Category Archives: Theory and Ideas

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

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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.

How to Fix the Nomination Process


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Whether you are a Trump supporter, Cruz supporter, Kasich supporter, Sanders supporter, Hillary supporter, or a disinterested observer fed up with the whole thing like myself, we can all agree that the nomination process is a complete disaster. Not that any of this is new to this particular election; the 2016 campaign has only exposed the flaws in the process that have existed since the earliest days of the leading political parties.

No, neither Trump nor Sanders are having the nomination ‘stolen’ from them, at least not in a sense where actual ‘cheating’ is happening (best I can tell from afar anyway). The fact that Trump doesn’t understand how the process works does not mean Cruz is doing something wrong. And the irony of ironies where some of Sanders’s delegates are being redistributed…well, Hillary Clinton would never cheat right?

If the argument is that the game is rigged at worst or just a little screwy at best then I can certainly agree with that. The rules and process as was set up long before the 2016 campaign is really what is causing confusion leaving many primary voters angry and disillusioned. While it may be too late to cure what ails the nomination process for 2016, I believe I have a few ideas that would vastly improve the process and I would encourage any political party to at least give this a try.

A National Primary Day

This incredibly long drawn out byzantine primary system has outlived its usefulness. There is no reason to have a few states vote early while other vote later. If it’s good enough to have the general election on one day than the primary should be no different. My proposal is to have every state and territory vote on the same day, say 40-60 days before the party’s convention. If the states want to follow roughly the same calendar as the traditional primaries holding town halls, debates, or even non-binding straw polls then by all means, do so. The days of a handful of states determining who emerges should be done away with forever.

Allocation of Delegates

In the 2016 South Carolina Primary Donald Trump “won” the election with a whopping 32.5% of the vote. To put this another way, 67.5% of South Carolina voters voted for someone other than Donald Trump *but* because South Carolina is winner take all, Trump will be awarded all 50 of the state’s delegates! While I’m not one of these people who think that “majority rule” is a good thing in and of itself (actually it’s often terrible), it seems that in a primary or caucus which purports to reflect the “will of the people” should at a minimum, require that the winning candidate actually earned the majority of the vote.

If the goal of the nomination process is to nominate an individual who represents the “will of the people” in the party then the parties are not doing a very good job in achieving that goal. My proposal to improve this aspect of the process is as follows:

Each state/territory is to have one delegate for each congressional district and two at large delegates. Each would-be delegate is bound to a particular candidate and can only become a delegate if his/her candidate wins 50%+1 of the vote in the congressional district or, in the case of the at large would-be delegates, 50%+1 of the entire state, commonwealth, or territory. The candidates would keep every delegate s/he won (i.e. no winner take all states). The 50%+1 threshold would be easily achieved by implementing instant runoff voting (this is key). This way every vote actually would matter and the “spoiler effect” would be minimized if not eliminated.

Rather than explain how instant runoff voting (a.k.a. alternative voting) works for those who are not familiar, here’s a short video:

The Nominating Convention

The convention would operate more or less like it does now. The delegates would then go about choosing the nominee by either multiple rounds of voting or using the instant runoff method as described above. Because all the delegates would be bound to their candidate (at least to start with) in the former method s/he must vote for the candidate in the first round, in the latter s/he must rank the bound candidate #1 and the candidate of his or her choice for #2, #3, and so on. Whichever way the convention decided to go, the important thing is no winner would be selected without a majority recorded vote (i.e. no voice votes where the Chairperson decides which way the vote went based on his/her opinion).

Oh yeah, one other thing: no other candidates could be nominated who was not running on National Primary Day.

Would this process be perfect? Of course not. There is no system I can think of which will prevent a truly terrible person from being nominated or even elected. If there’s a better way, I would certainly would love to hear it. That being said, I believe this process is much superior than the one either party is using now.

All this makes me wonder though: if the parties are having this much trouble determining the will of the majority of their party members (assuming that’s really what they are trying to do), how can they be trusted to solve the more complex problems they want us to believe they can solve?
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One Point of Clarification

If you read carefully, you will notice that everything I wrote is just a suggestion about how any political party can improve its nomination process. None of this in any way is meant to advocate that the law should be changed to comply with my opinion. Its free advice and the parties can take it or leave it (and they probably will leave it…who am I to advise them right?).

