Last updated on 2014.07.24
South Dakota Libertarian Party Bob Newland got me to stick my foot in it yesterday. Responding to the growing chorus of Libertarians and others repudiating the viability of Chad Haber's supposed candidacy for the Libertarian nomination for attorney general, I made the argument to Mr. Newland that I would make a better nominee for his party than Haber. Newland said he would welcome my candidacy but that his party would prefer that its candidates endorse at least 7% of the party platform.
Let's roll out that Libertarian platform and see how I do. The Libertarian platform is in the left platform; my responses, plank by plank, are on the right.
|As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
|The blessing of the civil state is “moral liberty, which alone makes him truly master of himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while obedience to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty” [Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762] (0.5)
|We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
|We form society to secure individual rights against the abhorrent force and fraud of the lawless state of nature. Peace and prosperity are worthless without freedom. (0.7)
|Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
|"...to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" [Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1994]. Government is at least a necessary evil, at best a shared institution through which we cooperate and carry out the popular will to enhance the freedom of all citizens. (0.5)
|In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles.
|These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.
|My goal is to maximize liberty for all citizens. (0.3—I score this one low, out of distaste for the vague puffery of the platform statement)
|STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES
|We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.
|I belong to no cult. I resist any effort to create any state with unchecked power. (0.3—again, rhetoric aligning with imagination but not reality)
|We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.
|Living the way I want inevitably conflicts with living the way you want. Resolving those conflicts without force or fraud requires reasonable laws determined by democratic processes. (0.5)
|Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.
|Proper democratic government exists and operates by the consent of the governed. We surrender some of our freedom, some of the fruits of our labor, to enjoy true liberty enforced by a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. (0)
|We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life -- accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action -- accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property -- accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.
|I value life, liberty, and property; however, I cannot accept these statements in their absolute form. All rights exist in tension with others. All rights must be balanced with exceptions to accommodate other rights and maximize liberty. (0.8)
|Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.
|Contracts do not exist outside of the social contract. The free market has its merits, but it is not uniquely compatible with nor a guarantor of the protection of individual rights. (0)
|1.0 Personal Liberty
|Individuals should be free to make choices for themselves and to accept responsibility for the consequences of the choices they make. No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government. Our support of an individual's right to make choices in life does not mean that we necessarily approve or disapprove of those choices.
|I support personal choice and responsibility. I reject the use of force. (0.9)
|1.1 Expression and Communication
|We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in or abstain from any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others. We oppose government actions which either aid or attack any religion.
|1.2 Personal Privacy
|Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include records held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.
|I support the Fourth Amendment and oppose warrantless searches and other Constitutional violations imposed by the Bush and Obama Administrations under the guise of the 2001 Patriot Act.I hesitate to support absolute legalization of all recreational drug use and ask for a greater discussion of the social costs of drug manufacture, marketing, use, and addiction. (0.8)
|1.3 Personal Relationships
|Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.
|Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
|Agreed... although I support government efforts to promote more equal access to health care services to enhance all citizens' liberty. (0.9)
|1.5 Crime and Justice
|Government exists to protect the rights of every individual including life, liberty and property. Criminal laws should be limited to violation of the rights of others through force or fraud, or deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Individuals retain the right to voluntarily assume risk of harm to themselves. We support restitution to the victim to the fullest degree possible at the expense of the criminal or the negligent wrongdoer. We oppose reduction of constitutional safeguards of the rights of the criminally accused. The rights of due process, a speedy trial, legal counsel, trial by jury, and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty, must not be denied. We assert the common-law right of juries to judge not only the facts but also the justice of the law.
|I support the rule of law and due process. The definition of the limits of criminal law proposed here is reasonable but open to broad interpretation. Restitution is one worthwhile goal of the criminal justice system, along with rehabilitation, retribution, and deterrence. Jury nullification is problematic. (0.7)
|The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights — life, liberty, and justly acquired property — against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. We oppose all laws at any level of government requiring registration of, or restricting, the ownership, manufacture, or transfer or sale of firearms or ammunition.
|Self-defense is legitimate; however, force is permissible only as a last resort, and only until the aggressor is overpowered. The Second Amendment is not absolute; we may justifiably restrict firearms and ammunition, just as we may justifiably restrict speech, press, and religion in certain instances where other rights take precedence. (0.5)
|2.0 Economic Liberty
|Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.
