertarians would expose the frauds, but again: a Patriot Act supporter and a Birther were the Libertarian Party nominees in 2008.

Until the big-L Libertarian Party fixes these issues – an admittedly tall goal, even in this election – they will forever remain a fringe party, the land of the 1%, little more than an impotent protest vote.

1 – Ed Clark and David Koch did slightly better in 1980, but that’s more or less a rounding error

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

Should Libertarians Worry About Political Refugees Seeking Asylum in the LP?

To quote Tom Petty, the message to the newly politically homeless: you don't have to live like a refugee

With the primary phase of the 2016 campaign coming to an end, there’s little doubt that many rank and file Republicans and Democrats are not very pleased with their party’s presumptive nominee. For Republicans who actually care about principle, Donald Trump is a non-starter. Many if not most will ultimately decide to vote for him anyway because of the idea that Donald Trump is the lesser evil when compared to Hillary Clinton. Other primary voters who were serious when they said #NeverTrump meant it before May 3rd and mean it now after May 3rd. They have reached the conclusion that Hillary is actually the lesser evil when compared to Trump or at best see them as equally evil.

What are the anti-Trump Republicans to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?

Die hard supporters of Bernie Sanders find themselves in a similar situation. While I haven’t followed the Democrat race for the White House as closely, there does seem to be some angst about Hillary Clinton. Will they decide that from their point-of-view that Hillary is the lesser evil compared to Trump? I’m thinking most will but at least a fraction of the Bernie Sanders voters will make a different choice.

What are pro-Sanders, anti-Hillary Democrats to do? Join a third party? Register as independent?

Less than a month ago, a press release was posted on the Libertarian Party home page inviting political refugees from the Republican and Democrat parties to join the LP. Here’s an excerpt:

Here in the Libertarian Party, we are friends of refugees…those fleeing war torn countries, those fleeing desperate poverty, and also those fleeing despotic candidates such as Mr. Trump and Sec. Clinton.

We welcome former Republicans and Democrats who value “liberty and justice for all” to find a new home in the Libertarian Party.

Libertarianism is the idea that you should be free to make your own decisions in all aspects of your life as long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others.

I find the idea of a flood of political asylum seekers coming to the LP both exciting and terrifying.

If the LP were a nation, it would be a small nation of immigrants. Sure, there are indigenous Libertarians but they are surely the minority. Most Americans grew up in Republican and Democrat households – to the extent Americans are politically active at all. Most Libertarians came to either the party or the philosophy over time and after realizing the party they thought represented them didn’t. I too am a political refugee. The leading candidate for the LP presidential nomination and 2012 nominee, Gary Johnson was a refugee and he’s hardly the first.

The real question is, what do these refugees want?

If they simply want a temporary visa and support the LP nominee for president, even if simply as a “protest vote” most native Libertarians would welcome and encourage that. For those who want citizenship, more would be expected.

What specifically am I talking about? Allow me to address any would-be asylum seekers:

Chris Byrne explains this in some detail in his post that there’s more to libertarians than conservatives who want to legalize pot. If everything you have learned about libertarian philosophy comes from Salon, Slate,The Young Turks or other left wing outlets (and some right wing outlets as well) which deliberately misrepresent what libertarians stand for…you need to forget all of that. Familiarize yourself with actual libertarian institutions/projects such as The CATO Institute, The Reason Foundation, The Mises Institute, The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, The Free State Project, The Tenth Amendment Center, The Institute for Justice and of course the Libertarian Party (especially the party platform). I should point out that among these groups, there are disagreements.

Some of these groups don’t even like each other. Its also quite possible that some of my fellow Liberty Papers contributors might object to listing some of these groups and/or failing to mention another. The point is there is a great deal of philosophical diversity within the broader libertarian movement and, therefore; cannot be pigeonholed into the caricature of libertarians Salon wants you to believe. One thing libertarians of all stripes believe (whether its called the Non Aggression Principle or something else is a debate in and of itself) are the individual rights of life, liberty, and property. Explained another way: Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.