I’ve come across some individuals who are upset about how some state parties have gone about choosing delegates (which I can sympathize with; I hate how the Colorado Republican Party chooses delegates). What everyone needs to understand though is that regardless of what they think they know about how the system works, the U.S. is not a democracy. It never was and never was intended to be. Some misguided individuals believe that the shenanigans (as they see it anyway) taking place in some of these state conventions is tantamount to treason against the U.S. Constitution.

For those who think this way, I’m about to drop a giant atomic truth bomb so here it goes…

There is no constitutional right for the average citizen to vote in a presidential election (neither in the party primaries nor in the general election). No, really there’s not.

For those who don’t believe me, the part of the U.S. Constitution that addresses how the POTUS is to be elected is located in Article II, Section 1, Paragraphs 2 through 4. I’ll share the most relevant part (paragraph 2):

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

As stated from the excerpt above, each state determines how Electors are picked to vote for POTUS. This means that if the state legislature wants to choose Electors by drawing names out of a hat or by roshambo, the state legislature may do so. As it happens, every state legislature has decided that the people have a right to vote for the Electors provided they are eligible to vote (as determined by that state’s laws).

Did you notice something else? What about all the explaining about the nomination process of delegates of a particular political party?

Read the excerpt again, no actually read Article II in its entirety because I know some people reading this think that I cherry picked one small part from the U.S. Constitution to make my point.

Did you notice that there wasn’t a single word about political parties, much less how they go about choosing a nominee for president?

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Libertarians Debate on Stossel (Part 1 of 2)

Watch-Part-One-Of-The-Libertarian-Party-Debate-On-Stossel-702x336In case you missed it, the first half of the Libertarian Party Presidential Debate aired on Stossel on April 1st (the second half will air on Friday, April 8, 2016). The three participants were 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, software developer John McAfee, and the founder of the blog The Libertarian Republic Austin Petersen.

After watching some of the GOP debates and the first Democrat debate, watching the Libertarians debate was refreshing. No name calling or commenting on the appearance of the other candidates. No scolding the debate moderator for asking questions the candidates didn’t like. To the extent that one candidate challenged or disagreed with another they were on the substance of the issue at hand (more on that in a moment). There seemed to be more areas of agreement than disagreement (and even a kiss on the cheek) among them. This debate was more about presenting to a national cable audience the case for Libertartian policy alternatives to those of the Republicrats.

Did any candidate “win” Part 1 of the debate or help/hurt his chances with the LP faithful or viewers who are open to supporting a third party candidate?

I can only answer for myself. I enthusiastically supported Gary Johnson in 2012 all the way back from when he was running for the GOP nomination to election day as the LP’s nominee. Of the three, he’s the only one I was all that familiar with. I took the Isidewith.com survey on the issues (mentioned in the debate) several weeks ago and found that I sided with Austin Petersen 97%, Gary Johnson 92%, and Ted Cruz 77%. I’m not sure why John McAfee wasn’t among those I sided with because I found myself in agreement with much of what he said in the debate. Due to these results, though Gov. Johnson is sort of my default favorite I watched with an open mind.

To my surprise, indeed I did find myself agreeing more with the thirty-five year old Austin Petersen than the other two. For libertarians looking for “purity” of libertarian principles, Petersen is your guy it seems (based solely on one half of one debate). When asked about whether a cake decorator should be forced to make a cake for someone based on personal or religious reasons, Johnson (to my profound disappointment) said they should while Petersen said the market should decide making the freedom of association argument (an argument every good libertarian should have down pat).

The second strike against Johnson and for Petersen was the question of the so-called gender pay gap. Johnson sounded like a progressive echoing the “equal pay for equal” work line but said he would be hesitant to sign any equal pay legislation because “the devil is in the details.” Petersen on the other hand skillfully explained why the gender pay gap is a progressive myth. McAfee, for his part argued that if a person doesn’t like how much they are being paid they are free to look elsewhere.

There’s certainly more in the debate that I didn’t get into here. My conclusion as far as my opinion goes: Petersen helped himself, Johnson hurt himself, and McAfee is intriguing. In a world where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are looking to be their party’s nominee any of the three would be hands down a better choice.

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