|Maximizing liberty means maximizing economic opportunity. It's hard to vote, speak, and check government corruption when your kids have no food, when a uranium mine wrecks your water supply, or when corporations collude to depress wages and leave you working 80 hours a week to make rent. The free market does many good things, but it does not always maximize real liberty for all citizens. Government must check the free market, just as citizens check government, just as the courts check Congress. (0.2)
|2.1 Property and Contract
|Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights. The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. We oppose all controls on wages, prices, rents, profits, production, and interest rates. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade. The right to trade includes the right not to trade — for any reasons whatsoever. Where property, including land, has been taken from its rightful owners by the government or private action in violation of individual rights, we favor restitution to the rightful owners.
|I agree with this statement 90%. However, I can see room to interpret "infringes the valid rights of others" to justify certain restrictions on wages, prices, production, interest rates, advertising, contracts, and trade to prevent exploitation, force, and fraud. I wholeheartedly oppose the use of eminent domain to seize private property to benefit other private interests. I can envision some situations where the government taking of private property, with just compensation, is justified in order to maximize liberty for all citizens; however, eminent domain should be used with great restraint and public oversight. (0.9)
|We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior.
|Rot. The government is we the people. We citizens working together for our shared interest have a better record of protecting common resources than individual corporations that maximize profit by exploiting resources and foisting the externalities on the rest of us. (0)
|2.3 Energy and Resources
|While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.
|I am open to the idea of removing subsidies from the energy marketplace. However, we should also make sure that energy producers pay the cost of all externalities associated with the extraction, production, and use of their fuels and technologies. We also must recognize that the free market, if it currently favors the dominance of one sector of the energy industry, may resist the entry of new players, new ideas, and new technologies that would upset their business models. We as a society may have a countervailing interest in supporting the development of new, superior technologies that would not come about spontaneously in the free market. (0.3)
|2.4 Government Finance and Spending
|All persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor. We call for the repeal of the income tax, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and all federal programs and services not required under the U.S. Constitution. We oppose any legal requirements forcing employers to serve as tax collectors. Government should not incur debt, which burdens future generations without their consent. We support the passage of a "Balanced Budget Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, provided that the budget is balanced exclusively by cutting expenditures, and not by raising taxes.
|More rot. The fruits of our labor are magnified by the protections afforded by the social contract. Every person who benefits from schools, roads, police, and laws has a moral obligation to pay for the upkeep of those social projects. Taxes are necessary, as is an agency to fairly collect those taxes and enforce tax law. Government should avoid incurring debt, but sometimes, debt is good and necessary. Balancing the budget solely by cutting expenditures fails to recognize that we have a moral obligation to pay for the things we've already bought on credit and that raising taxes is at least as practical and moral as cutting spending. (0)
|2.5 Money and Financial Markets
|We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies and unconstitutional legal tender laws.
|Even competition requires restrictions. (0)
|2.6 Monopolies and Corporations
|We defend the right of individuals to form corporations, cooperatives and other types of companies based on voluntary association. We seek to divest government of all functions that can be provided by non-governmental organizations or private individuals. We oppose government subsidies to business, labor, or any other special interest. Industries should be governed by free markets.
|NGOs and private individuals can provide education, security, fire protection, and dispute arbitration. Yet we would gravely reduce liberty if government divested itself of all schools, police, fire departments, and courts. (0)
|2.7 Labor Markets
|We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment. We oppose government-fostered forced retirement. We support the right of free persons to associate or not associate in labor unions, and an employer should have the right to recognize or refuse to recognize a union. We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or imposing an obligation to bargain.
|Workers cannot refuse to recognize the authority of the corporate board that governs their company; corporate boards likewise cannot refuse to recognize a collective formed freely by employees. Government should refrain from interfering in labor disputes unless the national interest is seriously threatened. (0.2)
|Education is best provided by the free market, achieving greater quality, accountability and efficiency with more diversity of choice. Recognizing that the education of children is a parental responsibility, we would restore authority to parents to determine the education of their children, without interference from government. Parents should have control of and responsibility for all funds expended for their children's education.
|Education for a liberal democracy is best provided by a common public system that ensures fair and free access to all children, regardless of their economic status. Parents are free to provide their children with other opportunities, but we all have an obligation to ensure that every child receives an education adequate for the demands of exercising liberty and citizenship. (0.1)
|2.9 Health Care
|We favor restoring and reviving a free market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions. People should be free to purchase health insurance across state lines.
|It's hard to exercise liberty when you're sick or injured, or when you've gone bankrupt or are scared of going bankrupt because of medical bills. Collective action—health insurance—helps more people get health care and avoid bankruptcy. Health insurance works better with more participants. Public insurance (Medicare) provides more health care for the dollar, with less overhead. A national, public, single-payer health insurance system thus maximizes liberty. (0.5)
|2.10 Retirement and Income Security
|Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.