As Tom Petty likes to say, you don't have to live like a refugee.

As Tom Petty likes to say, you don’t have to live like a refugee.

Refugees who actually value the individual rights as described above – having them join the LP would be a great help. For those who want to come in yet hold on to the customs of the party they just left, they need to find asylum elsewhere.

Pivoting back to the original question, should libertarians worry about a bunch of posers coming in and transforming the LP into another Republican Party?*

I believe this would only be a problem if the LP actually started achieving significant electoral success. The reason the LP has been able to stay true (for the most part) to its founding principles since 1971 is because LP candidates haven’t been elected and, therefore; haven’t had to govern. For 45 years, voting/running for the LP has meant never having to say you’re sorry. “Don’t blame me, I voted Libertarian!” Once Libertarians are elected, then we find out how principled they really are.

Until that time comes, I’m very confident that libertarians will expose the frauds. In the LP and/or the greater liberty movement there’s no such thing as “The 11th Commandment.” If you have called yourself a libertarian and another person who calls himself/herself libertarian hasn’t questioned your street cred, you haven’t been a libertarian very long. The intramural battles between Team Cruz and Team Trump or Team Sanders and Team Hillary are mere child’s play by comparison.

In the final analysis, its my belief that the LP will continue to be the LP as we know it only larger. The refugees who want to bring Sharia Law** to the party platform will lose patience dealing with people who actually have principles and self deport.
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Hey There Republicans Fleeing Trump, Welcome to the Party

#NeverTrump

Welcome Republicans, and #NeverTrump

To disaffected Republicans coming to the Libertarian party… or to libertarianism and libertarians in general…

First…Welcome friends…

We’re really glad to have you here, and we’re looking forward to working with you, to get through this crazy time… Oh and #NeverTrump…

Heck, most of us were frankly wondering what took y’all so long to jump ship… the way things have been getting crazier and crazier over there the last… Oooh… let’s just say… the last while, or so…

Which brings us to point two…

Surprise!!!

LIBERTARIANS ARE NOT CONSERVATIVES OR REPUBLICANS!!!

Oh and they… WE… are also NOT liberals, leftists, “progressives”, or Democrats…

We are most certainly NOT “just conservatives who like sex and weed”, nor are we “just liberals who hate taxes, poor people, and political correctness”… though I have been called both in the same day.

Shocking I know, that there are more than two political positions, and bodies of thought, and philosophies; and how everything isn’t actually a (false) dichotomy, us or them… or a two way horse race etc… etc…

Yes… there are people that agree with you… actually are likely further to the notional “right” than you are, about economics, and individual rights and liberties, and even the constitution…

… and some of them smoke weed… or are gay… or atheists… or all of the above… or don’t care if anyone else is or does whatever they want so long as nobody’s getting hurt who isn’t paying extra…

Heck, some of the folks over here probably look and sound a lot like democrats to some of you… or even socialists…

… we all have our kooks after all…

… which reminds me… if you think right and left wing conspiracy nuts are bad… trust me, libertarian conspiracy nuts are worse… don’t worry, just ignore them, and back away slowly… we all do…

… Oh, and hey, some of the folks over here even totally agree with you in principle about the gays, and the marriage, and the weird genders, and the drugs, and sex, and all that…

..They just don’t believe that it’s their job to police other peoples personal choices, and it’s especially not their job to get the state to do it for them.

We’re not crazy, we’re not immoral or unethical… in fact, in my experience, we’re a lot more conscientious, aware, and understanding of our morals and our ethics than most, because we have to be…

… We just don’t believe ALL the same things that you believe…

Most particularly, we don’t believe it is moral or ethical, nor is it generally efficient or effective; to initiate coercive force against someone… including and especially, the coercive force of the state… to make them do what we want them to…

…Even if we KNOW that we’re right, and we KNOW that what we want is better for them, for us, and for society as a whole… We just don’t have the right to do so, unless they are violating the rights of others.

