July 22, 2019

2nd Third Party Debate: Will Americans Remember the 5th of November?

TAMPA, October 31, 2012 – “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” When uttered in a political context, there is no passive-aggressive cliché that I detest more than this one,

Invariably, this is the rejoinder offered by the statist who has painted himself into a corner while trying to justify his invasion of the life and property of others. Unable to honestly answer the question, “Aren’t you advocating the initiation of force against your fellow man?” the statist will end the conversation with this insipid bit of anti-reason, usually with condescending sanctimoniousness.

The problem is that one side of the argument is agreeing to refrain from invading the property of anyone else, while the other side claims doing so is his right. There is nothing either fair or civilized by “agreeing to disagree” under these circumstances.

Of course, the problem isn’t that the statist holds this opinion.

It is his right to hold any opinion he wishes and to express that opinion freely. The problem is what happens next. Informed by his opinion, the statist then goes into the voting booth and votes himself the life and property of other people.

Worse yet, according to the bizarre principles presently governing American society, he is then provided with the ill-gotten gains by the politician.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

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Do Americans still believe that government is evil?

TAMPA, October 28, 2012 – Nine days before Election Day, Americans are hunkering down into their traditional Republican/Democratic camps. Supposedly, the future of American society rests upon which corporate-backed candidate wins the presidency. Americans of the past would have regarded this as complete nonsense.

In late 1775, the shot heard ‘round the world had been fired and the American colonists had Boston under siege. Still, most Americans either favored reconciliation with Great Britain or were undecided.

Then, in January 1776, Thomas Paine released his instant bestseller, Common Sense. It is this pamphlet that is credited with persuading a critical mass of American colonists to support American independence from Great Britain. In it, Paine laid out his arguments about the role of government and why the British constitution failed in fulfilling this role for American colonists.

The very first plank he laid down in his argument was that government was evil.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil;”

Paine, Jefferson and other founding fathers recognized government for what it is: the pooled and organized capacity for violence of the whole society. This idea comes straight out of John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government. There is no law, no matter how minor, that is not ultimately backed up by the threat of violence.

This is no less true today than it was in 1776. Despite “social contract” theories and other linguistic gymnastics that attempt to euphemize the nature of government, it remains merely organized violence. This is apparent to most people when the government wages war, but somehow it escapes them otherwise.

Yet, even when the government runs a healthcare program, you pay for it or they will come to physically force you to pay. If you resist, you will be killed. It is no different for education, housing, or the ultimate canard, “job creation.” Even a parking ticket is backed by the threat of violence. Yes, you will get many “reminders” if don’t pay before any real action is taken, but eventually the government will come and physically force you to obey.

That is the inescapable nature of government. That’s why Paine and the founding fathers believed it was evil.

Then why constitute a government at all? The founders believed that although government was evil, it was also necessary. Although society, meaning people voluntarily associating and trading their various products with one another, is always a blessing; some of the people will commit violence against the life or property of others, at least some of the time.

So, as Paine wrote, man “finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest.” The government’s job is to defend peaceful citizens against violence committed by others. It is society’s bouncer.

While the term hadn’t been coined yet, the founding fathers were libertarians.

The bouncers aren’t the source of fun in a nightclub any more than government is the source of general happiness in a society. Neither do the bouncer’s run the nightclub. They are employed by the owners, and not for their creativity, ingenuity or compassion. They are employed for their ability to use brute force and are told to stay out of the way unless they are needed. Bouncers are a necessary evil in a nightclub for the same reason that government is a necessary evil in society, if necessary at all.

Yet, judging from the rhetoric of both parties’ politicians and the poll results, social media posts and other expressions of opinion by most of their supporters, most Americans don’t seem to see government this way anymore. One can only conclude that most Americans believe that government is good in and of itself, and that it just happens to be populated with corrupt or incompetent people at the moment.

Not only do most Americans seem to view government as a good, but they seem to want government to solve just about every societal problem, all of which were caused by government in the first place. The bouncers have been running the nightclub for a long time and Americans don’t seem to be able to figure out why it isn’t any fun anymore.

The most disturbing aspect of this belief in the goodness of government is the conversation surrounding the presidential election. Most Americans not only believe that the government can solve problems, rather than just employ force, but that the election ofone man can actually save or destroy the republic. If that’s true, then any difference between America and the most barbarous empires in history is gone.

It is generally believed that the United States transformed itself from a relatively poor, agrarian society to the wealthiest nation in history because of the individual freedom available to its citizens. That freedom resulted from Americans recognizing that government is evil. It resulted from a libertarian theory of government.