|America's long-time private charities were unable to provide reliable relief for the harms of the Great Depression. Social Security is a necessary safety net. All individuals should contribute to this safety net. Individuals are still free to invest their after-tax income as they see fit. (0)
|3.0 Securing Liberty
|The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government. Government is constitutionally limited so as to prevent the infringement of individual rights by the government itself. The principle of non-initiation of force should guide the relationships between governments.
|3.1 National Defense
|We support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world. We oppose any form of compulsory national service.
|3.2 Internal Security and Individual Rights
|The defense of the country requires that we have adequate intelligence to detect and to counter threats to domestic security. This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. The Constitution and Bill of Rights shall not be suspended even during time of war. Intelligence agencies that legitimately seek to preserve the security of the nation must be subject to oversight and transparency. We oppose the government's use of secret classifications to keep from the public information that it should have, especially that which shows that the government has violated the law.
|3.3 International Affairs
|American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world. Our foreign policy should emphasize defense against attack from abroad and enhance the likelihood of peace by avoiding foreign entanglements. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid. We recognize the right of all people to resist tyranny and defend themselves and their rights. We condemn the use of force, and especially the use of terrorism, against the innocent, regardless of whether such acts are committed by governments or by political or revolutionary groups.
|Mostly o.k., with the exception that some military and economic aid may serve our national interest. (0.9)
|3.4 Free Trade and Migration
|We support the removal of governmental impediments to free trade. Political freedom and escape from tyranny demand that individuals not be unreasonably constrained by government in the crossing of political boundaries. Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders. However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.
|Unrestricted free trade and restricted migration are philosophically incompatible. We should welcome legal immigrants to the extent that our nation can practically accommodate them. We have the right to refuse entry to our country to those who threaten our liberty. We should encourage free trade, but we have the right to restrict the trade of goods and services (at least by market players under our jurisdiction) that undermine the liberty of our people or of innocent people around the world. (0.5)
|3.5 Rights and Discrimination
|Libertarians embrace the concept that all people are born with certain inherent rights. We reject the idea that a natural right can ever impose an obligation upon others to fulfill that "right." We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should neither deny nor abridge any individual's human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs. This statement shall not be construed to condone child abuse or neglect.
|Agreed... although I reserve the right to seek clarification on the discussion of natural right and obligation. (0.9)
|3.6 Representative Government
|We support election systems that are more representative of the electorate at the federal, state and local levels. As private voluntary groups, political parties should be allowed to establish their own rules for nomination procedures, primaries and conventions. We call for an end to any tax-financed subsidies to candidates or parties and the repeal of all laws which restrict voluntary financing of election campaigns. We oppose laws that effectively exclude alternative candidates and parties, deny ballot access, gerrymander districts, or deny the voters their right to consider all legitimate alternatives. We advocate initiative, referendum, recall and repeal when used as popular checks on government.
|Agreed, except for campaign finance restrictions, which are a proper check on the use of force, or unchecked power, by wealthy elites. (0.8)
|Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of individual liberty, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to agree to such new governance as to them shall seem most likely to protect their liberty.
|This statement comes into effect only when citizens abandon participation in the political process. I can support this statement as a philosopher, but not as a candidate in the established legal electoral process or as an elected official who swears an oath to uphold the Constitution. (0.5)
|Our silence about any other particular government law, regulation, ordinance, directive, edict, control, regulatory agency, activity, or machination should not be construed to imply approval.
|The same is true of any silence I offer on certain points of this platform or other things Libertarians might say.
The Libertarians and I will have the hardest time getting along on questions of economic liberty... and were I ever to run as a Libertarian, I would not accept campaign contributions in Bitcoin, Mazacoin, or any other form of currency other than the Almighty U.S. Dollar (or in-kind contributions, like hot dogs!).
But a quick subjective tabulation of my responses (and I welcome your alternative interpretations and calculations!) finds that I can claim a Libertarian quotient of 52%, over seven times the minimum threshold Bob Newland requested. Where we don't agree, as on health care (plank 2.9), I can make a sincere case that my position supports liberty better than the Libertarian position.
And I have given the above 35 points more sincere consideration and public explanation in the above table, not to mention in nine years of blogging and online conversation with South Dakotans, than anyone else who has permitted his name to be mentioned publicly as a possible Libertarian candidate for attorney general.
Of course, a guy or a gal might align with the Libertarian platform 100% and still lack the minimum skills necessary to carry out the duties of the attorney general, like personally representing the state in court (statute says nothing about sending a flunky to do so). Those duties require a law degree, which every attorney general in the country has. But fitness for office is a whole separate question from fitness for Libertarianizing.
Feel free to copy the above table, delete my answers, and score your own Libertarianism. Who knows: maybe you'll discover that you, too, are half-Libertarian! (Hmm... so I wonder what the other half is?)