This basic principle… in some form or another… is the absolute core of libertarianism. It is our most closely held principle of interaction with others…

….and while we may… in fact we quite regularly and vigorously do…argue over exactly what it means, and exactly how to follow it…

…We’re not going to give it up, or forget about it, or weaken it, or make special exceptions; just because someone else… or EVERYONE else for that matter… thinks we should, or would be more comfortable, or would like us better, if we did.

So no… Your advice… or in some cases rude, arrogant, condescending, and aggressive demands…

…that libertarians be more conservative and align more with Republican ideas about drug policy, and personal liberty, and social issues, and military spending… just as an example or three…

… It’s not going to get you anywhere.

You’re the ones who couldn’t deal with your corrupt, your ignorant, and your angry, and created the douchealoompa…

We’re absolutely happy to have you… and to welcome you, and help you understand what we believe and why, and how we can work together to help try to avert disaster… and maybe even get some good done together while we’re at it…

…But we’re not going to change our firmly held principles, in order to pander to you or court you…

If we were ever going to do that, we would have done it a long time ago…

We haven’t… and we won’t. Even if it means losing… again… just like every other time…

But… Here’s the great thing about being a libertarian…

We don’t believe in forcing our ideas on anyone else…

…So, you’re entirely free to believe that drugs and sex are bad and wrong, and anything else you like…

You just cant use the state… or the party… to try to make other people behave according to your beliefs or preferences.

Yes… it can get frustrating… incredibly infuriatingly frustrating at times… Even heartbreaking… as we watch people do bad and stupid things to themselves and we can’t stop them…

…but it’s quite satisfying… it’s worth it… when nobody else can force YOU to conform to THEIR beliefs and preferences either…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

It’s Time To Double Tap The Republican Party And Build Its Replacement

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The Republican Party primary voters did it. They nominated Donald Trump as their presidential nominee.

I predicted as far back as August 2015 that Donald Trump would destroy the Republican Party and it appears he has. Trump is the choice of it seems Republican voters. His numerous racist and xenophobic statements and positions and his hostility to the Constitutional limits of his power weren’t a problem in the end.

There is no home in a Republican Party ruled by Donald Trump for those who hold classical liberal views and/or traditional conservative values. Those libertarians, conservatives, conservatarians, Constitutionalists, classical liberals, and the rest who believe in the principles of the American founding are now politically homeless. The day after Trump knocked Ted Cruz out of the race, I left the Republican Party.

The Republican Party is a dead political party. It’s a zombie just shuffling forward in search of human flesh. The #NeverTrump movement should double tap the Republican Party. It is little more than a Grand Zombie Party now and start building its replacement.

The #NeverTrump movement is beginning to realize that the Republican Party is beyond saving. A couple of Iowans, Joel Kurtinitis at The Blaze and Steve Deace at Conservative Review, want the movement to think bigger than just defeating Donald Trump. They’re both on board the “we need a new party train.” I completely agree with both men.

We need a party that argues in favor of the classical liberal principles of America’s founding. We need a party that recognizes that populism is just another form of statism.

Why Not The Libertarian Party?

The Libertarian Party is America’s third largest political party. It will likely have ballot access in alll 50 states plus the District of Columbia this year. It is running some pretty good candidates for president. I hope they get the 5% of the vote necessary to receive Federal campaign matching funds. This would be good for American politics.

However, as a long-term solution, the LP is not what I’m looking for. The Libertarian Party’s primary purpose is an educational tool for libertarian ideas and that’s great. But a new home is needed for the broad classical liberal spectrum for winning and governing.

What Should This New Party Look Like?

Some thoughtful pieces have come out recently about the direction this new party would take. The first one is a two-part series run on The Federalist by Paul D. Miller about bringing back The Federalist Party. The second part outlined a platform suggestion.