America is at a crossroads, but Mitt Romney and Barack Obama don’t represent the fork in the road. They are both the same road. Whether you are looking for “Hope and Change” or “Smaller, Simpler and Smarter Government,” neither Romney nor Obama will provide it.

The first step in changing course is to rediscover America’s founding, libertarian idea that government is evil. If you think the presidential election can make a difference, why not take Gary Johnson up on his proposition? Be libertarian with him for one election. What do you have to lose?

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

 

Libertarians vs. Conservatives on the welfare state

TAMPA, October 26, 2012 – Many people think of libertarianism as a subset of conservatism, but that’s not true. Libertarianism and conservatism are completely separate philosophies with distinct and separate philosophical traditions. The philosophical differences result in very different positions on issues, from domestic to foreign policy. Their differences on the welfare state provide a perfect example.

Most Americans believe that President Obama and the liberals believe in wealth redistribution and that Republicans/conservatives are against it. That just doesn’t line up with the facts.

While Republicans make general statements against the welfare state, they actually support 95% of the actual spending. A key plank of the Romney/Ryan campaign is “preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare.” That’s more than half of welfare spending alone. They also support government subsidization of housing, agriculture, energy and other “job-creating” programs. They are willing to support corporate welfare if they believe it will be good for the overall economy.

The only criticisms Republicans generally make are for social safety nets like TANF. This illustrates a key difference between conservatives and libertarians on welfare.

Libertarians object to the welfare state on this basis: Any taxes collected from citizens are collected under a threat of violence. You pay or you get kidnapped at best, killed resisting at worst. Therefore, libertarians object to using the taxing power to take money from one person or group and give it to another. When individuals do this, it is called “armed robbery.” For libertarians, it is no different when the government does it. It is the crime itself that libertarians object to.

Conservatives see it differently. They don’t object to the crime itself. Rather, they formulate their positions based upon who will receive the benefits. Redistribution to certain types of people is acceptable, to others it is not. That is why they will excoriate the “welfare queen,” whose impact upon the budget is minimal, while fully supporting Social Security and Medicare, which will eventually bankrupt the entire government.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Gary Johnson and the empty chair at the first presidential debate

TAMPA, October 5, 2012 – The first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama was staged by professional television producers. The podiums were positioned such that they were turned three quarters toward each other but still facing the cameras and just the right distance apart to make for a good wide shot of the two candidates.

In addition to an informative debate, the producers also wanted to deliver a first-rate television production.

The results were up to the standard one would expect on such an occasion, but if the producers really wanted to make the most effective use of their medium, they should have taken a page from Clint Eastwood’s playbook. There should have been an empty chair right in the middle of the stage, between the two podiums.

Philosophically speaking, it might have represented the entire range of opinions and ideas that fall outside of what best-selling author Tom Woods calls “the Mitt Romney-Hillary Clinton Continuum.” They are all of the ideas that we little people are apparently not allowed to even hear.

More specifically, the chair would have represented Gary Johnson, a former two-term Governor of New Mexico and Libertarian Party nominee for President.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

A skeptic’s case for Gary Johnson

TAMPA, September 26, 2012 – You may be an independent that finds the major party candidates for president particularly weak this year. You may be an “Old Right” conservative that can’t bring yourself to vote for Mitt Romney. You may be a died-in-the-wool liberal who thinks Barack Obama’s presidency has been just a little too similar to Dubya’s.

Or, you may be a libertarian.

If you belong to any of those groups, you might be considering voting for Gary Johnson. Ironically, if you are a libertarian, you may need the most convincing.

Gary Johnson isn’t well-grounded in libertarian theory and it results in him taking some positions that libertarians don’t like. I made the argument myself that Johnson is not really a libertarian at all. In two subsequent interviews (here and here), Johnson didn’t allay those concerns.

Regardless, Gary Johnson is the best choice for president this year for voters from all over the political spectrum.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Can a libertarian be pro life?

TAMPA, May 20, 2012 – Thanks to Ron Paul’s extraordinary presidential campaign, libertarianism is arguably getting its best hearing in decades. It’s catching on, especially with young people. While baby boomers prepare to retire and devour Social Security and Medicare to the bone, the generations succeeding them realize that they will be stuck with the bill for these financially insolvent social programs, along with an unsustainable foreign policy.

Proceeding from its central tenet of non-aggression, libertarianism sees government the way Thomas Paine did. “Even in its best state, [it] is but a necessary evil.” Some libertarians think Paine was only half right. Either way, a libertarian government would do far less and cost far less than the one we have now.

Ron Paul has presented one of the purest libertarian platforms of any presidential candidate in U.S. history. Paul absolutely refuses to consider preemptive war and wants to “march right out” of the Middle East, Germany, Japan and Korea. He doesn’t just want to reform Social Security and Medicare; he wants to let younger workers opt completely out.

He wants to end the drug war and pardon all non-violent drug offenders. He wants to repeal the Patriot Act and subsequent “war on terror” legislation.

Paul doesn’t pitch a watered down version of libertarianism to avoid ruffling feathers within his party. When asked about a federal prohibition on gay marriage, Paul responds that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether, even at the state level, except for enforcing marriage agreements like any other contract.

However, there are a few issues where Paul’s libertarianism has been questioned. The most consequential in terms of political impact is his stance on abortion. Paul is staunchly pro-life.

Some have said this violates the basic tenets of libertarianism. The government cannot be allowed to dictate what an individual does regarding her own body. All libertarian theory is rooted in property rights and the most basic, fundamental property right is self-ownership. This precedes modern libertarianism. John Locke, the philosopher that inspired Thomas Jefferson, established this principle before the right to any other kind of property.

“Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”

The progressive pro-choice argument rests firmly upon this foundation. A woman owns her body and has sole dominion over what occurs within it. While progressives generally go on to violate this principle with their support for government regulation of virtually every other decision one makes with one’s body, they are very libertarian on this issue.

Or are they?

While libertarian theory is built upon property rights, it also recognizes a natural limit to the exercise thereof. That limit is what Locke called, “the law of nature,” which is that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

Based upon this limit, the woman’s rights would seem to end before she can bring harm to the fetus. Yet, libertarians recognize that everyone has a right to forcibly remove an unwanted person from his or her property. What is the libertarian answer?

Continue at Washington Times Communities…

Can Ron Paul supporters accept Gary Johnson?

TAMPA, May 15, 2012 — Ron Paul’s announcement today that he will “no longer spend resources campaigning in primaries in states that have not yet voted” may finally have some of his supporters considering the possibility that he will not be the Republican Party’s nominee. That may be overly pessimistic considering that Paul also stated that he will continue to pursue his delegate strategy, which has been far more successful than his quest for a primary win.

However, even the most ardent supporter may find it prudent to have a “Plan B,” especially in states where the rules on write-in candidates are onerous. There is one man who believes he’s wide open in the Plan B end zone. He’s former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson.

Johnson secured the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president at its national convention last Saturday in Las Vegas, winning over 70% of the delegate votes.

Johnson supports Ron Paul, but doesn’t think Paul will win the Republican nomination. He wants Ron Paul supporters to know that he represents an opportunity to vote for a lot of the things they believe in.

“Ron Paul has always been about a message and so have I and it’s the same message. It’s about liberty and it’s about freedom, first and foremost, and when Dr. Paul’s candidacy comes to an end, there’s a viable alternative and I don’t think it’s a handicapped choice. I think it’s reloading. There’s no concession.”

So, do Paul supporters have to compromise to vote for Johnson?

Continue at Communities @Washington Times.com…

For Gary Johnson it’s all about the “Libertarian” message

TAMPA, April 22, 2012 – Self-made millionaire and former two-term governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson initially sought the Republican Party’s nomination for president.

After being largely excluded from the early debates, Johnson left the Republican Party and now seeks the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

“It’s always been about the message,” Mr. Johnson says. “I’m a messenger. I think for the most part I’m delivering the same message as Ron Paul. I think that the message is identifying the solutions to the problems that this country faces and genuinely recognizing the solutions. Having been excluded from the Republican debates, that really was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

So what are the solutions that Johnson proposes?

Continue at Communities@Washington Times…

Gary Johnson is not a libertarian

TAMPA, April 12, 2012 — While the media continue to ignore compelling evidence that the Republican primary race is much closer than they are reporting, some Ron Paul supporters are nevertheless thinking about what they might do if Paul does not get the Republican nomination.

Throughout this election cycle, Gary Johnson’s name has been omnipresent as a libertarian alternative. There’s only one problem. Gary Johnson is not a libertarian.

This just seems to be occurring to some of the faithful after his disastrous interview with the Daily Caller. In it, Johnson proposes to cut the military budget by 43 percent. However, when pressed on one hypothetical military intervention after another, Johnson refuses to rule any out. He’d consider military intervention for humanitarian reasons. He believes the United States should maintain a military presence in the Middle East. He would continue drone attacks in Pakistan. By the end of the interview, libertarians were likely waiting for Johnson to rip off a mask Scooby Doo villain-style, revealing he was really Dick Cheney in disguise.