Decentralizing power is the best way—perhaps the only way—for an increasingly pluralistic people to govern themselves: a pluralistic people calls for plural governments. Americans are increasingly divided not merely by race, class, and gender—which has always been true—but by differing sets of values, by religious and sectarian identities, by basic understandings of justice and democracy that have drifted apart in recent generations.

The progressive left and quasi-fascist right believe the increasing fragmentation of American life is a malady which must be cured by the strong hand of government. In fact, those very movements are both cause and consequence of the fragmentation of American society, and their agendas can never create the imagined unity of the romantic past or utopian future.

The Federalist accepts the pluralism of American life as a reality to be accommodated, not a disease to be cured. The way to safeguard human dignity and self-government in a culturally pluralistic nation is to revive the institutions of plural government; that is, to devolve power to the several governments closer to the people they govern.

A more decentralized Federal government must be a major part of the platform. After all, we are a nation of 50 different states, each with their unique values and cultures. A “one-size fits all” approach to government fails. But decentralization alone is not enough. The Federal government has some roles.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom had some thoughts of his own on a possible new party platform. I recommend reading the entire piece but I wanted to highlight his 6 main planks.

1) Individual liberty
2) Federalism and representative republicanism
3) Constitutionalism
4) Judicial originalism
5) National sovereignty
6) Free-market capitalism

These are a good start. The only minor quibble I would have is I’m more of a Randy Barnett “judicial engagement” type than a judicial originalist. I can get on board with the rest easily though.

I think we need to add a few planks though and call the whole thing “Nine For Freedom” or something. Here are my suggestions:

7) Growth and opportunity: The old economy is dead. The idea of having a job right out of college and staying with the same company until you retire doesn’t happen anymore. We’re shifting towards a “gig economy” where many people are freelancers. Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Fiverr, Ebay, and many other innovations make it easy for almost anyone to be in business for themselves. The economy itself has an anemic growth rate that shows signs of getting worse. We need to unleash the American people by getting government out of the way. We need to lower the world’s highest corporate tax rate, reduce regulations, and attack crony capitalism that delivers privileges to a well connected few. We need to reform our outdated Industrial Era education system, promote school choice, and fix higher education so that you don’t have to have a bachelor’s degree to wait tables. Finally, we need to have a free market approach to fix or replace Obamacare.

8) Welfare and Entitlement Reform: We have a major problem with our welfare state. It still traps people in dependence and discourages work. Social Security Disability fraud is bleeding the system dry. We can’t have this as a nation. At the same time, we shouldn’t hold people who do need a temporary hand up in disdain. Most people don’t make welfare a lifestyle. You can hit this many ways. The guys over at the Foundation for Government Accountability have great ideas to reform welfare. If we want to go bolder, we may want to consider scrapping the alphabet soup of welfare programs and replace it with some kind of basic income program. If you want to undermine the sources of support for the Trumpist right and the progressive left, you have to attack the welfare state.

9) A Strong, Secure, And Free America: We will aggressively confront the enemies of this country. We will stand for liberty and freedom allaround the world. We will have a military and intelligence capability that is second to none. However, we will not engage in military crusades for democracy, seek dragons to slay, and engage in dubious neocon nation building schemes. We believe in the power of diplomacy and we believe in free trade. America will be involved in the world but we will not police the world alone. We will ask our allies to do more to protect themselves not because they’re not important but because we cannot and will not do it alone. Finally, while we will be vigilant about detectingthreats from abroad, we will not listen to your phone calls, read your emails, track your online browsing, or otherwise spy on you without a warrant. America should not throw away its founding principles even in wartime.

We have an opportunity to reshape the political landscape. The Republican Party is little more than a home for racists, kooks, reactionary populists, demagogues, con artists, and political opportunists. It no longer serves the purposes of liberty.

Let’s build something that does.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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