From the moment he announced his run for president as a Republican, Gary Johnson has stated that he believes all government policies should be formulated using a “cost-benefit analysis” (about the 2:20 mark). What are we spending our money on and what are we getting in return? (Libertarians would likely question him on just who “we” is and how it became “our money,” but I digress.) While that might be a lot better than what Washington is doing now – all cost and no discernible benefit – it’s not how libertarians make policy decisions.

There is no evidence Gary Johnson is even aware of the philosophical basis of libertarianism. If he is aware of it, he’s obviously decided to reject it. That’s certainly his prerogative, but he shouldn’t be seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

The Libertarian Party has never garnered more than about 1% of the vote in a presidential election. Its chief benefit has always been that it nominated candidates libertarians could actually believe in, even if they weren’t going to win. This was true as late as 2004, when the party nominated Michael Badnarik. However, it badly damaged itself by nominating Bob Barr in 2008. If it nominates Gary Johnson for president in 2012, it will completely lose all relevance, even among libertarians.

Ron Paul is not a perfect libertarian, but he does understand libertarian philosophy and he does form his positions based upon the non-aggression principle, as he confirmed in my own interview with him last year (about the 7:30 mark). That’s why he told Matt Lauer (about the 5:00 mark) that economic liberty, personal liberty and his non-interventionist foreign policy are all one package. Libertarians believe initiating force is wrong, whether it is military force against another nation or a government bureau forcibly transferring money from one person or group to another.

{Note to reader: A portion of this article is missing here. This originally appeared in Washington Times Communities, but due to contractual issues all posts written during this period have been taken down from the Washington Times website. I retrieved  this from a blogger who reprinted most of this article, but there appears to have been a portion here that he did not reprint. If anyone can locate the article in its entirety, I would be grateful to have a copy.}

If the Libertarian Party wants to be practical in spreading the libertarian message, it should endorse Ron Paul as its candidate in 2012. He is more libertarian than any politician in U.S. history and has more visibility than any candidate the party could field. If it insists upon putting forth its own candidate, it should nominate a true libertarian. It has several choices.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Perry vs. Romney? What Do Conservatives Really Want?

According to the left-leaning media and punditry, the race for the Republican nomination for president is dominated by right wing extremism. Positions as frightening as phasing out Medicare and getting rid of the Department of Education are being bandied about, with the only solace for liberals being the knowledge that those positions will moderate once the primaries are over and the Republican candidate tries to appeal to voters beyond the Republican base.

Supposedly, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney represent this “hard shift to the right” within the Republican Party, which is why they are in first and second place, respectively, in national polls. However, given the histories of these two men and their present stand on the issues, that narrative just doesn’t jibe with reality. In fact, if average conservative Americans really believe what they say they believe, it is difficult to figure out how any of them could cast a vote for Perry or Romney.

By “average conservative Americans,” I mean those people not in public office and unconnected to the political machine who vote in polls this early in the election cycle. Everyone knows these people. We work with them, socialize with them, live with them. Unlike most people we know, they feel strongly about politics and identify themselves as conservatives. They care enough to follow the nomination races over a year before the general election and can articulate an opinion, as opposed to the majority of Americans who will say something like “I haven’t made up my mind yet” to cover for the fact that they have no idea what any of the candidates in either party stand for.

I think that most would agree that this group of people generally say they believe in small government, free enterprise, traditional family and religious values, and (let’s face it) unqualified worship of the U.S. military, no matter how it is employed. These are the things that conservatives say that they are for.

It is not so much what they are for as what they are against that brought the Republican Party back from the brink in 2010. The Tea-powered victory in 2010 rode a wave of conservative backlash against Barack Obama and his socialist agenda of big government healthcare, environmentalism, and wealth redistribution. More than anything else, it was Obamacare that served as the rallying point. Anyone who attended a Tea Party event can attest to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the signs and speeches (when not glorifying the military) represented opposition to this evil, Marxist scheme. If only Obamacare could be repealed, America would return to the capitalist paradise
that it was under George W. Bush.

With that in mind, one has to ask how Mitt Romney is even in the race. After all, it was the Massachusetts healthcare plan supported and signed into law by Governor Romney that inspired Obamacare in the first place. Despite Romney’s insistence that there are “major differences” between the Massachusetts plan and Obama’s, the only tangible difference that he has been able to cite is that his plan was run at the state level and not forced on every American citizen as a “one-size fits all solution.” Other than that, I don’t believe that Romney or anyone else has been able to point out a fundamental difference between Romneycare and Obamacare.

So that’s what all of the noise was about in 2010? The Tea Party rallies, the signs, the angry town hall meetings? I thought that conservatives objected to the fundamental socialist principles embodied in Obamacare: the central economic planning, the government-enforced mandate, and the wealth redistribution. I don’t remember signs saying “let the states run Obamacare.” It was get rid of government-run healthcare (except for Medicare) or we’ll be living in the 1960’s-era Soviet Union before the next election.

“People can change,” some supporters might tell you, and that is certainly true. But has Romney really changed? As of this writing, the issues page on his website says, “States and private markets, not the federal government, hold the key to improving our health care system.”

Not just “private markets,” but “states and private markets” hold the key. It would seem that Romney hasn’t changed his mind at all about his state-run, big government socialist healthcare program. If Romney’s only defense of his plan is that it was run at the state level rather than the national level, then average American conservatives should be automatically vetoing his candidacy on Romneycare alone. Yet Romney led the race until Rick Perry entered, and is still a solid second.

That brings us to Rick Perry. He has also convinced his conservative supporters that he has changed his views since previously being a Democrat. That is certainly not unprecedented. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan was once a Democrat before becoming what most conservatives perceive as the quintessential conservative president. However, Perry wasn’t just a Democrat.

If there is any one person in second place to Obama as the arch-villain in conservative mythology, it is Al Gore, (or Algore as Rush Limbaugh refers to him). Gore is the undisputed leader of the liberal environmentalist movement, which lays the blame for the global warming that conservatives don’t even believe exists at the feet of free enterprise. If Obamacare was the peanut butter of the present administration’s  platform in 2008, then Cap and Trade was the jelly. Conservatives wanted no part of either, and see Gore as every bit the evil Marxist that Obama is because of his leadership on this issue.

Believe it or not, it was this Conservative Public Enemy No. 2 that Perry supported as a Democrat in the 1988 primaries. He not only supported Gore, but actually chaired his campaign in Texas. He could have supported the eventual Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, whose most striking difference to Gore was his refusal to bow to environmental interests at the expense of economic development, as documented in the New York Times. In other words, even as a Democrat, Perry backed a radical environmentalist extremist instead of a somewhat more moderate centrist.

Again, people can change their minds, but has Perry changed his? Does he oppose Cap and Trade on principle, as most conservatives say they do? Apparently he does not, according to his actions as governor. As with Romney on healthcare, Perry is completely supportive of a policy that conservatives say they are fundamentally opposed to, as long as the evil is perpetrated by the state governments rather than the feds. The chief difference between the Cap and Trade imposed on Texans and that imposed by the federal government seems to be that Texas measures emissions limits on the whole facility while the EPA measures it on every smokestack. Is that the sole objection that average conservatives have to Al Gore and his global warming (excuse me, climate change) agenda?

As with Romney, Perry’s support for a key plank in the socialist-liberal agenda should be a deal killer for anyone remotely describing themselves as conservative. Yet not only has Perry been able to sidestep any criticism on this position, he’s currently leading the nomination race by a comfortable margin.

So, what do conservatives really want? If these polls are any indication, they want a good-looking former governor with a suspiciously liberal background who is good at spouting hardcore conservative rhetoric and then doing exactly the opposite once he gets into office. In other words, they want Ronald Reagan, the former New Deal Democrat who suddenly became a libertarian-leaning ultra-conservative and rode that rhetoric into the White House, where he promptly doubled the size and power of the federal government, raising taxes six times and further empowering the Department of Education that he promised to abolish.

It’s not as if there are not alternatives. Ron Paul, currently running third, actually believes in the principles conservatives say they hold dear and has voted consistently according to them as a 12-term Congressman. He is on the record vowing to get rid of the Department of Education, along with Energy, Commerce, and most of the others. You won’t hear anything like that from Romney or Perry, yet it’s an uphill battle for Paul, supposedly because of his foreign policy positions.

But what about Herman Cain and Gary Johnson? As a libertarian, I don’t buy into the “government should be run like a business” philosophy, but most conservatives do. Both Cain and Johnson take this approach, with Johnson promising to deliver a balanced budget proposal in his first year, including abolishing the Department of Education. Yet these two candidates aren’t even on the map with conservative voters.

With several nationally-televised debates completed and plenty more coming, conservative voters have plenty of alternatives in selecting a candidate. According to their most fiercely-held beliefs, conservatives should be voting “anybody but Perry or Romney,” yet those two lead the race. One has to wonder where all of these supposed “right wing extremists” are hiding.

Contrary to the liberal media narrative that the Republican Party has shifted hard to the right and is fielding “extremist” candidates to run against Obama, the primary race looks more like business as usual. Former liberals and big government conservatives are railing against government to energize their conservative supporters, while at the same time openly supporting cornerstones of the liberal agenda. If Perry and Romney are an indication of where conservative voters are headed in 2012, then the Democrats have nothing to worry about, even if Obama loses.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011